Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Story of a Life

November 25, 2022

I’ve seen this poem before, but hat tip to Tim Ferriss for including it in today’s Five Bullet Friday newsletter. Sometimes I’m an even slower learner!

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost… I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes me a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…It’s a habit…but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is 
my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

— Portia NelsonThere’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

A Step At A Time

October 25, 2022

My wife and her sisters persuaded me to try an aqua fit class during our vacation at a resort last week. I can swim but seldom get in the pool. Meaning: I’m not that good.

After a lot of “weight” work with 8 oz. dumbbells that in the water simulated several pounds, the instructor got out three or four-foot lengths of foam tubing called noodles. At one point she instructed us to put them between our legs as if we were sitting astride them. Then she said pretend you’re pedaling a bicycle and head to the deep end of the pool. Then she told us to do a breast stroke motion with our arms. I fell off the noodle, got tangled up in the darn things, and was in water over my head. It took a few seconds to get my bearing.

A few minutes later I experimented on my own in shallower water and discovered the “trick”.

Let’s back up a second. When I had a new person come to my Yoga class, I’d ask about experience. Some had more than I did. Great. Just explain the progression of poses and keep an eye on them just in case.

If they said this was their first experience, I would give instructions to the class for moving to the next pose while standing or kneeling with the new person to help them find the correct adjustment for the pose. (without touching them, I never touched a student)

I’m thinking that aqua instructor, nice person though she was, knowing I was a newbie, should have given me a bit more instruction and watched more carefully.

Then I thought about other things.

Do we convince someone to “accept Jesus in their heart” and then just send them to drift into the deep end alone?

Do we tell someone to read their Bible daily without teaching and feedback on how to read ancient spiritual writing?

Perhaps you may have memories of being adrift and lost. Maybe someone teaching live or from a book helped you find your balance sending you off into freedom.

Getting Down From Mount Stupid

May 25, 2021

“I took a semester course in that subject at university,” the recent graduate told me in an interview, “so, I am an expert in that field.”

I think I replied to the effect that he had barely scratched the surface of knowledge.

It is called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The peak of the curve is often called Mount Stupid.

We have all been there.

There was a Bible study. One man who had begun studying the Bible within the past year exclaimed, “I don’t understand why anyone can argue this. Here it is plainly in black and white.”

I mentioned that first, he was reading English. Jesus and Paul didn’t speak English, since it had not been invented yet. “It’s complicated,” I said. Maybe I realized then that I had arrived. I knew I didn’t know everything. Now, I could begin to understand. And perhaps guide someone else off the peak of “Mount Stupid.”

Practice Kindness

December 30, 2020

Few of us are perfectly kind to others, to animals (pets), to even ourselves.

I imagine we put kindness to the test for the past 10 months living in close proximity to part of family and away from other parts. Living more online than ever before, we discover that it is easier to be unkind online than in person.

One of the terminology things I like about Yoga is the word Practice. Each time we come to the mat, we are practicing our poses. A little improvement each time.

Looking at the past year, how often did we practice kindness. Looking ahead to the new year, perhaps we see where we could use more practice.

I watched on YouTube a violin master class led by a virtuoso violinist. He conducted a youth orchestra. A young man, most likely late teens, played a concerto. As the maestro led the violinist through different parts following the performance teaching phrasing and sensitivity, he mentioned, “You have probably practiced this about a thousand times and played it a hundred times with your teacher before performing here.”

We admire the performance and don’t consider the work that goes into it.

Just so with kindness. We must practice a thousand times to get close to being right. And even then, we still have more to learn. Remember, the proper phrase is not “practice makes perfect”, but “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Practice kindness.

You Are To Blame

November 11, 2020

Andy Stanley likes to bring up this thought nugget, “Do you know who was present at every bad decision you ever made? You. You were present at every one.”

We learned something from Jeremiah yesterday that our heart is deceitful above all things.

Advertisers and marketers are geniuses at using this knowledge. They know how easy it is to present something in such a way that we believe it. And then we act.

And then later we wonder why.

Why did we buy that? Why did we call her back? Why did we go there? Why did we get suckered into believing her or him?

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a pause button? Before we decide to trust her; before we decide to go there; before we decide to send that note on social media that will make us look like a fool; before we buy that–we pause, breathe deeply, tell our deceitful heart to back off.

We are also present at our good decisions.

Andy never says that. But it’s true.

Wisdom comes from gradually recognizing situations and hitting the pause button and then making the good decision.

Learn Through Failure

March 4, 2019

How many times have you failed at something? A business closed? A ministry didn’t work? A partnership dissolved?

When asked about experiences, do you talk only about the good times?

Sometimes we learn best from our failures.

We developed the wrong business model for the times and product. (I did that.)

We picked the wrong partners. (Guilty.)

We tried leading a service opportunity that fell flat. (Been there.)

Bragging of our successes teaches no one–including ourselves.

Self-evaluating where we’ve fallen short is a sure path toward growth.

Teaching

January 30, 2019

When I teach someone about solving a problem on their computer, I put their hands on the mouse and keyboard. “Try clicking on this,” I’ll suggest. Or show a hidden menu.

I figure that a combination of muscle memory and thinking it through will help them remember. And figure out how to solve their next problem on their own.

Someone asked me once (or probably many times), “Why didn’t Jesus just make things simple and tell us flat out what he meant?”

Let me answer this way.

A scholar tested Jesus. “What is the greatest commandment?”

Jesus gave him the stock answer of a student, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your strength, and all your mind.” Then he added, “And the second is just as important–you shall love your neighbor.”

The scholar not willing to let this lie, pursued, “Who is my neighbor?”

<pause>

Now Jesus could have given a list of types of people who would be a neighbor. That would have been like a rule or law.

People respond to laws in one of three ways: they forget them because there are so many; they ignore or flaunt rebellion to them; or, they become “rule followers” with little imagination or heart.

Jesus was in a battle with the “rule followers (Pharisees)” of his day.

<end pause>

Rather than speaking plainly, he answered with a story.

What do you remember? A list? Or, the story of the Good Samaritan?

2,000 years later, even people who are not Christian know the story of the Good Samaritan. Whether we follow it or not, that’s our problem. But we know exactly how we should act if our heart is in the right place with God.

Ancient people knew that if you teach by story or by questioning (the Socratic Method, it’s called) then people will understand because they’ve thought it out for themselves.

Our Mind Is an Imperfect Instrument

June 7, 2018

Why is it that we can be so intelligent and have gained so much knowledge with diplomas and degrees, and yet, we can believe the lies of politicians, preachers, and other people? We can believe with certainty things proven beyond a doubt to be wrong.

John Climacus writes concerning the dreams of novices beginning the spiritual journey, “Our mind is the instrument of knowledge, but it is very imperfect and filled with all sorts of ignorance.”

John was writing about dreams. But another John (Milton) said, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell and a hell of heaven.”

Researchers using the scientific method have probed this idea and discovered that our minds will believe anything that we tell it to believe.

That is why on the spiritual journey, or even in everyday life, we must guard against the things that enter our minds. We must have a filter, the filter of discernment. We must be grounded in proven spiritual writing with a mentor to help us understand.

Creativity and Curiosity

April 13, 2018

Just give them a pencil and paper and let them write whatever comes to mind with no thought of spelling, grammar, or coherence. We don’t want to squelch a child’s creativity.

I’ve heard this “advice” until I am sick.

Study any artist. Especially the great (and creative) ones. They all learned, usually through a teacher and mentor, the basics of color, proportion, composition, and anatomy. The creativity came with using the basics in new ways–seeing things others had not. Picasso was great as a “realistic” painter, but then he decided to try to find the essence of the object or person he was painting. He pushed the boundaries with cubism.

You could pick up a guitar and start strumming and picking. Or–you could learn sounds and notes. Tune the guitar. Learn some basic chords. You only need to learn D-C-G and you can play hundreds of rock and folk songs. Just experiment different rhythms within the pattern. Maybe try an added note–go ahead, throw in a C-9 to the progression. If you only learned C-A minor-F-G, you could play around with the progression and play another hundred early rock songs. You’re only truly creative when you can build on the foundation of what works.

Writing is communication. Humans have known just about since the dawn of communication about logic. When you are expressing something, it must proceed logically. Spelling helps us convey the correct word (and it helps if you turn off autocorrect on your iPad, for example). Grammar helps us express a clear idea. Try the book “Eats Shoots and Leaves” or is it “Eats, Shoots, and Leaves”.* Do you get the different meanings? Logic helps us lead our reader to understanding.

No, it’s not “creativity” that we need to worry about in that way.

The real crime is when we kill a child’s (or an adult’s) curiosity.

I love this little poem from Rudyard Kipling:

I have six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew. There names are What, and Where and When; and Why and How and Who.

*There is a story about a Panda who walks into a bar. He orders a sandwich and eats it. He then pulls out a gun and shoots the bartender. He left. Lying on the bar was a field guide to Pandas where an editor had inserted a fatal comma.

A Leader With Soul

April 3, 2018

“If you have to ask, you don’t have it.” — Popular response to people asking what is soul during the rise of “soul music” in the late 60s.

OK, where is this going, you may be asking. The last book I read is, “Awakening A Leader‘s Soul: Learnings through Immortal Poems,” by Gaurav Bhalla, published by Motivational Press. This is less a management how-to than a plea for enhanced leadership

“In today‘s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world (VUCA), leadership success is a function of something deeper, something more enduring than technical knowhow and leadership skills. It’s a function of the leader’s humanity—who they are, what they stand for, what they are willing to fight for, and what they are willing to accept and endure. Because what’s in the leader’s head may be smart and potent, but what’s within the leader that guides what’s in the leader’s head is even more potent, because it is wiser. Accordingly, the most important asset of leaders is not the smartness of their minds, it’s the wisdom of their souls.”

This book is for leaders who want to take the next step up the ladder of effectiveness and fulfillment. A new humanity—consider not only yourself, but also employees, customers, community, suppliers, planet. Reminds of reading AP Martin some 30 years ago—Proactive Management. He introduced me to the idea of “stakeholders.” When constructing vision and goals and making decisions, consider all the stakeholders affected. Bahlla continues the thread of thought.

Try out these ideas. Leadership success is a function of the leader’s humanity—what’s within the leader that guides what’s in the leader’s head. The most important asset of leaders is not the smartness of minds, it’s the wisdom of their souls. Egotistical leaders suck the oxygen from the organization.

Outline

1. Who the leader is

ego

self reliance

Authenticity

2. How the leader thinks

vision

substance

doubt

3. How the leader acts

Risk

perseverance

perspective

4. Beyond the leader’s world

wider circles

employees & customers

communities

planet earth

5. Faring Forward

TS Eliot-Dry Salvages from Four Quartets

Sampling from poems

Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself—shifts from How I am the center of the universe to How I am centered in the universe.

TS Eliot—We are the hollow men; we are the stuffed men…

Albert Camus—But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.

Alexander Pope, A Little Learning (I think this is especially important to ponder today, especially in church circles)

A little learning is a dangerous thing

Drink deep or taste not the Pierian Spring;

There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain

And drinking largely sobers us again.

Fired at first sight with what the Muse imparts,

In fearless youth we tempt the heights of Arts;

While from the bounded level of our mind

Short views we take nor see the length behind,

But, more advanced, behold with strange surprise

new distant scenes of endless science rise.

Rumi, Transcending blame, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

Confucius, Asking, “The person who asks a question is ignorant for a few moments, The person who doesn’t remains ignorant for life.”

Herman Hesse, “Siddhartha listened…completely absorbed, quite empty, taking in everything…he had often heard all this before, all the numerous voices in the river, but today they sounded different.”

From the Bhagavad Gita, “Work for the sake of work not for the sake of rewards or material gains.”

Leonardo daVinci—every now and then go away and have some relaxation.

John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself.”