Archive for April, 2008


Summer Means Roadtrip!

Complex equivalence is great!

I believe the best coverage I’ve run across of complex equivalence is from Jonathan Altfeld in his Knowledge Engineering program. Altfeld is a master which means he spends a lot of time working with complex equivalence patterns in the form of “A is B” or “A means B”. (Did you notice I’ve already sprinkled each in this post?!)

A few poor examples: Learning means passing the test. Math is hard.
More useful examples: Flexibility means winning. Teaching is really learning.

Once you’ve become aware of a complex equivalence in someone’s world view you can work with (and around) that meaning. You have options such as directly challenging the complex equivalence, reframing the meaning, or any of the other Sleight of Mouth or Mind-lines patterns.

And what prompted this simple lesson about complex equivalence? Besides our own migration to NM for the summer I’ve found out that Patrick Curl and his wife are planning to visit and/or interview 50+ writers from each of the 50 US states. I love the idea and that means showing my support!

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Don’t “Try” to Teach

Here is what happened with last post’s teaching exercise.

My colleague made some notes and cheerfully said “I’ll try this tonight.” Since he has been open to my language pattern lessons in the past I chastised him with “Do or do not. There is no try.” After acknowledging the source (Yoda) we began debating whether “try” is a useful word or not. He argued his use was in the sense of “let’s try that restaurant tonight.” I pointed out that you either eat at the restaurant or you don’t, there isn’t really the half way option implied by “try”.

My biggest issue with “try” is the presupposition of failure. If you expect someone to show up at a given time you say “Please be there at 8:00.” If you expect them not to show up on time you say “Please try to be there at 8:00.” Expecting success: “Please bring me that box.” Expecting failure: “Please try bringing me that box.” The difference is subtle, yet profound.

After “running the experiment” (no “try” involved!) I heard back. My colleague had asked his son to “do something fun and figure out 90×3 but [you] should imagine that [you are] asking [Dad] to tell [you] the answer.” 270 and other correct answers flowed easily. Later that evening he found out that his son had actually followed the original exercise and was in fact asking Albert Einstein “because he’s smarter than you Dad.”

What do you need to stop “trying” to do and just get done today?
Who might you stop saddling with expectations of “trying”?

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“Fix” Weaknesses or Leverage Strengths?

As it so often does the subject turned to kids. My colleague shared how he sat one of his sons down and ran him through the algorithm for multiplying a single digit number by a multiple of ten. This involved the father asking questions and having the son sit still “like stone” to extract answers. From other conversation I knew that the son was quite social and enjoyed video games. It then came up that the son was almost in pain sitting still and come up with the answers expected of him.

My first observation was that rather than focusing on the son’s strengths in relationships they were “overcoming his weakness” and causing quite a bit of trauma in the process. I suggested an alternate exercise. Introduce a new game with the question “Who would know how to answer this?” Then rather than answer the math question directly go inside your head and ask your “expert” the answer. (Had the son been more interested in machines and computers than people I would have had him imagine a calculator in his head and just punch in the numbers.)

This alternate exercise does a number of things such as focusing on the son’s relational strength, reframing the previously painful inquisition as a game, and allowing the son to access those resources in a way that can be generalized to the rest of life. When kids get in the habit of thinking “who do I know that can help with this” they are more likely to leverage real world relationships (once out of school and allowed — even encouraged — to do so!).

What “weakness” has you stuck today?
What strength can you leverage to make the “weakness” moot?

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Composting Ideas

This week I heard one of my new Facebook friends use the term “composting ideas” and the longer I let it stew the more I like the metaphor. (Thanks Bill!)

In case you are unfamiliar with the idea of composting this is where you pile up organic/plant wastes and let them “stew” as they break down into rich fertilizer-like soil. The same principle can be applied to ideas: throw them on the heap and let them enrich over time. This is where the metaphor becomes really interesting.

No one creates compost for the sake of creating compost. They always want to use the compost as fertilizer to help something else grow. Even the fertilizer is not the end goal. Then the plants must be the end goal, right? Nope. The flowers and vegetables? Not quite. The real end goal of creating compost is to gain the emotional rewards from having grown and harvested your particular plants.

In the same way, when we compost ideas, we aren’t just looking for the broken down ideas, the creative “fertility”, or even the wonderful theories. We might argue that the fruits of our thinking, in the form of behaviors, are not the end goal either. I suggest that the real goal of idea composting is also that emotional reward. This time it is embodied in the feedback we receive from implementing the composted ideas.

What behavioral fruits are growing out of your idea composting?
What emotional feedback are you receiving from actions you taken today?

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Patience Young Padawan

I am amazed at how much difference the role we play makes in our style and quality of interaction.

This week I was listening to a Q&A session where I was playing the role of student. The person playing the role of teacher spent five minutes at the beginning laying out the ground rules that basically boiled down to “stay on topic” and “respect everyone’s time”. Within 10 minutes someone took the floor in the guise of asking a question only to admit she hadn’t read the materials then spent five minutes thanking the teacher for all that he has done. I was incredulous. Four hours later after many similar distractions I was yelling at the recording in disbelief at a particularly passionate set of people who had spun the conversation off topic for a good portion of the call.

Once I recognized the futility of my state I was able to step away from the situation and analyze what was really happening. I then realized that when I have been in the teacher role I have demonstrated as much patience as this teacher was demonstrating. I realized that I responded to the same basic behavior differently depending on my role. I had a tendency to respond

  • gently when it came from one of my students,
  • brusquely when it came from family or friends, and
  • harshly when it came from a student peer.

Here is where you could start digging to find “causes”, “reasons why”, and other rationalizations. I prefer to skip all that and focus on changing any unwanted behaviors directly, then check whether anything else is warranted. In this situation it has been enough to become aware of this disparity and allow myself to take a moment and consider how appropriate my reaction is (or is not) — independent of the role I am playing.

Where today can you allow yourself (and others) a moment of consideration?
What resources do you have available when you are in a different role?

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Blue Booties and Pink Ribbons

The past week has been full of surprises, both great news and not so great news.

Happy, Healthy Family of FourThe best news is that I have a healthy, happy son to complement my happy, healthy daughter and wife. Elijah came out to play about three weeks early but was still a respectable 20 inches long and 6 lbs 14 oz. We are still adjusting and doing very well as a family of four (much better than a pregnant family of three!).

The worst news is that my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. (Not that I did not say she “has cancer” — the installation pattern is not one I want to run in a situation like this.) I wonder at coincidences like this following so closely on my friend Drew’s post on hating cancer. While I’m not ready to personify and crucify the disease I am beginning to understand more of what Drew was expressing. I can already feel the emotional numbness towards this situation, my defense mechanism, taking over. If it was just me that might work. Instead, I am going to have to rally my full range of state control skills to be appropriately supportive for the rest of the family.

How have you expressed your gratitude for big blessings in small bundles today?
What small decisions are you making today towards a healthy tomorrow?

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