Posts Tagged ‘mandala chart’

Time For a Change #22: Putting Time on Your Side!

by William Reed on August 9, 2012

The Game of Go originated 2500 years ago in Ancient China as a strategy game in which players alternately place white and black stones on the cross points of lines on the board, in an effort to encircle and capture both stones and territory. Strategy is a matter of both calculation and intuition. The rules are simple, the strategy not so. The game favors the player who takes the long view, and players places stones strategically far enough apart to build bridges, that later in the game connect groups and surround the opponent’s stones like a net. Less experienced players overbuild to secure small corners and sections, only to choke on their own over-saturation. The term used by Go players is securing breathing space. Time is on the side of the strategic player.

The game can be a metaphor for how you play the stones in your life, how you secure breathing space in your domain. The first thing in playing your resources is to realize how lucky you are to have opportunities to be in the game in the first place. It is staggering to consider the circumstances of all of your ancestors meeting, reproducing, and surviving, each one of them laying the foundations of your birth and existence. And yet here you are! That is worth remembering once in a while when you think about how to best use and leverage your time.

Time for a Change

Reading through inspirational quotes on change, its remarkable how often the emphasis is on taking a chance. Wayne Gretzy said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Another word that comes up often is courage. Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” Another recurring theme is the importance of getting started! A proverb has it that “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

So what are you waiting for? Opportunity knocks once, not twice. If you want to create change the best time, often the only time to act is now.

Some people say that time flies, but this is partly a reflection on missed opportunity. The chance shoots past before you can catch it. Another perspective is that time flows like a river. It can carry you along or sweep you away, depending on how you navigate it.

It is remarkable how people are able to find time for that which is important to them. This is called making time, as opposed to killing or wasting time. The point is that no matter how busy you are, you do have time on your hands. Twenty-four hours of it, every day of your life.

Perspectives on Timing and Timelines

It is helpful to gain a flexible perspective on time, rather than just attempting to schedule it in the conventional way. The Japanese characters for 呼吸 (kokyū) have the meaning of both breathing and timing. This probably originates in the way in which people coordinate their efforts to lift a heavy object, or use their breathing to coordinate body movements in sport or dance.

Timing is a matter of rhythm too. It is easier to move with the beat in music than against it. Rhythm creates its own energy. Soldiers are taught to break step crossing a wooden bridge, so that the rhythm of marching doesn’t set up a dangerous sway that can cause the bridge to collapse.

Synchronicity is the simultaneous occurrence of seemingly related events that have no apparent causal relation, a coincidence in time. Things are more deeply connected than we may realize. The Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that, “Hidden connections are stronger than obvious ones.”

Whereas timing, rhythm, and synchronicity relate more to occurrences in the present, it can also be useful to look at past events on a timeline. Beedocs is brilliant software for the Mac OS X which enables you to plot events in your life, or in history on a 3D timeline. Even if you don’t have a Mac, it is worth watching the tutorials and videos on the site showing how events look plotted in 3D on a diagonal wall.

It is interesting to look at historical timelines, although they only provide a thin slice of linear events of a particular type, like a musical score for one instrument. Timelines showing parallel or simultaneous events in different areas are more interesting, like an orchestral musical score for many instruments.

Time Out

Our lives are so ruled by calendars and clocks that we may feel lost without them! They are useful and necessary for conducting life in a society that depends on coordinating schedules. However, be sure to take time out in your personal life to take breaks, cat naps to refresh and reset, and time away from your desk or computer to mingle with people or enjoy nature. The cost of not doing this is finding yourself out of time and off track, wondering where it all went.

The Power of Ritual

If you want to get results over time, there is power in perseverance, and in the repetition of ritual. Albert Einstein said that,“The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” This is an analogy for the way in which results magnify through repetition. Our days are marked by the repeating cycles of the sun and moon, and what a difference when this is reinforced with the repetition of rituals.

I explored The Power of Ritual in a series of blog posts at www.entrepreneurscreativeedge.com/power-of-ritual/. Here you can read about the power of Wax On Wax Off, Master Miyagi’s ritual for Daniel in The Karate Kid, as well as the power of perseverance in achieving mastery in music and the martial arts.

Download a PDF summary of this article in a TIMES MANDALA, and use it to review and refresh your view of time as force which is on your side, a multiplier of your resources, and a fascinating phenomenon in life.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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“You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years

except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

~Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

The philosopher’s choice

In the late 1970s I took a graduate school course in the Philosophy of Education which changed the way I thought not just about Education, but about the very way we assemble and articulate the ideas by which we live. The course was taught by a professor who had been first trained as a lawyer, and he had an uncanny ability to persuade you to his way of thinking. Although any good teacher can be persuasive, this man could make you a believer in a particular approach to Education one week, and the next week bring you in total opposition to it.

The course was structured so that in 12 weeks we covered 6 major Philosophies of Education, each of them quite different from one another, and each with both a history and a following. The first week was devoted to the pros of that philosophy, all of the excellent reasons why that approach was not only the best, but perhaps the only way to educate children. The following week took exactly the opposite point of view, destroying each argument he had made one by one, until you become a total believer that this particular philosophy of education was not only fundamentally flawed, but perhaps outright dangerous to the education of children.

He systematically constructed and then deconstructed the pros and cons of the six major philosophies behind Education in the Western world from the time of the ancient Greeks to modern day. His persuasive prowess was impressive enough, but even on the final day of the course, his response to our burning question of which philosophy did he believe in, was simply to smile and laugh under his breath, like Buddha turning a flower in his fingers rather than making any final statement of belief.

It was also remarkable how the same belief systems would rise and fall throughout history, each having its crusaders and opponents, each enjoying a heyday and a May Day. Although the professor was skilled at presenting the various perspectives on the Philosophy of Education, what really stimulated our thinking at the deepest level was reading the various arguments pro and con. It was an exhilarating and exhausting mental exercise, touching deepest at the roots of how we think about teaching and learning, and it would have been nothing by mere opinions were it not for the reading we did.

Which way reading today?

The mental shock came with real world aftershocks, on realizing that in schools not only were students reading less and less, but teachers and educational administrators were also reading less and responding to believe systems of which they were barely aware, just for the sake of survival. And this was in the days well before the Internet, which arguably has stricken a massive blow to the world of reading as we knew it.

A generation which grew up reading no longer reads books, at least in the same concentrated reflective way. The newer generations are growing up with too many distractions to take an interest in books. Reading today is more like sampling from a digital smorgasbord, than eating a well prepared meal.

Leaving regrets and longing for older ways to the Luddites, let’s consider what can actually be done today to make reading an even richer experience than was ever possible in the past.

Quotes. “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ~Emile Buchwald. These ten words speak volume on what is required to raise a generation of readers. It is not the love of knowledge that drives the process at first, but rather the love of parents, and the way in which adult society views and enjoys reading that guides the future of the next generation.

Benefits. Though there are many benefits of reading, there is an excellent summary of the definitive benefits in an article called “10 Benefits of Reading” on the www.inewsindia.com website. They can be summarized as ➀ Active mental process, ➁ Increased vocabulary, ➂ Other cultures and places, ➃ Concentration and focus, ➄ Builds Self-esteem, ➅ Improves Memory, ➆ Improves Discipline, ➇ Improves Creativity, ➈ Material for Conversation, ➉ Reduces Boredom.

Sharing Knowledge. It is not just the process of reading that changes you, and certainly not the tests that you take on what you read and soon forget, but rather the way in which you share the knowledge you have gained through reading. Talk about what you have read, write about it both formally and informally. Encourage others to talk about what what they are reading. This is what makes ideas come alive and have a practical bearing on how we live our lives.

Digital vs Analog. Although e-books and tablet reading is rapidly overtaking paperbacks, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. We are blessed with a choice that previous generations never had. Each has advantages that they other cannot provide, so why not engage in both/and thinking, rather than making an either/or choice?

Notetaking. This is where the mind gains traction and actually begins to travel. If you read without taking notes, you will merely skim the surface or spin your wheels. People who read books without taking notes often feel they are trying to scratch an itchy foot with their shoes still on. They never reach the deeper part of the mind that is calling for attention. Your notes reflect the quantity and quality of your thinking. Therefore, why not emulate the great geniuses of history and keep a notebook as a matter of course? Fill your notebook with sketches and illustrations, no matter how rough. Your thoughts will come alive and reward you with greater insights than you can get from reading without notetaking.

Commonplace Book. Read my article “Making Your Mark” to learn about the lost tradition of the commonplace book, the handmade personal book, which was not only taught at Oxford and Harvard until the early 20th Century, but was practiced by people in all walks of life. Active journaling make for active reading.

Foreign Language. An even greater way to stretch your mind than reading is to learn to speak and read in a foreign language. You quickly learn that all a foreign language dictionary can do is roughly point you in the right direction. Words are not mathematical equivalents, but rather living nuances, like the spread of a fan. This is why a literal translation is actually a mistranslation. The proverb “Out of site, out of mind” was translated into Chinese by a computer, and then back into English. The words came back, “Invisible Idiot.” Clearly there is more to translation than plugging words into a formula. A new language means a new world, new opportunities, and greater flexibility in your thinking.

Flexible Focus. Reading itself stretches your mental legs and gives you new perspectives on people and places. But you can also enrich your reading experience by introducing more variety into what you read, where and how you read. Try changing your reading environment, read aloud, read together, read alone.

Lastly, for reading follow the wise advice of Peter Drucker.

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection.

From quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

Download a READING MANDALA for a summary of the ideas in this article, and as a guide to how to enhance your approach to reading

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Time For a Change #7: Resolving Your Dilemma

by William Reed on March 22, 2012

Make up Your Mind

One thing is certain, at some time in your life you have had and will have trouble making a decision about something important. In your career, in a relationship, a financial decision, or your health, sooner or later you will face the dilemma of a difficult decision.

A dilemma is a choice between equally undesirable alternatives, or a choice that implies sacrificing something you want to keep. Boxed in a corner, facing a predicament, damned if you do and damned if you don’t, our language is filled with expressions that describe this unpleasant bind.

Going back and forth in your mind, you end up going nowhere. This can exhaust your energy with worry, and excessive analysis can lead to paralysis. It is like sitting on a railroad track with the train coming, and wondering whether you should get off the tracks on the right side or the left! The real problem is not which side you choose, but the greater risk of postponing the decision at all.

What appears to be a complex decision is often just a complex state of mind. In the light of day circumstances are simple. There is no need to press the panic button. Better to cultivate a bias for action.

The matrix makes you smarter

When you cannot make an immediate decision, it can be helpful to map out your problem on a 2×2 matrix. Eight Archetypal Dilemmas are described in The Power of the 2 x 2 Matrix: Using 2 x 2 Thinking to Solve Business Problems and Make Better Decisions, by Alex Lowy and Phil Hood. Each of these dilemmas can be put into perspective using a 2×2 matrix.

  • Head vs Heart. The dilemma of being caught between thoughts and feelings is central to the human drama. This theme runs throughout literature and mythology. A matrix allows you to separate the two opposites into four quadrants by matching thought and feeling in terms of whether you give it a higher or lower priority.
  • Inside vs Outside. This can apply to families, to organizations, or any entity that separates itself from other entities. The difference is what defines the identity of the group, and at the same time creates tension when the difference is pronounced. A common theme is where the rate or type of change differs inside and out, and what impact it has.
  • Cost vs Benefit. The key to solving this dilemma is determining whether the benefits outweight the costs, or more subtly, if a cost should actually be seen as an investment that can bring benefits over time. That depends on many factors, such as whether or not the investment is cultivated to create benefits, or simply ends up as a wasteful expense. In the absence of an absolute answer, the decision is often influenced by personal preference.
  • Product vs. Market. Needs and wants are hard to predict. The popularity of a product may depend as much on how well it is promoted as on how well it actually meets consumer needs. The key to making sense of this is to use a matrix that matches product and market in terms of what exists and what is new.
  • Change vs. Stability. Who can say whether it is better to change, or to maintain the status quo? Conservative and progressive are relative terms, and over time one can look very much like the other, as people swing between one extreme to the other.
  • Know vs. Don’t Know. The benefit of mapping issues of known vs unknown is that it can clarify whether or not you actually know something. Knowledge is often a mask for ignorance. People who achieve deep mastery in a field may come to a realization of how little they actually know, approaching the Zen state of the Beginner’s Mind, open to new discovery rather than closed in conclusion.
  • Competing Priorities. A common dilemma is the experience of the pressure to be in two places at the same time, or to dedicate equal time when time is scarce. Both require attention, both are important, and yet there are not enough hours in the day. It takes a creative mind to have both-and rather than deciding between either-or.
  • Content vs. Process. Do you follow the manual, or go on your experience? If what was more important than how then anyone could be a master chef. Knowing the recipe is not the same as being able to cook a masterful meal. And yet processes must be standardized to some degree or they cannot be repeated. Like each of the other archetypes, it is not choosing one or the other, but rather both of the opposites balanced in an yin and yang embrace.

You can make sense of these eight archetypes by downloading here a DECISION MATRIX Mandala that summarizes the 2×2 matices on a 3×3 matrix.

Unity of thought and action

The Mandala Chart, or 3×3 matrix helps you step up to a higher perspective. To paraphrase Einstein, it shows that a dilemma cannot be solved at the same level it was created. The insight which solves your problem is often the realization that it cannot be solved just by thinking about it. The Japanese word 覚悟 (kakugo) means to resolve, literally to wake up 覚 and realize 悟. An awakening triggers the resolution to action.

The confusion clears when you are decisive enough to no longer separate thought and action. Variations on the philosophy of unity of thought and action can be found in the culture of the Samurai, in the life and works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, and Peter Drucker.

The next time you face a dilemma, give it some thought but take some action, and it will be much better for you if you maintain a blend of the two.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Time For a Change #5: The Power of One Page

by William Reed on March 8, 2012

The benefits of brevity

Considering the value of your time, would you rather receive a one page summary, or a 50 page report? People don’t want to go deeper unless they have first been convinced of the value by a short summary, a great title, or a brief introduction. Books are sold by browsing the cover and table of contents. Samples always lead sales.

If you want to earn the attention of your listener a one page summary is not only a courtesy, it is a requirement. If the short version is good, the long version is bound to be even better.

What makes your one page powerful?

Here are the essential ingredients which make your message powerful, especially when you nest it on a single page.

  • Understandable. Expressing your message in compact form creates a key for understanding. The message is only complete when this key unlocks the same understanding in others. Do not assume that because an idea makes sense to you, that others will understand it just by explanation. Communication is a bridge that helps ideas to pass back and forth between people. That bridge must be easy to cross.
  • Memorable. Once the bridge is crossed, you must ensure that the other person can remember your message. Understanding does not guarantee recall. Unless you provide memory hooks with visual anchors, metaphors, and emotional impact, chances are that your message will be forgotten by nightfall. Make your message stick.
  • Remarkable. If your message is interesting enough, people want to talk or remark about it to others. The easiest way to make your message remarkable is to convey it through a story. Information is ordinary, but knowledge and wisdom makes it extraordinary.
  • Motivating. The real measure of your message is in how it inspires people to take action or change their behavior. Motivation is putting people into motion. If you want a response to your call to action, your message should be enticing, help solve a problem, or promise to make things better.

How to present your message

Whether your message is printed on paper or displayed on a screen, it is more powerful when it appears on a single page. Avoid the temptation to cram as much information as possible in the space available. For effective communication less is more. Select photos or illustrations which reinforce and resonate with your message. Useless or decorative clip art will only dilute your message. It is more effective to integrate a powerful phrase with good graphic design. A good source of information on how to do this is Garr Reynold’s blog Presentation Zen.

The need for attractive and informative display of visual information has created a new media form known as infographics. To see the variety of creative ways in which information can be graphically displayed, look at examples of social media infographics. News and business magazines are another excellent source of ideas and infographics.

The Mandala Chart is a 3×3 matrix which structures a group of eight ideas around a central theme on a single page. Each idea on the chart is indexed by a letter or number, so it is easy to navigate and present to others. The art and applications of creating Mandala Charts is covered in depth in my Flexible Focus column on activegarage.com

One Sheets are a compact way of displaying information such as a speaker’s bio, a seminar, or product description. Roger C. Parker has written a number of excellent articles on how to create One Sheets as a personal branding tool, including Best Practices and 6 Questions your One Sheet must answer. This tool serves as a promotional poster, and is often better than a brochure.

You can download a Mandala chart here, summarizing these ideas with questions to help you express your ideas with ONE PAGE POWER.

You are the message

The messenger is always more important than the message. No matter how good your graphics, your message will fall flat if you lack confidence or authenticity in how you present it.

Examples of professional slides and graphics can make you feel like you cannot do this without hiring a graphic artist. However, there are many ways to create quality one page presentations on your own. You can model the professional graphic designers without directly copying them by using ideas and elements that you like. You will be far more effective at presenting something you have created yourself, than by showing something you simply found on the Internet, and people will instantly know the difference.

The discipline of expressing your ideas on a single page helps you find the essential elements of your message. Remove anything that you might be tempted to include, if it is not directly related to your central theme.

The most effective way to present your slide, proposal, or one sheet is to read it aloud. Leave it with the other person as a summary of what you present, as a supplement not a substitute for your presentation. If you cannot convey your message clearly in conversation, chances are that it will not be much clearer on paper.

NoteCalligraphy by William Reed. 書面 (shomen) means document. The message is that what goes on paper should be full of life energy

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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When Bob Dylan released his third studio album in 1964, The Times They Are a Changin’, the powerful message spoke to the times. But this message was hardly anything new. The ancient Greek Philosopher Heraclitus (535~475 BC) was a philosopher of change, famous for the saying that, “You never step into the same river twice.” And well before that the ancient Chinese compiled the I Ching, or Book of Changes, dating back to the 2nd and 3rd Millennium BC.

It is almost redundant to say that it is Time for a Change, except that this is a universal and timeless theme, always true, and always relevant to you. Nevertheless, the tools and means of change vary with the times. It is never too late to review who and where you are as the world changes.

Even change itself is changing, through the process of Accelerating Change. Futurologists from Buckminster Fuller (Geodesic Dome) to Alvin Tofler (Future Shock) and John Naisbitt (Megatrends) have delineated the process and the paradigm shifts in technology, social, and cultural change. Change is no longer in the domain of specialists, because we all experience it deeply in our own lives.

Ask yourself what you were doing 5 years ago, or 10 years ago, and chances are you have experienced major changes in your career or personal life, many of which you had no idea were coming. It is fair to predict that the same thing will be true 5 to 10 years hence. The purpose of this new column is to provide perspective on change, and introduce innovative ways in which we can navigate and benefit from it.

Following the structure of my previous column Flexible Focus, this weekly column will also cover topics in 8 major categories:

  • Goals and Flexible Focus
  • Problems in Goal Pursuit
  • Creative Ideas and Focussed Action
  • Presenting Goals to Others
  • Secrets of Collaboration Success
  • Templates for Problem Solving
  • Goals in the 8 Fields of Life
  • 8 Principles of Mandala Thinking

Many people think that they need to get ready for change, or even try to prevent it. Yet once you recognize that change is inevitable it makes sense to shift your thinking and find ways to be ready, to welcome and initiate change.

Think of it as a paradigm shift from being passive to staying proactive.

Our constant companion in this process is Time. We will look at ways in which to measure, manage, and manipulate time through your attitude and the use of powerful tools for Goal planning and implementation.

We do not travel alone. We will look at the importance of communication and partnership in achieving great things that you could not on your own.

Learning from experience is not always the best way to leverage your success. We will look at guiding principles, tools, and templates that can reduce the long journey of our predecessors to a shorter path for our ourselves that those who follow us.

While change can be wrenching and hard, it can also be invigorating and inspiring. So much depends on how we view and engage with it. Join us in this journey, and let us join you in yours.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #71: The 3rd Mandala Chart Festival 2011

by William Reed on September 29, 2011

A day of dedication

The 3rd Annual MANDALA CHART FESTIVAL was held in Tokyo on Saturday 24 November 2011. With over 100 attendees, participants enjoyed presentations, recognition of contest winners, a experts panel discussion, introduction of new Mandala products, and a party to meet and make new friends. The Festival Keynote was delivered  by the founder of the Mandala Chart method, Matsumura Yasuo, with presentation from one of the directors of the Mandala Chart Association, a presentation on how to study Peter Drucker’s philosophy with the Mandala Chart, as well as celebration of success stories using the Mandala Chart method.

This was the 3rd year for the festival to be held, and it was with some reservations with the mood in the wake of the March 11 Earthquake and Tsunami disaster. However, the Association decided to hold the festival because of the importance of Mandala Chart education and applications to Japanese society, and to support those who are already dedicated to its practice.

Participants each received a full color copy of the 41 Mandala Chart Contest entries, from which 13 prizes were awarded for excellence and originality, as well as for effectiveness in applications ranging from business management to personal growth. Each entry was in the form of an A-Chart or a B-Chart, featured on the right hand page opposite an explanation of the Chart on the facing page. The explanation itself was in the format of an A-Chart, with the Theme in the center, surrounded by A) Profile, B) Overview, C) Application, D) Benefits, E) Recommended for, F) Why now?, G) Future Projects, and H) In a Word.

Serving as one of the directors of the Mandala Chart Association, I also made an entry in Japanese, the English translation of which appeared in an earlier article in this series, Flexible Focus #63: SAMURAI WALK.

There were also announcements of new Mandala Chart Products, including the annual 2012 Mandala Business Diary, as well as inserts that are created in the same format, Magic Questions for Coaching by Matsuda Hiromi, Wish List by Takezawa Shingō, and 22 Steps to Tarot by Ōhara Sumika, offering people imaginative ways of further engaging in the process.

 

But the best part of participating in the festival was the opportunity to meet and greet like-minded people, and to discover the wide range of creative and passionate applications which they have developed for the Mandala Chart in their business and personal lives.

Vision for the future

Of course the festival and all of its publications were conducted in Japanese. Part of my role is to take this message outside of Japan to the English-speaking world, both through this column The Art of Flexible Focus, and through upcoming publications and applications in English, to be released within the 2011 calendar year.

The vision for the future is to make the Mandala Chart Method widely available in analog and digital form, so that people may practice and benefit from it wherever they be. It would be impossible to translate the volume of information available in Japanese, although there is much to learn from it in digested form. It is also important to create templates and guides to this marvelous process in English, so that people outside of Japan can begin making their own discoveries and applications.

Perhaps you have seen a juggler in a park juggling 3 to 5 balls without dropping one? It is exceedingly difficult even for a professional juggler to go beyond this number, and yet with the Mandala Chart Method it is possible to juggle dozens, if not hundreds of items in 8 areas of life. Like juggling, there is a knack to this which you can pick up from someone who has mastered it. It requires practice and the inner motivation to engage with it, and with life itself at a deeper level. Peter Drucker described it like a unity of thought and action, in which you can learn from effective action and reflection in an ongoing pursuit of perfection.

The Mandala Chart Festival was enormously stimulating as an opportunity to engage with so many people effectively applying the Mandala Chart in so many walks of life, some for many years. What I found most inspiring was to see how well people have customized their Mandala Business Diaries to their own style of thinking and acting, down to the content, color and style of entries, creating a kind of magic book in which they could reflect on their past and project their future. It was a wonderful reminder of how important it is to fully engage your senses and your body in the process of realizing your dreams, and the added inspiration and assistance you get when you share your dreams with others.

As we approach a New Year in 2012 the world is reeling from uncertainty. With the world in flux we need more than ever to learn the art of flexible focus, and how to achieve balance in the 8 areas of life. The Mandala Chart method is an excellent way to get your bearings, and to develop these very skills. While this column will wind to an end within the 2011 calendar year, it will transform into new products and strategies, soon to be announced. We hope that it will bring you many blessings and abundance.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #68: The Principle of Improvisation

by William Reed on September 8, 2011

The 8th Principle of the Mandala Chart is the Principle of Improvisation. This is the spirit of continuous improvement, the promise of ongoing renewal. Everyone encounters obstacles in life. How you face and overcome them is the key to your character, and ultimately to what you experience in life.

Why do people resist change, when it is the only constant in life? One reason is the fear of loss of control, even though the degree of control itself is dubious from the start. The Mandala Chart reminds us that our world is complexly constructed, and that it appears very differently depending on how we frame it. So many factors are beyond our direct control that the only real control that we may have is in how we look at and engage with it.

Rather than wrestling with things over which you have little or no control, why not master your mind through the Mandala?

The Juggler’s Art

The juggler maintains control by letting go. The only way to maintain the juggling pattern, or any other improvisation, is to continually catch and release. The moment you hold on to one of the balls, the others fall to the ground. Michael J. Gelb explores this process in an excellent book called, More Balls than Hands: Juggling Your Way to Success by Learning to Love Your Mistakes. Whereas a juggler may juggle 3 to 5 balls, in life we must juggle far more, at least in 8 major areas of life! As in juggling, it takes practice, and along the way we end up dropping more balls than we catch.

Whether you experience this process as fun or as frustrating depends on your attitude. The Mandala Chart gives you leverage over your attitude because it helps you reframe the process to see the big picture, the small detail, and the connectedness with flexible focus.

The illustration shows the characters for continuity (継続 keizoku), written in a stylized fashion, as the backdrop for the main theme, ongoing renewal. This is a very positive way to engage with the inevitable element of change. One of the best ways to gain energy for this lifelong marathon is to look at the big picture, something we have already done in the 100 Year Lifespan. The average person sweats the small stuff, makes mountains out of molehills. With flexible focus you are able to stay calm in a crisis, and to make molehills out of mountains.

Lessons from Jazz

In Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life, Wynton Marsalis defines the ability to improvise as the ability to make things up that could get you out of a tight spot. He grew up with great Jazz musicians, who told great stories and knew how to listen. What gives them this ability is a magic blend of perception, perspective, and participation. Jazz has been many things to many people, but it has defined the art of improvisation in music and modern life.

If you want to taste the power of Jazz then you should listen to the best selling Jazz album in history, Kind of Blue, a masterpiece of Jazz improvisation featuring Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb, all at the peak of their prowess. Bill Evans writes on the album jacket that Jazz improvisation is like Japanese ink painting, which forces the artist to be spontaneous, making erasures and changes impossible. You only get one take. Moreover, on this album one take was all that was needed. Each of the pieces was conceived by Miles Davis only hours before the recording, and none were rehearsed. Listen closely, and let it take you to higher heights, deeper depths, and broader bridges.

Getting There

A story has it that a violinist in New York City asked a cab driver, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The cabbie told him plainly, “Practice!

You don’t need to be a juggler or a musician to get the full meaning of the metaphor. But you do need to practice living, to practice the balancing act as long as you live. Put your thoughts on paper. See your life in perspective. The better you get, the more you appreciate the process.

Give it a try: 3 x 3 and your mind is free!

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #65: Shaping Your Future

by William Reed on August 11, 2011

What is the secret to a life of abundance, and is there a simple method for approaching it?

We have seen how abundance, as well as lack, can be experienced in each of the 8 fields of life: Health, Business, Finance, Home, Society, Personal, Learning, and Leisure. The Mandala Chart can help you gain perspective in each of these areas, as well as in how they enhance and complement each other. In effect, we tell our life story in the way in which we integrate and excel in each of these areas. Without a tool such as the Mandala Chart for viewing and balancing our life, it is all too easy to get caught up in the challenges of one or two areas, at the expense of the others. No wonder it takes a lifetime, maybe several, to get it right.

The first step is to seek continuous improvement, not perfection. Living is a dynamic process, and balance is achieved by continual adjustment, not holding on to a status quo. Think of how you keep your balance on a bicycle. At first you wobble, but gradually your adjustments become so smooth that the wobble seems to disappear. Balance is easier to maintain in motion than in standing still. After you learn to steer, the next question is where do you want to go?

What you see is what you get

A story tells of a family driving through a small town to which they were considering settling in. They passed a home where a local resident was sitting on the porch and asked him, “Say, what are the people like in this town?” He replied by asking back, “What were they like where you came from?” The traveler said that they were mean-spirited and closed-minded. The resident told them, “That’s pretty much the way they are here too.” And so the traveler moved on. Later another family passing through asked the resident the same question, and he asked them what the people were like where they came from. This family replied that they were such nice people, so friendly and helpful. He responded, “That’s pretty much the way they are here too.” And so the family settled there.

So much of our experience is conditioned by our expectations, that we sometimes mistake them for reality itself. The first step to leading a life of abundance starts with your mental outlook. The way our expectations condition our experience is known as the Pygmalion Effect. Pygmalion was a Greek sculptor from Cyprus who carved a statue of a woman from ivory, and fell in love with the sculpture. Through the graces of Venus, in time his adoration brought the statue to life. In educational psychology the Pygmalion Effect refers to how the teacher’s expectations can condition a child’s performance in school, and the teacher’s attitude has been proven in numerous studies to be a significant force.

Take a look at yourself as you could be

The same can be said for what we expect of ourselves, as has also been shown in studies where self-esteem and self-image can be the most significant determining factor in performance. This was discovered by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon who found that self-image had a far more lasting and determining effect on a person’s appearance than the temporary changes rendered by plastic surgery. Dr. Maltz is considered the originator of self-image psychology, and his classic book Psycho-Cybernetics sold over 30 million copies since it was originally published in 1960. It was updated in 2002 in the author’s voice, but with more contemporary examples, in an edition called New Psycho-Cybernetics.

While self-image has a powerful determining effect on your performance, it is partially submerged in your subconscious mind, and its shadowy nature makes it difficult to grasp. This is why psychology approaches it indirectly through suggestion and affirmations. If we use positive language, that helps create positive expectations, and improves your self-image. Life is a canvas upon which we paint with our mind’s eye, and which we can modify by our speech and actions.

In addition to this, there is another step we can take to gain greater clarity and leverage in each of the 8 fields of life, using the Mandala Chart. It provides a useful structure for a diary, which might otherwise simply be a journal or personal record of impressions. It serves as a mirror, and doubles as a lens for flexible focus. It can put the past in perspective, and shape the future by setting your expectations in advance. It rescues the self-image from its shadowy existence, and puts your expectations in plain view. With this in mind you begin to change the way you make entries in your Mandala Chart. Instead of simply reporting on the way things are or were, you actually begin to sculpt them into the way things could be. This sets the Pygmalion Effect in motion, and accelerates the rate of positive change.

Therefore why not create images of beauty and abundance in your mind’s eye, awaken the sleeping statue, and see your dreams come to life?

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #63: SAMURAI WALK

by William Reed on July 28, 2011

Every year in Japan the Mandala Chart Association holds a Mandala Chart Festival, and contestants submit examples of a Mandala Chart that they are using in their work or personal life. The variety is something to see, ranging from a consultant’s application of Peter Drucker’s management philosophy, to an elementary school boy’s plan on his future career as a professional baseball player. The festival features various people who are leaders in their respective fields, and each shares examples of how they use the Mandala Chart.

Contestants submit both an example of a Mandala Chart, and an explanation of what it means and how it is used. The Mandala Charts themselves range from hand drawn to computer generated, from personal to professional examples, each as unique as the people who created them. However, each contestant has to submit an explanation in a standardized format with information on the following topics: Theme, Profile, Overview, Applications, Benefits, Recommended for, Why Now?, Future Projects, and In a Word. This is an excellent discipline because you need to make your Mandala Chart clear to others, as well as to yourself.

SAMURAI WALK Concept

I am attaching the Mandala Chart and Explanation which I am submitting for the Mandala Festival to be held on Sep 24, 2011. It also happens to announce my launch of a new brand and Trademark called SAMURAI WALK ®, along with the various products and projects (illustration, below) I am launching with it.

SAMURAI WALK Products

There will be more on this in future articles, but this is an example of how a concept can grow into tangible products and projects, even to launch a business.

It takes extra work and discipline to create a Mandala Chart at this level of precision, but it is worth the extra effort when you see the project on paper becoming a reality. For that reason you might see if you can describe a dream or project in detail on 3X3 Matrix, and then answer the questions in the 9 categories above on the Concept Sheet. The lens of the Mandala Chart will focus your mind wonderfully, and the discipline of putting it all into 9 frames will help you communicate your project to others.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #57: Unlocking the Box of Perception

by William Reed on June 9, 2011

A recurring theme in the Mandala Chart is the use of frames for flexible focus. We have looked specifically at themes such as Finding Focus in the Frames, and Inside the Lines. One of the benefits of flexible focus is mental health and resilience.

We refer to a frame of reference, the belief system or perspective which frames our perception and values. Reframing is a core concept in psychology, both in the ability to reinterpret a problem as an opportunity, or the ability to listen to differing opinions with an open mind. It is one of the principles behind meditation and hypnosis, where silence and suggestion reframe the way we see and experience the world. Reframing is what moves our mind in art and in advertising.

Leonardo DaVinci frequently would draw the same object from at least 3 different perspectives. We should not be so quick to think that our current perspective is the only one. This folly is magnified when we try to impose our limited point of view on others, whether it is through education, propaganda, or persuasion.

Reframing is the shift in perception when our eyes play tricks on us, such as with optical illusions. It is the magic behind the magic eye and other stereograms, where 3D images are embedded inside a 2D image, sharply revealing themselves when you look at the picture with eyes slightly crossed or through special glasses.

All of this can be great fun. It is also used by some optometrists as a means of exercising lazy eyes, reducing eye strain. The importance and effectiveness of exercising your eyes is supported by the Bates Method and other approaches to improving vision. There are even yoga exercises for the eyes.

Making the Mental Leap

Scientists, artists, and inventors develop the ability to change perspective in visualizing solutions and solving problems. In business and training, creativity is encouraged through games that help the group achieve a new perspective. A great compendium of such games can be found in Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo.

What the Mandala Chart can add to this potent brew is the ability to be both creative and orderly in the frames. We have seen in the article on Assessing Your Situation with a Mandala SWOT Analysis how it can add new dimensions going beyond the 2×2 matrix.

Here is an additional way that you can use the Mandala Chart to multiply your mental powers.

Start with a 3×3 Mandala Chart, fill in the surrounding frames, and leave the central frame empty. This is used to capture insights you gain by cross-matching the ideas in the 8 surrounding frames. You could also write out your ideas on 8 notecards and arrange them in a box formation, leaving the central area free. Label your ideas A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, in the manner of the Mandala Chart, but instead of viewing them in a static arrangement, see what else you can discover when you combine them in creative ways.

You can look at rows, columns, or opposites on any axis. You can move cards to new positions and get a new perspective. Substitute new ideas for a potentially limitless range of perspectives, but always within the 3×3 framework. It is the blend of spontaneity and discipline which sparks your creativity. Create a new card for any hybrid idea that comes from mixing and matching elements in the square, but instead of putting the new idea in the middle, set it aside to leave the central frame open for additional offspring of your ideas.

Try to create at least 8 new ideas from this mental cross-pollination, and you will get a sense of the power of the process. Just as in nature, some matches are better than others. Not all combinations work, at least until you are able to make the mental leap and find a new perspective.

Remember that each idea looks different in the light of another idea. Extend this to the art of creative conversation and collaboration, and you truly have a magic key to unlock the box and discover the infinite idea treasures within.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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