Add To Your List [Seer Crawl day 48]

A few paragraphs at a time. It’s is how I have been reading books lately.  Maybe a page or two. To really read and not just consume. Recently, I decided to re-read my book in the same manner. So, your thought to ponder today from The Seer.  Day 48. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

Me: This seems…overwhelming.

Virgil: Start simply. Begin with a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the center of the paper. On one side at the top write: “Things I can control.” On the other side, write: “Things I need to let go.” Add to your list every day and soon you will clearly see what is within your control and what is not.

31.

I went to the coffee house to do the exercise Virgil suggested. It quickly became very clear that there are not many things that I can control. For instance, I can’t control what other people think or feel or believe. This was the big revelation. At the table next to me I heard a woman say, “I don’t want him to think I’m a bad person.”

How much time have I invested in my life in the idea that I can determine what another person thinks? Too much! How often have I said, “I don’t want them to think that I…,” or “I don’t want them to feel….”

I was beginning to see the true value of this exercise: my emotional, mental and physical health is invested in something over which I have no control. No wonder I’m stressed all the time. No wonder we fall into the “things happen to me” story! My energy is wasted if I am trying to control another person’s thoughts or feelings.

 

 

 

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Find Your Second Master [Seer Crawl day 46]

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I just used this image but it seemed appropriate for today’s post. This is WEEPING MAN

This is how I have been reading books lately. A few paragraphs at a time. Maybe a page or two. To really read and not just consume. Recently, I decided to re-read my book in the same manner. So, your thought from The Seer to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 46. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

29.

When my business failed my confidence collapsed. Like Parcival’s sword, everything that I thought I knew was worthless and lay in pieces all around me.

I stayed in bed wallowing in my misery for a week with my blankets pulled over my head. When finally I realized that I had nothing else to lose, I got out of bed and called Elizabeth. My business was gone, my pride, my reputation, my intention, my identity. I was pinned down and had no fight left in me. I surrendered. And that was when I found Virgil.

It seemed that the Parcival story was a braid strand entwined with my life story. Was I following the story or was the story following me?

Parcival’s sword exploded. The pieces of his power lay all around him.

The panther, the warrior of the earth, stood above Parcival poised and ready to strike the fatal blow. Parcival was pinned down by the weight of his armor. Laying on his back, he looked up into the warrior’s eyes, surrendering himself to death. He closed his eyes thinking, this is going to hurt. Nothing happened. Parcival opened his eyes and the warrior, like the castle and the maiden, was gone. Parcival managed to roll onto his knees and something broke inside him. He wept.

After the warrior vanished, Parcival retreated deeper into the woods. In his five years of searching he had become intensely self-reliant. He couldn’t go back to court. He had no idea how to get home. The source of all his power had just been shattered. His life was not unfolding as he had imagined that day long ago, when he first bumped into the knights and confused them with gods and he decided that he, too, would become a knight.

While Parcival was deep in his despair, he was discovered by a hermit. Now, it’s harder to be discovered by a hermit than you might imagine. A hermit, by definition, likes to be alone and generally avoids contact with other people. However the hermit found Parcival just as Gornimant had found him. Because Parcival was ready for his next life lessons, his teacher emerged.

That’s the same story I tell myself about for Virgil. I was ready and he emerged. Elizabeth had given me Virgil’s contact information a few months before I emailed him. I wasn’t ready to learn until I experienced the collapse of my business. Just like Parcival, I needed to lose my sword before I was ready for the teacher to find me.

Parcival was sitting on a stump, helmet off, weeping – which was why he retreated deeper into the woods because he didn’t want to be seen. It was the perfect time for a hermit to come along. I think the sight of a knight in full armor, sitting on a stump having a barking-style cry got the best of the hermit. It piqued his curiosity.

Hermits are notoriously quiet so Parcival didn’t hear the recluse sit down on the stump next to him. You can imagine his surprise, after his cry had run its course, when Parcival heard a crackly old voice say, “That’s a hell of a giant you’re fighting in there. What’s his name?” Parcival yelped and jumped from his stump. Keep in mind that this story is happening in the days when forest spirits showed themselves to mortals. Parcival wasn’t sure if he was about to be spelled or cursed. When he jumped up, he landed sideways on his foot and, being in full armor, he made the sound that a stack of cans in a grocery store makes when a cart bumps into it. He kind of looked like that too, as he crumpled all the way to the ground.  

The hermit chuckled and said, “Simmer down boy. I’m not going to turn you into a frog or nothing. I’m a hermit!”

That was not very comforting although it did help Parcival relax a bit. The hermit helped Parcival out of his armor so he could stand. The hermit looked him over, and invited Parcival back to the cave for some stew. Parcival went with the hermit, leaving his armor behind.

He broke his vow not to stay two nights in the same place until he found the Grail Castle again. Parcival stayed with the hermit for a night, then two, then he lost count of how long he’d been there. You’ve probably guessed by now that the hermit was his second master. The first master teaches craft. Second masters are the midwives for the birth of the heart.

 

 

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Reveal Your Choices [Seer Crawl day 45]

This is how I have been reading books lately. A few paragraphs at a time. Maybe a page or two. To really read and not just consume. Recently, I decided to re-read my book in the same manner. So, your thought from The Seer to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 45. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

In THE SEER, I end each chapter with 1) a study, 2) an action, and 3) an exercise. Today’s chunk-to-ponder is the study and action from the conclusion of the 5th Recognition. Beware – the action suggests that you can own your story.

The Fifth Recognition: You are the teller of your story

Study: Actions reveal choices, choices reveal story. Study your actions and your choices: what story do they reveal?

Action: Own your story. Continue to distinguish the difference between circumstance and story. Eliminate the “things happen to me” story: at the end of each day choose an event from the day that was challenging, frustrating or made you mad. What if your response within every circumstance was a choice? What did you choose within your circumstance? Track it each day in your journal. What changes when your choices become conscious and intentional?

What do you choose? A great business as well as personal question, especially if growth and change is what you seek.

 

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Test The Chain

This is how I have been reading books lately. A few paragraphs at a time. Maybe a page or two. To really read and not just consume. Recently, I decided to re-read my book in the same manner. So, your thought from The Seer to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 44. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

Me: I felt it as I stood on the street corner. In fact, I stood there for a long time watching people, paying attention to them play their roles within the stories they tell. I watched mothers with children, people hurrying home from work, couples taking a stroll, kids hurrying to soccer practice. All were deeply invested in their story. It was subtle, as you said, but the small progression from knowing that I am telling a story to actually owning that I am the teller of my story was…huge.

Virgil: Why was it huge?

Me: What I saw in others, and then saw for myself, was a real commitment to the story. There was a dedication to the circumstance. Here’s that word again: an investment that the story was fact or reality. They were seeing their story and nothing beyond it.

Virgil: Yes, the commitment to our stories blinds us to potential. Have you ever come across the phrase “premature cognitive commitment”?

Me: No.

Virgil: It is how elephants are trained to stay in one place. The process is almost too simple: when it is young, a baby, a strong chain is wrapped around its ankle. The other end of the chain is secured to a very strong tree. The baby elephant will pull and pull against the chain but soon learns that there is no use pulling, so it stops testing the chain. As it grows, weaker and weaker chains are used and attached to smaller and smaller trees. Since the elephant has learned that there is no use to pull on the chain, eventually a piece of string attached to a tiny stick is all that is required to keep the elephant from roaming free. The idea of limitation, the story that there is no use pulling on the string, is more powerful than the reality of the string and the stick. Many of the stories we tell are premature cognitive commitments. We become so dedicated to our limits that we stop testing what we think we know.  

Me: When I recognize that I am the teller of my own story, I have the capacity to challenge my assumptions. I never stop pulling on the chain to see what will happen.

Virgil: Yes, and, in that way, you see what is there, not what you think is there. You have the opportunity to see beyond your story or at least you are capable of choosing the story you tell. Why should the limit that you experienced as a child dictate your range of motion as an adult? What commitments do we make that keep us from testing the chain? These are the same commitments that prohibit us from seeing.

 

 

 

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Choose To See [Seer Crawl day 25]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 25. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

In my latest chat with Virgil I told him of my revelations about ‘not knowing what I DO know,’ about my memory of my client, and how I convinced her that she didn’t need me and could do the work by herself. I wrote:

Me: At the time I really needed the money. I needed the business! And I spent that morning convincing a potential client that she didn’t need me. It’s the story of my life!

He responded:

Virgil: Oh, you are dangerously close to the third recognition.

I decided I needed to stop being careful with how I said things to Virgil. I’d just learned that my language mattered so I might as well write what I was thinking:

Me: Well, maybe you should tell me before I trip over something and hurt myself. You must have an answer or two in there somewhere…

Virgil: I’m woefully low on answers but I do have a question for you: What did you mean when you wrote: It’s the story of my life?

Me: I don’t know. It was just a phrase, an attempt at humor.

Virgil: What if it’s not just a phrase?

Me: You mean that convincing people that they don’t need my services is the story of my life? That is why my business crashed?

Virgil: No. I’m not inferring, interpreting or implying anything. You used this phrase: It is the story of my life. I’m asking you to consider that this is more than a flippant phrase. Are you aware of the story of your life?

I was getting angry again. And, I was beginning to recognize that my anger was a pattern that flared when I felt lost. I get angry when I am driving and miss my turn or can’t find where I’m going. I wanted a map. I wanted Virgil to be my personal GPS and tell me where to go. Where were we going with this? Sometimes I can’t help my sarcasm:

Me: You mean I only get one story!

Virgil: Your story is not something you get. Remember, your language matters. Choose your words more carefully and you might see the third recognition before you trip over it. Connect the dots. Tripping over it will not hurt you…it’s the choice to be blind that causes your pain.

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Practice Curiosity [Seer Crawl day 12]

Poet

from the archives: Sam The Poet

a slow read through THE SEER. day 12. [all material from the book will appear in italics]:

Virgil: Humor me and entertain this notion: your thought, your story, is not passive. It is a creative act. What you think IS what you see. Most of the time people create what they see based on their rut. They see what they expect to see. To practice curiosity is to suspend the assumption of knowing. To practice curiosity requires us to step out of the rut. Stop assuming that you know and you gain the capacity to see beyond what you think.”

A glimmer of light pierced the dark recesses of my mind. Suddenly I was back in front of the Sphinx and I could see the answer to the riddle. It was so clear! I typed:

Me: Wait! Is this why I need to distinguish between problems and patterns? If I tell myself that I have a problem to solve, I am telling a certain kind of story. If I tell myself that I have a pattern to change, I am telling an entirely different kind of story. Is that true?

Virgil: Yes. It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? A problem is a story. It is a lens that filters your sight. A problem does not exist unless you insist that it is there. You say that you are an entrepreneur. How many great products and services were the results of an accident in the lab? How many innovations were missed because the ‘solution’ did not fit the ‘problem’ as identified? A problem is a rut that separates you from possibilities. On the other hand, a pattern connects you to possibilities. See the pattern not the problem.

Me: But, how does this help me in my business?

Virgil: The pattern or story you tell will determine the possibilities you see or don’t see. The story you tell will determine the actions you see or do not see. For instance, you said that once you started looking you saw patterns everywhere. You saw connectivity; everything seemed part of a greater pattern.

Me: Yes. It was a discovery. It was wonderful.

Virgil: What did that discovery lead you to do?

Me: Well, I slowed down. I looked. I saw things…I started seeing a bigger context. I saw relationships between things. I saw how things were shaped…. I saw how things could be improved. I was seeing through different eyes.

Virgil: That would seem to be an important skill for an entrepreneur, don’t you agree? What potential would become visible to you if you flipped from seeing problems to seeing patterns?

The Bottom Line: How you ask the question will determine the answers you see or don’t see. How you define your circumstance will determine the paths you see or don’t see. It is the idea beneath The First Recognition of The Seer: you don’t have a problem, you have a pattern.

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Know The Patten [Seer Crawl day 8]

a slow read through THE SEER. day 8. Excerpts are in italics]

[today’s excerpt to ponder]:

Another valuable thing I learned about stories is that they unfold according to established patterns. Beginning, middle, and end are a simple pattern. Within this simple pattern is a more complex pattern structure. For instance, in order to grow, the main character has to leave behind everything he knows and go on a journey. That journey can be literal or an inner, metaphoric journey. To leave behind “the known” is part of the pattern that leads to trials, confrontations, and catharsis. It’s a pattern. Since each of us is the protagonist in our own story, the pattern is alive and at work in our lives. The trick is to become aware of where you are in the story cycle. Do you need to let go of what you know in order to grow? Are you navigating the trials? What happens once you’ve experienced catharsis?

Stories never begin with being found. We hear a call. We pursue it blindly and discover that we are lost in the woods. Stories begin when someone, the main character, you, gets lost or is knocked off balance.

[You are the protagonist in your own story. Where are you in the story cycle? Where are you in the pattern? These question/concepts apply to businesses as well as people. It’s all a story]

 

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Frame It [Seer Crawl day 6]

a slow read through THE SEER. day 6. [all material from the book will appear in italics]:

PROLOGUE

This is a book about seeing.

Not many people see. Most people merely look. Just as most people hear but they do not listen, most people look but they do not see.

And, although this might not make sense yet, seeing has more to do with stories than it does with eyes. It works like this:

Everyone can see as a child. And then something happens. Children learn to name things with words. Then they learn to spell the words they use to name things. Soon they grow up and have a hard time seeing beyond their words. Often they name their experiences before they even have them. They do not see what is there, they see what they think is there.

It is a funny paradox about words – they can imprison your mind. Words can also set you free. It all depends upon how the words are used.

Entrepreneurs and artists share this trait: in order to master their craft they must learn to see again. And, in order to see, they must once again understand the power of their words; they must learn to see beyond their story. They must learn to flip their assumptions and let go of what they think they know.

I think this bit needs no commentary. I read it three times this morning. It’s the epicenter.

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Know The Metaphor [day 5 of the SEER crawl]

a slow read through THE SEER. day 5. [all material from the book will appear in italics]:

“Then, the magic shift happens: you begin to see that no one creates in a vacuum. No one innovates, leads, learns, or grows by themselves. Creativity is a group sport. Everyone shares the same field of opportunity! This “creative commons” is the province of metaphor. ‘Mastering metaphor,’ according to Ash [Ash Bhoopathy], is this: ‘making the familiar strange and/or making the strange familiar.’ Can you imagine a more important capacity in the development, marketing, and sales of a product or service? Can you imagine a better reason to pursue artistry? Make the familiar strange. Make the strange familiar. Learn to see.”

A continuation of yesterday’s post: it is also true that within every person there also lives two competing narratives (or more;-). The narrative of the familiar (This is the way I do things) and the narrative of the strange (Why did I just say that?)

The dynamic tension set up between the familiar and the strange is creative fuel. These poles do not need to be reconciled. They need to be appreciated and explored. Self-discovery (a life long process) is a process of recognizing personal metaphor, understanding personal pattern. And a reminder (yet another paradox): the inward look is impossible to do alone. Perspective is also a team sport.

 

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Ask Why [Seer Crawl day 4]

a slow read through THE SEER. day 4. [all material from the book will appear in italics]:

Okay. A slight do over.  Before I wrote a HOW I should have written a WHY. It’s about finding an entry point to this book, the reason why this matters today and why it mattered five years ago.

People once understood that to tell a story was an act of power. It had and still has the capacity to focus attention, to shape belief. To blind or illuminate.  For instance, my good friend Horatio told me that the reason we, the people of these United States are always at odds is that we are trying to hold two conflicting stories/narratives. The first: I am my brother’s keeper. The second: every man for himself.

The first opens eyes and focuses life’s action on what one can bring to their community.

The second narrows. It focuses life’s action on what one can get from their community.

A narrative is a lens. It matters what lens you look through. Artistry, like entrepreneurship, like innovation, like all facets of creating, cannot be done in isolation. It requires a look through the first narrative, to seek what you bring. To develop what you bring to others.

And, paradoxically, that often begins with an inward look.

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