Archive for July, 2011

Comments about Composing Change

July 28, 2011

As a new WordPress author, I am not sure where a number of comments about my recent posts have been coming from. The IP addresses were not mine, but the feedback was just a repeat of part of my post. Not knowing what was happening, I just deleted those comments.

If you really meant to say something, you need to do something more than repeat what I wrote.

Maybe we can figure this out if you actually contact me.

The real post for today starts here.


3 – Develop Your First Impossible Thing

July 28, 2011

If you are reading this and didn’t get here from 2-Find Your First Impossible Thing, stop reading and go back to 0-Ask If You Are Ready. None of this will make sense if you jump in with no preparation. Read the earlier posts to understand why you would want to be here at all.

Just to review where you are:

  1. You have a child’s composition book you are using to “compose a change” for yourself
  2. You have set it up with an index and summary pages
  3. You have created a list of more than 15 things that interest you that appear to be impossible
  4. You have selected one of them and are ready to develop it as practice for developing what you are really passionate about

If this isn’t already fun, I don’t know what I can do to help you. We’re going to get serious now, so here are some entry criteria to make sure you have a suitable “impossible” thing to work with.

If you answer Yes to any of these questions, go back and get another thing. But answer these on the page you already defined. Just use the numbers, rather than copying the questions. No point in wasting paper. Sometimes, the exercises I will give you will be intended to fail, because they really are impossible for you at this point.

  1. Does the impossible thing require more than $100 of startup funding?
  2. Does the impossible thing require new materials or techniques that are unknown to science, engineering or manufacturing?
  3. Would doing this impossible thing cause bodily harm to you or anyone around you?
  4. Would doing this impossible thing cause family or friends embarrassment or shame because people know they know you?
  5. Is there any part of this impossible thing that requires fraud or deception?
  6. Would doing this impossible thing be perceived as an illegal activity, even if it wasn’t?
  7. Would doing this impossible thing be perceived as immoral by your grandparents, even if your friends think it would be just find or even cool?
  8. Would you want to have to explain this impossible thing to your kids?
  9. Does this impossible thing seem boring now?
  10. Have you lost your passion for this idea?

If the impossible thing made it through these filters, you can keep going. Otherwise, to back to your list and find another.

Repeat the steps above until you have something that is mostly impossible but not illegal.

Since the answers above are half of your first page, go to the next page to do the second part of the exercise.

  1. Write down three things that haven’t been done that would be necessary for the impossible thing to be possible.
    If they are hard work, get over it. You’re about to do the hardest work you ever did in your life.
    This is just practice.
  2. Pick one of the three things that haven’t been done and write down five things that other people are already doing that would make it easy to recognize things that haven’t been done.
  3. Pick one of the things other people are doing and write down three things you would have to do away with to be ready to do what other people are doing.
  4. Pick one of the things you would have to do away with and write down seven things you would have to do better so you could recognize what you would have to do away with.
  5. Pick one of the things you would have to do better and come up with five things that would be the right way to do it.
  6. Pick one of the things that would be the right way to do something and come up with nine things that would be the right thing to do.
  7. Go back to the top of the list and read through the things you wrote and the things you selected.
    Draw a line across the bottom of the last list and answer this question:
    – Am I ready to make a commitment to doing this impossible thing?
  8. If the answer is Yes, continue on to the next exercise.
    If you have any doubts at all, go back and find something else to work with. The next exercise will be even harder.

Until I hear back from at least one person that they have gotten to this point, I am not going to add any posts on this thread. Unless there is someone who wants to follow me on this journey, there is no reason for me to go any farther.

Anyone up to the challenge?

2 – Find Your First Impossible Thing

July 28, 2011

If you didn’t come here from 1-Start A New Notebook, go back to step 0-Ask If You Are Ready.

We are going to jump in head first, and see where this takes us. You did step zero and 1, didn’t you? I will trust you if you will trust me. Let’s get started with some real work.

  1. Go to page 1 of your notebook. You probably closed it a few second ago, because the previous post told you to, but open it back up to page 1.
  2. At the top of the page, write this title:
    My List of Impossible Things
  3. Turn to the back of the book, to the index we started in step 1. Write the page number of the new topic you started, and the title you gave it on that page. You’ll do this every time you start a new topic, which might be tomorrow or only a few minutes from now.
    Are you done? Okay, here’s the next step.
  4. Go back to the list on page 1 and start writing down things that you think are impossible for you to do. Some examples might be:
    – learn to play the piano confidently enough to give a recital to family and friends
    – sing happy birthday for my parents when they turn (insert the next major milestone like 40, 60, 100)
    – go back to college and get a meaningful degree
    – support my kids in their efforts to attend college
    – get a better paying job
    – get a promotion because I deserve it
    – (and so forth)
  5. If your list goes onto the next page, write -2 at the top of the page to remind you this is a continuation of the previous page.
    If your list goes beyond two pages, write the title on the new page, with the appropriate number, and reserve the following page as well.
  6. Continue this until you have at least 10 seemingly impossible things. If you run out of ideas, see if these help you:
    – what have you heard other people say was impossible for you to do
    – what have you heard other people say was impossible for them to do, that you think would be fun/rewarding/life-changing
    – what things that are commonly accepted to be impossible that are of interest to you
  7. While you are doing this, feel free to be totally open to new ideas. You aren’t looking to do all the ideas you write down. You are looking for ideas that will inspire you enough to fill up this book and perhaps a dozen others. If the ideas are illegal or immoral or violate community standards, there will probably be some resistance from friends, family and maybe law enforcement. But if writing something down gets it out of your head so you can get to the idea that was trapped behind it, put it down on paper. The best idea might be out there on page 3 near the bottom. Wouldn’t it be sad if you stopped at the bottom of page 1?
  8. When you think you have run out of ideas, number enough pages to give you three times as many ideas.
    By this I mean, number six more pages if you only have the two pages you started with.
    If you filled up more than four pages already, you are going to have a lot of fun. Figure it out for yourself.
  9. Go back to the first impossible thing on page 1 and evaluate it against the following criteria.
    Use a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is low and 5 is high:
    – how much passion do I have about learning how to change using this impossible thing?
    – how much do I already know about this thing?
    If the sum of the two scores above is less than 5, go to the next thing on your list.
    If the sum of the two scores is more than 9, go to the next thing on your list.Do not dwell on what you pick for your first item. This one is practice. Until you know how this part of the method works, you won’t be able to find the thing that will really fill up your notebook. When you find that one, you’ll know you need to start a new notebook for it.
  10. Do not spend more than 30 minutes on step 9.
    The point is not finding the best impossible thing to do.
    The point is finding something between 6 and 8 that you can use to do the next exercise.
    If you get a 6 but think there is an 8, do not look at more than five more things to find it.
  11. When you find the  thing you want to take forward for the next exercise, do the following:
    – go to the index and write it down
    – go to the next blank page at the beginning of the book and number that page, then write in the title of the thing
    – go back to the index and write in the page number
  12. When you have your first thing on a fresh page, you can go to step 3.

The Opposable Mind

July 28, 2011

Last evening, I started a new book, The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking, by Roger Martin. Though I haven’t gotten past the first chapter, the premise definitely makes sense to me. He quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald on page 1:

  • The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to fuction. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.
    The Crack Up, 1945

When I saw this book and read the back cover, I thought the concept of opposable mind was obvious. I’ve been doing it for years. An the business I am going to build will help people develop their “integrative thinking” skills in a number of ways, which I hope will be an addition to what he will be discussing in his book. I think I’ve had an opposable mind for my whole life, but never thought of myself that way. I imagine that if I had known I was thinking that way, I might have told people why I was taking a contrary stance to theirs. They might not have seen me as a rebel, but as someone who was contributing something different to a conversation.

If you are wondering how I plan to do this, let me offer just a few hints:

  1. The 7 Levels of Change gives us a way to look at situations from at least 7 different points of view. I think there is an 8th Level – make a commitment to change, and possibly additional levels of stasis, which might be though of as negative levels of change. For example, if Level 1 is doing the right things, then Level -1 could be doing the wrong things. A lot of human behavior is easier to understand if one thinks of them as a spectrum of stasis and change.
  2. Six Thinking Hats gives us six different ways of looking at situations that are different from 7LoC. What are the facts? What emotions are involved? What do we need to worry about? What makes us happy about the opportunity or threat? How can we come up with new ideas? What do we need to do to organize things? When we have the ability to put on each hat in sequence, we have options that we never saw before. How many of us go through life wearing a Black Hat (Devil’s Advocate) and never acknowledging that the Red Hat (Emotions) may be holding us back in different ways? Would we be more flexible if we had a hat with seven colors, the last being “status quo/apathy” or our resistance to wearing any hat at all.
  3. The Pareto Principle also known as the 80/20 Principle, tells us that 20% of the effort in most efforts will deliver 80% of the value. And if we focus on the 20%, 4% of that effort will deliver 64% of the value (.8 x .8 = .64). But how often do we think about the value we are going to get from activities, much less think about the value before we even put them on our agenda? If we organized the agenda items we might put in our daily calendar, and put the important things first, would we deliver better value at the end of the day?

These are a few of the ideas that are already part of my tool. It is already working for me, but I don’t know if anyone else would be willing to try using it. That is where the thread about Composing Change comes into the picture. I went through many months of handwritten tracking of things I was doing, things I wanted to do, and things I thought mattered before I recognized that I could build a tool to help me manage everything. Those lists I was keeping in separate composition notebooks blended together in the tool I have built. The habits I realized I wanted to develop became one leg of the stool; the goals were the second. Where goals and habits meet is on a day you can start all over again and try to do something different, and then see where you succeeded and failed. I’ve never seen a daily planning tool that helped me manage short-term projects as well as behavior changes. In a few weeks, if there is a new release of FileMaker Pro, I will be able to offer the rest of you a chance to try out what I am doing. But invitations to that party will be based on what you have been doing in your Composing Change notebooks. If you aren’t willing to do the pre-work to get into a program, why would I believe you were ready to change?

But I’m off track again. We started talking about a book that offers examples of how people can hold opposing points of view and still get things done. Then I suggested there might be dozens of ways we might guide those opposing thoughts. And I finished by saying I would let you try out my idea if you do a handwritten version first.

For people who start reading this blog after this date, I’m sure this will be very confusing. They might have to go back to the beginning to make sense of it all. But so what, I say, the stream of ideas will keep moving. It doesn’t matter where you get into the water. It will always be refreshing.

1 – Start A New Notebook

July 27, 2011

If you didn’t come here from 0-Ask If You Are Ready, go there first. This is not a post you should just jump into.

As I write this post, it is summer and stores are already offering deals on school supplies. Take advantage of this opportunity and go to your favorite office supply store and look for the “composition” books kids use in school. I like the ones from Wal-Mart that are 9.75″ by 7.5″. When we were in Wal-Mart the other day, the sale price was $.40 each, so I bought 20 of them. I already had dozens but the price was too good to pass up. I may go back if I am near that store again and get some more. You can never have too many blank notebooks.

Here is how to start a new notebook for the method I will be describing in the posts that follow:

  1. On the cover, write the topic the book is about, and the date you are starting
  2. Inside the front cover, write your name, address, phone number and email. If you lose the book for some reason, you want the person who finds it to be able to contact you so you can get it back. Though the book may never leave your desk, this is just a good thing to do. It reminds you who you are.
  3. On the first page, repeat the purpose of your notebook, which is the big problem or question you are trying to answer.
    Under the purpose or title, add a statement that says “Index at back”.
  4. Go to the last page and write “Index” at the top, to the right of the red line. Write “Page” to the left of the red line.
  5. Go back to the beginning of the notebook and turn the page so you have the first two blank pages in front of you.
    Write 1 in the upper left corner of the page on the left, and 2 in the upper right corner of the page on the right.
    Write the date underneath the page number on the left.
    In the future, when you start a new page on a new day, add the date. Otherwise, just put the page number.
  6. Close the notebook and take a deep breath.
  7. Go to the next blog post, and find out what is in store for you. It might be really fun.

0 – Ask If You Are Ready

July 27, 2011

This is the first post in a series of posts that may become a small self-published book. The first step is very simple.

  • Ask yourself if you are ready to make a significant change in the direction your life is headed

If the answer to this question is positive, then go to step 1.

If the answer is unclear or negative, go back to reading my blog and return here when you see a need for change.

Listening Versus Hearing

July 27, 2011

Last evening we had dinner with friends, and they had invited some other people as well. The conversations were quite interesting, and I tried to listen based on some ideas I got from Click, the book I am reading about “the forces behind how we fully engage with people, work, and everything we do.” The authors are the same ones who wrote Sway, and the two books together are quite powerful. If you read The Starfish and the Spider first, which is not what I did, I think the results would be even more significant. But I digress.

This morning as I was doing my startup activities, I realized that I didn’t have a mission statement. And then I realized that I need to make “listening” a big part of my mission statement when I write it. That led to realizing that I need to make “hearing” even more important than listening, because I realize the two are different. Listening could be nothing more than paying attention to what the other person is saying while you are figuring out when you can jump in and take the conversation in a direction that is more interesting to you. Hearing would then be listening to what the person is saying but also what they are leaving out.

That made me realize I wasn’t listening to those of you who have been following my blog for the past few days or weeks and have no idea what the big picture is about. So based on the lack of feedback I am getting, I am going to create a new category where I will post specific things you can do to learn more about the big picture I am talking about. This post will not be in that category, because it isn’t anything that will advance your personal progress toward a significant change in your life.

So, if you are interested in the bigger picture, check out the new category for Composing Change. The instructions will start there, and they will be numbered for ease of use.

Thanks for the comments you have offered thus far. Consider the new category a prototype of a book about getting started. I’m offering the job of editor to all of you who want to make the real book a winner for others.

WIIFE (What’s In It For Everyone)

July 26, 2011

This morning after I woke up, I had this nagging thought about why I am doing all this work for myself. Will it benefit me now or down the road? Will anyone else benefit? Is the underlying method that evolving something that could be called “open” if I’m also selling something to support it? I needed to take a step back and see what was motivating me. What was the point of it all?

  • WIIFMe – An individual wants a better life, though some may struggle with the idea of leapfrogging those who already have it better
  • WIIFMyKids – A parent wants a better life for their children, but may not feel like they can be part of the solution because their own school experience was miserable and ineffective
  • WIIFMyParents – A smart kid wants a better life for their parents, not after they leave home, but now, when the kid is still around to help and benefit themselves
  • WIIFMSpouse – A wife who stayed at home while the kids were yound may not feel ready to re-enter the workforce when jobs are scarce, because she could be reducing the opportunities for her husband
  • WIIFOurSchool – A taxpayer may feel like they have done enough over the years, paying for their own kids to attend school, but want to help the next generation get good jobs in the community
  • WIIFOurCommunity – A resident may look at the surrounding neighborhood and want to do something, but where would they start
  • WIIFOurChurch – A church goer may want to do more than one service a week, with occasional dinners and social events, but how do they channel their effort into activities that reflect their faith
  • WIIFMyEmployer – An employee may want more than coasting along toward retirement and a pension, but how do they tell their supervisor or manager that they have ideas that would improve products or attract new customers
  • WIIFMyEmployees – A business owner may worry about meeting the next payroll, but not be willing to share their concerns with the people who work for them
  • WWIFOurCustomers – Businesses (owners and employees together) may feel they have value to provide to customers, but may not understand how to develop products and services

Everyone wants something for themselves, and can only thing about something for those near and dear to them when their own issues are addressed. That is where I think my method will shine, because it works the same way at every level, no matter who is using it. A phrase I came up with a while back was debabelization, which means nothing more than removing the confusion about how we do things so we can focus our attention on what we are doing.

If someone has spent time on their own dreams for the future and conquered one or two small but seemingly impossible goals, wouldn’t they be more supportive of the efforts of those around them. Wouldn’t a business be able to tackle something really difficult if  20% of the employees had the same vocabulary for identifying and implementing change? Couldn’t a parent help a child if they had started working on some dream of their own.

Why do things by ourselves? Why not leverage proven methods from manufacturing and engineering that can be applied in a simple but elegant framework, to turn impossible into nothing more than hard work?

That’s what I’m going to do. Anyone who wants to help needs to identify themselves so we can start meeting in person and talk about how I think this would work. I will contribute the environment and some of the content, but I want to make the rest of it open to those who live nearby. When we figure out how to get this idea to work, I think we will have something that other communities will want to know about. That would mean job opportunities for those who helped get things started. I’ll be busy working on the next thing we do together.

So there it is. Tell me what you think. I tried to make it as vague as possible but that will change, for those who come forward to help.

Anyone want to help me change the world, one small rural school district at a time?

That Didn’t Work Out

July 25, 2011

Well, here I am, four weeks into my vacation from using my “habituation” tool. This past weekend was enjoyable but I fell off the wagon in terms of my diet. Three days of junk food sent my weight up two pounds since my return, but today is a new day, and a new week, and almost a new month. So I can reset all the metrics in my tool and get back to work on several fronts: my personal life, my life with my wife, and my business plans.

I finished The Starfish and the Spider last evening. It gave me some new ideas for how I want to design my business. My role will change a little, combining what they describe as catalyst and champion, but I really need someone else to do the latter. Anyway, it’s almost August. Don’t other people take vacations in August, as one last fling before their kids go back to school?

I miss my routines. I felt like I was making progress. The daily reminders to do the right things the right way were refreshing. The discipline felt good, but it didn’t survive disconnection from the habit support system. Some of the real habits lasted, like taking my medicine, but nearly everything else reverted to “habits in development.” All the momentum is gone, or was it inertia. I just don’t remember. But checking my dictionary app, I have a new insight into both.

  • Inertia is the property of matter by which it retains its state of rest of its velocity along a straight line, so long as it is not acted upon by an external force
  • Momentum is force or speed of movement

My habits are a result of inertia, and taking a vacation didn’t sustain them. I need to get them back up to speed, and establish a different vector, because the straight line I was headed on won’t get to the future I want for myself. If I want to be a reasonable example of what my ideas can do for others, I need to demonstrate what they can do for me. I am now my own test subject, on many levels. And there are so many new things to add into the mix.

But writing a disconnected blog post just to keep the string going isn’t going to get the day planned, or the plan executed. Enough blathering. Let’s get to work. There are lots of people to visit, and at least one appointment to keep, and I am back home. I can use my tool on my laptop all day long, without having to figure out how to take it with me when I leave the house. I can get back into that rhythm I had before this break, that rhythm I didn’t recognize because I snuck up on it over a period of months. I can’t wait.

Hope you all manage to survive any vacations you might have planned. Mine turned out to be a great wake up and source of ideas. But now I have to put them to work. Expect regular reports on my progress, but maybe not as much introspection. There is work to do, and reflecting on the past doesn’t advance the future, or change the vector I am on. I want to be more positive, but it’s difficult when I have so many negative things to bemoan.

Let’s get on with it. You do the same. Let’s reset all the counters and try this again.

Am I Listening?

July 24, 2011

I was just out on the porch looking at the fog that has settled into the valley. As time passed, I could see more of what is across the road. The field emerged, then the trees on the other side of the field, then the foothill just beyond the trees. By the time I came upstairs, I could almost see across the valley.

While this was happening, I was reading the end of chapter 5 in The Starfish and the Spider. What made me notice the fog clearing was their description of people who are catalysts. Good catalysts listen to people. Great catalysts hear what people are saying and draw them out. I want to be a great catalyst but wonder if I have the disposition for it. Let me try a test with those of you who are my readers. Send me your results if you like. I will post your comments if you want, and if they make sense.

Here we go:

7. Think of a significant goal in your life. Write it down on the left side of a blank piece of paper.

6. Under that, write down one thing that hasn’t been done that would be a step in the direction of achieving the goal.

5. Under that, write down one thing that other people are doing that would build a foundation for doing the one thing  that hasn’t been done.

4. Under that, write down one thing you would have to do away with to be able to do the one thing other people are doing.

3. Under that, write down one thing you would have to improve to recognize the one thing you had to do away with.

2. Under that, write down one thing you would have to do the right way before you could understand how to do it better.

1. Under that, write down one thing that was the right thing to do, that would get all the previous steps going.

0. Under that, write down one thing that would allow you to make a commitment to doing the right thing that would get things started.

What happened? Did your view of that significant goal change when you saw there was at least one path to one small piece of it? What would your future be like if you had a way to look at every problem as an opportunity you could tackle with gusto? How would people react when you were the one who took on jobs that had been ignored for weeks or months? What would they think of you when you went out and did things they thought were impossible? How much of their reaction would have been a reflection of their own perspective, and not a true reflection of what you were capable of doing? Did they say it was impossible for you because they didn’t want to try it themselves? Did they put you down because they needed to be looking down on you as someone who was inferior, because they had appointed you as scapegoat?

Guess what! They won’t be watching if you decide to do things differently. They have a perspective on you that won’t recognize the change in your attitude or behavior. Their radar is set to a frequency that will ignore your little quirks. Their opinion of their opinion of you is so high they won’t notice you aren’t playing a role in their game anymore. By the time they notice you aren’t believing what they say about you, you will be somewhere else. And oddly enough, that somewhere else might not be where you thought you wanted to go.

Try the exercise above again, only this time, use the right side of the page, and start from the bottom:

0. Write a few words that capture the commitment you are making to your goal.

1. Write one thing that would be the right thing to do to honor your commitment.

2. Write one thing about the right thing that would be the right way to do it.

3. Write one thing about doing the right thing the right way that would make it better.

4. Write one thing about the thing that you could do away with once it is improved.

5. Write one thing about the thing that other people are already doing.

6. Write one thing about the thing that hasn’t been done.

7. Look at the goal you started with. Is it enough of a stretch, or could you do something even more impossible.

I think this approach is how I need to interact with people in the future. Instead of telling them about my method or my the tools I am building, I need to ask them leading questions and then listen to their answers. I need to talk them through the first 8 questions to wake them up to the possibility that their current outlook on life could change. I need to listen to them and get them to listen to themselves, so they want to do the second set of 8 questions on their own. If they want my help, that would be fine, but it wouldn’t be necessary. I think I can write a book that would help people get through some of the preparation for what we could do together. In fact, the whole point of what I want to do is developing other people who wanted to work on really tough problems. Getting people to make a significant change in themselves would be their audition.

I think we all need to listen to each other. Is anyone listening to me?