Posts Tagged ‘teacher’

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 #48: The Principle of Initiative

by William Reed on April 7, 2011

“With a brain in my head, and feet in my shoes, I can steer myself any direction I choose.” ~Dr. Seuss

What you see is what you get

One of the central insights of the Mandala Chart is that the world we see is actually the world as we see it, not a fixed reality to which we must succumb. While we share the same space, we do not see or experience it in the same way. Things do not look, feel, or taste the same when you are in love, as they do when you are broken hearted, because your heart and your mind are the lens and filter through which you see the world. Reality is subjective, but pliable. What you see is what you get. We are all co-creators of our world.

Your disposition determines whether you see the world in a positive light or cast a pall of darkness. This creates the quality of your experience, and it influences the experience of others with whom you share that space. In this way, some people  have the power to brighten a room and make others feel good, while others can sap the energy from the place itself.

That is why we choose the company of some people over others, choose to live in a certain city or work in a particular place. Sometimes the people we spend time with and the places we inhabit drain our energy instead. When that happens, we can succumb to it, get away from it, or choose to make a change from our own initiative.

Be proactive at the Edge

Interesting things happen at the edges. This is where we enter new territory, where you get the cross-fertilization of ideas, where cultures meet and discoveries happen. An edge is not just the outer limit of something; an edge is also an interface to something else.

The Mandala Chart also represents an edge, a bridge to a new way of seeing the world. That alone gives you an edge, compared to someone who is stuck in their perceptions. The word for edge in Japanese is 縁 (en), which is also used to mean connection, and in Buddhism it is the bridge between cause and effect.

When the West first encountered Eastern thinking in India, some people had the impression that the tone of the religion and culture was fatalistic, based on the misinterpretation of karma as some kind of predetermined destiny or fate. However, the word karma is better translated as work, or the action you take at the edge, which intervenes with and changes the direction of previous causes, leading to effects which are anything but predetermined.

A saying has it that there are three types of people, those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened? Think of this as people who live at the edge, people who live away from the edge, and people who have lost their edge.

The Mandala Chart Principle of Initiative is about being proactive at the edge, being a player rather than a spectator. How you experience the game depends a great deal on whether you are out on the soccer pitch or sitting in the spectator stands.

The more you see how much there is to be done, and how much you are able to do, the less sense it makes to worry or fret over circumstances. What sense does it make to wring your hands, when you can go to work on your plan?

Pygmalion Effect

Pygmalion was a sculptor from Cyprus in Greek mythology who fell in love with a female statue he had carved of ivory. In the story his love brings the statue to life. The Pygmalion Effect is the name given to a seminal study in the psychology of education, in which it was discovered that students frequently performed to the level of expectations of their teacher, regardless of their abilities. It is also known as the self-fulfilling prophecy.

To paraphrase Henry Ford, whether you think you can or cannot, you will prove yourself right. And many people in the world of Positive Psychology would agree. The challenge is that it isn’t always easy to believe that things will work out, when negative circumstances are staring you in the face. The key is, don’t stare back!

Realizing that the world is as we see it gives you a fundamental change in perspective. You can use the Mandala Chart as a lens to change your focus, see deeper or farther, and select that which you want to focus on, so that circumstances become your servant, rather than the other way around. You don’t want to end up a slave of circumstance.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Many cultures have stories involving the pursuit of happiness, often symbolized as the Bluebird of Happiness, for its bright and happy associations, and for its elusive flighty quality. These stories start with a search far and wide for the elusive bluebird, and end with the realization that happiness was within them right from the start.

Variations on this theme abound, from the story of the Prodigal Son to the Wizard of Oz, in which there is no place like home. These stories are parables, metaphors for our journey, not advice to stay put and bloom where you were planted. Regarding the pursuit of happiness, Abraham Lincoln said it best, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” That was good enough for him, and it is good enough for you and me.

With the music in your heart, you have a good place to start.

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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Last week I told you about my passions and I described what a mess they make of my life and of our house and office!  But how do baby birds fit here?  And how do YOU fit here?  Those college students I mentioned are the baby birds.  They seem to always be waiting for the next college class to feed them information, the next semester of study that will give them what they need to be good . . . and so on.  They seem to be intentionally ignoring information on medically-related subjects because . . . well . . . I am not really sure WHY they are doing that.  Here are four possibilities:

  1. Other Plans. They are secretly planning to go into car repair instead of medicine and they just haven’t told anyone.
  2. Embarrassed to Admit: They have already secretly earned their PhDs in their chosen fields and are embarrassed to admit that they have already read those articles, or maybe wrote them.
  3. Hedging. They are hedging, not allowing themselves to get excited about a career, not digging in and investing time now, because they are afraid they may not make it into the medical field they have set their sights on.  And they don’t want to set themselves up for disappointment later.  If this is the case, they need to snap out of it.  Viking ship captains burned their boats on the beaches so the message to the disembarked troops was clear:  We are STAYING here, boys, so make it work!  Same for mamby pamby students – – – get committed, get resourceful and make it happen.  Immersing yourself in the subject now could teach you something arcane (look it up) and give you just enough head start on other more hesitant colleagues that you might beat them out of a slot in medical school or in that nursing program you want.  Being hesitant or unsure now might keep you from learning that one item which, in a competitive interview, could actually have WON you the admission slot!
  4. Waiting to be FED. Like baby birds, they are just waiting to be FED all the information required for their profession, as part of upcoming college and medical/nursing school courses, and they see no reason to try to learn any of that stuff now.  (This is my current theory to explain their behavior, although I also like the second one.)

I am the opposite of those people.  I am voraciously hoovering-up information like a human vacuum cleaner, wherever I find it.  I am “going for it” and sucking the marrow out of the bone, licking up every tidbit of info I can find on the subjects that interest me.  And I have waded in with both feet, by DOING those things, not just reading about them.  I saw a great T-shirt that read:  “When I have money, I buy books.  When I have extra money, I buy food.”  That’s me.  The family usually will not enter a bookstore with me because it is so hard to get me out of there.  And now that they all have coffee . . . oh . . baby.  Plus, the family gave me a Nook Color so my nose is going to be welded to that thing!  I’ll be LIVING at Barnes and Noble, surfing through the e-books there!

And I have news for any baby birds out there.  Wake up! Get out of the nest and get up to your EARS in your chosen field.  Make it a job/profession that people are (or will be) making a living at.  Whatever it is, you can spend an (enjoyable) lifetime in it, if you just will get all the way IN IT.  Business, retail, real estate, banking, dentistry, chiropractic, farming, nursing, appliance repair, EVERY FIELD can provide you with a lifetime of thought and involvement if you will just dive in and commit to being the best at it.  Commit to a lifetime of learning, and staying current, and pushing the edge of the enterprise.  Plus being the go-to person makes YOU the expert.  It means other people will come to YOU on that subject.  And here is the good news – – –  the years will FLY by, you’ll travel and meet great people, and you’ll feel GOOD about yourself.  An entire profession will be indebted to you, as well as all the professionals in it!   And on that pillar of respect and success, my friends, you can build a great life and support a family.

As we asked in a previous blog, do you have a “fire in the belly”?  Three years ago I saw a plaque on the wall of a castle in northern Germany that said:  “Most people believe they need money to be happy.  But all you really need is something to get lost in.”  Go find that subject (or two or three) and get yourself lost for life!  Trust me, It’s great!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corp.

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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How to avail of opportunities that you cannot see?

by Himanshu Jhamb on May 17, 2010

We all have opportunities knock on our doors every now and then. Some might feel they have fewer than others and that might be true to some extent; but I’ll go out on an arm and a leg and claim that we all have our fair share of opportunities in our lives. The differentiating factor is how many do we make the most of. The genesis of this post was from a discussion I was having the other day with my fellow co-founder (Active Garage), Deepika Bajaj. We were talking about a dear friend of mine who is interested in investing in one of my ventures. My perspective in the conversation was that one of the key factors of my friend’s willingness to invest was the fact that it was ME who was involved and not entirely the venture. Put another way, what I was saying was simply that “People Invest in People”!

Although Deepika agreed with me on that, she offered another perspective that resounded with me at a level that compelled me to write this post! This is what she said to me:

“Yes. I agree. Your friend is investing in you but this opportunity would not have come about had you not taken the step to get out of your comfort zone and started your venture. Your friend has been your friend for a long time, and probably has had the resources to invest for a while now. However, what was missing was that you did not have an Offer in which he could consider investing in, until now. And once the offer showed up in your life, so did your opportunity!”

The not-so-obviousness of the above dialogue got me! We go about in life without realizing the number of opportunities we have in our lives, around us, all the time. We go about saying to friends, family and countless people that this is not for us and that we are happy wherever we are. What we do not pay attention to, or notice, is that even within this close network, we have opportunities that have the ability to lift the entire community (family, friends, all of it) with us! Yes, opportunities do have a strange way of showing up in our lives. They show up (or manifest themselves) through our offers. It follows that though we (and this is the obvious part, now) do not have control over the opportunities that will come our way, we do have absolute control over the number of offers we have – which (if I look at the flip side of the coin) are really opportunities for others!

The Question to ask

Suddenly, the question to ask transforms from an elusive “How to avail opportunities that you cannot see?” to a more fathomable “How do you become an opportunity for others?

Here are the top 3 answers:

  • Feel good factor: Are you in relationships that only make you feel good OR is there a real value in the way you mutually help each other?
  • Be a student: Learn something new, today. Everyday. If you do not have enough offers then the place to look is lack of education.
  • Build capacity: By building powerful relationships you essentially build capacity to do more.

… and last but not the least, while you go about doing all this, don’t forget to have loads of FUN along the way!

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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So you think you are educated…

by Himanshu Jhamb on November 27, 2009

educationWhile I was growing up, I was told that the meaning of education is going through the motions of schooling followed by a professional collegial degree. For about 80% of my life, I held onto that as the truth. It took a lot of stagnation in my career and also the mundane routine of doing the same thing day-in and day-out to shake me out of my tranquility. There is a saying about teachers – “Teacher shows up when the Student is ready”. I was ready… and my teachers showed up. Over the next 3-4 years I surrounded myself with teachers and learned what it really means to be educated.

Here is what I learnt:

  1. Education is not only about gaining the knowledge of something as in memorizing facts or formula, it is also about knowing when to apply what to produce situations that you want for your future.
  2. Education is about learning new distinctions that give you the power of noticing what has gone unnoticed so far… and is perhaps even (without your knowledge) running you or your life.
  3. Going through the motions of school and college is a part of education as it makes you minimally viable in the marketplace – but that’s not where it should stop. Learning, like living life, is a continuous process.
  4. Education is not just about knowing … it is, in fact, more about doing.

The last point is beautifully depicted in a story about Henry Ford, in the book The magic ladder to Success by Napolean Hill. The story goes something like this:

During World War II, Henry Ford brought a suit against one of the national newspapers for calling him Ignorant. The lawyers of the newspaper asked Ford a number of questions for quite some time in front of the jury at the trial trying to prove that Ford was, indeed, ignorant. One of the questions asked was “How many soldiers were sent by the British in the war of 1776?” Ford’s response was “I don’t know how many were sent but I have heard that it was a lot more than ever went back”. Ford continued to play with them zestfully, often responding with such witty answers to more of these testy questions… until a point when he grew really frustrated with a rather insulting question. He said “If I should really wish to answer the foolish question you have just asked or have been asking let me remind you that I have a row of buttons hanging over my desk. By pressing the right button, I could call in any number of people who would give me the correct answer to all the questions you have asked and to many that you have not the intelligence to either ask or answer. Now, will you kindly tell me why I should bother about filling my mind with useless information in order to answer all foolish questions you have to ask, when I have able people around me whom I can call on, if I really need the answers to these questions?”

Henry Ford had little elementary schooling, but, clearly he was one of the most educated men in his times. He probably did not have a lot of knowledge but he more than compensated for the lack of it, in his application and doing… The fact that he is a legend, now, is proof enough for that.

If you are at a point where you feel stuck or stagnated in your career, perhaps a place to look would be your “knowledge gap” and be careful with how you read what I just wrote – I use the word knowledge in the context of doing, now knowing.

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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