Tag Archives | Courage

Love and Loss


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Kani with Rio and his band

Kani (center) with Rio and his band

I recently lost a friend. And that loss hit me harder than I expected.

I was sad when I got the email that Sidney, a beautiful 12-year-old buckskin mare, had died after a brief bout with colic. We weren’t particularly close, although I would say Hello when I saw her and she would greet me, and I always had the feeling she wanted me to call her Heidi instead of Sidney. I thought fondly of her, but I thought more about Kama Kani, who was powerfully bonded to Sidney. I wondered how he would do without her; she was his anchor, his bridge to the rest of the herd.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out.

Less than a week later Kani passed as well. I read the email that morning and wept, with a profound sense of… a lot of things. Maybe I should say I felt many things, especially a sense of the profoundness of this particular moment.

For one thing, I realized in that moment not only how much I loved him, but how much I owed him. He was pretty wild and nervous when he arrived at the ranch yet, while I was cautious around him, I was never afraid of him. And he rewarded me by being the first horse to ask me for Reiki. He taught me what I could do by asking me to do it, and he taught me to recognize the Ask. We grew to trust each other. That story, and the journey it launched, became my first published article.

Kani gave me confidence.

Kani lived most of his life in isolation from other horses, so he came to the herd in a state of… arrested development. Socially retarded. Even though he was an adult, he was like a gangly teenager, learning how to be in the world. Like a teenager, he quickly fell for Sidney when he arrived, and they became a bonded pair. But since he didn’t know how to interact with a herd and didn’t have much confidence, he got pushed around and had low status in the herd… until Rio arrived and carved out a mini-herd-within-the-herd, one that included Sidney – and Kani. Because where Sidney went, Kani went. Rio accepted Kani as part of the package, and Kani’s status in the herd increased.

When Kani came to the ranch, he arrived with the information that he was 18. He also arrived with his ribs showing and an unhappy stomach – for which he asked me for Reiki. But a year later, a visiting dentist said that, based on the condition of his teeth, Kani was likely closer to 30 – making him one of the elders of the herd. It also meant that most of the grass and hay he ate wasn’t getting chewed well and was passing through him mostly undigested. He was immediately put on a routine of twice daily feedings of mash. He appreciated the food and the attention, and he quickly got in the habit of leaving his pals and coming in willingly. And as he started getting more nutrition and his gut felt better he calmed even more and asked me for Reiki less often.

One day I was visiting the herd and I watched as Kani realized he could move Rio and the others – and he did. And they let him. He moved them around the pasture, having a ball. Again he was like an awkward, gangly, blossoming teenager, realizing what he was capable of and discovering his power. Yet he was an old man. I watched him, and my heart filled with joy.

Kani gave me joy.

I will also never forget the day Sharon and I went out to the pasture to bring Kani in for his evening feeding. It was one of the rare occasions that he and Sidney were separated, as she was in the barn recovering from a deep cut on her leg. We found Kani grazing contentedly with Rio and his band, put a halter on him and coaxed him away. I led him down the hill, and we got across the tiny creek at the bottom with no trouble. We headed toward the barn, and then something spooked him and he started circling me while I held on to the lead rope. I saw the two newest members of the herd pass us, and I realized they must have goosed him as they passed.

I managed to calm him and we headed off again toward the barn… until we passed the two newbies. Enjoying the realization that they were higher in status than someone, they came up behind us and moved Kani again. He stayed with me and didn’t bolt back to his pals, but he left his body and started circling again. This time, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t stop him. I started to get dizzy, going around with him. Sharon stepped in and I handed her the lead and stepped out, like a couple of girls jumping rope. She was also unable to stop him. Suddenly Michele, another member of the ranch team, appeared and stepped in and took the lead rope. She stood stock still, passing the lead from hand to hand around her, not turning with him, talking calmly, and suddenly they were moving forward to the barn.

He could have hurt us, but he didn’t.

And just like that day in the paddock when he trusted me enough to ask for Reiki and I trusted him enough be in that paddock with him, Kani gave me his trust, and I gave him mine.

On one of my last visits with him, I saw him with Sidney, apart from the others. I headed over to them, and he came to greet me. He didn’t ask for Reiki; we just stood together, enjoying the sunshine while Sidney slowly moved away down the valley, grazing. I scratched the hollow above his eye, and then he turned and followed Sidney.

Many times in the week after Sidney died, I held Kani in my thoughts and scratched that hollow above his eye.

So I wasn’t surprised when I saw the email with just his name in the subject line. I read the story of his decline and peaceful passing, and I wept as I thought about all he gave me. I wept as I pondered this equine version of those human love stories about life partners who pass within months, weeks or days of each other.

It occurred to me that he was not unlike the clients I worked with as a Job Coach, all of them challenged in some way, many of them unsure of themselves when we met, all of them delightful and earnest and brilliant. I thought about going to work with them, learning their jobs just one step ahead of them, learning things from them, and being so proud of them as they kept showing up and made places for themselves.

As Kimberly Carlisle, co-founder of The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership, which had adopted Kani, wrote,

“Though I grieve them both deeply, unlike the raw, too early departure of Sidney, Kani’s passing was bittersweet. Though he had lived alone for most of his 30 years, in his 18 months with our herd he had become a complete horse — more confident, balanced, trusting and expressive.”

I pondered all of this, remembering my time with him, and suddenly Kani was here with me. He looked around my apartment, and sniffed at my collection of pictures of roads. Pictures of going places.

After years of being alone in one place, Kani, you got to go places. You are going places.


Life is full of mysteries, and this is one. Sidney went first, and quickly… one day after Kani’s health began to decline. He passed less than a week after Sidney. Did he go because he was pining for her? Did his compromised health make it hard to survive his grief? I think there is something else to consider. What if… knowing that Kani would linger here and refuse to pass when it was time rather than leave her, Sidney chose to go first so that Kani would be free to go?

We’ll never know.

What I do know is that theirs is one of the great love stories. Sidney was a miracle horse, fighting to recover from a malady that almost killed her, coming back to meet Kani and bond with him. And Kani’s is a story of second chances, proof positive that it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.


That night I had a dream about a horse. I was standing in the elevator lobby at a hospital where I used to work, and a black and white tweed horse (yes, black tweed with light flecks, not Kani’s copper red hair) stood with me. The elevator door opened, he kissed me on the cheek, and got on the elevator to go find his beloved.


Good-bye, Kani and Sid. My life is better for having known you.

The Road to OK


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Mt. St. Helens After Eruption - View Across Spirit Lake, National Forest Service

A fellow member of a FaceBook group posted a comment that made my heart ache.

She had told her dying husband that she would be OK… but she wasn’t. Oh, she took care of the kids, she went to work, she put meals on the table… but she wasn’t OK. And she didn’t know how to be.

Boy, did that take me back.

I had forgotten…

The hospice chaplain, when she came to give Bruce last rites, had me talk to him. To say good-bye. He was barely conscious, and only moaned in response. She coached me through talking to him, and prompted me to say, “And I’ll be OK.”

And I did.

But I wasn’t.

I wasn’t OK. Life sucked. It was worse than I could have imagined. For longer than I expected.

But I kept going. I got out of bed every day. I fed the cats, and myself. I paid bills. I went to work, and I appeared to handle it gracefully, with focus, so I’m told. (The operative word being “appeared”.)

And every fiber of my being hurt.

And I couldn’t give up, because I had told him I’d be OK.

Damn it!

I spent several months being pissed at that chaplain.

I got over it.

The being pissed part, anyway.

And eventually I got to OK.

First in moments and spurts. And then more.

And I have gotten to Better Than OK.

Much better.

Photo by Peter Prehn, http://www.flickr.com/photos/pictoscribe/1076805181/ c 2007, Creative Commons

Mount St. Helens will never be the same. But the hills around it have turned green again and life has returned to the mountainsides.

To my Facebook friend I said, You are on the road to OK.

I have walked that road.

It goes Somewhere. I promise.


“When you are going through hell, keep going.” –Winston Churchill

Who’s Got the Car Keys?


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He’s one of those friends that when I ask “How are you?” he really tells me. And when he asks me the same question, I tell him.

So when I saw him the other day and he asked me how I was, I thought back to our last conversation, two months ago, when I told him I was having trouble moving forward with the work I know I am supposed to be doing, the work I am called to do, because I’m afraid people won’t get it, they won’t believe me, they won’t want to talk about this. But when I told him at the time, he got it. I thought about the lack of progress I’ve made… and I really told him how I was.

“I’m OK. But I’m stuck.”

And what started out as “Hey, how you doin’?” turned into lunch.

We talked about what needs to be done to get things going (publish the blog posts that announce my new focus and my message, reach out to people who are in my network). I didn’t give him any bullshit about working three part-time jobs (which I am) and not having time to Do What Needs to Be Done. I just put it out there.

“I’m scared.”

He didn’t wave it off. He didn’t say, “There’s no need to be scared.”

He didn’t even ask me what I’m scared of. (There’s a list. But the What isn’t the point.)

What he did do was point out that this wasn’t Me being scared, it was the Little Girl Me. And it was OK for her to be scared. In fact, it’s her job. (One of her jobs.)

Then he said something that hit me between the eyes:

“Just don’t give her the keys to the car.”

Now that’s a metaphor I can get into.

“Just don’t give her the keys to the car.”

I laughed out loud, and said, “She must be the reason I haven’t been able to put the car on the market!” (That’s another story. One he didn’t even know about.)

She can be scared. I can comfort her. I can let her go hide. The real me, the Ancient and Eternal Me, she’s not scared. She knows – I know – what to do, and can do it. But if I give Little Girl Me the keys to car and let her drive – or she hides the keys under the sofa cushions – then we’ll never get anywhere.

“Just don’t give her the keys to the car.”

So over the last few days, every time that fear has cropped up, that resistance, I’ve thought of that. And laughed. And then done a little piece of the work that needs to be done.

And I made a poster for myself and taped it on the wall where I can’t miss it:

I’m tempted to write Dammit! in fine print at the bottom.

But I’m keepin’ the keys.

Get ready. We’re going for a ride.

Bus Stop Angel


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“I can’t go to medical school. I’ll be 40 when I finish.”

I was sitting at the bus stop, enjoying a beautiful spring afternoon, when I heard one side of a conversation behind me.

“No one will want to marry me when I’m in medical school, and how can I have kids while I’m in medical school?”

Really, I thought, doesn’t she watch Grey’s Anatomy? Med students and interns and residents get married and have kids and the world doesn’t come to an end.

“I can’t go to medical school.”

I couldn’t let that go by. Without thinking for more than a flash second I turned around and saw a young African-American woman in scrubs, wearing a headset, talking on the phone.

“Go to medical school,” I said. “You’ll turn 40 whether you do or not. Go to medical school.”

She gaped at me, and pulled out her ear-buds. “What?”

“Go to medical school! You’ll turn 40 whether you do or not.”

“Oh,” she said, and nodded slightly, and put her ear-buds back in.

Now I’ve done it, I thought. She must really think I’m a crack-pot. (Although I believe that people who carry on phone conversations in public invite a certain amount of audience participation.)

The bus came, and we got on. I sat down in the middle, and she went on to the back of the bus and carried on with her conversation, talking about the medical office where she worked, complaining about the doctor she works for, how one of her co-workers said she thought he discriminated against people but the woman on the bus told her, “No, he treats everybody bad.” She stopped talking about not going to med school, though. At least for the moment.

My stop came before hers, and I got up and headed for the back door. I expected her to glower at me for eavesdropping and butting into her conversation. Instead, she waved gaily at me and gave me a big grin.

Go to medical school. Be a better doctor and a better person than the jerk you work for. Show him how it’s done. Be true to yourself, and find someone who sees you shine and will be willing to figure out study schedules and childcare and parent with you. Go to medical school. We need you. You need you.

Image courtesy of anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Garden. Stand. Glow.


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Breathing Into a New Year

I am not immune to the seasonal reflection and contemplation that goes on this time of year, and like millions of others I find myself reflecting on the past year, my successes and failures, realizations, and what I want for the coming year.

It isn’t just about flipping to a new year on the calendar, though. 2012 was a year of huge transition for me, and I have spent the last two months on a sort of working vacation. Working. Treading water. Breathing. Contemplating. Being Grateful.

But over the last two weeks, as my schedule has slowed down slightly and we have passed through the Winter Solstice and the end of the Mayan calendar and entered 2013, I have begun to look forward. That has manifested as three exercises (so far) that have been very fruitful. I’d like to share them with you here, as you may find them helpful as well. (And going public, and the accountability that can bring, is probably a good thing.)

A Personal SWOT Analysis

A what?

It started when a friend invited me to send her my resume, as she wanted to share it with her client. I took some time to review it first and do some updating. One of the things I had highlighted was helping my clients perform SWOT analyses. What’s a SWOT analysis? It stands for

Strengths

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

with Strengths and Weaknesses being Internal factors and Opportunities and Threats being External factors. The idea is to brainstorm these, and only then set goals and plan initiatives that have a good chance of succeeding based upon your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

I looked at my resume and thought, “Hmmm, this might be a good time to do that for myself.”

So I did.

It’s been an interesting process (which is still in process, especially the Opportunities and Threats part). Here are a few highlights:

  • This has been a great opportunity to be reminded of my strengths. I have a lot of them. I tend to take them for granted. (Is there anyone who doesn’t, at least at some time?)
  • This has also been a reminder of something two different wise people have said to me at different times in my life: “Your strengths taken to extreme can be your greatest weaknesses.” One example? I am extremely persistent and tenacious. Taken to extreme, I can be quite stubborn (good Taurus that I am). This doesn’t always serve me (or those around me), especially when it’s time to walk away from something.
  • I have a number of opportunities available to me, and I had an idea for another one as a result of this process.
  • Examining the Threats is important, especially since most of them can be prepared for and overcome. But they have to be recognized first.
  • Regarding those Threats, I realized that they, and the Opportunities, aren’t all external. Those Weaknesses can pose threats to my success if I don’t manage them. As for the external Threats, I need to watch my feet, and be aware, not wary.

That Amazing Question Again

Then, on Sunday, Chris Brogan’s newsletter arrived. In it, he asked this version of my Amazing Question: What would you attempt if you believed in yourself a lot more than you do today?

Hmmm. Excellent timing. I emailed Chris, and he challenged me to answer it for him. So I did. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Schedule more workshops – at least one every month.
  • Actively promote my coaching – by calling people, sending emails, launching a newsletter.
  • Get back on a regular – or at least more frequent – blog schedule, even if the direction changes.
  • Invite new Captains Curious guest posts.
  • Create a new photography site.
  • Create a site for my jewelry and either begin selling on Etsy or actively schedule shows and parties.
  • Submit a proposal for the magazine article I want to write, interviewing other women named Susan Blake.
  • Finish the rewrite of “Remember to Look Up” and publish it for e-readers through Amazon etc.

Damn. That’s a big list of Opportunities. But completely achievable – if I believe in myself. Since it was fed by the Strengths and Opportunities lists I had recently begun, I know it’s all possible – Weaknesses and Threats not withstanding.

Boil It Down

And then Chris’s next blog post arrived, his annual “My Three Words” post, in which he describes choosing three words that will be his touchstones for the year, his guiding force to keep him on track. They are the words that represent the Big Vision for the year.

So, here is my response to his challenge to come up with three words that represent my Big Vision for 2013:

Garden. Stand. Glow.

Garden: The first word that actually came to me was Renaissance, because I have a lot of interests, a lot of talents, a lot of avenues I want to pursue. I am a Renaissance Woman. My commitment for 2013 is to respect them and to pursue them all: Coaching. Writing. Photography. Music. Jewelry Making. Partnering with horses in Equine Guided Experiences. They all feed me, they feed others, they feed each other, and they have the potential for literally putting food on the table – if I act like I believe in myself (see above). I am a Renaissance Woman, but an even better term that describes this, and embodies action, is Gardener. A garden requires tending – planning, tilling, planting, watering, pruning, weeding, harvesting. And this is about action, not just interests and talents. Also, a good garden is filled with a variety of plants, not just multiples of only one plant, and that describes me. A polymathic garden. So my first word is Garden.

Stand: As in, stand in my power. 2012 was a year filled with repeated reminders that I am powerful. And that I often either discount it or take it for granted. Especially my Intuition. I built a varied and successful career on mostly left-brained, highly analytical abilities, but events in the past year have repeatedly plunked me smack dab in the middle of my right brain. My work with horses is part of that. Where before I have often discounted my intuition, I am finding that it is indispensable and usually accurate. Part of respecting my garden of talents, interests and skills includes trusting that intuition. It guides my curiosity and I can employ my curiosity to validate it. This year I commit to standing in that power, so my second word is Stand. (I also like the visual connection to a “stand of trees.”)

Glow: As I tend my Garden and Stand in my power, I see myself start to glow. That glow serves as a beacon to others. The glow of a candle in the window, a campfire in the forest, a lighthouse on the coast. Come this way! It helps us find each other, connect, engage. No hiding my light. My third word is Glow.

* * * * *

There you have it. Three exercises for the New Year, the new age. It is all part of a work in progress, of course. I encourage you to try them! Please share the results here in the Comments, or feel free to reach out to me.

The Amazing Question


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This morning I received a newsletter from Chris Brogan (if you don’t know him, you can find him here and here) with the subject line, “Do you live by a manifesto?”

Funny you should ask that, I thought. After reading a variety of manifestos in the last couple of years, I was moved by a few but never wrote one.

Then, this past Spring I asked myself this question:

“What would you do if you really believed in yourself?”

I don’t remember what prompted it. But I started writing, and out came a pretty amazing statement.

So amazing that I typed it, made it pretty, and printed it out. I put it in my office and in my bedroom where I could see it and read it frequently.

Sometimes it becomes wallpaper, but I consciously go back and re-read it for courage and direction when I get lost.

“What would you do if you really believed in yourself?”

I wrote to Chris and told him about it, and sent him my manifesto. To my surprise, he responded almost immediately, saying “What an amazing question!!!”

It is an amazing question. It’s also a hellish question, and a heavenly question. It is heavenly and hellish because once I answered I could no longer hide.

Side note for Word Geeks

Here’s a thing I learned about writing a Manifesto. It’s based on the word “manifest.”

Seems kind of obvious, but it’s not. And it’s important.

If you look at the various definitions of the verb “manifest,” they boil down to an important idea: To make something visible. To make something real.

I asked myself a big question and answered it from my soul. As soon as I did, as soon as I made it real, teachers started appearing, doors started appearing, and opportunities started appearing.

And then…

And then something awful happened.

I realized how long I had been hiding.

That’s so big that I can hardly breathe as I write it. (And my pen ran out of ink as I wrote it. Hm.)

I realized how long I had been hiding, and that I no longer could. (I admit it’s a hard habit to break. But it’s possible.)

It is awful, and terrifying. And wonderful. Awe Full.

Are you curious?

If you’re still reading, you’re probably curious. Here it is.

Click Here for the Manifesto

Come and get it!

As I said, as soon as I made it real, teachers started appearing, doors started appearing, and opportunities started appearing. And I started getting tested. (Have you ever heard the proverb, “Never pray for patience, because you’ll get it and then it will be tested”? Like that.)

But I’m up to the test. Even though it’s scary. And I know you are, too.

“What would you do if you really believed in yourself?”

Would you like to answer this amazing question for yourself? Would you like to do it in the company of others?

You’re invited

to an evening workshop on Thursday, September 27th. Because the lessons I learn aren’t meant just for me.

Come and answer this Amazing Question, this amazing, hellish, heavenly question, for yourself – in the company of others. (There’s safety in numbers!)

Your answer to this question can open doors and provide you with a vital roadmap. I will create a space in which we will pause and listen, lead the process of answering the question, facilitate the sharing of the answers with the group, and facilitate work on what to do about it.

Are you ready?

Are you curious?


The Amazing Question Evening

Thursday, September 27th 2012

7:00pm – 9:00pm PDT

390 Diablo Road, #115 Danville, CA

$10

Attend live or via Skype

Attendance is limited to 20 participants

Please join me!


It’s time to move from the maze to Amazing.

Images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thank you, Chris, for permission to use your name in this post!

Being With


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Yesterday I went to the wedding celebration of a friend of mine. A friend whom I hold dear, although we don’t spend that much time together.

I almost didn’t go.

I looked forward to it all week, but when the day came I was reluctant.

I would be going alone, and I didn’t think to call anyone to carpool. Would there be anyone there I knew? I feared going and being surrounded by others but feeling isolated. Would my little gift be good enough? They wouldn’t miss me if I didn’t go…

Wait a minute. I would miss them if I didn’t go. And, I said to myself, there were a lot of people she could have invited, and didn’t. She invited me.

I wrapped up my little hand-made gift, with something for each them, something personal, far more personal (aka Vulnerable) than something I might have gotten from Pottery Barn or wherever, and wrote in my hand-made card with one of my own photographs on the front. And off I went.

I arrived at the wedding party and, as soon as I arrived, a friend I hadn’t seen in months waved at me and said, “Come sit by me!” We chatted and caught up while we ate plates of Mexican food and drank margaritas, watching as party-goers learned salsa dancing. Other friends came and went from our little group, dear friends, new friends, acquaintances I hadn’t seen in several years.

Then a man appeared in front of me and held out his hand, inviting me to dance.

I have never salsa danced. Ever.

And I feel very awkward when it comes to any dance that requires Following.

And.

Remember the movie, “Risky Business?”

Sometimes you just have to say, “What the fuck.”

I put down my plate and got up. And danced. And it worked! “It’s just like walking,” my teacher said. “You’re doing great!”

How funny, I thought, not long ago I needed help walking after a horse stepped on my foot, and my walking partner said, “We’re just dancing, and you get to lead.” “That’s good,” I remember thinking, “I suck at following when I dance.” Now I was dancing, and my partner was telling me it was just like walking, and I was doing great at following. Hmmm.

We danced, and I danced several times throughout the afternoon between conversations and hugs and laughs. Ultimately I ended up in a corner with three other friends (two old, one new), just talking and Being With. It was lovely.

As we were helping our friend load up her car with gifts and leftovers, one of her friends, with whom I had danced, handed me one of the last flower arrangements to be given away and said,

“Here, Wild Thing, you need some flowers.”

Wild Thing? Me?

I laughed, and accepted. The flowers, and the name.

This morning I got up and drank my coffee and caught up on blogs I follow, and I noticed a distinct theme. The first, What We All Need, was about the importance of just being with. The second was about belonging, and how it is a distinctly 21st Century Challenge that requires stepping outside of our comfort zones. The third was about belonging to ourselves, receiving what is here and receiving the sacred. Through just being with it. Hmmm.

Belonging. Comfort Zones. Accepting. Showing Up. The truth is that if I am willing to step out of my comfort zone, I sometimes find greater comfort. I’m glad the voice that says, “I do belong” is louder than the voice that says, “I don’t belong.”

Which voice do you listen to? Which voice do you encourage others to listen to?

Mystery, Horses, Curiosity, and Being Open


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I recently had a profound experience with a group of fellow coaches and the human, equine and canine members of the team at The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership. (You can read about it here. Go ahead, we’ll wait.)

A central part of that experience was just being present, being totally there, being willing to let go and wonder, What will happen if I do this? Paying attention. Being open. Not worrying if I got muddy or wet or covered with dog spit. That openness made it easier to improvise. To let things happen. What’s going to happen next? And being there for it. Our whole group did that, and our human leaders did that in response to what transpired and what we needed.

* * *

A friend recently called me to talk through a situation with an organization with which she’s been working. We got curious about what she was experiencing, about why she was reacting the way she was, and about her options.

I’ve been in situations like hers, and they call for being curious about the people around us, for seeing what’s happening and yet suspending judgment, for being present in the situation, and for letting go of our egos. For being willing to get muddy and covered with dog spit. To be in a situation where getting stepped on is a possibility, and taking precautions while still being open.

* * *

Which reminds me of  a class I recently taught on strategic management for a group of leaders and managers. One of the things we dove into was why strategies fail. A key factor is the existence of competing objectives, goals that aren’t talked about openly. These can’t be uncovered if we view the situation with judgment; we must explore the situation with curiosity instead. (My objective of connecting with the horses was made difficult to achieve by my secondary goal of not getting sunburned – I slathered myself with stinky sunscreen. Ah. Next time I’ll skip the sunscreen and wear long sleeves.)

* * *

After my experience with the horses someone told me I was brave. No, I said, I was just present. I stayed present with an open heart. It occurred to me later that the root of the word “courage” is the French “coeur,” or “heart.” To have courage is to have heart. (“Ya gotta have heart… all we really need is heart…”) To be courageous is to be… hearteous.

I know, that’s not a word. You know what I mean.

To be courageous, brave, is to show up with an open heart. To be curious. And to act.

Are you willing to show up and be open, to ask, What happens next?

To suspend judgment and really experience What’s happening now?

To dive into the mystery with an open heart?

Would you like to try?

Shoot me an email: susan at susantblake dot com. And enjoy this:


This video was apparently shot when the power went out during a Tommy Emmanuel concert, and he continued – with just two luminarias on stage and someone holding a flashlight in the balcony. In it, he tells the story behind one of my favorite pieces of music.


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Image: bk images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sound Mass


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Hey!

Hello!

There’s been a lot going on around here lately, which is why this blog has been quiet for a few weeks. That’s no excuse for being out of communication, though. I’m embarrassed to admit it took a friend leaving me a voicemail asking if I was OK and noting that it had been a LONG TIME since she’d gotten a blog post from me to remind me how long it has been!

When I was in college, hanging out with the Music majors (they were way more fun than my fellow Psych majors), I learned about the concept of a “sound mass.” But while Wikipedia quotes Edwards’ comment that sound-mass “obscures the boundary between sound and noise,” there hasn’t been much noise around here lately. Instead, there has been so much going on that it’s like a giant chord with so many notes that it is like a wall of sound with a few themes that have managed to rise to the top like cream. (I know, that’s a mixed metaphor. But I like it.)

So here’s my attempt to share the sound mass with you in a completely different medium, with some of the recurring themes that are weaving themselves together. Lately I’ve been…

  • Working on a big project for a client, requiring a lot of concentrated effort, learning the dialect of that business. I am very grateful for the steady work and an income stream that will help fund the next couple of months.
  • “Vendorized” to work with clients of the state Department of Rehabilitation, coaching them through successfully settling into new jobs and working with my first such client.
  • Talking to an increasing number of people who are comfortable… but uncomfortable. Itchy. They’re thinking, “There must be More… but how do I find it?” There is lots of forming new habits, exploring, guiding, questioning. I am grateful and humble to be a part of their journey.
  • Consulting with several small businesses, providing coaching and consulting. It is awesome fun as they have breakthroughs and golden “Aha!” moments and lots of incremental progress. We’re working on a variety of initiatives, ranging from building new habits to delegating to attracting new customers to articulating core values for guiding the business to building a new framework for employee reviews. Good stuff, and again I am grateful and humble to be a part of their journey.
  • Helping two different friends with big garage/moving sales, paying attention to the dynamics of Letting Go of Things, enjoying the interactions and circus atmosphere of the sales, and enjoying the little community that springs up around a sale and falling in love with people and their stories and blessing them and the money they exchanged for new treasures, feeling gratitude for the friends, the wealth, the fun, the exhausted sense of accomplishment.
  • Wrapping up my tenure as the US Country Facilitator for Sedaa’s Global Brain Trust, a wonderful online community for Organization Development (OD) professionals. I have loved the time I have spent working with the founders and the Global Operations team, and it is time to bring in fresh energies while I focus on building my own practice.
  • Participating in kindred spirit Andrea Lewicki’s launch of her new website, where she explores thoughts about curiosity and its applications. Andrea, like me, believes curiosity can change the world! The Grand Opening was a two day event, with interviews with some of Andrea’s favorite curious people – including me! You can view the recordings for a while longer at Andrea’s site.
  • Launching a Facebook page for Susan T. Blake Consulting, which I’ve put off doing until just recently. But now I have a place I can post short things that don’t quite fit here, and have conversations with people. Come on by and check it out!
  • Working with my friend and mentor, Michael F. Broom, and a small team of cohorts, to create, launch and promote a new series of webinars on managing team conflict. We are looking for someone to take over promoting Michael’s Center for Human Systems via social media on a volunteer or internship basis, so if you know anyone…
  • Noticing recurring themes of balancing friendship and business. Accepting help as well as giving it. Noticing my relationship with money. Noticing what I procrastinate about.
  • Wishing for more time to work on projects I procrastinated on before and have less time for now, chuckling over “Be careful what you ask for.” Wondering, is my procrastination because my priorities aren’t my priorities after all, or am I letting fear get in the way? Fear of what?

And lately I’ve been wondering a lot about abundance, about gratitude, about creating the kind of life I want to live. As I work to grow my practice, trying to make a living and support my clients and the small businesses around me, I count my blessings during these times and abundance is more and more on my mind.

You can see the threads of it throughout my life over the last few years. I talk about the importance being grateful in “Remember to Look Up;” I have been practicing Amy Oscar’s “More of This, Please” for a number of months; I have been reminding myself and others that Everything Is Going to Be All Right. (That’s another story, which I haven’t written yet – stay tuned.) And I have been thinking a lot about the work I really want to do as a consultant and coach, and what I am willing to do to make this little business fly. Thinking about what I really want. How many people really know what they want?

So when Birdy and Mike Diamond invited me to contribute to a program they wanted to develop about living abundantly, because of the synergy between my focus on curiosity and one of the steps in their program (Hint: It’s all about asking the right question), I of course said Yes. And for the last couple of months I have been pondering and practicing and exploring and noticing and writing. We are practicing and exploring not only our material but the practical aspects of teamwork, collaboration, and distribution of duties. Noticing coincidences and synchronicities and being open. Practicing gratitude. Pondering how to invite abundance into my life, developing material with Birdy and Mike and our partner, Nathara, and writing about it over at the Awesome Audacious Abundance website.

It’s perfect, really. Curiosity is fundamental to abundance. There is always more to learn, always more to do. And in our experience, living an abundant life is an interactive, participatory thing as well as a positive mindset. And Curiosity IS an abundant mindset.

So I invite you to pop over to http://www.a2abundance.com/ and peruse the blog posts we’ve been contributing about everything from Time to Money to Courage to Perfection to Magic Carpets and more. If you like what you see, sign up in the right sidebar to receive new posts (or arrange an RSS feed if you prefer). We are in the process of developing a variety of offerings to help people live more abundantly, and you can learn more about those offerings by signing up for the Explorer’s Club at the bottom of any blog post. At the same time, I laugh and am reminded of the proverb, “We teach what we most need to learn.” Come learn with us!

Meanwhile, I’m back at work in the world of Curiosity, and happy to be here! I am looking for more contributors to the next round of Captains Curious posts, so if you are interested please drop me a line at susan @ susantblake . com.

What’s happening in your life? Do any of these themes resonate for you? Please leave me a note below!

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Captains Curious: Meet Me in Curiosity


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest contributing member is Andrea Lewicki! To learn about the other Captains Curious, please click here.

Meet Me in Curiosity

Curiosity makes us better people to each other. Curiosity seeds engagement and empathy, not competition.

It means we are genuinely interested in each other, not in how we rank in comparison.

But that’s not how we usually meet each other. You know the drill: A room of strangers at the start of an organized gathering. Everyone takes a seat and the host delivers a welcome message. Then these words fill the air:

“Let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves.”

Left on our own, we choose to meet in Competition

Several years ago I walked into a room with a dozen or so other people I had not yet met. It was my first day of class in an executive business school program. We had come straight from a day of conference rooms and email floods. We were a room full of managers on our best alpha behavior. Small, formal greetings. Minimal eye contact. A silent commentary running through our minds while we sized each other up.

Competition was our default setting.

The introductions were predictable – the high performance of posturing. We offered up impressive titles with immense responsibility. Grandiose workplaces emerged from the fine print of the business cards tucked away in our pockets.

Our interactions throughout this course remained stiff and awkward. Class discussion was minimal – we spoke to our professor, not each other, seeking her approval for our egos. Delivery of our assignments and presentations was wooden, perfunctory. Often, we appeared to be fighting boredom.

Meeting in Curiosity, a twist on an old routine

A year later I joined 30 other students on our first day of a different class. Even more managers, prepared to make an impression.

We introduced ourselves, but with a twist. This time the professor asked us to tell the class something about ourselves that most people didn’t know. Without the titles, the job, the same old cocktail party lines.

The energy in the room was…different. We were a little nervous and a little excited at the same time. During the process, we laughed and smiled together. We asked each other questions, wanting to know more. We sought each other out during breaks, making connections through mutual interests we otherwise would have missed.

Most importantly,we shared our multi-faceted selves in a way that increased empathy and decreased competition. We were curious about each other.

We were present more as our whole selves.

The dynamics in this group were distinctly different. In-class discussions were lively and fluid between classmates and our professor. Breaks often ran long because they were full of conversation. Group projects were imaginative and creative, with active particpation.

Curiosity gave me a second chance

I almost missed out on a great friendship because of competition. I initially met my friend in the first class. Right away I didn’t like her. There was something about her behavior that got under my skin, and I didn’t like being reminded of it every time our class met.

I made a lot of assumptions about her. All of them were wrong.

We were introduced again in curiosity during the later class. Instead of assuming, I asked. So did she. We discovered a mutually shared interest and soon became good friends. All because we finally met in curiosity and gave each other the opportunity to be more of ourselves.

* * * * *

Andrea Lewicki designs experiences for people to re-engage and maintain their curiosity. She believes that true curiosity is an ego-less quality that seeds kindness and compassion, and that the world is a better place when we can be who we really are. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband. You can meet Andrea in curiosity at the Grand Opening of The Lewicki Agency, a 24-hour interactive, live streaming event on Oct. 28th. You can find out more about her work and the event at www.thelewickiagency.com. She can also be found on Twitter at @Andrea_Lewicki.

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Would you like to submit a guest post on the subject of Curiosity? Send an email to susan {at} susanTblake {dot} com with the subject line: Captains Curious.

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