Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Challenge: Week Three

Week three of the meditation challenge is similar to the mindfulness on the body approach of week two, with a slightly different focus.

"In week three," Sharon says, "we take that same quality of open spacious interested awareness and apply it to our emotions and thoughts."

What if we're having trouble with the challenge? Meditation is a habit, like any other, and it can be tough to add it to our daily routine. What should we be looking for as encouragement?

"We're building the capacity to be with thoughts and emotions. The opening to the body can be very enriching." And if you're having trouble, Sharon suggests walking meditation. "You may well feel more alive and connected to your experience." Particularly if you have trouble with nodding off!

You'll also begin to "be able to see the difference between when you're connected and when you're not. And you see that you have a choice. "

How is week three similar to week two?

"In many ways it’s very similar. It’s like we’re building the capacity to be with thoughts and emotions by being with the body."

In earlier weeks, we tried our best to let go of any emotions that came up. Week three is different. "When a strong emotion comes up, not a wispy thing, but with a bang, you turn your attention to it. You might try labeling it, anger, anger, joy, joy, and you try to make the distinction between the emotion and the story."

"You might see what the emotion feels like in your body. If it’s lasting a bit you might look at the feeling in your body. Or you can ask what is anger? What are you feeling? What’s going on? When we pay attention, you might see that anger is more than one thing."

At the same time, though, Sharon suggested we not delve into the story we tell ourselves about why we're feeling a certain emotion. So it's more about the quality of the emotion than the story behind it.

"I would try to set aside the story. It’s not like it’s not worth doing ever. You might want to do it at another time. But it’s also the case that you might have an intuition, you just sense 'oh, that’s a pattern.'"

So while we can have insights, we don't necessarily look for them. We just observe the quality of our experience.

Please let me know how the challenge is going for you, through comments here or on the Facebook page. And remember that you can always begin, and you can always begin again.


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Friday, May 27, 2011

Only Us

I spend a lot of my life thinking about "them" (the people who are different than me) and "us."

Yet whenever I meet one of "them," I am struck by how similar we are. 

Still, I find myself constantly separating the world into us and them. In fact, in the course of a typical day I'll have several thems. I could have a them who look different than I do, who believe differently, who act differently, who work at a different company, vote differently, or even cheer for a different sports team. 

Sports competitions are based on "us" and "them." And so are wars.

On Memorial Day, I'm going to try to remember how similar we are to them. Any "them" at all.

We all want the same things. We want to be happy, we want to be safe, we want to be loved.

And we want peace.

Happy Memorial Day.


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Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Not Knowing

I notice that a lot of the time I write because I want to feel smart. I write because I want attention. I write because I want to feel special. When I'm writing from that place I tend to do a lot of planning and editing and thinking, to make sure that I capture my thoughts as clearly as I can.

I don't tend to like those posts.

There are other times when the posts practically write themselves. When there is passion. When there is an idea that needs to be expressed and all I am doing is the typing.

Even though I don't feel those posts are mine (I don't know whose they are), they feel a lot more real to me. A lot more true.

I'd like to think that I'm in control of turning that on or off. But I have no idea when and where it's going to show up. Often, I have no idea what I'm going to write even as I begin to write it.

It strikes me that life can be like that, too.

We can make plans and plot everything out and get everything on our list, and it ends up feeling cold and empty. Or we can just go for it, not knowing where it's coming from or what will happen.

I don't know if one is better or not, but I know which one I like.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Raging Rapids

Last weekend, my wife Jen and I were on a weekend retreat with Pema Chodron, perhaps our best-loved American-born Buddhist teacher. Pema often offers good advice about working with the lessons life gives us, but there were a couple nuggets, as always, that really struck me.

Right now it feels like there is so much happening. Chaos at work and in personal relationships and around the world. Emotions and tensions running rampant. I feel like I'm being buffeted by a storm, and a lot of people I know have similar feelings.

When I feel like I don't know what's happening or what's next, the first thing I do is look for solid ground. Something to hold onto, to call my own. It seems to be instinct, to think that first, there is something solid to hang onto, and second, that we can find it and grab it.

Pema reminded us this weekend, though, that when the water is running fastest, when the rapids are at their whitest, the safest thing to do is let go. Let the river carry you. If you try to cling, to anything, the current is just going to pound you against the rocks.

True, you may not always like what happens when you let go, but you will eventually emerge. And you may be surprised by what comes when you allow your life to be more in flow.

See if this is true in your own life. I know it's been true in mine. The way past troubles is not around, but through. Go right into the difficulties, right into the white water. When I hang on, when I resist what is, I only hurt myself.


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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Afraid to Be Happy

Right now I feel like I'm afraid to be happy. If, as the Dalai Lama says, the purpose of life is to be happy, then if I find happiness, why would I ever do anything again?

I've constructed this idea of a life in which I'm trying to get to happiness by assembling the right ingredients.  If only I can get the right spouse, the right job, a house in the right neighborhood, the right kids and pets, the right schools and cars and other stuff, and of course enough money to take care of everything and everyone, then, and maybe only then, I think, happiness can be mine. And I spend most of my waking hours doing things that I think will help me assemble this life. Once I put the finishing touches on that life, I think, I'll be happy. More importantly, I sometimes think I can't be be happy until I have that life, or I'm at least comfortable that I'm on the path to it. Any happiness felt right now risks my not getting that greater happiness that will come once I have done the things I should.

My actual life (not the one that I'm plotting out moment by moment in my head) is very different. In my actual experience, the moments of happiness I have are almost completely unrelated to the happy life that I am trying to construct. These moments spontaneously appear. A sunset. A smile. A touch. A forgotten song. Happiness seems to sneak in when I least expect it. When I'm not looking for it. When I'm not trying to be anywhere but right here.

In these moments I see that happiness is actually my natural state. And when I really understand my happiness isn't dependent on anything outside of me, I notice I have a lot more options. If only for a moment, I see the only obstacle is in my mind--my restrictive concept of what a happy life should look like. And I see that my left brain--the list maker--hasn't been very good at creating happiness.

But my left brain, my inner control freak, is terrified of giving up. It resists with every ounce of its being the idea that it's not in control and never was. That happiness doesn't follow a blueprint and it doesn't happen in the future. That the universe seems to be doing just fine without my left brain's opinions and plans.

When I'm present, here in my body, the left brain is mercifully silent. And my happiness is self-evident. I see that I can do anything without risking this happiness. I can go for the biggest thing imaginable, or the smallest, because I know I'll be happy no matter what--resting in this eternal present moment, our natural state, where nothing is needed and nothing is missing.

That kind of happiness is worth pursuing. And yet it only seems available when I stop chasing it.


Monday, May 23, 2011

The Challenge: Week Two

If you've been part of the 28 Day Meditation Challenge, congratulations on completing your first week. If you've not, remember that you can start any time.

This week is a slight change in focus from week one.

"In week two," Sharon says, "We’re working with mindfulness, or an open, unbiased awareness, especially of the body and things we experience in our bodies.

I asked Sharon how mindfulness and concentration (our work in Week One) are different. "Mindfulness and concentration are very related but they are also distinct. They build on each other. When your primary goal is concentration, whenever something comes that is not related to the breath or object of concentration, what we want to do is let go of that something as quickly as possible. We’re not trying to look more clearly at that object, we’re just letting go and coming back, letting go and coming back."

In contrast, she says, "Interest is one of the hallmarks of mindfulness."

"The practice of mindfulness begins to include some of these other objects. If a sensation in the body comes up, like a twinge in the back, maybe we stay with it before coming back to the breath. Maybe we can see if we can stay with it in the moment for a bit."

Sharon says that in doing this, we begin to notice "those sensations are not as solid and static as they might appear." In fact, she says that we can begin to see a space within them, even "the space within the pain."

When do we take an interest in something? Not if it is fleeting, or "wispy," she says.

"If something is strong enough to take the attention away from the breath, we take an interest in it, and only then return our attention to the breath."

We can use mental noting to label what is happening, repeating "pain, pain" to ourselves, for example. In this way, we can walk a line between noticing the sensations and believing our stories about the sensations, that we can't live with this twinge or we need to see the doctor or the chiropractor or wondering what will happen if it continues. 

In this way we look for what Sharon calls the "add ons." In the moment, the sensation may be right here and quite manageable. But for people with pain, she says, it isn't what's happening right now that is the problem. We get caught up in the story of what might happen in the future. 

"It's all the anticipated pain. And that becomes unbearable."

This week, we will focus on mindfulness, and the goal is to have four sessions of twenty minutes or so.

Please share how things are going for you by commenting here or on the Facebook page.


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Friday, May 20, 2011

Bad Moods and Belching

[Jeff and his wife are in retreat this weekend. This post originally ran on March 23, 2010.]

Everyone belches. And everyone gets in bad moods.

But most people treat them very differently. You may say "That's because they are different!" But are they? Like moods, belches arise and then pass. And sometimes they catch us by surprise or even embarrass us.

When people belch, they say "excuse me" and move on. If our boss belches, we don't tend to think about it a month later and hold a grudge about it.

But if our boss is in a bad mood, or if we are in a bad mood, we tend to hold onto it.

The other day I got really, really angry. I slammed my hand to the table, and I wanted to yell and scream. The situation was one that sometimes provokes this response and sometimes doesn't. Ten minutes later, though, the anger was gone.

Like a belch, it arose, it came out, it left. But there are times that I hang onto that mood. I blame myself for it. I think of it as part of me. I don't do that with a belch. Heck, sometimes I even laugh at myself after a belch. I rarely laugh at myself after a bad mood or an angry comment.

Let's try to be less hard on ourselves when we get really cranky. And let's be less hard on others when they are cranky. Like a belch, it happens to all of us. And like a belch, it can be forgotten. And forgiven.


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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thoughts on Meditation from Scott Kiloby

I had a great conversation yesterday with Scott Kiloby, a spiritual teacher whose work I really like.

Look for more details in a future post. But part of our conversation was about meditation, and the value of it and other practices like yoga and tai chi.

Like Dan Pink, Scott finds a lot of value in those practices. He was a meditator for years. But interestingly, that isn't what he teaches.

And depending on your experience in the meditation challenge, this might be something to think about.

Scott's experience was that his periods of meditation, first thing in the morning, were very peaceful. But his work day continued to be incredibly hectic. Simply put, there was no carryover from meditation to real life.

Instead, Scott works with people to look at what is happening right now. Do the problems that you find in your thoughts exist right now? Is your concept of self, of what should be happening, here in any kind of solid and permanent way in this moment?

In this way, Scott shows that much of our life is feelings, thoughts and sensations that come and go. And that it is only the background of open, spacious awareness that is unchanged, and that is actually what we are.

We clearly benefit by setting aside some time for meditation. But according to Scott, it is just as important to stop, several times a day, if only for a few moments, to notice the open spaciousness that is present behind all experience. To stop in the midst of everyday experience might be the most important skill we can cultivate, whether we meditate or not.

I look forward to sharing more of our conversation.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Am Just a Habit

Much of what we do in the world can be reduced to habits. I have a morning routine, and a commuting routine, and a routine for going through my email.

These routines are helpful and productive. Some of my other habits, though, might not be so productive.

For example, when there's a delicious chocolate birthday cake in the refrigerator (as there is right now), I tend to eat it. When a glass of wine is offered, I tend to accept.

There's another habit of mine that's more subtle, but probably causes more suffering than any habit I can think of. And I suspect you might have the same habit, too.

It's my habit of thinking I am a separate and stable identity. A person independent from the rest of the world.

I think about this "me" in terms of my history, my wife, my friends, my enemies, my job, and of course, my stuff. But if I really examine this identity, I see it's just a bunch of thoughts. Thoughts that I can't even control much of the time. On a fundamental level I know this, so I spend a lot of time and effort trying to make my thoughts, my "personhood," seem like a consistent, stable, and kind being who does good in the world, even though my actual experience is often different from that, and sometimes completely perplexing.

What happens when I take a break from that, if only for a moment or two?

The first temptation is to say that I don't exist, that we're all one or connected or something like that. But that's just another story, another set of thoughts diametrically opposite the thoughts that were causing me suffering. And those thoughts cause suffering, too. Because while I can't say I have an identity, paradoxically I can't say I don't have one, either.

No, when there is a break, there is simply this. Whatever is happening, without any need to interpret or control. No need for my stories, no resistance to my stories if they arise. Just life as it is happening.

And while I can't force this break from myself, I certainly welcome it when it happens.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How and What

Last week, I was part of a corporate planning session, looking at the elements of our strategy, new products and initiatives that we believe are necessary in a changing market, and the timing and staffing of each of those priorities.

It was a very logical exercise. But I wonder if logic is what's really called for. The left brain is very good at figuring out how to do stuff. You want to figure out the seventeen things you need to do to execute your strategy, the left brain is your friend.

But if you want to figure out what that strategy should be, the left brain isn't much help. Sure, you can look at the research, and you can look at what your competitors are doing.

Following trends, though, doesn't show you what's next. Looking in the rearview mirror isn't a very effective way to drive.

To see what's next, to lead, you need the right brain. The nonlinear, big picture, intuitive leap right brain.

My fears are twofold. First, that our organization will not see the need for the right brain. And second, that I won't have the courage to show them.


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Monday, May 16, 2011

The Challenge: Week One

Today is the start of our 28-day meditation challenge with Sharon Salzberg, based on her book, Real Happiness.

Sharon's instructions for meditation are simple and direct. "In week one," she says, "we’re really working with concentration. Most of us experience ourselves as fairly distracted or scattered, at least in some arenas. In week one we’re deepening a greater steadiness or steadfastness of attention."

The practice is to sit in a comfortable position, cross-legged or in a chair for example, and watch the breath. We notice the sensations of the breath entering and leaving our body, how it feels, the temperature of the breath, any noise it makes, any tension we might feel in our bodies as we breathe, and so on. And if our attention wanders, when we notice, we simply bring our awareness back to the breath, gently and without judgment.

Following the breath sounds like it should be simple, but for most people, attention tends to wander quickly, and often.

"It’s important to have the right expectations. Your attention will wander. It won’t be 800 breaths before your mind will wander. It will be two or three. That’s just going to happen. It’s normal and to be expected."

But, Sharon adds, "The crucial part of the meditation is the moment that you realize your attention has wandered."

"That’s the moment where it’s very tempting to judge ourselves, to get down on ourselves, to berate ourselves, but instead we can practice gently letting go and beginning again. Even if your mind wanders a billion times in that 20 minute period, it’s not considered a failed meditation because that beginning again moment is so important."

Sharon recommends three periods of meditation in the first week, starting slowly at first. "My idea of a good goal is about twenty minutes a day of formal practice. But if you can only do five minutes on a certain day, do the five minutes."  

It will be tempting to evaluate yourself, to wonder how you're doing and if you are doing it well. Sharon says this is very common, but we have to have a different view. "It’s not a question of better or worse. That’s just the habit of our conditioning."

"It’s easier if we can quantify it," she continues. "It’s much more satisfying in many ways. We can say to a friend, 'I started out being with two breaths and now I’m up to 58.'"

But the real goal is something different, and more subtle. "To say we are much more gentle in the letting go process or that I start over again with more and more compassion for myself is much more difficult to do."

If you decide to take up this challenge, congratulations! Be gentle on yourself, and know that whether you are focused or your mind wanders, there are no mistakes. Every experience in meditation is welcomed and then released, no matter if it is pleasant or unpleasant, "good" or "bad."

Please let me know if you decide to take up the challenge, and how it's going, through comments here or on the Facebook page. 

And remember to have fun with this grand experiment.


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Friday, May 13, 2011

A 28-Day Challenge with Sharon Salzberg

I've been a long time meditator (almost 15 years) and I've said before that nothing has had a bigger impact on my life.

A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to sit down with Sharon Salzberg and talk about meditation and about her book, Real Happiness, which is structured around a 28 day introduction to meditation. We have a small group that meets at our home in the DC area, and we've all have committed to work through this book for the next 28 days. I'd like to offer this blog community the same opportunity, and Sharon has graciously agreed to offer us guidance along the way.

The challenge is simple. For the next four weeks, commit to a five to twenty minute period of seated or walking meditation a few times a week. Each week the focus will be slightly different, and the amount of  practice will increase slightly. At the end of the 28 days, a person should be ready to start a daily meditation practice. (It's kind of like training for a marathon, but one for your mind and well being.)

I asked Sharon why we should do this. Why meditate? We want things so fast in our culture. We want guaranteed, fast, clear results. And meditation offers none of these things.

"That's a problem," she laughed. "But the research shows the brain changes quickly, in as little as a month." Even if we don't notice the changes, she added.

What kind of changes? "Rather than being lost in self-recrimination for a week and a half, you can much more quickly let go," Sharon said.  "I’m going to start over, I’m going to begin again. There are all kinds of things like that in your day to day life."

Why 28 days?

"The best thing is to have some kind of structure. If you can have a structure that feels OK to you, you can try it out and see it as a grand experiment, wholeheartedly, for this limited period of time."

Sharon also said that if you have a structure, you're not so likely to focus on how you're doing each moment.  You're not really meditating, then; you're checking to see if you're meditating. She also emphasizes that the important thing is not how each meditation is going. "The place to look is not while you're doing it, but in your life."

I've never read a book on meditation that is more plain spoken, or easier to follow.

"As a friend of mine told me," Sharon said, "'You wrote this one in American.'"

I encourage you to take up this practice for 28 days, and to comment on your experience on The Corporate Zendo Facebook page.

The challenge officially begins on Monday. Have a great weekend.


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Thursday, May 12, 2011

What I Believe

I believe that we live to connect with others.

I believe that connection is one of the most precious, sacred things in existence.

I believe that my ability to make that connection is what makes me valuable to an employer, or a client.

Not my ability to cold call or write a Power Point deck or deliver a presentation or implement a project plan. I can do those things, but so can lots of other folks. What I can also do is establish trust. Heartfelt, fall on a grenade for you trust. Only with trust can people deliver fundamental change through identifying values and shattering assumptions.

Whether I find that in my current employer, in a future employer, or as a consultant working with employers, I believe that's what is next for me.

I would love to hear what is next for you. If you believe as I do, let's build it together.


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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Get Unstuck

Right now, I'm feeling stuck. Whichever way I turn, I don't know what to do. There's so much going on in the world, so much upheaval, and it's so unclear if it's good or bad.

I want to know what the story is.

I want to know how things are going to turn out.

I want to know if we're going to be attacked again. I want to know if my company is going to have more reorganizations.

I want to know if all of this serves some higher purpose, if there is some sense of relief or closure that will come at some point, even though my deepest sense is that this uncertainty is permanent, because uncertainty, not knowing, is the natural state of things.

I don't feel stuck often, but it's uncomfortable when I do. And there's only one thing that works for me when I do get stuck.

And that is to see that, no matter how real it feels, "being stuck" is only a thought. Being stuck is the difference between the world as it is and the world as I would like it to be. It's not getting things done, combined with the sense that I should be getting things done. It's not knowing the answer, the meaning, the end of the story, combined with the sense that I should know one or all of those things.

With everything that's happened in the last week or two, it's natural to have mixed emotions, and to feel uncomfortable about what's coming next.

The first step to getting unstuck is to see that it's just a thought. And that I don't have to believe it.


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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Finalist Meetings

I'm in the process of preparing for two finalist meetings. Very different proposals, very different organizations. There's a lot to do, and a lot that needs to come together very quickly. And, frankly, there's a lot riding on it. Wins are hard to come by right now.

I've been asked how I handle the pressure of a sales role, with its dramatic ups and downs.

To me, sales is essentially about trust. You can make promises, but the client has to decide if they trust you, your team, your organization, to deliver those promises. That trust is built in every interaction you have. In my field, that could be years. And it can fall apart with one statement, or one misunderstood email.

You also have to have the right product. I could promise to deliver you the best VHS recorder ever made, but somehow I doubt you'll buy it.

The product is an organizational thing. Trust is a personal one. And I have more control over one than the other.

That, to me, is the biggest challenge with sales. The fact that so much of what I make is based on the product, and yet I have so little control over it.

But as I look at the rest of my life, I can see that this is always true. I'd like to think that what I make, how I do in the world is in some sense related to merit, to things that I have control over. That if I work hard I will make money and have success in the traditional way of measuring those things. And over time, I guess that's been true.

But for me and for many of my friends, so much seems like luck, good or bad. Maybe you land the big account and get paid handsomely for it. Maybe you lose a client, or maybe you even lose your job. So much of the time, events seem unrelated to effort or skill or even trust. (And in the purest sense, many of the talents and other qualities that we are born with our without are the biggest example of pure luck that I can think of.)

I'm left with doing my best, because that's really the only thing I have any control over. Whether I'm in sales or not.


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Monday, May 9, 2011

A Belated Happy Mother's Day

I want to wish Happy Mother's Day to my wife, to my mother, and to all the mothers in my life.

In my lifetime, I've seen the meaning of the word mother shift dramatically. In just one generation, the typical mother has gone from someone who stayed at home and handled all of the skinned knees, sports practices, dance recitals, homework, and other school and household stuff to someone who handles all of that and often works 40 to 50 hours a week on top of it. I know consultants, lawyers and doctors who do this. Even mothers who don't work outside the home face many more challenges and options for their kids than our own mothers did. For every mother, it seems, there's a constant fear of failure.

In my view, mothers are heroic in our culture. There are simply not enough hours in the day, and yet mothers do their two or more jobs, without complaint, and in many ways form the backbone of our society. I sometimes wonder if what I write, talking about the possibility of happiness in each moment of work and life, can seem at all possible to today's mother. I think in some small way it can. That it might even be essential.

I've talked with moms who in the midst of the chaos think that they can't get it done, that it's simply not possible, that it's a thankless job. And yet time and time again they come through. Are they perfect? No. But is the job of parent about perfection? No.

Parenting is about the small moments, the moments of presence, of connection. And I think moms should find solace that they can succeed even if they missed the game or the recital, even if they were occasionally late for the pickup. If they regularly have that felt connection with their children, if their children understand that mom and dad hear them and are on their side, then parents have done everything that anyone can possible expect of them and more.

That possibility of connection is right here, in this moment, in each moment we have with our children. It only takes a few of these moments to provide a lifetime of learning and bonding. Even if those moments happen when we're late to meet the bus. Parenting, like everything else, is about accepting what is. Thinking we should be better at it only adds to our suffering.

I want to thank and honor mothers everywhere for being perfect, just as they are, in everything they do.


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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Coming Revolution

I was just talking with a coworker and good friend, and we see the world crumbling around us. The old guard, the old values are rapidly being replaced with a completely new one.

Osama bin Laden is just one example of this. Why do you need terrorists when, with a webcam and an internet connection, you can start your own revolution? When a few thousand unarmed people can overthrow a country, why do you need suicide bombers? Sure, there will always be angry wackos who want to hurt people. But terrorism as a method for regime change no longer seems necessary, or even relevant.

The same thing is happening in the corporate world. Most don't see it yet, because they're trying too hard to hold onto the old order. If the model worked ten years ago, can't we just dust it off and maybe put up a Facebook page? Tweet a little and tell people how great it is?

Nope. The old order, the one driven by research and advertising, where I know what's best for you so therefore you'll do it, is already dead. In the old model you needed scale to do anything. In the new model everyone already has access to everything and the only limitation is finding the right idea.

I can't just build and tell anymore. If the customer doesn't feel heard, there is no sale. The new model is about collaboration, whether that means overthrowing a despot or designing new software. In the new model, the customer designs the solution, the supplier or seller listens instead of telling. The new model isn't even one model. It's unlimited models. It's about putting stuff out there and seeing what happens, about not knowing what's going to happen but trusting that it will be something great.

And those who are best at trusting collaboration are going to be the revolutionaries who succeed.

I'm a big fan of Seth Godin and his book Linchpin, which just came out in paperback. Buy it. But if you want a compelling example of how he thinks, and you have an hour or so, follow this link to a four part presentation. If you have fifteen minutes and just want the big finish, go straight to part four.

The password is iboughtthebook. And again, please do if you haven't already.


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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Knowing What's Next

According to coach Michael Neill, most of the time, when we think about what's next, we think in terms of what we have now plus ten percent. Twenty percent if we're really thinking big.

When I buy a new computer, for example, I might think about the capabilities of my current machine, but more of them. More disk space, more RAM, a faster processor.

When I think about a new job, I might think about the same industry, but more responsibility and more money.

This is left-brained thinking. It assumes that tomorrow is basically just like today, only a little bit more (or maybe a little bit less).

Though I desperately want to believe that's true, every market correction, every natural disaster, every corporate purchase or merger or restructuring shows me this isn't the case. Life comes in fits and starts. It isn't linear.

And non-linear is the province of the right brain.

What's next? I don't know. But I do know that it's much more likely to be revealed to me through gut feel, through intuition, through synchronicity, than it is thorough assuming the upward-sloping line on the revenue chart is going to continue.


(True footnote. As I was writing this, my wife discovered her wallet had been stolen, and we spent the better part of the evening calling our credit cards and bank accounts. We never know what's next. Ever.)

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Day of Mourning

My employer is going through some big changes right now, and a lot of people I know are being impacted.

Times like this can bring panic, anger, frustration--all the emotions that come up when we feel the sands shifting under us, when we don't know what the future might bring.

There is so much going on in work and life that it can be easy to get lost in our stories, in our deepest fears of what might happen next.

Today is not about advice. Today is about being willing to stay with what is happening. Today is about not being afraid to be afraid, about feeling whatever we are feeling, and about knowing that this, too, will pass.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A New Way to Begin Meetings

If you're like me, your work meetings aren't models of efficiency or focus. The invitees rush in, often late, chattering about the latest gossip or the pressures of their various deadlines. If people are on the phone, it's often with the tacit understanding that they will be working on other things during the call.

After beginning late, things seem to go downhill from there. Content is rushed through or missed, decisions are delayed, more meetings are scheduled, seemingly without end.

I think meetings like these get off track at the very beginning.

What if the next meeting you walked into began differently? If you read this blog, you know the value of the reset button, of simply being present for a moment or two. What if we tried this at work?

"Thank you for coming today. We have a lot to do and I want to make sure we are as focused as possible. So let's start with a five minute reset."

Imagine a company where everyone knew that meant to sit quietly, to focus on their breath, to settle into the moment, without thinking about what they were going to say or who they had to impress. And what if every meeting began with that reset?

What do you think that would mean to our productivity? To our creativity? To the connections that we feel with each other? Even to our health?

Could this actually happen? Or is it only a naive dream?


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Monday, May 2, 2011

No God Required

[Jeff is on vacation today. This post originally appeared on January 27, 2011.]

The core of much of my writing is based on nondual philosophy, which is also behind wisdom traditions such as zen, dzogchen, and advaita vedanta.

Over the years, when people of all traditions have started down these nondual paths, they have been on a quest for God, whether as an inner divine spirit (the typical eastern approach) or as a separate "ghost in the machine" that created the visible universe and to some extent still oversees it.

But the realization of the nondual path is to see that there never was any separation between that which you would call God and that which is not God. Either everything is God or nothing is, and the nondual doesn't have an opinion on the matter.

Simply put, the nondual is "what is," without a story. What is with God is a story. What is without God is also a story.

But this what is can also be what is at work, or what is in relationship, or what is in addiction and recovery. Everyone brings their own circumstances and beliefs and stories to this work, and they all can be fuel for seeing through. For dropping our constructed world and seeing what is in all its ordinary simplicity.

We start down a path thinking there is an end, and find not only that there is no end, but that there never was a path.

We don't find the answer; we lose the question.


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