. . .unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket. . .

Dear Benedict XVI: I want to be free, and ride my bike into the sunset! by Ed Yourdon via FlickrDavid Whyte

The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.

These are the words of contemporary poet, David Whyte, quoting his associate, Benedictine monk, Brother David.

Whatever you plan is to small for you live.

Charles Bukowski

Says the same but in his inimitable harsher style.

So You Want To Be A Writer

if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
fame,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Trust what you will do wholeheartedly?

Do you have the patience to do what you can be bothered to do wholeheartedly?

I don’t always but I am glad when I do.

Think you are bound hand-and-foot to task you have to do, should do, and nevertheless hate doing?

Try this exercise. Nightly, add to your gratitude diary a line on

Style. The style you wrote to your life today.

Simplicity. An activity you conducted with aplomb and elegance (or more than you do usually).

Story.  Re-write the story of your day in a few lines with you in charge being the person you want to be (I designed this for employees turned entrepreneurs – put your employee story aside and write as an entrepreneur and business owner.)

Simultaneity. Note when you panicked about living wholeheartedly and ask why you cannot make your choice and act your choice at exactly the same time (the way an owner must make a business decision and take the fame or blame or whatever).

Is this impatience?  Hmm.  I don’t thinks so.  It’s just stopping our storyline wandering off into impatience.  And we begin to trust the world a little more.

For those dogged moments when we just have to get things done

As Once the Winged Energy of Delight

As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions…For the god
wants to know himself in you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

For the god wants to know himself in you

As we approach the end of the year, many of us will be trying desperately to clear our desks so that we can take a few days off to be with our families.

Many of our tasks will be tedious.   And our “to do” lists will be long.

This is the time to take each task “as it is”, one at a time, to do it with pleasure, not thinking about the other tasks, disregarding our fatigue for a moment, and to see the link between our task and our deepest dreams, not in a tortured way, but with the delight of a child.

We need to do the task with a caress and a verve “For the god wants to know himself in you.”

The opposite of complicated isn’t complex. It is flow!

Complicated vs Complex

I am so chuffed to see my post on Complicatedness and Complexity take off – even if belatedly.

The difference between the complicated and complexity is important.  We love the complex sound of music and are quickly tired of the repetitive noise of a jackhammer.

And complicatedness wears us out in seconds.  Meetings which are run around the manager’s whim leave the rest of us to hang about like spare parts. Not knowing when our delayed flight will resume and not being able to call ahead to rearrange our transport and meetings renders us astonishingly irritable.  Internet banking cluttered with advertising and instructions below the fold don’t allow flow.

The opposite of complicated is flow and we do know how to make flow.

#1 The task must allow us to act autonomously

All the information must be in front of us. We shouldn’t have to open dozens of files, folders and notebooks to find it.  Nor should we have to ask anyone.  Eveything we need should be in front of us and obvious.

#2 The task must give us feedback

As soon as we try the task, it should be clear whether we are doing the right thing.

#3 The task must allow learning.

A toddler persists in putting a square into a round hole until they achieve the insight, quite accidentily, that the shapes and holes match.  We like to learn.  We don’t mind at all.

But we must have time to learn.  Don’t shout at us or time us our while we figure things out.

#4 We must be allowed to finish.

Once we get going, we want to get everything done.  Please don’t interrupt.  Wait!

We also know how to test flow

It’s easy!  We take the group who is likely to do the task and we let them do it.  We watch.  We learn where we have misunderstood their skills, needs and working conditions, and we redesign!

Complicated – how I hate it!

But then I’ve always been a flow junkie!

Get a big job done twice as fast using the psychology of goal setting

We love goals that simplify what we have to do

We are a hopeless species! Give us a goal and we cannot help ourselves. We chase it.  But if the end is not in sight, we feel tired and we stop.

Hence the three rules of goal-setting.

  • Make the goal definite and visible.
  • Show our progress to the goal in real-time
  • Make sure it is doable before we get tired.

Blog migration

My predicament

I have been writing this blog in WordPress.com for two years. Now that is is established, I want to move it to a self-hosted site using software from WordPress.org.

I am going to move to a magazine layout which means that the last post from each category will be visible on the front page. And the reader is able to click to a category’s index to see everything I’ve written in chronological order.

The big task

My difficulty is that I have dozens of categories. I eventually settled on a format that uses 5 categories and I have chosen the categories.

Now I need to reclassify 500 or so posts into the 5 categories.   At a handful a day, this could take me a year to do!

Clever goal setting is motivating & doable

I’ve finally found a way to do the transfer that is motivating.

  • I look down my categories list, pick one with few entries, and resort the posts. Eventually the number becomes 0.
  • Then I delete the category from the list and the categories list grows shorter!

It will still take me months but eventually

  • I will have a blog with all the posts categorized under 5 topics
  • I will have reread everything I have written in two years and done some light editing
  • I’m bound to have write some more summary posts
  • It will be easier for me review my own posts and find the questions that I have answered well and should answer soon!

The trick has been to arrange the work so

  • I can see where I am going
  • I have a constant sense of progress
  • I can organize the work into chunks that I can finish before I get tired.

Great goal setting!

The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness

This strange expression has been made popular by poet, David Whyte, who heard it first from a monk, counselling him during a bad bout of professional burnout.

It seems cruel, doesn’t it, to be told to put some elbow-grease into it, at a time we are so tired, we literally can’t think straight?

How does wholeheartedness cure exhaustion?

We feel exhausted, we become exhausted, when we pursue conflicted goals.  We become like the mouse in a maze with cheese to the left and cheese to the right. Deary me – which way to go?   It is the dithering that is exhausting.  Or being greedy and trying to get both lots of cheese at the same time.

We feel relaxed and at ease when we make up our minds about what we want to do

We have a heap of expressions for the sensation of getting moving.

  • We cross the Rubicon (from which there was no turning back as Ceasar and his troops marched on Rome).
  • The universe conspires to help us (Who said that?   It means that suddenly it is easy to do what seemed hard only moments ago.  And that people seem to go out of their way to help you.)
  • Our path opens up as we take the first step (Paulo Coelho tweeting on Saturday).  The path only becomes possible when we are totally committed to moving forward. Totally committed – with no reservations.

Clarity of goals generates energy – moving toward a goal multiplies energy

Action becomes so easy and so natural. ‘Getting things done’ is not the issue – it is never the issue.

Setting goals is the issue. Making up our minds is the hard part.

Do you know what you want?

Until we can distill our goals to a set that our smallish inefficient memories can remember (3 and at the most 5), we dither, and we wear ourselves out.

But is what you want, right?

You do know, I hope, that we become impossible when we pursue goals.  The dithering mouse turns into a juggernaut trampling over everyone and everything.

We must make sure that our goals are the right goals.

More this evening . . .

Postscript: Tuesday 15 September 2009

@paulocoelho: Cloning Confucius: a bird sings because he has a song, not because he has an answer

Do have a look at the rhyme added by Whappen in the comments.

The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness

I am very very tired after a hard weekend cranking out lecture notes.  Rather than go into the details of why that is so tiring, I would like to take another tack.  How do we recover from exhaustion?

David Whyte, corporate poet, has popularized the saying: the antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.  So should I tackle another set of notes?  No, not quite.  I should spend the few hours of the evening moving towards the “channel in which my life flows” (Thoreau).

One way positive psychologists use to take us closer to our ‘natural element’ is to express gratitude.  So I thought I would mention one person who I think represents what is good and true, better and possible in contemporary UK.

Chris Hambly, musician, helicopter technician, social media guru, tertiary educator is one of the extraordinary connectors of the emerging internet-based creative industries in the UK.  He is the prime mover behind the Social Media Mafia, he sponsors media camps in High Wycombe & London, he runs conventional conferences on Social Media in Business, he advises on the use of social media in business and he manages online education for organizations such as SAE (sound and audio engineering).

Chris represents the best of up-and-coming Brits.  He represents what is emerging, what is hopeful, what is helpful, and what represents real value.  Check him out as an antidote to the credit crunch and bailout blues.

And it works.  I feel better.  Wholeheartedness is the antidote to exhausation.

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