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Tag: mindfulness

The Secret or Sour Grapes?

The Secret

don’t worry, nobody has the
beautiful lady, not really, and

nobody has the strange and
hidden power, nobody is
exceptional or wonderful or
magic, they only seem to be
it’s all a trick, an in, a con,
don’t buy it, don’t believe it.
the world is packed with
billions of people whose lives
and deaths are useless and
when one of these jumps up
and the light of history shines
upon them, forget it, it’s not
what it seems, it’s just
another act to fool the fools

there are no strong men, there
are no beautiful women.
at least, you can die knowing
and you will have
the only possible

Charles “Hank” Bukowski

I never know quite what I think of Bukowski’s poetry – realist? cynical? ugly? brutal?

But perhaps the view that “there are no strong men, there are no beautiful women” is essential to mindfulness – to be fully present with whomever we are with, wherever we are.


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I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride

Love Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda

I do not love you as if you were a salt rose, or topaz
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.


Not to get to psychologically geeky on you but when love straightforwardly, without complexities and pride – isn’t that when we experience flow, mindfulness and even universe conspiring to help us . . .

Pablo Neruda  Nobel Prize

Neruda’s work cannot be out of copyright yet.  Does anyone know where this was published and where it is available for sale.? At least we should have links up but if you own the copyright, please advise what you would ike us to do.

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Fumblings with poetry

(Notes take largely from James Rother’s blog)

Poetry to the rhythm of a heart beat

“The iambs’s not a normal way of speech”

Te Tum Te Tum Te Tum Te Tum Te Tum

Poetry to the rhythm of our breaths

“so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

William Carlos Williams


[Breaking at breaths of American speech (at the time); each line advancing the action; the paragraph being a self-contained form – a second paragraph might have had a different form]


Which captures the imagination more readily?

Which is easier to remember?

Which allows fresh and surprising pairing of words?

My questions

Which offers possibility and what sort?

Which affirms identity and whose?

Rhythmic poetry or free-verse?

Poetry : a rope bridge of vowels

Prose: a causeway of consonants

The metrical poem : begins with an assumption of human life which takes place in a pattern of orderly recurrence with which the poet must come to terms (Hass)

The free-verse poem : begins with an assumption of openness or chaos in which order must be discovered (Hass)

Most metrical poems : by establishing an order so quickly, move almost immediately from the stage of listening for an order to the stage of hearing it in dialogue with itself. They suppress animal attention in the rush to psychic magic and they do so by laying claim to art and the traditions of art at the beginning.  (Hass)

The free-verse poem : insists on the first stage of sensual attention, of possibility and emergence—which is one of the reasons why it seemed fresher and more individual to the twentieth century. . . . (Hass)


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The psychological significance of the poetry by William Carlos Williams

The Red Wheel Barrow

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

William Carlos Williams

William Carlos William

I discovered William Carlos Williams poetry through his poem This is Just to Say, his magnificent poem about eating undeserved plums from the refrigerator.  We use This is Just to Say to illustrate savoring and mindfulness, two key ideas in the blossoming positive psychology.

Celebrating the world as it is through American rhythms of speech

I understand The Red Wheel Barrow is even more popular and represents William Carlos Williams’ belief that poetry should portray the essence and meaning of familiar life in simple language using the rhythms of American speech.  Someone has helpfully provided a chart to help us read the poem on Wikipedia.

Mindfulness and Happiness

“to draw his themes from what he called “the local.”

“try to see the world as it is”

Isn’t that what we call mindfulness today?

It’s interesting that he had worked out this philosophy before World War II.

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We are who we mix with – negotiating outcomes in supply networks

Tunnel Vision by emerille via FlickrWe are who we mix with

I am just coming to the end of a project and I find myself in a curious position. A week ago, it seemed important to write and publish a paper.  A week later, as I entertain the prospect of moving onto other work, I find myself puzzled by why I thought that important.

Simply, my audience is changing and so is my sense of priorities.

Supply networks mean a constantly changing audience

This is not rocket science but it is critically relevant to the working in a world of supply networks.  In the ‘olden days’ of supply chains, we maintained a position between some kind of supplier and some kind of customer and our audiences rarely changed.  In today’s world, our range of suppliers and customers shifts so fast that we cannot afford to ‘buy in’ to other people’s priorities. Alliances are temporary – very very temporary – and commitments need to be phrased in these terms.  Simply, customers have to learn that they don’t have massive influence unless they have massive loyalty.

We only really attend to who and what is in our bubble

Even before the days of supply networks, I had noticed how easy it is to buy into the value systems of people around us.  When we are in situation, even for a few weeks, where the views of any class of stakeholder are not represented, we start to forget about them. It is only when we step out of the bubble, that we realise what has happened.

Bubble members need to be respectful to all our stakeholders

My take from this observation is this:  we simply have to be very selective about who we work with. Any sign of disrespect early in the negotiations has to be met firmly by withdrawal.  If keeping ideas back is a condition of engaging with us,  it may be better to find other work partners.

And we need frequent points to check that our attention to other important stakeholders hasn’t drifted

Early negotiation accommodation is so common that we might feel we cannot afford to be this strict.  Perhaps not.  But then we have to build in checkpoints where we are able to withdraw if we are not being heard or some if-then – I’ll go along with this now but we want a review and if these conditions aren’t being fulfilled, then we want a rethink.

Work negotiation of the future – contingent, temporary where the links are more powerful than the customers and suppliers?

I guess we will see a lot of discussion along these lines in the next few years.  In three years, I wonder what I will think of my thought processes.

What do you think?

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Experiment your way to success and a life you can call your own

Data a la Warhol by SuziJane via FlickrExperimentation is Gen Y

You may have read Four Hour Work Week and you might have noticed, but not paid much attention to the tagline on Tim Ferris’ blog : Experiments in lifestyle design.

Tim Ferris has many answers.  And many people read his blog (and his book) for ideas and inspiration.  I haven’t see too many people copy Tim Ferris in one essential aspect:  he actually runs experiments on a lifestyle to see what works and what doesn’t.  Tim Ferris may just seem a data nut.  He is not.  He experiments.  He actually puts to work those laboratory lessons we learned in psychology and related disiplines.

Ready, Aim, Fire

Few other people take this approach.  Creatives are willing, in Karl Weick’s terms to Ready, Fire, Aim, meaning try it, see the response, and learn what is important.  They are often disciplined at using agile methods and may have groups where people stand up weekly and sum up how far their project has got  in terms of {need, Approach, Benefit, Competition} (nABC).

A B experiments in web design

Google, of course, epitomizes a experimental approach.  If you sign up to Google Analytics, you can test two pages in classical A B design.  Which one attracts more hits?How an experimental approach differs from science

An experimental approach to life is radically different from a scientific (or pseudo scientific approach).

At university, we are trained to compare the average (actually the mean) score for two groups – say men or women.   We aret trained to look for associations in cross tabs and scattergrams.  We are reminded that correlation is not causality and we repeat that as a mantra.  But something even worse happens.  We start to confuse the statistical relationship with action.  We really come to believe that if women score more than men, the answer is get more women and improvements will follow.  We believe that if there is a lot of chatter about drink driving and around the same time alcohol sales fall off that in the future we only need to chatter about drink driving for alcohol sales to fall off.

No.  In every case, we still have to make something happen.

Why an experimental approach helps us succeed

Oddly, an experimental approach helps us become more active.  It looks like “science” that establishes “rules of life” that we can ape and be successful.  But an experimental approach is more.   An experimental approach draws us in to the moment and helps us concentrate on what needs to be done with the people we will be doing it with.

Our actions and judgments are not replaced by scientific laws.  We exert our judgment and act on the situation in an orderly way so that we see the effects of what we do and learn more about the situation itself.

Our results don’t tell us what to do. They don’t tell anyone else what to do.  Indeed, if they copy us they will fail.  Our results tell us about our situation and our understanding improves.  As our understanding improves so does our judgment.  As our judgment improves so do our results, our resources and both our faith in others and their fath in us.  We are an upward spiral begun and maintained by an open, inquiring, curious and essential  positive view of life that looks for what works and celebrates what works.  But we can’t be inquiring without the feedback of data.  Without data we simply gossiping.

An experimental approach draws us in to the moment and helps us concentrate on what needs to be done with the people we will be doing it with.

An experimental approach to training

McKinsey published a report today that brilliantly showed the return on investment of training leaders in a youth organization.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) did some basic reseah on their leaders. They measured each leader’s ability on 50 aspects of leadership.  Then they they regressed local organizational performance onto their measures of leadership.  Basically, they made a model that leadership, on the 50 aspects of leadership, leads to growth in members, funds raised, etc.

They found 4/50 aspects of leadership to ‘disproportionately’ contribute to performance: ability to build an effective board, find and pursue revenue-development strategies, use an investor’s minds-set toward programs and resource development, and lead and pursue with personal tenacity and perseverance.  They built their training program around these four aspects of leadership.

Now for the experiments.

a)       BGCA compared the performance of a local organization before and after a leader received training (Pre and post or AB design).

b)      BCGA compared the performance of a local organization where a leader had been trained with the performance of another local organization of similar size and circumstances.

c)       They triangulated their results by interviewing local board members to find out how leaders behaved differently after training.

In all, BGCA concluded that trained leaders did better than untrained leaders on every measure of organizational performance.  By extrapolation, they worked out that when all 1100 leaders had been trained, they would see an increase of 2-3% increase in local funding translating into 350 000 new members and more than $100m more revenue per year for the entire organization.  These improvements were more than 4x the cost of the training.

The trained leaders also varied in performance.  The top 25% of leaders improved 3x to 5x more than middle pack.  The most successful leaders were aspirational, set clear and quantifiable goals and taught what they learned to the rest of their organization.

Why the McKinsey study is ‘scientfic’ rather than ‘experimental’

We could give this study to a third year class and indeed, the top 25% would tear it apart, in many respects.

What I am interested in, though,  is the relinquishment of responsibility. The report read as if BCGA “discovered” some secret.  To be fair the article does go on to discuss the metrics that might be used in other organizations. What I would have like, though, is a description of leadership.

  • Who came together to discuss what mattered in the leadership of the 1100 local organizations?
  • Who drew up the list of leadership activities and how confident were they in the list?  How did they feel about their ideas being put under the microscope?
  • Was this the first time they had compared the performance of all 1100 local organizations?  What were people’s reactions when they saw all the data in one place?
  • How much did the past data vary for any one local organization from year to year?
  • Who decided and with whom that these aspects of leadership mattered and that they were sufficiently confident to test their ideas openly?
  • Once they followed through, how did leaders who were not in the top 75% feel?  What happened to them when the results came out?

The data being collected here is data about these leaders.  What information did these very same leaders get to guide them towards aspirational clear goals?  In other words, this study helps the central leaders steer.   What informaton do local leaders have to steer?

Good leadership is a narrative of who did what with whom

We can shoot holes in the analysis.  We are all trained to do that.  But lets do something different (and positive).   Lets tell the story and the story of 1100 local organizations.

Once upon a time . . .  and we were here.

Then this happpened and came together and decided to  .  .  .

This group agreed to try this way and this group agreed to try this way.

And they further agreed to come together on this date to compare what they learned and to exchange tips.

A story did happen at BGCA. But it is concealed.  We’ve carefully not been told who did what and, most importantly, who decided.

Leadership is about action.

An example of excellent leadership

If you want an example of fine management where the decision making process is super clear, watch this video of Randall Howard, the former General Secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union shows you what I mean.

He gives a clear narrative of a situation, a collective decision and an action.  The action itself is an incredible story of blocking arms shipments to Zimbabwe.  It’s worth watching in an of itself.

Randall Howard begins speaking at about 1:55.

For more information on the stopping of the An Yue Jiang, look at Waging Nonviolence.

Importantly we see an experimental attitude.

We must do something.  Do you agree?

What is our goal and what is our first step?

Do the Courts agree?

Can we serve the papers on the boat? No.  Then what?

We collect data by following the vessel electronically.  When that data dries up, we find alternative data and we track the vessel.

And when the story ends, we stop and say.  What did we do?  What path did we follow?  What were our signals and how did we know how well we were doing?

Most importantly of all, we ask what did we learn about the situation.  We learned about solidarity and maintaining the institutions of democracy.  That’s not the same as stopping the boat.

We paid attention.  We worked together.  And we learned.

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Courage and mindfulness

Fragilite by alibaba0 via FlickrToday, Paolo Coelho, as ever, said something both wise and challenging.

“Creativity is a courageous act.  Avoid opinions.”

It was certainly challenging to me.  I use this blog as a filing cabinet to keep my notes as I think out the connections between the things I am reading, thinking and doing.

It is a rag bag, yet it has worked out well. A few loyal readers make it sociable too.

But I’ve begun to tire of having opinions partly because I live and work in worlds where opinions are ten a penny (and that is saying something as it is very difficult to buy any thing in UK for less than very many pennies).  Like a toddler grabbing at an animal, we voice our opinions for the pleasure of feeling powerful and with reckless disregard of any damage we might do to anyone else or ourselves.

Courage comes from anticipating consequences.  Courage comes from understanding that to do right we might also do wrong, at least in some parts of our lives and the lives of others.  Courage comes from seeing through whatever we start and working through what we start to its natural end.  And sometimes courage leads us not to start at all, not out of cowardice, but because it is clear our act is just a worthless opinion and as self-indulgent as  a a small child handling an animal roughly.

It’s perhaps a feature of ‘mindfulness’ to be aware of the impact we have on the world and to act connectedly, and sometimes not to act because we realize our act is disconnected and minimally noise and potentially destructive.

Mindfulness and courage.  Do they go together?


Who knows if there will be another dawn? Tonight we can be what the gods are!


Do not strike the chord of sorrow tonight!
Days burning with pain turn to ashes.
Who knows what happens tomorrow?
Last night is lost; tomorrow’s frontier wiped out:
Who knows if there will be another dawn?
Life is nothing, it’s only tonight!
Tonight we can be what the gods are!

Do not strike the chord of sorrow, tonight!
Do not repeat stories of sufferings now,
Do not complain, let your fate play its role,
Do not think of tomorrows, give a damn–
Shed no tears for seasons gone by,
All sighs and cries wind up their tales,
Oh, do not strike the same chord again!

Faiz Ahmad Faiz

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Open Space Technology increased productivity 3x to 10x

The people who came are the right people.

Whatever happens was the only things that could have happened.

Whenever it starts is the right time.

When it is over, it is over.

Open Space Technology

I first heard of Open Space Technology back in the 90’s ~ in Africa.  Yes!

Open Space Technology & Myers-Briggs

Open Space is a challenge to we ++++J types.   We are schedulers.  We want things to be right.

+++P types live like this anyway.   Schedules make their eyes glaze over.  They like to be curious and love situations where we don’t know what will unfold.

The West is generally (though not exclusively) +++J.  We value schedules.   Even when we laugh at Open Space Technology, we secretly believe it is “wrong”.

That is burden we place on ourselves.  We put in a lot of effort to deciding what is right or wrong, rather than what is.

Modern Organization Theory

Modern organization theory (in the west) is moving more and more towards open space ideas.

We hold conferences in London with the loosest of schedules.  Someone puts a sign up sheet online, organizes a venue, and provides some basic kitchen facilities.  People sign up online and pitch up.

Imagine, if you will, going to a conference in a smart part of London, dodging riot police because Tony Blair is talking about Iraq around the corner, showing up late (courtesy of the M1) and staying till 8 during which time people who didn’t know each other before they arrived but done the equivalent of 8 dissertations (all except the write up).

With minimal organization, people learn as much as they would in 6 months in a university.  Moral hazard is avoided as people fund their own basics.  No one overeats. No one gets drunk.

What is, is.  And the economic impact is enormous.

Is all Open Space Technology productive?

No it isn’t.  Sometimes I attend something which clearly does not speak to me.

But that happens far less with unconferences than with conventional formats.  Conventional formats are also far more expensive.  People stay because they have a “day off” or have to fill in a “CPD”.  They are bored.  They eat too much bad food. They get drunk.  They learn little.  They create nothing.

Can we all work in Open Space Format?

I think it is a shock to people who are not used to “being answered back”.   If I have worked long and hard to be a Professor, I take it as my due to drone on for an hour and have a few hundred people sit and (pretend to) listen.  What would I do if I have to grab an empty room, start speaking, and have people to leave when they are bored?  I wouldn’t like it at all.

It is a new game where we work with others.  It is no longer “who we are”; it is how we collaborate with those who were there.  When we have no interest in their story, we will find the event a trial.

The old guard might, I fear, never learn.  People my age repeatedly ask me: what do you get out of it?  The sub-text is why speak to someone if they cannot give you something.  The old guard are so obvious at a meetup, cruising, if not for sexual pickups, then for money.  They are very difficult to speak to as well.

Conversation is a building process.  We put something on the table.  The next person builds upon it.  When someone just wants to take something off the table – what are you supposed to do?  Keep putting things on the table?  I can’t see why that would be interesting.

This “take” mentality only works when there is a third party in the equation.  I am paid (by someone else), for example, to stand there and put tidbits on the table.  People have got into the habit of “not being present” with people in business.

So, yes, open source format might be too much for some old dogs.

Young dogs.  I am sure they need to learn to work in open source format. But they have less to unlearn.  And what they will know, is that it is what they do with me that counts.  If they think the world owes them a living, they may still find a patron who can “supp” them.  They will find it harder and harder, I think.

Today’s working environment requires them to show up, work with whomever is there, and produce something by the end of the day.  To be in the game, they should expect to produce in a day, what an individual used to produce in several months.  Working on a time model of 20% of time on one project, 4-5 months, and 3-8 people on the new team, productivity has just leapt 3x to 10x.

That’s what it is all about.  With a lot less management, angst, & overhead, we can get 3x to 10x more out of life.

The price?  That we work with who and what is there.  With no guarantees.  None.

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Let each day’s work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your widest ambition

Live neither in the past nor in the future, but let each day’s work absorb your entire energies, and satisfy your widest ambition

Sir William Osler (1849-1919) Canadian physician and instigator of medical residencies

Sometimes it is really hard to live mindfully. We want to reminisce, or we left the past untidy and it bothers us. Or we are are excited by future possibilities or anxious about negative side-effects.

How would we feel if we were stranded, in the great grounding of planes by volvcanoes, in a place we didn’t want to be? Most of us will fret until we have a plan.

Organize agilely and leanly

That is the secret, isn’t it? To become ‘agile’ and ‘lean’, so that each day matters for what it is.

What if we rephrased the day’s purpose “from get back home because that was my plan yesterday” to “let’s see what is possible and let’s have fun working out what my choices”.

Leadership vs management

On another channel, some of us have been lamenting the lack of leadership in British politics and the distinction between management and leadership came up, as ever.

I don’t think that leadership and management are ever far apart. We cannot manage without leadership. What looks like management is just clerical work when it is separated from judgment, moral responsibility and poetic imagination.

Leadership, when exists apart from management. probably exists because good management, happening quietly in the background, allowed us to think about what we are doing today without stressing unduly about yesterday or tomorrow.

When the world gets in a muddle, we need leadership AND management to get our heads straight again and the world orderly again so that we can give unto today our full attention.

But that is our goal – to let today be enough to absorb all our energies.

When life is out of order, to put some effort into straightening out the way we think.  Sometimes it is a trial.  But we do have to ask ourselves how much energy we waste fretting.

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