William Stafford’s three-part solution to our problems

Prolific poet William Stafford wrote a poem a day for over forty years – over 20,000 poems. In his poem Allegiances, he wrote these words, seemingly written for these times:

“While strange beliefs whine at the traveler’s ears, we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love where we are, strong for common things.” – William Stafford

We can’t be where we want to be today – whether on vacation, out to a movie, out to eat, seeing family, physically at work.

But we always have an opportunity to love where we are. What other options do we have?

There are strange, troubling beliefs whining at our internal-traveler’s ears, especially if we are tuned in to the news, to Twitter, to Facebook. 

The solution?

  1. Cling to the earth
  2. Love where we are
  3. Be strong for common things

Here’s the poem it’s from:

Allegiances

by William Stafford from “The way it is: new and selected poems”

It is time for all the heroes to go home
if they have any; time for all of us common ones
to locate ourselves by the real things
we live by.

Far to the North, or indeed in any direction,
strange mountains and creatures have always lurked—
elves, goblins, trolls and spiders — we
encounter them in dread and wonder,

But once we have touched the far streams, touched the gold,
found some limit beyond the waterfall.
a season changes, and we come back, changed
but safe, quiet, grateful.

Suppose an insane wind holds the hills
while strange beliefs whine at the traveler’s ears,
we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love
where we are, strong for common things.

Learn moreResiliency: Five Keys to Success – Leverage the five principles of resiliency, engagement, efficiency, endurance, flexibility, and loving the game, for peak work performance and enjoyment.

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Why share your StrengthsFinder strengths with your team?

Here are ten reasons.

  1. It’s the best of you. Your top five strengths are your signature strengths, what you do best. This is the height of your abilities in all facets of your life. Don’t hide your light under a basket, let it shine.
  2. It’s your rocket fuel. When you use these strengths to get your work done you do it faster, more efficiently and more happily than if you weren’t using your strengths.
  3. There are no bad strengths. All strengths are good strengths. StrengthsFinder is different than the MBTI or DISC or other assessments. Weaknesses and blind spots aren’t part of the language. StrengthsFinder is completely positive. 
  4. It’s your best chance at success – in life and work. Research shows that people that play to their strengths are more successful by far than people that focus on their weaknesses and try to overcome them.
  5. If there’s one you really don’t like, pick a different one. Don’t like one? Pick a different one – one that you’re surprised didn’t show up in your StrengthsFinder results. Make sure your picked strength is true to you though, not just wishful thinking.
  6. Your team can help you see you how you use your strengths. They can give you examples of that strength in action in your work life and can help reinforce them and remind you to keep focusing on them.
  7. You can help your team mates. You can help them use theirs and you can help them more effectively if you’re using yours. Happiness increases more if you’re giving help than getting it.
  8. When you make your strengths public you’re more likely to focus on them and use them more. We can all use our strengths even more. Positive self-change works best when you make your change effort public so you can get support and accountability help.
  9. You create a positive feedback loop. When you’re focusing on your best and other team members are as well, and then when you focus on each other’s strengths it creates a virtuous upward cycle of greater success and happiness.
  10. It builds trust on your team. Seeing each other’s unique strengths differences reinforces the concept that you need each other – others have strengths you don’t, and you have strengths others don’t. You can rely on each other to be a ‘whole’ team, not just trying to be a solitary hero. Depending on each other lets us be vulnerable and builds trust.

PS – StrengthsFinder is now completely revamped and updated with the latest research! Gallup’s online assessment of unique top five strengths. Learn your team’s strengths and learn how to put them into action. Click here to start transforming your team.

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How Huey Lewis wrote his biggest hit The Power of Love for Back to the Future

In 1985, Steven Speilberg and Bob Zemeckis asked for a meeting with Huey Lewis. They wanted him to write a song for their upcoming movie Back to the Future. Zemeckis said, “the character Marty McFly’s favorite band would be Huey Lewis and the News. How about writing a song for the film?” 

“Wow, I’m flattered,” he said, “but I don’t know how to write for film and I don’t fancy much writing a song called Back to the Future.” They told him they didn’t need that, they just wanted one of his songs. He said, “great, I’ll send you the next song that we write.”

“Chris Hayes (the News guitarist) wrote the music initially, the chord progression, and I strapped on that Sony Walkman and went for a little jog. And I wrote the song on that jog and I sent it to Zemeckis.”

Of all their hits – I remember being thoroughly sick of hearing Huey Lewis in high school with all those hits – the Power of Love was their biggest. Here’s the video. All from a request and a jog!

It helps to have someone tangibly need what you have to offer. That focuses you. 

And when you’re stuck and unable to progress on something that matters, get your Sony Walkman (or your equivalent) and go for a jog (or your equivalent). 

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Huey Lewis has lost his hearing, now what?

Huey Lewis was in Dallas January 2018, heading to the stage with his long-time band the News when he says, “I heard this huge noise. It sounded like warfare was going on in the other room. I yelled, ‘What is that?’ They said, ‘It’s just Pat, the opening act.’ I put in my in-ear [monitors] in and couldn’t hear anything.”

Once the opening song began, “I thought the bass amp had blown a speaker,” he says. “I just heard this horrible noise and I couldn’t find pitch or even hear myself. It was an absolute nightmare. The worst thing. Just horrible.”

This was not new for Lewis. In 1987, at the height of his Top 40 success, something happened in his right ear. “I felt like I had been in a swimming pool and my ear was full,” he says. “I couldn’t shake it out or pop my ears. I went to all kinds of doctors and an EMT finally said to me, ‘Get used to it.’ I said, ‘Get used to it? I’m a musician!’”

He got used to it.

Now, thirty years later, this – the other ear. “I was suicidal,” he says. “There was literally a roaring tinnitus in my head. I just laid in bed. There was nothing I could do. I’d just lay in bed and contemplate my demise.”

Would you rather win the lottery or go for a walk every day for a year? Everybody says the lottery, right? It’s smarter to take the walk. It turns out that we adjust as humans relatively quickly to really good things (winning the lottery) and really bad things (losing your hearing). It’s called hedonic adaptation. Blips up, blips down, for the most part (not with extreme things like abuse or PTSD) after something happens we return to near our original level of everyday happiness. We’re resilient.

“It turns out you can get used to almost anything,” Lewis says. “I told myself things like, ‘At least I don’t have pancreatic cancer …’” 

His hearing varies daily now. “Ten is what it was before this happened,” he says. “I’m at a five now right now, which means I can hear speech fine with hearing aids in. Under a three, I can’t even hear the phone ring.”

But music is of course harder. “Music is much harder to listen to than speech because even one note occurs in all frequencies with harmonics and overtones and undertones,” he says. “I call it distortion. When I hear a bass part that goes ‘bump, bump, bump,’ I just hear [imitates the sound of loud, crunchy static]. I fight for pitch and I can’t find it. If I can’t find pitch, I can’t sing. It’s horrible.”

He hasn’t done a full gig since that night in Dallas over two years ago. 

Now Lewis is focused on his health. “The inner ear is one of the things that medical science knows the least about,” he says. “It’s cased in bone and there’s no surgery. But I’m taking stem-cell stuff and trying everything. With my hearing always fluctuating, my body is doing something itself. What I have to do is stay healthy, exercise, and hope my body will slowly take care of itself.”

I’ve noticed this from tearing my PCL in my right knee while skiing just over a year ago. It’s never going to get better, and that continues to be hard to fully let in. And yet…I’m at probably a similar level of happiness than I was then. And I’m about as active – just now I wear a brace and choose activities that won’t trigger too much pain. I’ve adjusted, and will continue to adjust.

So when you lose something you care deeply about – and you have, and you will, we all will – there will be a time for a descent. Like Lewis lying in bed contemplating his demise. 

And then there’ll be a time when your resiliency kicks in and like Lewis says, “it turns out you can get used to almost anything.”

And lastly, if you’re willing to do the work, you’ll return to the level of happiness where you usually live. Like Lewis, clearly a naturally ebullient person.

 “I have a great life,” he says. “I’m a lucky guy. No matter what happens, I’m a lucky guy. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that. But I am.”

Posted in Persistence, Music, Resiliency | Comments closed

William Stafford’s three-part solution to our problems

Prolific poet William Stafford wrote a poem a day for over forty years – over 20,000 poems. In his poem Allegiances, he wrote these words, seemingly written for these times:

“While strange beliefs whine at the traveler’s ears, we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love where we are, strong for common things.” – William Stafford

We can’t be where we want to be today – whether on vacation, out to a movie, out to eat, seeing family, physically at work.

But we always have an opportunity to love where we are. What other options do we have?

There are strange, troubling beliefs whining at our internal-traveler’s ears, especially if we are tuned in to the news, to Twitter, to Facebook.

The solution?

  1. Cling to the earth
  2. Love where we are
  3. Be strong for common things

Here’s the poem it’s from:

Allegiances
by William Stafford from “The way it is: new and selected poems”

It is time for all the heroes to go home
if they have any; time for all of us common ones
to locate ourselves by the real things
we live by.

Far to the North, or indeed in any direction,
strange mountains and creatures have always lurked—
elves, goblins, trolls and spiders — we
encounter them in dread and wonder,

But once we have touched the far streams, touched the gold,
found some limit beyond the waterfall.
a season changes, and we come back, changed
but safe, quiet, grateful.

Suppose an insane wind holds the hills
while strange beliefs whine at the traveler’s ears,
we ordinary beings can cling to the earth and love
where we are, strong for common things.

Learn moreResiliency: Five Keys to Success – Leverage the five principles of resiliency, engagement, efficiency, endurance, flexibility, and loving the game, for peak work performance and enjoyment.

Posted in Resiliency | Comments closed

Miles Davis on innovation and change, warmed-over turkey and hurt lips

Miles Davis started out playing bebop with Charlie Parker. From there he moved on to cool jazz, modal jazz (Kind of Blue), hard bop, free, electric, rock fusion, and on and on. He never looked back, never repeated himself. He was always innovating, always changing. 

Why? He could have easily just re-done a version of Kind of Blue, the best-selling jazz album of all time, ad infinitum – lots of musicians and artists had taken that route. It pays the mortgage.

“So What or Kind of Blue, they were done in that era, the right hour, the right day, and it happened. It’s over,” Miles told Ben Sidran in a 1986 interview. “What I used to play with Bill Evans, all those different modes, and substitute chords, we had the energy then and we liked it. But I have no feel for it anymore—it’s more like warmed-over turkey.”

The great singer and pianist Shirley Horn (Miles was a fan) pushed him to reconsider playing the gentle ballads and modal tunes of his Kind of Blue period. She says he replied, “Nah, it hurts my lip.”

He didn’t mean that literally. It hurt him in an essential place to try to live in the old – the warmed-over turkey.

So how do we make a change, lead a change, how do we innovate? 

We trust the dissatisfaction. We don’t push it down. We let in the feeling of having no feel for something anymore we used to have energy for. We don’t medicate it with busyness, Facebook, Netflix. We welcome it. 

Dissatisfaction’s the force that will lead us on the hero’s journey to our new home.

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How do you get enthusiasm to persist?

The more motivation you have, the more enthusiasm you have. And if you’re in pain, or deeply unhappy, you’re motivated. So, if you’re in pain right now or unhappy, congratulations, you’ve got a potential highway to enthusiasm right in front of you.

An alcoholic has more motivation to stop drinking than someone who isn’t. And an alcoholic that is heartsick at the pain she feels or is causing the people she loves is even more motivated. 

Look for the pain your repetitive action is causing you. That’s your motivation to change. And motivation brings enthusiasm to persist at what matters to you.

PS – 40 Days to Change For Good Virtual Training is now completely revamped and updated with the latest research! Don’t just manage change, lead it. Create a successful forty-day blueprint to lead a change that lasts.  Click here to start transforming your team.

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How to help yourself

Ask yourself what you need. 

There’s lots of advice out there to help you through. But only a very small slice will work for you. 

Start by asking, “what do I need right now, this moment, this day?”

The quick answer may come back that you need something out of your reach – a trip to Aruba, a paycheck, to be able to get out of the house, for your home to clean itself, for everything to go back to normal.

If that’s what happens, keep asking. 

Keep going until you find something you need right now that you can do something about. Even unattainable things outside of your control have a seed of metaphor in them. 

Aruba might symbolize some break in the action and sunshine on your face, even for five minutes. A paycheck might mean finding a feeling of safety in the middle of the fearful moment. 

The fields of resiliency and wellness have a lot of universal principles that are research and experience-tested. It’s great to be informed. 

But you’re you. There’s no-one like you. And the ways you help yourself are yours alone.

So, what do you need?

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Is it social distancing or physical distancing?

We’ve been calling it social distancing. But I hope it’s not for you. I hope it’s just physical distancing. We need our social fabric more than we may have ever needed them. 

So get closer – virtually – to the people you care about and the people you interact with. Get closer – again, virtually – to your social support. 

It’s physical distancing, not social distancing.

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Thank everyone who helps you


Social support and society’s gifts to us (in exchange for our money of course) have gone from assumed to questionable. Uncertainty is shaking everything up. But we can still go to food stores when needed. And when we do, what is it like for us? We can be worried about other people being too close, touching things, getting everything on our list, prices rising with supply chain disruption. And we can unconsciously go about it the way we always have, in a world of our own, chafing at the lines or still not being able to buy toilet paper.

There of course is an alternative, the antidote to fear. Appreciation. 

Thank each and every person who helps you – the cashier, the bagger in the supermarket, any clerk anywhere. Of course thank any health care worker who helps you – virtually or in person. But the food providers we come in contact with are risking their health and their lives so we can eat. And they’re doing it for very little money, less money than we make, or used to make.

See how appreciation, just like fear and just like the virus, is contagious. And see how unlike those two it helps, both them and you.

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