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

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Will  you meet me in the place
where corners join
mirror flips
what's known becomes more intricate, involved
speaking  a story of Lovely
impossible to imagine
from just three dimensions

Sunday, June 7, 2015


(poor little blog, I neglect you so)
(as I neglect my soul when she asks to play)

(there's work to do)
(no time today)

Friday, April 17, 2015

And I am Free

My Understanding

Desperate energy spent trying
to make sense of what's happening
to understand
to figure it out
to get things under control

like sparks off socks on bushy carpet
prickle friction poof crack gone.

Instead, I choose another try
my precious energy routed to,
rooted in, Now

holding what's here
feelers testing the flow
giving way to the wild, impossible acceptance
that what's happening makes no sense
there's nothing to understand
It can't be figured out
There is no control. 
And I am free.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Fear is a Loving Protector


The part of me that is afraid is telling me a story that says I can’t handle the pain if pain happens.

I believe that story.

When Fear cries out, I turn to her with my attention. I coo to her, coddle her, tell her everything will be alright. I try to calm her. And, seeing she has my attention, like any bright baby she cries louder. She demands my full-on love. She rises in power and tells me a story that says I cannot get back to Now from here, so I might as well give in. She acts like it’s already happened, and I believe her.

Does she notice that I turn to her only with reluctance and aversion? Does she realize that I am afraid of Fear, that I resent her intrusion on this moment? Yes. She notices. And she resents me for it, because she’s only trying to protect me. 

So she grows her power more. She tells me a story in which she and I are one, where her Fear is my Fear and my attention cannot stay with Now, it must stay with Then, where the Fear was created, so she can continue to exist, so she can stay strong to protect that part of me that I created her to protect.

She ruins everything.

But she’s doing her best.

So, the thing I do with Fear is to be kind and firm.

Fear is like a very loyal dog. She will keep that tender part of me safe, even if it means barking like a maniac at every squirrel that runs by. But she’s forgotten that I’m the human and she’s the dog. She thinks she has to run the pack, and it’s beyond her capabilities. She needs to know that I’m strong now, that I’m ready to lead.

I must be firm. Kind, and Firm. Don’t let her bite me, don’t let her jump and knock me over, don’t let her growl at my friends. Train her with love and kindness to protect appropriately, and otherwise, chill out. When she comes whining for attention at moments I’d rather stay happy, I pet her on the head and tell her firmly to go lie on her blanket quietly.

At first, it was hard to get her to back off. It felt like failing when I had to give her the attention it took to lure her back to her corner, calm her. But over time, the process tightened up, she knew what to expect, I got more confident in my delivery. Now, I tell her to go to her corner and Stay! And she does. Because she trusts me to handle whatever might happen, and to know whether Now is dangerous or wonderful or something in between. And I trust her – because she's not jumping at every little thing, when she raises her hackles, I pay more attention to what’s happening Now.

At first it felt like I was going nowhere, but it didn't matter. That time was going by, and I could either try to train her, or let her rule my life in the false delusion that she is in charge and I am the trained animal. Every day, I try.

There are lots of ways to train our Fear, once we know her for the loving protector she is. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Put to Purpose (not to work)

Why is "jobs" our single go-to answer for inequality, poverty and the economy?

Every corporation is mandated by law and incented by the demands of the stock exchange to eliminate jobs as quickly as possible. Make no mistake - the day when it's more expensive to employ humans than buy and maintain robots is practically upon us. What happens when the humans become obsolete as the machinery of economic "value" creation, and all the previous buyers of said Human Resources suddenly dump them, en masse, back onto society's shoulders?

The rules, as of now, stand thus: 

1) People: People are not entitled to anything, born naked into a world that's already been divvied up, they are still required to work their way into basic life-sustenance and to earn dignity through paid employment. Finding and keeping this employment remains the sole responsibility of the person, regardless of how many more people are born into the already-divvied-up world, and regardless of how few jobs remain in the processes of commerce. 

2) Corporations: Corporations are entitled to externalize much of their resource costs to society through subsidies and tax breaks, low wages and cheap natural resources. As long as they pay their taxes, they are permitted to exponentially increase the profits of their shareholders, export the value of resources away from the communities where they originate, and have no responsibility to the people who do the work that makes the value that provides the money. Corporations are not responsible to pay a wage that feeds and houses employees, nor to provide a certain number of people with jobs. Quite the opposite - every system supports shedding jobs and lowering wage costs. 

If we leave the rules the same, when the mass dump comes, our fragile little world of peace starts falling apart. Can't we see the bankrupt, ghost towns in the U.S.? Can't we read a history book or the tea leaves?

Jobs are not the answer. Good paying jobs are not the answer. The answer lies in changing the goal of society from "putting people to work" towards "putting people to purpose." If we accept the idea that not all the humans actually need to work (soon) in order for the economy to keep chugging, and we accept the idea that every human brings a unique perspective and, dare I say, purpose, to this Earth, the goal of society shouldn't be to get every person working for the economy. The goal could be to provide every person with the same chance to pursue their purpose in life. It's not so grandiose as to be a new idea - the entire United States of America was founded on it. They just forgot when they let big money get too big.  

We can start by valuing the time of each human more highly, as a society. Valuing our own time, actually, is a good first step. Valuing our every hour as the priceless and only true commodity, treating our time with reverence, selling only as much as we need to for what we deem "enough." If we can do nothing else, that's a place to start. We can create slack in our own lives, slack that lets our purpose breathe and whisper in our ears.

Maybe it's contagious. 

(don't believe me? read Robert Reich )

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Unions (a "Just Doing My Job" memoire post)

I don't know why this came to me today, but I'll share it. Maybe it will give you something, and give something to me in the sharing.

Early in my career, when I was so green and clueless I had no business talking, I toured facilities across Canada to bring a “face” for head office HR. During a meeting about benefits, an employee asked me, out of the blue,

Why don’t we have a union?

I felt completely blindsided. I had never thought about unions at all. I basically knew what they were, but I’d never worked anywhere that had one. My answer was pretty na├»ve (but I might make the same one today, so maybe not). 

I said, well, unions are meant to stand between the employee and the employer, and the employees pay them for that. So I guess you don’t have a union because you don’t want one.

That’s right, called out another guy. I’ve worked in a union shop. Guys there, it’s all about working the system, not about the work. Here, we don’t make great money but we have benefits, the work’s not too hard, and the big guys take care of us. They bring in business, and let us get the work done. If I want to switch a shift I don’t have some 90 page process I gotta follow.

Well, said a woman, my husband works at a union shop and they make $10 more an hour than I do here, the salary bands are  posted. Four weeks’ vacation after five years.

And no favouritism, called another. Everything’s by seniority.

Seniority? Called a young guy from the back. Yeah, so old guys can sit back and let us do all the work while they get their pick of shifts and twice the pay. At least here, we have a merit pay system.

Whatever, said a disgruntled man. Favouritism’s everywhere, it’s just how it shows up.

I think we’re getting a little off topic, I floundered, completely missing the moment in my panic. Does anyone have questions about the benefits plan?

Then I noticed the manager standing in the doorway. He was pissed. No, he growled, I think it’s time for everyone to get back to work.  The employees scattered.

When we were alone, he closed the door and shook his head.

I don’t know what they’re thinking, sending a fresh-face like you out here. Do you know what a union would do to this place? We give these guys flexibility for their hours, so they can consolidate their shifts and do other things in their lives besides work here. We got a good system, it works for everyone. But business is slow, they’re looking to sell this whole operation or our plant might close. A union run at this point would destroy any chance at a sale. It would get us all tied up in negotiations and contracts and processes and procedures and drag us even further down the toilet.

And you know what, he went on, getting more agitated, they’ve got it good, here. Sure there’s favouritism sometimes, but it’s usually because someone’s doing a better job, not just for no reason. And some guys do get paid more than the housewives taking shifts for pin money or the students just working here til they get through school. Look, these guys have more skin in the game. If this place goes belly up, they lose their jobs, they got families, mortgages, what do those young kids have to worry about but themselves? They’d get another job right away. Some guys have more they gotta do with that money, people counting on them. The whole town gets affected if they can't work. No offense, sweetheart, but you probably make more than most of those guys for pushing paper, just because you’re head office, and you haven’t had time to know shit about life. None of it’s fair. But it’s good here. And if anyone ever asks you why we don’t have a union again, you tell them, because we don’t fucking need one and SHUT. IT. DOWN.

I wondered for a moment if he was going to slap me. He turned abruptly and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

I cried. For about a minute, then I pulled myself together, put on a smile, and headed back out to do my job. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Bird Brains

Safe vantage

There's a little flock of sparrows that likes to make the backyard rounds looking for food. In winter it's got to be hard, and our neighbourhood's cats don't make it any easier. I wanted to watch these birds a little more closely, so I put out seed. Lots of seed. I put it in the snow-filled garden, where critter-repelling walls will give them a heads-up if any cats want in. I put it in the centre of the yard, where a cat would have to be in the open so they could fly away before its approach. While I can't guarantee their safety, the seed placement is as safe as it's going to get, given that I don't have a bird feeder.

And I put out lots of seed. Half a bag. Enough they could come back, day after day, for weeks, before they'd eat it all. I focused on the seed as an offering, an invitation, and my energy put out a call to lunch.

Then I waited.

It didn't take long to get their attention. First I heard them in the woods, telling each other they might have found something. Then five swooped over to check it out, landing in the trees at the back of the yard, watching that seed like it might tell them a story. But not one bird ate the seed. They took off. This happened several times over a couple of hours. More chattering. More watching.

Mr. Brave
Eventually, one brave soul was nominated from the group. He swooped down, landed close to the seed for a few seconds, and took off into the trees. He did it again, landing a little closer. The third time, he boldly grabbed a seed before taking flight.

Based on his success, another brave bird tried the same thing, in the same way, with the same success. The two brave souls traded back and forth - swoop in, grab a seed, make for the trees. Swoop in, grab a seed, make for the trees. They had perfect timing, one swooping in, the other landing, like a dance. I could almost hear the music of the rhythm of their wings and the wind. Meanwhile, other birds watched from the trees, while most of the flock stayed well away.

After maybe half an hour of this, Mr. Brave decided to land and chow down. The other birds watched, waiting for him to be eaten, waiting for him to be trapped, killed, taken down for his daring. When he seemed safe enough, the second bird landed, not too close to him, and ate. Before long, the dance of two birds had become a slower dance of 12, then 20 birds. The bravest got the most food.

Even so, they were easily spooked. If even one bird went on alert, the entire flock would take off into the trees like lightening. Then another ten or fifteen minutes to forget and feel safe again. Over and over, the flock flirted with the abundance I'd left for them, taking off, coming back, never quite settling, never trusting what they'd found.

For good reason. This world is a dangerous place. It's hard to tell the abundance from the traps. It's hard to settle in and enjoy what's good in this freezing weather where cats prowl and you never know what those crazy humans might decide to do.

Am I not equally skittish?

Our bird brains don't let us trust or enjoy abundance. They want to keep us safe, and alive. But watching while someone else takes the risk isn't how I want to live. Picking at their leftovers and taking off in fear every few minutes uses more energy that I get from the meager seed I score. I think I'll wait till that cat is ready to pounce before I turn from my feast - after all, I can fly!