Posts Tagged ‘choices’

Channel Yourself

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
May 12 2012

For a time, I was a coach. A personal / life / business coach. I loved the work. Well, it didn’t feel like work. It was joyful and amazing.

It was not uncommon for a client to tell me that they felt that they were not yet what / who they wanted to be. When this came up, we’d discuss the question of who or what they wanted to be. We’d create an image of that future self, including the way they’d talk, the way they’d walk, how they’d hold themselves, their posture, their gestures, the presence they’d create when they entered a room, and so on. A rich, full vision of the future self.


“Wow! That’s who I want to be. How do I get there?”

Sounds tricky, right? I mean, if it were easy, wouldn’t we all be powerful or leaders or loved or in the job we want or…

Here’s the technique I shared with my clients.

I get that you’re not yet that person. You have a clear picture of that version of you, who seems like a different person right now. You have a clear picture of how that person would speak, what they’d say, how they’d stand, how they’d move, and the gestures they’d use, right?

Channel that person. Don’t try to be that person. Act like that person.

What would that person say in this situation? Say that.

What would that person do in this situation? Do that.

It has been successfully demonstrated repeatedly that we can change our feelings by changing our words. We can change our behavior by choice, repeating the changes until they become our real selves.

So rather than wondering what I need to do to become the person I am visualizing, I choose to act like that person until I become that person.

Take it on like a persona, until it “takes”.

As it settles in, my feelings will change to reflect the confidence I begin to feel. The behavior will become natural and mine.

One day, I will wake up and discover that I have become the person I was visualizing.

The value of community

Career, Musings, Social Networking | Posted by Doc
Aug 10 2011

I’m attending the Agile2011 conference in Salt Lake City. I arrived on Sunday, and Monday was the first full day, and as always it was glorious and exhausting.

Last Tuesday, I tweeted – just once – that I was no longer with ThoughtWorks. When I arrived at the conference venue, and started seeing friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I was astounded, amazed, and overwhelmed.

“I heard, and I’m so sorry.”

“You look great! You look so relaxed.”

“What will you do next?”

Consider that I had not personally spoken with more than one or two people about my change in circumstances. What I had done was to tweet and post on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

One of the most amazing occurrences came when I was talking with my friend Doc Norton (@docondev). As we were talking, one of his co-workers sent him a message: “Did you see that Steven ‘Doc’ List is no longer with ThoughtWorks?”

Consider the amazing power of the social networks and community we live in. A few years ago, I would have been calling and writing to people individually and in groups to let them know what’s going on. Today, one posting and BAM!

The implications that go with that are important:

  • Your online reputation is important and real
  • Since perception is reality, people believe you are who you seem to be online
  • Building your network well can mean the difference between career choices and career compromises
  • Treating people well online, as well as in person, has real value
  • Think carefully about your online persona, and craft it with intent
I know far too many people who are very different in person and online. Sadly, it’s not uncommon to find people who feel that when they are electronic and faceless, it’s okay to be an asshole, or to be otherwise rude, inconsiderate, offensive, judgmental, critical, and so on. These same people might be lovely and sensitive and thoughtful in person, but online?
Why does that happen? Why do some folks feel like it’s okay – safe – to be so different online?
I’m not even going to try to come up with the answer today (although I do have some thoughts on the matter, and would be happy to hear yours). I’m just going to encourage each of you to consider my last point. It’s important enough, that I’m going to say it again.
Think carefully about your online persona, and craft it with intent.

A poorly crafted one will come back to bite you in the butt. A well crafted one will serve you well.

Do something about it, or…

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
May 23 2010

We all know unhappy people, whiners, the frustrated and disappointed and disenfranchised, those who are dissatisfied and feel that they are stuck.

For this post, I’ll refer to that persona as Vern (since it could be a male or female name).

Vern complains. In fact, Vern seems to be happiest when complaining, which is ironic.

Vern seems to be helpless in frustration, seeing the world as beyond his/her ability to affect and change. The bad things seem to have overwhelming power. The situation always seems to be beyond Vern’s control. And Vern can always find something to complain and be unhappy about.

For a while now, I’ve been saying to people…

Sadly, Vern is too ready to say “I can’t”.

I disagree. I can always do something about it. If I can’t change “it”, then I can change me. I can leave, for instance. Or I can learn to accept things as they are. These are frequently the ends of the spectrum, with various forms of changing me and it in the range in the middle.

However, if Very chooses not to take any of the many choices available, then my follow-up is…

I mean, if you choose not to do anything to change your situation, Vern, then do me the courtesy of not battering me with your frustration, whining, griping, or other expressions that make it clear that you believe that something or someone else is in charge of your life and circumstances.

Take charge of your life, willya Vern?

Check out the line of shirts and mugs with these images and variations.

Sigh: a tale of relationship

Coping and Communicating | Posted by Doc
May 05 2010

It had been a long day, and at around 4pm Michael found himself sitting in his favorite recliner, dozing off. You probably know the feeling – it’s just the right moment, regardless of what’s going on, and you slip off. At that moment, it doesn’t matter what’s on TV, how loud the TV is playing, who’s talking about what – you’re going to doze off regardless. And that’s where Michael was.

And just at that magical moment when Michael reached total peace and balance – just as the recliner was at the perfect angle and his mind was like a still pool – a small voice said “Daddy? Daddy? Will you take me to the store? You promised!”

Oh, my. There was nothing Michael wanted less at that moment than to sit up, get himself in gear, and get in the car to drive his daughter Megan to the store.

Of course he’d promised. But it wasn’t really that important, was it? It wasn’t something that couldn’t wait, was it? And if he just held on, he could regain that place of peace and balance. Just for a few more moments, maybe?

“Can we wait just 15 minutes, honey?”

“Well, umm, okay Daddy. Fifteen minutes. You promise?”

“You betcha, honey! Fifteen minutes.”

By the time that last word was out of his mouth, Michael was back in Nirvana. Ahhhhhhhhh.

In what seemed to Michael to have been just seconds, there was that voice again.

“Daddy? Daddy? It’s been fifteen minutes Daddy. Can we go now?”

Michael struggled. A promise is a promise, after all, and everything we do as parents teaches our children, right? But how often do we, as adults, find that wonderful moment?


Truthfully, Michael was feeling put upon. Of course Megan couldn’t get to the store by herself. But it just wasn’t that important and Michael really wanted to enjoy his stolen moment of peace and she could go any time – it’s not like it really had to be today and now!


Michael straightened his recliner and forced himself up. He went to the bathroom to rinse his face and pull himself together. Somehow he found a smile and a wink for Megan. Off they went to the store.

Of course, Megan being Megan, it didn’t quite turn out to be a direct trip to the first store.

“Daddy?” Megan asked.

“Yes, punkin?” Michael responded with some trepidation.

“You ‘member those school supplies I need? We haven’t gotten them yet. Since we’re already out, can we go by that store too and get my school supplies?”


“Sure, sweetheart. Might as well.”

Somehow, Michael had a feeling that this wasn’t going to be quick.

And then Michael figured that as long as they were out, he might as well stop by the book store and pick up that book he’d been wanting. But before they got there…


“Yes, sweetie?”

“I forgot that Mommy said that we should pick up her prescriptions at the pharmacy while we’re out. Can we please do that too?”


“Sure. I guess we might as well go there first, since the pharmacy closes in a few minutes.”

Of course, that meant going a couple of miles in the other direction. And since it was about 4:30pm, it meant going through rush hour traffic as well.


They made it to the pharmacy before closing time, but had to wait behind three people.


And then they made it to the stationery store, and realized that Michael had most of the supplies that Megan needed at home. If only they’d checked before they left.


And when they got to the store that was their original destination, they found that Megan hadn’t called and they didn’t have what she wanted.


Finally they made it to the book store. Megan got fidgety and squirmy while she waited for Michael and finally asked if she could get a book too.


When all was said and done, they’d been out for almost two hours, much of it spent driving, and driving through rush hour traffic no less! And for almost no result.


When they got home, Megan had a sheepish, slightly unhappy look on her face, and said “Thank you very much, Daddy.” And she gave him a big hug and a big kiss and ran off to play or watch TV or whatever it was she was off to do.

And Michael settled back into his recliner with a sigh.

There are moments when, if we’re lucky, we catch ourselves.

As Michael settled into his favorite chair, he heard himself sigh.

And he realized that Megan had heard every one of his sighs for the past two hours.

Michael realized what the look on Megan’s face and the hug and the kiss were all about. Michael had been blaming Megan for his “hardships” and his sighs were messages to her that he was frustrated and that it was hard work and that he’d rather be napping in his recliner.

That wasn’t the message that Michael wanted to give his daughter. His children were special and important. And there would always be times when they were dependent on him to go somewhere or do something, and those times might not be convenient for him.

Michael went upstairs to Megan’s room. She was working on her homework, having gathered up the school supplies she needed.

Michael sat down on the floor next to Megan, put his arm around her, and said “Thanks for the outing, sweetie! I know I was a little tired and cranky, and that’s not your fault. I had fun.” And he gave her a kiss and he gave her a hug.

And she gave him a smile that made him happy from his toes to his cowlick.

We’re all born selfish. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn to be selfishly giving and rejoice in the happiness of others.

[Perhaps this is not just about parenthood, eh?]


Coping and Communicating, Facilitation | Posted by Doc
Aug 20 2009

I’m reading this book, and one character says to another “Everything has consequences.”

I swear I heard a bell go off in my head!

I’ve always said “Everything counts.”  And also “if I’m present, whether I’m active or passive, I have an effect on what happens.”

And then this fictitious characters says “Everything has consequences.” and it all comes together for me.

Everything you do, or don’t do, has consequences.

“Right, Doc. Like if I give my wife a gift, it has consequences?”

Yup. And sometimes unexpected ones. Maybe the gift is too expensive, or not expensive enough.  Maybe you thought she’d love it, but she sees it in a way you’d never think of.  Or maybe she just loves it, and feels warmer towards you for a while.

“Okay. How about if I do nothing?”

There’s no such thing as “nothing.” Being inactive is not nothing. Being silent or withdrawn is most definitely not “nothing.”

As always, since It’s All About Me, whatever you do or don’t do, I will interpret according to my context, my view of the world at that moment. And that’s my reality.

So “nothing” might be angry or hostile or sad or frustrated or… And, as they tell us in Crucial Conversations, I will then proceed to tell myself a story about how you feel, what it means, and how it affects me.  All as a result of you saying and doing… nothing.

I’m not suggesting that you either stop doing anything, or that you do something all the time.

I’m saying that it pays to be aware that Everything has consequences.

Learning to type

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 04 2009

Anne Epstein (twitter: @ajepst) tweeted:

Cory Haines' post reminds me of learning to type. 
You never learn until you stop looking @ the kb

Followed by this:

Stop looking at the keyboard, speed goes *way* down immediately.
Then, you get faster than you were at hunt n' peck...eventually

My response was this:

@ajepst there's some profundity in that beyond just about typing,
 isn't there?

It really got me to thinking about how hard change is, because that’s what this exchange is really about: change.

In fact, my entire series of posts in this category, Coping and Communicating, is largely about change.

Learning to see my own behavior as my own, to see your behavior as being about you and your feelings, and understanding that we only interact at the external, behavioral level – that’s all about changing.

Change isn’t instant. Change takes practice and commitment. Change usually involves some failures and some frustration and exasperation, and strong temptation to give up and go back to what we know that is comfortable.

Like learning touch typing. It’s easier to look at the keyboard and take your time, if that’s what you’re used to.  In fact, I’ve seen some hunt-n-peckers who are blazingly fast. But their focus is on the keyboard, not on what they’re typing, if they have to look to find the keys.

I was fortunate, in that I was required to learn touch typing in Junior High School in NYC. I was less fortunate when it comes to personal development.  There were no requirements, and I was able to self-delude into believing that there were no consequences.

It took a long time for me to embrace the ideas that I’ve been sharing here, and longer to actually be able to put them into practice.

Just this week, I had a lengthy email exchange with a dear friend. He was very angry, frustrated with me, and hostile. He swore at me, was accusatory, told me how much he’d done for me, and so on. I was able to listen, pay attention to what I saw as being most important (our relationship, and his difficulties, and  how I might help), and respond without taking any of it personally.  It felt really good.

Like when I realized that I could, in fact, type without looking at the keys (95 wpm, btw ;)).

Thanks, Anne.  Thought-provoking.

Facilitation Antipattern: Professor Moriarty (aka Evil Genius)

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 02 2009

professor_moriartyMotto: The end, if it’s what I want, justifies any means.
Belief: I can, and will, utilize any tool or stratagem to achieve my goals. I’m entitled to do so because I’m smarter and cleverer and it’s what I want.
Behavior: Manipulates, uses loaded language, conspires, convinces, distracts, distorts
Characteristics: Insidious, manipulative, conspiratorial, superficially open and honest

This may be one of my least favorite antipatterns, because it’s so destructive, while trying to wear the guise of constructive and collaborative. The Evil Genius is the one who’s whispering to others, who catches others alone during breaks, who speaks against one to another, who proposes antagonistic ideas and tries to make them sound constructive, and so on.

It does go on and on.

It’s frequently hard to spot the Evil Genius, because they mask their insidious manipulation so well.

And their manipulations are destructive, because they violate all the principles of collaboration.

“If I can get this one to side with me against that one, then I’ll weaken the entire group so that I can achieve my ends.”

And they frequently delude themselves into thinking that they are working for the good of the group.

Frankly, I have trouble imagining someone acting in this antipattern as a facilitator. And if they were, I can’t imagine that they’d be open and honest enough to own up to it and change.

This one is hard to deal with, because they are so good at being deceitful and duplicitous.

Faciliation Pattern: Sherlock Holmes

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Feb 02 2009

sherlockMotto: With enough information, we can reach a conclusion.
Belief: It’s facts that count, not opinions, bound with reason.
Behavior: Asks questions, engages participants in inquiry, and guides them to reaching conclusions based on facts/information in evidence.
Characteristics: Patient, inquisitive, articulate

So much of what we do in meetings is (or should be) around gathering information and moving to conclusions/solutions/decisions.

When you go to a meeting, which occupies you: Telling? Or asking?

Like Curious George, Sherlock Holmes is interested in gathering information through asking questions. Unlike Curious George, Sherlock Holmes also collects evidence, relates what he’s learned and gathered, and drives toward conclusions.

Sherlock Holmes, the fictional character, was known for his use of deductive reasoning. Using deductive reasoning, we move from the general to the specific. We collect evidence and knowledge, and then use that evidence and knowledge to reach conclusions.

Holmes was also known for employing abductive reasoning, along with deductive reasoning. One description of abductive reasoning is “creating new rules to explain new observations”.

The facilitator’s role is to use her skills in data gathering, abduction, and deduction to guide the participants. As noted repeatedly, it is not the facilitator’s role to offer the conclusions, although that happens from time to time. It is the facilitator’s role to use these skills to guide and teach.

As is no doubt becoming clear, many of these patterns and antipatterns overlap in various ways. That is, they are not mutually exclusive.

Coming up? Dr. Moriarty, The Evil Genius!

All in my head

Coping and Communicating, Musings | Posted by Doc
Jan 31 2009

Does this ever happen to you? It usually happens to me when I’m doing something that doesn’t require a lot of my attention – showering, washing dishes, ironing (yes, I do those things 😉 ).

I find myself thinking “I did X. I didn’t do Y. Debbie* will probably be upset that I did/didn’t.”

Do you do that?

When I catch myself, I stop, take a breath, and think “When’s the last time Debbie got upset about that? Hmm. Never, maybe? So why are you getting yourself all worked up about it?”

This ties back to the idea that we all live in our own heads, and interact with the world through behaviors – speech, action, results. I define results as the things I observe that can reasonably and rationally be assumed to be the result of someone’s behavior. Like coming home and finding that the bed is made. I didn’t make it, so someone must have. My wife was the only one home, so it was probably her. “Thanks for making the bed, Sweetie!”

In Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High, Patterson et al (yes, I’m going to keep referring to this work – I think it’s seminal) talk about the Stories we tell ourselves, and understanding our Paths. In the example above (I did/didn’t whatever), my Path was the thinking that led me from what I did or didn’t do to assuming something about Debbie’s feelings, with no evidence to support that.  Assumptions – you know about assumptions.  Once I recognize my Path, and I can see my Story: “Debbie will probably be upset.” What happens when I tell myself that story? I feel angry/defensive/upset/hurt. That leads to me stepping out of the shower/kitchen/living room and acting on those feelings towards Debbie.

Poor Debbie is then sitting there wondering what she might have done to lead me to feel that way, or what kind of an ass am I for treating her that way, or…

The thing is, for a moment – just a moment – whatever is in my head seems to be real. What I expect, what I think someone else has/does/will feel, and therefore my emotional, mental, and physical reactions are based on that pseudo-reality that exists only inside of my head.

The challenge, therefore, is to stop and think in STATE terms: what has actually happened. Not what I think will happen or interpret, but what has actually happened. Has Debbie actually gotten upset? Do I have evidence to expect that she will feel upset? If so, I can choose my behavior, informed by what I know of her.

But thus far, it’s all in my head. Reacting based on what is in my head is something I can take control over. Now. Right now.

* Debbie is my amazing wife of 32.5 years. She hasn’t killed me or dumped me yet, so I’m hopeful that is’ going to last. 🙂

Facilitation Pattern: Guide (aka Sherpa)

Facilitation, Musings | Posted by Doc
Jan 31 2009

Motto: I’m here to hold the lamp and show the way.
Belief: My role is to help you find your way and shine the light where it’s needed.
Behavior: Listens, asks, reframes and rephrases.
Characteristics: Calm, attentive, patient, and offering.

There are many pitfalls (think of the word literally, as well as figuratively) in meeting with and talking with others. In the role of Guide/Sherpa, the facilitator’s responsibilities include steering the group around the pitfalls, helping them to avoid the known dangers and recognize the signs of upcoming trouble.

In many ways, the Guide is also a teacher, as through his behavior, the Guide teaches the group what signs to look for.

Can a participant be a Guide? Of course.

One of the key factors in participatory/collaborative events of all kinds is attitude.

Do you ask “What am I going to get out of this?” or “What am I going to put into this?”

Simple wisdoms:

  • To give is to receive.
  • To teach is to learn.
  • Sometimes asking is telling/teaching.
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