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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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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Know What You Give [Seer Crawl day 43]

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another detail: yoga series – greet the world

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 43. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

I stood on the corner suddenly aware of the fifth recognition. It was subtle, just as Virgil promised. I am the teller of my story. I give it shape. I give it meaning. I give it coherence. I exaggerate it. I hang onto parts of it. I define the limits. My story is not happening to me. I am creating it as I go, based on my investments and assumptions of my roles and how I choose to play them. I’m focusing on certain aspects of my story and ignoring others.

***

Later that evening Virgil wrote:

Virgil: Within circumstance you are always in choice. And the first choice you have is the story you decide to tell. You are the teller of your story. This may sound simplistic but the recognition that you are in every moment, every day, responsible for the story you tell, is enormously powerful.

 

Yet another obvious question: what is the story you tell?

 

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Challenge History [Seer Crawl day 42]

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 42. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

27.

I went to my local bookstore to pick up a novel that I ordered. Andrew, the owner, gave me my book. There was a slip of paper folded and tucked inside the pages. My name was printed in marker on the outside fold. I said, “What’s this?” Andrew looked at it and said, “It’s for you, I guess. I don’t know how it got there.”

I opened it and found a postcard bearing the black and white image of a factory with this quote:

“The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.”

Abraham Maslow

 

Well? Isn’t the question is obvious?

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Lose Your Gift [Seer Crawl day 41]

 

 

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 41. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

 

This is what happens to illusions:

On a famous day, while riding through the forest, out of the trees rode a warrior like none that Parcival had ever seen. The warrior didn’t wear armor, his skin was dark, and he somehow belonged to the land. He was an enormous man. He moved like a panther, beautiful, easy, fluid, and confident. He sat atop a black stallion. He squared himself to Parcival and drew his sword for battle.

Parcival surprised himself; he did not want to fight this man. He felt a deep sadness and was suddenly very tired. He told the warrior that he would not fight. He asked the warrior to stand aside and let him pass. The warrior stood his ground. Parcival said that he had no quarrel and would not draw his weapon. The man said nothing and stood his ground. Slowly Parcival drew his sword, thinking that once his sword was seen, the warrior would recognize Parcival and retreat. The man saw the sword and stood his ground.

Parcival felt as though he could not breath. They stared for a long moment, sizing up each other, and then, silently, as if in agreement, they suddenly rode at each other. Their swords met with a ferocious clang that echoed off the trees and hills. The impact knocked both men off their mounts. Parcival landed hard. Like a turtle on his back, pinned down by the weight of his armor, Parcival looked up and saw the warrior, the panther, standing over him, raising his sword to strike. Parcival raised his sword in defense and found he held only the hilt of his weapon. His sword, the Fisher King’s gift, had exploded into a thousand pieces.

Whether you recognize it or not, this is a great business (as well as personal) metaphor. What happens when your gift fails you?

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Reiterate [Seer Crawl day 28]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 28. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

Sometimes in my slow read process, I take a day to review a small bit. That’s the idea for today. A reiteration from yesterday.  I’m teasing apart a response from Virgil as a way of closing the first loop:

 

The third recognition is, in fact, just that simple: you are telling yourself a story.

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.

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.” 

The story you tell is revealed through the patterns of your life. Do you see? It is a loop.

 

More to ponder: In business change, as with personal change, there is a structural level and a circumstance/situational level. Businesses, like people, confuse the two levels, seeking a deep structural change through circumstantial changes (rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic). If you hear, as I often do, “It’s pie in the sky,” be certain that you are hearing avoidance of actually engaging with the structure.

Here’s the simple basic: patterns reveal connections. Problems create separations – and more  problems. Language, your word choice, reveals whether you are seeing through problem-eyes or pattern-eyes [note: problem solving is an inevitable attempt to enact structural change on the level of circumstance, to rearrange those deck chairs!]. Before you can see the structure, you have to see the story that you are telling. Stories reveal. Unconscious stories conceal. Pattern change, story change, is much more practical than you might at first understand.

 

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Name Your Story [Seer Crawl day 17]

A thought to ponder: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 17. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

Reading the story of Parcival as a boy, I couldn’t imagine not knowing my name. I was intrigued by the part in the story when the woman comes out of the forest and tells Parcival his name. In a single stroke, in one simple word, she names him and in his mind he transforms from being a generic role, “Dear Son,” to someone specific with a name, “Parcival.” His whole world turned on one simple word. And then, BAM! Before he could fully inhabit his new name she tacked on a label: “the Unfortunate.” He would forever see his life through the eyes of that simple phrase, the Unfortunate.

When my business collapsed my friends said things like, “It’s a stroke of bad luck!” or “Not your fault!” or “The next one will be the charm.” It was exactly the same stuff they told me the last time my business failed. And, I believed it! It was a stroke of bad luck. It wasn’t my fault. There is a charm out there somewhere and if I keep looking I will find it. So, my success was dependent upon a charm and had nothing to do with my hard work. BAM! Suddenly I too, was “the Unfortunate.”

Perhaps Virgil was not delusional after all. When I started listening to how I named my story I saw that I was the one who was delusional. Maybe there was a layer beneath problems and patterns that he was trying to get me to see.

I pulled up our last chat sequence and read it. My mouth dropped open when I read what I’d written about looking for patterns:

Me: …I saw relationships between things. I saw how things were shaped…. I saw how things could be improved. I was seeing through different eyes.

Instead of trying to solve for a problem, what if I had eyes that could see how things were patterned so I could clearly see how they might be improved?

The Seer’s 9 Recognitions serve as the framework for my coaching, teaching, and consulting.  Learn more here

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Stand Firm And See [Seer Crawl day 14]

a slow read through THE SEER. day 14. [1) all material from the book will appear in italics. 2) No commentary necessary from me. This is a meditation crawl so I will get out of the way]:

After our latest chat I took another walk. I was pissed again. Not right away – everything he wrote made sense. And then I started thinking about it and the more I thought about it the angrier I became. I’m starting to think that being pissed is one of my patterns. I had to process what we discussed. I had to clear my head. I wanted coffee.

Virgil was challenging the foundations of everything I’d been taught and led to believe. As I walked I felt stupid and also more than a bit impatient. I wanted to know how to whip up my curiosity. There must be a recipe, a few simple steps. Besides, I identified myself as someone who is curious in the world. I am a risk taker. He was implying that I was not who I thought I was. He was implying that my world was built on old information and the reason my business failed was merely a matter of a pattern of applying old information to a new…dare I say “problem.”

And during our chat, just as happened before, as I was getting frustrated because I wanted a concrete answer from him, because I wanted to know what to do, his response was the opposite of what I expected. His answer was to embrace the truth which was that I did not know where I was going. I was lost and his suggestion was to embrace rather than fight the truth that I did not know what to do. He’d written:

Virgil: Stand firmly in not knowing and see what’s there. Why do you insist on rushing past your truth?

Needless to say, when I read that, I shouted at my screen, “This is crazy!” while at the same time, for some reason, I typed that I agreed to try his suggestion. So, I had to take a walk.

While I was walking off my irritation, grumbling that this whole thing was a waste of time and I’d have been better off to have never contacted the mysterious Virgil and his insistence that I practice “not knowing,” I remembered the alternative schools. Those teachers were more innovative, more creative and alive than anyone I knew in business school.

It occurred to me as once again I stood still in the middle of my street, that those teachers were vital and innovative because they were certain that they didn’t know what to do. Virgil was asking me to be like the teachers I so admired.

 

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