Tag Archives | Wonder

Another New Friend


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0314151550Today I walked to the neighborhood grocery store to buy a pie. Usually I walk along the main street, Laurel Ave, but today I turned a block early to walk down a quieter neighborhood street.

About halfway there, I passed an older house with a big yard tucked in between apartment buildings. There was a sign on the parking strip that said “Plant Sale,” but I didn’t see any plants that weren’t in the ground, or any people. So I went on to the store and bought my pie. (Because Pi Day.) (Peach.)

On the way back, I went the same way and when I passed that house there was an elderly woman in the front yard with a handful of weeds she had just pulled. I stopped and asked about the plant sale, and she took me around to the back yard. As we walked along the driveway past a garden that was filled with giant angel wing begonias, various succulents, and ground covers including what looked like a variegated creeping charlie, she explained that she had too many plants and needed to get rid of some.

We went around the corner of the house and there was a fabulous back yard with raised beds with flowers and vegetables, a tiny greenhouse at the back, and planters all over the patio with various black succulents, kalanchoes, and many things I recognized but don’t know by name. She said nearly everything in a pot was available. (Except for the heuchera that she was giving another chance after coming back to life in a new spot.)

I picked out two kalanchoes with bright orange flowers in mustard-yellow oval pots. She said the two would be $20; I said that was perfect, since that was how much I had. I also asked about one of the smaller black-leaved succulents, and she said it was $3. I told her I would give her the $20, take my groceries home and come back for the plants with $3. “No no no,” she said, “you can have that one too for the $20.” She let me take the small black-leaved plant with me. As I left, I thanked her and shook her hand and introduced myself. “I’m Sue,” I said. She smiled and said, “I’m Maria.”

I came home, dropped off the groceries, and took cuttings from my prized angel-wing begonia and dragon-wing begonia. I wrapped them in wet paper towels, put them in a bag, and went back.

When I went around to the back of Maria’s house, she was there with the two kalanchoes in a box – with another small plant tucked in. This one was a vine with dark leaves and bright red tubular flowers. “I thought you’d like this one too,” she said. “It’s so pretty. And I have it everywhere.”

I thanked her and gave her the cuttings, which she loved. When she saw me pick up the box and start to leave, she said, “Wait, are you walking? Maybe I should have my husband drive you home.”

“No, it’s ok,” I said, “it’s just a couple of blocks.” I thanked her again and headed for the gate.

She walked me out to the front and said, “Come by any time. If I’m not out here, just knock on the door.”

I think I will.

Horses and Open Space


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I’ve recently been exposed first-hand (or should I say, “first-hoof?”) to Equine Guided Education (EGE) – working with horses in leadership development and coaching – through the work of The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership here in northern California.

It has been a moving, thought-provoking and powerful experience to work with the horses and their human partners.

On my most recent visit, I was struck by the parallels between working with the horses and the Four Principles of Open Space Technology.

Open Space?

Open Space Technology (OST) is a meeting or conference methodology that is, as Wikipedia so succinctly says, “most distinctive for its initial lack of an agenda, which sets the stage for the meeting’s participants to create the agenda for themselves.”

What I love about it is its fundamental assumption that the participants are the experts and that they bring the answers with them. This flies in the face of the traditional “banking method” of education (thank you, Paulo Freire) in which experts deposit information in the minds of the students.

The Four Principles

Here are the Four Principles of OST – as I apply them to Equine Guided Education:

  • “Whoever comes is the right people.” In this setting, one isn’t sure which horse or horses will decide to participate, but whoever comes is just right.
  • “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.” As often happens when working with groups and even with individuals, I am often surprised and delighted by what happens – despite my best planning. The same thing is true here, and I am reminded to be honest about what I can control and what I can’t.
  • “Whenever it starts is the right time.” Creativity and Spirit – and the horses – don’t pay much attention to the clock.
  • “When it’s over, it’s over.” As Kimberly Carlisle, the foundation’s Executive Director said to me, “When the horses are done, they’re done.” They can have incredibly long attention spans if there is still work to be done (or fun to be had), but when it’s done, or the bonds of authenticity are broken, they’re done. I can learn a lot from them about not forcing things.

The Law of What?

I shared this with Lisa Heft, who then introduced me to Eva Svensson (thank you, Lisa!), who is both an OST facilitator and EGE practitioner in Sweden (where EGE is known as HAE). Eva agreed and went on to add that OST’s one law, the “Law of Two Feet” (or more appropriately the “Law of Mobility”) also applies.

The Law of Mobility states that “If, during our time together, you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet and go to some more productive place.” That’s kind of revolutionary, isn’t it? The One Law not only places responsibility for learning on the participants, it also creates “bumblebees and butterflies” who float from one group to another, potentially pollinating as they go.

As Eva said, “If they (the horses) don’t think you are interesting enough, they take their hooves and walk away.”

And if they stay, you know it’s because they want to.

And Something Magical Happens…

Both OST and EGE have facilitators, and structure within which, well, magic can happen. How does that magic happen?

Like OST, EGE assumes the intelligence and the gifts that the participants bring with them – all of the participants. Including the horses. All of that intelligence and all of those gifts in one place  combine and recombine and have the potential to produce something totally unexpected: Insights. Collaboration. Connection.

How can you not love that?

Are you curious?


Would you like to learn more about The Flag Foundation for Horse/Human Partnership and Equine Guided Education? Visit http://www.theflagfoundation.org/.

Want to learn more about Open Space Technology? Visit http://www.openingspace.net/openSpaceTechnology.shtml

Want to explore having an experience with OST or EGE?
Email me at susan at susantblake.com.

Want to join the conversation? Leave a comment!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Something Is Afoot


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Maybe it’s fallout from the world’s ongoing financial debacle.

Maybe it’s coincidence. (Although I tend to see connections in coincidence and not mere Chance.)

Maybe it’s how the planets are aligned.

Maybe it’s part of an awakening that seems to be happening.

Whatever it is, three different people in my life are preparing to take to the Open Road in the near future and embark upon their Adventure Of A Lifetime (Up To This Point).

The Great Adventure

It started last year when my virtual friend Drew Jacob announced his plans to walk from Minnesota to Brazil. More specifically, from the source of the Mississippi River to the mouth of the Amazon.

Seriously.

Why?

The word Adventure comes up, but it’s only part of the reason. A part of Drew’s drive to travel, to live heroically, to meet The Gods through meeting others – and himself.

Drew has been preparing for The Great Adventure since last summer, and he has been very transparent about his preparations, ranging from Spanish-language immersion in Mexico City to road-testing shoes to wrestling fear and doubt.

I have only met Drew through blog posts, comments, tweets and email. I love his commitment to living his ideals, and his willingness to ask Big Questions. And be vulnerable. And he cracks me up. Of my three friends who are setting out, he’s the only one who won’t be coming through California. So I’ll be following him online and trying to figure out a way to meet up with him somewhere along his way. Meanwhile, you can learn more about Drew and his Great Adventure at http://roguepriest.net. Oh, and while you’re at it, get his ebook, Walk Like a God. It is wonder-full.

On the lookout for Wonder

And then there’s my friend Kelly Nolan Shafer. Kel and I have been friends since high school, and she’s one of those friends you can lose touch with (I did) and then you re-connect and you not only pick right up where you left off but it’s even better than it was before.

In December, when I opened the Nolan Shafers’ holiday letter, I learned that Kelly, Steve and their twin daughters, Helen and Olivia, planned to embark on their own Great Adventure when school got out in June. Their plan was to pack up their RV and tour the U.S. and Canada for six months, meeting up with friends and family as they visit landmarks along the way. In fact, they’ve named their Great Adventure “Our A.T.L.A.S. – Adventures Touring Landmarks Across the States.”

Kelly and Steve will be home-schooling the recently-graduated-from-fourth-grade twins as they go. (Can you call it “home-schooling” when home is an RV? Hmmm…) I am sooo jealous. I don’t just want to go – I want to be a 5th-grader on the road being home-schooled in an RV, too.

Of course, Life has happened between December and June, as it usually does, but instead of letting it talk them out of it, they let it talk them further into it. So the Nolan Shafer clan is hitting the road…tomorrow! And their motto? “We’ll be on the lookout for the presence of wonder. . .”

Wonder. One of my favorite things! How can you not love that? Now you want to go, too, I’ll bet.

My thoughts and prayers go with them, and I’ll be following their adventures as they blog about it. You can follow them too, at http://ouratlas.net/.

A Complete What?

And then there’s my virtual friend LaVonne Ellis. I have a soft-spot for LaVonne for several reasons, not the least of which is that she is one of the Captains Curious.

LaVonne, curious creature that she is, has decided to set out on her Great Adventure next year, touring the country in a van and, like the others, letting us ride along virtually as she blogs her way around the country.

Not only do I adore LaVonne and everything she does, but she mentioned Charles Kuralt in her announcement (OK, I have to go check, maybe I made that up…no, she really did), and he is one of my heroes.

You can learn more about LaVonne and her plans at http://completeflake.com/road-trip/. You can sign up for her newsletter, and check out her most recent posts with updates on her preparations. And don’t be deceived – she is definitely not a Complete Flake.

Something’s definitely afoot.

Whether it’s economic/socio-political fallout, coincidence, or something more cosmic, it is pretty amazing that I know of three different Great Adventures that are in the works. And I’m sure they’re not the only ones – they’re just the ones I know about.

And, of course, there are plenty of people in my life who are on interior adventures, myself included. And that is an important point: External adventures are important, but we should not disregard the importance of interior exploration. It can be just a scary. And fun. And rewarding.

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

Life is an adventure – what adventure are you on?


Image: Ian Britton, freefoto.com

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

Still Life


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"The First Thing I Thought Was Beautiful" from Remember to Look Up, Tip #3: Appreciate Beauty

Recently my eye fell on a little grouping of berries and pinecones that I had arranged – one of several still lifes I had composed around my home for the holidays – and I thought about the term “still life.”

I probably first heard the term in 9th grade Art class, when we practiced painting “still lifes” to learn the mechanics of creating the illusion of three dimensions on a two-dimensional surface, experimenting with color, light and shadow.

What an odd term, I thought, “still life.” Technically, the items in a still life aren’t alive, or they aren’t alive now. Flowers. Fruit. But they once were.

Where did the term come from, I curiously wondered. I thought of all the “masters” who painted still lifes centuries ago. The term has certainly existed for centuries, far longer than since I was in Junior High mere decades ago.

What was it, I wondered, that first compelled a painter to capture such a vignette on canvas? Was it composed just for that purpose? Was the artist so moved by something that caught his or her eye that s/he had to paint it? Was it the way the light caught the curve of the apple, the way the shadow fell behind the strawberry, the way the colors of the flowers seemed to glow from within with a vibrance that the artist knew would soon fade? Was it a way of capturing, in a simple vignette, the treasured memory of the loved one picking the flowers, the time spent gathering the fruit, the meal shared? Was it a moment of piercing, unexplainable beauty? Or was it simply an exercise?

Was it something meant to capture the symbology of abundance, of appreciation of the fruits of the earth and of our efforts, no matter how simple?

Or was it simply a place for the eye to rest, to be still in the stream of life?

It occurs to me as I clear away the decorations, the leaves, berries, boughs, and seedpods, simple though they were, to hold the space for the new year and its adventures to enter, that I must remember to create one new Still Life where my eye can rest for a moment before I go on about my way.


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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

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

A Place for Joy – in Business?


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I have pretty amazing friends

Not long ago I invited some friends to support me in making a long-time dream of mine come true. In my letter, I explained what I wanted them to do, and I suggested four things that were in it for them if they helped:

  • Joy.
  • Curiosity. (“Can she do it?” “What’s it like to learn a new instrument?”)
  • Regular updates.
  • Music! I promised them a concert at the end of six months.

I invited about 95 people. I expected four or five to respond.

35 people pledged their support.

That’s right, thirty-five.

In marketing terms, that’s a 37% conversion rate.

I was shocked and amazed. Blown away!

So, I’m learning to play the banjo. (So far I know eight chords, I’m on my way to mastering one finger-picking pattern, and I’ve already created my own lick.)

I started wondering…

Once I got over the shock and awe, I started wondering. What the heck had I said that inspired them to respond in such droves? Granted, I have pretty amazing friends, many of whom have supported me in a variety of ways for years. Others among this group I confess I don’t know as well.

What the heck had I done to get a 37% conversion rate? And could I apply it to my business?

Maybe I just have amazing friends

At first I chalked it up to their being my friends and generally cool people. But in the small-business marketing circles I’m in, there’s a lot of talk about finding your “right people” (which is even more targeted than “target audience”). In marketing terms, I clearly found my Right People – at least for this.

Was there more to it?

I tried to leave it at that. But being the curious person that I am, I couldn’t stop wondering: Was there more to it? So I asked some of the people who had stepped up: What was it that inspired them?

I got two main responses (from everyone I asked):

Joy.

And they get to help make a dream come true.

That they responded with “Joy” didn’t really surprise me, since I had put that in the letter. (Although I was really pleased that it so appealed to them.) But I didn’t really think that would help me much with my business; after all, Joy isn’t something you hear about that much in the business world.

That they leapt at the chance to help make a dream come true didn’t surprise me much either, because they are all extraordinary people. What is interesting is that I didn’t use those words in my letter. But I had written a compelling message, so that aspect came through.

How awesome is that? But I didn’t think that would help me much in my business either, because people aren’t going to give me their business so that they can make MY dreams come true.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it

I still couldn’t stop thinking about it. And I remembered how I had heard Rich Sheridan, the founder of Menlo Innovations, say that it was his goal to for his people to be joyful at work. Maybe, I thought, that isn’t such a foreign concept after all.

If it’s not about joy, what is it about?

The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Curiosity, wonder, employee engagement, courage, drawing people out, bringing people together… if it’s not about joy, what is it about?

So when someone asked me a few days ago what business I’m in, I explained that I am a small business consultant and coach, and I work with individuals and small business to identify the obstacles that are holding them back and work over, under, around, or through them … (and I went out on a limb here) so they can get the joy back in what they do.

Wow! She started telling me all about her business and how she’s lost the joy and what her big struggle is. Amazing.

A few days later a gentleman asked me about my business, and I told him the same thing. He’d been taking notes, but he lit up and really started scribbling when I talked about getting the joy back.

And he hired me.

A place for joy in business

Maybe there is a place for talking about joy in business. There is certainly a place for joy in our lives, and small business people often pick their our businesses because what they we do gives them us joy. And when we lose that it’s a sad thing.

I get a lot of joy from talking to people about what they do, what they would like to do better, and working with them to do that. It’s not the only thing that brings me joy, but it sure is a part of my work. Joy is contagious. And working with people to bring back their joy – or to find it for the first time – now that’s a dream come true.

What brings you joy – in your life, or in your work? Is it missing? Let’s find it.

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Captains Curious: Living the Questions


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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 Tara Joyce! To learn about the series and the other Captains Curious, please click here.

To be open and asking questions is often frowned upon

We are encouraged to see the world in black and white, as an either/or proposition with a right or wrong answer, and we are expected to chose accordingly.

We are told that those who “know” things are experts, and are here to help us make the right choices. We are taught that experts are those we can trust when we have problems. And we are led to believe that, by asserting our own “knowing,” we can create evidence of our own professionalism and abilities – and be experts, too.

To not know and admit it, to be open and asking questions is often frowned upon. We are made to feel ashamed for “not knowing.” We are made to feel that we need to be certain of things — that we need to have the answers before the questions have been asked. This “knowing” is seen as an accomplishment and proof of our abilities.

Many of us build our careers around this false belief, that if we live as the expert, we will know what’s best. We fool ourselves into believing that we already have the answers, despite the fact that we do not yet know the questions that need to be asked.

We hold on to answers to questions that have not been asked, and this causes us to live in fear of our own, and others’, curiosity and wonder.

Living in Questioning

What I wonder is, what’s so bad about “not knowing?” What makes me less professional or able if I don’t have your answers? I believe my curiosity and wonder, my need to question, is my greatest gift. It allows me to think beyond the answers spoon fed by others in their attempt to assert their “knowing.” It allows me to see that there is never a right answer, only an answer that works best for me.

My openness to “not knowing” gives me permission to live in questioning. And as experts busy themselves trying to be seen as right, I, curious about the world and all that I do not know, am busy trying to see everything.

Curiosity and wonder live and thrive in the exploration of Why? Great solutions are found in the Why? Through the use of questioning, I give permission to myself, and my clients, to brush off the chains created by “knowing.” Through questioning, I dig deep to uncover the real reason behind why something “must be done this way” and help myself, and others, to move past assertions of “how things are” to find the solutions that feel true to us.

Living in Creative Tension

In Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline, Senge states,

“The gap between vision and current reality is a source of energy. If there were no gap, there would be no need for any action to move towards the vision. We call this gap creative tension.”

Living in creative tension is living in curiosity. Our curious Self sees, in the gap of “not knowing,” a safe place to problem-solve, to dream and to focus on living our questions.

As someone full of wonder, and as someone who helps others use curiosity to grow their business, I see the “grey area” of life, outside the “black” and “white” world, as my home. In creative tension I feel safe, as this is where I am free to be a beginner and open my eyes, heart and mind to the authentic answers within myself, and within my clients.

Your own creative tension, your own place of living the questions, is the place where curiosity lives and is the place most ripe with the solutions you need. Living without fear of “not knowing,” and ignoring those who “know” without questioning, we create our greatest possibility to close our gap between what is and what could be.

* * * * *

I, Tara Joyce, can be found exploring business, design, consciousness, communication and culture on my blog, Rise of the Innerpreneur or as @ElasticMind on Twitter. I can also be found working with business owners to close the gap between their business vision and their business reality through the use of design, which, of course, involves a lot of questioning!

* * * * *

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.

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

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