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Hopping to a Different Drum


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It was a lovely walk – a quiet, early morning, not yet hot. Lots of birds, small to large – finches and chickadees, woodpeckers and red-winged blackbirds, red-tailed and sharp-shinned hawks, turkey vultures. But uneventful.

Until I left the park. As I was crossing the street, I noticed something moving on the ground. Something small, with small, irregular movements.

I paused to look closer, and realized it was a tiny frog, no larger than my thumbnail. It hopped hopped hopped, then paused and crawled for a few inches. As I watched, I saw more movements out of the corner of my eye.

There were several frogs, all tiny, all hopping in the same direction. No, there were lots of frogs. Not a swarm, but a steady trickle. They ranged in size from my thumbnail to the last section of my thumb. Nearly the same color as the concrete, they looked like bits of rock in the roadway – until they moved. They would hop hop hop, then pause, then hop some more, and some would crawl for a few inches or feet before hopping again.

They hopped up out of the road, toward the pond at the edge of the park. I marveled, and cheered them on, saying, “Go, go, go! You’re almost there!”

I stood there for a few minutes, just watching as they paraded along the edge of the road, up onto the curb and across the path. All going in the same direction.

Except for the ones who weren’t.  As I watched, every now and then one would turn off to the left, back into the street in a completely different direction. At first I wanted to shout, “Wait! You’re going the wrong way!” But The Rebel in me also wanted to cheer them on, even though it was farther and more dangerous to head toward the pond on other side of the road. The less crowded one. “You Go!” I said, “Don’t give up!”

I don’t know how long I stood there watching this tiny parade. (I must have looked odd to the people driving by as I stood, staring at the ground, seemingly looking at nothing.) Finally I wished them well and headed across the street toward home. Then I stopped. Where the heck were they coming from? How did they know where to go?

I turned around and went back across the street, and followed the parade backwards around the corner for about 50 feet as it made its way along the side of the road. I got to the place where they were crossing the road from the field on the other side. A few got run over by cars as they went by, but most made it.

How did they know where to go? Why hadn’t they been spotted by any birds, who could have had quite a breakfast?

Finally I went on my way, pondering: I saw something today that perhaps no one else saw. That by itself was pretty cool. It made me wonder about things and ask questions I wouldn’t have thought to ask otherwise. And it reminded me to celebrate those who take on big tasks, and to celebrate those who hop to a different drum.


Work with a coach who notices things everyone else misses,
and can help you see them, too!
Contact me: susan at susanTblake . com
.

Photographer: Ian Britton – FreeFoto.com

Eagles and Turkeys and Music in the Air


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Sunday Morning

Sunday morning I got up and, rather than sipping a leisurely cup of coffee, I got dressed, grabbed my camera and went for a walk on my favorite nature trail.

One of the things I love about my little town is that it is laced with walking and biking trails. My favorite is about a mile from my home and is only open to foot and bicycle traffic. It winds through meadows and along a greenbelt next to a small river, and is either home or a stopping place for a variety of wildlife. I have encountered deer, fox, feral cats, turtle, ground squirrels, red squirrels, snowy egrets, great blue herons, Canada geese, mallard ducks, turkey vultures, red tailed hawks, red shouldered hawks, lizards, and tree frogs. Not to mention a host of small birds, including goldfinches, house finches, bushtits, red-winged blackbirds, scrub jays, mourning doves, band-tailed pigeons, cliff swallows, black phoebes, acorn woodpeckers, Anna’s hummingbirds, and plenty I haven’t identified yet.

So on Sunday morning I set out at the crack of dawn, wondering what I would see and who I would meet.

My first encounters…

I started with my regular encounters with the finches and flycatchers, common on nearly all of my walks. I stopped to take pictures of a snowy egret where the creek and the path pass under the freeway, and he obliged me by posing and being quite patient with me.

Up above my head…

I walked on, and at a point where oak trees on either side of the trail form an arch overhead, I paused. I heard a sound… it wasn’t a cluck, and it wasn’t a squawk. It was more like a … mrrrrp. I heard it again. From overhead. Then I heard it from tree on the other side of the trail. Mrrrp.

I stood quite still, slowly looking up into the branches above my head. Mrrrp. Finally my eyes focused on a large brown bird amongst the leaves. Mrrrp. It was a turkey!

I heard the mrrrp from several places in the trees above me, and realized there was a family of turkeys roosting in the trees, checking in with each other. I counted five young turkeys and the mother, happily perched in the canopy of leaves.

Now, I have seen turkeys on the ground on numerous occasions; in fact, wild turkeys are quite common around here. It is not at all unusual in July and August to see families of turkeys with their chicks parading around.

But in trees? That’s a new one on me. In retrospect, I remember a friend telling me that the turkeys on her property roost in the trees, but I had never seen it myself.

As I stood there, trying to get some clear pictures, a group of walkers came by.

“There are turkeys up in the trees!” I told them. They stopped, and looked, and marveled.

“This may be a dumb question,” one of them said, “but do turkeys fly?”

“Apparently,” I answered.

I wondered, how old do the young turkeys have to be before their mother can get them to fly up into a tree, away from possible predators like foxes or raccoons? How does she protect them until then? They were clearly unconcerned about me (although they were apparently talking about me) being on the ground below them, but couldn’t a hawk swoop in from above and grab one for breakfast?

That’s nice, but…

You may be wondering, “What does this have to do with business, or consulting, or coaching?”

Well, everything.

The day before, I had been talking with a successful professional who has been struggling with standing up for what is important to her in her home life, and it struck me that you can’t be partially true to yourself. Once we put a stake in the ground or take a stand about something, it becomes more and more difficult not to do that in other areas of our lives.

The same thing is true about curiosity. Once we begin noticing what is going on around us and we being exercising our curiosity about what we notice, that spreads into all areas of our lives.

Curiosity, like enthusiasm, is contagious

If I hadn’t noticed that “mrrrp” in the trees above me, and if I hadn’t been curious about what it was, I never would have seen turkeys roosting up above my head.

If I don’t notice what’s going on with my thoughts and reactions, I can’t wonder why I haven’t been successful with something, or why I have been successful with something, or why I am uncomfortable around someone.

If I don’t notice what’s happening with a group I’m working with, or a process I’m part of, I can’t wonder why things are happening the way they are, or why we can’t seem to improve something, or what needs to be done differently.

If I don’t notice they way things are, I can’t appreciate what and who is in my life, and I can’t wonder what I need to do to make things even better.

Noticing and being curious apply to everything, beginning with our inner worlds and extending to everything around us.

And when I share what I notice with others, they often get curious too.

Soaring with the eagles

You know that old adage, “It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re surrounded by turkeys”? Well, in this case, being surrounded by turkeys is a very good thing. If you notice them.

All of this talk of turkeys mrrrping up above my head reminds me of a song… enjoy!



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Photos by Susan T. Blake

You Are Not a Charity


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Two significant things happened in the last week that have shifted the way I think, and I’d like to share them with you. Maybe you will find them useful, too.

An Experiment

I recently offered to try an experiment with my cohorts in one of my Master Mind groups, and it worked so well that one of them suggested I offer it as a service. I let that percolate for a few days. Then she came back and asked me to do it again – and said she wanted to pay me.

So we embarked on a process of figuring out what was an appropriate price from both of our perspectives. Now, that is really all negotiation is, but it is something that gives a lot of entrepreneurs a stomach ache, especially in service-oriented and creativity-oriented businesses. Negotiating with clients wasn’t that difficult for me when I worked for someone else because I was given pricing guidelines with upper and lower boundaries. Period.

But this was different. I was not only negotiating over my own products and services, but it was for something brand new that I wasn’t really sure how to price.

As we worked through the process, I got an uncomfortable feeling, a feeling like I was accepting charity. Luckily, I noticed right away and held it up to look at it, rather than brushing it off and stuffing it.

Why would that feel like Charity?

In holding it up to look at it, I asked myself, Why would letting a friend pay me for my services feel like charity? Not because I don’t think my time is worth it; I charge a healthy (though flexible) rate for my services. Was it because she is my friend? Was it because I knew she was trying to help me grow my business and develop a new service?

Well, yes. And yes.

And I realized very quickly I needed to reframe it. That she wanted to pay me is a sign of respect and that she values my contribution. (And the process gave me the opportunity to really explore what she found valuable.) For that I feel a different kind of gratitude, and I immediately stopped feeling like a Charity Case.

I also realized that perhaps she didn’t want to feel like a Charity Case either, or a User, and so by negotiating a payment that worked for both of us, we became equal partners in the deal.

That was very cool.

A Challenge

At the same time, I was mulling over a challenge put out by one of my cohorts in my other Master Mind group. The challenge: To spend some time thinking about our Priorities. She commented that she is more of a visual than a linear thinker, so lists don’t always work. It turns out that several of us are very visual, so we all talked about ways to explore this in a visual way. I committed on Tuesday to map out my priorities via a Mind Map…

…Which I finally sat down to do on Sunday.

And something interesting happened.

But first, a note about being an Entrepreneur (or Solopreneur, as the case may be). Unlike working for A Company where it is easy to take stability and a steady paycheck for granted, the price of being an Entrepreneur is the trade-off between stability and a steady paycheck for freedom and creativity. In other words, Stability? Steady Paycheck? Ha!

Will the real Priorities please stand up?

So I sat down on Sunday morning to spend some time thinking about my priorities. Since building my business is on my mind at the moment, the first two priorities that popped out were Develop Consulting Clients and Develop Coaching Clients.

But as I kept doodling and listing other priorities, such as Be of Service, Grow, Make Connections, and Have Fun, I realized that those first two weren’t my top priorities. But they kept showing up as off-shoots of my other priorities, such as Earn My Keep, Be of Service, Have Fun ->Doing Work I Enjoy, and Have Fun->Working with People I Enjoy. So they were clearly important.

Hmmm.

Last week’s post about letting some things flow out of my life came out while all of this was percolating. So I realized that one of my priorities is to Let Go of Some Things I am doing so that other, higher priority, things can come in. So Let Go went on the mind map as a priority, too.

Profound Impact

This has all had a profound impact on how I look at my business. It affects the way I create my to-do list, which is now shaped around my priorities. It affects the way I talk about what I do. It affects the things I say Yes to or No to. It affects the choices I make about what I want do, who I want to do it with, and what needs to happen next.

I feel a bit vulnerable sharing this thought process with you, in case you held the image of me as a brilliantly wise Consultant Who Is the Fount of Wisdom. Um, no.

I don’t really want to be the Fount of Wisdom* or a Smarty Pants Know-It-All Consultant.

What I am is a wilderness guide who is blazing trails through the woods of business and life and is happy to share those trails with you.

The Lesson

And this week’s trail-blazing lesson is this: I am neither a charity nor a charity case, and neither are you.

If you are a small business person, do any of these things ring true for you?

* Well, OK. Being a Fount of Wisdom wouldn’t be all bad. 😉


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Captains Curious: Curiosity, People-Watching and Business Reconnaissance


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

An Introvert Uses Curiosity

As an introvert, curiosity is a quiet endeavor. I can sit happily at the back of a room full of people and observe.

In Person

People-watching is an Olympic sport for me. At every concert, party and business conference my way of working the room is to identify the mini soap operas in progress. Who is alone in the room and why? Why does that lady in the corner have on so much eye liner? Who will be sneaking out of the party later for a clandestine meeting?

Attend any networking event and instead of plunging right into swapping business cards, stand back a bit and see how fast you can identify the star of the show. She’ll be working the room, joking with her fellow cast members, accepting drinks bought just for her and later will confide to you that everyone in the room (except for you) owes her favors.

You won’t believe she has the audacity to tell you this. But opportunities to get a clear view of the business landscape in your industry come to the quietly curious. You just have to keep an eye on all the players and your mouth shut.

The same is true online.

I don’t even have to leave my house anymore to watch my small hometown business soap operas play out on Facebook. I can connect the dots “Kevin Bacon style” between groups of business and marketing people on LinkedIn.

I know who is friends with whom on the biggest blogs in my industry, just by keeping up with blog comments and product launches. I’ve overheard many titillating conversations, that I’d never be privy to in real life, play out on Twitter. For an introvert like me, this is people-watching at its finest.

So what makes this more than just a spectator sport?

If you need to do business research, want to know who the players are in your industry or are looking for a good partner for a joint venture, be curious. Even if you are normally an extrovert, try on an introvert’s Curiosity Hat for a while.

Watch what’s happening on the various social media channels, see what topics are popular, see who’s connected to whom, be curious about how people talk to (and about) each other and their businesses online. And instead of shouting all this info to the roof tops, store it away for later.

My curiosity has led me down a winding road of Twitter connections to great business coaches like Sarah Robinson (http://escaping-mediocrity.com) and to amazingly supportive groups like LaVonne Ellis’s Customer Love (http://makecustomersloveyou.com).

All these connections, which are helping me grow my business, wouldn’t have come about if I wasn’t curious about what other people are doing online and why.

But here’s where people-watching from the sidelines officially ends and curiosity has to go public:

If I want to play my part now, I have to step out of my comfort zone and use all the information I’ve gathered in my people-watching phase to strike up a conversation. No one’s going to notice me (or you) sitting silently in the back of the room, but they will notice and be curious about someone who has taken the time to notice them.

Please leave a comment below!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Christie Halmick copy writes and designs brilliant websites and ebooks for entrepreneurial women. You can find her at: http://jewelsbranch.com and on Twitter: @jewelsbranch


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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.

Captains Curious: Why Are Some People More Curious Than Others?


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

I’ve always been curious

I’ve always been curious about many things:

  • How were spaghettis living in the deep sea manufactured? (Being a kid I didn’t know they were marine creatures!)
  • Why did the horizon on the Mediterranean Sea, from my balcony, form a 3° inclination with my mason’s level?
  • Why is it that when you were younger, time seemed to go a lot slower? And the more you age, the faster time goes by?
  • Why do we live moments we feel we already lived in the past? (Ok, I’m sure you asked yourself that one many times too.)

Those are just few of my past curiosities, but what intrigued me for good is the effect that graphic and musical arts have on my aesthetic senses. When in front of beauty, I always ask my self: “How is it made? Why is it so beautiful? How can I produce the same effect?” And that’s how I learned to draw by myself, and play music with imaginary instruments, then digital ones.

How curiosity makes me discover hidden secrets

In my school days, and life in general, curiosity always helped me to focus on important questions dismissed by the vast majority. Many times it made me pierce the “truth.”

But what I observed is that people around me never seem to notice irregular phenomena – like the 3° inclination of our sea’s horizon – or try to understand what caused some observable facts like when I told one of my dreams to someone and saw the events come true.

If people didn’t understand what happened, they just denied it, or said something was wrong with the measuring tools or their own sight, or that it was coincidence! I can’t tell enough how frustrating it was to endure people’s absence of curiosity or, even worse, total denial.

Today, even though I still feel a little like an extraterrestrial, I’m very glad I can have that kind of curiosity because it lets me learn new amazing things.

The Curiosity who killed the cat

I had this “curiosity that killed the cat” in my adolescence, like many I’m sure, but no longer now; too-personal details about people is not what I am curious about.

When we want to know someone we like, there’s nothing more natural than our need to discover some aspects of his/her life. True. But I wouldn’t want to learn any too intimate details about anyone, unless it happens within a private discussion with that particular person.

On the other hand, I ask myself: Why are some people that curious about other people’s lives, but never do anything positive with their findings? They just talk about it with their curious mates, with no clear objective. Why, exactly? I wonder.

My musical curiosity; back to the source

I like to be curious about what makes music so hooky or groovy. For example, I choose a musical hit and reverse engineer it to its source(s) of inspiration that the artist used in the first place: It’s amazing how people in general don’t recognize some obviously famous music compositions from the past, which are adapted by some trendy artists today.

Isn’t it funny when someone listens to an original composition and says “Oh, they plagiarized my favourite singer!” But they don’t realize they just listened to the original music piece! When you tell them the truth about all their latest favourite music hits, people fall into total denial and distrust once again. I’m used to those reactions now.

Here’s how I listen to music I like: The first thing I’m curious about is, what was the artist’s inspiration? What were their influences? It’s fine to appreciate today’s art productions, but if we don’t study their sources and influences, then how could we fully appreciate their new contribution?

I almost succeeded to make them curious

I often share my curious questions with family and friends, but one simple curiosity I have is: Why aren’t they curious? Why do they settle with what they know and never seem to want to learn something new? Or think about possible answers to unanswered questions? How would it be possible to open their appetite for curiosity, or for learning new things?

When I thought I was about to succeed in making someone permanently curious about a subject, they suddenly found an excuse to escape from any further thinking; it looked as if someone slapped them to wake them up. That’s really funny to see.

What’s happened then? Is it a lack of patience? Short focus span? Fear to discover the truth? I really wonder. Maybe you know that secret answer.

Now It’s Your Turn!

What are you curious about? Please share your curious thoughts, experiences or questions in the comments below, or just type whatever crosses your mind right now, we’re curious to know!

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Karim Benyagoub is a graphic designer and digital music artist in Algeria; you can follow him on Twitter at @KarimBenyagoub. http://twitter.com/KarimBenyagoub



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Sea Anemone image by OpenCage.info under Creative Commons’s Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license



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Spiders, Obsessions and Life Lessons


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I got up this morning, put on my glasses, and went to the kitchen. Just like I do every morning.

I stumbled around, put water on to boil, ran my fingers through my hair, got out the cat food, looked down…

… and saw what looked like a black spider crumpled on the floor. Kind of squished, but not completely.

It was too early to think about anything but Coffee and Feeding the Cats. So I fed the cats while the water heated up.

I came back to the kitchen and, yes, it was definitely a spider. Mostly squished, but not completely.

O my god, I thought, had I stepped on it in my bare feet? Aaaaack.

Oh my GOD, was it in my hair? Did it fall out when I finger-combed my hair? Oh MY GOD, had it been on my pillow? Had I rolled over on it? Eeeeeeeew! OHMYGOD, was it in the clothes I took off the hook and put on when I got up? EEEEEEEEK!

Have I mentioned that I don’t like spiders?

At this point I could quite easily have dissolved into hysteria and spent the rest of the day in the kitchen, screaming.

Instead, I realized that none of that really mattered as long as it hadn’t bitten me, which it hadn’t. (Wait, what’s that itchy spot on my leg?)

So I got a kleenex, picked it up (Eeew, did it move?), didn’t see any red marks on its belly, and threw it in the trash. Eew. (Or should I say, “Threeeew it in the trash”?)

Once I had my coffee, I thought about how easily I could have driven myself to hysteria by thinking about all the things that might have happened. But they didn’t. And I didn’t.

Why didn’t I?

It’s really tempting to think about all of the things that might have happened, or should have happened, or that I should have done, or that someone else should have done. But unless I’m willing to take a lesson and move on, that kind of obsession only serves one purpose: It’s a great distraction.

I realized many years ago, when I was driving to work while seething at my husband for something, obsessing over him and what he had done, that when I obsess like that it’s usually because it is a great distraction from what’s really going on with me: What feelings am I avoiding? What part did I play in the situation? What action am I trying to avoid taking?

I hate that.

That kind of revelation is very humbling. And very useful.

Having learned that about myself has saved me a LOT of wasted energy over the years, and prevented a lot of escalated misunderstandings.

Now I notice

It has taken a lot of practice, but it’s much easier now to notice when I start to escalate and pull the plug on it, asking myself, “What’s really going on?”

(Although I admit I get a perverse thrill of fear from taking out the idea of rolling over on a spider and finding it in my hair and waving that scenario in front of myself several times so far today. Shivers.)

This type of obsessive distraction can cause a lot of problems, both in personal relationships and at work. Learning how to unplug it can improve both personal relationships and work situationsby improving my self-knowledge.

Do you ever find yourself obsessing over something? What do you use those tangents to distract yourself from? More importantly, how do you pull the plug on it?

Hm, what’s that itch on my foot?

Image: Pixomar / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Stuff That Knocks on My Brain and Demands to Be Let In (or Out)


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Off On a Tangent

This morning I was writing in my journal, something I’ve been doing most every morning for a while, clearing my head and gathering my thoughts for the coming day. But my mind kept drifting off on a tangent about a project that is waiting patiently on the sidelines, and I kept losing my Here And Now train of thought.

I finally gave up and spent some time paying attention to that tangent, noticing what was coming up, listening to it and writing it down. And I ended up with an unexpected essay that I can submit to one of the literary journals I discovered over the weekend, bringing me closer to my goal of submitting two pieces to outside publications by June 6.

Tangents and Discipline

What if I had chosen discipline this morning over following that thought? Or perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask, What if I had chosen a different discipline this morning? Because paying attention to the distractions and tangents my mind throws up is a discipline, too.

Noticing is a discipline, a process of learning by instruction and practice (from The Free Dictionary).

Ever since I was a child, when I have seen a road winding off around a bend I have wanted to follow it, thinking “I wonder what’s down there?” That is part of my curiosity. Noticing the tangents my mind goes off on and following them is like noticing a road I haven’t gone down and giving myself permission to see what’s around the bend.

Tangents vs. Hooks

One of the things I noticed about myself years ago is that when I get hooked on a tangent, like being mad at somebody, it is a very effective distraction from what is really going on. As long as I am focused on them, I don’t have to pay attention to what’s going on with me.

After getting over being embarrassed at myself, I started paying attention to those times when I go gleefully off on a tangent so that I can ignore what I’m really feeling, and started noticing what it is I’m trying to avoid. It’s not easy, and it can be very humbling, but it sure saves a lot of time and energy.

Those two kinds of tangents and distractions are very different. The first is like a visitor knocking at the door, wanting to share the cookies she just baked and have a lovely chat, but who gives up after a while if I don’t answer. The second is like a gossipy neighbor who bangs on the door, bringing over something fattening to eat while telling me juicy tidbits and keeping me from what I should be doing. One is an invitation, the other an intrusion.

I can accept either one – or not; I get to choose. But I have to use the peephole in the door to notice which type of visitor it is. And if I’m very good, I notice my motivation for letting either one in – or not.

Tangents, Ideas and Creativity

I could have stuffed this morning’s tangent back in its box and forced myself to concentrate. Later I probably would have bemoaned my lack of new ideas.

I wonder: Perhaps people who believe they are not creative get just as many ideas as “creative people” do, but they are just better at ignoring them.

Do you pay attention to the tangents your mind takes off on? Can you tell the difference between an idea and a hook? Do you choose one type over the other? If so, why? Or do you ignore them all?

Photo Credit: Ian Britton www.FreeFoto.com

Notice


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Once upon a time, we went car shopping. We went to the used car lot, looking for not one but two cars, since we were already looking for a second car when I hit a deer and totaled both our (only) car and the deer. (That’s another story.)

We finally settled on two cars – both of which happened to be from Mitsubishi. But at one point I asked, “Why aren’t there more Mitsubishis on the road? Why aren’t they more popular?”

The salesman (and my husband) looked at me as if I were from Mars and said, “Are you kidding? They’re all over the place.”

You know what? They were right. They were everywhere.

I had just never noticed them.

Until I started paying attention.

Paying attention

Rollo May wrote (in either Love and Will or The Courage to Create) that the root of the word “attention” is the word “to tend.” What does it mean to tend to something? It means “to care for.” Thus, he pointed out, people pay attention to things they care about. That seems like a pretty obvious statement, but it stopped me in my tracks. It made me think, and it has shaped my thinking ever since.

Noticing

What if I hadn't noticed the reflection in this traffic mirror? I would have missed a great photo.

In Creating Space for Wonder, I wrote about the importance of Noticing: “I can create space for wonder by paying attention to the world around me.” Since then, I’ve begun noticing that other people are writing about the importance of Noticing as well.

Havi Brooks of The Fluent Self wrote a wonderful piece about a recent exercise she went through with Dave Rowley of Creative Chai that was focused on Noticing. Then Karen Caterson wrote a delightful piece for the Captains Curious, in which she described a situation where Noticing that she had fears and an agenda made it possible to set those fears and agenda aside.

Noticing Noticing

It makes me laugh that I am noticing Noticing. It just does.

Maybe I am only noticing it because I am paying attention. I have started to care about it. Or maybe more people are noticing… things. And writing about it.

And one of the things I am noticing about this phenomenon is the relationship in these articles between noticing and freedom.

Noticing and Freedom

Yes, freedom.

Havi appreciated the freedom of just Noticing what was happening without any obligation to do anything.

Noticing her reaction to a situation freed Karen to handle the situation differently than she might automatically have done.

By Noticing what is happening around and inside me I am able to create space for wonder and free myself from the encroaching walls of concern and worry.

Noticing can free us from reacting automatically to situations.

Noticing can free us from worry and future-tripping. (Unless all you notice is what reinforces your reasons for worry. That’s a whole other topic.)

Noticing can free us to choose our next step.

We are free to choose what we notice, although sometimes life whacks us in the head and we can’t help but notice something surprising.

What have you noticed lately? Anything surprising?

To what do you pay attention? What does this tell you about what it is you care about?

Captains Curious: Curiosity Is the Ultimate Room Freshener


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

Curiosity is a window-opener

Open the Windows!

Have you ever walked into a room that’s been closed up for a significant length of time? One that has a musty, stuffy smell?

If you have, you probably opened the windows wide – immediately.

Why? Because an open window brings in freshness – fresh air, if we’re talking about a room – and fresh thinking, if we’re talking about the “window” of curiosity.

For example…

Even before I knew she would be hosting a Curiosity Series I learned that Susan is a Curiosity Advocate. I happened to mention to her (in a “Whatcha been doing?” note) that I was nervous about an upcoming call with my son.

Manchild (one of the nicknames I have for my son) had written me a short email mentioning a purchase he and a friend were considering – a yacht!

They’d found a yacht online. Yacht. Online. What the WHAT?

My son spent the past year interning at a Quaker youth hostel in DC – he’s not independently wealthy (or anywhere close to) – and he can’t swim. You might imagine that I had a lot of questions for him (and you’d be right)!

Should I mention that he said, “It needs lots of work” – and he’s a musician, not a handyman? Yep, lots of questions!

I asked to hear more about it and Manchild suggested a Skype call rather than email – so we set up a mutually agreeable time.

When I wrote Susan I was experiencing motherly concerns (out the wazoo), and worrying about how to achieve some kind of parenting balance between listening and advising (and also – mostly – worrying about how much “advising” I’d be likely to do while in a Holy #&%*! state of mind).

That’s where Susan (and her Curiosity Championing) came in. In response to my saying that I was a bit anxious, Susan wrote: “…I have no advice. But in my experience, just asking appropriate questions can be very helpful.”

Susan’s not-advice was like having someone open a window for me: It brought in fresh thinking and helped me create space for curiosity.

Create space for curiosity…

Questions! I had tons of them! (Did I mention that before?) I set my fears and my own agenda aside (the first step there was noticing that I had fears and an agenda) for the Skype visit with my son, and…

…firmly grounded – with curiosity as my foundationwe had a great talk! I was able to get excited with him, honor his plans and ideas and convey my concerns – which, frankly, weren’t all that concernish once I allowed myself to listen to his plans.

That left us time to concentrate on the really important stuff – like why in the world Manchild and friend were even considering renaming a yacht?!? (There’s a world of superstitious stories around renaming a boat.) It turns out they had that covered, too – they’d researched and found a “proper” ritual for the renaming.

…and curiosity brings in fresh thinking, discussion and Wonder

Curiosity is a window-opener: It brings in fresh thinking, discussion and wonder – much better than the stuffy, musty stuff of fears and preconceived agendas!

* * * * *

Karen Caterson – aka Square-Peg Karen – is a recovering psychotherapist & Mindful Nonconformity Advocate and offers encouragement, humor and resources to fellow Square-Pegs (i.e. Mindful Nonconformists) at Square-Peg Reflections (http://squarepegpeople.typepad.com/). Follow her on Twitter @SquarePegKaren.

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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.

Creating Space for Wonder


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Last week I wrote about how wonder both requires and creates space. (You can read it here.) I had found myself thinking, as the result of a road-trip, about how external space can trigger the process of creating internal space, but I also ended up with a bunch of questions:

  • How can I create that internal space without going on a big road trip?
  • What about people who can’t get away? Do they have to wait to light the Wonder Fire for something big like that?
  • How can we maintain that sense of wonder once we have come home and the physical and mental walls close in and the distractions begin to fill up our minds?

For me, there is one answer and it is very simple: Notice.

  • Notice the things and people around me.
  • Notice the way the light is highlighting the hills behind me – I never realized there were two layers of ridges before.
  • Notice the little bird with a bum leg.
  • Notice the laugh-lines around the eyes of a local shopkeeper.
  • Notice how the oak tree that was bare of leaves a few days ago is now covered with a haze of new green leaves.
  • Notice the paw prints that some local cat has left all over my car.

Notice.

Simple and easy are not the same

I admit that simple is not the same as easy.

When my mind is busy thinking about all of the other stuff of life, stuff like the conversation I had with my sister, the maintenance I need to do on the car, the bills I need to pay, the projects I am working on, the things I should have said… When I am living in my head with all of that swirling around, all of that distracts me and takes up the space in my head. And it can be difficult to take a step back.

Create space for wonder

But if I can consciously quiet that chatter in my mind, I can create space to notice things. I can create space for wonder.

Mental calluses and protective clothing

In fact, when my mind is cluttered with busy thoughts, it is almost as if all of that stuff moving around in my head creates calluses on my mind – just like using a certain garden spade creates calluses on my hands or wearing certain shoes creates calluses on my feet.

Calluses aren’t necessarily a bad thing – calluses protect us from pain. The calluses on my fingertips keep my fingers from hurting when I play the guitar, and when I’m not distracted by that pain I can focus on the music.

We also create artificial calluses to protect us: I wear garden gloves to protect me from blisters and cuts and bites and from dirt buried deep beneath my fingernails, and I wear shoes to protect my feet from sharp rocks, glass and hot pavement.

Calluses protect me from pain, but they also keep me from noticing the way certain fabrics feel in my hands, or from noticing the feeling of the grass beneath my feet.

Ah-hah!

There are things we can do to remove our calluses and take off our protective clothing so that we can experience what is around us. Sometimes it is as simple as deciding to do it and reminding myself, especially when I notice those busy thoughts flying around my head. (Ah-hah! – I have to notice those thoughts as the first step to quieting them and making space to notice the world around me.)

I can create space for wonder by deciding to do it.

I can create space for wonder by paying attention to the world around me.

I can create space for wonder by taking off my mental shoes and work gloves so that I can feel the grit under my feet that the cats have tracked across the room from the litter box, feel the prickly welcome mat on my front porch, feel the soil as I pat it in around this plant, feel the way this quarter is grimy and a little sticky compared to that one that is shiny and new.

Drive home using a different route.

Say hello to the check-out clerk and really look at his or her face.

Sit in a different seat on the train.

Notice.

It will create space for wonder.

Why?

Why is this important?

Because it is fun.

Because it is wonderful.

Because when I create space for wonder, new ideas show up. (And if I don’t write them down or say them out loud to someone I forget them, so I keep pads of sticky notes all over my house and a notebook in my bag.)

Greater minds than mine have been writing and talking about ideas like this, such as Mindfulness, for hundreds – even thousands – of years. But for each person an idea can be new, and each experience can be new.

Take off your mental shoes. Give yourself permission to be an emotional tenderfoot.

Notice, and create space for wonder. We can go together.

“I sha’n’t be gone long. – You come too.” –Robert Frost, “The Pasture”

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Last Thursday I was thrilled to publish the first guest post in a series on Curiosity. The first was by Claire Tompkins, and there is another one coming this Thursday, by Susan Daffron, so stay tuned!

Meanwhile, you might be interested in visiting the blogs of Jeffrey Davis, who writes about wonder and creativity, and Mark McGuinness, who wrote a marvelous post about curiosity and creativity.

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