The ‘Notice More’ mantra is one I keep coming back to. Johnnie Moore first introduced me to the concept of Notice More-Change Less – it’s like a principle to live by.
Well, last week I ‘noticed’ an interview with Kelly Slater, arguably the world’s most enduring sports champion. He’s been at the top of surfing for 23 years and has beaten 5 era’s of surfers with 11 World Titles. This detailed info graphic sums his achievements …
Here are a couple of quotes from Kelly on ‘Noticing’
When asked how he can keep winning so many tight contests …
“I try to pay attention to a lot of things”
“I notice things and adjust accordingly.”
The detailed of the interview reveals that he spends a lot of time watching the waves and the forces that shape the wave direction, frequency and form. Like noticing the ball in tennis, being in tune with the waves is everything. I’m sure Timothy Gallway (author of the Inner Game series) would agree.
So, here’s a question to consider. If ‘noticing’ the ball is everything in tennis and being in the flow of the waves in surfing is the secret to success and mastery … what is the ‘ball’ or ‘wave’ in the game you play? What are the critical factors that need more of your attention?
Being an active contributor in a small community is a fascinating subject! You could write a book about it!!
Over the past 12 months I’ve dived into the Parent Committee at our local primary school (aka Parent Club) and taken a co-lead role with 3 mums. As with much of my working life, I find myself the only man actively involved in the community building space.
Last year our new committee found our feet, tightened up some policies and, like in previous years, took the lead on some important initiatives and fund raising activities. The co-leadership idea that I pushed hard for worked really well. There was always 1 person to step and lead when others became too busy with life. We did good … without being great. We changed some stuff, and as you’d expect, copped some flack from others in the community. As Seth Godin says in one of my favorite posts … “If you are not being criticized, then you are not leading!” Criticism and leadership are intertwined like innovation and failure.
One area of intense criticism and community ‘rumor-milling’ that I did not expect was our effort to set up an After School Care (ASC) Profram. Identified as the #1 need by large parts of the school community, a small group within Parent Club (and others) worked tirelessly to broker a deal with Camp Australia, the Surf Coast Shire and the Aireys Community Hall. After more than 1/3 of families at the school ‘showed up’ late year to a registration session, it starts next Monday!
So why is school care needed in Aireys Inlet – a small, coastal village nearly an hour from the nearest big town (Geelong)? And why has ASC created rumor, innuendo and dissent in our community? I don’t have answers, but I have a few opinions.
So why is ASC needed down here? Ok, imagine you are a young mum with 2 children in prep and grade 2. You are desperate to gain a university qualification so that you can have a career in your 30′s and beyond. Your husband works and school pickup (at 3pm) 2 days a week is not possible with your study timetable. Or imagine you are a single mum struggling to make ends meet. You’ve got one child and have an opportunity to work 3 days a week in Geelong to help make ends meet. But your job finishes at 5pm. Without a reliable and accountable ASC Program, neither woman can pursue their goals.
The examples above are fiction, but very close to some local truths. The fact is, very few families down here have family support for the 1 or 2 days they need their kids picked up from school – those that have family support are blessed. And this is a community that, more than most, sees friends step up and look after each other’s kids when needed. I love that local support about this community and I’ve written plenty about it in the past. However (and this is my opinion), you simply can’t rely on friends 2 days a week, 40 weeks of a year so that you can work or study.
As for the rumor mill and criticism … it comes with the territory and I’m not going to even share my opinions because they are probably wrong and based on false assumptions! In Parent Club last year, it is clear that we did not communicate clearly enough or often enough. The program funding model evolved and underwent many iterations … and met its share of roadblocks going through school council. It’s re-taught me how tough communicating something new like this is. On the surface it seems simple, but it is complex and felt like a journey of 3 steps forward and then 3 steps back. Little by little, with perseverance and commitment from a select few, ASC is now a reality for this little community.
So, as the Parent Club AGM approaches and I put my hand up to co-lead once again, my 2012 experience of success and failure makes me a little wiser. One thing is for sure, I’ll be sticking to my main principle for working in committees – learned by working alongside the wonderful Viv Mcwaters – “By working together and supporting each other in this committee, we will have fun, make each other look good and we all end up closer friends at end than when we started.” Now that a principle to live into!!
Today was one of those days where everything converged – where a lot of past stuff came together and, at the same time, the future I am co-creating came into view. The story of today …
My youngest of three boys, Hamish (aka Mr Chipper), attended his first day of school today. He was excited, but not overly so. He was confident, with a hint of vulnerability. His two older brothers, like his parents, could hardly believe he was off to Aireys Inlet Primary School – a small, coastal school of 130 students where students at all levels know each other.
But, I wasn’t there to see Mr Chipper off, or witness his first steps into class surrounded by his little mates. I wasn’t at work and I wasn’t out for an early surf. No, I was being admitted to hospital for (long ago booked) dental surgery on a tooth that has cause me more grief than any other part of my body. That tale of suffering (of the first world variety) is for another time! Happenstance and bad luck saw these 2 dates converge to January 31, 2013.
I’ll fast forward the story of today … past the hunger pains of having to miss breakfast … beyond the news that I was last on the list and would have to wait (growing ever hungrier) until lunchtime to enter theatre … past that 20 second period where the general anesthesia goes to work … past the recovery room and up to the point where my mum picks me up and drives me back to her place.
There is nothing like being with your mum when recovering from illness or surgery. Mum’s are hard-wired to care for their kids and feed them soul food, even when they are 41 years old! I hadn’t seen mum since Christmas Day nearly 6 weeks before and was struck that I hadn’t spent much time with mum, just the 2 of us, since Dad passed a year ago.
After sharing photos of our recent family adventure in Tasmania, and after a late afternoon (still in recovery phase) nap, we began to talk about Dad. How proud he would have been to see Hamish off to school. How much he’d have loved our tales of camping in Tassie.
In his final weeks alive, Dad made me promise him to take our kids travelling, to learn and experience life as a family as much as we could! Living up to this promise has opened up a whole new world for me. It’s transformed my view of parenting, of community, of how to listen and of what’s most important. It’s given me a clearer purpose to my own consulting work and the direction I want to take my offering. My experiences in recent months have rekindled a child-like enthusiasm for what I do.
And as I share these private thoughts in this public space, I realize (again) how important writing has become. My private journal (using Evernote) and my blog (Yes!AndSpace) are spaces where I connect dots between things. When writing, like now, its like time and to-do’s fade away. The meaning evolves and emerges as I write and it’s always, always best when I simply write what comes … and keep suppressing that tyrannical urge to be clever and witty!
Like I said above, lots of things have converged during my long chat with mum tonight. I read to her one of my private journal entries, written after spending a day with dad only weeks before he died. It was like finding a lost treasure and, like magic, reading this entry brought him into the room with us. This is the gift of writing and of sharing it with others.
After 3 weeks in Tasmania we finally scored some waves this morning – a lovely little right at Bicheno. Whilst waiting for set waves on my SUP I started thinking about the rhythm we are in on this leg of our journey around Tasmania.
We have stopped asking each other the question – “What time is it?”. Our day is quite simply regulated by the rumblings in our tummies and the rise and fall of the sun. We have realised how time-bound life is at home. We are also cherishing every moment of this time-boundless trip. Whilst I write this, Ingrid and Griff are playing a card game, Lachie is writing his journal and Hamish is playing music on the iPad. No plans and no deadlines. It’s living a life of Open Space where passion (doing the things we love) is bounded by a discipline … a responsibility for things like keeping our camper organised and for teaching (un-schooling) our kids on-the-road.
Left – Kids keep the daily budget so we can stick to our target!
Right – Our Mr7 (Lachie) writes a daily journal … he has a unique “in-the-moment” style
I’ve been applying Open Space Technology to my work with groups of people for years now, and every so often the simplicity of the Open Space principles amazes me. Like I said above, this camping trip is not bounded by the clock on my iPhone – “Whenever it starts is the right time” and “When it’s over it’s over”. We have a plan but we riff around the pre-thought notes and, like this morning’s surf, seize opportunities as they arise – “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have”. We meet people along the way and form new relationships. In the remote bush camps, kids are amazing at launching into a day of beautiful play without the toys and stuff we left behind at home. Kids are not selective about who they play with and, from what I’ve observed, apply the principle “Whoever come are the right people” naturally.
And on that note … I’ve got two kids at my side pestering me with a sing song version of “I’m Hungry …”. I’ll leave this post with selection of kids’ creations in and around campsite across Tasmania.
Another thing I’ve noticed on this off-road trip around Tasmania is my kids. I pay plenty of attention to them at home, but … when you get to hang out with them all day, every day that’s when you really get to know them.
Both Ingrid and I are really seeing their individual traits – their frailties, humour and their gifts! More though, we are noticing the relationships between all 3 boys. I can see, more clearly than ever, who niggles who and when. I am sensing the friendship, love and respect between them.
We have a little more than 2 weeks to go where we are constantly in each other’s company. 4 canvass walls and a canvass roof is our home. We are eating home cooked meals from the camp stove and we are exposed to the elements from the time wake to bed. We are growing accustomed to the lack of facilities when “out bush”. We are not running by the clock, but instead, by the need to eat and sleep. None of us have missed our toys from home as nature offers so much more!
We are currently on an off-road camping adventure in the island state of Tasmania. If you have been tuning into the news (anywhere in the world) you’d know that Tasmania is in the grip of bushfires. They are burning in the south-east, centre, north-east and north-west of the state. Our thoughts and best wishes are with everyone who going through this. Last Friday our own community (Aireys Inlet) was on high alert with high temperatures and winds. From high up, just below Cradle Mountain, we were nervously watching Victorian conditions as well.
So far, we have had some good luck and have made some good decisions to keep clear of the fire affected areas. We would have struggled without access to internet though. The Tasmanian fire service website has been helpful and the BOM site (via the iphone app) has allowed us to look a few days ahead and decide where to go. Our solid understanding of bushfire behaviour has been invaluable as well.
Yesterday we left Lake St Claire National Park (after some beautiful SUP’ing) a day early than our plans and headed between the fire affected areas on a warm but very calm day where main roads were safe. The forecast of high temperatures and savage winds materialised this morning and the sedate fire flanks (all across Tasmania) raged to life into active fronts. Emergency warnings are out everywhere and communities across Tasmania are on high alert … with some being advised to relocate.
Yesterday at 2.30pm we arrived, by ferry, to Bruny Island. The southern most island that is (currently) free of fires with camping grounds located right on the beach. From our southern vantage point, we had a light sprinkling of ash falling from the sky carried by strong NW winds from the central island fires. Here is an eerie photo of the sky to Bruny’s north – the large Tasman Peninsular fire is somewhere in the distance.
The sanctuary of Bruny Island is quite something indeed! In search of a National Park campsite, we drove from the north tip to southern most point of Cloudy Bay. This place is a paradise … I could move here in a heartbeat! So, whilst we wait for the fires on the east coast of Tassie to re open, Bruny will be our home along a thin strip of land known as the ‘Neck’. Here are a few pics taken so far:
The strip of land linking the north and south of Bruny Isand known as The Neck. Our boys watching ‘almost’ surfable barrels out in front of our campsite.
Bruny’s Sour Dough & Cheese Makers are divine!
Food and wine is a huge focus on Bruny, here is a description (of the food at the Bruny Hotel) and some evidence!
Next Stop … Hobart where we have Mona, Salamanca Markets and The Hobbit (in 3D) in our sights!
This got me thinking about my own preparation on the morning of a facilitation gig. I’m right in the middle of my preparation now, with an event starting in 2 hours from now. I’ve just come off two days of facilitation and have another 2 days to follow.
When you are in the middle of a big week of performing (cause that’s what it feels like) maintaining energy levels is key. You have to nourish your body, mind and spirit … if you don’t then performing at your best is impossible. This is true of any endeavour.
I can tell when I haven’t prepared because my instructions/explanations about process become ‘waffly’ and incoherent. Lack of preparation, for me, creates a thick fog in the space between me and participants – the very people I am there to serve. My ability to read the moment by moment group dynamics diminishes. Time slippage occurs and, physiologically, I sweat a lot more. My demeanour is heavy and I wear a frown. Poor preparation, especially lack of sleep, impacts everything for me!
When I prepare well, the opposite happens. When giving instructions or explaining a process, I know when to terminally shut-up and keep things brief (thanks Chris here and Viv here in point #4). Most importantly, participants and my clients walk away feeling nourished with a sense that we cracked open some complex nuts!
So, here’s what I’ve been doing this week in Melbourne to stay fresh and focused:
- start the day with plenty of water and a session of sitting meditation
- steer clear of too many carbs and stick with protein … and don’t mix the 2!
- It’s probably very risky … but, I ride everywhere (on my Melbourne Bikeshare Bike) between workshop venues and meetings
- And yes I allow myself one coffee each morning at the Slip’s Cafe on Albert St
- Get to the venue well before participants … take my time to set up and “notice” what’s in the room because sometimes spaces have unique attributes you can use later. I also imagine the space full of people and run through some possible openings
- When working with Chris Corrigan earlier this year he pointed out the “nature of the sound” of a group. I now, after intially struggling with the concept, understand where he is coming from here. From time to time during conversation processes like World Cafe, I’ll turn away from the group and just listen to the sound of conversation. By allowing myself the time to notice this “group-sound” (and block my visual sense), I have another way of sensing … which leads to new ways of responding to the group needs.
- Steer clear of most workshop food (although today’s was an exception to the rule and I indulged)
- Drink plenty more water
As I grow older and wiser, I am becoming more disciplined on the points above. Feel free to share your own “preparation” tips in the comments … even if it’s unrelated to facilitation.
I haven’t written much lately, despite having so much to share about my new collaborations in work and the thriving community life here in Aireys Inlet. Life has been full to brim and we have managed to keep a healthy balance between work-family-community-play.
I have just spent a couple of hours reading through my favourite 3 blogs … all written by friends and colleagues. You should check out what Viv McWaters, Johnnie Moore and Chris Corrigan have been writing about recently … because you won’t find too much recent stuff here! That’s about to change as I rediscover my passion for sharing the stuff I notice and learn!
Mark (@herdmeister), a former hot-shot London advertising planner, came to the conclusion that advertising needed to worry less about the usual buzzwords swishing around the industry, and more about the hard science of human behavior.
He calls it “Herd Behavior”. People are hyper-social creatures who behave en masse, not individually. And there’s a lot of new science to back it up.
Which renders a lot of old-school, command-and-control ideas about marketing and business rather misinformed at best, completely wrong at worst.
Marketers love to be lazy, love to think that humans beings are predictable… that if you only say the right thing in a sweet-sounding and clever enough voice, people will magically fall into line. Like some magic lever, just waiting to be pulled. Alas.”
In my own consulting work with clients this “Tyranny of Control” remains a pervasive force and one I find myself challenging constantly. When it comes to my practice of designing for and facilitating group conversations … there is no mechanical lever that sets off a nice, neat set of predictable outcomes. Viv McWaters and Johnnie Moore have written some great stuff on this and they call it the Tyranny of the Explicit. Here’s a little of what Viv has to say …
“Building your commitment muscle takes a leap of faith, often into the unknown. If you need to know what it will be like before you commit (which on the face of it seems reasonable) you will be forever stuck in what Johnnie and I refer to as the Tyranny of the Explicit – needing to know yet more information before acting.
Trailblazers, leaders, innovators all share a willingness to commit without knowing the outcome, without knowing if it will be worth it, without having done a risk analysis. They bust free of the Tyranny of the Explicit.”
So what are you trying to control at the moment? I’ve a got a few thing I need to ‘let-go’ of myself
I have started playing around with Storify again. I am going to introduce some school teachers to Storify during a session this Thursday at my local school. The topic will be on knowledge curation and the social web. I can imagine how useful Storify could be to a teacher.
Please let me know of any other useful tools that teachers can learn to use. Something that helps to store, curate and publish information/ideas/stories/knowledge.
Here is a Storify story that contains the basic content of my session …