Thursday, November 27, 2014

Is loyalty a good thing?

Loyalty is an old-fashioned word. We think that our pets are loyal, but we no longer expect loyalty from our business partners and often we don't expect it from our friends either.

The Oxford English Dictionary thinks loyalty means this:
A strong feeling of support or allegiance

What do you think it means to be loyal to a person or company? To me, it means having someone's back, showing up when you know it's important and when it is reasonable for someone to make a claim on your time and effort. It's not a matter of keeping score, but it is a matter of action and presence.

I show my loyalty by making an effort to show up and pay attention. Presence (the kind that involves both body and mind) is the rarest of all gifts, the one that is not renewable. When we want someone to know that they mean something to us, we show up. That's loyalty.

It's a struggle. I struggle with it. How can I be present for people who are doing work I believe in or who live lives I want to support? How can I find the time, the resilience, and the resources to show up? I wonder sometimes, "if I feel betrayed, does that let me off the hook? Or do I need to stay loyal to something beyond the moment?" There are times I have been less loyal or disloyal. There are times I have been loyal too long.

I have been told that I expect too much. I have heard people say variations of "there's not enough in it for me" as if it were unfair to think that someone would stand up and translate good wishes into action. Like all of you, I have sometimes been misled and sometimes been used.

Still, I'd like to hold myself accountable.  Not for being loyal - that's too high a standard.  I want to be accountable for making choices about when to show up and to counting the costs of not showing up. I think that loyalty involves paying attention to the costs of not showing up - costs to me and costs to the people who would value my presence. I think it means the difference between saying "I can't" and "I choose not to. . ."

Someone wrote me this week and said, "I choose not to. . . ."  I respect that.  It's a hard choice, and sometimes it's the right one.

But oh, I am grateful, for the dozens of times someone says, "well maybe I can. . ." And then they just show up.

The pay off for loyalty is joy.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What happens when the storm hits unexpectedly?

We had a storm in Toronto yesterday. Not a storm like they're having in Buffalo this week, but enough snow to turn a one hour commute into a four hour commute. We all expected a little light snow. What came was more than that, and many drivers hit a little ice and everyone else was suddenly trapped in a car that had nowhere to go.

That happens in life, too. Out of the blue, there's a storm.  And little girls all over the world are celebrating those storms because of one Disney princess.  She causes a storm by exploring the full nature of her power. I watch my 3 year old niece singing "Let it Go" and I know she gets it - there's energy and there is also joy in finding out what you can do.

It would be cool (pun intended) to follow Elsa's lead and sing "The cold never bothered me anyway." The cold is the price that comes with letting go and risking the consequences of finding your own power.

I'm running a conference on November 29 on the theme: Don't Go with the Flow: Go with Desire! It's about taking the chance to find out what you can do - even when it stirs up a storm around you. It's about what it takes to make your way through the storm and out the other side. It's not about a Snow Queen or even a snow storm, but it is about finding the thread of continuity that runs through your days and makes sense of the themes that are driving you.

Finding that thread of continuity is what lets us move through storms with some of Elsa's grace. It will let you hear the noise and feel the cold and keep moving and keep discovering the voice and the power you didn't know you had.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

What makes a great conference?

It is interesting to me that most of the NLP (neurolinguistic programming) conferences of which I am aware run exactly like other conferences: they put experts talking at the front of the room (usually with powerpoint) in unremarkable hotel rooms. This seems to me unfortunate. Why not use the practices and principles of NLP to create format that satisfies people's goals for attending a conference?

While it is certainly true that people go to conferences to learn new things, it is more true that most people go to conferences to learn while making new connections and planting seeds for further development and networking. Most NLP conferences do no better or no worse than other mainstream conferences in giving participants opportunities to meet those goals. People sit and listen, and then mingle and make small talk during breaks. Whether or not the speakers are good is not really the point. The point is that the framing doesn't really facilitate meeting the outcomes.

At NLP Canada Training, we offer a different kind of conference. Although we are located in a traditional university setting, we use unconventional rooms and frames to facilitate engagement and conversation. We feature about 20 different speakers in a single day, and we put them close to participants in rooms that use less powerpoint and more conversation to engage and direct. We don't ask people to present techniques that people can't practice: we ask them to present their passion and engage people through stories and exercises. We also provide lots of interesting spaces that facilitate conversations over a cup of tea or coffee.

Our goal is not networking: it's the fostering of interesting conversations. This is modelled on NLP practice, on models of networking skills, and on the science of learning and social interaction.  Our goal is not for people to hear about NLP: it's for people to experience the difference that framing, rapport, and mind/body integration make in helping them to feel fully engaged while satisfying their purpose for showing up.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

What's killing your curiosity?

We've all heard that curiosity killed the cat. That's a problem because what we should all know is that many great thinkers (and achievers) attribute their success to their curiosity.

Curiosity is an amazing motivator. It allows us to explore the big picture and the fine details with great intensity and no sense of suffering. As long as we are following our curiosity, we are happy to work endlessly at a problem, to take a break just long enough for inspiration, and then to return for more exploration and experimentation.

Curiosity will not break you. It will be the making of you.

When I teach college classes, my heart breaks a little at how hard it is to awaken their curiosity. After years of being taught to sit still and listen, they have stopped being distracted by their own passion and curiosity. Instead of asking wildly tangential questions that might lead to innovation and understanding, they check out of the subject and into social media. That wouldn't be awful if there was food for their curiosity on the sites they prowl, but that's not often the case.

We have systematically drilled the curiosity out of people because we are deathly afraid of distraction. Think of all the articles you have read about how much time people waste at work. Isn't that what happens when you let your curiosity drive your thinking?

It's only a small piece of a large and moving picture. What happens when we let our curiosity drive is that we take long and winding roads to new destinations. We learn. We grow. We are surprised. And we become persistent explorers and students of what really works.