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.


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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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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See The Invisible [Seer Crawl day 21]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 21. [all material from the book appears in italics]:


When I first contacted Virgil he wrote:

Virgil: You don’t know what you don’t know.

 He’s trying to help me see what is right in front of me but I do not see.

This morning I made a list of all the things I did right in my business. I remembered a meeting I had several months ago with a potential client. I realized there was an important flip side to Virgil’s statement: you don’t know what you don’t know. The flip side is this: you don’t know what you DO know. Some things are so natural to me. I see things and assume that everyone can see it, too. They don’t. I am constantly surprised when something so clear to me is invisible to someone else.

The client came to me because she was certain that her situation was impossible. She’d just been appointed as the director of a student services center at a university. The previous director was a bully and the culture of the center was toxic. My client wanted to change the culture of the center. She hired consultants who brought her models for building better teams; she held weekly meetings to give her staff the opportunity to share their thoughts; she had an open door policy so her staff would know that she was accessible. But, in her words, “Nothing seems to work.”

It seemed so obvious to me.

“How long have you been the director?” I asked.

“Three months already!” she replied.

“How long was the previous director at the center?”

“Six years. He was awful. He was terribly abusive,” she said.

“Are your staff members machines or humans?” I asked and she wrinkled her brow. I added, “I’m not being flip. I’m asking you a serious question.”

She sat for a moment before responding. “You mean this is going to take time.”

“Have you ever been hurt in a relationship?”

“Of course.” She was wary of this line of questioning.

“How long did it take before you trusted the next person that came into your life?” I asked and she began to laugh.

“You mean they’ve been burned and I’m the new girlfriend,” she smiled.

“Yes. Imagine for a moment that you are the new girlfriend and you’re dealing with someone who’s been burned badly; what would you do?”

“It’s going to take time, isn’t it?” She closed her eyes and nodded her head, continuing, “And I need to help them learn that I am safe. They need to take little steps for a while. They need to trust that I’m not anything like the former director. A little wooing is in order. A little kindness would help. This is not a problem to fix, it’s a new relationship to develop.”

“Exactly.” I smiled.

She stood, shook my hand and said, “It’s so simple when I look at it like that.”


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Take A Step [Seer Crawl day 13]

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this painting is called Shared Fatherhood 2. what’s in a word?

a slow read through THE SEER. day 10. [all material from the book will appear in italics]:

The First Recognition is: You Don’t Have A Problem. You Have A Pattern. Today’s excerpt comes from the beginning of The Second Recognition: Your Words Matter. Pattern/Problem distinction is essentially an acknowledgement of the power of word choice to shape perception. So, the next step is to dive deeper into the power of words.


It’s a common characteristic of stories that the main character tries again and again to solve a new problem but he doesn’t recognize that he is operating from old information. And then, one day, he finally sees that the old information is not useful. He has to stop and admit to himself that he doesn’t know what to do. All that he knows for certain is that he doesn’t know what to do. It’s a paradox. This is a powerful and necessary step in the progress of the story. It’s the point in every story and every life when the real seeking begins. It is the point that seeing becomes possible.

Once, years ago, when I was in college I did some work in alternative schools. These “alternative schools” were safety nets for kids who had dropped out, the schools for kids who the system had failed. What I appreciated most about the alternative schools was that the teachers would try anything to reignite the flame of curiosity in a student. The traditional path had snuffed the kid’s curiosity. The kids equated learning with pain. The teachers in the alternative schools never knew where they were going. They never had an answer. They knew that the traditional path didn’t work; they were certain that they didn’t know what to do. In the absence of a path, they would try anything. I admired them. More than once I was astounded by their ingenuity.

I’d completely forgotten about my experiences in the alternative schools until Virgil asked me to practice “not knowing.” After our initial chat I was confused and felt he was being purposefully obscure. What does it mean to practice “not knowing?” It seemed crazy. And then he suggested that practicing curiosity was the same thing as “not knowing.” The light bulb turned on.

Practice Curiosity [Seer Crawl day 12]


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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Story Yourself [Seer Crawl day 11]

a slow read through THE SEER. day 11. [all material from the book will appear in italics]:

Virgil: Hi. Yes. Welcome back. How did it go?

Me: I learned a lot about patterns.

Virgil: Tell me what you discovered.

Me: When I started looking for patterns I saw them everywhere. It was as if everything was connected through some type of pattern. In looking for patterns I started to see things that I’d never before noticed. It was as if the world came into a clearer focus.

Virgil: Good. What else?

Me: Looking for patterns made me move slower. I think that was part of practicing “not knowing,” though I’m still not certain that I’m doing what you asked.

 Virgil: Lol! And in this way, for now, your uncertainty is a great way of practicing “not knowing.”

I hated that. In my present circumstance there was nothing great about uncertainty. I ignored him and wrote:

Me: I realized that I think in patterns. I think the same stuff over and over. This is a puzzle: the act of looking for patterns opened my eyes. So, patterns reveal. And yet, later, when I became aware of the patterns of my thinking, I recognized that those patterns were like ruts or grooves. It’s as if I am playing the same song over and over again so no other music can come in. My thinking pattern, my rut, prevents me from seeing. So patterns also obscure. Make sense?

Virgil: Yes. It must seem like a paradox to you. Think of the song or rut as a story that you tell yourself. Your thoughts, literally, are a story that you tell yourself about yourself and the world; the more you tell this story the deeper the rut you create. So, a good question to ask is: what is the story that you want to tell? Are you creating the pattern that you desire to create? We will return to this many times. This is important: the story is not happening to you; you are telling it. The story can only control you if you are not aware that you are telling it.

Me: Can you say more?

 Virgil: We literally ‘story’ ourselves. We are hard-wired for story. What we think is a narrative; this pattern (song) that rolls through your mind everyday is a story that you tell. You tell it. It defines what you see and what you do not see. What you think is literally what you see.

There was a pause. That was a lot for me to take in. When I didn’t respond, he continued:

Virgil: So, what you think is nothing more than a story; it’s an interpretation. You move through your day seeing what you think – instead of what is there. You are not seeing the world you are seeing your interpretation of the world. You are seeing from your rut and your rut is a pattern. So, your patterns of thinking, your rut, can obscure what you see. Make sense?

Me: Yes. I guess 😉 So, when I started looking for patterns outside of me, I…stopped seeing from within my rut? I stopped assuming that I knew what I was seeing. So, I was capable of discovering new patterns and connections?

 Virgil: Yes, something like that. You said that when you looked for patterns you slowed down and felt that you could see. I would say it this way: you stopped moving through your world and for a brief period you were actually in your world. For a brief period you were no longer lost in thought but present with what was right in front of you. You suspended what you think you know so you started to see again. You were curious. To be curious is synonymous with “not knowing.”


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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]:


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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