Share Your Platform

Hey friends!  I’ve recorded a screen video!  To many of you this may seem no big deal.  But it’s a huge milestone for Luddite me, and who knows when I ever would have tried it if not for Ozan Varol!  Readers of this blog know how much I admire Ozan, a rocket scientist, law professor, all-around benevolent contrarian, and generous sharer of his platform.  …And now you can get a tour of his Inner Circle site from yours truly!

I first found Ozan on my Facebook feed when he wrote about changing people’s minds. It resonated with me immediately. So of course I downloaded his free e-book, signed up for the Weekly Contrarian newsletter, and binge-listened to his Famous Failures podcast. Ozan pointed me to some of my favorite books of 2019, such as Insight by Tasha Eurich and Sex At Dawn by Chris Ryan and Cacilda Jetha.

Throughout 2019 Ozan grew and connected his community of readers.  Christina, Renu, Judith and I participated in the first ever Idea Lab (as they are now known), where three of us each shared a project and we all coached one another through ideas, process, and execution.  Ozan launched the Inner Circle maybe a year ago.  Here readers (I consider us all impending friends) connect around more ideas, projects, challenges, and common interests.  Ozan floats concepts for future blogs, shares resources that spark his curiosity, and generally stimulates thoughtful and wide-ranging collaboration from all over the world.  And oh, my gosh, the people I’m meeting!!

Dr. Karen Shue has recently joined and I really want know better this writer, neuropsychologist, and all around curious being who maintains three websites, see here, here, and here.

Tony Coretto, an apparent modern-day Renaissance man, writes about building the life you want, and he has built quite a life, from what I can tell.

What I appreciate the most about Ozan is how he leads by example.  He grounds his questions in curiosity and openness.  His comments encourage, and also challenge us to broaden our perspectives, as he broadens his own by inviting diverse viewpoints with respect and non-judgment.  There is no shortage of nonconforming views on any given community forum thread.  And yet I never feel animosity or confrontation, not even close.  Opinions are offered, not espoused.  IC folks come to learn, share, commune, and grow, because we see Ozan doing it right along with us.

When Ozan invited me to record the Inner Circle walkthrough video, I had no idea how to do it.  I asked my Facebook friends, and Don came through with Screencast-o-matic.  So user friendly, even I could figure it out in a morning!  It took only three tries, and voila, a viable, extemporaneous tour of a site I love!  And now I have a fun new skill—my horizon is widened and I seek new ventures in which to practice and grow.  Ozan gave such a kind shout out to me and this blog in the walkthrough invitation email.  And now I’m invited to host a community call around a topic of my choice.  Holy cow!  I am so humbled and grateful for it all.

***

I have a mentor at work, who supports me similarly.  So often he has introduced me to other organizational leaders, setting up calls and meetings to share ideas and initiatives.  His introduction affords me some instant ‘street cred’ with people who would not otherwise care to know me.  I don’t take this lightly, and I am beyond appreciative. 

How can I make the most of these most generous opportunities?  How can I be worthy of the possibilities?  It’s not that I feel unworthy; I understand that Ozan and my mentor see real potential in me and want to help me develop it.  I just don’t want to waste a shred of these openhanded gifts.  They lift me.  How can I pay it forward?

What do you do when someone elevates you like this?

***

In these intensely surreal and existentially trying times, people all around me express helplessness.  How can any of us, individually, exert any meaningful agency to change anything for the better when everything everywhere is so colossally out of control?

I believe we can always help.  Each of us occupies a sphere of influence; our attitudes and actions ripple out indirectly many layers beyond.  So, one way I can elevate more people is by sharing my own platform, small as it is (yet).  I used to feel sheepish when much of any post was someone else’s words.  Not so anymore.  When I find pieces that speak to me, that resonate and integrate with my core values and my cause, why not amplify widely? 

Maybe I have some valuable street cred to share, too.

A Time to Try New Things

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My friends:  What’s happening for you these many weeks?  What are you noticing (again, still, and newly)?  What do you miss most, least, and/or not at all from pre-COVID life?

What’s been the best thing that’s happened for you in this time?

Many of us are out of our depth here; we have no map.  As NASA says, we must “test as we fly and fly as we test.”  That necessarily means putting aside what we usually do and how things usually work, and trying new things–experimenting.  What a fantastic opportunity for learning, growth, and connection!

Be the change alpha workout

The Alphabet Workout

How has the pandemic affected your physical activity?  How have you adjusted?  After the New Year I realized I needed workout buddies to strengthen my workout resolve.  My colleague and I started exercising together after work a couple days a week, and then the pandemic hit.  Almost right away I came across various alphabet-based interval workouts, perfect for the newly shut in.  My siblings and friends and I started meeting on Zoom to try it, first spelling our names.  We moved on quickly to our heroes’ names, and now to sayings we like.  Exercise, accountability, variety, fun, and connection—yay!

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Baking

My daughter may single-handedly make our whole family diabetic.

Spring break started a week early, then the kids transitioned to distance learning, with minimal direct, real time interaction with teachers.  With so much more time to complete homework and a recently developed fascination with any and all things French, we now have a baker in the house.  And with anaphylactic allergies in the family, recipes are necessarily converted to vegan and nut-free.  To date she has succeeded with macarons, beignets, fruit turnovers, cupcakes, and red velvet cake.  But by far I’m proudest of her opera cake, completed tonight and surely damaging to my waistline.  It’s worth it, though, to watch her experiment, fail, redirect, and succeed (mantra = “It’s edible!”), gaining confidence with every attempt.

The sibs had better not abandon me on those Zoom workouts, though!

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Photo courtesy of Dr. Karen Cornell, January 2020, Loveland, CO

Circadian Loosening

I always knew I was a night owl, but holy cow, left to my own devices, I am practically nocturnal.  I never pulled all-nighters for school.  The first time I stayed up all night reading was for one of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books—I had not even done that for Harry Potter!  I have discipline when I need it.  I get up for morning calls now; I even look forward to them, as a sailor looks for the buoy thrown by his shipmates when he has fallen overboard.  I will readjust to a regular work schedule when the time comes.  But for now I can truly enjoy my owl self.

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Connecting with Friends

Maybe you’re missing your friends the most.  Somehow I’m not, which is a bit shocking and disconcerting.  But maybe it’s because I’m still connected, in some cases better than ever.  I miss meeting Donna for breakfast at our usual egg and toast place.  But I love that we now talk weekly on the phone while walking outside.  I continue to send and receive snail mail from friends across the country.  Perhaps I’m FaceTiming more with the Colorado sister and my parents, in addition to our sibs Zoom workouts.  And finally yesterday, blogging friends Nancy and Donna and I got together, after talking about it for at least three years.  Of course it was over Zoom, but without COVID-19 who knows how long it would have taken us to meet in person, living in Washington, Illinois, and Michigan?  Now we plan to ‘meet’ monthly—so much to share!

Writing Out of My Comfort Zone

Thanks to sister member Christina Guthier from Ozan Varol’s Inner Circle, I accepted a 5 day mindful writing challenge set by Nadia Colburn this past week.  Free, only five days—why not?  Nancy, Anne, and a few other friends agreed to try it with me—they accepted my Facebook invitation.  After a short meditation and poem, each day Nadia offered a prompt, followed by ten minutes of writing dotted with serene reminders to stay with the breath and remember to smile.  In these brief, structured and yet freeform sessions, I stretched existing ideas and queries farther than usual.  I quieted the inner critic sometimes and not others.  I learned a little more about my style and preferences for writing.  And I wrote a poem.

Based on “I Am Offering This Poem” by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Day 5’s prompt asked us to write a poem entitled, “I Am Offering This ______ to You.”

Onward, my friends.  Let us try new things, learn, grow and connect.

 

I Am Offering This Love to You

So imperfect

So flawed

So human

Yet honest, earnest, real

How can I make sure

You feel it the way I intend?

Or do I even need to?

Who would that be for?

What’s the best way for you to feel

Loved by me?

According to whom?

What is the best outcome

Of all this love

We carry for each other

In our families

Between friends

For our country

For the world

For humanity?

How can we live into this now

Today?

I am offering this Love to you

Now

On this day

In this moment

With this breath

What will you do with it?

Attune and Differentiate:  One Week’s Synthesis

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Friends, don’t you just love when an idea you resonate with recurs in your consciousness from disparate sources in short order, further deepening its meaning?  I share three pieces with you this week, which all deepened my commitment to embracing the paradox of attunement and differentiation.

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First, I listened again to Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness.  I highly recommend this book to help us all, conservatives and progressives alike, engage (not avoid) one another this election year with a lot more compassion, civility, and mutual respect.  Throughout the book Sister Brené shares personal stories as well as evidence from her research that define true belonging, which I think of as another expression for self-actualization and self-transcendence.  In her words:

True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness in both being a part of something, and standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism.

Attune and differentiate:  these two practices are not only not mutually exclusive, they are essential and integral for whole person and societal health and well-being.  Read the book to adopt her four practices to advance true belonging, for yourself and for all of us:

  1. People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.
  2. Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be Civil.
  3. Hold Hands. With Strangers.
  4. Strong Back. Soft Front.  Wild Heart.

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Second, I met Massimo on Ozan’s last Inner Circle Zoom call.  He is a designer and facilitator from Italy—thank you again, Ozan, for connecting so many of us all around the world!  Massimo has launched a blog, which resonated with me because he also advocates finding your voice (differentiating) as well as finding a community of belonging (attunement) as a reason to write:

…Meet new people and to interact with them

Learning adventures can make you feel on a solitary path, too much unbalanced on the input, reading and digesting side without much interaction. Expand your network, look for more interactive exchanges with whom might provide an alternative, critical point of view compared to yours. Exposing your opinions leads self-selecting people to network and resonate with you. Find your tribe. We need many and none at the same time. You need different communities where to manifest and explore your interests. On the other hand, you need to better focus on creating those which are more fertile ground to nurture your continuously changing interests and aspirations.

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Third, I read David Brooks’s article in The New York Times on the ethos of Scandanavian education.  Eloquent as usual, he synthesizes a complex set of ideas into language we can all understand:

19th-century Nordic elites…realized that they were going to have to make lifelong learning a part of the natural fabric of society.

…(Their system) is devised to help (students) understand complex systems and see the relations between things — between self and society, between a community of relationships in a family and a town. 

…Nordic educators also worked hard to develop the student’s internal awareness. That is to say, they helped students see the forces always roiling inside the self — the emotions, cravings, wounds and desires. If you could see those forces and their interplay, as if from the outside, you could be their master and not their slave. 

…Their intuition was that as people grow, they have the ability to go through developmental phases, to see themselves and the world through ever more complex lenses. A young child may blindly obey authority — Mom, Dad, teacher. Then she internalizes and conforms to the norms of the group. Then she learns to create her own norms based on her own values. Then she learns to see herself as a node in a network of selves and thus learns mutuality and holistic thinking. [See Changing on the Job by Jennifer Garvey Berger for more on this theory of adult development.]

Scandanavians…have a distinctive sense of the relationship between personal freedom and communal responsibility.

(Meanwhile, in the United States…) If you have a thin educational system that does not help students see the webs of significance between people, does not even help students see how they see, you’re going to wind up with a society in which people can’t see through each other’s lenses.

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In 2020 more than ever, we need to cultivate much stronger relationship skills.  We must identify and honor our core values and stand up for them, even when attacked by those closest to us—perhaps even especially then.  How we honor our best selves determines how we honor others.  When we show up at our most honest and authentic, we can call forth the same in others to meet us.  We can relate as fellow humans, inextricably connected, mutually interdependent, and all in it together.  Once we realize this, we can know in our hearts that we truly belong to ourselves and to one another, and we can more easily get on with the world’s most important work—connecting humanity in health, safety, and love.