Yesterday, family and friends gathered at the Barwon Heads Resort to celebrate the life of my dad – Grahame Brown. Their were people from all walks of life. Some were their to support family members and other’s were there to grieve their own loss of a wonderful friend, father, teacher, brother, uncle and husband.
We all learned something new about Dad’s life. We all took another step in the grieving process … it was a beautiful day and dad would have been lost for words.
I wrote this song 4 years ago, soon after dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. It felt right to play it at the close of the ceremony … my kids (without prompting or planning) sang the final chorus along with me which helped to get through it. It also feels the right time to share the song with the world. Song for Dad by YesAndSpace
I am on the road for a few days and my journey brings me back to the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. I rode my bike from Traralgon up to Tyers this afternoon and I was struggling to remember the events and people from this chapter of my life. But then I smelled that smell … the unmistakable odour of the local Maryvale Australian Paper Mill (APM). Once I smelled this, the memories came flooding back and I tweeted this …
Serendipity strikes again … I realized it was 20 years to the day that Kirsten and I moved everything we owned to a house in the hills of Tyers. We lived together as friends and house-buddies for 2 years. We were both finding our feet as Occupational Therapists in our first jobs. Me working at the hospital and Kirsten in a vocational rehabilitation setting. For some of the time, we lived quite separate lives. During some periods we hung out together a lot, riding our bikes and exploring the mountains to our north. Like good friends do, we supported each other through the hard times. Occasionally, we would lie on the road out front at night and watch the stars … and just talk. Our house was on Fitzgibbons Road …
Next door to us lived a great couple and their tribe of kids. He was (and still is) a tall, gently spoken, bearded Canadian. He looked every bit a logger, and he still is. His wife, had the sharpest wit of anyone we had ever met. She called a spade-a-spade and her brutally honest observations were famous. She was also my wise counsel at times and would point out things in life that I couldn’t see through the lens of youth.
Kirsten and I became very close to our neighbors and were stoked when we were invited to their wedding. We would often drink beer with them and play with their kids. At the time their 2 youngest children (both girls) were only 6 and 8 years of age. Kirsten was extremely fond of the girls, particularly the eldest of the 2. I remember Kirsten saying how maternal she felt around them and I had a running joke of calling her Mother Hen. It’s 20 years on and I have my own family. When riding through Tyers, it felt like yesterday. Time moves on in strange ways doesn’t it!?
The tradgety of this story is that Kirsten passed away 12 years ago. The mental illness that suddenly struck shocked everyone who knew her. The news of her death brought together people from every chapter of her life, including our neighbours from Tyers, all holding questions. Kirsten touched many people in her short life
So today, as I rode with the wind in my hair down Fitzgibbons Road, my mind was swirling with memories and all of them happy ones. I noticed lights were next door and I had a strong feeling that they still lived there. I decided to knock on their door and say hi.
At the door was a young woman talking on the phone and she instantly recognized me, as I did her. It was the eldest of their 2 girls … and on the phone was her mum. We swapped stories from 20 years before, shared email addresses and showed photos of our life as it is now. It’s a cliche, but it was a real trip down memory lane.
Today made me realize the importance of a sense-of-place and connection. Relationships are everything and the experiences we share with others last forever and they shape who we are. Stories from our past can feel like yesterday and, at the same time, feel like a distant memory. Kirsten … today’s visit down memory lane is for you.
I travel quite a bit. Mostly day trips with the occasional 3 to 4 day stretch away from the home office. Sound familiar? When traveling (and facilitating) I go lightweight – it’s an operating principle at the core of my practice.
Now that I have worked out how to sync stuff across my MacBook, iPad & iPhone, I only travel with the phone and pad. The larger, heavier and more valuable MacBook stays safe at home. The options available to protect the phone and pad are staggering and many products do the job. But, how many are truly beautiful? I have discovered 2 products worth a look … and both reveal my old fashioned design tendencies. I also get loads of questions from others about this stuff … so now I can simply point them to this post.
A first glance it looks like a very small, leather bound book from 2 centuries ago. It even feels of another age.
This little case is actually a ‘lightweight’ wallet and iPhone case all-in-one. So, when traveling I only have 1 thing to remember … 1 thing in my pocket … 1 less thing to leave behind!
The magic for the traveller is the fusion of 2 things into one. Book book also provides great protection and it’s dead easy to get the phone in/out. The only downer is the inability to quickly capture photos in the moment … the phone has to slide out slightly to expose the lens. Otherwise, I love the look and feel of it and if you limit the number of cards/cash it remains ‘pocketable’.
As for the applications to support syncing across devices and filing away information/links, here’s a rapid summary:
Dropbox – I know save everything to Dropbox from my Mac and an auto backup all the contents to my separate hard drive (just in case they disappear). Dropbox has an App for both the phone and pad.
Evernote – Everything I do happens in Evernote. Every job has an Evernote note (see image) Everything I choose to keep gets tagged in Evernote. It is now my goto application in the cloud. And I use an App called Awesome Note as the user interface (see image).
iCloud – Great for syncing photos across devices and for calendar and contacts (although I did lose a few contacts a few weeks ago?). I steer clear of iCloud for Mail and still prefer Dropbox for document storage and syncing.
Instapaper – From just about any browser or iOS App, saving a webpage to Instapaper is a single click “Read Later” process. About once a week I spend time reading through the stuff I have saved – the stuff I want to keep gets saved back to Evernote and shared with you via Twitter.
Google Reader – All of my favourite websites and blogs come to me via Google Reader. The single best thing about the iPad is my ability to read these feeds in a magazine layout using an App called Flipboard.
Last week’s karate session was a master-class in more than just physical movement and coordination. What started out as a drill in Kihon (Japanese for the basics), soon became a true test of mental toughness, physical exertion and the power of the group. Our group also demonstrated the classic Improv principle … Make each other look good! The scene is set …
Our Sempai started with a hundred-count for a basic set of alternating punches. Left mid-punch, right upper-punch and then right lower-punch – and all 3 punches done in under 2 second so it’s fast! After each punch, everyone says out loud “Kia!” So the pattern of Sempai’s counting and our Kia’s creates a rythmic and flowing pattern with the whole clas involved.
Sempai then invited each of us, starting with the highest belts, to seamlessly continue the counting (in Japanese) and punching for the rest of us to follow. So when Sempai got to 100, the next in line started back at “ich” (one), without missing a beat. Sounds easy … well it wasn’t. Here’s what I observed from the second row of the Dojo.
Our brown belt (let’s call him Woody) tripped at first hurdle the first time, then the next and over and over again. He just couldn’t continue the Sempai’s counting and timing of the punches. He became profusely apologetic to the rest of us as we all began to tire physically with the repetition of the task. By now we were over 1000 punches into the task, and as we fatigued, our Sempai became attuned to our faltering techniques. Even the Kihon pattern of punches required complete concentration and constant self correction.
There came a moment when, without prompting, sometime after Woody’s 10th failed attempt, that the group came to his aid. From the back rows our “Kia”‘s(!) became more in time, louder and more purposeful. As Sempai’s count of 100 approached, the collective group became focused on helping Woody, whilst at the same time focusing on our own techniques. Our loud and timely Kia’s created the best conditions for Woody to find the timing of his count. Without discussion, we all knew what was needed. Woody finally did it. When it came to the next in line, a green belt, he too faltered. But the group was in sync and it wasn’t long before he nailed it … and so it continued until we got through to the end.
Everyone was buzzing at the end of the class and not because of the physical achievement (although the repetition of Kihon was a great lesson in humility). I think it was the group effort in coming together to help the individual who was counting. That magical moment when we realized our collective voice (Kia!) had the power to pull an individual through tough times. For me, this is a living example of the improv principle known as … Make each other look good! Always!
Imagine if in our workplaces and communities, when struggling and failing publicly, we knew we could rely on those around us to support us and do everything in their power to make us ‘look good’?
I wonder when I can apply this next in life? When could you?
At 8pm last Thursday night I was at the Studley Park Boathouse, celebrating the final Story Conference with colleagues and friends. It was announced that Steve Jobs had passed away … and thud! I felt an inner shift and let out an audible, outward breath.
I am not surprised that the passing Steve Jobs stirred my emotions in such a way. His long battle with Pancreatic Cancer has mirrored that of my own father’s cancer of the liver. At the time Steve presented at the launch of the original iPad, looking thin and weak, my dad’s illness had also progressed. Earlier, in 2004, at the time of Steve’s brilliant speech to graduates of Stanford University he was looking healthy and announced that he was in remission … so too was my father.
I again watched Steve’s Stanford address with my wife the other night – the 3 stories he tells will always be relevant.
In reading various tributes, I also stumbled upon some older talks that Steve had given. This one shows the wisdom of Steve as a strategist, a minimalist and a communicator … when I find the link I’ll insert it
I am not a believer in the ‘lone genius’ – that one, fabled person who single handedly saves the world. There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was a brilliant man whose actions speak louder than words. His capacity to fearlessly follow his heart and trust in Karma (or whatever) is the stuff of legends. I also look forward to reading his Biography and in it, I have a hunch we will learn something about the people around him … those who influenced his ideas. The networks of people that shaped Steve Jobs and the ideas that he ‘ripped & remixed’ to shape Pixar and Apple.
I spent some precious time with my dad yesterday, he is very unwell and we shared some memories and stories. We looked through photos of my 3 boys and reflected on family holidays when I was a boy.
Afterwards, I reflected on some of dad’s words and counsel. In his own way, he reminded me that my own boys are always watching me. Learning from me. Imitating my own behaviour and reactions to events – the good, bad and the ugly. We all have a blind spot when it comes to the influence that our actions, no matter how small, have on those around us.
Lee Lefeever pointed this Western Australian road safety advert yesterday (see below). For most of us, there nothing new here but a very timely reminder. We have just come back from 3 glorious weeks away in Fiji. They have something called ‘Fiji Time’ … which is slow, happy and welcoming. We have been home for a week, and I am noticing everything quicken – my thoughts, actions, speech, eating. Rushing here, rushing there. Losing sight of those small moments when my son asks me a question or points to something he has achieved. What does he see in me and my response?
So here are some questions to hold for fathers, mothers, leaders and friends …
Who is watching, learning and imitating you?
What is one behaviour (particularly those automated responses to certain situations) that you are not proud of? One that you wish to change so that those around you see the real you – I can think of plenty.
How do we remember to breathe deeply even when events are spinning around us?
And from Fijian culture … Smile, welcome others and slow down.
Andrew suggested that Leunig really understands complexity theory – I agree!
This metaphoric-tangle that Leunig uses is so true of life and most of what we do. So why are we still trying to control and manage this tangled web with rules?
Luenig knows that there are no ‘rules’ for getting through this mess. Instead, he has captured some ‘principles’ in this cartoon … principles that might just help change our mindset. There are probably some other principles too but there is no rule book to help select them and make the process linear and neat! Leunig’s cartoon is an invitation to dive deep into learning together.
Have you ever noticed how many numbers there are in our world? Numbers appear to be as prolific in our streetscape as letters of the alphabet.
This morning … I noticed numbers. I set off on a morning walk with our dog, my head swirling with thoughts,projections and assumptions. My mind was on auto pilot and it’s projections filled my whole being. Then I noticed this on a power pole …
I noticed it’s color and the engineering-like design. It was a lonely object, on a pole, in a deserted street, on a cold winter’s morning. Anyway, my point is that those swirling thoughts being ‘made-up’ in my mind disappeared. My intentional focus on the detail of this object changed the automated activities in my mind … for just a few moments. But, it long enough to break the ‘flow’ of these thoughts and some clarity returned to me. As did the awareness of my own breath, the tension in my jaw and hands. The frown on my forehead lifted to a feeling of lightness. My serious adult mood was replaced by a child-like curiosity and wonder about the diversity of numbers in my own street! And now my day is filled with possibility …
Coincidentally, this is Hugh’s Daily Cartoon and summed up my own mind before I broke out of the prison created by my mind …
And as Viv McWaters pointed out to me yesterday, this cartoon is not coincidence at all!
“… that’s not a coincidence – it’s serendipity, and serendipity just doesn’t happen. It’s shaped by our choices, behaviours and dispositions ” Viv McWaters
Monday night was dark, stormy and 20 people witnessed the demise of a 6th century village, gruesome attacks by 3 werewolves, public lynchings and arguments between friends. Everyone was looking out for themselves and trust had evaporated. At times it was tense … but mostly laughter pierced the cold night air.
Werewolf is just a game, but it’s so much more than a game … it immerses players in a world of experience. Playing Werewolf takes some to the edge of their comfort zone. Others revel in the uncertainty of a world that, in many ways, mimics real life.
Viv McWaters provides a snapshot of Werewolf here. Andrew Rixon provided me with his beautiful set of playing cards (illustrated by the wonderful Simon Kneebone). I had never hosted a game of Werewolf before and I admit to being slightly nervous, as the group settled into their armchairs with wine glass in hand. I was working with 20 people who had gathered for 2 days of learning. They had no idea what I had planned for the after dinner entertainment!
To give you an idea of the rules, here a nice summary from the net …
(In my group of 20, there were 3 werewolves, 2 seers and 15 village citizens)
The villagers are trying to figure out who’s a werewolf; the werewolves are pretending to be villagers, and trying to throw suspicion on real villagers.
The seer is trying to throw suspicion on any werewolves he discovers, but without revealing himself to be the seer (because if he does, the werewolves will almost certainly kill him that night, since he’s the greatest threat to werewolf national security.) Of course the seer can reveal himself at any time, if he thinks it’s worthwhile to tell the other players what he’s learned. Also of course, a werewolf can claim to be the seer and “reveal” anything he wants.
The only information the villagers have is what other players say — and who dies. Accusing someone of being a werewolf is suspicious. Not accusing anyone is also suspicious. Agreeing with another player a lot is suspicious, and therefore so is pretending not to agree with another player. Never voting to kill a particular player is very suspicious for both of them — unless it’s the seer who knows that player is innocent.
My reflections …
As game host, there is so much to observe. Once I let go of my nerves, established a rhythm to the commentary and instructions, I settled into noticing-mode.
I am left wondering if being a Werewolf helps players to loosen up and relax more? They seemed to be paying much more attention to the dynamics of the game than the Seers and Citizens. Maybe being part of a known team makes all the difference (at night when everyone shuts their eyes, the werewolves, together, point out their next victim)? Not 1 of the 3 werewolves were voted out!
The Seers were desperately unlucky. One was flukily targeted by Werewolves on the first night and the other had 5 guesses before being lynched!
The villagers on the sidelines remained totally involved in watching the game. Some were laughing and others were ‘psycho-analyzing’ … trying to work it all out. Two people approached me after the game and said their mind was a lot clearer from the sidelines compared to during the game itself.
Some people found the whole experience stressful. One said that the concept of being “slaughtered” by Werewolves was quite confronting, even though it was just a game. Others said to me that they were surprised how much the experience ‘played with their mind’ and ‘sucked them in’. Like I said above, games are just games, but our mind is tricked into experiencing something far more real, where real emotions and physiological responses are evoked!
In sum …
Games like Werewolf are not just metaphors for real life … they are ‘real life’. We play games in board rooms, in parliament during question time and when parenting our children. The sad thing is we often engage in life’s high-stakes games with our blinkers on. We fly along in auto pilot, taken over by our inner voice (which are just activities of the mind), noticing little of what is actually going on.
When we loose sight of our own mind, our emotions and bodies, we also lose the ability to connect with others and empathise. By being mindful (with an intention to be present) during games like Werewolf and improv games like Jibberish and 1 Word Story, we become aware of experience as it’s unfolding. Practicing these games increases our state of mindfulness. Through practice, the new neural firing patterns become stronger – ‘what fires together wires together’. Long term traits can then develop because you have altered the structure of the brain. (Source: Dr Dan Siegel’s Mindsight writings)
So next time you are working with a group, don’t be afraid to just ‘play games’! It reveals as much about our human nature as the rest of life.
“A business where everyone blogs. Everyone thinks about what they are doing and writes about what they are doing. From the top to the bottom, the edges to the middle. Everyone awake and bouncing off each other intellectually as they get more and more effective at whatever they do.”
Just imagine any organisation, field or community of practice. Now imagine everyone openly sharing their observations, thoughts and ideas. Where everyone’s input is valued in a culture of saying yes more than no.
“You’ve either started a company or you haven’t.” he starts off.
Euan has me thinking of a different ’2 types of people in this world’ … People who blog and those who don’t. Now, I could get all high and mighty about the virtues of blogging, but I’ll resist and expand in the same way Chris did about those who have started a company.
“Blogging” doesn’t mean that you just have a blog, it means that your blog is an extension of what you are thinking, learning and practicing. When you stop blogging you might even start to feel disconnected from your own mind (I know I do). It’s a living, growing, emerging space that allows you to share ‘stuff that matters’ with the world. Even though blog posts come from the individual mind, your ideas, in reality, emerge from a network of connected minds. Having a ‘living’ blog connects you to others and the space between the blogs contains all of the life and magic.
A blog is a space where you might just start somewhere and start writing … about something. Posts are often first-cut ideas that are unrefined and feel like a draft. And it’s those offerings that often resonate with the field and spark off new ideas somewhere else. Bloggers might hear comments from others (those who don’t write & publish) like “How do you find the time?” … “Isn’t it just an egotistical repository of self admiration?” Those ideas that come to us when walking or sleeping have a place to be born. The act of writing helps bring unformed ideas to life.
Importantly, your blog allows you to publish ‘edgy’ stuff that will get criticized by some and applauded by others. You put your ideas on the line with your heart of your sleeve.