. . .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.

To be a good manager, teacher or psychologist, I must believe in you fully

I know that learning is social

I teach.  I know that people learn dramatically more when they feel part of a common venture.

We understand a little about social learning

Social learning has barely been researched but we know a little.

  • We know we can stop people learning very effectively by excluding them – even inadvertently ~by loss of eye contact and they way we tell stories.
  • We know the Pymaglion effect is a powerful self-fulfilling prophecy.   My students will be as good as I think they are.

But the process of learnin begins when I show deep respect for who my students are and what they bring to my life.

E E Cummings on recognition

American poet E. E. Cummings puts it well:

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”

To be an effective teacher, to be an effective manager, to be an effective psychologist ~ I must believe in you, 100%, without reservation.



Menus are for strangers: Good menus=Good strangers=Good business

Eating at your local

I love walking  into my local restaurant and being greeted by name. Isn’t it wonderful to go where our preferences are known and the proprietors add that special touch that takes the food from great to delightful?

I love it. I work at it. I always want a ‘local.’

Menus for strangers

At my ‘local’, I never look at the menu. I leave the choice of my meal to the chef. They know what is is good today.

But a stranger, as stranger, as stranger needs a menu. Menus help them get oriented. Menus lay out the terms of a contract clearly. Menus help a “noobe” get through the first stage of finding their way about. If it is clear, they settle down, and fit in.

A modern economy needs ‘good menus’

We hear a lot about trust these days and the converse ~ targets. UK seems to have got itself in a muddle.

  • We do need good menus,.so that strangers can find their way around.
  • We need to put back the road signs that were taken down during WWII as well and rearrange the others so they aren’t cluttered.
  • We need clear ‘menus’ for all public services so that people know what is on offer and what they must do in return (the price).

But menus aren’t there to limit people

We don’t have to stick to the menu precisely. It is not an “offer” nor a “contract”.

We look at the menu and then we make an order.  That is followed by a confirmation. It is OK for a restaurant to say we are out of fresh scones but we do have some delicious waffles.

It is also OK for a restaurant to vary the price because the menu is not an offer. Restaurants just don’t do vary the price because it would cause a muddle and muddle is what we are trying to avoid.

Menus are for noobes

The menu is there to help ‘noobes’ quickly establish the main points.

  • It’s infuriating when the menu is garbled.
  • It’s soul-destroying when the menu is full of spin and is nothing like the “real contract”
  • It’s unwelcoming when the provider wants to stick to the menu and can’t move up to a real-relationship when we are ready to do so

Successful economies have good ‘menus’ to welcome strangers

In a fast-moving modern economy, most of us are strangers most of the time. We need good information to keep the movement going easily.

  • Good menus welcome strangers whom we need to prosper
  • Good menus help strangers get oriented so we move quickly towards a contract
  • Good menus are not the contract and should not be confused with the contract. Confusing the menu with a contract is, well, confusing.   is not good manners. It is not legal. It is not honest. It is neither good business nor good running of the economy. It is certainly bad politics. People understand when they are getting ‘done’ even if there is little they can do about it a the minute.

First good menus. Get a sense of what is possible at what price. Then make the order. Then give the confirmation. Then deliver. Then pay.

That’s how it works. Good businesses move people to status of ‘locals’ as quickly as possible and let them tweak what they want at step 3 where they vary

More bad news coming. The internet will expose more institutional spin

I know my institutions and can read their behavior

Many years ago, I friend of mine was negotiating his salary with his employer.  To aid his efforts, he paid a friend who was an employment agent to advertise a job just like his and to offer a wonderful package.

My students at the time were all excited.  The advertisement vindicated their choice of major.  Yes,  if they worked hard, they could follow an institutional path and be rich!!

Not even knowing my friend’s devious scheme (I found out later), I dismissed the advertisement with a contemptuous, “It’s a scam”.

See, I knew three things that my students didn’t know:

  • The prevailing salary rates, not just in my profession, but in sister professions of accounting, marketing, etc.  I knew what the market thought was reasonable.
  • Business conditions and the amount of gross profit available for institutional careers (you know the one’s guaranteed by the taxpayer no matter how much you mess up)
  • That people run institutions lie.

Before I worked as a work & organizational psychologist, I too thought institutions were honorable

I remember the first time I fell for an institutional scam.  It was a painful experience and it took me years to get over it.

We trust institutions

When we are young, we believe that institutional leaders are honorable.  Institutional leaders go to great lengths to make us believe that because that is their job.  After all an institution is only an institution if it is stable and trusted.  So they will tell you anything to have you believe they have done their job.

But we should remember that to check whether they are trustworthy

And that is why we must not trust them.  We must ask for evidence.  Hard, cold evidence.  What are the career paths in the organization?  Where are the statistics?  What are the future scenarios for the organization?  Can you look at them?

An institutional leader cannot use his own spin as evidence

Lord Mandelson is doing the right thing by making universities show students the destinations of graduates An institutional leader cannot hold up his own spin as evidence that he has succeeded in making order and stability for us.  He was to show us the evidence.

In the days of the internet, data on the institution’s performance should be freely available

And I am afraid that if that in the days of the internet that if that evidence is not freely available on the internet in slurpable form – meaning that you can download the  input data, not the processed data – then they obviously have something to hide.

Harsh words, I know

But remember my friend, and remember how my students were taken in.

Ask questions and the first question is ~ what happens when I ask?

First sign of scoundrels running the organization

If they don’t want to answer, or if they set up a meeting where we are doing all the answering and our questions come after they have made up their minds, then they are frauds.  Then they are frauds and and we have found them out.

Disappointing, of course.  Doubly disappointing.  Trebly disappointing.

  • We don’t get what we want.
  • Institutions by definition should be honorable.  So we don’t get what we want AND we know we have frauds in our midst.
  • Institutions are usually paid for by the taxpayer.  We don’t get what we want, we know you are trying to cheat us AND we are paying for you.

My priorities when you use public money to cheat me

Hmmph.  Well for now, my priority must be to get what I need and want.  Then I will participate to clear out the rotten institutions.  Then I will think about recovering my money from you.

Is that the right order?

For the young & inexperienced

And if you are young and inexperienced, stop trusting institutions who don’t trust you with hard, cold data.  Spin that they have done their job of making a safe, orderly environment for you is not evidence. Ask for the evidence.  If they don’t have it, act accordingly ~ warily ~ get what you need and in due course, expose their shenanigans.

 

What can I COUNT ON you to do?

What can I count on?

Yes,”count on”, “depend upon”, “know that you will do as surely as the sun rises and sets”.  And you ask the same question of me.  What am I 100% committed to doing for you?  That is the foundation of our relationship.

Our relationship may be more. It will include

  • What do we do together?
  • What do we celebrate together?
  • How important is our relationship compared to other relationships?  What priority does it have?
  • How relevant is our relationship to coping with the trials and tribulations and  developing the opportunities already present?

Most people only look at the priority of a relationship.  They want total loyalty – which is unrealistic.  Blood is thicker than water, after all.  What counts is the essence.

What, what is it that I can count on you to do?

Disciplines study trust from different angles

  • Economists use game theory to look at our interests and the constraints that lead us to be quite predictable.
  • Politicians look at our interests and the alliances we make with others to pursue them.
  • Poets urge us to put “ourselves inside the river” – to pay attention to the story unfolding around us
  • Clinical psychologists measure our self-efficacy – how do we rate our competence to achieve something that seems hard
  • Educational psychologists have championed collective efficacy – how do we rate the competence of our colleagues?
  • Positive management scholars ask “what do we do well” and “what will we do more of”?
  • Toyota management specialists tell us to take our ideas and run a formal experiment – find out what matters and respect it.

Do we understand the nature of our commitment to each other?

Collective efficacy, the tool used by educational psychologists, illustrates well where I am going.  Collective efficacy  is measured by the specific question: “how good is X at his or her job?”  Questionnaires and simple ratings are neat and tidy.  Cool stuff – we get a number and the higher the number, the better the school.  Important to know and understand.

It’s also important to put our finger on the nub.  Can we describe our relationships in simple, accurate and concrete language?

  • What is it that we are totally committed to do for the people around us?  In what way are we utterly dependable to others?
  • In what way are they utterly dependable to us?
  • In what way is this, our reciprocated commitment, important to our lives?
  • And are we talking about “what is” rather than “what isn’t”?  Are we talking about the relationship as it is, rather than as we want it to be?

Do we understand the network of commitments that are important to the good life?

I’ve always felt that there are 10 or so people in my life whom I need to trust entirely.  They include my banker, my mechanic, my butcher and my baker.   When 3 or 4 are unreliable, my life becomes miserable indeed.

I am magnificently happy though when I am surrounded by people who share a mutual commitment to me.  It may be a small commitment. It may be a relatively small circle.

But that sense that we are competent, dependable and principled is very important.

(As opposed to fickle, corrupt and inept – a phrase I heard on BBC.)

Our lives are as big and as magnificent as our sense that people around us are good people.

Celebrating that goodness will boost your sense of well-being.

  • It’s worth putting our finger on the small contribution each person makes to our lives.
  • It’s worth putting a name to its essential essence – not to what we want to change – but to what will never change because it is the essence of the person and what they will do for us.
  • It’s worth hearing the words of others as they see what about us is predictable and counted upon (because they’ve observed our essence and don’t try to change us).

When we have mapped our network, or social graph, of commitments, when we begin with what is rock solid, how do we feel?  How much energy have we liberated?

I’d be interested to know how you approach these questions.  Have a great weekend.

Gloom-and-doom is catchy! Ask 3 questions to find a positive spot in the recession

An example of a social network diagram.
Image via Wikipedia

Back on February 6, when it was snowing, I made a list of 5 “recession speeds”.  In February, people were angry but not really doing anything constructive about restructuring their businesses.

  1. I am lucky. My business is OK.  People need us no matter what.
  2. This crisis is outrageous.  I take every opportunity to tell decision-makers.
  3. I have cut out all luxuries.  I’ll see this through by keeping my head down.
  4. I’ll wait and see.  I am optimistic that everything will work out all right.
  5. I am systematically reviewing my business looking for new opportunities and new alliances.

Mid-October, 8 months on, people are much clearer about how the recession will effect them.  At least, that uncertainty has resolved.

But few people seem to have any idea how to restructure.  They are just “hanging-in” or “working harder”.  The odd firm is booming but is not quite clear why!

Social networks affect on our attitude to the recession

In February, I also asked 3 questions about our social networks.

I want to ask these questions again because in the last 8 months, the media have publicized the network effects of happiness.  We all now know that we are more likely to be happy or sad, fat or slim, if our friends are.

And if our friends’ friends are -even if we don’t know them!

How much is your attitude to the recession affected by your friends?

  • Who are the 3 people on whom you most depend?
  • What is their recession speed?
  • How much does your recession speed help them, and how much does their recession speed help you?

I know I am positive because the business associates on whom I depend most are thriving.  Others are being resolute.  And I can avoid negative people with relative ease.

I’d love to know you situation and if these questions help you clarify any of your plans?

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To trust trust again. The Economist, will you help?

This week, The Economist said something shocking: Departing bank bosses weren’t venal, they were useless.

My thoughts exploded like a box of fireworks meeting an accidental match.

Why do the English smirk quietly at the “cock up” theory of management?

Why is it that the English assume that it is better to be an incompetent boss than a competent thief?

I think – I may be wrong – that we think incompetence does not imply disloyalty. “He is really on our side after all”.

But, is “cocked up” management loyal?

But, is rubbish management loyal – to you and me?  I want you to follow this argument.

“Bank bosses” aren’t “the boss.” They have bosses above them, who in English law are called the Board of Directors. The Bank bosses are employees. So why did the boss’ boss allow him (or her) to be incompetent, consistently, over a long period of time.

The inescapable conclusion, sadly, is that they don’t care about managers do to us.  That is why I prefer a competent thief.  They were never on my side.  They didn’t pretend to be.

An incompetent manager, and worse a whole chain of incompetent managers from bottom to the very top, hurts me 3x over.

#1  I suffer from their bad management. The company loses money and we lose our jobs.

#2  I am bullied into following bad working practices on their say-so.

#3  Everything I do is tainted by their incompetence.  Instead of working on what works, we work on what doesn’t work and it backwashes through the system distorting promotions, training, selection, recruitment, education.  The end point is that we have nothing to show for our efforts and we detest each other.

When the boss’ boss says incompetence is OK, provided you are a mate of mine, there is loyalty, but it is not to us.  We should be shocked.  Deeply.

Do you trust your employer any more?

The Economist might be vaguely amused by it all, but fortunately, the people have noticed.  Elsewhere, in the same issue or within a week, The Economist reported that the tables have turned and fewer than 1 in 4 people trust their employers.

I am heartened.

Rants are pointless.  What are we going to do?

I hate ranting.  When I am irritated,  I like to work through it and come up with a plan of action.

This is what I am going to do.

#1  Stop relying on chains-of-command to know best

Writer, Paolo Coelho, tweets.  If you are on Twitter, follow him.  It is him, not a ghost writer. Yesterday, he put out a Confucious Clone:  Only a fool follows the crowd.  Wise people make up their own minds.  If I am involved in something, I want to know what is going on.  I want to see the accounts.  I want to know that I can ask questions.  And I want answers.  Or, I depart.

#2  Audit my filters

I will never know or understand everything and like everyone else, when I am a “noobe”, I rely on my friends’ judgements.  But the more filters I understand, the better.  Each month, I will take one filter that is important to me, and systematically research the questions I should be asking about say, the fuel that goes in my car, the milk I drink, or the way the local town council is elected.  I won’t wait for a crisis before I start to think.  I’ll do my upgrades systematically.

#3  Celebrate trust

And then I will celebrate trust.

Not mindlessly.  I’ll actively recommend what works and tell people the criteria I use.  They’ll gain from my filters and I’ll gain from their feedback.  (I’ve found when I tell people why I trust someone, they tell me why they do, or don’t, as the case may be.)

I’ll learn more – but that goes under #2.  My real goal will be to spread trust – to celebrate that we have something to trust and to learn to trust trust again.

What I want from The Economist

And from The Economist, I would like to see some better reporting.  I appreciate the writing, but for wit I can go to Radio 4.  From The Economist, I want information that leads to action.

I don’t want to hear gossip about the ‘good and the famous’.  I really don’t care.  I don’t do the celebrity thing.

Having lived in a country that was prone to bragging to the point they would brag about being modest, I learned an important distinction between bragging and celebration.  Bragging says look at me – but when you try to join in, you get knocked back.  Celebration is an invitation.

I want my news organized for action.  Tell me something I can do something about.  Don’t erode my trust further by pretending something is OK when it darned well isn’t!

5 Little Understood Ways to be Resilient in Hard Times

I am 99% persuaded by positive psychology, largely because I thought like a positive psychologist long before it was invented.  I never took to clinical psychology so I had nothing to discard, so to speak.

But it is the darker side of life where I think positive psychology has its limits.  Maybe the typical positive psychologist does not feel that because they have the skills to deal with people who are deeply unhappy.

My reservations come at many levels.   As a practitioner, though, I want to know what to do when we are in a dark place.

What does it mean to be resilient when times are terrible?  What are the critical processes that we are trying to leverage?

If I succeed at exercising leadership when times are miserable, if I show resilience and help others to be resilient, what might these processes be?

Here are 5 processes underlying resilience

I would be interested in your thoughts.

Active listening

The key to listening to angry people, among which I include people who are deeply insulted, humiliated, frightened, defeated and generally gibbering wrecks, is to acknowledge their emotion.  We don’t have to agree with their emotion.  We don’t have to copy their emotion.  We don’t have to make any comment about the circumstances.

We simply have to acknowledge the emotion, and show, through our acknowledgement, that we still respect the person, in spite their emotional display, and in spite the circumstances that led to these humiliating circumstances.

Generally, that leads to slight embarrassment on their part but that is a much more comfortable emotion than the anger and hurt.

Developing a group

We are often angry and humiliated when we have lost status and losing status usually means losing status in a group or being ejected from a group. Referring to a group to which we are both a part helps restore status.

Additionally, when people have been humiliated in front of their nearest and dearest, particularly the partners, children and parents, we should restore their status in their eyes too.

Identify small actions

Anger comes from loss of status and be implication, loss of control. When we look for small things we can do now, and we do them, we feel better.

Be grateful ourselves for having the opportunity to help

While we are doing all three above, we are active. We take the initiative. We are in control. We belong.

Be grateful, and allow our gratitude to show to the other person.  They will be grateful in turn.

Gratitude is a great mood-lifter.

Enjoy the results

As the other person lifts from utter dejection to a willingness to try, enjoy.  And be grateful again.  That way we share the ‘positive feedback’ with the other.   Let them share the way our mood has improved.

And watch the entire group become more buoyant

If we have done our job well, collective efficacy and trust should have risen.  And we all know that collective efficacy – our belief that our colleagues are competent – is the most powerful factor in raising school quality.  It is bound to have the same impact in other circumstances.

Trust also creates upward positive feedback spirals.  Though, we may need a lot when we start from a dark place.

What do you think?

  • Are these the effective mechanisms for regaining resilience in desperate places?
  • Are these effective mechanisms for encouraging people who really have few ways forward and little to push off from?
  • Would these questions even help you in the day-to-day dispiriting trials of the western world – like getting stranded in an overcrowded airport?
  • Are you able to try them out in the less-than-terrible conditions so that one day you can use them when life is truly terrible?

To recap:

L – Listen

G – Group

A – Act

G – Gratitude

E – Enjoy

Celebrating my supporters

It’s barely daylight

Today, my mobile phone woke me rudely “It is time to get up: it is 5.30”.  Groan.  Another commute.  Another day.

But I didn’t get up.  I’ve stopped doing that.

I don’t want to stagger through life making someone else’s dreams come true.  I want to make my own dreams come true!

Ah, dreams  . .

Is it possible?  For dreams to be not dreams?

Perhaps not in the blink of an eye.  And certainly not if I panic when I look at the gap between where I am now and where I want to be.

But I can ask myself this question:

Who would like to support me in my quest?  Who would take the greatest of pleasure in helping me along the way?

I smile.  And I hope you do too!

The first steps together?

Ideas whose time has come

I had an email today from someone I worked with a long time ago.  It was interesting.  Though we have barely been in touch, many of us who worked together ten years’ ago have pursued similar interests in different corners of the globe.

Great minds think alike?

The loneliness of the corporation executive

I don’t think my old friend reads my blog, but we were thinking alike yesterday too.

Yesterday, I wrote:

What do we trust each other absolutely and entirely to do?

His brief note on Facebook said that he feels optimistic about the future of the world economy but depressed by the ‘ostriches’ around him

Are we agreed?

There is plenty of opportunity.  Our task is to find the ‘sweet spots’ where people feel they can take the first step together?