Five Things

We’re half way through 2013. Canada Day in Canada, Independence Day in the United States have come and gone, and the Solstice has been celebrated. Roll on summer (and winter – to my readers down under)!

What have been the lessons learned for you so far this year? What did you expect to happen? What happened instead? And where’s the wisdom for you in that? How will you upgrade these from events that have come and gone to hard-earned wisdom?

(You can contact me here to tell me if you wish.)

Me? Well here are five things I’ve learned so far:

1. From my Brain Trust and my Program Leaders: Make space for hang time

In April I was in Seattle, spending 4 days with my Brain Trust on our annual retreat; and in June I was in Montreal hosting the Box of Crayons program leaders for our annual gathering.

I arrived at both of these events with a little trepidation. Groucho Marx said it nicely when he proclaimed, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” I’m not quite as extreme as that, but I do notice that I have a tendency to go solo-hermit, rather than seek the comfort of the crowd.

At both of these events, there was work to be done, digging deeper into stuff and providing focus and momentum for the coming months. What I remember mostly though is the time outside “the work” just hanging out with these lovely people and enjoying their company. Whether it was in the hot tub with Mark and Eric, or sharing breakfast with Marlene, Kevin and Ludo, those were sweet and human moments.

Find the good people and spend time with them. It’s a simple recipe, isn’t it?

The bigger lesson: Show up without a schedule and see what happens

2. From my new book: Remember Pressfield

You know how sometimes it’s easy? Things happen, words flow, progress gets made. You think that you’re a legend, a natural source of wisdom, productivity and wonder?

And then there are all the other times….

The new book is proving to be the latter rather than the former. In one way or another, I’ve been working on this for a year and I’ve yet to find a way to make it extraordinary.

On the one hand, part of me is imagining an oversized Seth Godin screaming at me: Ship It! And if I had to, I’ve got several not-quite-right drafts for the book that might do.

On the other hand, I’ve got an editor (and myself, mostly) pushing me to make something fantastic.

“Fantastic” of course is good in theory, but in practice it’s turning out to be really hard. Who knew?

So I keep tapping into Steven Pressfield, of The War of Art. At the heart of his work is the call to be a Professional (rather than an Amateur) and to keep showing up and writing and doing the work. That’s the only way through. So that’s what I’ll keep doing.

The bigger lesson: If it’s difficult, you might be onto something interesting here

3. From visiting Chicago: it all fades

The VP of Everything Else and I had a fantastic weekend in Chicago, along with the VP’s lovely librarian friends, and I can thoroughly recommend Old Town Social and Au Cheval as two great places for eating next time you’re there.

Eating is certainly one of the key things to do in the Windy City, but so too is visiting the Art Institute. What a treasure trove. Amongst all the cool stuff there, the blurb next to a Roman marble statue caught my eye: “Portrait of a Man, Perhaps Julius Caesar”.

Portrait of a Man

The Roman Empire is the acme of all empires. Of all its rulers, Julius Caesar is the one we know best, one who conquered the world. And yet, now we’re not even able to tell whether a statue is of him or not.

There is no Forever. Whatever we think might be timeless will shift and change. So do your very best. But step into the freedom that it’s just a momentary thing after all.

The bigger lesson: Stop making things more important than they are

4. From Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening: A new way to focus

I’m easily distracted. Just call me D(o)ug.

Nepo, a Buddhist teacher, has structured this wonderful book with a short meditation each day on sitting with the fears and joys of life.

In one of the meditations about coming back to the moment, he talks about moving from distraction to presence by finding the shiniest thing you can see and stopping and paying it attention.

That’s it. It’s such an easy action … and it works. When I look at one of my “gifts” – making things complicated – it’s endlessly helpful to keep remembering that finding the simple thing that works is often the secret.

The bigger lesson: Find the easy way to do it

5. From my last newsletter: I’m not as smart as you are (and neither are you)

You might remember in a recent newsletter I told you about the Great Work MBA – a virtual conference I’m putting together for November 11-15, 2013. I was looking for cool faculty members to talk about the various practices and skills it takes to do more Great Work. Truth be told, I already had a pretty awesome list of 20 or so people in mind … but at the last minute, I thought I’d ask for some suggestions.

We got more than 100 recommendations, and I’d guess half of these were people I’d never heard of before. It was a humbling reminder of how much more there is outside my own little world, and of how easy it is just to keep walking the same, familiar paths. Suffice to say I’ve got some new faculty members lined up for November, as well as some new guests for the Great Work Interviews.

Thanks to all of you who made such terrific suggestions.

The bigger lesson: Keep asking for help

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