Tag Archives | Learning

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.

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.

Surprising Lessons from the Herd – Part II


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In my previous post I alluded to learning lessons from my friends at Equistar Farm, lessons I’m applying in surprising ways. Here is Lesson Number Two:

Watch Your Feet (or Head)

Another thing I’ve been doing, off and on for the last year and a half, is working as a Job Coach for the Department of Rehabilitation. When clients with disabilities get new jobs and need additional training and on-the-job-support, the DoR provides a Job Coach to go to work with them.

So far I’ve worked in grocery stores and hardware stores, training and supporting Courtesy Clerks (aka Baggers), Carry Out/Attendants and Stockers. I’ve learned a lot in the process! (Please be nice to your Baggers – I had no idea how hard they work, and what they have to put up with.)

Right now I’m coaching a client who is helping to build out a new grocery store. There is a crew of about 25 stockers, cashiers and inventory management people on site, installing fixtures, putting up shelving and stocking shelves – plus the construction people who are finishing with painting, electrical work and bolting down shelving. There are scissor lifts and pallet jacks moving around, and people carrying boxes, ladders and big pieces of metal.

I get to wear a hard hat (along with everyone else), and boy, am I glad – there are a lot of moving parts and bodies. We all have to keep our awareness up, not only for who/what is coming toward us but what’s on the ground and who we’re headed for. One wrong move and someone could get skewered, squished or run over.

As I was moving through this bee hive of activity, I was reminded of moving through the herd in the pasture and how I have learned to keep my awareness up about which horses are where, how they’re interacting with each other, where they’re heading, and whether they know where I am. One of the first lessons I learned – the hard way – was Watch Your Feet… after I didn’t pay attention and got stepped on by a 1200 pound bay gelding named Jake. (I’m fine…now.) I quickly learned the importance of watching my feet – and their hooves (and their rear-ends and their ears and their tails and their locations and what directions they’re moving).

There’s a difference between being Aware and being Wary

Even more importantly, I learned there’s a difference between being Aware and being Wary. It would have been easy to say, “I’ll never put myself in that situation again!” Instead, I chose, and choose, to put myself in that situation again and again. But I’m smarter about it. I can protect myself by being aware and present without having to be wary and keep others at arm’s length.

And the student becomes the teacher

All of this flashed through my head in an instant as people and equipment moved around me and someone walked casually by with a steel beam over his shoulder. I shared it with my client.

“You know, I’ve been working with a herd of horses.” He looked at me sideways. “When I’m in the middle of a bunch of animals who don’t want to hurt me but are a lot bigger than me, I’ve learned to protect myself by paying attention to where they are and what they’re doing. This is a lot like that.” He thought about it for a second, then nodded, grinning. He got it, and thought that was pretty cool.

So did I.

So, learning to be safe with the herd has helped me to be safe with others. And helped teach them to be safe. And it’s made me a better Job Coach.

It occurs to me as I write this that both of these lessons – working with shoppers and with construction crews – are about Safety, about helping others to feel safe, and about being safe. Hmmm.

Never a dull moment, eh?

Watch your feet.


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Surprising Lessons from the Herd – Part I


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Working with horses has taught me a lot of lessons, but I never expected to apply them to working in Retail and on Construction Sites.

I started working with horses a year ago, after being introduced to Equine Guided Education (EGE) by the people and horses at Equistar Farm. The lessons I have learned about myself have had a profound impact on me. (One profound impact has led me to change the focus of my coaching and consulting, but I’ll tell you more about that later.) I want to tell you about two of the unexpected applications for lessons I’ve learned from being with the herd. Here’s the first:

Shoppers Are Prey Animals

While retooling my coaching/consulting practice, I took a part-time job in Retail. It was one of those things you (I) tell yourself (myself) you’ll (I’ll) never do, but keep in your (my) back pocket In Case of Emergency. Well, last Fall was the Case of Emergency, and I started working in a little clothing store – my first retail job since college. (And that’s a while ago.)

And, to my surprise, I’m having a blast.

The store managers put together a good team of people who work really well together (most of the time), and I love working with the customers (most of the time).

We are expected to greet every customer who comes in, to connect with them. There is a higher likelihood that a Visitor to the store will become a Customer if we connect with her. It makes sense, really; if a customer has a question, or is unfamiliar with our merchandise, or wants to try something on, or needs a second opinion, it’s easier to get help if she has a connection to someone. (I know I hate going into a store and being ignored.)

So I greet customers when they come in and try to at least acknowledge their presence and help them feel welcome.

Customers want to feel welcome, but they also need to feel safe. (I hate going into a store and being ignored, but I also hate going into a store and being pestered.)

When I greet a customer, sometimes we’ll strike up a conversation and quickly develop a rapport. But other times the conversation goes like this:

“Hi, welcome to ____ ! How are you today?”
“I’m just browsing.”

Funny, I didn’t know “browsing” was a condition, like “Fine” or “I’m doing great” or “I’m so hot, I’m glad it’s cool in here!”

At first I was tempted to say, “That’s not what I asked.” But I’ve been in their shoes – and I realized “I’m just browsing” IS a condition: They have PTSD – Post-Traumatic Shopping Disorder! So what I say instead is, “That’s cool; make yourself at home. My name is Sue if you need anything.”

That’s how I realized Shoppers are like prey animals. Like horses are prey animals. Wary of being pounced on and trapped.

So I started treating my customers like I treat my friends in the herd.

“She’s gone completely bonkers,” I hear you saying. But stay with me.

When I introduce myself to members of a herd, they don’t like it if I walk directly up to them and try to start interacting. They are immediately suspicious – it’s a little too much like being charged by a lion, or a wolf. It works much better to ease into it – approach, pause, check each other out, come closer. Non-threatening.

So after turning off a few shoppers, I started behaving like I was with the horses. Rather than walking right up to them and addressing them directly, I try to be busy with something else – straightening shirts on hangers, putting things away – but not too busy to notice them and say hi, making them feel important. I greet them warmly but casually: I see you and acknowledge you, but you’re not in my cross-hairs.

Funny thing, they respond to that.

Learning to help the horses feel safe with me has taught me about helping others feel safe.

The horses have taught me to be a better salesperson. And since I take the Service part of Customer Service very seriously, that means a lot to me.

Stay Tuned for Part II!


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Busted


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We were talking about a subject he’s wrestled with throughout the time we’ve worked together, and it’s been two steps forward, one step back. (Sometimes one step forward, two steps back.)

“What is it that keeps you from asking your customers for testimonials, from telling people about what you can do for them?”

“It makes me feel Slick Salesman-y.”

We’ve had this conversation before.

Hmm, I thought.

“You got great feedback in your customer surveys – He’s a great guy. He came to my house and talked to me. He saved me money. He helped me with a tough situation. True?”

“Yeah.”

“And I know you are all about service. You want to be an advocate for your customers. True?”

“Yeah.”

“So, while you do have the goal of making a decent living for yourself and your family, what would happen if you held the intention when you talk to people of creating a win-win situation? Would it feel different if, when you asked for an appointment, you thought about those success stories, and all the people you’ve helped?”

“Maybe,” he said.

“Give it a try. Practice on me.” So he did. First he was quiet, and then he started practicing, while holding in his mind all the people he has helped – while earning a living. He tried a few phrases, and started to get some momentum. Suddenly he burst out,

“I CAN HELP YOU, DAMMIT!”

“Yeah!” I cried. “Now you’re getting somewhere!” We started riffing on that, and I joked it could be a great tag line for giveaways – T-shirts, travel mugs, all labeled with the name of his company, and I can help you, dammit!

His eyes lit up, and he started to laugh, and shouted, “DAMMIT, YOU NEED ME!”

Suddenly he sobered and looked at me out of the corner of his eye. “That would be a great motto for Susan T. Blake Consulting, too,” he said.

*cuethesoundofbrakessquealing*

I…er…um…well. Yeah.

Busted.

Damn it! Caught learning again.

So we practiced saying it to each other.

“I can help you, dammit!”

“I can help you, dammit!”

“That does feel different, doesn’t it?” I wondered out loud.

“Empowering,” he said.

Yeah.


Hi, I’m Susan T. Blake,
Professional Encourager and Lifelong Learner, and
I can help you, dammit!
Contact me at http://susanTblake.com/contact-me/

Now let me hear you say it – leave a comment, below!

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Defeat of Our Intuition


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This morning I watched John Bohannon’s TED talk, “Dance vs. powerpoint, a modest proposal.” It’s pretty fabulous. You can watch it here:

Cool, huh?

I don’t know if you caught it, but in the middle of his talk, one statement in particular caught my attention:

“This is the great pleasure of science: the defeat of our intuition through experimentation.”

I don’t know about you, but I hate it when my intuition is proved wrong. For a second, at least. And then…

That moment is a choice point. A choice between clinging to Being Right, and learning something. Exploring.

It can be really hard to let go of the security of Being Right, of that Beautiful Idea, and be willing to accept that there might be an even more beautiful idea. Or a less beautiful idea that is right.

I hate that.

And I love it.

We are Learners, as well as Teachers. Which means not only adding new knowledge, but often replacing knowledge. And it isn’t adding new knowledge that can be hard, but allowing the replacing of knowledge, allowing for the possibility of being wrong. The beauty of that is that once we (I) allow for the possibility of being wrong, we (I) allow the entry of the new idea.

Brene Brown talks about vulnerability and shame and it is those, the fear of them, that can keep us (me) from allowing the possibility of being wrong, allowing the defeat of our intuition. The desire to protect our (my) ego.

Which is where Curiosity comes in. “Hmm, what could work better?” I ask myself. “If this thing I was sure was true isn’t working, then what will work better?”

Sigh. It’s hard to know when to keep trying, and when to shift to a new approach. How long does one keep trying, applying persistence, before remembering “If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you always got?”

Perhaps we (I) have to trust our (my) intuition.

Ha! ‘Tis a puzzlement.


OK, I was just about to hit Publish when I had another thought.

It requires both. Trusting our (my) intuition and being open to new evidence. And this is where Community is important – having people to listen to, to bounce ideas off of. Which requires vulnerability (again), being willing to let my community see me be wrong, and change.

Maybe that’s an important part of the definition of Community: The people with whom it is safe to learn, to be wrong, to grow. And to be a part of that Community, I have to offer that safe place to them, too.

Anyone feel like dancing?

Captains Curious: Curiosity, Transformation and Transformative Leadership


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

First, my story

Getting here was no easy task. It started in the womb, when my mother decided to abort me and changed her mind moments before the doctor arrived to perform the procedure. When I popped out, I was cyanotic – a blue baby. My heart was wired incorrectly and I was not getting any oxygen. So I was whisked off for my first invasive surgery. When I hit 6 months, I had my second surgery. And by the time I was 2, I had my third open heart surgery. Needless to say, safety was not something I understood well, if at all. Just to make this really clear – my heart stopped three times, for each surgery. And I was “revitalized” or, in essence, “reborn” thrice. At 35, I started noticing a pattern emerge: For me to feel alive, I needed to have near death experiences. When I had that awareness, I was rather stunned.

The story continues with my parents getting divorced at the tender age of 4. And my life falling apart at 7, when I moved in with my step-mother. For 11 years, I endured physical beatings, emotional torture and utter humiliation and cruelty. And then to top it all off, I came out at 19 and was promptly disowned. “Be straight or leave” is what my father said.

When I left, I immediately drowned myself in cheap beer and by the time I hit 27, I was only black-out drinking. Not recommended as a relationship-building skill!

I was what you called a “functional alcoholic.” I prefer the term “functional dysfunctionyte.” By the time I was 28, I was traveling around the world for business, making great amounts of money, meeting amazing people, teaching cutting-edge technology. And I was a serious mess. I was angry, reactive, defensive, impulsive, arrogant, and mean. What I didn’t know was that I was also tremendously sad, painfully hurting, severely traumatized and suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

All my initial forays into therapy were shameless expeditions of flirting until eventually the cutest one of them all called me on it. I, of course, blatantly denied it, left her office and never went back.

It was after pulling the plug on my second start-up, where I worked insane hours for three years and lost $100,000, that I crumbled. I didn’t know who I was anymore and completely fell apart. Suicidal and lost, I tumbled into an abyss of confusion. And eight months later, I lost my job, my wife and the house I lived in within a one week period. I now found myself homeless for the second time. And I couldn’t fake it any longer.

Two months prior, I had started an 18 month self-help program at NLP Marin. It was an amazing 18 months of peering into my life, and it laid the foundation for who I have become. It also taught me a list of core questions that have changed the way I engage with people.

I then got an MA in Transformative Leadership Development, as I wanted to do change work with individuals, teams and organizations. I took this program (offered at CIIS in San Francisco) so I could formally learn leadership skills and disseminate those learnings to others. What I realized a year after graduating was that I was really learning the skills to lead myself, to actually walk toward the talk, and where I continued the healing journey. Once I graduated, I entered a post-graduate depression which segued two months later into my psyche imploding, causing the last of my shell to fall away.

Curiosity

It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am now and the journey has been challenging, at times miserable and often downright difficult. But through it all, there was one element that kept me taking the next step: Curiosity.

When that life and death pattern came into my awareness at 35, I had profound curiosity as to why I kept manifesting that pattern, so I started asking myself questions about “the Why.” Mostly, I was curious about how I could get the pain to stop. It was unbearable, and all the coping mechanisms were falling to the wayside. I decided that if I wanted to heal and move through the pain, I had to get curious so that I could shift both my thinking patterns and behavioral patterns.

Transformation

So I held up a mirror, looked in it every day and started asking myself questions about me. “I wonder why that is…I wonder what is behind that…this just happened, what need of mine is not being met…what made her say that just now?” These questions, combined with my ferocious curiosity, afforded me the courage to continue to take each tiny step toward healing.

Transformative Leadership

In my quest for healing and all of the learnings that I have come across throughout the years, I noticed many patterns. Some of the patterns that we run unconsciously become outdated and are no longer useful. Some even become detrimental. How do we transform them? In the diagram below, I outline the path of the 7 Phases of Transformative Leadership, the first phase being Curiosity.

These phases have helped me untangle destructive patterns, unearth the roots of the patterns and allow me to choose something different.

Curiosity

Curiosity is the first of seven phases in Transformative Leadership. It’s the crowbar, the key to unlock a dead bolt, the hand gently reaching forward. Curiosity is the starting point and the entry way. Though it is the first phase in the diagram, curiosity is always welcome to visit any phase at any time. The 7 Phases of Transformative Leadership is not a linear process, but rather a fluid adventure in exploration. You may begin at a decision, act accordingly and have an unexpected result, sending you back to curiosity. You may have an awareness about something, which triggers a question, which results in more awareness which then results in yet another question.

Awareness

Think back to a time when you had one of those “Ah-ha!” moments. It could have been about yourself, your partner, your friend, your toddler, your coworker. The experience may have gone something like this: “Oh…when x happens, y person responds like this.” And then you make a decision: “Remember not to leave the food on the counter, otherwise the cat will eat it.”

Self-Reflect

This piece isn’t so much about wondering why the cat eats food left on the counter as about what’s going on with your 17 year old son who forgot to put the food away…and your reaction. It’s about looking at the reaction fully and seeing what the need is behind that reaction. Is the reaction to storm into his room and begin yelling about responsibility? Or is the reaction getting frustrated and cleaning up the mess yourself? If the reaction is on the spectrum of annoyed, angry, irritated, etc, it’s usually about a need that is not being met in some way.

Decide

This is the fork in the road, the pivotal moment, the point where you make a choice. You choose to explore your own set of feelings and not storm into his room. You choose to give yourself empathy and set aside some time to talk to him later when you’re calmer. Decisions are always about two choices: It’s about choosing one thing and not choosing another. When I choose to eat the salad for dinner, and not the pasta dish: I am choosing one thing and not the other. We always have choice, whether we choose to see it that way or not.

Act

Now that you’ve made your choice, it’s about aligning your intent (the choice you decided to choose) with impact (your behaviour). How are you behaving and how is your behaviour being received? Did you achieve the results you wanted? If not, why not? (Curiosity!) Did you have a real heart-to-heart with your son? Or are you noticing that while you may have wanted it to go one way, it actually went the opposite way – or another way entirely that wasn’t even on your radar?

Realign

When we drive a car for a period of time, we eventually wear out our tires. We make a choice about replacing tires and often get them realigned. Wheel alignment “provides safe, predictable vehicle control.” How different is this from humans? Sometimes we’re worn out from the week, jet-lagged, hungry, injured or feeling down. We may need to have a little extra care in realigning our intent with our impact.

Review

Ever filled out an evaluation after attending a training? What about after eating a meal at a restaurant? Or how about a 360 or employee evaluation? Maybe after watching a movie with friends and discussing it over chocolate cake? Taking inventory of an experience is important, especially when it relates back to us. When we know what is in our suitcase, we won’t be petrified going through customs. When we are either hiding something we don’t want others to see or we are just not sure what is packaged inside ourselves, it can be a scary thing to look inside.

So how can this help you?

The answer is: I don’t know. All I know is from my personal experience and the countless stories I have heard from others with whom I have worked. Each person has moved through each of these phases at some point through their life trajectory, whether consciously or otherwise. The key is to create a heightened level of curiosity which allows for a greater sense of awareness. In becoming conscious of entering and exiting The 7 Phases of Transformative Leadership, you have a greater ability to make the choices that you truly want. You begin to align your intention with your impact much more accurately and you travel on path in which you experience freedom in ways you may not know yet.

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Raj Neogy, MA is a consultant, facilitator, and entrepreneur who offers training and consulting in topics such as transformative leadership, conscious business and breakthrough strategy. She has worked with over 500 corporations and organizations worldwide over the last 20 years, including Fortune 100 companies like Sony, Adobe, JVC, and amazon.com. She is the principal of Argien Consulting www.argien.com and founder of Queer Leadership: A Global Perspective.

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How Willing Are You to Be Caught Learning?


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This fairly innocuous question came up recently in discussion, and I admit it went in one ear and out the other until later.

How willing are you to be caught learning?

Whether facilitating a discussion or process, managing a project, or leading others in whatever capacity, we I want to look good. We I want to be respected. We I want to keep control of the situation.

At the same time, we are human. We learn new things all the time, which is part of how we got where we are. We even (gasp) make mistakes – which is (hopefully) one of the ways we learn.

The fact that we learn, or even that we make mistakes, isn’t the issue here. (It’s actually a whole other issue.)

The issue is contained in the language of the question:

How willing are you to be caught learning?

Mm hmm. That’s different.

To be caught learning.

Just the language suggests that we’re being caught in the act of something wrong, that someone has seen us doing something we shouldn’t, that the expectation is that we don’t do that.

Caught red-handed. Caught in the act.

You’re supposed to be the expert.

You’re supposed to know what you’re doing.

We’re not paying you to learn at our expense.

And yet…

Leading, in whatever capacity, is a bit like parenting. Ideally we are modeling the behaviors we want people to learn and engage in. Instead of “Do as I say, not as I do,” the ideal is “Do as I do.”

Do we lose our authority when we are “caught” learning? Or do we strengthen and deepen it?

Much depends on the expectations of the group (and how we manage them), our own expectations, and the rules of engagement.

Much also depends on how we handle the situation:

Do we acknowledge the learning, even admitting to having been wrong? Or do we try to cover up the learning in some way?

Covering up the learning can be very dangerous, because it sends nefarious (and untrue) messages that I Am Never Wrong, I Have Nothing Else To Learn, It Isn’t Safe to admit to not being perfect or not knowing everything (so you shouldn’t admit it either), or There Are Different Rules For You And Me, and so on. It also raises the question in the minds of others, If You’re Not Being Honest About This, What Else Are You Not Being Honest About?

We can lose more credibility by being “caught” learning and being dishonest about it than by being honest about being wrong or learning something new.

So, is the solution to avoid being caught learning? Or to be transparent about learning and being willing to change our minds and directions?

I propose that the answer is to be visible and transparent about learning. This can be done without surrendering authority; in fact it can strengthen the respect people have for us and serve as a learning opportunity for all of us (even if it is a humbling one).

What do you think? What are your assumptions and expectations about leadership – your own or others’? What are the pressures that can make it difficult to effectively lead by example?

Please leave a comment below!


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Lost in Space


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I am a member of a group of Group Facilitators that meets once a month to share questions and ideas with each other. Members have a variety of styles and tools and specialize on various types of meetings and groups so, as you can imagine, the discussions are always lively and thought-provoking. I always learn something or come away with something to ponder.

Our last meeting was no exception. We covered a variety of topics which wove around and through each other, and I came away with a lot to think about.

A term I have heard used a lot in relation to facilitation is “holding space,” but the first time I heard it (when someone commented on my ability to “hold the space” for a group process) I had no clue what it meant. Over time I have begun to get my arms around it, but it has been a learning process.

At the last facilitators’ meeting, one of the things that kept coming up was this idea of “holding space.” Being a Word Geek, one of the things that struck me as we spoke about “holding space” was the similarity between the words “facilitate” and “facility.”

Yeah. One of those things that makes you say, “Hmmm.”

I think of a facility as a building in which something happens, and so as facilitators it makes sense that we become the facility – we hold the space or become the space – in which the discussion can occur. So I came home and looked up the words.

Wrongo!

According to various definitions (thanks to TheFreeDictionary.com),

  • Facility means “Ease in moving, acting, or doing; something that facilitates an action or process; something created to serve a particular function.”
  • Facilitate means “to make easier, assist the progress of.
  • Facile means “easy to perform or achieve,” and comes from the Latin “facilis” (easy) which comes from “facere” (to do).

Maybe not so Wrongo

Good facilitators make a discussion easier, assist its progress and, as a noun, facilitators are the thing that makes it easier. The facility in which it can happen.

At last I understand the concept of “holding the space,” although I’ve been told I’ve been doing it for ages.

Exercise

Think about some of the meetings you have attended (or attend, or lead). Are they primarily vehicles for disseminating information and/or collecting status reports? Are they discussions, with people actively participating? What does the facilitator do differently in those situations? Is the facilitator the center of attention, or is the discussion itself the center of attention? Are they meetings people look forward to? Does the group achieve it’s goal(s)? Or is the group lost in space?

The next time you plan a meeting, consider the goals of the meeting and the type of facilitation that would best help the group achieve those goals. Contact me at susan {at} susantblake {dot} com for more information!

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Captains Curious: The Curiousity Revolution


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“Let’s just say I was testing the bounds of reality. I was curious to see what would happen. That’s all it was: Curiosity.” ~ Jim Morrison

Princeton’s WordNet defines curious as “eager to investigate and learn or learn more.” It’s a pleasant word, provoking images of a child’s wondering at butterflies or a puppy peeking into a barn door. It means we want to know more, learn more, see more and experience more.

Curiosity was not always a desirable trait

However, curiosity was not always a desirable or even forgivable trait.

  • Its roots lie in words such as Latin’s curiosus meaning “inquiring eagerly, meddlesome” and the Old French word curios meaning “solicitous, anxious, inquisitive.”
  • Some circles used the word curious to mean “pornographic, vulgar, indecent.” Not necessarily a bad thing in my book but safe to assume they did not intend it as a compliment.
  • Phrases such as “Curiosity killed the cat” were designed to discourage a child’s natural state of being.

Breaking down walls

As a modern culture, we began to break down these walls to curiosity in the 1960s. People no longer accepted being spoon-fed information. They wanted to learn more, to know more.

Parents began teaching their children to ask more questions and discover different truths. New spiritual beliefs and grass-roots politics sprung up all around.

Snooze button

This was a temporary blip, a brief awakening before hitting the snooze button in the 80’s and 90’s. But our fifteen minutes now seem to be up.

All around us, people are finally beginning to rub their eyes, let out a good yawn and stretch. We are reawakening our curiosity. We’re looking to each other, trying to recollect our interconnectedness and truer purposes.

A quiet revolution

There is a quiet revolution happening today. It’s not political. It’s not religious. It’s not trying to save the environment, fight drugs or obliterate disease. It’s not going to start wars or take down authority.

It is simply a revolution of curiosity.

  • What can I create?
  • How can I help people?
  • Can I make this a better place?
  • How can I have an impact on the world?

These are the questions I see people asking themselves. Everyday and everywhere I look I see people reviving their curiosity…not just about their worlds but, more importantly, about themselves.

Instead of accepting the limitations they’ve been told exist, people are starting to ask real questions about what they are truly capable of achieving.

And it’s these simple questions, and this simple curiosity, that have the power to change our world forever.

PS

As an afterthought, Susan asked me to discuss what I am curious about and how this “curiosity revolution” I wrote about has affected me. While I’m hard-pressed to think of anything I’m not curious about, most of all I think it is to see where this new train of consciousness is heading.

This curiosity revolution has inspired me to create new businesses, to learn and write about new topics and meet new people. It has motivated me to strive harder towards making a positive impact with everything I do. There is a sense not of urgency but of great importance right now. I find it extremely exciting and invigorating.

And it has also made me madly curious about you! I want to know what your dreams are. How you hope to change the world. What you want to learn more about, know more about and experience more. Will you share these things with me?

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I’m Jenny B, proud owner, operator and resident goddess of Up Your Impact Factor where we uncover how to use our words to change our world.

Tweet up with me on Twitter, subscribe to the Spice Up Your Shite newsletter or just stop by to say hi!


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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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