Saturday, May 31, 2008

The trick about language

Many people have noticed that a few people seem to be gifted in their ability to choose words that get the results they want.  Many people believe in magic words - words and phrases that communicate brilliantly.  Many people believe they will win a lottery.

Most people do not win the lottery - not in their entire lifetime.  Their odds of being successful with any of the language tricks taught in many different kinds of courses are slightly better.  Only slightly better.  There are no magic combinations of words; no secret spells that rely only on getting the words exactly right.

The trick about language is that it is passed from one person to another.  Words do not travel through the ether; they travel through the connection that exists between speaker and hearer (or writer and reader).  To the extent that they have a smooth, well-routed path to follow, words have amazing success in changing what people do to change the impact they have. When their road is twisting or bumpy, words are less effective.

Connection without language is often like an untraveled road: all potential.  Language without connection is a traveler without a road: lost.  Language requires a connection over which to travel.  And connection requires language in order to transform potential into results.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The value of writing

There are two reasons to write: one is to communicate something you know you are thinking and the other is to discover something that you do not yet realize you are thinking.  When I blog, I do both - sometimes in the same post.

Writing requires effort and results in commitment and stability: once the words are on the screen or the page, they have staying power.  There's no point in writing to procrastinate: unlike listeners, readers are not required to stay with you while you put up road blocks or avoid what you do not like about what you are communicating or thinking.  As you write, the words appear before you and give form to your thoughts.  Procrastination becomes discovery.

When you want to communicate, you have many different options for combining words with structures, plans, props and actions.  When you want to find out what you are thinking, you have fewer options.  Conversations help sometimes; sometimes they encourage you to slip off the path of your own thoughts and onto an easier path already set by someone else.  Actions sometimes reveal thoughts, but they also bury them. It is easier to read results than intent. Writing always gives form to what you are thinking. Writing always draws something into being that previously existed only in the unconscious processes that drive thought.

What is the difference between spilling your thoughts onto the page or screen and allowing readers to share your journey as you explore those thoughts?

Friday, May 23, 2008

What does anger do for you?

We all get angry from time to time.  Sometimes just a little angry and sometimes more than a little angry.  In a world where our physical existence was being threatened, the role of anger would presumably be to get the adrenaline pumping and make it more likely we would live.

Most of the things that make us angry do not threaten our personal physical existence. Most of them do not require the burst of adrenaline that drives through us when we are angry.  Most of them are better handled with a cooler head.  So why do we still get angry?

Like pain, anger signals all parts of us that something is wrong.  It also signals those around us that something is wrong.  Anger expressed is a kind of collective pain: a signal in a group or relationship that something is a threat to well-being and integrity. When we ignore anger (whether our own or someone else's) we are, in effect, doing the same thing we do when we turn off the smoke alarm while grilling something in the kitchen.

We do remarkable things when we ignore warnings and change well-established patterns. Some of these things are useful.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Power, presence and purpose

Have you found something that you were born to do, something that feels so centred and so right that you are convinced that it makes you who you are, and that the world would be less if you were to do something else?

Many people will shake their heads wistfully and say that they have not found such a thing. Many will not be sure such a thing exists.  We are never sure it exists: except in the rare and compelling moments when we feel it.

We do feel it - it's not possible to prove that everybody feels it, but most people feel it - from time to time, or maybe only in a moment that passes too quickly.  Flow is more than being so caught up in a thought that everything else fades into the background. Flow is being caught up in a thought that means - a thought that has purpose.  We feel it, and we think it, and then we step into a different flow: the flow of change.

You were born for both these flows: the flow of presence, when you are aware of your purpose and the flow of power, when acting out your purpose subjects it to change.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New music for a new season

I was delighted by a recent visit to a very good local music store.  On one visit, I discovered five new artists to add to my iPods (yes, that's plural).

Do you listen to music?  Consider listening to more music.  There's some evidence it's as good for your brain as it is for your soul.  Your whole brain lights up to listen to music, creating lots of positive activity. Music can persuade you to make the subtle alterations in heart beat and breathing that support a whole range of behavioural variations. Some takes you into a wonderfully focused trance; some sets you free to wander; and some insists on your full attention.

As I write this, a young woman is singing pop songs that have that mixture of intelligence and bounce associated with a well-spent youth.  I can let this music sneak around the edges of my awareness, adding just a touch of bounce to my fingers on the keyboard.

Later this morning, my son will pull himself out of bed and go to his computer.  He has a wonderfully eclectic collection of music.  If he puts on Blood, Sweat and Tears, I will settle comfortably into the rhythm and probably start to hum.  If he puts on some jazz fusion, my teeth will be set ever so slightly on edge.  For me, some jazz insists on attention: it catches at the edges of my awareness and says: "Listen." 

At the gym, I am a paradoxical listener.  The harder I want to work out, the more mellow the music I choose: a little Jack Johnson tricks my heart into pumping a little more slowly and relaxes all the muscles that are not actually being worked in an activity. Music with more drive requires less of me.

If you were making a movie as you are making this day, what soundtrack would you choose?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The moment before you jump

There's a moment before you jump, a moment of preparation when your muscles contract and your body pulls into position.  A moment when the jump exists somewhere between your mind and your muscles.  Nothing has happened yet; but it would take more energy to stop it from happening than it would to simply

jump.

And why would you want to jump?  Why would you want a burst of acceleration and movement to move you from where you are now, through the air, to land back here again or to move forward?

Would jump because it feels good?  Would you jump because you crave that moment when you defy gravity? Would you jump because a large object is on a crash course with you?

Once your muscles are coiled and ready, it will be easier to jump than to stop yourself.

Friday, May 09, 2008

this is how spring flies by

It's been a full week since my last post, a week of teaching and meetings and working on new programs.  A good week.  We often say that - it's been a good week since. . . and that means that in some way the time that has passed seems substantial.

When do you know that the work week has been a good week?  For most of us "week" signifies a unit of work as much as a unit of time.  Week-days are the days when we work and week-ends are somehow time taken out of the week so that we can have time away from work.  Many of those who work weekends find, as I find, that the week is all work. It's hard to step away from work on a week day.

The reward for time off during the week is the delicious sense of playing hooky - of being out of school while others toil at desks.

In spring, a good week is a paradox: long days make it easier to work long days and yet the days also feel longer because we sense that we should be free to escape work so that we can get out into the sunshine.  Warmth in spring feels like a nutrient - as necessary as air or food to our thriving.  The stakes for work are raised when play calls so loudly.

This is Friday. I hope your week was good. 


Friday, May 02, 2008

Beginning again

I wonder why we talk about starting over as if it means we have somehow wasted time or effort. Speakers and performers know that the beginning and ending of a performance are the most memorable. If you can arrange to start more than once, you get a second chance to make a first impression.

If you are starting again on a different kind of activity, it's possible that starting again means that the task has a second chance to make a great first impression on you.  Starting again can be fresh, energizing, and shiny new.  

Tomorrow, we will start again: it is the third weekend of a three weekend course.  Saturday mornings are full of anticipation. It is a little like waiting for the start of a race.  The fact that we are starting over with friends makes it a better start.

It's spring.  It's raining.  Lots of things are starting again.  Enjoy.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Just for the fun

I am on my way to a Toronto FC soccer game tonight because I was lucky enough to be given a ticket.  The games are sold out - every game, all season.

How did that happen?  The team didn't make 500 until this season.  They were not contenders.

It happened for two reasons: fans came prepared to have fun and the people selling to fans decided to put intention and influence behind creating fun for the fans.  None of these people can influence the outcome of a single game: collectively, they have turned Toronto FC into a club whose fans are a force to be reckoned with.

Think about it.  Influence the part you can influence.  Create an atmosphere where everybody intends to have fun.  Sell all the tickets - early.