Monday, July 29, 2013

The Complexity of Connecting

Struggling to connect...
I often find myself struggling to connect with other individuals.  I find this personal challenge not only appears in conflicts at work and home, but also manifests in friendly interactions.  This often undermines both team cooperation and personal intimacy with loved ones.  Connections develop trust and respect which in turn support cooperation and understanding.  I am looking at my own past ability to build connections and learning new ideas to become more effective.

I am learning the power of turning my attention inward.  The more effort I put into exploring the complexity of myself, the more I see similar complexity in others.  This illumination of the complexity of others inspires me to throw off my assumptions and generate curiosity.   I am finding this curiosity for others’ depth underpins my successes in empathetic connection.  As a result, my peers tell me I am becoming a softer, gentler and more reliable ally at both work and home.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thankful for Kind Criticism

I am exhausted.  I just spent large portions of my weekend tearing apart a recent blog post, rewriting it from the ground up.

I had the fortune of receiving a detailed critical analysis of one of my blog posts.  I had submitted the post to a review committee for possible inclusion in a hard copy publication. The reviewer honored me by identifying my potential and respecting me enough to hit me with brutal honesty about the issues with my writing.

Reading the comments, I was struck with fear and anxiety.  I felt so exposed having my work torn apart and examined on a cold slab.  At the same time, I could not look away.  This reviewer identified deep patterns of grammar, structure, and attitude to which I was blind up until this point.  The attitude comment hit me the hardest.

I expend a large effort extolling the virtues of empathy on this blog and elsewhere.   I was shocked looking back at my blog post, I had spent almost no energy really seeing my work from a reader's point of view.  My blog post had followed my personal train of thought meandering across topics and viewpoints leaving a mess that was confusing and at times insulting.

I am so happy to have had a reviewer who could look past the severe structural issues with my writing, and see a valuable core idea within.  It is wonderful to have such supportive people in my life.  More thanks goes to Sharon who helped me immensely in editing my revised submission.

If my revised submission is accepted, I will be sure to publish it here for your enjoyment.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Be A Hero, Right This Moment

Can you be a hero for your values in your life? Can you start in this very moment?

Tales of heroism most often recount a singular moment in an extreme situation. The truth is very different. The most inspiring heroes, who do the most good, result from consistency in action in ten thousand little steps.  If we are to be truly viewed as a hero, it has to be our authentic self that is seen.  We are most authentically seen in the everyday interactions we take, one step at a time.

What Greater Triumph...

What greater triumph, to find empathy for one's own emotions among the kaleidoscopic pageantry created by mere words?

"What greater triumph, to find empathy for one's own emotions among the kaleidoscopic pageantry created by mere words?"

We know all to well the dangers of falling into the disorienting fog of the manipulating language of others, but how often do we stop to take a clear look at our own language? After all, isn't our conscious mind just another "other" to the truth of our inner experiences?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Humility of Honesty - Overcoming the Inner Critic

The beautiful Sunken Garden at Butchart Gardens shot with a tilt shift effect reveals a beautiful and delicate model world.
A Small Wonder - Grooming a happy mind and body
takes a lot of small moves incessantly over a lifetime.
Yesterday I was debilitated by a major stomach flu. I had cold sweats, body aches, nausea, cramps, and other icky bodily things. All my body wanted to do was rest. I had the common sense to stay home from work.  But...

I found a part of myself quietly nagging:

  • You could be at that learning class this morning.
  • You could make it to that finance meeting.
  • You could be selling your unneeded things on eBay.
  • You could be making more memes for your blog.

This is a very deep voice implanted a very long time ago.

Talking this over with Sharon, she noted that it is OK to take care of yourself. She stated, just because you are home does not mean you are doing nothing. Indeed, I have been learning recently that effective self care is not inconsequential and requires significant dedication. In order to be successful this dedication must happen not only in the moment, but consistently over all times and all locations.

That voice in my head was making an assumption that self care requires no real energy, dedication, resources, or time.  It assumed that self care is something one does only as a last resort, when nothing else needs to be accomplished.  These assumptions are not true and fall with only a moment's scrutiny.  The voice is a part of my mecosystem now and forever, so trying ignore it, to prove it wrong, or to lock it up is disrespectful and destructive to the self.

Instead I listen calmly and with curiosity.  Like anyone with whom I have a conflict, I listen and ask questions to find out what goals we each have, and against what values we are measuring.  In the end, I have found that even the most annoying nagging voice, has the best of intentions at heart.  It just does not know any other way to communicate.

I have told Sharon many times, that my current primary goal in life is to be my greatest hero.  Here I have found one more way I can step up and demonstrate to my parts, the honesty, curiosity, patience, and humility I hope they can learn to show going forward.

What do you think?  How do you handle that nagging voice?  Where do you think it came from?  From what do you think it protects you?

Evaluating Evaluation

On what basis you assign meaning? What do you flag as important? What do you dismiss as a blur?

The world outside me is filled with stuff, people, and events. The value of that external world is held deep within me, the result of my evaluation based on internal principals.

A thing can hold no value, no emotion, no magic.  It is I who hold all emotion, all value, all magic.  It is mine to assign or remove at will.  We each hold this amazing power.  With these evaluations we can create great pleasure and peace, or great pain and conflict.

Each time we hold our evaluations dear as inseparable components of our inner selves, we take responsibility for those valuations.  We are forced to take pause, give due consideration, act with humility so as not to soil our name, nor disrespect all that got us here.  With each solid evaluation we are able to take pride in our accurate perception of the world and our ability to clearly hold our values dear.

On the other hand, each time we project our evaluations out into the world as though they are independant universal facts of reality, our evaluations become seemingly much more powerful in their supposed lack of subjectivity.  In divorcing our evaluations from ourselves, we loose responsibility for those values.  We insulate ourselves from the risk of error and in turn encourage error prone haphazard value judgement.

Unseen Assumptions

Debating solutions is irrational, if goals are left unspoken in a kaleidoscope of unseen assumptions.
Loosing Track of Why
I have seen all to well my own addictions, searching for solutions to issues while I leave goals mired in fog. I have found this issue of ignoring the question of why, while obsessing over the options of how, very common. I wrote last year about one of the first times I really noticed a business conflict about solutions had not included goal identification.

As I hinted at earlier this week discussing conflict resolution methods; whys are the foundation for resolving our issues quickly and peacefully. I believe the importance of why is common knowledge, but so often we each are happy to sail past foundational questions and assumptions. Back in school, if we were asked to solve a math problem without being given all of the goals and parameters, we would be quick to point out the irrationality of the request.

Avoiding Why

Why helps us answer questions quickly. This is an asset if our goal is to move past an issue. But what if that is not our goal? What if our goal is to relish the pain of conflict, indecision, and anticipation? I can't deny the chemical releases of these feelings are definitely electrifying and have been studied to be addictive.

I know this very well first hand. For a decade I would find myself drawn to the flashlight isle of each Target or home store. I was enamored with the colors, options, features, and price points of the array of lighting choices. I had this nagging doubt about my preparedness for a power outage or nighttime search. I almost never purchased, but I relished the minutes I would spend looking. I was looking for a what; what flashlight would I need? But I was avoiding the why; why do I need a flashlight?

It turns out I never needed a flashlight. What I needed was a problem which had no solution. I needed the feeling which results from having lots of solutions and no basis to pick one. I also needed the feeling of pressure, of critical need that a solution must be picked.

As I have continued my journey of self-knowledge, I now know much more about what I was doing all those years. It has been hard won knowledge, and the answer is not pretty to face, but I am much more content and integrated as a result.

What repetitive behaviours do you perform which don't seem lead to any specific conclusion?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Personal Hero

You could avert someone from decades of repetition, trying to scratch an internal itch with an external action. That would be true heroism.

We all know people who use external behaviors to attempt to address internal issues. The psychology of substance addiction being well documented as a person's compensation for internal pains. One great article on this topic is: Effects of Child Abuse and Neglect - Its Role in Alcoholism & Addiction

While these extreme cases garner much attention, for everyday life, I have noticed constantly most everyone participating in these types of external/internal dichotomies at some level for numerous topics. I wrote in depth on one particular example which occurred at a business lunch last year: Someone Who Can't Stand...Themselves?

I have found personally that it is very hard to see these dichotomies in action within ourselves.  This is another value of having a trusted other nearby to watch out for you.  An empathetic and honest outsider can see the repetition and irrationality in our behaviors clearly, if they have the bravery to call us on them.

What internal itches do you scratch with external actions or experiences? How has that worked so far?

Eyeing the Storm

People rain on our parades. Empathy sees the vast complexity of their storm. Humility knows their storm cannot be pinned down by us. Respect knows they can choose to break free of their patterns. Honesty sees all too often we are the storm for others.
Inspired by the post Empathy, Curiosity and Intrigue

We stand against the wind being soaked by the torrents of another.  Do we focus on our wetness, uncomfort, and inconvenience?  Do we look past our immediate condition and behold the majesty of the storm? Do we seek shelter away from the powerful forces?

I guess it all depends on if we anticipated the storm.  Did we come well equipped?  Did we make provisions for drying off and warming up after?

How about you?  Are you prepared for the next big one?  What will you do in the face of the storm of another's emotions?  What will you do in the face of your own?

Into the Dark

I risk creeping into that dark place inside where I hold pain, fear & anger. I seek to understand my present, unravel my past, and ensure my future.
Looking into the jungles of our inner emotions: The Lesson of a Soccer Goal
As my partner Sharon and I have built up our relationship we have discovered a powerful pattern: Pushing through pain honestly yields peace and freedom, while ignoring pain and covering it with fog yields torment and resentment.

For the last 12 months our mantra has been "Head towards pain."  Pain has become a beacon to attract us to experiences  feelings, and histories which need attention.  Once we give the needed attention to these things, we find ourselves coming out the other side with strength, respect, and wisdom.

It is such a shame that we have only now found this pattern so many decades into our lives.  There are so many pains needing so much attention.  Pushing towards pain is grueling and arduous work, but each resolution becomes a firm brick laid and interlocked to support our future adventures.

As for today; what more risky, thrilling, and complicated adventure could we choose than running the boobitrapped gauntlet to find our authentic selves?

Honor the Noble Few

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss Actually they will be honored.
Speaking Your Straight Truth in a World of Manipulation

Those who are open to hearing your honest expression of your thoughts and feelings will be honored that you trust them with your truth. You have placed them in a small elite group of personalities who can hear raw honesty without fight or flight.

In bestowing this honor you will have gained treasured advisors.  People who will value your honesty and integrity such that they will be able to offer support, curiosity, and empathy when you end up being dishonest with yourself or others.

In this way systems of honesty and honor are self correcting and self reinforcing.  As such, those first few steps of genuine communication will be painful, but confidence and freedom quickly follows.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Emotional Boundaries - Inside and Out

There is wonderful clarity in focusing on the internal roots of emotions, not the external triggers spark our fire.

The Lesson of a Soccer Goal - The Source of Emotions

There is a continual obfuscation of the truth of emotions in our culture. Perennially emotions are portrayed as something outside ourselves; something beyond our reach:

  • A cartoon character is shown with a cloud over his head when he is sad.
  • We exclaim, she made me feel bad! As if we were not involved, and the important factor was external.
  • The Incredible Hulk is shown as having no control over his rage which is created by some external invasive serum.
The truth though, is much different. Emotions are feelings; feelings of the brain. Other feelings we know well are: hunger for the stomach, exhaustion for the lungs, urgency for the bladder, or cramping for the muscles. All organ feelings are internal alarms that notify our conscious mind about the needs of our bodies.  Emotions are the feelings that let our conscious mind know the needs of our brain as an organ.

Our brain thrives on a diet of learning and interaction, mental exploration of our world.  Our emotions let us know if we are feeding our brains well leading to curiosity and determination.  Emotions also let us know if our brain is having trouble digesting contraindications, conformity, hypocrisy, and immorality.

For a deeper look at this subject, be sure to click back the blog post:

Accepting Oatmeal Conversations

Hiding the truth of your experience will guarantee a steady stream of oatmeal like conversations from here to the end of your time.
Read more about truth in relationships here:
Identifying Truth in Real Time - Is it Safe?

I am very passionate about exploring the infinite complexity of being human. Each of us has hundreds of thousands of hours of experiences which have been foundational to: who we are today, what we value, what piques our interests, and what motivates our choices.

We each have more amazing, complex, and thought provoking things to talk about than we could ever explore.  This means if we are engaged in a boring pasty grey interaction, it is by the choice of both parties involved.  This state is most often driven by fear.  For what else but fear and the resulting self defenses could possibly hold us back from the torrent of intellectual and emotional adventure we each long to share?

We so often hide our true experience  our passions, our feelings, our dreams, all in the name of "self protection."

What good is self protection if it enables us to continue to...drip...away...our...hours around those with whom we fear sharing our true selves?

Choosing Hollow Shadows

When we choose to withhold our true feelings from others, we choose to live a life of hollow shadows.

Emotional honesty is my greatest personal value.  The more I have become empathetic to my own emotions, the more cohesive and authentic my external persona has become.  My new sensitivity to my own emotions has opened up my empathy for the internal states of others.  My relationships have strengthened, and my business effectiveness has soared.

My very first blog post (Identifying Truth in Real Time - Is it Safe?was on the topic of emotional honesty.  Since that post I have come to realize emotional honesty must start with one's self before it can be moved on to others.

In what relationships do you practice emotional honesty now?
With whom would you like to try greater honesty of your feelings?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

That Was Great! - Moving On Before the End

I have really enjoyed riding my shiny blue motorcycle to I put it up for sale.

My 2005 Kawasaki Vulcan 800 could be yours!

"I've decided to sell my motorcycle."

"I thought you loved it?"

"I do, I'm just ready to love something else..."

Arguing & Compromise - In Pursuit of Dispute Resolution

When you are in a conflict which applies to you more?
I see disagreements constantly in both my work and personal life.  Being drawn to passionate, driven people and industries, I have much experience with many conflicts of ideas an preferences.  As I have matured, I have been taught much about the most common methods of conflict resolution, argument and compromise.

I have only recently been exposed to other methods of resolution such as discussion (debate) and negotiation.  These two methods in particular are very rarely seen in day to day resolution attempts.  They both are a complete about face from the common methods noted above.  In both cases, discussion and negotiation, turn the personal dynamic of the interaction from one of adversaries to one of mutual cooperation in pursuit of a resolution.  There is a fundamental switch of the outcome from a win/loose, to a win/win resolution.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

You Are Worth Discussing - The Fear of Revealing Ourselves

Recently I was pondering the common fear most of us have against talking about our individual self in an open and honest way with others.  We most often filter our experiences from others and hold back our deepest feelings and insights.  If we are not careful, we can end up saying, "I don't feel comfortable sharing myself."

Inside vs. Outside
I would like to challenge you to join me in exploring the critical nature of internal vs. external when talking about yourself.  In identifying the truth about what is internal and what is external, you can begin to establish boundaries with which you can secure your person from both internal and external attack. Boundaries also allow you to firmly establish for what you are responsible and for what you are not responsible.
I would like to venture out on a limb and guess that; we do not fear sharing ourselves, at all.
It is very likely that each of us have learned to blur the line between internal and external things in our lives and as a result our thoughts on why we hesitate sharing ourselves are clouded.  To explore this topic we will have to look at an analogy for our fears, as well as look at what the self really is that we would be sharing.  

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Creativity - What Is It? Where Is It?

Creativity is a Process of the Subconscious

Ever since the time of Socrates it has been pointed out that as a rule, creative people have no explanation as to where their creativity comes from, nor how it works.  (This is why most actors, artists, and musical stars stumble into their prime of creativity after years of repetition, then loose their edge just as quickly a decade or so later.)

It is said that 80% of our brain's power is in our subconscious, the part of our mind which evolved millions of years ago.  This brain part is a power house of processing; it is all about taking in external data, crunching it, and outputting a result in a flash.  This is the brain with which most animals operate, hence their non-rational, quick reaction behavior.  (For an entertaining and revealing take on the lighting quick power of the subconscious, read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.)

The remaining 20% of our brain, the conscious mind, is the novel development which has sprung us to success as a species and is in fact only a few hundred thousand years old.  Consciousness is the inhibitor that allows us to double check our reactions, step out of the moment, and evaluate long term implications. It is our ability to self-reflect, to see ourselves as a discrete object to be studied and understood, which appears to be unique to all other creatures on earth.  This novel ability to identify a "me" has boon for our survival, but has born an unheard of component of the mind: the ego.

Now that we have a self, our conscious ego sees its own singular power and thinks, "Wow, I am great!"  The conscious mind has no direct access to the subconscious, so it has no direct way to evaluate the power and wisdom contained there.  The result is that most individuals have very little respect for their subconscious and tend to try to run their lives completely in their conscious mind.  This is like trying to drive a car on the highway in second gear; it is stressful, low powered, and touchy.

I posit that one's level of creativity is directly connected to how much one is affected by their subconscious mind.  Often, it is the individuals who have experienced the most trauma in their lives who end up having the most access to the creativity of their subconscious.  Since the subconscious communicates to the conscious using feelings of emotions, emotionally stressful trauma often strengthens ones bridge to one’s primal mind allowing more direct leverage of the raw creative power it generates.

Exploration of the subconscious, and its communication signals, the emotions, is a passion of mine.  If you are curious as well, I would love to hear your thoughts.  We have lots to talk about!

Breaking In - A Career In Theme Park Design

As an architect and owner's representative who specializes in theme park design and renovation, I am often approached by individuals who are interested in making a career of designing for the themed destination entertainment industry. Since each individual's path is different, I can not presume to give specific directions, but what I can do is offer up some mindset changing insights which can start the person on the path to self empowerment and empathy for others.  Traits which will serve them well in their quest for a meaningful career.

What follows is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to an individual seeking a career as an Architect in themed design.