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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Learn [Seer Crawl day 39]

InwardHE copy

this painting recently found its home: inward looking he

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 39. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

In my life to this point I was always perceived as the one who knew what to do. I was always rewarded for knowing what to do. I was taught in school that a good businessperson has a plan and he follows the plan; he knows where he is going and he knows what he is doing. I believed I was a good businessperson. As Virgil wrote, “That’s old-world thinking.” The whole equation has flipped because the river is moving too fast. Have the experience first. Act. And then make meaning. Act. Test. And then Aim. See the patterns.

People who think they know look for problems. People who understand that they do not know see patterns and create.

My business failed. I did not. I learned. I am learning.

When I emailed this to Virgil he told me that the fifth recognition was very close at hand. He said it was a nuance, a subtle addition to the recognitions that have come before. He congratulated me for beginning the process of removing my armor. He wrote:

Virgil: Everyday you get closer and closer to actually seeing.

 

 

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Review It [Seer Crawl day 37]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 37. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

A review as we cruise through the 4th toward the 5th recognition. Whether your pursuit is personal or business change, the path is the same. Connect these dots:

Recognition #1: You don’t have a problem. You have a pattern.

Recognition #2: Your language matters.

Recognition #3: You are telling yourself a story.

Recognition #4: You locate yourself within your story.

Recognize your patterns of thinking and seeing and reacting. They are patterns. Recognize that you label your experiences and your label matters. Recognize that your labeling is part of a larger story. Recognize that you cast yourself in a role within your story.

On to the 5th Recognition!

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Locate Yourself [Seer Crawl day 31]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 31. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

He continued:

Virgil: Since we are discussing orienting to yourself within your life, I want to give you two more practices to add to your practice of “not knowing.” Most people are incapable of learning because they are too invested in judging themselves. (Note: judging others is the same thing as judging yourself. We’ll work with this more later but for now assume that judgment in any form impedes learning.) When you contacted me you were incapable of learning because you were so full of self-judgment. Just as patterns and problems are dance partners, so, too, are learning and judgment. The goal is to help you see opportunity wherever you look. To have the eyes to see opportunity you must first be capable of learning at every moment. To develop this capability, you need two additional practices:

  • Have experiences first and make meaning second. This is actually how your brain works. You have experiences, feel sensation, and then you make meaning of the experience. This process of meaning making is what I call story. Children have no problem with this practice. They live to try things and then they make sense of what they just experienced. Adults flip it over and therefore block themselves: they think they need to know before they act. Do you see why practicing “not knowing” is so vital? So, practice what every child knows: have the experience first (practice not knowing), ACT…and then make meaning from what you experience.
  • Judgment is nothing more than a signal that you’ve left your comfort zone. It is a siren that says, “You’ve come to an edge!” For adults, all learning happens at the edges – because we’ve learned that it is uncomfortable to “not know.” The first thing that we do when we are uncomfortable is to judge ourselves and/or others. In that moment you have a choice: you can invest in the judgment or you can suspend your judgment and learn. That is the second practice: practice suspending your judgments so you can learn. When you do this, you become more capable of seeing your choices. At that point of choice, it is less important what you do as long as you recognize that you are choosing an action; nothing is happening to you, you are choosing.

It marries with our last lesson about the story you tell. Do you see?

Me: Yes. If I know that I am choosing then I cannot tell myself the story that things are happening to me. And, when I know that things aren’t happening to me, I’m capable of learning.

Virgil: Exactly. Learning and seeing are conjoined twins. When you can learn, you can see; when you can see, you can learn. For the next week, in addition to working with your two new practices, I have an assignment for you.

Me: Uh-oh. Last time you gave me an assignment I thought you were trying to trick me. 😉

Virgil: I had to earn your trust before I could start the tricks. Now that you trust me you have to watch out… Just kidding. There are no tricks or traps from me. Stepping beyond the known world is full of challenges and traps – but they all come from within you. Rooting out your traps is a necessary part of discovering your patterns of thinking. Here’s your assignment: Now that you know that you are telling yourself a story, I want you to pay attention to the many ways in which you ‘locate’ yourself within the story that you tell. We are constantly locating ourselves in our stories: both physically and in the roles we play. Study how you locate yourself in your story and what that reveals to you.

 

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Listen To The Story [Seer Crawl day 24]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 24. [all material from the book appears in italics]:

 

17.

Stories often deal with the collision that arises when learned patterns blind us to our natural impulses. Living according to what we “should do” or “should think” inevitably collides with what we desire to do and this provides a hot crucible for growth. When Virgil asked me to practice “not knowing” he was poking a hole in my story of “should do” so that I might once again hear what I intuitively knew to be true. Stories show us how to get out of our own way. As Virgil recently wrote:

Virgil: You are at one time the source of your yearning and your greatest obstacle. What you think that you should do IS the obstacle to your desire.

 

 

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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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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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