Category Archives: Put It Together

Persist Like a Phoebe In Her Nest

Every year a phoebe builds a nest somewhere on our house. This year she built it on the crook of a gutter drainpipe above the walkway to the house, a highly trafficked area. If I’m out on the patio or on the back deck, I can look over and see her sitting on the eggs in her nest. She built it herself – that’s what phoebes do. The male accompanied her, but it took her close to two weeks to build it out of mud, leaves, moss and hair. Now she’s sitting on the eggs. They incubate for about two weeks. Then the hatchlings will be born – helpless and eyes closed – and she’ll care for them for another 2-3 weeks. I’ve been appreciating her consistency of commitment. There have been some severe temperature fluctuations the last few weeks. And some intense weather – driving rain, high winds, abnormally hot days, followed by 40-degree nights. Through all of it she continues her commitment to her eggs, never acting upset or concerned. If I can’t sleep at night, it helps knowing that she is out there, continuing her faithfulness. As I type these words, I can see her. We all have passions we commit ourselves to. It could be work related, or it might be your family, or gardening, or writing, or playing music, or being in nature. And we all can use inspiration to continue that commitment. If this phoebe is helpful, use it. Or look for another inspiration – a reason why you’re committing again and again to something that you care about where the outcome is unknown. Inspiration helps. And so does appreciation. Appreciation is the antidote to worry. Perhaps you can pause right now and appreciate yourself for continuing to persist, to do the difficult work of being alive and awake on the earth. Here’s to your commitment to your passion you’re incubating this lovely month!

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You’ll Never Get to the End of Mastery

I’ve been starting my musical practice with these cheery words. I’ll never get to the end of technical mastery. There’s always something else to learn, to get better at, to explore. So, there’s now no rush. And there’s nowhere to get to. Now is all I have, now is all you have, finding the spirit of passion and play as you persist along your path that leads nowhere…and everywhere.

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What Do You Focus On if You’re Lydia Ko, you’re 18 and the #1 Female Golfer In the World?

Q: “How do you handle the pressure of competing at that level consistently?” Lydia Ko: “I’m just trying to enjoy it. And having fun for me is the most important thing. And golf is a sport where you’re playing for a long time so having fun keeps the pressure go away.  I have a really solid team around me, which has helped me be grounded and help me all the way.” That interview was at a Golden State Warriors basketball game. She had just spent the morning hanging out with Stephen Curry and the rest of the team, having fun putting in the basketball gym. So, Lydia Ko is true to her word. I like the idea that if you want to do something a long time – and professional golfers can be professional golfers for a very long time – then having fun is the most important thing. It’s a message I’ve said many times here – have fun. And a message I spread during team building activities. But it’s a message we all could probably stand to hear at least once a day. So many other messages in the world are aimed at making us more serious, grim or worried. Or advertising desperately tries to link having fun with spending money on something. That’s truly…false advertising. Play can be had anywhere, any day, any time. And play allows us to persist. Having fun allows us to persist, to play the long game. Where could all that energy come, if not from joy? It helps of course to also have a solid team, as Ko mentioned. Here’s to both of us focusing on having fun today, playing what we’re persisting at – work, family relationships, our passion, whatever. And hats off to everyone on your team as well. Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: Secret Agent Team – ‘There’s a team who leads the life of danger…’ Test your spy skills in a series of interactive challenges. The Ultimate Game – Travel around the giant game board, furiously completing wild and wacky trivia and team challenges in the craziest team building program ever. World Record Breakers – Ignite Olympic energy, passion and fervor with a dozen hilarious competitive events! Everyone can play regardless of physical ability. Catapult – Design and build fully functional catapults and compete in distance and accuracy. Team Sand Castle Build – Create innovative, beautiful sand sculptures with a wild assortment of materials for sunny team fun Cerebral Knievel – Let your team’s “whole brain” play and develop team skills at the same time in this giant Cranium-style game. Show Me the Money – Teams form ‘companies’ and race across a giant game board for market share in a game of corporate mayhem. Quixote Hunt – Saddle up your mare Rocinante (i.e., your feet or a limo) and venture out on your very own customized scavenger or photo quest! Return of the Titanic Boat Building – It’s sink or swim time – will your team come out high and dry, or end up all wet? Quixote Olympics – Compete in either our Summer or Winter Olympics, indoors or outdoors. Try ‘Tilting at Windmills’ and a host of other fun events.

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What’s in a Number? (Power of Persistence)

Here are some Mad Max: Fury Road numbers: 30 years to get filmed 400 hours of footage 2,700 cuts (done amazingly by Miller’s wife and editing partner Margaret Sixel) 1,700 crewmembers 15,000 stunt crew-days 150 hand-built vehicles 120 days of filming in the Namibian desert a two-hour film 1 chase scene $347 million and counting at the box office We’ve heard the 10,000 hours rule to mastery. Whatever the actual number it takes to hit mastery, one thing is clear. The numbers count. The amount of time you devote to something adds up. You get what you invest. Not always externally – not every movie is a success, not every song is heard, not every word gets read. But you don’t get anything more out of something than what you put in. You’re passionate about something. What is it? How can you help it with the power of numbers? Explore this idea more fully in Quixote Consulting’s team building and team development activities: 40 Days to Change For Good - Don’t just manage change, lead it. Create a successful forty-day blueprint to lead a change that lasts.

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“We go out daily and nightly to feed the eyes on the horizon…” (Emerson)

“We go out daily and nightly to feed the eyes on the horizon, and require so much scope, just as we need water for our bath… The blue zenith is the point in which romance and reality meet.” – Emerson Any break we take from the daily minute smallness that can constrict so tightly gives us a chance to reconnect with something larger – that’s the power of purpose. I love mountains, and I love water – many of us do. There’s a sense of space in both of these things that I find liberating. The ocean combines both the open space of water and the horizon line that a mountain’s perspective gifts us with. Winter also has a wonderful way of opening up horizon lines that leaves obscure. But the horizon line is always with us, no matter where we are. It may be broken up by buildings or trees, but it’s always there – on the same level, the same height as you and I.

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When’s the Right Time to Tap Your Sweet Spot of Engagement?

I recently wrote about making maple syrup here. There is a very specific time for tapping maple trees. It depends on the trees storing excess energy in the fall as starch and then resting for months until the warmth of the sun turns that starch into sugar – the tree’s ‘sweet spot’. Laura and I talked about this, curious as to how humans figured out how to make maple syrup. Who figured out that a certain tree’s sap was sweet and good to drink? Who experimented with other trees – pine, hemlock, oak? Who decided that it would be a good idea to boil it down and see what happened? And for how long? How did they know it was done? How did they know the ‘sweet spot’ of perfect maple syrup? We’re like trees too. We spread our roots of interest out and draw energy up from our passions and give them out into the world. And…we’re not. Trees gracefully follow a rhythm of a year, a season, a revolution around the sun. We’re blessed (and perhaps cursed) with making conscious decisions. Our movement may not look as graceful and as ordered as a tree. But we are like nature, because we’re part of it. Nature encompasses a dizzying array of approaches to living well…as do we. Different plants bloom at different times in the year. Different animals mate and give birth at different times. Right now owls are sitting on eggs, the snow falling on their still wings. And the witch hazel is still in blossom – the last to blossom from last year. Our sweet spot comes when passion, play, purpose and persistence meet and we have the natural energy to live in this wonderful place. To have the energy to turn stored energy into sweetness one must have rested well. Perhaps you’ve rested well this winter, listening to what tempo you work best in, in winter. Perhaps this is your time to release the waiting energy into a new project. Or perhaps modern life has not let you rest as much as you want, and you have a little ways to go before you can energetically live in your sweet spot of engagement. It doesn’t matter – the witch hazel isn’t deeply upset it’s the last to bloom. Who cares when passion, purpose and play meet compared to anything else? What’s most important is that when we’re ready we let that process happen, create the best possible conditions for the sweet spot of engagement to be tapped, and persist in doing the good work of gathering, boiling down our raw energy into good work we gift to the world, to make it a little sweeter. Quixote Consulting helps teams find the sweet spot of engagement with strengths-based training and team building.

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Concentrated Passion – Joss Whedon on writing The Cabin in the Woods in three days

Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard wrote the movie The Cabin in the Woods in a concentrated time and space. One was downstairs in a hotel suite and the other was upstairs. They shared a printer and sent stuff back forth to each other, building on what the other was writing. They started at 6 AM every day and ended at 1 AM. They finished the script in three days. Three days! Here’s Joss Whedon talking about the process, culled from a number of different interviews: “This movie, Drew and I locked ourselves in the hotel for three days and all-time was the time to write.  We would break for dinner, but spend that time just going over what we still had to do that day.  We never talked about anything else, but because we were so locked into the vision of the thing there wasn’t a lot of downtime.  There wasn’t a lot of pacing, we wouldn’t get tired, we didn’t go, “Oh you know, let’s gab about stuff,” at any point.  The fingers kept flying; I mean I did a personal best on this which I think was 26 pages in a day…you know honestly, I’m not looking to top that (laughs).  We had done a lot of prep and everything, but it also came from our giddy joy at being able to write this.  We didn’t know if anybody was gonna make it, we just were like, “Oh my God.” Like War of the Gargantuas, they’re destroying Tokyo and we’re just having such a good time with it.  And to me it feels like the entire movie—you know how The Tree of Life all had to be shot in magic hour and it took forever?  This feels like it was all written at four in the morning.” What can we learn from this? Prepare: “We talked about this movie endlessly before we made it, even before we wrote it, because it’s the kind of world that we love to walk in.” Passion: Phrases that strike me: “locked in”, “it’s the kind of world we love to walk in”, Purpose – it helps to work with someone else, someone who’s simpatico: Whedon said there where no disagreements during the writing at all. Some disagreements came up during filming, but not in the writing together. Play: “our giddy joy at being able to write this” and “This feels like it was all written at four in the morning” (there’s dark-night-of-the-soul four in the morning and there’s sleep-deprived-giddy-with-good-friends four in the morning – this is the latter). And the smaller the boundary (3 days in this case) the more concentrated the play can be. Persistence (the renewal side of persistence): Also, if you attempt a burst of passion like this, prepare to crash heavily after this. Don’t expect this to be the new norm in life and productivity, as tempting as this is. They did a three-day long giant in-breath and there needs to be an outbreath, an emptying in order to persist in the larger picture. Lastly, here’s my review of the movie, let me know what you think! The Cabin in the Woods – From the mind of Joss Whedon (Avengers, Firefly, Toy Story) and Drew Goddard, his co-writer on the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, comes a very creative spin on the horror movie genre. Truth be told, I don’t like horror movies. But the premise they came up with is exhilaratingly original, fun, and humorous. I won’t say more about the plot, as there are many twists and turns that are part of the pleasure (Whedon says, “the less you know the more you’ll enjoy the movie”). Written in three feverish days, Whedon manages to couple his brilliance at dialogue with a story you want to follow.

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Abandon all hope of fruition – a contrarian view of project management

My last post talked about the Buddhist slogan of “abandon all hope of fruition.” What if we put that in the center of any project we were managing, either in our own lives or work team life? We’re left simply with, “am I able to find the delight/peace/fulfillment that is available to me at any moment of the day in any task?” That’s not an easy question. But all we know we have for sure is this moment. And if we want to be plumb, to be on target with our task, we need strong building blocks. Work done soured by resentment or endless perceived self-sacrifice is not a firm foundation. Persistence is built brick by patient brick. Those bricks and the cornerstones are all made of the same stuff – the quality of our lives right in this moment. Writing blog posts comes to mind for me. I can either trudge away, writing in hopes that I’ll hear from readers, that I’ll get more readers, that I’ll somehow get more work from what I write, that they’ll transform into books, and on and on. Or I can focus on delight as I write each word of each post. That second option works much, much better for me. Look at a project that is important to you right now – something that you want to change and transform. Now imagine abandoning any hope of fruition. This doesn’t mean fruition is actually any closer or further away. We’re just letting go of the hope that fruition will occur. How might you walk through this project differently today unburdened by that unhelpful hope? There’s a reason for each project that we take on. What is the underlying purpose? Where is the element of play hidden in the project? If you put aside the concept of self-sacrifice, where is the element of passion in the project for you today? All of these questions are much easier to answer if you…abandon all hope of fruition. Prints of the image above can be purchased from the artist here. Teams can explore project management team building in Quixote Consulting’s GRPI model Team Quest.

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What is it like for a 62 year old rock star to perform?

“Think of it this way: performing is like sprinting while screaming for three, four minutes. And then you do it again. And then you do it again. And then you walk a little, shouting the whole time. And so on. Your adrenaline quickly overwhelms your conditioning.” – Bruce Springsteen This quote is from a great New Yorker article on him. It describes what one of Springsteen’s concerts is like: “Concerts last in excess of three hours, without a break, and he is constantly dancing, screaming, imploring, mugging, kicking, windmilling, crowd-surfing, climbing a drum riser, jumping on an amp, leaping off Roy Bittan’s piano. The display of energy and its depletion is part of what is expected of him.” He’s kept the same exercise routine for the last 30 years or so: running on a treadmill and lifting weights. And another quote from Springsteen: “The essence of the way this band moves is one of soul. It’s supposed to be overwhelming. You shouldn’t be able to catch your breath. That’s what being a front man is all about—the idea of having something supple underneath you, that machine that roars and can turn on a dime.” I get five things out of this story. First, anything that you care about needs to be supported, tended somehow. I do yoga almost every morning to support my physical activity. I try to stretch before and after playing music. And I try to surround myself with inspiration for my work. I can’t always do these things of course, but I’m so grateful for when I do. Second, he does this for himself but he also does it for a huge, loyal fan base that returns that energy right back to him. He’s connected with the power of purpose to put out his passion beyond just himself. Third, we can see the value of persistence, of sticking with something over time. The New Yorker notes of his exercise routine: “It has paid off. His muscle tone approximates a fresh tennis ball.” Fourth, we see the value of high expectations. It’s “what’s expected of him” to perform like that. Research shows that we usually meet unspoken expectations – for example that you’re going to go to finish high school. It helps to have the right expectations in place for our passion to work with. Lastly, performing is his passion. It’s so clear. He couldn’t keep this up for decades if he didn’t LOVE performing. If we want to persist at something over decades, we simply must pick something we love to persist at. (Note: the above photo is from a long time ago, not a recent shot!)

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Love’s Confusing Joy (Part Six) What You Really Want

You’ll be forgiven for forgetting that what you really want is love’s confusing joy. – Rumi For the last post in this series I come back to what I mentioned before – how as humans we live in both worlds – the butterfly and the caterpillar, the glorious dream and the messy reality, the play and the work. I don’t know how much these two need each other or how much of each we each need, but I do know what I need, at least this month – more butterfly. More play, more freedom, more flight, more color. But here’s the irony – I’m way more comfortable in caterpillar mode. It’s how I feel safe, it’s the method I’ve used most often in my life unconsciously to create stability and safety in my life – to generate money needed to live, to get better at what I’m passionate about. It’s easier for me to practice scales than to practice improvising. It’s easier for me to be a caterpillar than to be a butterfly. It’s more comfortable to just live in the winter of persistence. Yet it’s harder on my heart and my happiness to just be a caterpillar. One or the other by themselves is foolish. Yet together – play married with passion and persistence – winter, summer and spring all rolled into one – that’s the right path for me. I can recognize in writing these words the method for happiness and dedication, freedom and safety, visible reality and the unseen world.  It’s right there, all balled up in my own particular brand of love’s confusing joy. This post is part of a series that shows how April’s passion and play come to the rescue of winter’s persistence by looking at a poem by Rumi, line by line.

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