Silence Amidst the Noise

Above all, be alone with it all,
a hiving off, a corner of silence
amidst the noise, refuse to talk,
even to yourself, and stay in this place
until the current of the story
is strong enough to float you out.

{from Coleman’s Bed by David Whyte}

The season of Advent has an exceptional quality of quiet, reflective waiting. It is a period of darkness, punctuated by the seasonal reality of the shortest days of the year, within which exists both the invitation and the expectation of the gift of light. It is no accident that the shortest day of the year comes right at the end of this time.

This brief four-week season, as it is understood in the context of Christianity, can also be thought of as a time of filling up. Gradually we gather our thoughts and reflections, we attempt to live the questions of our own becoming with intention and we work to stay grounded in the simplicity of a period of time, the sole purpose of which is to mark the birth of an immigrant child into the humblest possible circumstances.

It is that birth that we understand as the light that finally punctuates the darkness, a new life representing the blessing of all living things and, for believers, the incarnate promise of everlasting life.

But that’s getting ahead of things. That light is still a long way off and that filling up has only just begun.

For now, it is the dark and the quiet that command my attention and support my intention. To find the “silence amidst the noise” is a gift to myself as I attempt to reconcile my unanswered questions against the certainty the world demands. To rush what cannot be rushed is to seek protection from the anxiety of feeling stuck.

To stay here, in these questions during this time, is to trust that there is water rising (even if I cannot see it) and the current is forming (even if I cannot feel it) and that if I can just hold on long enough it will float me out of the darkness of the unknown and into the light of understanding.

leaf floating on body of water

Photo by Cole Keister on

A Different Kind of Darkness

These early days of December are beautifully dark and brief. I am up before dawn most mornings and enjoy the privilege of watching the sunrise from the warm comfort of the living room. It is in this quiet place, as a witness to the new day, that I find myself most at ease with the unknowns of my experience.

The deep anxiety that haunts me when I find myself awake at 2:00 a.m. is simply not present over a cup of coffee at the beginning of the day.

I wake into possibility, the pre-dawn darkness offering reassurance that does not exist in the stretch of night that comes before.

It says, “Just now, even if for a short time, let this darkness surround you with both peace and purpose; the peace of knowing that you are enough and the purpose to step out, once again, into the sacred unknown.”

lighted candle

Photo by Rahul on

Liminal Space

“The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing.”

While liminality often comes with a sense of urgency toward the new, a rush forward to escape the anxiety and awkwardness of no man’s land, it doesn’t have to be that way.

The opportunity of a liminal space is to occupy it as expansively as you can. If you are no longer back there and not yet over there you are still somewhere, a place called here.

During a time of intense creation, when our work was still forming and it’s impact as yet unknown, a few of us once said, “Someday we’re going to look back on this as the good old days.”

We were prematurely nostalgic for our experience precisely because we were in the midst of becoming rather than arriving, of curiosity rather than completion.

As long as there is some mystery, the unknown retains its hold on us. In doing so, it fires our imagination with all sorts of possibilities. A liminal space is a “not knowing” space, a reminder that we are always becoming.

“…wherever you are is called Here, and you must treat it as a powerful stranger.”     – from Lost by David Whyte

ancient architecture asia bench

Photo by Pixabay on

Getting Better by Being Wrong

Do you surround yourself with people who confirm your view of the world, people with whom you enter into an implicit agreement to keep one another comfortable, safe and secure?


Do you surround yourself with people who challenge your view of the world, people with whom you enter into an explicit agreement to explore, to question and to learn why and how things have happened, good or bad?

If these questions are even remotely interesting to you…if they spark even the slightest bit of curiosity…you MUST listen to this podcast: Getting Better by Being Wrong. It will push you, uncomfortably and unrelentingly, to confront your commitment to learning and your willingness to surround yourself with people who won’t let you get away with the same old explanations for why things are the way they are.

I referenced this conversation with clients three times today, after listening to only the first 40 minutes.

If I don’t have you convinced to check it out, maybe the “official” podcast description, from The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish, will help:

“I have wanted to do this interview for a long time. On this episode, I am thrilled to have Annie Duke, former professional poker player and author of the new book, Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts.

Annie has a very interesting background that makes her uniquely qualified to speak about high-level decision making. As an author, speaker, world-class poker player, and academic in the fields of psychology and cognitive theory, Annie understands the intersection of luck, skill, and making decisions in uncertain, chaotic environments better than most people on the planet.

This is a whirlwind of an episode, and we cover all kinds of fascinating topics, including:

  • The strange circumstances that shifted Annie’s path from finishing a Ph.D. in linguistics to becoming a professional poker player
  • What it was like to be a female poker player in a predominantly male sport (especially before poker had become socially acceptable)
  • What drew Annie into such a high stakes, time-pressured environment and why she felt like poker was the perfect fit for her
  • How her graduate work in psychology informed the way she approached the game of poker — and helped her rack up wins
  • How she finds the signal in a very noisy stream of feedback
  • The big mistakes Annie noticed other players making that were stalling their progress in the game but allowed her to make giant leaps forward
  • The role that mental models played in her learning process (and which models Annie liked to lean on the most in a high stakes game)
  • The power of surrounding yourself with people that can help you expand your circle of competence — and how that made all the difference in Annie’s development as a player
  • Confirmatory and exploratory thought, and how one helps us to be “accurate” and one helps us to be “right.”
  • The secret pact you should be making with the people who are closest to you

And so much more.

This episode is just under two hours long, but there’s no fat in it. Annie delivers a masterclass in making the smartest decisions we can, even when our hubris insists otherwise. Do some finger stretches before hitting play, because you’re going to be taking some serious notes.

Please enjoy the interview!”

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.