Category Archives: 40 Days Change

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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From the gross to the subtle

Whenever I’ve studied with masters of an art or a skill, there has been a common theme. They’re no longer interested in the big, obvious stuff. They’re refining their skills to focus on very small things. And they’re encouraging their students to be more mindful of the small as well. Yoga teacher Rodney Yee calls this going from the gross (big) to the subtle (small). When you see beginners at anything you’ll be forgiven for immediately thinking of the word ‘flailing’. They haven’t become efficient with their movements yet. With time and conscious attention this changes. Baby birds figure out how to use those wings. We have to start with the gross, but keep aiming for the subtle. That’s where mastery lies. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings. – Rumi

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Waiting in the dark – The hardest part of personal change

This is why New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Waiting in the dark between where you are now and where you want to be is hard. Change needs action, the follow-through. But there’s also the waiting. This is the emotional part of it. It is as simple as withstanding discomfort.  People want to change, then change doesn’t happen, they get impatient, or unwilling to wait in the dark and the unknown, and pop back to the known, the familiar, the old way. They give up. Yet every heroes journey begins with leaving the known and descending into the darkness of the unknown, the underworld. No heroes journey, no story worth anything goes directly from where you are to success. There is always a road of trials. There is always a threshold to cross. Who wants to read a story about someone wanting something and then them immediately getting it, the end?  If you stick with the change you want to make, if you wait in the dark, your life just might become, like all great quests, a great story. I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. – T.S. Eliot (From Section III of East Coker from The Four Quartets)

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Troubled? That’s great

When your conscious awareness increases, your dissatisfaction may increase. You wake up to the problem.  When a spouse leaves suddenly after years of mutual alienation, the problem didn’t start that day, it was years in the making. Awareness means you wake up to it. Think of the moment you realize you need to go on a diet. Yesterday you also needed to lose weight and exercise more, but today your doctor told you that you had to or you saw yourself in a mirror in unflattering lighting.  You notice something. And you don’t like what’s been noticed. The most painful aspect of meditation for me is it seems like there’s an increase in the number of runaway thoughts. My mind is always churning. But meditation teachers teach that the number of thoughts don’t actually increase, just your awareness of them increases. They’ve been endlessly flowing underground, but that stream breaks surface and blinders have been taken off your eyes for a moment. When you’re troubled, that’s good. Awareness has increased. Change can’t happen without it. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. “The more dissatisfaction, more questions, and more doubts there are, the healthier it is, for we are no longer sucked into ego-oriented situations, but we are constantly woken up…We are woken up constantly by the unrest.” – Chögyam Trungpa

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The slow glasses

Ann-Marie the optometrist cautioned me to go slow with the new progressive glasses. (Thanks for inventing bifocals Ben Franklin!) I ignored her advice, moved my head around normally and immediately felt sick to my stomach. It was going to take some time to get used to this new way of seeing.  My 40 Days to Change this year has focused on efficiency. And these ‘slow glasses’ were making me more efficient. No more throwing my head and gaze around willy-nilly. While adjusting, my head movements have been slight and slow.  That’s efficiency for you. It’s not moving faster, going harder and launching yourself at the work. Small and slow movements counter-intuitively instead get us to maximum efficiency. 

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Who do we appreciate?

Yes, the title may be a familiar chant to you from sixth grade. I’m tickled also by Microsoft Word chiding that it really should be, “whom do we appreciate?” That’s the upper-crust British version.  Instead of giving a bunch of cheap plastic gifts from China this Christmas that will end up in the landfill next year, give your partner/parents/friends/kids appreciation.  Appreciation engages the frontal cortex – the connector in your brain. And it quiets the amygdala in the limbic system – the alarm bell in your brain. Target your appreciation with characteristics that fit and give specific examples of how it shows up in their life.  Here’s a cheat sheet to help you, based on the work of John Gottman. And how are your 40 days going? I’m continuing to work on getting what needs to be done efficiently without panic or pushing. And other readers are doing great work. The best day to start your 40 Days to Change for Good was November 11. The second best day is today! Jerry says: “My 40-day focus is on experimenting with habits for self-care. That looks like: – walking at least 20 minutes/day – meditating at least 10 minutes/day and the big one… – in bed by 11 pm.” Lou says: “Count me in, so busy but I’ve got so many songs started my 40 day journey will be to work in unfinished songs an song ideas each day for 40.  Not necessarily to finish one each day but to work on some.  That’s the journey.  Excited about this, thanks for the push.” (You can check out Lou’s jug band here.) Laura is working on “discipline – being mindful of doing things on a disciplined basis. I can achieve a goal but what I lack is a consistent discipline. It’s not a specific thing, I just want to be more mindful about whatever it is I choose to be disciplined about.”

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What was the original intent of labor-saving devices?

Vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines, electric irons, hay thrashers, computers, the wheel, the rifle, the iphone…all have been touted as labor-saving devices. Why? Why did we want to save labor? Why do less? I’ve been pondering this on my 40 days to change for good this year. I’m focusing on efficiency – doing the work that needs to be done ‘good enough’ and not trying to make it perfect. Emails back and forth to clients are shorter for example. It has worked out pretty well so far, although accompanied by some old fear that something’s not quite right, as if this new way of doing the work is somehow dangerous. Why would I want to be more efficient? It frees up time I used to not have. Now what? There are two choices. I can do more work, or be done and go enjoy myself. Or work on filling the wood shed (which is a strenuous version of enjoying myself) or a thousand other non-work-related ‘things-to-do-when-you-own-a-house’.  I’ve been experimenting with choosing to not do more work. That leaves enjoying myself. What a concept! This was the original intent of selling labor-saving devices to the harried housewife of the 1940s. Get the chores done and enjoy yourself. At least that was the concept the Mad Men sold. Think of the Jetsons. In the future everything onerous will be done by robots. The only thing left to do is to get into wacky misadventures or sit on the couch eating bon bons. The computer really helped, and the smart phone really helped. No more faxes, letters typed and sent. No more traveling face-to-face. No more filing cabinets. The list goes on and on. All that time freed up. Well, how are we doing with enjoying that time? Everyone I meet out in the world, every team I work with, every executive I coach – there’s not enough time to get everything done in the day. There’s a greater scarcity of open time than any in modern history.  We took that time and…filled it up with more stuff to do. I think modern advertisers realize this and have given up. Labor-saving devices are now sold as productivity tools. So we can be more productive, get more stuff done. The treadmill speed can increase. If this is you and your life? If it is, is it working for you?  What would you like instead?

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Readers just like you are on the 40 Days to Change For Good Journey

You’re not alone. You’ve got company as you try to change something that matters to you. Here is what some readers are working on. I hope it inspires you to have fidelity to your 40-day journey or to start yours today. Jerry says: “My 40-day focus is on experimenting with habits for self-care. That looks like: – walking at least 20 minutes/day – meditating at least 10 minutes/day and the big one… – in bed by 11 pm.” Lou says: “Count me in, so friggin busy but I’ve got so many songs started my 40 day journey will be to work in unfinished songs an song ideas each day for 40.  Not necessarily to finish one each day but to work on some.  That’s the journey.  Excited about this, thanks for the push.” (You can check out Lou’s jug band here.) Laura is working on “discipline – being mindful of doing things on a disciplined basis. I can achieve a goal but what I lack is a consistent discipline. It’s not a specific thing, I just want to be more mindful about whatever it is I choose to be disciplined about.”

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40 Days to Change for Good begins

40 Days to Change for Good begins once again November 11th. This annual tradition (started in 2010) is a simple 40-day ritual of daily working-on-something-that-matters. It has been profoundly helpful to many readers.  Pick something you want to change for good or move ahead on something large that you’re having difficulty persisting with. Day 40 begins November 11 (Veterans Day) and Day Zero is December 21 (the Winter Solstice). Learn more in my e-book (free to you) here. And I’ll be writing more in my blog as well.  Curious about what I’m working on this year? I’m focusing on efficiency. Doing work-related tasks – especially things I don’t love doing – quickly and simply. Less polish, more progress. And more time open to enjoy just being and enjoying this precious life. One of the tactics to make your change project real and for you to complete it is to make it public. What do you want to change for good this year? I’ll make it public for you in the next newsletter. And if you want to help your team make a change for good, book either How To Complete a Project or the 40 Days to Change for Good change leadership team development for January and beyond.

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