#10 – “Development” is a Verb

This is #10 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”

Development is an action.

Like any effective action it requires insight and planning (reflection) to precede it but, at its core, development is about forward movement and progress. This is not to convey an image of “leaps and bounds” but of an active progression of small steps, the accumulation of which lead to new insights and behaviors which you can name as “developmental progress.”

I do not believe in the distinction between “personal” and “professional” development. Development is always holistic. What occurs in one element of your life occurs in all of the others as well.

The good news about that is that the actions one takes in any area of life will ripple across those perceived boundary lines and have impact on a much larger scale.

Development requires a commitment to remain in conversation with the primary themes that are yours to know and own and to gain more and greater understanding about those themes throughout your life.

This is action with no discernible end point which is why, needless to say, it can be very difficult to keep moving forward. These moments or periods of regression make a lot of sense. Past reactions and behaviors are known and comfortable. Establishing new reactions and behaviors can be exhausting and when you’ve had enough, you backslide into the comfort of the old.

At the very least, a regression serves as a reminder that you have moved forward, if not yet to a sustainable level, enough to indicate that it is possible to do so! And this is where remembering that development is a verb is so important. Unless you have given it away, you always retain your agency to act in your own best interest. You always get to choose to take the next step.

Small actions are still actions. And the right small actions, over time, have the potential to lead to compelling change.

metal stairs underwater

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#7 – Get Moving

This is #7 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.”

I feel an energized anticipation when I am getting ready to move.

I feel engaged – challenged, curious, motivated – when I am in motion.

I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, stimulated, creative, purposeful, accomplished, and unstoppable when I return and come to rest again.

Some version of this is true whether it’s a sniff walk with the dog, an aggressive uphill run or a long meander on a forest trail.

I am not made for sitting at a desk for long stretches, though moments of insight, inspiration and even revelation do occur there.

I have determined, however, that those moments occur at a frequency proportionate to the quality of movement that I practice when I am not there.

There is no doubt at all that how well I work, and how affirmatively I live my life, depends on my resolve to get and to keep moving.


A Development Exercise for Your Weekend Enjoyment

Respond to this statement five times: “I am the kind of leader who…”

Then, respond to this statement three times: “Right now, my team is…”

Finally, respond to this statement just once: “The most important thing I can learn next is…”

Once you’ve completed your responses, decide which item about your team is most important to address right now and which item from your leadership attributes should be employed to address it.

For example, if I decide that “Right now, my team is struggling in their transition to a new process” is what needs to be focused on and I also have written down that “I am the kind of leader who invests a lot of time and energy coaching my team” I have just identified the beginnings of my approach to addressing this need.

Ideally, once you have your responses in place you will talk them over with someone. This helps you flesh out your thinking and test drive the “why” of your ideas.

(Optionally, you can replace “leader” with father, mother, friend, colleague or any other role of importance to you right now.)

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know what you think.

photo of woman jumping on box

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Striding into Fall

“Fall is the older season, a more seasoned season. The weather surrounds you instead of beating down on you…The weather is lighter, marbled, and it makes you feel like striding again, makes you glad that so much works at all.”

– Anne Lamott

I am not a slow walker. Slow walking makes me crazy.

I am a strider. My dad was a strider, two of my own steps to match one of his. Always falling behind, hurrying up again.

It’s a blessing and a curse, this not slowing down. Two steps at a time, up we go. Never one.

Here in these late September days, sunny and warm long past Labor Day (perhaps a “second summer”) I am compelled to move with conviction. School is in session and I will not fall behind.

These are days for striding. And it’s because we stride that so much works at all.

The first frost of winter is coming. The harvest will not gather itself.

person wearing yellow jacket walking in forest

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An External Force

“A body at rest will remain at rest and a body in motion will remain in motion (in a straight line) unless acted upon by an external force.”
– Newton’s First Law

You’ve pushed away from the shore; you are flowing down the river. You have officially launched.

The fresh air of decisiveness surrounds you; the current of conviction pulls you along. It is a heady feeling to decide and then to move. And you’ve done it.

And soon, a leak in the boat, an unseen boulder, a confluence of waters, a rapid stronger than it first appeared, will act upon your new endeavor.

You are no longer an object in motion in a straight line. You are now an object that has been acted upon by an external force.

The resistance is real. The external forces, the friction, the barricades, the speed, they confound and frustrate you. And through that narrow space of uncertainty squeezes the internal resistance; the criticism, the voices of your past defeats, the voices of your current insecurities. They are all with you in that leaky, bumpy boat.

You float on, and you remember that it was never about the straight line. You remember that it’s about the joyful gratification of persisting through the jagged line of resistance and solving all of the problems – internal and external – that it represents.

You do not lose heart because you know that with each new leak and bump, you are smarter, wiser and more committed. You persist until there is nothing more you can do or until you get to the place you call “there.”

long exposure photo of river near trees

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Remain in Motion

A couple of summers ago my family did a multi-day whitewater rafting trip on the Rogue River in southern Oregon.

The rapids on the Rogue are mostly Class 2 and 3 with a few Class 4s to get your attention. These latter few are the ones where the guides earn their money.

When we approached the most well known of the Rogue’s Class 4 rapids, quaintly known as “Blossom Bar,” our guides “parked” the rafts on the riverbank, climbed up a rock embankment, and spent a few minutes surveying its present condition.

Equipped with the knowledge gained through observation, the guides instructed us on how to proceed, reiterating commands and outlining our timing. It was purposeful and direct, the way it feels when a leader is clear about her intentions and helps her team understand the roles and responsibilities each team member must fulfill.

It was obvious that the whole effort would go sideways – or upside down – if we missed our mark, but it didn’t. We navigated Blossom Bar with smooth precision because of our guide’s preparation and skill and because of our team’s responsiveness in the moment.

What is so important to emphasize here is that once we were in motion on the river that day, we never stopped. Stopping was not an option for us. Our arrival at Blossom Bar and our pause to get our bearings was an exhibition of the good sense that is required to stay in motion. We could have barreled headlong through Blossom Bar and come out in one piece on the other end. We could have, but that didn’t make any sense, given the larger nature of our enterprise (to get to camp, to see more of the river tomorrow, to get home safely).

We stay in motion; we keep our heading, with a resolve that is informed by both our circumstances and our vision. We do it smartly. We build in the pauses and the rests that slow us down to communicate more effectively, to consider our options and to restore and refresh us.

This is what it means to stay in motion once we start. The alternative, once we’ve gathered the courage to push off from the shore, is to take our chances in an unknown that will, sooner or later, have its way with us.





A Body In Motion

“I realized that – in spite of all the risks involved – a thing in motion will always be better than a thing at rest; that that which is static will degenerate and decay, turn to ash, while that which is in motion is able to last for all eternity.”

– Olga Tokarczuk, Flights

You don’t have to go anywhere to be in motion. And you can go everywhere and be frozen in place.

What truly matters, and what I offer for your consideration on this first day of autumn, is that you get moving on that which moves you.

From your chair, your home, your neighborhood, school or workplace. From the most remote island on the planet. It doesn’t matter where. What matters is that you get and stay in motion.

The leaves are going to fall, and that’s an act of living, another of nature’s extraordinary markers of perpetual renewal.

And then winter, and then spring and then summer, again. It is always moving, a dynamic transformation from light to dark and dark to light. That’s what we can count on and it is freely given, a master class in purposeful change.

If you listen closely, you can hear the season say: “Lighten your load, it’s time to move. In spite of all the risks involved.”

action balls black and white illustration

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Movement is Life

Every time I see the movie, World War Z, I am struck by the scene in which Brad Pitt’s character implores a small family to join his own in escaping the zombies. “Movement is life,” he says, pleading with them to go. He leads his own family away and they survive. The other family stays and dies. 

World War Z was on again tonight and I thought, I should write about that line, “movement is life” and then remembered that I already had, last June. I also thought it was timely that just yesterday I wrote about how “winter” can lull us into stagnancy, getting stuck rather than getting ready. Here’s what I wrote in June. Please take heed: the zombies are closer than you think!

You’re not stuck. You’re just not moving. It’s a choice.

We know that physical movement is essential for a healthy life. And the evidence is mounting that short bursts of activity are just as valuable, sometimes even more so, than long workouts.

The same goes for your project, book, program, idea, concept or initiative.

Its viability over time is wholly dependent on you breathing life into some piece of it, some small piece.

You will never create a facsimile of what’s in your imagination. It just doesn’t work that way. But what it does become may just delight and inspire you in ways you can not predict. The sooner you get moving, the sooner you’ll find out.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world

A Week of Thanks: Day 3

I am thankful for my body.

I am thankful for the way it carried me up and down the streets of San Francisco this morning in my search for an open corner store;

For how it frees me from the creative prison of my head when I am stuck, stuck, stuck on what to write next. And then, like a message from the deep a leg twitches, a suggestion to let the wisdom of movement do the work. Sure enough, a block or two, a mile of two later, an idea breaks loose and runs to freedom.

It is a body that at its authentic best loves to swing, twist, bend, contort, rhythmically and otherwise. It loves to dance.

It is a body that has achieved some milestones – a marathon on one occasion, a few lengthy hikes up some good-sized hills – but has never been truly tested in that regard. Rather, it is one that has allowed me to move freely, quickly, energetically and deliberately forward in the every day; up stairs (two at a time), on a busy sidewalk, through a tedious market, museum or mall. Ever faster. Let’s go! A body that has had to double-back more than once to collect the kids who have been left behind in an urgent march to ‘get there.’

It is a body that has provided the physical bridge, a somatic connection, to the love of my life, the embrace of my children, the warm hug of friendship. It is a hand-holding, arms interlocking, head resting on shoulder, leaning on sort of body. One that has conformed itself to both the huddled embrace of sadness and the exuberant ‘high five’ of joyful celebration. It is a body that has expressed the longing of the heart when words could not be found.

It is a healthy body, most of all. Not a ‘specimen’ mind you, but healthy. And is it ages, a bit less flexible here and there, a bit rusty here and there, I am ever more thankful for how well it has done its work. And I am ever more committed to taking care of it as long as it will have me.

I am thankful for my body.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.