Drystone Walls, Lego and Foundationial Principles

Dry stone wall building in South Wales
Image via Wikipedia

Once in a previous life I built drystone walls and trail. It is satisfying work. Simon Lapington, a friend with whom I used to work titled an anthology of his poems “the Legend of True Labour“, and this resonates with me. The thing is that now when I walk past a garden wall or stone house cladding then I am drawn to a quick analysis. Form does indeed follow function and if a structure has true strength; as in the Menai Bridge from the last post, then it is is aesthetically pleasing. What I find is that I baulk at a lot of the stonework that I see, I am sorry but it is plain offensive. I was always taught that there is a simple rule when walling. One on two, two on one. When I see a straight line travelling through a wall I want to scream. Any child who has spent sufficient time with Lego knows that if blocks do not overlap then the structure is weak.

The thing that irks me is that people are paying good money for “professionals” to this kind of work. The other thing that makes me sad is that it is simply remedied. My apprenticeship with stone was served with large mentors who took no nonsense. It did not take me long to create the simple practice of laying one rock so that it sat on two others and making sure that it was tied down by having two rocks lie on it.

What I now realize is that this phenomena is rife in education as well. In our ever increasing need to train complex situations we are not training young people in the simple, yet foundational behaviors and skills that they need to do work successfully and efficiently. My mentors did not allow me to move forward untill I had the basics down. We are in such a hurry to reach high performance we often sabotage it.

So what are you going to do to make sure that you have the basics covered?

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Moving Forward: Vision, goals & strategies

You are what your deep, driving desire is,

As your desire is, so is your will, 

As your will is, so is your deed,

As your deed is, so is your destiny.

– Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5

Last Friday I gave a presentation for Colorado Bar Association Leadership Training. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with twenty bright and driven individuals who will make great contributions to their communities. It was also a fantastic reminder of how fun my work is. I am the guy who makes their point through play; games serving as a metaphor to inspire deep thought and provide learning to transfer into real world examples. The theme of the day was goal setting and creating strategy and I spent some time figuring out my learning outcomes (teacher’s goals) for the session and games to play that might ensure they were met. Coming on in the latter half of the afternoon I had the pleasure of listening to others including an entertaining Troy Mumford from Colorado State University who had an engaging way of presenting his top strategy tips for leaders.

So why the big build up to a simple story? Well following listening to those that preceded me I recognized that my job was not only to promote my ideas, it was also important that I support the thoughts of those that went before me. I also knew that I needed to walk my talk and model what I was talking about.

So over lunch I frantically rejigged what I was going to do leaving out the visually stimulating powerpoint that had taken a few hours to prepare. And now to the point of all of this. The thing that allowed me to be flexible was that I was following my own advice with regards to goal setting. The process works most efficiently when there is a funneling effect. Start with a vision statement which defines purpose in terms of values, while this is probably the hardest stage it eases the rest of the process. By knowing what your values are and the purpose of what you intend to do, then setting goals is a fairly straightforward process and once you have goals figuring out strategies to make them happen seems intuitive.

With a vision in place I felt comfortable editing my goals as I heard and saw what went before me. The strategies (games) for reaching those goals were manipulated without undue stress and I was able to listen to my audience laugh as they created their learning.

Save yourself from spinning gears and living in a state of being overwhelmed, start out with a vision, move on to goals and finally figure out your strategies. Or in the words of  Max DePree and I love this bold statement.

Beliefs come before policies or standards or practices. Practice without belief is a forlorn existence. Managers who have no beliefs but only understand methodology and quantification are modern day eunuchs. They can never engender competence or confidence. They can never be truly intimate.

Max DePree from Art is Leadership

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What do you stand for?

What is it most of us really want from work? We would like to find the most effective, most productive, most rewarding way of working together. We would like to know that our work process uses all of the appropriate and pertinent resources: human, physical, financial. We would like a work process and relationships that meet our personal needs for belonging, for contributing, for meaningful work, for the opportunity to make a commitment, for the opportunity to grow and be at least reasonably in control of our own destinies. Finally, we’d like someone to say “Thank you!”
Max Depree

Max DePree wrote a book called Leadership is an Art and the warmth and wisdom it contains leaves me nodding my head in agreement every page I turn. It is eloquent and tackles real issues head on, in fact President Bill Clinton calls it “astonishing”. The thing this book makes me do is read, re-read and think.

Here is what I am reminded of – I will only find the job that I truly want when I truly know what I want. Each time I edit my resume I am taken a little closer as I am that much clearer in my own mind of what it is I am looking for. The less often I edit my resume to fit a job and instead send the resume that describes the me I want to be the more likely I am to find the work that will leave me truly satisfied. The most important thing is to find a job and organization that aligns with my vision and beliefs – I had better know what they are.

In the words of a new friend, Stu Cabe, “what do you stand for?”

Originally posted in http://denver.jobing.com/Community_Blog.asp

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All I really need to know I learned outside

Hi my name is Wil Rickards and this is the first blog in a series which I hope will be filled with ideas and activities that you will find useful on the journey of reaching your true potential and maybe finding a job.

Today I am going to introduce myself by explaining where most of my real learning has come from. Author Robert Fulghum wrote a popular book called, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten; all I can say is that I must have been a late bloomer because I did not figure life out quite so early. Yet, if I examine my own experiences, I believe what I found out for myself, often the hard way has stood me in the greatest stead.

My most effective classrooms were the mountains, rivers and seas of my teens and early twenties, here every action and reaction was relevant and feedback was usually instant.

  • If I forgot my rain gear or spare layers I was left cold or wet
  • If I could not be bothered to prepare for lunch I went hungry
  • The less I had the more resourceful I became and the easier it was to move
  • Hard work was often rewarded; I am left with lots of mental images of stunning views
  • The people I shared most trust with are the ones I am still good friends with decades on down the road
  • I learned trust by putting myself in situations where I had to trust and I gained a great deal from doing it
  • The hardest objectives needed to be prepared and trained for the most and are the ones I still remember
  • The more committing and dangerous an adventure the more carefully I chose a partner
  • Enjoyment stemmed not only from the activity but in a large part from the company I kept and yet doing something alone was often more emotionally challenging and provided a different benefit
  • Being part of a tribe gave me cultural identity, role models, mentors (both savant and otherwise) and quelled some of my impetuosity while still being a nursery for my confident aspirations
  • I dreamed most peacefully when, I slept the sleep of the warrior, my arms still aching from the travail and my mind spent from the exertions of maintaining optimism and focus in the face of fear and adversity
  • My performance improved most significantly when I set concrete, positive goals and shared the journey with a partner who wanted the same thing and was happy to help me push when life became difficult
  • Being self aware and training my weaknesses while playing to my strengths paid the most dividends
  • The meditation of being thoroughly in the moment brought the most development. This was most easily obtained when I had to focus and the consequences were real
  • Mimicking natural processes was often the most efficient path to follow
  • There was no point in getting upset with a situation, it just needed to be dealt with and it was especially rare that I could blame someone else while maintaining integrity; even if I wanted to

Surrounding myself in nature has provided me with these examples and the added benefit of grounding. Standing on top of a precipitous mountain, feeling the surge of a river dropping over a rapid or sitting amidst a vast ocean in a small boat has helped me to know how significant I really am. It has also filled me with joy and allowed me to recognize the value of my choices and the control I have over them.

So that is a little about me. Have you recognized I like transferable learning? Here are a few questions for you. How do you know what you know? Are you like me and need gentle reminders of your own truth? Does taking time out to think about the lessons you have learned in your past give you insight into how to deal with your today? Please do comment, I love reading people’s thoughts and ideas and next time I will share a gem for staying upbeat when life is wearing you down.

Originally posted in http://denver.jobing.com/Community_Blog.asp

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