Make A Choice [Seer Crawl Finale]

The final installment. 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 final thought to ponder today from The Seer.  I’ve bolded a few thoughts on this, Day 49. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

 

 

34.

Virgil: Trace the path that we’ve followed and name for me the six recognitions.

Me: The first three recognitions constitute the loop called Pattern. They are:

  • I don’t have a problem. I have a pattern.
  • My language matters. It is a pattern that defines my story.
  • I am telling myself a story. My story is a pattern that determines what I see.

You asked me to surface my patterns because pattern reveals story.

The next three recognitions constitute the loop called Story. They are:

  • I locate myself within a story. The emphasis is “I locate.”
  • I am the teller of my story. The most important location to recognize is as the storyteller of my story.
  • Because I am the storyteller, I can change my story.

Virgil: Good. You are ready to move forward now. The third loop is called Choice and it is mostly invisible until you understand and embrace the first 6 recognitions. To change your story, you must first recognize that you are in choice every single moment of every day.

Me: Is this the 7th recognition?

Virgil: Yes. Everything we’ve done so far was meant to help you see how you are always choosing. Your story is a choice. Do you recall a distinction I made recently about control: you may not be able to control your circumstance but you have infinite control over how you are within your circumstance?

Me: Yes.

Virgil: The “infinite control” you have within your circumstance is called Choice. Do you also remember in an earlier conversation that I wrote about how a complexity can never be changed with another complexity but that significant change is always realized through a series of small simplicities?

Me: Yes, I remember. You wrote that it’s the little steps, the things that look insignificant that cumulatively create great change.

Virgil: Exactly. The little steps are the small choices that you make – all those things that you think are insignificant – they are very powerful choices.

 ***

 

I realized in my slow read that I could have ended the book here. The final two recognitions are choices: point of view and focus. Where you stand. What you define.

Significant growth/change is always realized through a series of small choices. It’s a loop. The small choices we make define our patterns of perception and action. The small choices we make determine the story we tell with our lives.

 

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Lose The Code [Seer Crawl day 34]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 34. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

A long one today. I started to edit the story segment but thought better. It’s worth reading through. The details matter. The meditation for the day matters. Pay attention to the tension of a natural gift and learned skills.

23.

Parcival, sitting on his mule, having just demanded to be made a knight of the Round Table, met Arthur’s glare with a glare of his own; he didn’t know any better. Luckily for him a lady broke the deadly silence. She probably saved his life by declaring, “My lord, I believe this young man will become your greatest knight.” Galahad added, “Perhaps. If he lives long enough.”

Arthur took a breath. He stared hard at the young man. He recognized him. He was, despite his clownish get-up and his boorish behavior, from noble blood. Arthur could see it. In a very quiet voice, Arthur told Parcival that a man must prove himself worthy by adventures, service and by doing good acts. He told Parcival that he must first learn the code of conduct of a knight. When he had done these things, when he was trained and knighted by a worthy teacher, he would be welcomed back to the court and become a knight of the Round Table.

Parcival wanted nothing more than to be a knight. I wanted nothing more than to be an entrepreneur, a successful businessman. Knight. Entrepreneur. Both are roles. In Virgil speak, both are ways of locating within a story. Parcival wanted to be a knight because, to him, they were godlike; angels shining in their armor, sitting high on their warhorses. I wanted to be an entrepreneur because, to me, they are creators. From nothing they bring forth something that serves people. I had not recognized that as godlike until this story took me. Now, I recognize that I thought entrepreneurs sat above others, shiny in their minds, all seeing.

Somewhere along the path I stopped seeing. I left school with some book knowledge and a bit of life experience. I stormed into the world thinking I could do anything. No door was closed to me because I had no knowledge of closed doors. There is a freedom that comes from not knowing. When I started to believe that I knew things, when I started believing I was an expert, that I had a sack full of answers for all comers, I slowly stopped seeing. It was what I was taught: be an expert. Stand above others and “know.”

I loved this part of the Parcival story because I lived it.

Parcival understood what he had to do. He wheeled his mule around and rode out into the world to prove himself. There are many descriptions of his adventures and they are delicious. He proved to be a redoubtable fighter. No one could best him, and not because he was so highly skilled – because he certainly wasn’t – but because he was so loutish, so out of control in combat that he frightened every dark knight and every dragon or beast that he confronted.

He was a wild boy who knew no fear because he’d never been taught much of anything. Think about it, he had no real armor – most opponents saw this goofy boy wearing dirty broad stripe pajamas and a welcome mat for a breastplate. His trousers fell more than once. His opponents had a hard time taking him seriously. Which was a mistake.

He also had this habit, when juiced with adrenaline, of talking non-stop. He was a talker when calm but amped up considerably when under stress. For instance, whenever he would find a lady held hostage in a tower by an evil knight, he’d start talking. He’d go on and on and on – talking about recipes, hat making, brands of shampoo, about how best to scale a dragon or fish or a mountain. It’s very hard to fight when your opponent won’t shut up. Most foes either felt sorry for him – which was a mistake – or they got so irritated at his chatter that they lost their concentration – which was also a mistake.

His natural gifts took him far, just as my gifts took me a long way into business. I’m a natural networker. When I first started I didn’t know whom I should fear and whom I should respect. And, because I typically did not do great research, I bumbled into some nice clients who mistook my naiveté for honesty and respected me for it.

One famous day an old retired knight named Gornimant was out for a ride when he happened upon Parcival who was engaged in combat with a giant. Now, giants are tough. And apparently, Parcival and the giant had been circling each other for quite some time because, Gornimant later told folks the giant had this desperate look on his face, the look of someone who is trying to sleep while a mosquito is buzzing around his ears. The giant would swat and Parcival would comment on the giant’s combat technique or his choice of club or the giant’s posture. Or he would speculate about what it must feel like to have that much hair on his toes. Ultimately, at least this is what Gornimant said, Parcival never struck a blow. He didn’t have to because the giant, in desperation, sobbed and surrendered. Parcival actually had to stop the giant from clubbing himself.

Gornimant could recognize potential when he saw it. He’d actually heard of this chattering champion because Parcival was becoming quite famous in the outlands with his trademark chatter. So Gornimant invited Parcival home and promised to teach him the ways of a knight.

The master was good and the student was hungry. Over many months Gornimant taught Parcival the proper use of sword and lance and shield. He taught him the care and feeding of a warhorse, the proper treatment of damsels, which fork to use at the table. But most important, he taught him the code and conduct of a knight. Specifically, he taught Parcival to control his chatter, which, up to that point, had been his greatest asset.

Finally, after many long months of study, he presented Parcival with a proper suit of armor, with weapons and a magnificent warhorse. And then Gornimant knighted Parcival in the name of the king.

As Parcival, now a man, prepared to ride away from his master into the world, Gormimant offered his final words of advice. He said, “Talking too much, saying whatever comes into your head, is rude. It is behavior unbecoming of a true knight. Remember, it is impolite for a knight to ask questions, it is rude – even sinful – to speak without consideration of what comes to your mind.”

Having received that final bit of advice, Parcival, thanked his master and set out for Camelot. But, on the way, he wanted to go home to show his mother what he’d become. And, it was only a few weeks later that Parcival came upon the river and was invited into the Grail Castle by the Fisher King. Now you know why Parcival failed to ask the Fisher King about the grail and the lance. For the first time in his life, Parcival failed, because he did exactly what he had been taught to do.

Through the story and Virgil’s guidance I began to understand that I’d failed for the same reason. My businesses collapsed because I did exactly what I was taught to do. And, because I followed the code I’d been given, I stopped seeing people and what would better their lives. As the expert, I lived to service my needs and completely forgot about the needs of my customer.

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Make It Your Business To Unwrap The Story [Seer Crawl day 27]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 27. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

This nugget is full of good things to ponder.

19.

I chatted with Virgil later that night and told him of my insights about the story of my life. I told him how my perception flipped and I recognized that my life story is a story I tell.

Virgil: Yes. The third recognition is, in fact, just that simple: you are telling yourself a story. It is probably too early but I will plant this seed now: great change is never in the big complicated interventions. It is always found in the simple, the small steps. The actions we need to take are rarely difficult; the story we wrap around the necessary actions make them seem harder than they are.

He continued:

Virgil: Before we move on, it is important to put together the recognitions so far: You don’t have a problem; you have a pattern. See the patterns in your life. One of the most important patterns you need to see is your word choice. Your words matter because they are the building blocks of the story you tell. Are you telling a story of “things happening to you,” or are you telling a story of, “I make things happen.” Entrepreneurs tell the latter story. The story you tell is revealed through the patterns of your life. Do you see? It is a loop.

Me: Yes. I see that now.

Virgil: You’ve already acknowledged that you don’t know the story that you tell yourself. You are blind to it. Assume that you do not know so you can begin to hear the story. Begin by listening to the language you use in telling your story. What are the patterns of language you use? What do those patterns reveal about the story you tell?

Entrepreneurs and artists have many things in common. Most significantly, they are telling themselves an entirely different story than most people tell so they see a world that is different than most people see. Seeing relationships and bigger contexts, seeing trends and patterns is sometimes called foresight. That would seem to be another important skill for an entrepreneur, wouldn’t you agree?

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Imagine Yourself Capable [Seer Crawl day 23]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 23. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

Three snippets about story, not knowing, and the power of inhibition:

Children don’t know what they can and can’t do so they imagine themselves capable of all things; it’s “not knowing” that makes all things possible. Parcival’s story begins with the freedom of a child’s mind and the uninhibited action that comes from not knowing. Reclaiming this freedom in adulthood is the point of many stories. It is essential to the entrepreneurial mindset.

***

I didn’t catch it until now that Parcival is left standing alone in shame three times in the story: once at the Grail Castle, once in the great hall of Camelot, and this time, the first time on the parade grounds with his pants down around his ankles. This time, the first time, he does something completely different. He does not acknowledge the shame. He does not participate. He does not seek to understand what he did wrong because he doesn’t see anything wrong. He stays on his intention. It’s beautiful.

***

He felt no shame. He experienced no inhibition. He pulled up his pants, caught his mule, mounted and rode straight into the great hall where all the knights were eating lunch. He didn’t know any better. He didn’t know this was considered at court to be a declaration of war. How could he have known? His mule crashed through the massive wooden doors of the great hall. The knights leapt to their feet, swords drawn as Parcival astride his mule rode straight toward the king. Only Arthur’s signal kept the knights from slicing and dicing the boy to death.

Parcival, sitting high atop his mule, stared straight at the king and said, “I demand to be made a knight of a round table.” As you can imagine, the blood of rage rushed into Arthur’s face. No one, not even a clown, demanded anything from the king.

Parcival, not knowing any better, not aware of any shame or reason why he shouldn’t ask for what he wanted, stared back at the now angry king and said, “Well? How do I do this?”

 

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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.

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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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