Saturday, June 24, 2017

Police Stop; Stop Police

Another black man shot by a racist cop who got away with it. 

I'm afraid. Every time I'm pulled over by a cop, I'm afraid. I'm not doing anything wrong. I sit in my white-middle-class-mom-mobile, sweating and hoping I don't piss this guy off. That I appear polite and non-threatening enough to avoid any further action on his part than a traffic ticket. That there's no reason for him to use his power to make my life difficult.

The police have power over us. They carry guns. They can force us to comply with their requests with a certain degree of permitted violence. They can take us temporarily out of society without a word to anyone - effectively state-sanctioned kidnapping - if they find a reason to "bring you in." They can mess up our day, our week, our life, if they decide they don't like our attitude. They can manufacture a reason and they will be believed. And ultimately, if they choose to, they can shoot us.

When I'm stopped, police are generally polite and firm, not friendly, taking a stance meant to solidify their position of authority over me. That is what they are trained to do. They expect me to move slowly, be polite, do what I'm told immediately (but not too quickly), and defer to them in every way from body language to tone of voice. If I do these things correctly, I can generally assume that the stop will go smoothly, and I will be on my way. Yet, just that level of interaction shakes me to my core, leaves me afraid and feeling vulnerable. Because these people assume authority over me with a gun at their side, and the threat they will use that power against me remains a constant undercurrent through any interaction between an on-duty officer and me.

That black people are disproportionately stopped by police is clear. But if I'm shaking in my white-lady boots in Canada, with a cop who will probably give me a stern warning and a ticket, what would it feel like if that was not the likely outcome? If I were black, if I were somewhere less tolerant, more racist, and I knew the likely outcome was that I would be removed from my vehicle and subjected to harassment, or worse, that I would be hurt or shot, even when complying with the officer. It's terrifying. In fact, it's state-sanctioned terror.

Policing, done right, is about helping everyone feel safer, not about controlling the behaviour of individuals to make the cop feel safe. Policing, done right, should feel like a helpful and friendly service, not like a threat, not like control in the name of authority. Policing, done right, should not make a routine traffic stop terrifying for anyone, let alone fatal.

Police have a huge power over us, and the means to enforce it. With that comes a responsibility to be better than us at handling interactions, to be more compassionate and more supportive, to be more in control and calm, to recognize and actively work against their own biases. Anyone who's not up to that inner work is not up to the job. When I see cops, I feel fear, because I've seen how power gets abused, and I don't know the person standing in front of me with a badge and a gun. He could be a good one. He could be a bad one.

When I see another black man shot, I don't think that it's not my problem. I don't feel any relief that it's less likely to happen to me because I'm white. It could still happen to me, but more than that, if it can happen to anyone, that means there are cops on our forces who don't have the control, compassion or capability to handle a simple traffic encounter without becoming violent. How many incompetent police are there? How many assholes to be offset by the ones who are truly called to serve? These people have power over us, but as a group they can't be trusted, and they protect each other. So how can any of us trust any of them, while this is the state they train each other into?

I know that if I keep my head down, smile and stay polite, it's unlikely that I will be targeted for violence. A black man does not know that. He has every reason to think the opposite.  As a white person I can hope things go smoothly and expect that my behaviour can help that along. As a black person, no matter how nice and polite and well-behaved, they still can't expect the stop to go smoothly. Nothing they can do in their behaviour can protect them from someone who perceives them as threatening the moment they lay eyes on the colour of their skin. It's an impossible position. It's an intolerable state.

When any officer acts this way, it reflects on the state of policing, and how the ways they use power and authority breed behaviours of power-over and violence. When that's combined with a weak character and racist, sexist or other biased world views, it's a recipe for...well, exactly what we see. I am distressed and disturbed, and I'm afraid for what will happen next.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sending and Receiving (A Tech Philosophy post)

My phone and my bluetooth speaker have trouble getting along. They just fail to connect. The speaker sends out a signal, but the phone isn't receiving. Then the phone sends out a signal, and the speaker doesn't receive it. Or, they both send signals at the same time; both wait for a signal at the same time. Each device reaches out, each device holds space, ready to receive, but the timing is off. It often takes me several minutes and more than a dozen tries before they finally connect.

They're both talking and listening, they're both programmed to allow the connection, they recognize each other, yet when it comes to performing the cooperative project I require using the capabilities each possesses, they fall short. Their goal, as assigned by me, is to play my music so I can hear it, right now. They struggle to achieve this goal, despite having the capacity and conditions for success.

This makes me think about people, at the one-on-one level, and at the organizational, national and global levels. Just the same. We're sending when we should be receiving. We're waiting for a signal when we should be reaching out. We're making multiple failed attempts at communicating and connecting. We are failing to perform the cooperative project we've been assigned, here - to find a way to respect all life and continue exploring with curious devotion. To play life as music, so we can all hear it. 

So I consider:

Where can I hold stillness to allow the message of the other? Where can I reach into an open space, meeting someone where they are with words they can hear? How might I do better at holding space to receive, and listening for the connection points? 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance: Equality and Freedom

Over the past two years I have been seeing more women in my neighbourhood wearing clothing of arab fashions - that is, completely covered in heavy material, heads covered, and, more and more often, faces completely covered except for the eyes peeking out. It's been jarring for me, it's taken adjustment.

Having rejected my own religion initially and primarily on the grounds that it discriminated against me as a woman, I find it hard to find my okay-ness with women having any set of rules applied to them that are not equally applied to men. To me, that fundamental discrimination is simply unacceptable. 

I feel a little lucky that I don't believe in a religion that holds me to uncomfortable standards only because I reside in a woman's body. I think it would be hard to live with cultural expectations that make me hide my smile, never feel the breeze on my cheeks, see every man outside my family as someone from whom to hide my body. 

 I think it would be even harder to hold an honest belief that there is one true god and he wants me to completely cover myself in the heat of day, despite having sent me to the planet naked. Knowing me, I would especially agonize over thought that, in following the will of that god, my visible choice could also symbolize and institutionalize inequality between the sexes for myself and the next generation. If I really believed in that god, and I really believed this is what he wanted from me, I would have no choice but to comply. 

Maybe I wouldn't mind the head cover, the half-mask that creates distance from people who can't see me smile back at them. Maybe I would take pride, even joy, in keeping my modesty intact, saving my body for the appropriate place and time. Maybe I wouldn't feel as hot in there as I imagine; maybe I wouldn't constantly itch to just rip it off.  Maybe it could truly be the most comfortable thing I have to wear. Maybe it would keep me feeling safe. 

As hard as it is for me, I hold those possibilities true, and allow that they, or other positive spins that I didn't think of, could be the experience of the women I see. I will give the respect of assuming that, if people are dressed in a particular way, it's because they want to be, because they like it or choose it. In that way, I can tolerate the choice. That doesn't mean I like it. 

I don't like the message it sends to my children and the other girls and boys of their generation, when females are told through visual cues that their bodies are meant to be hidden, that men can't be trusted to interact with them as humans unless they are covered up, that there is something secret, shameful or unsightly about their natural form. To me, it's just the other side of the sexualization coin. 

I'm a feminist. I don't agree with being held to more stringent rules of anything, including dress, simply because I find myself in a woman's body. I don't have a belief system to honour, I don't believe in a god that cares how I dress more than he cares about how men dress. I don't have a culture to respect -  women in my culture dress in all kinds of ways. I have pressures from media and society, but I have choices, and if I wanted to cover myself totally I would be allowed, just as I'd be allowed to wear a bikini if I wanted. I know my choices have limits, but I have them because of my situation.

I want to give everyone the respect of believing that they also have the same choices I do and are making theirs, but I fear that the structures, social expectations and interpretations of particular leaders through history have affected those choices, infected them with patriarchy, limited them by gender. Even feeling that fear feels wrong to me, because I can't know another woman's experience, but given what I've read and studied, I gather that not every woman who dresses fully covered is choosing it freely, or would choose it without the social prohibitions in place around her. 

Still, it feels condescending to consider freedom of choice, since we're all steeped in our own culture's tea, so I come back to respect. I have a choice how I dress. The covered women I see have a choice how they dress. Their choice honours their beliefs, but symbolizes, for me, institutionalized inequality. As a feminist, I have to accept that. I have to believe in their personhood and their right to choose. 

But I have a hard time moving from tolerance to acceptance. Because I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my laws. I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my schools. I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my workplaces. I didn't accept institutionalized inequality in my own inherited religion. I don't accept institutionalized inequality in the world. 

For more than a century, people in Canada and elsewhere have been fighting for equal rights, and equal choices for all. For women, a big part of that has been the right to dress and look how we choose and be treated with respect. We expect/respect that men will take care of themselves, we believe in them and trust that they are capable of interacting with us as equals. Together with our men, women have pressured systems to protect us properly; we have stepped up and asked men to take responsibility for their violence, their sexualization of women, their role in using the patriarchy to hold us as a second class. We have demanded the same rights and freedoms men enjoy, This is an ongoing struggle, far from won. 

When anyone wears symbols of institutionalized inequality in everyday view as something to be celebrated and proud of, it's very hard for those of use who fight those symbols in every other aspect of life to say, hey, I'm proud of your choice, sister. I want to, I really do, but I feel about headscarves and face-covers the way I feel about a guy walking around in a "no fatties" t-shirt. To me, they both symbolize aspects of culture that patriarchy has used to bind and control women, keep them from pursuing their own full personhood outside of gender-based social roles, and ensure that men maintain authority. 

I live with this cognitive and emotional dissonance every day. I don't talk about it - I don't trust people to understand the nuance of my concerns. I also realize that my view is painted with privilege, probably rife with prejudices I haven't learned enough to see or overcome yet. I work hard to see. 

I know that I need to defend the rights of free speech and choice even when I don't agree with what is being said. But I don't like feeling like my philosophical objections to the objectifications of patriarchy can't be addressed because they apply to people coming from other cultures or races, or simply because they are "religious." Religion has been a tool of the patriarchy for all time - both Christians and Muslims are far from exempt in this regard.  How will we ever get to real conversations if I can't assert my belief in equality without being told I'm religiously or culturally intolerant? It seems like just another way to isolate women from each other.

In the end, I support the rights of all people to choose what they wear. There are a lot of people wearing things I don't support - sexist jokes on t-shirts, overly sexualized bathing suits on young kids, people covered head to toe with just their eyes peeking out - to me, it's all the same problem. I don't like to see any of it, because to me these modes of dress all point to a large-scale epidemic of institutionalized gender inequality. But despite that, because of it, fundamentally, I support the right of every person to choose how they express through clothing. That's where I sit, today. That's the best I can do. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Why not sleep?

Why not sleep
if you're done,
let the day have run its course
let the night come on full force
let the doing go
let the thinking flow away
keep fear at bay
sink softly, gently, kindly between sheets
daily feats complete
head nestled sweet and loved and warm
leave all behind until the morn
when all begins again?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Motivation and Clawbacks

I've been thinking about the "Basic Income" experiment in Ontario. The goal feels...off.

What if we aren't trying to lift people out of poverty? What if we are helping all citizens feel motivated to live a full life, and making sure they have what they need to do that? How will things change?

To feel motivated, people need to feel they have the capacity (emotional, time, health, support) and resources (money, credit, support) to handle the challenges they are likely to face in pursuing their lives.

I have observed, over and over, that the intrinsic nature of humans is to try to better their position from wherever they find themselves. Motivation in humans appears to require only two ingredients: a strong desire for something, and the belief that action can result in fulfillment of that desire. When either ingredient is lacking, we see Motivation's opposite: Apathy. Or, worse, we see his evil twin, Anger.

I can't care about whether someone is lazy while I work for the betterment of myself and society - who am I to judge their choices when I don't know their lives? I do care that they don't cause problems in my happy life or the pursuit of my motivation. So, I'd rather some people be lazy than criminal, than obnoxious, than resentful, than desperate, than afraid, than angry, than in despair, than under pressure. All of which, whether we believe it or not, become significantly alleviated when one stops worrying about having something nutritious to eat and somewhere safe and stable to live.

Here's the important crux: I don't think we actually have to worry about the lazy bums getting by on our dime. After much exploration and observation, I have come to the conclusion that they are edge-cases or ill; in the first instance, allowing them to coast costs little, and in the second, effective supports become important. But the vast majority of people would find their way to motivation if they didn't have to worry about rent. It's a real opportunity for community building. Nation building.

And so, to the Government of Ontario, I say:

The beauty of a basic income without clawbacks is that it distributes the dividends from our shared resources in such a way as to cover the very minimum requirements to stay alive and participate in life, at all. Work, after that, is tied directly to motivation, allowing motivation to become an individual choice based on life stage and needs. It does so while eliminating a great deal of bureaucratic tracking and enforcement. 
In Canada, we have an opportunity to try the Basic Income. We have a chance to show that when the basics are met, most people can find their motivation for what's next, will innovate and grow. But instead, we're squandering our chance with clawbacks that turn it into a welfare increase and fail to take advantage of process efficiencies. 
Worse, by calling this a Basic Income pilot, we are ruining the good name of Basic Income by not really doing the experiment we said we would. The point of a Basic Income is not to distribute money to poor people. The point of a Basic Income is to provide hope. It's to say, this is the floor that's holding you up, now you can stand and walk around; don't worry, we won't pull up sections of floor behind you. 
It's wrong to claw back. It distorts the spirit of the experiment. The lack of claw back is the whole point. If you're afraid people won't like it, try using your welfare and disability budgets to give the Basic Income universally. See how many people want it canceled after a year. See how much more money is flowing through the economy. See how many fewer road rage incidents occur. 

For the rest of us...

Rather than prescribing what motivation must look like, allowing each person to find motivation means covering off Maslow's bottom rung. There's a lot we need to adjust to as we realize just how far off course we've allowed things to go, if our goal is to have a relatively happy life that doesn't come at the expense of other people's misery and the destruction of our planet.

Many people say they want happiness for all, but they don't believe we can do it. So many people holding that belief is why we can't. I do believe we can do it, if we set a goal, honestly try, and give it enough time. At least, that's how I choose to try to live. I find it more encouraging than apathy and anger.

(thoughts on the 46th anniversary of the day I joined this planet)

Thursday, May 4, 2017



Love, the ultimate four letter word,
so powerful it has been feminized
and thus degraded.

What would Love do
if I loved you
if I let what you see be true
knowing my sight is too, true,
separate and equal
holding in opposition the same three dimensional space?

Whose questions are these to ask?
Not mine, too big for me.
The asking asks too much; it's not my place.
I beg this to be true
all the while knowing
my voice belongs to me
to use.
How I choose
is what makes me.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Models and Values (some thoughts on business, in two parts)

 Part 1: Models
I was a consumer of models. Tools, diagrams, approaches, instructions, guides. The more I consumed, the more they contradicted and overlapped, repeated and denied, stripped understanding bare of meaning, into just knowing how to do. 
I was a teacher of models. Approaches, combinations, ways to engage, showing proven ways to simplify, problem-solve, get the same results consistently, meet the requirements and goals. The problems always rooted where the desire to solve them lacked depth. 
I was a creator of models. Frameworks, mind-maps, system diagrams and ways to understand. Boundaries tend to limit, definitions to simplify. Crafting the framework distracts and obfuscates the whole. Pieces expand and multiply into a thousand competing details. 
In the end, the master model I navigate sums into one line:
honour my values as I create value

Part 2: Values and Value in Business

Change happens person by person, generation by generation. Models won't solve the root problems, which are truly common at the core, no matter how often and well those models are applied.

Within each of our DNA lies a sequence, a code of possibility to play out over our lifetime. Feeling that code in body, mind and spirit, working with its energy and not against, becomes the work to learn. It's not a set of instructions; it's a story to read, a feeling to experience, a knowing to follow. How do we access our potential into a life that satisfies what matters most?

And what does any of that have to do with business?

Businesses are the framework of activities engaged by humans to transform resources into value.

Currently, most activities of most businesses work against human potential at the individual level. From childhood to old age, people are worked for many hours of most of their days, generally at or exceeding their capacity, until they succumb to illness, exhaustion or lack of will. They are discouraged from feeling or expressing emotions in their workplaces, asked to engage their minds and bodies in activities unrelated to what matters most to them, and to close off the parts of themselves that might rebel against this situation.

Most businesses thus fail to engage the natural potential of the humans in their systems. They treat people like they should mimic machines and expect people to perform at a high level all of the time. At the same time, most humans use most of their time and energy in pursuit of goals that matter to the business more than they matter to them, while ignoring, rejecting or yearning for more of their time and energy for something else.

We like to pretend that kinder, gentler workplaces, or compassion training for managers, or more engagement and teambuilding will change this fundamental disconnect. Perhaps it is possible to run a business where every person cares about business success at a deep level, bringing their highest personal value in a way that honours what truly matters most to them. But it doesn't sound particularly scaleable to most leaders.

The good news is, people don't need to be fully self-actualized at work. They'd never survive if they were, and most people have learned to discipline themselves to the point where they barely notice. Humans are social creatures who naturally have a desire to align their goals, values and selfness to the organization that allows their livelihood. They want to see the meaning in what they do, and feel they are honouring their potential and what matters most to them. They're ready for it.

Businesses have an opportunity to benefit significantly from more of people's creative potential with very little effort. Even one or two legitimate steps towards engagement at a values level will unleash the kind of loyalty and creativity we call true competitive advantage.  There are already lots of models and frameworks that represent important steps forward - enough for years of business transformation.

What interests me most is what comes after that.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

debt (a small poetic cry)

if I let myself acknowledge the extent of gratitude owing if I feel my debt in full for all the ways that others made me those around me and those whose misery feeds my happiness whose labour feeds my tummy whose jeopardy feeds my safety whose oppression made my luck if I let myself see it, for an instant, at a distance how can I possibly go on?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Musings at an end-point

When I rate my relative health and happiness before I started this big experiment, this attempt to allow emergence to emerge, to let my business find its path without forcing it through the meat-grinders I've been taught, I find I'm less healthy and less happy than when I started. Do I know myself better? Much. Have I learned a lot about myself, others, and the Energy of What Is? Definitely. Do I have some great ideas and buds of direction? Sure. But am I happier? Definitely not. Am I healthier? Less healthy. Do I have more time for what matters? Quite the opposite.

I left paid employment when my health forced me - I simply couldn't keep up to the full-time expectations and also take care of myself and my family. I looked for and tried out so many ways to get back to commercial viability - that is, a decent income - without a job, while honouring my gifts and my true nature. Maybe I tried too many ways. Maybe too much trying and not enough completing. Maybe too slowly - but that was why I left full-time work in the first place. It doesn't matter. All the reasons aren't the reason. The reason doesn't hold the answers.

I come to the end, with more debt, more stress and anxiety, more weight and poorer sleep. I come back to ground zero worse off - more tired, more discouraged, and with a deeper sense that what I was fighting against was the reality that I may not have a "tribe" here on Earth - there may  not be people ready to receive what I bring in a way that lets me build up the parts of life most important to me without going bankrupt. And if those people actually were out there, I may not have what it takes to find them and help them understand and act. I fall short. Reality I suspected and ignored, hoped away.

I stand on this side of my big attempts with all I have failed to disprove, proofs I didn't want to find, and few ideas. I wonder if there is any point in any of the directions before me. The ones that seemed most logical have been most elusive, and the ones that seemed like pipedreams - the ones I denied and delayed, withheld myself permission to pursue - they sit, stagnant and resentful, staring at me and wondering if they can forgive me for not believing in them. Even as I still don't, not really.

I don't think I'm so different from everyone else. I see, and I want to be seen and known and appreciated for the wholeness of what I bring. It's not my fault that my wholeness seems to be over-large, that others haven't built their own power enough to stand beside me without feeling overpowered. But it is my problem. A problem I have no interest in solving, right now, even if I have no choice but to try.

What will I owe the Multiverse if I waste what's left of the potential within me? What do I owe for the privilege of my Being? And in the end, how on Earth am I supposed to tie that to an income?

Here I am again and still.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Reversal (a micro fable)

On that day the woman, Reason, birthed her twins in a warm room in a cold land, witnessed only by the Father. In the custom of her people she named them from The Virtues: Logic and Sense. From the start, the children lived up to their names. They fed the heart-fires of their namesake Virtues within themselves, not noticing or caring for the fires that starved out, the ones burning as embers under ash. Logic pursued pure thinking, data-based, unencumbered by the unprovable, or mere feelings. Sense trusted “gut feel,” believing that the body held information of value based on experience. Making opposite choices, the siblings’ natures seemed set at odds. Neither could respect the decisions of the other from their own viewpoint. Reason found herself helpless, seeing the beauty in the ways of each child, torn in the conflicts that inevitably rose between their ways of seeing, their ways of being. But there was something more at the heart of her distress. In truth, Reason felt a nagging sensation, a long-held suspicion, a secret shame; that on the first morning of their birth, she had accidentally reversed their names.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

reading the dead

Out of the Jaws of Death
(from the "No Dead Trees" series)

reading the dead

but, why read the living?
they barely feel our heat
so caught up in day to day
so far away, encased in other meat;
oh, but the dead!
close, poised and waiting, longing,
needing to be read
our eyes and hearts and minds their only lifeline, borrowed truth
their words mere marks their works reduced
to just what catches our attention, snags us from distraction;
the dead become obsessed anticipation
starved clanging for participation with what they've left behind.
and so I read the dead,
for who else will commune with me so perfectly; say, see,
see what I meant?

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Lazy Lions (a ramble out loud to clear my thinking)

This is not my first Lazy Lion post and it won't be my last.

I get that big wins require big effort. So do big loses. I realize that working more, getting more done, will potentially provide a great deal more success, and that not doing more can seem like failure in the crazy ant-world we've built. Everyone wants to get more sugar. I just don't want to be an ant.

I played that game for a long time, as long as my mind was able to keep my spirit small enough to manage, and my body was willing to be my beaten-down slave. Unfortunately, or fortunately, my spirit and body have found their voices, and they want equal time. My mind agrees with them in principle but worries because I know what it takes to succeed. I have carefully watched and, where possible, supported the growth and careers of leaders from early career to presidents. I have read the books, learned the academics, discerned the patterns, and what I know is this: I don't want to do all that.

It's hard, knowing what it would take to succeed in the common definitions, knowing myself well trained and smart enough to achieve it, yet for the balance of my life, choosing else. It goes against how I raised myself to think of myself. It's been a total rewrite to get this far.

(captive: caives2013)
So, I'd like to make the Lazy Lion argument again from here. Because the time is coming when we need to shift our determined grip on work ethic to a determined reaching for social ethic. There will not be enough jobs for most people, and most people will not be qualified for most of the jobs there are. We see it, we know it, we can deny it but it's coming like a tidal wave. So let's understand why that's actually a good thing.

The lion doesn't hunt all the time. The lion sleeps most of the time, enjoying the sun, being one with the Universe. If the lion hunted all the time, it would HAVE to hunt all the time, to consume enough calories to allow it to hunt all the time. And likely, it would starve. Because the lion is very, very big. It requires many, many resources to be active. There are only so many resources around. If the lion hunted all the time, there would be far fewer resources, then far fewer lions.

You know what else is big? Humans. And we're not just active - we take up more resources than our 16 hours of daily movement in calories. This planet is finite, its resources finite - for the most part, nothing goes in and nothing goes out. The number of humans is growing exponentially- that is, until we tip destabilizing forces and many of us die off and we take awhile to reinfest repopulate.

We are killing the planet so that we can use up its resources faster and faster to allow more and more activity, keep more and more people alive in increasingly unstable circumstances, and all for a work ethic that says people are only useful if they are used, under an assumption that only a few can win; while, all the time, technology and science have been developing towards a different goal - a goal we all want - to let us be lazy lions.

Every human longs for a life where the drudge work is done (robots) and they can spend their time on the things they love, like being entertained, cuddling with family, walking in the woods, communing with nature, seeing places, playing sports and games, thinking, imagining, trying things, gaining skills and pursuing deep interests. When I believed that wasn't a possible future I didn't see it as a worthy goal. Mostly because of the nagging voice that says: but what did they do to DESERVE all that? Like having your own time to enjoy life isn't the very thing we are all striving for in our own ways.

We could all have it, together. In pockets, at first, but it's possible. More than that, it's a different alternative to the one I see coming on, of widespread fear, insecurity, panic, desperation, violence, cracking-down, murderous intent and culling. That's the future if we decide that only a few, maybe 10% of humans, get the good life, and the rest don't deserve it. It seems unnecessary. Soon we won't need or want so many humans involved in the transformation of resources into forms of value. Already, actually. Soon we will need more humans involved in the work of care, because producing workers in the new economy requires a ratio of more adults to children in education, and because we want to foster home and institutional environments that support peaceful co-existence.

People who aren't needed to work can spend more time caring for each other, and that will be good for society. But not if they spend the whole time afraid, stressed out, worried about money, feeling insecure, losing confidence, getting desperate and ruining relationships. Let the people transfer graciously from work to living their lives, and they will find productive, innovative things to do, all on their own. And at least they won't be rioting, looting or clogging up the "justice" system. Let us be lazy lions, oh powers that be, oh 85 men who own most of the world's resources through complicated and arbitrary agreements made by old men a long time ago.

There's no reason for all this angst. Let the humans be lazy lions and let's get back to what matters in our lives. It will be good for the planet, good for the families, good for the souls. It may sound far fetched, but that's partly that we've been programmed another way, and partly short-term vision. Every great leader I've observed knows that having an inspiring vision gives you a light for steering the ship. We could pick this vision, and we could decide to govern towards it, over 50 years, over 200, over a thousand. We could evaluate policy decisions against it. And being the resourceful creatures we are, we would get there, eventually. I thought that was what we were doing, what the religions were saying, what I kept hearing on tv and in school as a kid. When did we change course to winner takes all?

Everything is the way it is because most people believe that's the only way it can be. What can turn their heads?

(probably something fun and delightful)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Impatience, triggers and populating my life

I'm a contrary creature in ways that can confound or anger those who don't understand, while surprising and sparking those who do. The difference is whether they blame me for their discomfort.

If I were a video game character and my characteristics were combined into unique personality by the rolls of dice, it turns out I rolled low scores on patience. I work super-hard to even seem like an impatient person, never mind patient. But I'm not impatient with everything. It's just that the specific things that do drive me nuts rev from 0 to 60 in no time flat.

I spent more time than I care to admit disciplining and training myself to hide my impatience behind fake, acceptable masks, and succeeded well enough to let some of my impatience work in my favour, making me a go-getter and highly promotable. I thought that was what I needed to do to be a better person. I thought self-development was making myself more acceptable to others and achieving worldly success.

Unfortunately, hiding and feeling ashamed of myself didn't work for me forever. As long as I only paid attention to the metrics I was told made sense, I could congratulate myself that I was successful. But how could I ever believe in the love and friendship of people I did my best to hide from, in order to remain acceptable and not scary? The answer was, I couldn't, and didn't.

I was lucky to find a life partner who can see me and love me. We're raising kids that know me inside out even though I work like crazy to show them mostly my best. From that place, I've allowed myself to look at myself more deeply than the metrics I was using, and meet myself with the love and patience I can't give to anyone else (for real) until I have it for me. But it's slow going, and in the meantime, I no longer have the strength or will to hold up the masks. Where does that leave me?

I've spent years observing myself. I've watched where I have the hardest time hiding and containing my impatience (even when I was at my strongest), and when I haven't managed it. I have a list. It's a little long. Here are some that consistently rank in the top ten:

Unproductive repetition
Blame-focused analysis
Unnecessary delays
Ineffective process
Dithering when a decision is called for
Trying to make me do their thinking
Trying to make me their conscience
Feeling excluded (self & others)
Feeling disrespected/not honoured as an equal
Being hungry
Being in pain
Being tired

Unfortunately for me, with my MBA and my health issues, most of those things are a daily part of work life. I had accustomed myself to it, but once I got pregnant, once my kids showed me that work doesn't matter as much as life, once parenting sucked and scraped the bottom of all the stores of patience I'd been using to put up with the way work environments behave, I just couldn't. I just couldn't, anymore, stay patient with all of that all day, every day.

The whole list of things that blow away my patience come down to three themes:
Lack of physical/spiritual/mental capacity

I'm working on strategies for staying patient with those inevitabilities. And, the people who are closest to me will note that my physical (mental, spiritual) capacity ebbs and flows, and with it, my strength around employing my strategies. All my patience reserves are lower than average anyway, if you'll remember. I use my patience for my kids, for strangers, and the rest I spread around those I spend the most time with, as best I can. Given that, I realize that I can support my own sense of being okay with myself if I'm careful who those people are - specifically, if I choose to populate my space with people who love me as I am, and aren't constantly asking me to change so they can love me more, or getting mad about the way I sometimes am. It's a small number.

And one thing I hope that those people closest to me understand is this: if I didn't love you, I'd be more patient with you. If I didn't feel you love me, I would be more careful, use my patience stores on you, or more likely, avoid you so that you don't have as many chances to see me fail to contain my impatience. If I thought you were a person prone to inefficiency or unfairness, I would limit my exposure to you, and your exposure to me. If you see me get passionately impatient, it's a compliment to you that I'm letting myself be a little less strong, and trusting  you to handle your own reactions. If you can't, it's not good for me to be around you, or vice versa. Because this is the best I've got right now.

And when I look honestly at the strength of my feelings, the objective justness of many observations that trigger my impatience, I feel pretty good about where I am. Sometimes, impatience and even anger have important messages for us. Sometimes, they need to be present in the room, either to draw attention or to cause a disruption in an unproductive cycle. There's no point blaming myself or others if we fail to entirely hide our passions, hurts, anger, impatience, and other negative emotions. It's not like I give myself full permission to be obnoxious -  I just wasn't strong enough this time, and it's bound to happen again. Let's look at what triggered me, which has a message in it, and move forward in good faith. I'm very fast at getting to that, when others go with me. Those who love me feel the same.

Somehow, I think those are the only people I can work with, now. So what does that mean about how I live my life and do my work in the world? That's what I'm finding out.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Truth? Opinions?

The truth lies so far from what we can see through the lenses of media, interactions and experience. Our opinions mean little because they are based primarily on ideas and data we're fed. Fundamental trust in our news sources has failed us. We can't know the whole of any situation. Our natural biases and the algorithms of the world will filter and nudge us to see evidence we agree with, and to be more blind to, or questioning of, evidence we don't like. How can anyone proclaim any opinion with certainty and dedication in such an uncertain and contradictory environment? And is that really the most useful way to use our discernment? Yet, if we don't believe in something we believe in nothing, a condition that breeds apathy. So perhaps we choose to believe in a future of peaceful co-existence with equal access and respect for all life, and let that belief guide us as we do our best with what we have, every day. Opinions only matter when they translate into actions.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Election in the Merry Old Land

It seems America is channeling the archetypes of the Wizard of Oz, asked to choose between the selfish, lying Wizard and the complicated Wicked Witch. Now people are speculating that Bernie is the good witch who will take them home - well, I don't see it, but anything's possible. In the meantime, my American friends, click your heels together and say it with me: there's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home." Then open your eyes, realize you're still in Oz, and vote. Pick your lesser of two evils, and then spend the next four years facing yourself about what those choices mean to your sense of who you are and who you are becoming. I think that doing that, and encouraging each other to do that, is the only clear, tangible, achievable action to take in the face of all the madness of living in an unsustainable, out-of-control power-corrupted system.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Standing in Fear

I stand today in fear. Many days, in fact. I stand in fear, and I take in my surroundings. Feeling ground solid beneath my feet, the energy of life tethering me through the soles of my feet and up through my legs, I review over what I know and what I’ve learned, and the learnings that contradict each other. I try not to look at the vast chasm of what I don’t know, what I haven’t learned, because I will fall in there and waste my energy climbing out.

I breathe. I feel panic tighten the back of my neck, my jaw, my throat, so I breath deeper still, slower still, focused on keeping those pathways open. I feel a roaring behind my eyes, tears threaten; I close my eyes and focus on a point of light in the centre of my forehead. I see the eye of eternity in the shadows of my eyelids.

Closing my eyes becomes opening them to the reality beyond sight; I see the awesome climb before me and I stand, watching, looking for a passage through to the base, some way around. I push possibilities down imaginary paths as far as my imagination can take them, but always the actual climb lies beyond a bramble-patch so thick that I know, in my bones, I no longer have the reserves and energy to make it through and still climb strongly.

I feel afraid. Not because the mountain is unscalable, but because I worry that, if the only way to the base is through brambles, I can't trust myself to make it. My health, my energy, my focus. Mothering, Wife-ing, Friending, Citizening and Household Managing remain demanding commitments. Realistically, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. The places from which I always took my reserves – my own energy, health, and well-being - are no longer options.

To get me here, my body and I made a deal: my health and energy to pursue what matters, in exchange for taking proper care of her – rest, good food, exercise, joy, love & cuddle time, time in nature, sex, time creating, entertainment. She holds me to it every day, every hour. Not only am I barred from stealing time from myself, but taking care of Me requires more space than it ever has. I have no choice. If I deviate, my body takes me down, with swift and decisive moves for which I have no counter. She simply inflicts whole-body pain and removes my energy - zap. Done. No work for you. Or she catches a virus bug and uses it to slow me down. Often she does both. I don't dare cross her.

Fear doesn’t mean I don’t feel excited, or that I don’t believe in the work, or that I will stop moving forward. If I can’t find a clearer option, I’ll pick a hard bramble-patch and try to break through it. I’ll use what I have and bring what I know, the tools I’ve collected that make sense for the job. Maybe I’ll clear a path to the base of the mountain that others can use, so they can just start there, so they can just start the climb I long to make. I can hope I'll still have the capacity to survive and climb after fighting my way through.

But I can’t help thinking that there is a path I’m missing, a clearer way, and so I  hesitate, I don’t turn my mind and hands to bramble-hacking. I push a certain distance down potential pathways, hoping they will bypass the worst of the blockages. I haven’t found a clear path, yet. Time is almost up.

So I stand, in fear, and take in my surroundings. Next I will decide what to do next, and then next. Right now, I stand.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Muddling Along

Light flows like water

I am muddling along the path I'm on because I frame every day through the question of how to live my happy life when it comes alongside, and at the expense of, other people's lives of suffering. The question of what my integrity calls from me today, in the choices I make, with that in mind.

If I want my happy life for me, I want it for everyone. That is what a desire for peace means to me - not that everyone behave themselves to a set of rules defined and enforced by law so no one gets hurt. For me, peace only comes when every human spirit born to body on Earth feels it has a chance to live a happy life while it's here. A happy life is not one without problems, but one in which a person feels they have access to what they need to deal with problems as they arise. This is sometimes called capacity.

Even if that only happens for humans born long after I am dead, even if I feel like I have so little to contribute to the achievement, my desire for peace filters my world view and the decisions I make. Peace can't be taken as synonymous with "safe" in a world where peace is so lacking. Peace can't be coerced, it must be built together with good will and respect. This species is so far from even beginning to approach its major problems with good will and respect that I foresee generations of struggle ahead. So that is where I start - where the root of the problem and my capacity meet; where the stream and the path run together.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

All my life I was a do-er. I set a goal, made a plan and got things done. 
I paid attention to the details. I got it right the first time through planning. I strove and achieved. I worked the plan and the plan worked for me.
Until I couldn't.
What a blow to an ego built on top-10 performance, Exceeds ratings, trust and bestowed responsibility, first-in-her-class, pay cheques that appreciated my contributions. 
When my health failed with no immediate explanation, suddenly the "goal" of crossing the room to get a cup of water seemed too monumental to plan for. It wasn't, anymore, just a matter of trying harder, working smarter, pushing through and making it happen no matter what. I fought No Matter What, and What won, hands down. 
All my life I had lived by the idea that discipline meant doing more, trying harder, pushing through. I had no idea about the discipline of doing less, reducing expectations, settling into the flow. 
Over the last several years I've come face-to-face with the question of who I am, and what is my value, when I'm not the "do-er." As I've been building my health capacity back, I've had to make more changes than I can list. Some were "doing" - taking up a martial art, meditation, shifting my diet. But most of the important discipline I've built has come from re-defining my idea of discipline. For me, discipline had to become less about doing, and more about allowing. 
Allowing a bit of clutter to gather because my energy is better spent resting. Allowing the dishes to sit in the sink while I sit and "indulge" in meditation or deep thought. Allowing a meeting to unfold without a tight agenda. Allowing process to build naturally from need. Trusting my skills, knowledge and capability to deal with what comes, rather than planning to death (not quite literally, but...). Accepting what comes when it doesn't match my ideal, my preconceived notion. Making goals smaller, more personal, more incremental, and more celebrated. Allowing twice as much time for anything I plan. Accepting that my monetary rewards may need to take new forms. Allowing myself the space to create, to play with my inner child, to re-connect with the forest. Shifting my definitions of "goals" into a curiosity and an openness that rates my "achievement" by how I feel, how my relationships feel, and how much I've honoured my body and spirit's needs. Working with, not against, the Energy of What Is.
What I used to consider lazy, I must redefine as taking care of myself. Where I once considered any activity without a tangible outcome a waste of my time, I learn to value outcomes that were invisible to me; but, it turns out, are the most critical.
It's like overcoming an addiction to motion, to doing, to achieving, to success. It's the hardest thing I've ever faced. Forcing myself to sit instead of do, to stop instead of go, to watch instead of take action - this kind of discipline felt so foreign it was wrong. And yet, over several years, as I grow my strength, my whole world and way of being has shifted.
There is a message here for everyone, but a special message for those who want to "help" during times of grief, illness, and incapacitation. Bustling in and "doing" for the person will only raise their tension. It brings in the old ideas of what is success, what is expected. I might feel they are judging me against standards I no longer hold, and that can cause a relapse of grief, shame and fear - the worst symptoms of my health crisis.  Advice just feels like heaped-on responsibility to live up to someone else's expectations. 
As we move into a new economy where jobs are scarce, we will all be re-evaluating what success means, what matters to us, and how we sell our time, our attention and our capacity. It's tempting to just step up our game, do more, meet expectations by working harder. Some of us have the privilege of healthy bodies that still put up with that kind of treatment. But incapacitation, temporary or permanent, will be a factor in every life at some point. Starting to build the discipline of caring for mind, body and spirit into every day life is a first step to being ready. 
Today my core strength comes from a new, powerful discipline - the discipline of listening to my body, my spirit and my mind, holding strong to my own definitions (or leaving definitions behind), and staying with the accepting I've added even as my health grows, even when I'm feeling well, to keep as balanced as I can on this roiling ocean. 
What is your experience of discipline's role in your life?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Don't Disrupt Me with Creative Disruption!

As change agents in one organization, we often shared a little joke: the best change project is the one no one notices. We were expressing wry frustration that the change projects most celebrated as successful tended to be the ones that resulted in the least actual change - small scope, minimal disruption.

Everyone wants the creative push of creative disruption, but no one actually wants the disruption part. We want to plan, control and analyze away all the risk and take only the upside (by the way, that’s how capitalism got so out-of-touch to begin with). We see any deviation from that as a problem.

I became a little cynical about being asked to bring change that no one would notice in the day-to-day workings. Change is supposed to be noticed - that’s what change is for! To make us notice how we’re doing things now, what we want to keep, add and discard. Change is a chance to stop and pinpoint where resources can be most effective. I believe the most important thing an organization can do is build resilience to deal with the inevitable ways the laws of the quantum universe will muck with our plans just for the fun of seeing us squirm.

Engaged people who care about their jobs can overcome all manner of mis-aligned or just-plain-bad process. Good process, even when followed, can't account for the complexity of the real world. People work best in an environment where they feel safe to be wrong or sometimes weak without recrimination and judgment. That kind of diamond environment is very difficult to create, for real, though everyone will nod and tell you you have it already if you ask them.

I care about organizations that are earnestly engaging the question of how to create more trustworthy environments. Because that is really the key. Trust can only grow in an environment that is worthy of trust. Aligned processes, policies, values and visions. Aligned behaviours, policies, values and visions. Aligned management decisions, values and visions. Regular calibration. Understanding the subtle and systemic rewards and punishments that flow through influence, time and resources. A current running under the flow of work - is it a cross-current, or is it pushing you faster?

We don't have to be afraid of the disruption of change when we are working with the energy of what is, when our team is paddling the same direction, and we have the skills and resiliency to work together when things go wrong. In that environment, we can treat challenges as the information they are, rather than emergencies to blame on someone.

The best change project is the one that honours the relationships, values and vision that matter to the people affected, and still achieves the goal. Which may, in the end, be pretty disruptive.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Nature's Lessons: Constriction or Protection

Constriction or Protection (C. Ives, 2016)

Yesterday in the woods, I saw a Trillium curling in on itself, growing through dead leaves. At first I thought the leaves were impeding its growth, choking it off, and that I would be helping the flower if I removed them. But removing one taught me my error. Inside, the flower was still wet and tender, and I'd exposed it like ripping off a bandaid. The next few days will be cold. I felt sorry. I apologized to the little flower and hoped it would be strong. Then I looked around, really looked, and it dawned on me that growing through leaves seems as much like a strategy as happenstance.  Many Trilliums were growing through leaves in much the same way.

I realized that the plant's own green, living leaves had wrapped themselves around the flower before it even bloomed. An arrow, they pointed themselves at a dead leaf and grew through it, allowing it to hold them wrapped tightly, protecting the bud through the  crazy up and down weather of early Spring in Ontario.

When the flower is strong enough, it will naturally break off the dry, fragile leaf in its quest for the sun.  When it has the tensile strength, when it feels its bloom pull it up, up, up towards the sun.  For now, until then,  constriction keeps it safe. What seemed like a burden of chance - growing wrapped in on itself, through resistance and weight, seemingly stunted - turns out to be a fair strategy for survival.

Now I ask myself to contemplate how this lesson plays out in my parenting, in my business, and in how I live my life.

Monday, March 28, 2016


It's been an interesting weekend seeing how life and work can (and can't) interact effectively. I find I'm more creative when my family is around, but only if they aren't distracting me. When my little girl reads on the sofa while I stretch and think/write, my ideas flow. But when I'm in that flow, it's very hard for me to pivot quickly into the "mommy" role when she suddenly decides she wants my attention on what she's doing or what she needs. I find it physically heavy, painful, to emerge from deep essence to listen to her observation about her book, or help her find a piece of lego. I might grump at her or miss her cues altogether. I don't want that to happen. When I'm with my family, I feel like I need to be always on alert for their needs, so when they're around, I'm reluctant to tap into flow at all, despite how much better flow can be when they are around and present without distracting. 

When I think about why it's so hard for me to turn inspiration into transaction, I realize it's a very similar circular issue. I want the presence and ideas of others, but when others are present, I feel like I need to be on alert for their needs, so I don't tap into essence deeply. It takes my attention. If I give in to that, I lose strength in all the ways I hold myself down, back, small, unthreatening to others. My big, real self might pop out, show herself, bare her teeth or laugh deeply, flash her eyes, and scare all the people away. It's happened. 

Having spent so many years compartmentalizing my scary self from the person who had to interact in the commerce society, it's not surprising that I'm slow and clumsy switching back and forth. It's taken me years of practice to trust my strength enough to go deeply into any current of flow. I wasn't sure I could get back out if I had to, when I had to, in the time expected by the people to whom I was responsible. Even now, I'm not sure how deeply I can dip into essential meaning, and still come back to the way I'm expected to live here. 

The creatures on this planet are so exacting with themselves and each other. That's what survival of the fittest does, and I'm a creature of this place as much as any one else. I'm born to its soil from its goo, formed and reformed, weathered and sheltered by its ruling species; human. This is the work of being a whole person in this place - finding ways to sway and bob with the ebb and flow, while steering the canoe to a destination. 

After all these years, I still feel like a rookie.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

“I’m not currently trying to be a nicer person.”

Every day, I squish and squash my giant self into this body, this mind, these behaviours, to be allowed the privilege of feeling a sense of belonging among the humans. For a long time, I lived on the belief that, as long as I could contain myself enough, I would be tolerated by some people out of respect (or even love) for the aspects of me that are actually lovable. For most of my life, I saw self-improvement as a task dedicated to making me more acceptable to everyone else.  

Trying to break that habit seems to cause me to fluctuate rather than balance, which becomes just another not-good-enough to fix. I’m still a selfish, spoiled, ignorant baby as well as a generous, wise, accomplished woman, and if people are around me enough, they will see it all.  If self-improvement is about changing myself to be more acceptable, I still have a long way to go. But I am forced to abandon that path. It made me sick, detached and unhappy. I'm not joking when I say, this is as good as I get for awhile, with the kind of resignation that comes of knowing I only have so much time and energy, and there’s a lot to do. 

Since my self-improvement is now about making me more whole, rather than making other people more comfortable, I’ve decided to focus on 4 primary and interconnected goals right now: staying healthy, staying connected with my family, moving forward my business, and managing my anxiety. While I do my best to be nice, I think maybe I should wear a t-shirt to warn people: 

“Warning: Flawed Human, not currently trying to be a nicer person.”  

I’m about as nice as I’m going to get for awhile, so if my worst scares you and my best doesn’t inspire you enough to overcome it, we probably won’t spend much time together. I wish I could just tell people all of this up front and be done with it. Maybe I should make a flyer and hand it to people like a business card. It could say something like:

Dear new acquaintance:

I’m very pleased to meet you! Before we invest our time in becoming friends or deciding to work together on a project, please be aware of the following 13 conditions:

  1. At some point I’m going to handle a situation badly and you’re going to be pissed with me.
  2. Sometimes I’m going to see things so differently from you that you wonder if we’re on the same planet.
  3. It’s possible that I might say something, at some point, in a way that sets off something uncomfortable in you.
  4. I’m clumsy enough that I might hurt your feelings by accident once in awhile.
  5. I’m lazy about taking care of other people’s needs. I expect them to take care of their own needs.
  6. I believe one can’t enter a fray and expect to be safe. Earth is a big fray.  Safe is an illusion.
  7. I will sometimes express appreciation in ways that you don’t notice, and other times, fail to notice things I should appreciate about you.
  8. I actually like several of my blind spots – they let me stay sane enough to hold it all together (please don't shatter my illusions).
  9. I’ve been known to become impatient and emphatic with surprising speed.
  10. I'm more interested in understanding the next step than judging the current state or worse, the past.
  11. I’m clueless about some things (to offset my genius in others)
  12. I am learning to navigate True North without a compass.
  13. I can’t promise never to let you down, but I can promise it will never be for lack of good will or trying.

Warm Regards,
Your New Acquaintance

What do you think? Print it up? But maybe such a letter is like a Spoiler. Maybe people just have to figure it out for themselves. As I do, about them. That's the work of life in relationship with humans - figuring out how to take care of ourselves and each other with enough slack to find our way in the dark. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

3 Mistakes we make in thinking about The Present

As a reminder to myself, here are 3 Mistakes we make in thinking about The Present:

1) Mistaking the Present for The Past
We see something in the present that looks and feels like something that happened in the past, and assume the same outcome will occur

2) Mistaking the Present for The Future
We see something in the present and assume that it will continue to behave the same way in the future.

3) Mistaking the Present for The Present
We see something in the present and assume our own experience is the true reality of the situation.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Other People's Ideas

I’m not that interested in other people’s ideas.

Don’t get me wrong. I spent many years fascinated by the many and varied ways that humans become creative creatures on this planet. I worshiped at the altar of other people’s ideas. I ate other people’s ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I made myself out of them.

Eventually, I noticed that other people’s ideas started to sound a lot like the same ideas, put a different way. The time it took to sift through all the ideas that were the same-with-a-twist began to outweigh any benefit I was receiving from continuing to seek in that way.

So I stopped, organically, almost without noticing. I stopped reading blogs, articles and books related to my areas of interest, except for quick bits of research to support a theory or practice. I lost the habit of striving to learn. In the space I accidentally created, I realized: 

I don’t need new ideas. I need to work the ideas I already have.

Contemplate them, practice them, test and try them, over time and in real life, with the limited time and energy available, and see what they mean in light of who I am. I need to figure my own shit out. 

This is true for me, so it could be true for anyone.

The ideas I’ve already taken in could take the rest of my lifetime to work with, to really get them, to get good at combining them, applying them, extending them. What did Gladwell say, 10,000 hours? That’s a lot of hours for the breadth of what I’ve learned already, which is substantial. And never, never, never enough.  

There is a time for other people’s ideas to jump-start my understanding, give context for the extent of human knowledge, share tools that can serve my purpose. Then, there comes a point where my time is better spent assimilating, processing, practicing, combining and trying out my own ideas, the synthesis of all the other people’s ideas I’ve taken in, than in reading one more management book, taking one more certification, or asking one more mentor for advice.

If I know what I’m about – what all that learning means in light of my purpose, or at least a general sense of the nature of that purpose – then I can have the fun of seeing how that combines with other people’s ideas. Then there's a chance to make something that actually is new, or at least bring a twist we haven't seen before. 

Otherwise, what was I learning all those other people's ideas for? 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Plan, do and review - or not

When we want to do something big, we plan, do and review.

The balance and order of those three activities is the subject of much debate in management literature. According to them, we're doing the wrong thing at the wrong time because we planned too much or too little or the wrong things with the wrong information. And they're right.

That's life in the world, right now. There is no one right way to act, there is no blueprint for success. Conditions shift so fast that today's Best Practice is yesterday's leech cure, and as soon as you're sure the leeches are not going to cure you, a new way to use them comes into style. Chasing the right way, or trying to avoid the wrong ways, can drive you to insanity and, worse, waste your precious time.

The secret every advice-giver knows is this: if what you're doing isn't working, just do something else for awhile and see what happens.

If you're planning everthing to death and failing to act, switch the order:
do, review, plan.

If you're wasting a lot of effort and finding out major issues too late, switch the order:
review, plan, do

If you're in unknown waters and need to experiment, throw caution to the winds: do, review, do, review, do, review, plan (as little as possible).

If you're working in fairly common or known project areas, stick to the tried-and-true order: plan, do, review.

Try it for awhile, and if it isn't working, change it.

But beware: working and not working are often hard to distinguish. Often things get harder, more unpleasant and messier before they get better. Breaking the old to create space for the new. Uncomfortable doesn't mean it's not working. Lack of immediate success doesn't mean it's not working. So stick to what your gut told you was the order to take, until your gut tells you to try something else. And then, follow your gut on that. And see what happens.

There, I just saved you $40k and/or the reading of a dozen Management books.

By the way, we know that a team with bad process and poor planning can still execute when there is high trust. That is, people can come through even when the structures fail, working together with good will. On the other hand, all the good process in the world can't make up for lack of trust on a team - the structures will fail in unexpected and insidious ways. Given that, trust might be a good place to invest next.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

To Ask or Not to Ask - that is the question

Asking is hard.

The moment we ask, we impose on the other. We make them responsible, to take on the burden of whatever we've asked, or to take on the burden of saying no. There is no way to ask without creating a sense of obligation in the air, forcing another person to make a decision about something that matters to you, not them. How to offset that? No amount of "it's okay if you say no" or "please don't feel obligated" can do it.

And so, we don't ask. We hint. We create inference. We present observations or information, expecting that the implicit ask is there. And when the other person opts for the choice of not answering, we read that as "no." It's a courtesy we do for them, for their convenience, to spare them the responsibility of having to say no, if no is the answer.

Which is better? (hint: better is relative)

Should we strive to make ourselves so independent, our needs so small, that we never bother one another with asks? Is that even possible?

I give my kids 3 pushups for asking me for something they know I'll say no to, given the rules and their own knowledge of what is right. I'm really saying, it's your responsibility, don't burden me with the decision to say no. I stand by it.

Am I teaching something else, too? Am I teaching them not to ask? I hope they can learn the distinction. Because how often do we assume the answer will be no, when there is actually a good chance it's yes? And isn't it good to push the rule, once in awhile, to make sure it's not arbitrary?

Well, not if you piss Mom off in the process :-)

Not if you already know the answer before you ask. But, be sure you really do know, and it's not just insecure assumptions.

I think perhaps the last component comes when I do ask, and force the other to say yes or no. I have to be ready to be as gracious about a No as a Yes. In asking, I create a responsibility to myself to create a safe environment for a no answer, to create the lightest burden possible in the exchange. Getting more skilled at hearing no means more graceful and effective asking.

(When I think about how I've been nagging the Universe with asks, lately, I think I need to do three pushups myself)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Cuddle Bunny

I start and end the day with cuddles. It's my lifeline.

The bookends that complete me.

Don't underestimate the strength of the cuddle. They sound all soft and snuggley, but cuddles wield their power elegantly, irresistibly - and suddenly, they are the game changer. Cuddles may now be the most important thing in my life.

We all need our cuddles - it's as basic a need as oxygen. Cuddle deprivation seems a primary, root cause for many of society's worst ills, from sexual violence to gangs to social snubs. Cuddles might do more for this planet than any government program or charity. All humans have an absolute need to feel loved, close and  held. Every single one.

Especially me.

I hold my daughter, so easy with love, as I have never been, so soft and trusting in her cuddles, little arms pulling me closer, soft little fingers tracing love-trails on the back of my hand. I relax against my son's back as he snuggles into love, into me, as his given, his due, the rightness he expects. He sighs his sour boy-breath and it wafts the smell of comfort.

I lay my head on my husband's chest, and now I am the Cuddled One, his fur a reassuring prickle under my cheek, his steady breath reminding me how to breath. His arms the only place in the world I can imagine.

I lie in wonder, reminding myself to soften into their soft, feeling them teach me how to give in, give over, to love. Feeling, physically, psychically, how warm healing flows back and forth between us. Feeling, viscerally, our physical and psychic connection growing, our relationship knitting solid between our pressed and loving bodies, an armor against the not-love in the world.

I start and end the day with cuddles. It's my lifeline.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cormorant Fishing

Traditionally, Chinese fishermen used Cormorants for fishing. No bird gives you its fish for love. The fishermen place a ring around the birds' necks, so they can't swallow the whole fish, then reward them with small pieces of fish that they can still swallow.

Not remembering who put the ring there or understanding why, not even knowing there is a ring, the birds learn quickly that the fishermen are their friends, saviors and source of the only food they can eat. They become loyal and obedient servants, using their natural gifts to serve their masters, handing over the fruits of their labours and grateful for the scraps they receive.

Isn't this how Capitalism works on us all?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Building a River

I think and feel deeply about the root causes of humanity’s suffering and continued insistence on causing it. I feel compelled to reach out and talk with people working on aspects of those problems, whether or not they have any interest in talking with me. I am building an ongoing model of how Everything fits.

I flit around, calling people and asking them to have lunch, coffee and conversation. Sometimes it’s a store clerk, sometimes a CEO. Not everyone returns my call the first or even the fifth time, but eventually I just try again when they come to the surface for me next. Others will call me out of the blue, suddenly certain I’m the only one who will understand what’s going on for them, and fill in a piece I’ve been puzzling.  

In the wide range of areas in which I feel passionately interested as critical to humanity’s emotional growth, I check in with an eclectic and often random gaggle of people, and try to figure out what they’re up to and whether it’s a productive path.  I live to do this. Each person, one-on-one, is a treasure and I love them while we’re together, with all the shyness and eagerness that brings. Some through their writing, some in person, some just through touch-points on social media or Skype, I keep track of thousands of people over time, and a few dozen at any given time. I wonder what they make of me.

I share my enthusiasm, spark with them on ideas or hurdles. If they seem up to it, I might try to encourage them to take a leap or do something really different and bold. I search my internal database for people working in a similar space, able to provide needed expertise, people who might be interested, and offer to connect. I say goodbye with heartfelt thanks.

And then I tuck away the information in my mind, where it quickly disperses into Knowledge Stream. I feel as though I flow on this water of knowledge as I go through life. I still have to fend off the crows and feel the nasty wind sometimes, but the knowledge flows steadily under me, keeps me afloat. Perhaps one day I will have a River.

Monday, July 20, 2015

You don't know me.

The eye of knowing

I try to tell the people:

I am not who you think I am.

while they smile, unbelieving
until the moment of reveal
when they stand unillusioned,
eyes crying out:

I feel like I don't know you at all.

Monday, July 13, 2015

I am not enough

I'm sure I'm not enough.

I see the super heroes make heroic leaps - that is not me.
I see the winners do whatever it takes - that is not me.
I see the movers and shakers moving and shaking the people and world around them
as I watch from the sidelines, kids in tow, lucky if I remembered the sunscreen.

When they sing, I mumble.
When they soar, I crawl.
When they create their feats of art and science
I muddle through my work of life.

No wonder they don't think much of me.
(or think of me at all)
I am nothing special.

My efforts are largely futile.
My outpourings largely facile.
My creations reveal themselves as only clumsy little things
Burnt offerings of a child who never learned any better.

And so I keep my focus
on reconciling reduced expectations
accepting my willful reframing of Enough
(this blindman's bluff)

Saturday, July 11, 2015


Zen for a moment
Lost for a day
Angst-filled morning, night of pain
Happy love fills the afternoon
Dead of night when fear seeps through
A breath unites them all.

In this place of time and space
Stillness is just another form of movement.


Monday, June 29, 2015


Wield, Reflected

The strangest thing
I was never going to do what I tried to do
what I told myself to do, what they
told me to do
what I thought I should do and agreed I would do
I was never going to do it
until the moment
when I did it
or did not.

All those other times I blamed myself
I should congratulate myself
for knowing the current
holding me in flow
working against my better judgement
with better judgement
knowing more than my conscious mind can know.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Storm of Musing Truth


I long for the familiar comfort of knowing
that I am safe and loved, eternally,
if only I just follow some simple rules,
laid out in detail and explained for me
by others,
conveniently packaged and branded Right and Good.

It would feel so nice, to sink into those crisp, clean sheets
lie down my little head
with a sigh
knowing I
am loved
which I somehow, sometimes know

To love The Truth unconditionally
means diving in while knowing
I will never know her
watching her reveal herself
with or without my help
regardless of what I see
or don't.

I stand stranded in awe of love for her giant ungraspiness
I run around her, stretching my arms, standing on my toes,
jumping in the air
crouching on the ground
touching as many patches of her enormity as I can reach in this lifetime
hand to skin
texture fleeting time.

She patiently lets me revel in every inch of her
especially the ones I will never see
but only glimpse
quickly, from afar
(but not for me)
(for this is where I am and how I be)

Expansion through Reflection