The Pace Of Growth

It pulls me in over and over again – the promise that this time, big change is coming. Exponential growth in your business! Huge breakthroughs in your personal life! I sign up, fork over the money – and experience incremental growth.

Clicker Heroes Cost orange and Rate blue of Treebeard leveling

I get upset by this. Look at those other people! They just took off and now they’re doing great! Why am I only a fraction of an inch closer to my goals now? My husband looks at my progress and says “That class didn’t work.” Then I get defensive and tell him what progress I did make, and how important it is, even though it’s not what I told him I’d get out of the money and time and energy I invested.

What I’ve come to realize though, is this: incremental growth, over time, is incredibly powerful. I don’t feel like I’m making a leap of faith now, I feel like my feet are planted firmly on the ground. And the ground has been built up over years of work, so I can trust it and believe it’s going to stay that way.

My mentor Jesse (check out Thrive and if you go, tell them Talia sent you!) says that a one degree shift can change your destination by hundreds of miles. If you leave San Francisco going east, and shift one degree north or south, where you hit the east coast will be drastically different. You don’t need to make a huge change to get a huge result over time. That difference might not be visible right away, but three thousand miles later you’re not where you would have been.

I feel like all my classes, all my breakthroughs, all my progress, have given me one degree shifts. Sometimes less! My husband looks at my business and doesn’t see the cash rolling in, and thinks nothing has changed. I see a difference, but it’s subtle. And it takes another shift, and another, and another, each one nudging me further, to have me facing the direction where I can really thrive.

All this leaves me afraid to promise too much from my own classes. I don’t want to tell you that you will experience a huge breakthrough, or be 100 times more confident when you’re done. I do believe that I can offer you a number of one degree shifts. When you’re done working with me, you won’t be in the same place you started. I’m not the only one who can help you, and over time you should work with lots of different people to get all of their viewpoints. And, I think I should be one of the ones you consider!

I’m offering a couple of workshops next month on Talking In Circles: The Art of Speaking Up In Groups. They are April 7 and 21, both in the SF Bay Area. You can get more info and register at eventbrite.

Please visit my web site if you are interested in working with me one-on-one, with your team, or in a group program. They are all powerful and fun ways to make these shifts. I’d love to talk to you about what we can do together!

It’s Turning 2017 (I really think so)

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So, it’s a new year. A lot of people take the new year as a chance to start anew. I feel decidedly mixed about this.

On the one hand, I love the sense of possibility that comes from new planners, blank books, and the feeling of turning over a new leaf. I imagine how organized, or creative, or both, I’ll be after I purchase a new book to write or draw in. (I can’t count the number of blank books I’ve purchased and either only wrote in the first few pages, because I couldn’t maintain the discipline I envisioned, or never wrote in at all, because I didn’t want to ruin the feeling of possibility.)

On the other hand, it’s just another day in winter. (Or summer, in the other hemisphere.) There’s nothing inherently new about January 1 as compared to December 31. Nothing will change if we don’t try to change, nothing will grow if we don’t plant the seeds.

A lot of people make resolutions at the new year to be different, to make changes, to be more organized or athletic or creative or somehow better. I feel mixed about this too. On the one hand, change won’t come if we don’t put intention and effort behind it. On the other hand, I personally hate the feeling that there’s something wrong with me that needs to be changed.

My best changes have come from following the things that make me feel good – aligned, alive, joyous and free. Not necessarily feel good as in it tastes good or feels soft on my skin, but feel good as in stronger, more myself, more content. Which means I’ve lost some weight. But if I went into the new year saying I am wrong for being the weight I am and I need to lose some weight in order to be acceptable, I would resist like a kid resists brushing teeth. No way are you putting that thing in my mouth lady!

Still, I can’t say the tendency to spend winter in contemplation of the past and planning the future is bad. We all need those fallow seasons where we are not actively planting or harvesting, where we let new ideas marinate til they are soft and ready to apply. Reviewing the year may be artificial, as opposed to reviewing the project that comes to a close, but it’s still better than not looking at it at all. It’s hard to learn from experience if we never look at the experience we have.

So I wish you all a very happy new year, and hope this season gives you greater understanding of the past and hope for the future.

Perspective

I chatted with an audience member after my speaking gig yesterday who had some issues with diverse personalities within her sales team. This morning when I went out for my walk I let my  mind wander, and started thinking about how often conflict arises because of the way we think. So I thought I’d share some of these ideas with you.

 

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Hierarchy

There is one way of seeing the world where everyone is either one-up or one-down from everyone else. (Or maybe several-up or several-down.) This tends to be more common with men than women, but it’s not tied to the ability to grow a beard. I find it exhausting when I get into this frame of mind – always trying to figure out where I stand in relation to others, usually feeling like I don’t measure up. Some people find a sense of worth from being one-up from others, but this runs the risk of treating others as less-than.

 

 

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Equality – One Path

Another way, which is more common in women than men but isn’t tied to femininity, is to see everyone as equal in rank because we are all people trying to do the best we can. Some people may be farther along the path, but we are all walking the path together. I prefer this view (and I’m a woman, go figure), since I can relax and not compete. It lets me see the best in others and wish the best for others, since we are all striving for happiness and fulfillment, rather than beating someone else.

Now, if you are a competitive sort, and like pitting yourself against others, the equality view might feel boring. It might feel unbalancing, like you don’t know where you stand if you’re not one-up or one-down. But if you’re treating others as one-down it could make them feel angry or less-than or sad. And if you treat others as one-up it may keep you from offering your gifts to the world because you think you’re not worth it.

 

All of these pitfalls are based in perspective, in how we see the world. There may not be any change necessary in the people on a team, other than a shift in perspective. It takes a deeper conversation to find out what perspective team members actually hold, and a lot of today’s post is based on my own brain meanderings. Often we don’t know there is another perspective available until we talk to someone who holds a different view.

One last point today – if you need to shift your perspective, you could do worse than go for a walk. Walking helps your mind process stuff while it exercises your body, and often helps shift stuck emotions and ideas.

Is that my monkey?

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When I first heard this Polish saying I thought it was brilliant! It’s so easy to get pulled into other people’s drama. It’s nice to have a reminder of what is and isn’t mine to deal with.

But what about self-drama? What things are coming from my brain that just aren’t true? “I’m not creative.” “I have no self-discipline.” “I can’t do that because of my background.” There is a lot of poo being flung around a lot of monkey minds because we mistake these messages for truth just because we think them.

We have talked about the idea of being creative or not in previous posts, and I will continue to discuss it in future posts. For the next, I’d like to quote Blake Boles from The Art of Self-Directed Learning: “Self-discipline isn’t some universal attribute that you either have or don’t. It’s a product of matching your actions to the work that’s most important in your life.” So if you can’t get started on a project, think about if you would feel worse if you never did it because a part of you would die, or if you’re doing this because of someone else’s circus needs. If it’s not your monkey, go find your circus and dedicate yourself to that.

Even bigger – we’re talking chimpanzee size, not spider monkey – is having a fixed or growth mindset. To quote Boles quoting Carol Dweck:

“People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent and nothing can change that….So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others.

People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things – not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan – without years of passionate practice and learning.”

Can you imagine living all your life believing that you can’t get any better? Why would you even try? If your brain is telling you that no amount of effort will make a difference, you might as well watch tv instead. But what if that’s not true? What if your effort could make a huge difference? What if the monkey you have in front of you can be trained? What if, when you find the thing that lights you up, you treat all setbacks as learning opportunities and just keep working towards making it happen? You could do anything you wanted to do.

You can do anything you want to do. (Navigating the abyss of freedom to figure out what you want to do is another post for another day.) Here are some keys (again from Boles) to help keep you moving forward when your brain gives you messages that you’re stuck:

Instead of:                  Use:

  • I can’t                           I could if I…
  • I should                        I choose to
  • I don’t know               I’ll find out
  • I wish                            I’ll make a plan
  • I hate                             I prefer
  • I have to                       I get to

One nice thing about a list like this is that you can listen for the first column of phrases to show up in your thinking and talking. It’s like a little reminder. Oh yeah, I could say “I choose to” instead of “I should.” What is it I think I should do? Do I choose to? Why or why not? What do I think would be better?

It also gives us a chance to use divergent thinking. Maybe I can’t right now, but I could if… what? What do I need to go forward? Is it something I can do for myself? ‘I could if I read a book.’ Or do I need to get help? ‘I could if I could find a professional monkey trainer to help me.’ What if you could come up with dozens of options? Not just one way forward, but so many that you have the freedom to pick the ways that feel best and have multiple ways forward? Not just climbing the ladder of success, but as Sheryl Sandberg puts it, climbing the jungle gym of success, sometimes sideways to find another way up? Your options are only limited by your vision.

What is your monkey mind telling you? Whose circus is that message coming from? You have endless possibilities inside you. Don’t let those monkeys smear you!

Why creativity takes courage

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We as a social species like to belong to the group. There is safety in belonging. There is security in knowing who is in my clique and who is out. We tend to dress like the people with whom we feel we belong. We tend to agree with what they say, since disagreeing means risking being thrown out of the group. Even the idea of being thrown out can give us a visceral fear, like a punch in the gut, real terror we might not survive.

There is a deep satisfaction and comfort in mirroring other people and being mirrored. Being too much out of phase with the people around us makes us deeply uncomfortable. We often don’t know why we’re uncomfortable, which gives our fertile imaginations a chance to make stuff up. What we make up is usually dire – we will lose our jobs, that person must be a terrorist, we will lose our homes, we will die.

So we hire people who are like us, and we are comfortable on a team with people who are like us, and we all prefer to think in a similar enough way that we can be familiar with each other. And then – we need a creative idea.

How much courage does it take to voluntarily stand up and give an idea that’s never been done before? How much more courage to offer a brand new sprout of an idea, one that hasn’t grown yet and is vulnerable to squishing? Even people who practice creativity in their daily lives might hesitate before risking humiliation, exile, and death.

This is why we need facilitators who bring in toys. We need our normal to be shaken up to allow for new to grow. We need a chance to see that our MSU (Making Stuff Up) is incorrect and no one wants us to die or even feel embarrassed. We need a chance to play around and see what happens without being judged or feeling like we are being judged. This is why we need play.

Coming Together

IMG_5470Crazy Hair Day at school

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the divisions we all face in this world. There are ways that everyone is different from everyone else. Skin color, religion, sexual orientation, interest in catching Pokemon, ability to sit still, how straight our teeth are, there are infinite ways we can find differences between ourselves and others. And it is also true that we are more alike than not. According to Bill Nye the Science Guy:

“We are one species. Each of us much, much more alike than different. We all come from Africa. We all are of the same stardust. We are all going to live and die on the same planet, a pale blue dot in the vastness of space. We have to work together.”

So I want to talk about how play can bring people together. I put up a picture of Crazy Hair Day at school. When everyone does the same silly thing together, it creates a feeling of belonging, of being in on the joke together, of us all being on the same team. When people identify with sports teams, people across socioeconomic and cultural divides find themselves rooting for the same team to win. It brings us together. (It has the potential to divide us too, when we root for opposing teams. This can only be taken so far, after which we have to admit it’s just a game and not worth rioting over.)

There can be deep divisions at work. Management vs union. Developers vs marketing. Local team vs remote team. Us vs them. We don’t have to let those divisions shape us. We can find ways to reach across the aisle and find our common interests, our common humanity. Chances are, all of you want your organization to thrive. You may have different ideas of how to make that happen, but you all want it to happen.

Please, approach differences with curiosity, not animosity. ‘Why do you think that? What is your experience that makes that make sense? Can I tell you how my experience is different? How can we find a solution that works for both of us?’

Life is not a zero sum game. If one person wins, the other person doesn’t automatically have to lose. If one group is celebrated, it doesn’t mean the other groups don’t matter. Some forms of play, like in sports, mean that there is a winner and a loser. But other types of play are there for the sake of playing. There’s no winner in the crazy hair day – everyone plays equally, and enjoys each other joining in the play. And even in sports, everyone can agree that a hard fought contest is fun to watch, that the play was important just for the sake of the play, even if our favorites lost.

Work is not the opposite of play. Depression is the opposite of play. Don’t make the work place so serious that everyone sinks into depression. Let there be lightness, let there be reasons to connect across dividing lines, let there be play.

Change and change again

As you know from my last post, I have been busy home-schooling my son. This spring, hallelujah and hooray, he’s in school again! It’s funny how things happen. The school founder wasn’t going to start it up until the fall, but everything happened so smoothly and easily, she opened in January instead. I expected she’d take my boy in September, but instead my little square peg guy has a square hole to fit in now, rather than trying to get him to fit in a round hole. And I can go back to being a Play Professional!

I was speaking to someone this morning about when LEGO® Serious Play® is useful, and we agreed that times of great change (mergers, new strategic directions, new staff, etc) are times that can use the playfulness and not-making-it-personal-ness of LSP. People will defend their own ideas to the death, but if they can make their ideas into a model, and discuss how this model and that model relate to each other, it makes it easier to accept new views and new directions.

In fact, change happens all the time. Nothing is set in stone. Not my son’s school, not your job, not Leonard Nemoy as Spock. Everything changes. And we have choices when things change. Do we go for play or for outrage? Do we laugh or cry? I was poking around the internet thinking about change and play and flow, and came across this great blog:

http://www.lifefirecoaching.blogspot.com/

Annie Goglia is a laughter coach. She talks on her blog about how to choose laughter over pain, and how laughing can create endorphins, relax stressed and tight muscles, and help people connect. Sounds a lot like play! There are a lot of ways to find joy and connection in our lives. Laughter, play, LEGO® bricks, swing sets, laughter yoga, all just ways to connect to the joy and flow and emotional intelligence we all have inside.

So I urge you to change and change again, unencumbered by fears of inadequacy or uncertainty about what comes next. Laugh, play, be present, choose the best you can with the information you have, and be ready to choose again. We are on a grand adventure, you and I.