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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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]:



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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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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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]:



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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Sing Your Song [Seer Crawl day 22]

Your thought to ponder for today: a slow read through THE SEER. Day 22. [all material from the book appears in italics]:


I don’t know what I don’t know. And, I don’t know what I do know. I’m practicing not knowing. I’m telling myself, “Be curious.” And, it is hard because all I want right now is to know. I want an answer. I want a prescription. I want to see where I’m going. I want to know what to do.

And then I found an envelope tucked into my shoulder bag. I opened the envelope and found this quote written on stationary from the Holiday Inn Express in Hastings, Nebraska:

“People take on the shapes of the songs and the stories that surround them, especially if they don’t have their own song.” Neil Gaiman


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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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Use Your Words [Seer Crawl day 15]

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a detail of my painting, An Instrument Of Peace

A slow read through THE SEER. day 15. Something to Ponder. [all material from the book will appear in italics]:


I set down my stuff at my usual table at the coffeehouse and went to the counter and ordered a mocha. When I returned to my table I found this quote typed into the notes on my iPad:

“One must be leery of words because words turn into cages.” ~Viola Spolin


We tell our stories with words. That would seem obvious but it’s not. We tell the stories of our lives with our words. That would seem obvious, too, but it is not. Once, I went to a lecture given by a man who was born into a tribal community in South America. He said something that hit me like a ton of bricks: “You think putting a spell on someone is magic! You misunderstand the word ‘spell.’ A ‘spell’ is not mystical or hocus-pocus! No! That is to misunderstand the power of words! In my culture we understand that to tell a little girl that she is fat is to spell her forever. This is not hocus-pocus. This is the power of your words.”

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


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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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