Doing Deep Work

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“It’s all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking to compensate for a self love deficit. “ ~ Eartha Kitt

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A vision quest is a rite of passage in some Native American cultures. It is usually undertaken by young males entering adulthood. Individual indigenous cultures have their own names for their rites of passage. “Vision quest” is an English umbrella term, and may not always be accurate or used by the cultures in question.

Among Native American cultures who have this type of rite, it usually consists of a series of ceremonies led by Elders. The process includes a complete fast for four days and nights, alone at a sacred site in nature which is chosen by the Elders for this purpose. Some communities have used the same sites for many generations. During this time, the young person prays and cries out to the spirits that they may have a vision, one that will help them find their purpose in life, their role in community, and how they may best serve the People.

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I am not a young male entering adulthood. And a vision quest is not what I will pursue. Yet, I am acutely aware of deeper trials that I need to and am choosing to resolve for myself.

“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.” “And the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’” ~ Author unknown

Love Yourself More

There is more meaningful work for this warrior. It is time.

What Others Know About You

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“We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.” ~ W.H. Auden

Eleven years ago I met my first Life Coach. It was Jane who saw that my blocks and my direction were closely connected. We worked for some time to rediscover my direction. One early exploratory exercise that Jane invited me to pursue was to ask five people to describe me in short words/phrases.

Some time later I realized the purpose and benefit of this exercise. You see, most of us believe we know ourselves better than anyone else. And to measurable extents, this may be true. Yet when those five people replied with candid feedback, I read and learned of strengths that I did not clearly see or embrace.

There is a lot about us that we don’t notice or acknowledge because it’s simply who we are and how we’ve developed over years and through learning and experience. Yet there are often attributes/personal gifts/qualities that define us as seen (and known) by others!

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There is comfort in knowing how connected you are to your strengths. When confident in/with your personal gifts, you expand the potential by which you can impact others and effect favorable change. If you find yourself resenting what you’re doing or the way you are living, ask yourself if you are utilizing what you believe are your qualities and what others see in and know about you.

Some times tapping into what others know about you (that you don’t fully see) can awaken you to reconnect with a dream, with your heart or perhaps, with a new calling. New self-awareness may even inspire you to let go of what you perceive(d) as a strength, once you’ve adopted an even more valuable virtue(s).

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If the prospect of learning how others see you intrigues, I invite you to consider the exercise I embarked upon eleven years ago. It was revealing and the insight that was shared helped me to consider a new direction (and a more passionate focus!), simply because I sought candid input from people who knew me as well as I believed I knew myself.

Naming your personal gifts is unusual but the more exact the better. It is important in asking for words and phrases (not sentences) from respondents that they be honest, positively and negatively. The preliminary steps:

  1. Choose four people from among immediate family members, a close friend(s), former schoolmate, partner, spouse, colleague, supervisor (past of present). Aim for a mix from among all of these. The fifth source of input is yourself.
  2. Ask each of them (and yourself) to “Describe me as you know me,” “Describe me as you see me,” and/or “Describe me as you remember me.”
  3. Your lists will contain lots of words and phrases. When you have all of them, print (don’t type) them on a table.
  4. If/when you get this far and want to know what follows, let me know; I’ll craft a follow-on post. This involves some time and work. Yet the results can be quite telling. 🙂

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Credit: Child playing piano / M-IMAGEPHOTOGRAPHY via Getty Images

A Different Way

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“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

Have you ever caught yourself doing something the same way and then asked yourself: 1) Why am I so predictable? or 2) Why not try this differently?

There are many explanations for our conditioned behavior and/or actions, among them: We think, act and create in certain ways because that is likely how we were taught or told; Maybe it seems a more convenient or efficient manner in which to produce a desired outcome or; There exists the possibility that we’ve simply not given ourselves permission to explore or invoke an alternative.

Here is a personal example. I am a ‘night owl.’ I have been seemingly forever. I get much accomplished when other people are winding down their day or perhaps, even asleep. It’s my productive time.

Not long ago I gave pause and considered, could I be just as effective, more creative, maybe an even better problem solver were I to try being a morning lark? And guess what?

downloadTo those of you who can relate to this – one way or the other – you probably understand the challenge in pulling a 180 here and shifting your lifestyle to the early morning or late night hours. This could be brutal!

Yet not every one of us is this adventurous or willing to introduce subtle (or radical) change into our routine. You may be one of those people who enjoy being a creature of habit or living the status quo. And that’s fine.

However, if the prospect of different (and possibly pleasing or beneficial) results intrigue you, then why not step outside of your certain comfort zone?

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Who says you have to plant a kiss squarely? Consider modifying that tried and true recipe. Be open to finding new ways to drive to a regular haven. Act on those crazy ideas you get when showering. Seek a destination that differs from where you always travel.

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Three simple suggestions, for your consideration, if you desire different results:

  1. Follow your heart for a change, even if your mind thinks otherwise.
  2. View something boring or monotonous as an opportunity to mix things up.
  3. Be comfortable dispelling or dismissing boundaries. Invite your inner rebel to act, respond, or be different. Shed your old thinking and welcome a new, distinctive mind-set.

Why not?

Flow of the New Year

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This WordPress community overflows with talented bloggers. We are fortunate to learn from and appreciate one another via our virtual ‘works.’ Truth be acknowledged, some of us have our favorites.

To welcome 2015 I invited Randy Collis to guest author on this blog. His philosophies and photography have mesmerized many, as evidenced in his stunning posts at China Sojourns Photography. In my opinion, his posts are equal parts wisdom, beauty and inspiration. Following are his welcome words. Thank you, Randy.

The New Year ~ these three words bring inspiration and even desperation for many. A New Year can mean an opportunity to re-set life or to continue an upwards trajectory.

It is exciting as it is terrifying, planning a path of success for 2015.  New decisions to be made; decisions that twist stomachs and souls like nothing else as the fear of failure and consequences await.

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The more we dwell on resolutions, the more we get lost in the minutiae and over time, the hope the New Year brings turns to fear.

As resolutions are broken comes the harsh sting of disappointment with a slice of depression. We are thrown off the path we had imagined.

Resolutions tend to be rigid, doomed for failure. Instead, focus on a couple of concepts that will bring happiness: creativity and flow.

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Creativity exists everywhere. A simple walk around a neighborhood, along a stream or in the woods, and a mind can not help but open up with new thoughts.

To create something new within family, within work or within writing – photography – music or art, gives the mind something to savor.  Every day, nature creates a new palette for us to explore.

With creativity, it becomes possible to flow. Instead of bouncing around between the relentless din of technology and screams of customers, suppliers and colleagues ~ step away and flow like water.

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Reflect on Daoist philosophy: where “water has no desire other than to be itself.” Water is in harmony with stress and pressure; using it to flow where it needs to go…

  • Try to pick water up, control and squeeze it, and it will elude.
  • If water remains still, it becomes stagnate ~ to flow is its nature.
  • When it flows it becomes pure ~ and when we flow, our spirit and life tends to flourish.

Therefore, never fret about the proper path to take. Instead, get lost in nature and get lost in yourself.  Allow the creative flow to wash away the pressure of trying to ‘find the right path’.

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As for which path to take, it is human nature to second-guess and wonder about decisions made. Personally, I’ve been intrigued by “what if?” questions.

What if I would have done this or that…where would I be today?

Would I still be happy?

Could I have gone down a dark road instead?

In another time and another place, different situations would leave no doubt I would have flowed down a different path.

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I am intrigued by the idea of multiple universes, so I imagine that there is another me “out there” in a very different situation than I am now ~ perhaps not any better or worse (for who is to judge), just very different.

Differences in the inevitable wild rides between highs and lows that define life, but still pursuing the goal of happiness.

This thought excites me, makes me think of the potential of tomorrow and to create a better “me” today.

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Finding that creative flow pushes aside petty jealousies or anger at perceived slights that do nothing but steal away pieces of life.

Keep it simple and take it slow.

There is an inside joke I have with a few friends (business partners) in China, and that is the similarity of my life with Forest Gump.  I listen.  I trust.  I try to live life well, and somehow through ‘non-action’ (flowing) create a situation where ahead of me are paths, no matter which direction they head, each can lead me to happiness.

And then I just flow along with life; creating and watching as decisions make themselves.

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Encouragement Matters

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“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

I had an unanticipated visit from one of my nephews the past four days. He’s a beautifully grounded 22-year-old college senior. In one of our many conversations it became apparent that he is struggling with who he knows he is and where he sees himself heading versus what his parents want for him. Sound familiar?

I know of few people who don’t welcome and appreciate encouragement; even the most confident and accomplished. Encouragement for good matters, particularly in a world of overly opinionated, overly stimulated people. We are often quick to debate matters, but we need to be just as agile to encourage.

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Encouragement applies everywhere. We can find it in people who are:

  • seeking employment
  • questioning their faith
  • searching for love
  • dealing with family matters
  • lost
  • unwell
  • lacking confidence
  • personally challenged
  • depressed
  • venturing anew
  • daring themselves
  • beaten down

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It’s hard to find fleeting thoughts of encouragement as you watch what is going on in the world today, never mind within our own sphere of influence. If you’re like many people, you rarely hear praise about the things you do well. Positive observations are huge and learning to focus on the positive and giving people genuine feedback, strengthens relationships in ways you may have not imaged.

Discouragement often demoralizes. However, favorable words and actions embolden! If you are inspired to share your heart and talents, these three actions may be worth your time and consideration… and be equally well received:

  1. Praise ordinary accomplishments. Look for the little things that most people take for granted. Make it personal. Look the other person in the eye, pause, and share your words with real meaning.
  2. Ask for advice or confide in someone. This is akin to flattery. You know how you feel when others ask for your advice or confide in you about something personal and important to them. It can be uplifting! Didn’t that action make you want to help and do what you could to ensure their belief in you is well founded?
  3. Show appreciation. Watch for the slightest improvement in someone. Be specific. Tell the person exactly what it is that you appreciate about her or him. Is it their compassion, work ethic, the way they treat others? Maybe it’s someone’s weight loss, organization skills, or willingness to take on a challenging task.

With my nephew, I simply promised to listen and support as he explores and pursues his passions. I sense he appreciated that encouragement.

Do you know someone who can use your encouragement, now?

Considering the Unconventional

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“It is especially important to encourage unorthodox thinking when the situation is critical: At such moments every new word and fresh thought is more precious than gold. Indeed, people must not be deprived the right to think their own thoughts.” ~ Boris Yeltsin

Last week I attended a diverse professional group meeting. Being my first visit, I was invited to rise and tell a bit about myself to this relatively small (>40) group, some of whom I casually knew. I acknowledged that I am a practitioner of the unconventional; a fan, if you will, of unorthodox… defined by Dictionary.com as “not conforming to rules, traditions, or modes of conduct, as of doctrine, religion, or philosophy.”

I suggested they consider me not a rebel, but as someone who challenges stagnation in people and society by looking at areas in our lives most in need of repair or rejuvenation and then, deliberately, not doing what the conformist majority is doing. I am simply someone who encourages the use of information, imagination, and interpersonal skills to pursue life in creative ways — that defends choice yet, defies the herd.

Then there was silence. Followed by warm, welcoming applause. 🙂

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It has been said that the more often you do something the same way, the more difficult it is to think about doing it any other way. Roger von Oech says “We can break out of this ‘prison of familiarity’ by disrupting our habitual thought patterns. He suggests writing a love poem in the middle of the night. Eat ice cream for breakfast. Visit a junk yard. Take the slow way home. Such jolts to our routines will lead to new ideas.”

Learning happens in unconventional ways. Some of us prefer more traditional systems and methods, while others are open to exploring unorthodox ways in which to play, interact, learn, and grow. Rarely is there only one right or wrong way to do things — unless one is a staunch conformist.

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If you’re looking for unconventional ways of viewing what you’ve always been doing, simply use your imagination. Or you can consider any of these three ideas as starters:

  1. Work in the dark. If you’re feeling stifled, try working in a dimmer environment. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology has shown that darkness and dim illumination promote creativity. Other experiments discovered that you can gain insight by simply priming yourself with the idea of darkness – even just describing an experience of being in the dark.
  2. Generate provocative statements and then use them to build new ideas. This allows people to explore the nature of perception and how it limits creativity and possibilities. Provocation challenges limitations and can serve as an alternative to judgment. It allows us to develop a provocative idea into something viable and realistic.
  3. Re-educate. Our future can be seen in the quality of our youngest generation yet the current models of building quality people seem to be falling short. New modalities such as green schooling, homeschooling and even un-schooling children offer hope for something different. With access to unlimited educational resources via the Internet, almost anyone can educate themselves in myriad fields, and so the re-education of individuals is an act of considerable non-conformity.

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You As Yoda

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“Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.” ~ Richard Bach

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker discovers that he needs help on his journey to become a Jedi Knight. He recognizes that he cannot achieve his true potential without some guidance and training. He needs someone to provide direction and practical knowledge so he can acquire the understanding and skill to use The Force, the energy in the universe, wisely and effectively.

Yoda, who Luke meets on an isolated planet in the galaxy, initially appears to be an unlikely guide for such a momentous journey. Yet Yoda puts up with Luke’s initial insolence and arrogance, takes him under his pointed ears and manages to bring out the Knight that is within him. Yoda demonstrates, as the mentor to mentors, how to give support to a promising individual, how to offer challenges that permit one to learn and grow, and how to provide vision so that the “mentee” gains confidence and, eventually, independence.

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Have you ever been a Yoda to someone? Or perhaps, thought about being a Yoda? There are many ways to support someone who is exploring and willing to discover their true potential: there are teachers, trainers, coaches, guides, and obviously, mentors. These roles are not mutually exclusive.

So what makes a mentor unique? A mentor is an individual willing to become part of a supportive and diverse community of learners, open to sharing experiences, vulnerability, and expertise. A mentor is a person who models the need to continue learning as a life-long adventure. S/he is a person who has learned through success as well as challenge. A mentor realizes that respect is always an earned commodity. And a mentor accepts others in humanity.

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I have been blessed to have had several mentors; individuals who were as honored to support my growth (and at times arrogance), just as I was privileged to receive their tutelage. I’ve also been on the giving side of this relationship. As a mentor, I get to model the professional values and behaviors to those with and for whom I serve. It’s a win-win proposition.

There are many ways to be an effective mentor. If contributing in this capacity is something you might be good at and interested in, here are three ways to consider serving:

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  1. Guide and Counsel. You can serve as a confidant, sounding-board, or personal adviser to your mentee, especially as the relationship grows deeper over time. You may help your mentee understand conflict or explore ways to deal with problems.
  2. Share rather than teach. Mentoring is not about overtly teaching someone everything they need to know. It’s more about building relationships. Sharing from your heart bypasses any resistance and helps a mentee forge their own direction. This ensures they gain the right knowledge within the appropriate context of life lessons like persistence, self-awareness, and diligence
  3. Follow-up. If you’re going to start the process, make sure to be consistent and follow-up. Make arrangements to meet for coffee, phone calls, etc., every couple of months or at a frequency that works for both schedules. Mentoring only works if you do!

The Art of Discourse

“There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for. And questions are the breath of life for a conversation.”

~ James Nathan Miller

I attended a social function last weekend; a mid-afternoon mix of people I knew and others who I’d yet to meet. I’m often aware at such functions, not critically aware, simply as a participant who listens and watches, just as much as I engage. Remember, this was a social gathering. 🙂

I am a “connector.” I enjoy bringing unknown parties together. Sometimes these random introductions click and other times they fizzle. I’ve developed an interest in watching and trying to understand why some new couplings/groupings flourish and others wane. What I’ve gleaned (this may be unsurprising to some) is that there are gifted conversationalists and there are those who have yet to learn the art of effective and engaging conversation.

We know that conversation is a great way to share our everyday stories. It often greases the ‘connection’ skid. Think about some of the most important moments in your life and about the relationships you have. The foundation of nearly all of these is conversations. When we are learning about one another, we are listening and enjoying simple moments together.

Some people are conversation naturals. Others may think they are good at conversing. Most recognize that taking one’s turn in a conversation (think weaving in a tidbit here and there) and thinking before you speak (beware of foot-in-mouth), are generally accepted and encouraged etiquette. Yet there are other practices that can help one become an even more appreciated communicator. For your consideration, these three:

  • Come to an occasion with topics in mind. En route to an event, think about the (known and unknown) people who will/may be in attendance. Brainstorm stories you can share and questions you can ask. Think, too, about things that may interest those you meet for the first time. Be prepared to ask them about the unique aspects of their locale. Consider asking those who do not know others better for some background information.

  • Try to ask open-ended questions; questions that cannot be answered with “yes or no.” Asking someone if they enjoyed the show calls for a “yes or no” response. Asking what they thought about the performers requires more thought. Be ready to contribute to the conversation.
  • Exercise courtesy. Remove and turn-off all electronic devices. How can you have a meaningful conversation when you allow yourself to be distracted by a       technological instrument? If you have to stay connected put your phone on           vibrate and if you must take an important call, excuse yourself from the                 conversation. A lack of consideration is simply rude. Agreed?

Left Brain, Right Brain

“A creative idea will be defined simply as one that is both novel and useful (or influential) in a particular social setting.” ~ Alice Flaherty

We have many creative people in our world. Many, conveniently, blog among us. In the WordPress Reader I recently found a Chris Delatorre post. He’s a creative thinker and (if you’ll pardon the simple word) doer.

Being creative or artistic doesn’t mean you know how to draw or play an instrument. Being creative is a way of thinking, a way of viewing the world. Creative people simply use the right side of their brains more than the left. The enduring question with creativity has always been whether the defining factors come from nature or nurture. Everyone can learn to be creative to some degree, but new Cornell University research has revealed that the extent to which we’re born creative may be greater than previously thought.

As a hardwired ‘left brainer,’ I find some comfort in now knowing this. 🙂

In one of his posts, Chris writes that he believes science and art ought to make a home together. In this video, Max Cooper creatively depicts life coming into being, blooming and then vanishing. I’d be challenged enough to find the right words to express that, let alone create what he has visually.

Researchers have also confirmed that creativity flourishes in solitude. With quiet, you can hear your thoughts, you can reach deep within yourself, you can focus.

If exploring the right side of your corpus callosum is something that interests you, here are three easy enablers:

  1. Pause from business thinking. Or any kind of thinking that requires intense focus. While it might be challenging to step outside ‘business mode,’ the mind sometimes needs a rest from bottom-line thinking. Consider taking a mental vacation and indulge in something you’re passionate about. Then come back, refreshed, to the task(s) at hand. You may see things in a very different light. Being with beautiful things (art, nature, passions) creates connections that we often neglect to notice.
  2. Shut down your inner critical voice. Notice I said “critical.” Don’t think. Disable the part of your brain that observes what you’re doing. This is your ego, your sabotage, your self-consciousness. Be in the moment (I know, I say this often). Stop second-guessing everything you’re doing. It serves no purpose to be hard on yourself. Remind yourself that you are creative and that you’re doing what you’re doing not to impress anyone.
  3. Experiment and play with possibility. It’s easy to dismiss unusual or different solutions which you haven’t tried. People often think of all the possible ways that something won’t work. And they easily dismiss the idea of experimenting. We can’t foretell the future even though many would like to. Simply go forward into it in a creative and exciting new way.
Source: Getty Images

Source: Getty Images

Live Your Epic Life

                          Byron Davis“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”

~ R. Buckminster Fuller

A former American record holder (swimming), an Ironman Triathlete, a career coach and founder of the epic life project, Byron Davis has a gift for helping people get unstuck and to transform their passions into lives and careers they love. Byron is the author of “RePurposed: The Art of Winning Through Letting Your Obstacles Lead the Way.”

He is also a friend and was my guest on last week’s Awakening to Awareness radio show. A sought-after conference speaker, Byron is entertaining to watch and easy to understand. He helps audiences reverse limiting beliefs on the spot and teaches them to use the simple power of personal narratives to quickly establish new habits and activate their God-gifted potential.

In an amazing one-hour conversation Byron shared thoughts on how fear holds people back; his interesting concept on time; why accountability is important for each of us and; how both relationships and systems are essential for moving forward. He also talked about the role storytelling plays in becoming more self-aware and for fulfilling one’s desires and ambitions, as well as why we find some lessons/teachings difficult to receive.

If you’re interested in listening and learning more, here’s a link to the show podcast. Byron is a high energy guy, who has studied human behavior and potential for years. He can be contacted through his web site or here.