Playful

“We have no empirical evidence that being more serious leads to greater insight into the human condition than being playful. There is, however, growing empirical evidence that being playful opens toward the ever-elusive, supple heart.”
John Paul Lederach


There is only one thing I miss…that I truly miss…from going to work every day at an organization, from being an employee, on a team, responsible to deliver what’s been promised.

That thing? The fun of it. The playfulness, the messing around, the good humor, the connection and camaraderie. Enjoying myself at work – playing at work – is something I never got tired of and that I miss very much.

As a “sole practitioner” I have to work very hard to create the kind of playfulness that, inside the walls of the company – in the right conditions, of course – happens organically. I have regular and irregular phone calls and email/text exchanges with friends and colleagues that help me keep perspective, have a laugh and enjoy the experience of my day-to-day work. And that’s essential because I can take my work much too seriously on far too many days.

I am reminded today that the intensity of my furrowed brow suits my work only insofar as it moves me toward lightness and freedom. I realize that I can measure this by checking whether I am inching myself closer to the playground than to the principal’s office.

That the seriousness of my endeavor can be for the purpose of creating more playfulness – rather than just more work “product” – seemed an irreconcilable difference to me for far too long. That my work is and always needs to be playful, given all of the best effort I can muster, is what makes it worth doing. And what makes those on the receiving end much more appreciative of what I offer.

I love my work. Some days I love it so much that I squeeze the life right out of it. Some days, better days, I hold it lightly…so lightly that it just starts to float away. And I can sit back and smile as I watch it go.


This is for my friend, Alia.

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Your Natural Best

It’s Wednesday. You’re busy. Your week is flying by and you don’t have time to read this post.

Pause.

Take a breath. (Count to 4 on the inhale and 4 again on the exhale. Repeat if you so desire)

D  e  e  p       b  r  e  a t  h.

Ok, then, just a quick thought experiment before you get back into the mix. Do you have just another moment for that? Here it is:

  1. Who are you at your “natural best”?
  2. Have you been at your natural best this week?
  3. If so, how did that feel?
  4. If not, what’s in the way?

You and me? We’re both much happier and we’re certainly more engaged when we’re operating at our natural best.

Something to consider, here on a busy Wednesday. Because, of course, none of this will ever work as well as it can if we’re all busy doing impressions.

Time for the real thing. Time for you and me to shine.


lamp post

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HT to the ever thoughtful Andy Wong.

You Are the Sun

“Businesses must view people not as resources but as sources. A resource is like a lump of coal; you use it and it’s gone. A source is like the sun – virtually inexhaustible and continually generating energy, light and warmth. There is no more powerful source of creative energy in the world than a turned-on, empowered human being.”

– from Conscious Capitalism


You are a source of creativity, passion and purpose.

Everything you need you already have within you. And, the world will let you down if you expect it to consistently honor and recognize this for you. So, you must find both the resolve and the means to become the author of your own power, by what you read, by the quality of people with whom you interact and by the way you spend your time; by focusing on what makes you larger, more fulfilled, more complete and more passionate.

This is the undiscovered country of our existence, as I see it: to take 100% of the responsibility for surfacing and sustaining our most “turned on, empowered” selves. That is the version so brimming with positive energy and compassion that every room, every conversation, every endeavor is better because you’re involved.

This week, starting now, let’s give ourselves the gift of being a source instead of a resource. And let us trust that the more ownership we take for discovering and revealing the sun within ourselves, the more we will help others do the same.


brown and green grass field during sunset

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Poem for a Sunday Morning

Into Deep Water
{David Berry}

Put out into deep water. Go to the depths that frighten you.

Find there, in the shadowy darkness of the water a revelation of who you are.

Only then will you be equipped to determine what serves you and what must be thrown back.

Put out into deep water. Go to the depths that frighten you.

Find there, in the shadowy darkness of the water a revelation of who loves you, just as you are.

Only then will you be equipped to close the difficult distance between the fear of loss and the exponential truth of full relationship.

Put out into deep water. Go to the depths that frighten you.

Find there, in the shadowy darkness of the water a revelation of new learning.

Only then will you be equipped to say “I am, and always have been a beginner.”


man under body of water

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Set Them Free

The small man
Builds cages for everyone
He
Knows.
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
For the
Beautiful
Rowdy
Prisoners.

~ Hafiz


Today, will you build more cages or drop more keys?

The “small” leader needs to control because he feels out of control. He is small because he does not trust himself which means he cannot trust others. He is small because change frightens him, imagination freezes him, possibility unnerves him. He is small because what he cannot imagine for himself he must disallow for others.

The “sage” is a towering figure not because of stature but because of presence. His equanimity comes from learning to see control as an easy, costly fantasy. He trusts himself because he knows himself; he has done the work. And by doing the work he has developed the capacity to accept the unfinished in others. He is unfinished as well.

The sage welcomes change, because it is inevitable. Imagination is his wellspring of possibility, energizing both mind and heart. He knows that he is a catalyst for the emergence of these qualities in others.

Their rowdiness does not unsettle him; it’s what makes them beautiful. And he takes seriously his responsibility to unlock it because otherwise it will die.

The sage is the very best of who we can be.


rusted grey padlock in selective focus photography

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From Theory to Practice

Oh, what I would give to have my ideas show up on the page, in the speech, in the classroom, in the coaching session as beautifully formed as when they first took flight in my imagination.

Alas, it never happens that way. Not once, not ever.

So I persist, as you do, in taking the inspiration of that starting point and turning it into “good enough.” Understanding that “good enough” is more than just “something,” that it is everything. Because without it we are left with nothing.

And nothing is not an option. Not when there’s this much possibility. Not when there’s this much to do.


 

Why Stories Matter

“In the particular is contained the universal.”
{James Joyce}


We tell stories to create connection. We create connection because it builds trust. We build trust so that we can rely on one another. We rely on one another because we don’t – even on our most selfish, ego-bound days – want to go it alone.

Most of all, we tell stories because they remind us that our humanity is not only shared, but bound up together, inextricably linked for all time.


silhouette of person holding glass mason jar

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Quiet Power

When the power went off unexpectedly today, the washer and dryer stopped, the dishwasher cut short its cycle and the lights clicked off. The TV and its attachments were disabled, and there would be no charging of phones or computers for over four hours. Dinner plans were made, “Plan A” if the oven was functional, “Plan B” if not. And under no circumstances was the refrigerator or freezer to be opened.

It was a brief, not unpleasant, but wholly conspicuous reminder of our dependency on effective sources of power. When power is present and available to us, it is an invisible force that allows us to go about the day secure in our focus on matters of creativity and connection rather than on contingency plans for keeping food cold.

Human power, when capably and humbly applied is a source of reassurance and possibility. As you have no doubt experienced, when it is applied with arrogant insecurity, everything that worked seamlessly before comes to an abrupt and disruptive halt.


windmills on seashore under white clouds

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Freedom to Create, Freedom to Lead

Those who allow themselves to be challenged and changed will be the new creative leaders of the next period of history.
{Richard Rohr}


The disciplines of creativity and leadership require freedom from the limitations that stem from our undeveloped, unexamined selves.

You cannot be creative if you are continuously second-guessing yourself, consumed by concern about other’s opinions or stifled by perfectionism. It just doesn’t work that way. And the same goes for leadership.

To do either effectively demands agility, flexibility, exploration and the ego strength that only comes from robust self-awareness.

Creative leadership, then, exists when the leader engages the team in an open and ongoing conversation about what is working, what is not, where we are going and what we can do to get there.

Creative leadership, then, requires a dedicated effort to normalize change as the best friend of our future effectiveness.

When we celebrate our freedom, the independence gained from breaking old constraints, we are also called to celebrate the opportunity to be stewards of a new creation.


bird animal freedom fly

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