Saturday, April 12, 2008


Prompted by Rob Paterson’s observation that his blog is likely to reach one million page views some time this summer, Chris Corrigan asks: “If you knew that in five years 1 million people would read what you have written, what would you do with that opportunity?”

If I only had one shot at it, here’s the message I would want to give:
Seize life with both hands; you only live once (as far as we know) and it’s over a lot quicker than you think.

Speak your truth.

This world is brimming with wonders; seek them out wherever you go, appreciate them, and be renewed by them.

Take time to be still.

When you meet another, look for the good in their soul and speak to that good.

I had in mind that seven would be nice number of points. Those five came to me quickly, and maybe I shouldn’t struggle to make up the number. One though I could add as a qualifier to those above: Do as I say, not as I do.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Thinking out loud 

It’s Friday, it’s lunchtime, the office is quiet, the sky is dark and it’s pouring outside (rain, sleet, thunder, lightning) all of which makes it feel quite bright and cosy and relaxed in here, and therefore possible to take a moment out to think, in spite of what I said yesterday.

This job problem, since that’s where I am at the moment. There are two sides to it: the hard facts of the job itself, and my feelings about those facts. I guess one thing I’m trying to do in this exercise is to tease those two apart, and see whether there really is a fundamental flaw in the facts of the job, such that I will never feel I fit here, or whether it might be possible to change the way I feel about the job, and so come to terms in a positive way with another dozen years here.

But first a qualifying question: is it just the job, or is it broader than that? Lifestyle might be a better word.

Let’s try a thought experiment: Suppose I were doing exactly the same job but in a part of the country which held the opportunity for easy access to wilder places; somewhere where I might for example go for a summer evening’s rock climbing, or even just a stroll along a riverbank; would that be sufficient? Or turn it round the other way – suppose we carried on living exactly where we are and visits to the hills were as few and far between as they are now (a year since I went camping anywhere) but I had a wonderfully fulfilling job (which equates to one where I felt I was being of service to humanity in some way), would I be content with that?

I have to admit, of those two, I think I’d prefer the former. But perhaps that’s just because it’s easier to imagine – I know what this job is, and I can easily paint an idyllic picture of a place in the country – or even a more realistic one, of a place on the outskirts of a regional city (much as I might dream of rural tranquillity, I’m enough of a realist to understand that after 53 years of suburban living, the adjustment to truly rural life would be quite significant) - but I simply have no conception what a fulfilling job might feel like. Oh, maybe that’s not quite true. I just remembered the time I was doing career counselling; I remember the comment I made after giving my very first session that it was possibly the most fulfilling day I had ever had at work. But I threw in the towel, because I didn’t believe in myself…

Perhaps those two alternatives have something in common though – perhaps there’s a common theme of what Maslow called self-actualisation, and I could attain that in either scenario?

Or perhaps even within the bounds of the present scenario; isn’t that what this question is all about?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Single minded 

If you’re waiting to hear more reflections on the 30 day learning journey… don’t hold your breath. The next 9 days will be a blur of work, practice, rehearse, work, perform… with the occasional spot of eating and sleeping thrown in for good measure.

I’m still committed to working with the question I set myself, but my 30 days wont be coincident with Chris’. When I put myself under pressure like this, free thought processes get turned off; all that remains is single minded application to the task of the moment. I’ll feel a lot more relaxed when I know I can play those darn notes…

Monday, April 07, 2008

Just passing through 

Today is one of those 'No Time' days. I'll just observe in passing how, through feeling unfilled at work, I'm perhaps over-eager to take up any offers which promise alternative fulfilment outside of work and so end up over-stretched.

It's only a week since finishing the last run of 'We Will Rock You', and the next show, 'Sweet Charity', opens in just over a week. At yesterdays rehearsal the band was, frankly, pretty ragged; we're still learning the notes, never mind getting it together. So today's agenda has been a 380 mile round trip to take my daughter back to college, some last minute practice, an instant curry courtesy of Mr Tesco and the microwave, and another rehearsal later this evening. Maybe some more reflections tomorrow.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Learning Journey: Day 3 

A busy Saturday (aren't they all...); a few jottings scribbled in my notebook at various points of the day:

  • Lesson one: all it took was an invitation. I’ve avoided writing about the inner journey for quite a while now – partly because the journey wasn’t going anywhere, but partly because, whatever my intention might have been in trying to return to some of the themes from a few years ago in this blog, every attempt seemed to come out sounding like a complaint, or self pity, and that kind writing has no value for anyone, either writer or reader. But with just a simple invitation from Chris, plus some unexpected but much appreciated interest and support in the comments, I discover that there is after all an inner resource which is capable of a more optimistic approach. Take a look at the comments and you might see what I mean.

  • A point of clarification: this exercise isn’t about taking action to solve problems, it’s about changing how I see those aspects of my life with which I feel some dissatisfaction; it’s about seeing them in such a way as to open up opportunities rather than seeing them as barriers to be defeated. Something I said in the comments might make that clearer:
    So no, those statements don't really represent what I believe, not with the rational part of my mind anyway; nevertheless there's an irrational voice that sits on my shoulder whispering these things in my ear.

    In the spirit of appreciative inquiry then, I don't plan to spend too long getting the fine detail of 'what is' just right - rather than trying to analyse my way out of what that voice is saying, my intention is to create another voice - one which may still work with the same themes, but whispers words which I can use positively.

  • Or to put it another way, taking the idea of Rilke’s letter, this isn’t about looking for answers; it’s about finding a new way of looking at the questions.

I haven’t yet found a way of reframing one of those issues though – that of time. Maybe I just take on too much, but rehearsals for the fourth show of this year are well under way; indeed the show opens in just 10 days time, this weekend is half over and my fingers are still struggling to find the notes. This learning journey is likely to be rather disjointed. Ah well, that's life.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Live the questions 

Joe Riley does it again, through the Panhala poetry group; what could be more appropriate at this juncture than this reminder not to be so eager in the search for answers that the question itself becomes devalued? Answers are static and soon become stale; questions, never so.

... have patience with everything unresolved in your heart
and to try to love the questions themselves
as if they were locked rooms or books written
in a very foreign language.
Don't search for the answers,
which could not be given to you now,
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

(Letters to a Young Poet, translated by Stephen Mitchell)

“If you want to change your world, change the way you think about it.” 

Here we are then; day one of thirty days of reflection on the ways in which I perceive my world. Health warning: this is not about fine writing, this is about being honest with myself.

To kick off with, these are some of the lines of the song which plays constantly in my head. These are aspects of my real-time worldview, scribbled down as I was multi-tasking in a meeting at work, which might be why many are work related. Remember, I’m not saying these are true – I’m as intellectually capable as any of you are of giving the counter argument - nevertheless, rationality alone is insufficient to deal with them.

Near the top of the list is “I haven’t got time”; for the immediate purpose here, that may not be such a bad thing, since I wont have time for much validation or justification or censorship.
I lack power to influence
I have no time
My cv is crap (a.k.a. resumé for you transatlantic types)
I couldn’t get another job so I’m stuck in this one
I’m a crap verbal communicator
I’m tired. All the time.
In many ways I’m still a child – or think I am/behave like one in relationships
I’m actually cleverer/better/more insightful but my crap communication skills let me down
I had potential but I let myself down
I hate my job (well, maybe not hate, but we’re being black-and-white here)
I hate myself in my job (same qualifier as above)
I could do better
I have no real friends
I’m lonely; I miss real conversation

Notice anything? Every single one starts with an ‘I’ or equivalent. Not good. Clearly my world is very self-centred; that in itself is something worth seeking to change.

First thoughts: for at least two of those – “I hate my job” and “I hate myself in my job” - I know at least one thing I can do to turn the tables. I can apply the principle of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) – ask what’s working well, what’s good about my job and myself as I enact it, and then focus and build on those, rather than dwelling on the negative. Something for further exploration.

I’ll pick out some these for a closer look as these 30 days progress, but to redress the imbalance the next step feels as though it should be to take a look outwards – what do I see there?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

30 day learning journey 

Chris Corrigan writes:
"Hey reader(s). Wondering if you would join me in a little exercise...

A few months ago I was sitting with Christina Baldwin in a World Cafe on the question of “What question, if asked, would change everything?” and we realized that the answer for us was something like “What would it take for you to be curious?”

That question is powerful because a curious person is a non-judgemental person. A curious person is a learner, not a passive participant in the cultural stream. If people practiced not only asking questions, but being curious about the answers I think that would change everything.

Last month, I was in Ontario with a friend of mine and he asked “what are your goals? What would I see if I talked to you in six months?” I told him that I don’t have any goals, but instead I run these little research projects. I get curious about things and start noticing them in my life and work and I usually use a combination of this blog and a moleskine journal to record my results. It keeps me moving forward.

So, I’d like to invite you to try this approach out and see if there is something that gathers your attention and piques your curiosity enough that you’d be willing to engage in a somewhat public 30 day research project. For myself, I am looking at the question of how to be of service in large scale change work from the perspective of someone who has limited contact and influence. As a facilitator, I come into processes, but often I am not involved in a day to day role. So how do I help encourage shift where I can?

I’m going to be thinking and reflecting over the next 30 days on this question and I invite you to choose a question and engage in a research project as well. See what we can learn. Everything I post here will be tagged “Shift”.

You in?"

I’m in.

Someone once said something like: "If you want to change your world, change the way you think about it." My question is: in what ways could I change the way in which I think about my world, and how would that be helpful?

Could be a tall order to keep going for 30 days, if recent blogging is anything to go by, but at least I have a theme and no shortage of raw material; my thought patterns follow so many limiting, negative paths that there ought to be a rich network of opportunity for change, if I’m willing to be honest about it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pigs Ppp... 

Hands up all those who remember the spaghetti harvest...