Category Archives: Play

What’s it like in today’s chrysalis?

After a monarch caterpillar is done eating it forms a J shape on the bottom of a leaf and creates a green chrysalis. Inside this pupa, the caterpillar dissolves into a pile of goo. That pile of goo then takes 9 to 14 days to become a butterfly. When we enter a hero’s journey, we descend into the unknown. Who knows what we will transform into? All we know is it feels like being a pile of goo. And sometimes we notice that something is changing and growing, but often it just feels gooey and scary. It’s also where the work happens. It’s where we actually transform. We need all the stages to complete a journey but the action part happens in the unknown part. As a reminder, the outcome of the rest of today is unknown. As is every day for the rest of our lives. Each day is a chrysalis.

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What happens after consumption ends?

When I was really interested in jazz improvisation a few years ago, I bought dozens of instructional books. Every time I bought one I felt happy. I consumed (“ate”) a few of them but most of them collect dust on my shelves. Lately I’ve been learning and playing Willie Nelson songs – far away from esoteric scale fingerings. In the past year I’ve been voraciously reading modern business books (for lack of a better term). I now notice that urge tailing off. I don’t know what’s next. I’m now in the chrysalis with that knowledge. But I have an idea of the future and it relates to the keyboard on my laptop. People love their tablets. I prefer my laptop. Why? It’s hard to generate on a tablet. It’s easy to consume. It’s clearly built for consumption. I want to generate. I’m generating these words right now…on my laptop. After we stop trying to fill an unfillable hole comes a disquieting emptiness. And emptiness is what we need to fly.

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Take a stand in the middle of the chrysalis

“I stood in this unsheltered place, ‘til I could see the face behind the face.” – Peter Gabriel Caterpillars enter the darkness and the shelter of the chrysalis. When we enter the unknown as humans it usually feels quite a bit more unsheltered than that. I don’t know if caterpillars get scared. But I know we do when we try to make a change. When we’re scared the antidote is bravery. When the outcome is unknown, bravery is required. When we want to make a change, bravery is required. We can literally ‘take a stand’ for bravery. Imagine all that is unknown, uncertain, scary, anything swirling around producing a queasy feeling. Imagine yourself standing strong and brave in the middle of it all. The process into the unknown and unpleasant is necessary. It’s the only way forward. Literally stand in place for 30 minutes….just kidding…30 seconds. Stand in your unsheltered place, in the eye of the storm until, like Peter Gabriel wrote, you can see the face behind the face.”

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When do Americans love to suffer?

A student once asked Tulku Urgyen Rimpoche what was interesting about Americans. He replied, “The people in America love to suffer before the suffering comes.” According to the Institute for Health and Human Potential, 40% of our thoughts are about the future, 12% are thoughts of doubt and 10% are worries about our health. The amygdala in the brain is always scanning for potential threats. It’s just trying to keep us safe. But the unfortunate result is that we anticipate future suffering. We ‘suffer before the suffering’. Are you suffering, really suffering right now? If so, it’s something to welcome in. If you feel bad but nothing bad is actually happening, it may just be anticipatory suffering. That’s not necessary or helpful. It may be more helpful to notice what’s actually happening right now. And wait to experience the inevitable future suffering only once it has actually arrived. (Thanks to Joseph Jastrab for passing along the quote)

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Failure gratitude

We’ve spent so much of our lives going in the wrong direction. We’ve spent countless hours on things we once cared about but no longer do. We’ve made so many mistakes. We’ve failed to follow our passion again and again. “What was I thinking?” There’s so much to regret. And every one of those failures helped guide us to right where we are now. There’s no better place to be than right here, right now. We get passionate about something and follow that thread, not knowing where it will lead. And that passion often ends. Everything in life does. This is how we learn. This is how we grow. No regrets, only gratitude. Thank each mistake.

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Celtics coach Brad Stevens on what to do when things change in a heartbeat

“Your rotation can change in a heartbeat. You can work all summer on it and then you’ve got to adjust in one day. The bottom line is we have an idea of who we’ll play together and who best fits together and what lineups we think we’ll try to use, but we’ll see how it shakes itself out.” – Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens Most coaches know this truth. But Stevens knows this better than most. The first game of the 2017-2018 season he lost star Gordon Hayward in a season-ending injury. Then later in the season his other star Kyrie Irving went down for the season as well. The remaining squad still managed to push the Cavaliers to a Game Seven in the Eastern Conference Finals, making it one win away from the NBA finals. So what do you do when change happens to your team? Do what Stevens did. Take the time now to see how the team best works together. See who best fits together. Start there. Get to know your people better than you ever could have imagined – their strengths and blind spots. That’s the groundwork. The MBTI and StrengthsFinder will help you do that. Then know that it WILL all change. Plans don’t work out. Things change in a heartbeat – a client change, an industry change, a personnel change, a personal change for a team member, it can all change. You can, as Stevens said, “work all summer on it and then you’ve got to adjust in one day.” Lastly, rely on the people on your team that have the MBTI Perceiving function, and the people on your team that have the Adaptability StrengthsFinder talent. These people are energized when unexpected change happens. They’ll bring positivity and energy to a stressful situation. Because unexpected change happens in a heartbeat. It may have even happened while you were reading these words.

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What happens when monarch caterpillars stop eating?

As soon as a monarch caterpillar is born its primary job is to eat. It eats and sleeps, eats and sleeps. Along the way it molts (sheds its skin) five times. It eats so much it even eats its shed skin. It gains 2700 times its original weight. We’re a consumer society. It was the solution that businesses came up with after World War II to keep themselves in business, and the government did its best to help out, hoping to avoid another Great Depression. It worked. Today, we consume more than we ever have: obesity, consumer goods purchases, energy consumption, waste generation, entertainment consumption are all at the highest levels they’ve ever been since we first showed up on the planet. When we consume we feed a hunger – literal or metaphorical. Now that we have enough food to eat (if you’re reading this, that is), this hunger is usually emotional. Back to the butterfly – once it has eaten enough, it forms a chrysalis. 9-14 days later it turns into a butterfly and takes to the air. It no longer needs to eat enough to gain 2700 times its weight. In fact that it would be a pretty bad idea. They need to travel light to make it to Mexico. They start leaving in September. That’s what monarchs do. What do we do when we stop eating? When we’re done consuming and trying to fill a hole there’s a period of waiting and unknown that can be quite unsettling. It’s the visit to the underworld in the Hero’s Journey. We can refuse the call and go back to eating, consuming, preparing. Or we can enter our personal chrysalises and “wait without hope” as T.S. Eliot wrote. If we’re brave enough, we’ll find that, “the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.” Because after we’ve stopped blindly eating like the caterpillar, and we’ve waited in the darkness like the chrysalis, guess what comes next?   “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

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What’s even better than direct experience?

Direct experience is how we learn. If we don’t do it, we don’t learn it. Even better? Repeated direct experience, including pauses. When we pause, we learn from our direct experience how to do what we do better by seeing our failures clearly (with kindness). Then we try it again and again and again. Play and persistence together help each other out to help us grow.

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Two words that help you grow

In a world of distraction, where focus is an endangered species, two words help: direct experience. We can also support that by thinking about the concept of what we want to focus on, of feeling excited about it, anticipating it. That helps. But the only way to actually get better at something is to do it. We can watch YouTube videos on how to cook the perfect omelette, but until we actually break some eggs we don’t get to eat. Direct experience is how we learn.

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Go outside and play? “It’s too real!”

“Go outside and play,” Mom told us all summer long when we were young. Mom meant it literally, and Mom is always right of course. It’s also great advice metaphorically. But get outside what exactly? We have a comfort zone where life is easy and enjoyable. And we have a panic zone where life is too hard, too scary, too overwhelming, too…much. There’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where he complains about being outside his TV-watching comfort zone, explaining, “It’s too real.” We call this ‘too real’ zone the challenge zone. The challenge zone is built between the comfort and panic zones. It’s where we learn. It’s where we grow. Too much reality and we’re panicked. Too little and we’re stuck trying to stay comfortable, what Walt Whitman railed against as “indoor complaints”. The literal outside is not always comfortable. It’s often too hot, too bright, too humid, too buggy, just as Calvin so astutely noted. And the metaphorical outside is the same – it’s really real outside the comfort zone. Yet if comfort is our highest priority, we can give up the hope of learning and growing. Every team development session we lead has lots of new concepts, research and ideas to help teams and individuals grow into the challenge zone. And I pair every training with team building activities to try those concepts out, an immediate leap into the challenge zone. That’s where the growth happens. High hopes accompany new ideas. That’s great! And then there’s the reality when trying to put them into play. It’s not easy to see enthusiasm get a dose of direct experience. But that’s the beginning of learning, of “going where I have to go” as the poet Theodore Roethe said. Happy summer! Now get outside and play.

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