The Basics: Thus Spake Zarathustra (Happy New Year 2013!)

I love re-watching great movies as I get older. So much to behold and learn. It reminds me of a simple truth…

There are Truths.

A teacher of mine made me aware of the fact that there are some things in life that are true, regardless of time or circumstance. Once I became willing to believe that, and became willing to learn from others, I started seeing the truth (sic) in that statement.

For much of my life, I was a skeptic; and over time while living with those lenses on, I became a cynic. In hindsight, I see that as grossly self-indulgent, insisting life conform to the way I expected it to look. Thankfully, the unsustainability of that worldview bore itself out by bringing me to my proverbial knees, presenting me with one of my first unassailable truths, that I can’t control my entire world.

I had reached my bottom.

In the past eight years, I’ve come to appreciate an endless source of beauty and peace from that acknowledgement, and I’ve been able to recover much of what I had lost in all that time. There’s a lightness of being that is freely available when one is humble towards what they have power over, and what they don’t. Recognizing, and choosing that, is often a moment-to-moment playground of opportunity.

While there are infinite sources of innovation and creativity, which we see spring around us every day (especially thanks to the Internet), there are these Truths (with a capital “T”) that make themselves available to us. We can choose to live them or not; even become champions, insisting and defending them against apathy and confusion.

If you’re seeking truth for yourself, I encourage you to talk about it openly. While there are individuals that would try to take advantage of innocence, given enough open-mindedness, willingness, and honesty, you’ll be sure to recognize what feels Right for you.

Here’s to another amazing year ahead, 2013. I hope you are able to see the abundance of opportunities available to you, and I hope you relish the experiences you choose.

A New Program: Letters of Diplomacy

I’m starting a new series of posts, for those times when communications are challenging. There have been countless times when someone just didn’t know how to work things out with someone, and a written letter was a productive tool. I’ll be writing up examples of letters that can work in those situations. If you have suggestions of challenging situations, or of letters you think would work, please let me know!

Emotional Fitness for Techies v1.1

I’m hoping to present my topic “Emotional Fitness for Techies v1.1” at the LA Drupal 2012 camp at the end of this month, July 28-29, 2012. You can see my submission here: http://2012.drupalcampla.com/sessions/emotional-fitness-techies-v11 The intent is to take the topic of emotional development, and to help frame it in the context of “personal style”, an individual’s truth. We’ll review clear communication, emotional content, and I might even throw in some tips on “how to approach strangers”. Of course, this is an Open Source conference, so it’s absolutely not all about me. I’m bringing up topics, but am very eager to hear what others have to share from their experience and knowledge. I hope to see you there!

Language — we all have a duty to “tone it down”, until we don’t.

I do my very best to be respectful of others, and in doing so, there are times when it’s appropriate to take responsibility for a situation. I do so almost 100% of the time with my daughter, as she’s a minor child; those times I don’t are when we’re allowing her to stretch and grow into her own independence.

There are also times when people demonstrate that they are clearly not being responsible — people under the influence of drugs or alcohol, people with mental instabilities, etc… Even in those cases, I do my best to respect their choices, unless they are threatening harm to myself or others.

Using that as a working context, there are times when I need to apply the same thinking to my language. Again, in the case of my daughter, it would be ineffectual and possibly harmful to her if I used language beyond her ability to describe something to her. I also need to guide her towards more sophisticated aspects of life with consideration for her developmental level — openly discussing adult sex in explicit terms with her as a child would be harmful, even traumatizing.

So, as in that case, there are times when I have a duty to “tone down my language”. In fact, as a coach, it’s in everyone’s interest to find the most appropriate and accessible way to communicate. If I don’t, then I’m thinking more for myself than for the person in front of me.

The same goes for many other concepts and ideas. As a technology consultant, I need to speak the language of my client, otherwise I lose them; they can’t keep up, they lose interest, they feel uncared for. That’s bad business.

This can be applied in any context where there’s an inequality of knowledge. Consider a husband-wife relationship. If a husband doesn’t understand the complexities of his wife’s needs, she has an obligation to bring him up to speed. By presuming that he knows her needs, or that he ought to forecast and intuit them, she’s not honoring and respecting the necessary growth in the relationship. The very same rules apply in the other direction as well — this isn’t just for one gender or the other.

At the same time, I need to keep my ears open. I need to pay attention to when they do comprehend what I’m saying, so that I can give them something progressive afterward. Continuing to talk in overly simplistic terms can hold back development, and even become an act of coddling.

If I don’t pay attention to these aspects of communication, then I’m paying less attention to my client; and they’re the one’s paying for it.

How to Change in an Instant, or “Don’t forget the milk!”

“It’s just a jump to the left.”

This may not be the greatest post I’ve ever written, but it’s one of the most important. Also, if you know me, I’m usually not one to make sweeping statements. But, I think this is one of those times.

Changing yourself — any change — takes an instant, and it’s as easy as remembering to “buy the milk!”

Imagine for a moment that you suddenly realize that you need milk. You may be on your way home, just arriving at work, hanging out somewhere, maybe already in a store. You might get the suggestion or reminder from your wife or friend, or you might remember on your own.

Are you ready? Here it comes. Here comes the change.

You decide to get the milk.

BAM! That’s it! In an instant, you’ve changed your mind. You’ve decided to do something different. There’s no argument, no resistance (necessary), no debate or committee needed.

Now, actually getting the milk into your hands may take 2 seconds if you just decided this in front of a cooler of milk. Or, it may take a bit longer to get cash, to wait for that farmer’s market on Sunday at 3p, and buy it from your friendly organic farmer. Maybe you’ll have to dress up warm, go out to the barn, and milk your cow. The quality of the milk you get, and the effort to get that quality, is up to you.

The decision to get the milk took only an instant.

The same principle applies to any other change. You may consider becoming a Project Manager, learning to program a computer, or invent a world changing product. You may be thinking of being a nicer person, forgiving a long standing anger, or wanting to be sober from drugs, alcohol, or some behavior. Maybe you want to run for President, change the financial industry in your country, or achieve Everlasting Peace. What you want to achieve or accomplish may take widely varying amounts of time and effort; all up to you.

…but the change can occur in no time at all.

p.s. Achieving most of those things is often far easier than you realize. There are excellent teachers and coaches in this world, countless “How to…” guides, and plenty of prior art.

(Thank you for this lesson, Ms. Grace.)

Seriously, where did you learn about emotions?

“Oh, yeah. I feel like a hundred dollars.” –Fletch

Did you ever go to school? Were you ever tested? Did you achieve a diploma or some recognition of excellence? And, if you did get educated, did you keep up as you grew older, while you became a much more complex person?

Perhaps you only gained a working vocabulary of emotions, from friends your own age who knew about as much as you did. Maybe you figured them out together, while you learns other subjects in school. Or did you have to struggle through them on your own, with few people to turn to?

I know, I know, it’s pretty clear when a feeling of happiness comes up, or sadness, or anger. Those feel so strong and powerful! There’s no denying that they come up, nor is there a need to explain why you feel them so strongly.

But…

I’ve found that people often confuse their feelings with their thoughts. “I feel like eating a burger.” “I feel like going to a movie.” “I ought to feel angry about this, but…”

Emotions are far more worthy of attention, and many people struggle with what they feel, why they feel those ways, and what they can do about them. There’s an incredibly wide range of feelings, and we can feel more than one at a time! They are natural, they are “honest”, and they are completely yours; no one can do anything to them without your permission.

I’ve written about “the GATE method”, a simple way to work through emotions in order to specifically understand why they come up, and what they mean to you. This isn’t the only way to process emotions, just a simple, fool-proof one. It opens the door towards understanding one’s self, and it allows a person to be responsible for themselves rather than be tossed about by their emotions. This results in a person who is fully empowered and available for themselves and others as opposed to people that are maintaining the appearance of control while bursting at the seams, ready to explode, with all their pent up feelings.

Consider the benefits of a strong education, and let’s set aside where the education comes from (college, self-taught, parochial, etc…). In a deeper sense, getting a “proper” emotional education opens the door to so much potential, and it prepares a person to create a full life. If you think your relationships are fun now, can you imagine if you both experienced life more fully, and were able to share that together? Can you imagine watching an old movie again and recognizing depths of the story that you simply couldn’t relate to? Maybe you could finally understand what is so moving and compelling in classical music, and then you might find yourself with hundreds of years of “new” music available for exploration.

It’s not difficult, but it may be unfamiliar, to study and practice the language of emotions. Just like anything else, though, it’s understandable, and when you achieve mastery of your emotional self, you open the door to a far more satisfying life, each and every day.