Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Escape Velocity

Escape Velocity: The minimum speed that an object at a given distance from a gravitational body must have so that it will continue to move away from the body instead of orbiting around it.

Last month, coach Patt Osborne and I hosted what we hope is the first of many retreats at Maho Bay Camps on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. The topic was “What Are You Doing With the Rest of Your Life?!”

It was my first trip to the Caribbean and I was definitely on unfamiliar ground. In 11 hours, I was transported to air that was warm and moist, not dry and cold, ground that was not snow covered, and the joy of immersing myself in 80-degree water. Whether it was snorkeling with fish and turtles or just lying on the beach, new sounds, new sights and the freedom to enjoy it all in little clothing eased me into the pace of island life where schedules are loose to nonexistent. But I wasn't slowing down. I was fast approaching escape velocity.

The unfamiliar was creating new questions in me. I had new questions for myself and for others. And new questions led to new insights. Those insights are still vague yet, but they're coming.

Coach Julio Olalla says we can approach everything we're transitioning through using three domains; our language, our body and our emotions. We only get stuck in a transition when we favor one arena and let it dominate the others. Now imagine such unfamiliar ground that your language, your body and your emotions are all engaged at the same time. No, don't imagine it. Decide right now to put yourself in an environment where the vibrations will wobble your orbit. Make it fun. Immerse yourself in the joy of wandering.

Did I get answers. Not really. You see for me, answers would be all about staying in the orbit. I got something better. I got hints about what is to come for me. And I love the “hints” more than the answers. A lot of my hints were about being in the wilds and freedom. No surprises there. But the fact that they came up for me is exciting. I now suspect that I'm on the verge of taking Freedom and The Wilds to the next level. And there were a couple of “surprise” hints too. Just what does “Cheap Thrills” and “Shooting from the Hip” mean? I’ll just surrender and find out! See ya in the ether!

“We shall not cease from exploring
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place from the first time.”
~T.S. Eliot

“It's not possible to blaze new trails and forge your own path while remaining on familiar ground.” ~Suzanne Falter-Barnes

"No sensible man watches his feet hit the ground. He looks ahead to see what kind of ground they'll hit next." ~Ernest Haycox

"Aim for the sky, so that you can at least reach the moon; Don't aim for the moon, you might not even attain the escape velocity." ~Unknown

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Is Your Valve Open?

I had an expensive lesson last week. On Wednesday a technician came out to fix my water softener.  He tested the water at the kitchen sink and proclaimed it very, very hard. Yup, that's why I called. Then he went to the basement and in less than a minute discovered that one of the many valves on the maze of water pipes in the basement was closed and should be open. He opened the valve, waltzed back upstairs, ran the water for a few minutes, tested it again and proclaimed the problems solved. He handed me a bill for $95 and was back out the door in less than 15 minutes. My incredibly hard water was meeting resistance (the closed valve) and bypassing the softener.

So what to do with the fact that I spent the price of a really nice fishing rod on a closed valve? Well if I could just remember who I called to fix the leaking pipe last spring, I'd probably have the culprit who closed the valve and didn't reopen it. Sigh. But the immediate value was the relief I experienced when I got the news that this was not going to be an “expensive” repair problem. I also got a lesson on just how water flows through my house. It seems to me it could be done with a few less valves (I counted 10 total). But what do I know?

Here's what I'm doing with that lesson now. I'm reminding myself that when I'm resisting in some way, in any way, I ought to check and see if my own valve is open.

So here are some things you might want to open before you get all rusty and have to call a technician. Open the valve to your...

...capacity to receive
...attention to the answers
...attention to the questions, they're probably more important than the answers
...enjoyment of the outcome, even if it was not the expected one
...acceptance of those who deliver the messages
...fears, let them flow through
...ability to change
...emotional reactions
...path, the one you are on now, not the plan you have made
...burning desires
...inner silence

"If a person can't see and smell the banquet, malnutrition becomes a habit." ~Coach Allison Quattrocchi.

"Keep your eyes open. If there's a problem, there's an opportunity." ~Carol L. Dannhauser

"Minds are like parachutes - they only function when open." ~~Lord Thomas Robert Dewar

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Wiggle Room

I was paddling a new river a couple of weekends ago and came up behind a beaver. He didn't know I was there. I spoke up, trying to give him fair warning, but by the time I saw him, I was on top of the poor fellow. We were both pretty surprised. As we went down river together at about the same speed, I could hear and feel, th-thump, th-thump, th-thump, on the bottom of my canoe as he tried to maneuver his way out of the dilemma of only 8 inches of water between the bottom of my canoe and the bottom of the river. After a long 45 seconds, we finally reached deeper water. My paddling partner said, “That poor guy just ain’t got no wiggle room.”

But isn't that what happens to us when we play in the shallows, not daring to go deep? When a crisis happens, we don't have room to wiggle because we've limited ourselves. Getting “wiggle room” starts with creating space in our lives. Here are some of my favorite ways:

1. Let go. Avoid being overly attached to goals. Move toward your goals but don't, in your effort to accomplish the goal, miss a new emerging path. What attachments do you have now that are causing you problems?

“To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.” ~Robert Pirsig

2. Understand your fears. Know what's real and what's imagined. You are not alone and you are not powerless. Our egos serve no useful purpose except as a defense for what we fear. Having understood our fears, we can now let go of ego.

"Fear is static that prevents me from hearing my intuition." ~Hugh Prather

3. Trust your intuition and your dreams. Be open to possibility. Seek the unlikely. Think the unthinkable. Imagine the improbable. Life's biggest opportunities are often hidden to all but our intuition.

"I have heard it said that the first ingredient of success - the earliest spark in the dreaming youth - is this; dream a great dream." ~John A. Appleman

4. Give yourself permission. There WILL be opportunities. And these opportunities may ask you to become someone you are not right now. You'll want to be able to do that without guilt.

"When you take charge of your life, there is no longer need to ask permission of other people or society at large. When you ask permission, you give someone veto power over your life." ~Geoffrey F. Abert

That's it. Have a great Halloween. I've got my pumpkin. Now I'm off to buy candy corn.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

A Boaring Tail

On August 23-25th, Drew and I pulled together an impromptu 4th Annual Cool Coaching Campout. You may remember we were having trouble deciding between the Appalachian Trail and South Manitou Island for this year's campout. We asked you to vote and, interestingly, we still had a tie with half of you voting for the trail and the other half saying the island was the way to go. Only two of you were definitely coming to the campout if it was in your chosen area and you two were of opposite opinions, one for the trail and one for the island. That's what Drew and I get for not being able to make up our own minds. Anyway, we let the campout scheduled for the end of July pass.

And then, just a couple of weeks ago, Drew called to say he and Kerri were loading up the Land Cruiser and coming to Michigan. “Loading up the Land Cruiser” includes their three dogs, Thai, Tasha and Tucker. I was delighted. Tasha and my dog Styx are siblings and they were going to reunite for the first time in the two years since Drew and I found them in the woods on the 2nd Annual Cool Coaching Campout. I called a few friends at the last minute and invited them. My friend and fellow coach, Maggie, said she'd bring the banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, beer and limes. Yeah, Maggie!

On Saturday we loaded all five dogs and headed for one of my favorite hiking trails only 20 minutes away. It was a beautiful late August day with the air beginning to smell like fall. We unloaded the dogs and wandered to a high sandbank overlooking the river. The dogs were behind us enjoying a romp in the woods while waiting for us to start moving along the trail. So we're standing on the bank taking in the view and the day when Kerri asks me what that animal coming up the bank straight towards us might be. My poor brain wanted to deny what I was seeing. I knew what it was, but the words would just not come out of my mouth. I wanted to say bear, or coyote, or anything else that is more common to Michigan woodlands. Anything but Wild Boar!

Once able to admit that the beast was indeed a wild boar and coming our way, our first thought was to get the camera. At least until I came to my senses and remember we had five dogs loose at the top of the hill this boar was scaling. I left Kerri and Maggie to pictures and grabbed Drew for the big dog roundup. Back in the truck went 4 dogs pretty quickly. Styx was AWOL and refusing to be led anywhere near the truck. I had to trust that the boar would catch wind of us and alter her path while at the same time Styx would be clueless (something he can do pretty well). Drew and I went back to the overlook just as the boar was cresting the peak with a baby boar behind her. She was totally aware of us and could not have cared less that we were there. She and her baby passed us at about 15 feet distance and headed into the woods. Styx was still clueless. Whew. Drew followed her into the woods with the camera, staying a respectable distance behind but hoping to get some great pictures. I was about 20 feet behind Drew and Kerri and Maggie were strung out behind us.

It happened so fast. I heard Styx approaching me from behind and he was by me in seconds. I could tell by the way he was moving, his nose to the ground, that he had the scent. I yelled at Drew that Styx was headed his way and to divert him. Drew said something like “No problem,” or “I've got it,” about the same time Styx made a nifty little side-slip maneuver by Drew and now had nothing between him and whatever was at the end of that scent trail. The next thing I heard was one loud “Woof” and Drew yelling “Run, Run!” I don't know if he was yelling at me to get moving or just shouting support for the dog but I looked up to see my sweet Styx running back to “his people” (read safety) with that boar hot on his tail. While concerned for my dog and Drew, I must admit that my first thought was the old joke that you don't have to run faster than the bear (or in this case the boar), you only have to run faster than the other people you're with. I passed Drew’s “Run!” message on to Kerri and Maggie and I ran, knowing Styx and Drew were my first line of defense. One should not look back over their shoulder while running through the woods but I did without mishap. And I was rewarded with the vision of that boar finally backing off my dog and turning around to return to her toddler. And Drew was still standing, unharmed. Yahoo!

Well, there you have it, a tale from the 4th Annual. We'll keep you posted on the upcoming 5th sometime next summer. Catch us if you can. Or as Maggie put it around the campfire Saturday night, “I may be a city girl, but I've worked in the inner-city. I know what ‘Run!’ means and we don't look back!”

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Do As You Please

August is the last big bash before school starts. It's the month that stirs contrary and wild notions in me. Now I've been out of school for a long time (not learning, just school). But the beginning of August with its cooler, crisper nights still triggers in me a need to rebel before it's too late. Discipline will begin all too soon.

Discipline, the thing we often initiate when we want to get more done, can, in fact, hinder progress. Letting go of discipline is a statement of faith in you. So as summer closes, try the month of August without discipline. Just trust yourself. It's only a month. It's okay. You can always go back. Here are some ideas. Pick two or three and go for it!

Ten Ways to Live August

Get Selfish. Get your needs met as quickly as possible and you have more time, energy and inclination to “be there” for the important people in your life. Over-discipline your own life and there's no room for the requests of others. If you don't have that room when someone you care about makes a request, you'll either say “yes” with resentment or “no” with guilt.

Quit Being Patient. If you can't have something you want, merely move on to something else you want. Eventually timing will work for you and you can have all you want. But disciplined patience is a waste of your time.

Be Extraordinary Curious. Curiosity is at the heart of everything I learn and know. When I try to be disciplined, I become less curious.

Quit Developing and Start Evolving. Discipline can help you “develop” yourself but it does not work well if you want to “evolve.” Self-development may make you a better person (good) but personal evolution will make you more of who you are (great!.

Hang Out with “Bad” People. Discipline tends to keep us in the company of like-minded people. Now, there are days when I'm feeling vulnerable and need that security. But rigid discipline will keep me away from those who are most apt to push all my buttons and that's where I learn the most about myself.

Stop Tolerating. Tolerations are the things we live with that remind us that our life is not quite right. They can be as small as the cabinet door that does not shut easily to as big as the actions of a person you live or work with. Think of tolerations as the things you carry around each day in your daypack. The cabinet toleration can weigh as little as an ounce. The relationship toleration may weigh as much as 10 pounds. But each toleration increases your load and slows you down. Discipline often encourages tolerations by asking us to behave contrary to the way we feel.

Integrate Everything. Do you want to enjoy your work as much as your play? It's possible. But if you rigidly hold on to discipline as something that makes you strong, you are then also holding on to the idea that suffering is necessary. Perhaps you believe in “paying your dues” because you grew up with the notion that only hard work is rewarded and suffering in is required. That may have worked for our parents and grandparents, bless them, but we have evolved and more and more people are making a great living doing exactly what they love.

Embrace Simplicity. Let's say you've got five goals you want to attain in the next year. If you're disciplined, you've probably broken each of those five goals down into at least five strategies. That's 25 strategies. And each strategy has at least five daily action steps. How are you going to handle 125 action steps a day? The disciplined person will have daily action charts pasted all over the house and office. And, they're less apt to recognize when a goal has changed because they've invested so much in it. Now what's simple about that?

Follow the Path of Least Resistance. Discipline creates resistance. We're living in an era where what we want today will change quickly because more options are opening up every day. If you don't reach your goals quickly, you'll be living a life of resistance and friction rather than celebrations and moving on.

Go for the Surprise! Discipline does not hold much surprise. Get over yourself and allow the surprises to crop up daily.

“’Discipline.’ What a thankless word that is—and how beside the point.” ~Julia Cameron

"Never destroy any aspect of personality, for what you think is the wild branch may be the heart of the tree." ~Mrs. Henry George

"If I am a gentleman and you are a gentleman, who will milk the cow?" ~Irish folk saying

"Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority." ~Thomas Huxley

"It is the studying that you do after your school days that really counts. Otherwise, you know only that which everyone else knows." ~Henry L. Doherty

Saturday, July 13, 2002

Go Where You're Looking

Possibility—The state or fact of being possible.
Possible—May come about or take place.
Opportunity—An appropriate or favorable time or occasion. A situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal. A good position, chance or prospect, as for advancement or success.

Sitting at the river's edge watching the powerful flow of water over rocks and around downed trees as it swirls in eddies and plunges from its headwaters can inspire me to think of a world of possibilities. Launching my canoe into that same river can create real opportunities.

When we just talk about possibilities it's often not with the agenda of taking action but merely of dreaming about those possibilities. But in the enjoyment of the dream, we can lose the incentive to turn what is possible into an opportunity. Possibilities are great fuel for conversation but they won't change your life. Only through recognizing a possibility and then taking an action, can we grab the opportunities. Now consider taking just one action, no matter how small, on a possibility. Then take another, and another, and another. Soon you'll notice that you're moving from the arena of possibilities to embracing the opportunities.

One thing I try to do is not separate the possibilities I see in my life from my life as a whole. Within each possibility is a small kernel of opportunity as it relates to my life. I sow that kernel and don't spend my time feeding the possibility dream. Talking about possibilities brings passion to the act of living. But finding opportunities in the possibility adds clarity and allows us to pursue the passion.

Yes, we can remain on the riverbank and discuss and wonder at the possibilities. But the river is going somewhere. There are trees, streams, rocks and trails on the other side waiting to be explored. There are fish to be caught! There are people along that river who have stories to tell about their own opportunities taken. Find the opportunity, the kernel, the essence, in the possibility.

“I learn by going where I have to go.” ~Theodore Roethke

“Wherever you are is the entry point.” ~Kabir

“Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor.” ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

"Opportunity doesn't knock. You knock, opportunity answers." ~American Proverb

"Opportunity is often difficult to recognize; we usually expect it to beckon us with beepers and billboards." ~William Arthur Ward

Friday, May 24, 2002

Climate Control

I just joined Coachville’s Graduate School of Coaching (GSC). It was time to throw myself into a new learning environment. This environment is full of coaches with new ideas and lots of energy. Already, it's given me a new topic for this newsletter. The 14th of 15 Coaching Proficiencies at Coachville is "To Help the Client Design Supportive Environments." The GSC is one of my new supportive environments. I enrolled and paid the price. There is nothing more to do. I'm just along for the ride.

There are three ways to make a change or evolve yourself.
  1. Experiment. Keep trying new things until something fits. “Throw mud on the wall and see what sticks.”
  2. Willpower. Make a decision to change and use your willpower to push through, persist, sustain, and change. This one is hard work and has a high failure rate but can produce some cool adrenaline if you're into that.
  3. Environment. Create an environment that supports your change and let the environment pull you forward.
“Pulling you forward” is radically easier than accomplishing things via willpower, determination, and “pushing through.” Most often, we make change difficult because we have not designed an environment that supports the change. Easy change comes “because of” the supportive environment you design, not “in spite of” the draining environment you may be in. A supportive environment provides incentive, nourishment, enthusiasm and pulls you.

Look around you. You have a relationship with everything in your life and they are all environments. Environments are the books you read, the car you drive, the house you live in, the people you work with, the people you play with, your office, your pets, your computer, the art on your walls, the music you listen to, nature and all it has to offer….. Start thinking of these as environments and change becomes easy. Whether an environment drains you or energizes you is your choice.

Want to wake up in the morning feeling rested and eager to move into your day? What's your sleeping situation? Is your mattress old and worn out? Does the color of your bedroom and your bedding energize you? Do you have to plod to the kitchen to start the coffee or can you smell it already perking? They make machines for that, you know. I have a friend who sets her automatic bread machine to start baking early on Sunday morning.

When I want to learn more about something, I often put myself in an environment where I have to explain it to someone else. This newsletter is an example.

My dogs are an environment. I don't use willpower to get exercise and stay in shape. In fact, I never even think about it. Why? Because at least twice a day I have two wet noses in my lap and four eyes reminding me that it's time for a walk. While I could justify to myself that there's too much to do to take time to walk in the woods or the weather is just not good, maybe tomorrow, I can't say “no” to my dogs.

A few winters back we had a bad storm that bought down a lot of trees. I had a lot of cleanup work to do and was not looking forward to that chore. Until, we decided to throw a bonfire party. Same task, clean up the downed trees. Different environment, PARTY!

When properly designed, environments do all the work.

"The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself." ~Mark Caine

You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Analyze your life in terms of its environment. Are the things around you helping you toward success - or are they holding you back? ~Clement Stone

"It's not unusual to learn more in the 5 minutes between classes than one learns during the 55 minutes of official class time.” ~Howard Lambert

“All gardeners live in beautiful places because they make them so.” ~Joseph Joubert

Thursday, April 25, 2002

The Evolution of Coping

Last week, two people told me they are “coping.” That concerns me. The first time I heard this, I grab the dictionary and I learned that to “cope” is “to struggle or deal, esp. on fairly even terms or with some degree of success.” Even though I read the words “even terms” and “degree of success,” coping is just about the last thing I want for anyone. It's the “struggle” part I hate.

The second time I heard it, I looked in Thomas Leonard's book, The Portable Coach, to see what he might have to say about coping. This from his book:
“Toleration vs. Cope—When you tolerate, you view the thing you are tolerating as solvable. When you cope, you've basically resigned yourself to the problem's long-term presence.” Ouch!
From this I began to think about the evolution of coping; evolution being “a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development,”—yup, the dictionary again. It's the “peaceful” part I like. Now we're getting somewhere. Coping, while it can be managed with a degree of success often is less than peaceful. 

How can someone move from coping to peace? Here's what I came up with:
1. Cope
2. Tolerate
3. Engage
4. Experiment
5. Create
Most often, coping and tolerating are ways you choose to think about something. If you take the toleration you view as solvable and start to do something about it, you've engaged. Engaging implies both some action and a change in attitude. You're becoming involved in a way that may just start to give you energy.
When I engage with an experimental attitude, I look at what something is and also what it is not. There's a bit of discovery and unknown in the experimental approach and that makes it much more fun.
Now, creating is my favorite. It's an approach that causes something unique to come forward. Creating generally ignores the ordinary processes and uses an inventive mind. Creating moves way past “dealing with,” past “doing something about, and even past “doing something to” a situation. Creating is taking a situation and making something new “with” it. Creating is a way of strengthening your coping immune system.
Can you move from Coping right to Creating? You bet! But if you find yourself emotionally or physically struggling because you're coping, just take the steps. How can you merely cope if you are climbing?

“However, never daunted, I will cope with adversity in my traditional manner ... sulking and nausea. “ ~Tom K. Ryan
“Whoever says LIFE IS A BITCH AND THEN YOU DIE, hasn't decided to be happy yet.” ~unknown
“A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” ~Francois Bacon
“Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told, "I am with you kid. Let's go." ~Maya Angelou

Friday, March 15, 2002

The Abundance Table

Outside My Window
Huge snowflakes are coming down. In Michigan, we see these kinds of fat, wet flakes in March because winter is losing its bitter cold grip. I'm excited. Yes, we'll get a few more blasts but winter has lost its spunk. It's bluffing.

The Abundance Table
I often hear concerns about scarcity. That there just is not enough time, money, love or energy to go around. Scarcity seems to be an issue stemming not from how big or small our bank accounts and houses are, how secure or not our jobs and relationships are, but from old attitudes about wealth and worth. Attitudes that there isn't enough to go around, having more than others makes one a bad person, and sacrifice makes a better person.

My dining room table is not only a place to eat but it's my place to experience abundance. When I encounter thoughts of scarcity, I sit at that table. First, it gives me a clear view of the creek flowing through my backyard. I often marvel at the fact that no matter how much water flows by, this creek has an endless supply of more.

The table almost always hosts a vase of flowers or a flowering plant like today's large red blooming amaryllis. There's also a collection of cool things I've found in the woods, like the tiny hornet's nest, the flat red round rock with a hole in the center just big enough to hold a birthday candle, and the milkweed pod that is bursting at the seams with white feathery seeds. Last month, my friend, David, went on a Cabela's shopping spree and sent me a box full of fishing accessories and a shiny, golden, and beautiful Shimano fishing reel. It too sits on the abundance table. Thank you, David! In the past my table has held a huge glass jar full of colorful jelly bellies, and a large box of Crayola Crayons. You remember the box. Yes, it has brown, red, green and yellow, but it also has burnt sienna, magenta, fern and goldenrod. Often the table holds a few pictures of friends, family or recent vacations.

My table gives me the opportunity to experience abundance daily. You might suggest, though, that this kind of abundance has little to do with feeling secure. I'm not so sure. By focusing on the pure pleasure of "experiencing" abundance, all feelings of scarcity disappear. Once feelings of scarcity are gone, there's not much more to do but step securely into the flow.

“Claim abundance! Abundance is not something we acquire. It is something we tune in to.” ~Wayne Dyer

“The abundance of life does not know plus or minus, just abundance.” ~Translated from Rene Egli's “The LoLA Principle”

“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck.” ~Emma Goldman

“The only factor becoming scarce in a world of abundance is human attention.” ~Kevin Kelly, in 'Wired'

“When you have too much month for you paycheck, then what you need to do is realize that there is abundance all around you and focus on the abundance and not your lack and as night follows day abundance will come to you.” ~Sidney Madwed

Outside My Window Now!

So much for winter's bluff. Today, we have about 20 more inches of snow. A different sort of Abundance Table, eh? Picnic Anyone?!

Sunday, February 17, 2002

By The Seat Of My Pants

Most of you know how important I think our bodies are to our intuition and ability to express ourselves. Sometimes the mind just interferes with what we “know.” Overemphasis of the brain is often at the expense of other parts of our total consciousness.

I was watching an instructional video on canoe camping the other night. One part of the video was trying to explain paddling strokes. I watched and listened while sitting in my over-stuffed chair and noticed I was getting very confused. I knew I could execute all the draws, pulls and other strokes being demonstrated. I've been doing them for years with efficiency. But when I tried  to watch and listen as the narrator broke down each stroke to its various parts in order to demonstrate execution, I was getting frustrated and confused. I felt that all this listening and watching was somehow undoing everything my body already knew about paddling a canoe. It pissed me off!

I realized that when I paddle, it's very much from the seat of my pants (my balance point during that activity), not intellectually or even visually. In fact, I best get into my paddling rhythm on long trips if I spend the first few minutes of each day paddling with my eyes closed.

So I turned off the video, closed my eyes, put my balance back where it belonged, and paddled that chair back to peace.

“A Zen abbot once set before an American aspirant two sets of small leg-less Japanese dolls, one pair weighted in the bottom part, the other in the head part. When the pair weighted in the head were pushed over, they remained on their sides; the ones weighted in the bottom bounced back at once. The abbot roared in laughter over this illustration of the plight of Western man, forever stressing the thinking at the expense of his totality.” From a very old book on my shelf, The World of Zen.

"I used to think the brain was the most important organ in the body, 'til I realized yeah, look what's telling me that." ~Emo Phillips

"The human mind treats a new idea the way the body treats a strange protein; it rejects it." ~Biologist P. B. Medawar

"People are adventurous in direct proportion to their shortness of memory." ~Ned Gillette

"Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now! It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how!" ~Dr. Seuss

"If the terrain and the map do not agree, follow the terrain." ~Swedish Army Manual

Monday, January 14, 2002

No Ice Can Be Nice

I'm in a fishing slump. I have been for about a month and a half. Here in Northern Michigan, the lakes have not safely frozen yet (as a couple of snowmobilers proved over the holidays). But there's too much snow and ice on the lakes to get the boat out. Besides, the trailer registration expired in December. Sigh. So what to do? The dogs have kept me busy with two walks a day but there's still a gap. This is the time of year I fill the gap with some extra reading and reflection.  Nature is going deep and protecting her roots right now, I'm following suit. Over the holidays I read four books I want to share with you.

So, when folks ask me, "How was your holidays and what did you get?", here's what I say:

I got that my IQ, my cognitive intelligence, has less to do with my future than my emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman, in his book Emotional Intelligence, suggests that factors like self-awareness, self-discipline, and empathy “add far more to the qualities that make us more fully human.” Faced with a particular situation, it's our emotions in balance with reason that guide us through the situation better than our ability to use reason alone. In fact, Goleman states, “intellect cannot work at its best without emotional intelligence.” I see this all the time when coaching. I love it that someone is doing the research and writing about it. A word of warning, this is a research book and there's quite a bit of preliminary information on how the brain works. But the author gives you permission to skip that part. There's a whole section of the book devoted to developing emotional literacy in children. This is the book I recommended when my friend called to complain that she couldn't spend one more hour of Christmas break with her highly intelligent but emotionally charged 20-year-old daughter.

I got that any change we want to make comes in stages (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and termination) and we don't move through each stage consistently. Change is a spiral process rather than a linear one. For those of you making New Year's resolutions, this book, Changing for Good by James Prochaska, John Norcross and Carlo DiClemente, will increase your odds of success. The other great insight in this book is how little emphasis we put on the important preparation stage of change. Many of us skip right over preparation and go directly from contemplation to action. No wonder resolutions so often fail by February. So if I ever go back to making New Year's resolutions, my resolution will be to hit the preparation stage by the first of the year, not action. I love the idea of saving action for spring.

I got that Rule Number 6 is “don't take yourself so goddamn seriously” and that there are no other rules. I passed on that bit of wisdom from Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander’s book The Art of Possibility when one of my fishing buddies called to complain that there was nothing to do, no good ice and the love of his life was in the garage without her engine. Chapter One, It's All Invented, gets right to the heart and the point of this book. “It is through the evolved structure of the brain that we perceive the world. And the mind constructs. The meanings our minds construct may be widely shared and sustaining for us, but they may have little to do with the world itself. Furthermore, how would we know?” Thanks Patt Osborne, for suggesting this book!

I got that the very act of telling my emotional truth, changes my truth. I've been playing with this one and it happens almost as fast as the words come out of my mouth. I try to talk about how I'm feeling and before I've finished I often don't feel that way anymore. I'm a walking, talking contradiction and it's fun. In his book, Radical Honesty, Brad Blanton takes telling the truth to three levels; Revealing the Facts, Honesty about Current Thoughts and Feelings, and Exposing the Fiction. I caught the tail end of a short interview with Blanton on National Public Radio. I really can't remember much about what he said, it was his style of speaking that moved me to blindly buy his book. And I liked the title, Radical Honesty. Anyway, I've got to tell you this book may offend you and others around you. Blanton challenges you to take truth telling to a level that might be uncomfortable and even hurtful. He'll probably shock you with his liberal “cussing” and radical suggestions about telling the truth so don't say I didn't warn you. But he'll definitely provide you with some insights and make you laugh.

So there you have it. It's taken me awhile to put this newsletter together and I still can't fish. I'm off to take the dogs for a walk and then I'm heading to the library to pick up some good fiction. Yup, it's time for a nice long novel while I wait for “good ice”. Any suggestions?

“It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“It is with the heart that one sees rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~Antoine De Saint-Exupery. The Little Prince

“For every complex problem there is an easy answer, and it is wrong.” ~H. L. Mencken

“How fascinating!” ~Benjamin Zander