We Are Going To Mars

We are going to Mars because whatever is wrong with us will not get right with us so we journey forth, carrying the same baggage
But every now and then leaving one little bitty thing behind.
One day looking for prejudice to slip,
One day looking for hatred to tumble by the wayside,
Maybe one day the Jewish community will be at rest, the Christian community will be content, the Muslim community will be at peace
And all the rest of us will get great meals at holy days and learn new songs and sing in harmony.
We are going to Mars because it gives us a reason to change.

Nikki Giovanni, poet and University Distinguished Professor, Virginia Tech.
(via OnBeing; read the full poem here: We’re Going To Mars)

Grief and Humanism

I’ve been feeling a lot of grief lately, and I have been trying to be present with it instead of pushing it away or distracting myself, like I did in earlier times in my life. Two authors that have helped me lately, kept me company, are John Tarrant and Alain de Botton. Tarrant is a meditator and a psychotherapist and talks about loss and life with a blunt kindness that reminds me of wise meditators like Pema Chödrön. In The Light Inside the Dark Tarrant writes about what he calls the Second Descent into darkness:

Once the second descent is understood, we no longer try so hard to avoid the course of human suffering, the routines of daily life, the blindness of the moment when we truly do not know what we must do.

I have been trying to go slowly, trying not hold on so tightly, trying, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, to let go of planning or controlling. I am trying to trust the path will appear out the dark. Tarrant writes, “Fragments of light are scattered around like clues.”

One of those clues came to me yesterday – my friend David Socha invited me over for some conversation and we sat on his deck in the beautiful light under the trees in his front yard. He mentioned a podcast called OnBeing by Krista Tippett, and later I listened to some of her interviews. She is a remarkable person. Tippett interviewed Alain de Botton recently, and I really enjoyed listening to them. He’s a philosopher and author and founder of the The School of Life. I have been reading de Botton lately, and blogged about him in a previous post. de Botton has a very kind and uplifting way of looking at life and human relationships. There are so many good things about this interview – what I really liked was the way Tippett brought out de Botton’s warmth and bluntness and compassion for how hard human relationships really are, his view that we are flawed beings and that we will make mistakes, suffer, grow, heal. He says,

love is something we have to learn, and we can make progress with, and that it’s not just an enthusiasm; it’s a skill.

And it requires forbearance, generosity, imagination, and a million things besides. And we must fiercely resist the idea that true love must mean conflict-free love, that the course of true love is smooth. It’s not. The course of true love is rocky and bumpy at the best of times. That’s the best we can manage as the creatures we are, that flawed humanity, the better chance we’ll have of doing the true hard work of love.

Somehow that connected with the grief, the light inside the dark.

On Being – The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships

The School of Life

I’ve been really enjoying the School of Life YouTube channel – it’s filled with short, bite-sized (3-6 minute) inspiring videos on the things you never learned in school or as a child about how to be emotionally healthy, like How To Be A Friend To Yourself:

The videos are soothing and optimistic and full of positive psychological wisdom and humanistic philosophy. Often they offer insight into a topic and then open questions, inviting further self-inquiry and learning, rather than sewing it all up into a neat package. They present a view of emotional health that at the same time is calming and makes me want to grow, a rare combination. I find it hard to stop watching – it’s a rare to have a learning experience that just feels purely good. Highly recommended.

I want to link to so many videos, especially the ones on relationships, but you can check them out yourself. A couple more that I really liked were How To Be A Man and The Importance Of Affectionate Teasing.

(via BoingBoing)

Master Mind Protocol

Tuning into abundance is important. Abundance means growing is easier – you can tap into the strengths available in the Universe, in your Higher Self, and in the people around you rather than having to do it alone.

In our society, there aren’t many places where you can specifically work on strengthening your ability to tune into abundance. So I want to talk about one way to do that. I’ve found it useful.

These last few years, I’ve been in a Master Mind group.

Master Mind groups were popularized by Napoleon Hill starting in the 1930s. There are many ways to do this practice, and I’m going to share the way I learned it from the Wellness Institute.

A Master Mind group is a small group of people (2-5, but ideally 3 or 4) who agree to meet on a regular basis to help each other grow or achieve goals. My Master Mind meets once every 2 weeks, but once a month is also common. You can pick a frequency that works for you. The key thing is to meet regularly. Having a particular place to meet helps too (a cafe, restaurant; or rotating between members houses also works).

Here is what we do when we meet up:

  1. Each person shares what’s going on in their lives. We try to touch on some main important areas:
    • work and livelihood
    • health
    • intimate relationships and friendships
    • spirituality
    • vision for our lives
  2. Sharing should be concise, but say enough to get across the successes and challenges you are facing.
  3. There is no cross-talk – the other group members just listen, without giving advice or commenting.
  4. Then we read Master Mind Principles 1-6, taking turns.
  5. Then each person in the group says a few (1-3) things that they are working on or want over the next period of time before the next meeting. (For instance, “I have a big presentation at work and I want to prepare for it well.” Or: “I have some conflict with my partner, and want to show up in a strong and kind way.”) The other members then each give an affirmation to the asking member directly related to what they asked for. (For instance: “[Name of person], I see you making the time and preparing well for the presentation, and I see it being very successful.” Or: “[Name of person], I see you showing up in a strong, kind way for your partner as you work through your differences, and I see you both finding a good way to solve the problem.”) Sometimes we also ask for specific help from the other group members at this time. Then the next person takes their turn.
  6. Once each person has made their requests, and received affirmations, then we take turns reading Master Mind Principles 7-10.
  7. That’s it! We’re done until next time. We often hang out and talk for a bit afterward.

We find the regular meeting time and place really helps create a sacred space.

So what does this practice actually do? It gives you a regular place to meet with people to talk about your growth. There’s no money involved, and the Master Mind partners usually don’t want anything from you other than your fellowship and help with their own growth. Since you meet regularly, your Master Mind partners will come to know you and what you’re working on, and that provides some kind of accountability. Accountability in this context is simply being responsible for what you say you want.

It sounds simple. So how does it help me connect with abundance? For me, it’s magical to hear other people who really know me tell me I’m going to achieve my goals or receive the strengths that I want. That just doesn’t happen very often in any other area of my life.

Those affirmations are really healing. It’s healing because I am putting myself in the state of mind of asking for help for my growth and healing, and then getting that help from friends who believe in me.

When my friends use their positive outlook and knowledge of what I need to intuit affirmations, and say them to me out loud, I find this super-charges my intention. Doing it regularly has brought me amazing positive change and healing.



Thanks to the Wellness Institute and their Personal Transformation Intensive (PTI) trainings – highly recommended personal growth work! Master Mind groups are an integral part of PTI. Thanks also to Jennifer Kogut for help with the Master Mind principles document.

SpaceX lands another Falcon 9 orbital booster!

SpaceX landed another Falcon 9 spacecraft, this time from the NASA CRS-10 mission to the space station:

Official video of landing:

Amazing that orbital booster landings have become routine, when just two years ago they were widely considered impossible!

Go SpaceX!

Losing it All

Awesome post from ShakyCode:

I was on top of the world, fell down on my ass, but in the end I fought hard to survive and with a little help from some amazing people I rejoined humanity and gained a lot of knowledge along the way.
In the end, money does not equal happiness. These days happiness is a good cup of coffee, a favorite song on my iPhone, or a simple tweet from someone that matters. I don’t care about materialistic things anymore instead I focus on knowledge and experience and consider myself the wealthiest man in the world because of it.
If you’ve ever been in a similar situation or are facing this, please reach out to me. There are a lot of wonderful people in this world who will help, but sometimes you have to let go of your pride and just ask for a helping hand.

It’s worth reading the rest of ShakyCode’s story too. (Via HackerNews.)

The mature use of emotion

Rationality is not about eliminating emotion – instead, it’s using emotion in a mature way, in a way that doesn’t harm people or cause confusion, and ideally adds a lot of wisdom and depth to a conversation. That’s really useful in relationships, and I especially find it useful in business.

Too often people try to eliminate or conceal their emotions in the workplace. But emotions convey lots of useful information that can be critical for a team to know about. I’d even say they’re essential if you want to have a great team – I’ve many times had people tell me they’re afraid the team was going to make a bad decision. And then we looked at the decision more carefully and changed direction, with great success!

And if many people on a team are mad, or sad, or afraid, or glad – that’s probably something everyone, especially the leaders, should want to know.

So how do you let people know what you’re feeling without causing problems? One way is to use the Check In Protocol – you simply say what you’re feeling in terms of four basic emotions, mad, sad, glad or afraid.

Why just these four? From a practical perspective, they have been found to work well – more or less description doesn’t get things communicated in an optimal way. And there is a lot of research that shows that there are 7 universal human emotions:

  • joy/happiness
  • sadness
  • fear
  • anger
  • surprise
  • disgust
  • contempt

(For more info see the research of Paul Ekman and his books Unmasking the Face and Emotions Revealed.)

Ethnographic studies have shown that these emotions have the same facial expressions in all human cultures. While it’s possible to get into subtle nuances of emotions that don’t appear on this list, these particular emotions (and combinations of them) are hard-wired into our brains and faces. You literally can not keep your face from making these expressions if you are feeling the corresponding emotion, unless you are a sociopath. But it is very useful to use words, since most people can not consciously connect expressions to emotions. Words are an overt channel. In Western culture, people are so conditioned to keep quiet about their emotions that communicating about a smaller list keeps things simple and clear, and makes it more likely that people will not be misunderstood.

So why aren’t surprise, disgust, and contempt on the list? I think disgust and contempt aren’t on there because if you are feeling these, you should deal with them outside of Check In to avoid doing damage. And surprise? I think genuine surprise is momentary, so can be left off.

This in no way says you can’t combine mad, sad, glad and afraid to get the nuances that you want: “I am feeling glad and afraid” to get “excited” for instance, or “sad and mad” to get “hurt.” And I will often say “I am feeling hurt – sad and mad.” That’s ok as long as you don’t diminish feelings (“a little mad”). With some work I’ve found I can get across most emotional states.

Learning How To Learn

I’ve been teaching a class at Puget Sound Community School called Learning How To Learn. The idea of the class is to learn how to study more effectively, so you can do great at high school — even while taking hard classes — and still have a life.

It seems to work for my son Martin, who has reduced his stress considerably during the class.

The class is based on The Core Protocols and Cal Newport‘s excellent books, “How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out)” and “How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less.

One of the things that helped Martin was a how-to guide that I wrote on how to write a great paper without stress. Martin started out being extremely stressed about writing, and would often spend many hours at a time, trying to write essays without much success. Now, following this guide, he gets them done without any stress, by planning ahead, asking for help early, spreading the work out over several days, and working in short, focused chunks.

I’m posting it here in case it’s helpful to others: How to Write a Great Paper Without Stress

Culture Hacking course at UW Bothell

My friends David Socha and Sue Kraemer are teaching a course on culture hacking at UW Bothell this fall. It looks awesome:

This is a seminar that will explore our learning and team cultures. It will be highly experiential, with you being taught and then practicing techniques that are known to help create and maintain great teams. It will be project-based, as you explore and co-create wild and creative ideas about how our learning and team cultures could be dramatically better for students, employers and society.

More info here: Culture Hacking: Learning and Building Great Teams

[Update: this course did not happen because not enough students signed up for it.]

More on what great leaders are like

Skip Walter had a great blog post recently on what great leaders are like, and what less-than-great-leaders are like. It was educational and also painful to read because of the juxtaposition. So here’s Skip’s post with just the “great” statements – it’s more aspirational than comparative, so it serves somewhat of a different purpose than the original.

  • A great leader always develops talent
  • A great leader encourages active and confronting dialogue
  • A great leader actively seeks current reality– what is really happening now
  • A great leader seeks first to understand, before trying to be understood
  • A great leader accepts responsibility when things go wrong
  • A great leader is inclusive and uses “we” when things are going right and gives specific attribution to those who made the good thing happen
  • A great leader has a vision and a passion for and a plan for getting to BHAGs
  • A great leader understands that leadership is always taken, never given
  • A great leader uses the Outcome Frame (What are we trying to create? How will we know we created it? … )
  • A great leader understands that it is results that matter not how hard somebody works
  • A great leader respects others’ time, and plans carefully
  • A great leader eliminates and dissolves problems so that no one even knew there was a problem looming
  • A great leader adds creative energy to every environment they participate in
  • A great leader understands the Theory of Constraints (from Eli Goldratt’s The Goal) and knows that in any system only a few work steps need to be managed
  • A great leader hires only Talent that has a passion for continuous personal development – life long learners who are also good at developing other people’s Talent
  • A great leader under promises and over delivers
  • A great leader treats everyone with extraordinary respect
  • A great leader understands the value of strategic networking and gives to the network long before they need to extract value from the network
  • A great leader understands the dynamics of value exchange relationships
  • A great leader provides feedback on things which need improvement in private and with frameworks which allow the other person to generalize and learn and develop
  • A great leader generates plans and organizational structures which are sustainable without the leader present
  • A great leader shares all information and knowledge they possess to help develop others
  • A great leader creates work environments that lead to sustainability for the planet
  • A great leader understands that no human is exactly like him/her and that one needs to be flexible in dealing with talent (see David Keirsey Temperament Indicator)
  • A great leader practices deep listening skills always
  • A great leader is 10X. They break the old command and control mold. They are transformational. They create brand new paradigms and enable others to do the same.
  • A great leader is generative
  • A great leader does not draw attention to their first rater status
  • A great leader works proactively to create an environment where innovation and technical accomplishment are anticipated, appreciated and celebrated
  • A great leader hires exceptional people with exceptional capabilities and manages the differences that exceptional people exhibit
  • A great leader identifies and clears barriers before the team runs into them
  • A great leader changes the rules to create an outcome that meets or exceeds organizational expectations
  • A great leader leads from the front like a Navy SEAL team leader
  • A great leader shows up for important events and serves the team in time of crisis; they are part of the team
  • A great leader is focused on outcomes, not the tactics to accomplish them
  • A great leader isn’t rewarded because there weren’t any heroics to be performed; their contribution isn’t recognized
  • A great leader may continue to try and change the rules, lead, and be a team player but may become frustrated and/or leave due to second-rater influence
  • A great leader makes the right thing happen at the right time
  • A great leader believes that the upside to listening is always greater than that of speaking and therefore typically listens to others and digests their thoughts before speaking themselves
  • A great leader implements processes and procedures where they believe it will facilitate achieving a business objective
  • A great leader works with the personalities of their team (but challenges personal growth as well as professional growth)
  • A great leader shows compassion for the person in all of the challenges that life brings each of us
  • A great leader always reacts the same – giving the team a trusting environment in which to concentrate on themselves and their work
  • A great leader embraces change and encourages the team to take the opportunities that come with each change
  • A great leader shows vision, inspires and leads their team towards worthy goals

(To get this list, I replaced the words “first rater” with “great leader” from Skip’s post, and deleted the second and third rater statements. I also deleted a couple of ones that I thought weren’t exactly on topic. Skip, my apologies for mangling your list!)