1001 things we learn from live performers

#1  my career is a journey to find my people

A good performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “Here I am!”
A great performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “There you are!”

Steve Rapson from Art of the Solo Performer
contributed by DW from Connecticut, USA

and for #2 thru #1001 visit Music Thoughts

 

Live the questions now. Live your way into the answer.

Last night, I stumbled on a wonderful collection of poems. Do bookmark this link and keep it for a moment when you want to relax.

For this morning, at a time when the economies of the UK and the US are about to become very turbulent, it is good to read a poem from German poet, Rainer Rilke.

…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903

in Letters to a Young Poet

It is so hard to think about living without a clear goal.  We’ve been taught to be wilful rather than curious.

Maybe the first question is what it would feel like to turn all my goals today into questions?

What would it be like to get up?  What will it like to have a shower?

Just to ask a series of questions?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Exercise in extreme living ~ impersonate who you are not?

Extreme living ~ become a banker?

A few days ago, I suggested an experiment in extreme living: deliberately take a job you hate.  Why not?  Take a job you despise.  Become a banker or a politician.

Why would we want to live extremely?

A young member of the coaching world commented irritably – why would we want to do that?

Yes, indeed, all the the advice of the world of personal leadership is the same.  Be the person you want to be.

We can do what we don’t like because we trust ourselves not to be seduced by it

But the hallmark of someone who is utterly self-confident about their ability to find their purpose and meaning in life is that they can acknowledge what they are not. And they experiment with what they are not without fear that it will take over who they are.

Try this as a weekend exercise in extreme living

First do the simple personality test based on Paulo Coelho’s Virgin, Martyr, Saint or Witch?

Before you click to the other post, here are the three steps.

  1. Which are you: Virgin, Martyr, Saint or Witch?
  2. Which are you definitely not?
  3. Be what you are not for 1 hour this weekend – just one hour.

And if you can’t do one hour, try what you can.  5 minutes?

Grow your ability to live extremely weekend to weekend

Over time, the time that you can be what you are not, should grow longer.   And your assurance about who you are (with all the ridiculousness and humor of who you are will grow).

Once a week ~ impersonate who you are not?

Enhanced by Zemanta

The secret gestures and signs that give our lives meaning

Do you wear a hat? Do you wear a tie?

I knew someone once, who would put on a hat if he wasn’t wearing a tie. He said you only get taken seriously if you wear a hat or tie.

I never quite got that. But it is clear that little things are loaded with cultural meaning.

The Parker pen in the shirt pocket that says : “I need a pen at all times. I sign things. I am a manager. Despite the casual clothes. Despite the grease on my hands. I am in charge here.”

The laptop that says “You should find out who I am. My real authority comes from the other end of the wireless connection.”

The payment by cash which says “I am not an employee. I don’t have to use a swipe card to access my salary.”

What do you use to signal to people who you are?

Or rather, what things make you anxious if you do or do not do, or have or do not have them?

Anxiety = importance = meaning

We are only anxious when our place in the world is threatened.

Which place are you seeking that little gesture or symbol seeking?

Who would you be without that place?

Too scary to answer. The meaning of our lives does make us anxious.

Social media has raised the ante in events & conference management

I am not an events manager.  If you want information on events management, follow @tojulius and @carmenhere.

I am writing this because someone asked me how an event could be better.  Events are a highly specialized and skilled form of organizational management, but as a sub-class of organizational management, some general rules apply.

My question is this:  if apply the four basic rules, do I arrive at any insights of value?

1. Make it easy to join in

If we stumble on the sign up, or forget our passwords, nothing more will happen.

The basics are having the event at a place we can reach with public transport, on a day that isn’t filled with competing events, etc.  You get the point?  I can move on?

2.  Make it easy for people to connect

I still go to conferences where I cannot see in advance who is attending, let alone connect with them.  And the attendance list does not include email addresses or twitter handles.  There is no way to find anyone at the conference once we get there.  We are under-utilizing the social, or connect-potential, of the meeting.  Grossly.

I know why we continue to organize like this.  It is not technology. Amiando and Meetup have full social capacity.  It is the ‘control-freak’ nature of British-society.  We like to dis the government for being control-freaks, but it start with us.

Maybe we should give every meetup a control-freak rating?  Anyway, it is time to stop.  I don’t come to your meetup just to meet you!  I want to meet other people too.  I don’t want to meet up with 1% of people I could meet.  I want the full potential!

3.  Find a way for people to learn

We learn whenever we ‘do’.  We are learning animals.

But just as there are levels of convenience in #1 and levels of sociability in #2, there are levels of learning.

When I introduce myself and the other person struggles to understand what I am on about, I learn.

I also learn when Twitter feeds go up on a big screen. Those big screens can be distracting though.  Sometimes they are just a techie gimmick.

Whether they add value or not seems to revolve around ‘feedback loops’. Which feedback loops can we add to highlight great examples of what we do?  And is there a way of making data available so people with the skills and inclination can mash it up, dress it up, and present it back to us?

A raffle in which we put our business cards in a bowl for a prize is an example of this principle.  The pile of cards grows and we feel good to be at a popular event.  The lucky winner is highlighted for being present (and being lucky).   I am sure the organizers are looking through the cards too, to see who came (with cards and who will have a gamble)?

What else can we amplify in this way?  How can we help people learn?

4.  Find a way for the event to add meaning

We all want to belong to something bigger than ourselves.  I don’t mean belong to a group bigger than ourselves.  We want our group to fit into a wider landscape in a meaningful way.  The existential purpose of the group must be clear.  Not just the instrumental purpose or the social purpose.

How does this group fit into the wider community?  Why would the wider community be happy that we are there?  Why would they mourn if we were not there?  How does our meaning change with our activity?  How does the wider community thrive and flourish because we thrive and flourish?

This is the big ask.  So many old organizations feel rotten because they are no longer connected with the wider well-being of the community – in the community’s eyes, that is, not their own.  Does the community see them?  How does the community see them?  What is the symbiosis?

What is the symbiosis between our event or startup and the wider community?  How do they see us? When they talk about us, or our activities?  Which parts of our work bring a light to their eyes?

Social media has raised the ante in events management

Tough.  In the olden-days we were a star to get #1 right.  It is not enough any more.  We have to step up through the levels. So point me to good examples, please, because I am still learning too.

Positive psychology in Barack Obama’s words

US Senator Barack Obama campaigning in New Ham...
Image via Wikipedia

“As an African-American, I will never forget that I would not be here today without the steady pursuit of a more perfect union in my country. That guides my belief that, no matter how dark the day may seem, transformative change can be forged by those who choose the side of justice.

And I pledge that America will always stand with those who stand up for their dignity and their rights—for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

Barack Obama addressing the United Nations Wednesday 23 September 2009

“for the student who seeks to learn; the voter who demands to be heard; the innocent who longs to be free; and the oppressed who yearns to be equal.”

The mission and values of psychologists

In these words, Barack Obama has summed up the mission and purpose of psychologists all over the world most eloquently.

These goals are not just our goals.  They are the mission and purpose of other people too. After all, Obama is a lawyer, a college professor and a politician.

But if in what we do, we do not pursue these goals, then we do nothing at all.

The heart of positive psychology and positive organizational scholarship

Barack Obama has said what positive psychologists and positive organizational scholars struggle to say simply.

It is the student who seeks to learn (not the teacher who intends to teach).

It is the voter who demands to be heard (not the politician who intends to tell).

It is the innocent who longs to be free (not the hypocritical who intends to justify).

It is the oppressed who yearns to be equal (not the the powerful who intends to explain).

It matters so much whose perspective we take.

It matters so much who is the subject of the sentence.

It matters so much whose intent we seek to buttress.

It matters so much that we choose the side of justice.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Have a 4-Hour Workweek just like Tim Ferris

This post is a little presumptuous.   I have never met Tim Ferris, but like most people who spend a lot of time with computers, I have read his blog and watched some of his talks.   I want a 4-Hour Workweek too!

So what does Tim Ferris do?

As a trouper in first year lecture halls, you must forgive my penchant for turning everything into a 3 part list.

These are my thoughts.

1.   Tim’s sells “action art”

Tim decides to learn the tango, and wins the world championships.   He wants to gain muscle and he is The Incredible Hulk in weeks.  He learns to swim as an adult and is winning races in no time.

Whatever Tim does is breath-takingly audacious and gob-smackingly successful.

2.   Tim doesn’t just make art.  He packages it for sale through his blog & public speaking.

His big sale, of course, is his book, The 4-Hour Workweek.

3.  Tim also does his own marketing and he is his own agent

Tim has an active blog. He watches his numbers. And he manages the office for the “Tim Ferris” enterprise.

What Tim doesn’t do – is his own accountancy or his back-office operations.  He outsources the clerical work of his business to offshore firms offering clerical services.

What is Tim’s business model ?

1.  Tim centres his business on what he loves to do, what he does well, and on what we love him to do.

2.  Tim takes his work directly to the marketplace.

3.  Tim took the initiative to create a business structure around himself and does a fair share of the skilled and expensive management work himself.

What can you and I copy?

  • Do what we love, do what we do well and do what the world loves us to do.
  • Finish the task and go out to meet our audience.
  • Take the initiative and create and run the business we need to support the work we want to do.

Are you in a hurry?

Oh, we usually are!

So much so, we scamper over the first question.  Then we freeze in fright as soon as we think of selling our work for money.  And we never get round to thinking about business processes, let alone take charge of them.

Can I persuade you to spend 10 minutes trying?

Grab your favouite beverage, a pen and an old envelope!

1.  Of all things you do, what brings you that sense of deep pleasure of a job you know you do so well? Write down three things in 30 seconds!

2.  Done that? Now turn the envelope over and draw your value chain. On the left, put the raw material that you work with, draw a line across the page, and jot down all things you need to turn that raw material into whatever it is you make.

You can make a fish bone diagram with fish bones coming into a spine. My fish bones included headings like “access”, “willing people” “time”, “credibility” – all the deal breakers if I don’t get them right.

3.  Now you have your fish. On the tail at the left is your raw material. You probably have five or so bones coming in from either side. And the head to the right is the finished work.

Let’s finish off.

Draw some more lines (3 to 5) parallel to your fish’s spine. Label each line with things that need to happen for you get the resources you need.

It is quite likely that each of these represents a learning curve for you.  Which one’s can you get help with, and which one’s will you take responsibility for?

Do a quick cross-check that you have covered all the functions.

CEO: You

Operations: The work you love

Marketing: How you build connections

Sales: How you close deals

Buying: The source of critical physical resources and knowledge

Technical: Any equipment and technical skills you need

Accounting: Keeping count and keeping the taxman happy

HR: You

One more business model for a 4-Hour Workweek done-and-dusted!

Does this work for you? Did it take you closer to an action plan?

Do you feel you could surround yourself with the business you love?

Can you list what you need to learn to do and cheerfully put your learning goals in order?

Can you identify what you need to learn and throw the questions at Google?

I hope so. I made progress once I could get myself to pick up the envelope and the pen.

Apologies, Tim. I don’t know how much I’ve distorted your business but this is what I learned from you. So thanks.

3 secrets about goal clarity that I didn’t know I knew

Front-loading washer machine.
Image via Wikipedia

I’ll be the last person so say that setting goals is easy – my life over the last 10 years has been as tumultuous as the life of a sock in a half-empty washing machine.

When we have to take a major turn in life – when we leave school, when we change career midstream, when we move countries – it is easy to feel utterly disoriented.

But it is undeniable that the day we stop dithering, the day we stop saying “I could do this, or I could do that”, when the humming and hawing ends, we lurch forward, taking ourselves, most of all, by surprise.

So how do we get from confusion to this state of goal clarity?

Shame – bad news – by hard work.

But take heart from my story of setting goals which dovetails oddly with positive psychology.

A long time ago, in my university lecturing days, in more stable and optimistic times, I was asked by a major multinational, whom you all make profitable on a regular basis, to be on a panel interviewing students for scholarships.

The company executive, who chaired the panel, asked every applicant the same question: what are the three things that you want out of life?

After the 10th candidate or so, I answered the question for myself:

  • I like to achieve.
  • I like to belong to something bigger than myself.
  • I like to have some comfort and style but I will sacrifice this for the other two.

So, I was somewhat amazed, some twenty years later, when my life had taken on the semblance of a sock in a half-empty washing machine, to learn that this is the scaffolding Martin Seligman suggests for positive psychology.

  • An engaged life.
  • A meaningful life.
  • A pleasurable life.

Seligman seems to think that most people waste too much time pursuing a surfeit of pleasure. I am not sure we do. I am not sure we spend most of our time pursuing pleasure, or do it very well.   But that is another story.

When we need to shrug off goal confusion and achieve goal clarity

It’s best to cut our goals down to 3, or at most 5, because that is all we can remember without looking up a list.

This three-fold schema is a good starting point.

  • The order of importance will be yours – there are 6 possible orders.
  • The weighting you give to each ‘life’ will vary – whether you go stark raving mad without it, or you would give it up for the others.
  • And the content will vary.

I’ve had to do some hard work rethinking what I want out of life in entirely new circumstances.

  • The order changed for me.  Meaning went up to No 1.  Pleasure went up to No 2.  And Engagement came in at No 3.
  • The weighting changed for each too. Order and weighting are intertwined a little.
  • The content changed slightly.  More on finding your content another day.

Achieving goal clarity for yourself

If you find yourself ‘humming and hawing’ and don’t have that sense of forward movement that comes of goal clarity, begin here.

  • What do you think about the three types of life?

And help me out a little:  Is it possible to think about these three lives beginning from the abstract principle?

That would be helpful for me to know, as I already thought that way before I heard the abstract principles.

More another day – probably on Wednesday!

Enhanced by Zemanta

5 pretty petals of future work

I can see clearly now

Today, I visited Wirerarchy, Jon Husband’s blog. I was delighted to find the 5 principles of future work in plain language.

I do encourage you to go over and read his version.

To make sure I fully understood what Jon was saying, I rewrote his five points in my own words and compared them to other writings on the future of work.

Yes, Jon’s principles almost perfectly match the work on positive organizational scholarship, poetry and work, Hero’s Journey and positive organizational design.   Jon uses much more accessible language though.

Here is my version. I’ll add links to other versions below. And then I’ll walk the talk and tell you how I used the principles in the most unlikeliest of circumstances!

1 Changing focus

The future of work is not about institutions and organizations.

The future of work is about you and me.

2 Listening to the people who do the work

We don’t want to talk about abstract theories any more.

We want to hear the stories of people. Directly. With no translation.

3 Valuing what we can do for ourselves

We don’t want organizations and institutions to decide things for us.

We ‘ll support changes that allow us to do things for ourselves.

4 Representing ourselves

We won’t listen to so-called experts who secretly represent other people.

We’ll listen to people we know or who our friends recommend.

5 Being active and positive

We aren’t interested in being told to wait.

We will begin with what we do well. Right here. Right now.


How would you phrase these rules-of-thumb?

I would love to hear what you think of these rules-of-thumb and the way I have phrased them.

Links to my previous posts and slideshare

All phrased a lot more esoterically –

Previous posts on future work

The essence of a happy life is a point of view

5 point comparison of the Hero’s Journey, Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology

5 poetic steps for exiting a Catch 22

Lighten your personal burden for navigating 2009

Be still: Kafka and Joseph Campbell

Slideshare on future work

Positive organizational design

Positive organizational scholarship

So how will we get things done in this enchanting, new world?

For three years, I taught Management to a very large class of 800 to 900 students in a lecture theatre with 400 seats. You may remember attending lectures in one of these oversized rooms yourself. Hordes of students come in and sit in rows and struggle to stay awake as the lecturer drones on.

Of course, no lecturer wakes up in the morning intent on being deadly dull. But they do feel constrained. After all, how much can you do with this format and the size of the class?

Well, a surprising amount – if you follow the principles above.

The world through the eyes of the individual

I was teaching Management and Organizations. Students simply aren’t interested in perspective of the organization. But if you can think of how they view the organization from the vantage point of their part-time jobs and where their careers are going, then you have their attention.

Give me the whole story at once – circumstances, goal, steps, feedback loops, quirks and fancies

Students aren’t interested in the rules of organizing. No matter how elegant these rules are or how much work we put into thinking them up and trying them out!. They do like case studies, though, where they could follow a story. Then their active intellects take over. They imagine themselves playing a similar role in similar circumstances and start asking probing questions.

Don’t leave me out of the story – let me try out parts of it

Students don’t like being passive. Taking notes is better than sitting still. Solving puzzles is even better. I used questionnaires a lot in which they could see illustrations of concepts and relate them to themselves. Or I used two sets of power point slides – theirs had blank spaces and mine had the answers. In this way, they could anticipate (not just fill in) what I was going to say.

The way I relate to other people is part of the story – I’ll do this with others

Learning is social and students are influenced more by their peers than by us. They like to see and hear what other students think. There is a surprising amount of feedback from the noise and murmuring in a lecture room which is why so many students come to class in the first place! We also took polls often with a show of hands. It is active in an minor way. More importantly, students could see how much opinions varied. Developing a keen acumen of how much we vary in our preferences will be important to them as organizational leaders and influential citizens.

Harvard has a video of 2009 Reith lecturer, Michael Sandel, using the Socratic method with 800 students in one lecture theatre. Our students would have liked that – as long as we were able to be as courteous as Professor Sandel. Students really don’t like being put in the wrong in front of their friends, particularly in such a large room. (Who does?)

There is no journey unless I can take the first step

The jobs my students imagined after graduation were, to my surprise, not particularly ambitious. Though I didn’t fully approve at the time, now I think they had a well developed sense of starting with the ‘ground beneath their feet’ and growing from there.

These students particularly liked techniques that helped them do their jobs better, right now, or helped them put in words something that had puzzled them for some time.

Am I exaggerating the good points and dismissing the weak points?

You might be thinking that this was a University – we set the curriculum and the exams and the students did not have much control.

It is true that we began each year with a ‘classical’ textbook. But we would take topics that students had responded to well and use those as cornerstones to introduce new topics -or extend the conversation, so to speak. Thus as the year proceeded, a theme would emerge that was distinctive for that class.

One year, for example, the refrain became: “I will be me as I am. Not who you want me to be”.

You might recognize this line as coming from the film about Steve Biko, Cry Freedom.

Organizing for  “Me as I am.  Not who you want me to be.”

The challenge of management, as we put it to that class, is to design organizations where each of us can be “Me as I am. Not who you want me to be.”

What do you think?

Can you imagine organizing along these lines? Would you like to give me a case and see if I can rephrase it using Jon’s five principles?

Enhanced by Zemanta

What about your work is important, valuable and innovative?

Day One at Xoozya (cont’d)

“So what is my first goal”, I said to the HR Director.  “The amount of work on my desk is expanding exponentially and I’ve only been here a few hours.  I must find an avatar, explore the communication system, and map my skills set.”

What are your priorities?  I know you will say get settled, but all employers say that, and they don’t mean it.  What do you want done by when?”

Kick the habit of looking to managers for goals

“Well, Goal One” Peter said, “is to kick the habit of looking to managers for goals.  We are not here to set goals. We provide an arena or framework for you to work, alone if you like and with other people if you wish.  We are a huge company and you can work with whomever you choose and with whomever chooses to work with you.”

Acknowledge your own judgment

“That’s stressful at first because it feels as if you have no boundaries.  And to feel oriented, we all need boundaries.”

“But you do have boundaries.  You’ve made choices all your life.  You’ve attended to some things and ignored others.  In your judg                    ment, some things are important and command your attention.”

“We will ask you to do a third task.  We will leaving your avatar to the end of the month.  In addition to exploring the communication system and thinking about your skill set, you have a third task, which is this.

What it important, valuable and innovative about your current project?

“Write down what you are working on now.  And then tell me

  • Why this project is important to you
  • Why you think is is valuable
  • Why you think it is innovative.

Why do you feel vital and alive when you are working on this project and why do you believe it adds vitality and quality to the way we live?”

“Let me give you an example.

Today, a young post-graduate in Sydney, Marsha Gittens,  published a post in Brazen Careerist on what she wants from work– her career must-haves.  She wants money, good leadership, perks, etc.  We all want the same things but right now the financial benefits of the corporate world are uppermost in her mind because she is making the change from being a student, with all that entails, to being a member of the corporate world, and all that entails.

But financial rewards are not her project.  The move from the student world to the corporate world is her project and we are all better off if we acknowledge that openly.  She will spend the next year or two finding out where she fits into the corporate world and she wants to know how roles are structured, what these roles involve, and how important they are to other people.  At the end of the year she will have done well if she has gained this knowledge that she does not have now.  Much of this knowledge can only be gained from the inside.  From being in a company. From working on a team.  From doing a job and getting her hands dirty.

“So she will not move as a spectator.  She moves as a player and she is looking for assignments that will give her the combination of overall understanding and hands-on experience consistent with her skills.

“You sought membership of Xoozya for reasons you told us when we recruited you, and for reasons you’ll have kept to yourself.  Whatever has been put on the table, at this juncture in your life, there is something you want to achieve and you believe that we are the tool for you to achieve it.  There are resources you expect to find here and that you will look for.

The young Australian post-graduate wants to find her toe hole in the corporate world.  To do that she needs to understand the corporate world.”

“You are mid-career and you want . .  . what?  Describe what you came here to achieve.  What are you working on and why did you believe that we have the resources you need.”

“What we suggest you do is write down your current project and answer those three questions.

  • What about the project is important to you?
  • Why do you believe it is valuable?
  • What about the project is truly innovative?  Why is it so important to be doing this work now and what about it is so special that it cannot be ignored?

Then we’ll talk again.  How about this time next Friday?”

And if you are enjoying this series, please do feel free to join in!

  • Leave your thoughts in the comment section
  • Grab the RSS feeds for posts and comments top right
  • If you comment on this post from your blog, please link back to this post from the words Jo Jordan, flowingmotion, or Xoozya
  • Tweet the post
  • Stumble the post

And PS, if you are new to this blog, Xoozya is an utterly fictitious organization. This series began on the spur of the moment as I started to explored the principles of games design and Ned Lawrence of Church of Ned mentioned how much time people put into designing their avatars, or online identities. Xoozya is an attempt to imagine what an organization would look, sound and feel like if it were run along lines recommended by contemporary management theorists.

And PPS Ned is an online writing coach and is available for hire.