Friday, August 27, 2010

Seth's Intro

Seth Godin asked the other day if I'd be up for doing his intro when he came to town this week.

How exciting!

"Yah, sure" I said.

It'd be an honor to say a few words about a guy who's doing important work on stuff like change and leadership and fear. And about how he does it in a real and engaged and accessible way.

It'd be great if Seth added one more thing to his list of Linchpin abilities on page 218 of his excellent book, LINCHPIN.

That thing would be accessibility.

After all, how can you be remarkable or indispensable or drive change if you're inaccessible?

No doubt people were looking for answers while being close and personal with Seth this week.

But knowing him, I suspect people ended up with lots of questions, good questions, the kind poet David Whyte says are "conceived out of nowhere but...beginning to lead everywhere..."

That's what happened for me.

Seth and I were kibitizing backstage and he got to talking about "elites" and how there's millions of these kinds of these people out in the world and how disconnected, fragmented they are. Seth blogged about this being an opportunity recently.

For me, the big question since being with Seth is,

How can we get the world to see and hear about the world from the eyes and voices of next generation elites, instead of the same-old, same-old eyes and voices we see and hear today?

It's an interesting problem I'm working on with a group of innovative people.

I don't have any answers just now.

But that's ok. I have something better coming from my intro with Seth, an interesting problem, and a question beginning to lead everywhere.


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Friday, August 20, 2010

Simple Math

You have an idea. You're working with some people on it. You wonder if it'll become a hit. Or a dud.

It's a mystery, you say.

Time to do some simple math.

Good people + good idea = great chance for success.

Good people + bad idea = maybe you got a shot at pulling this off. But, for sure, it'll be a longshot.

Bad people + good idea = bad idea. (Sorry. Ideas, no matter how good, will always die at the hands of incompetent, egotistical, arrogant, power-hungry people. Think about Congress, or the Vatican, or Wall Street bankers if you want quick examples...)

Bad people + bad idea = (quoting an old Monty Python line here...) "Run away."

Memorize this lesson. There will be a test. In fact, many tests. Everyday for the rest of our lives.

Cheating's not allowed on this test. Honestly, cheating to win is impossible.

And as long as we're alive, we can't skip the test. It'll come in handy when grappling with our mysteries.

Group study is encouraged. Especially with really good people.

In the end, if the simple math of your idea adds up right, what's there to fear?

Nothing but a little mystery.


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Friday, August 13, 2010

What Planets Are We On?

A friend gave word the other day of a job switch. It sounded like one of those "Take this job and shove it" stories, subtitled, "Life is too short."

With recession still full-tilt, this made me ask "What planet are you on?"

Turns out, one where there's no life.

You ever live on a planet where there's no life?

I live on several planets everyday. Faith. Family. Friends. Job. Hobbies.

Mostly, there's lots of life on my planets. Places where I'm nourished. Energized. Filled with purpose, fueled by passion. Places where trust is high. Fear is low. And gifts of Life are in full bloom.

But some planets there's no life. Everything's dead. You can't breathe.

Planets with no life speak language like "I should" or "I'm afraid" or "What'll they think" or "What's the use" or "Who do you think you are" or "You need to" or "That'll never work" or "You don't have a choice"...

Seems like the hardest thing to do every day is knowing what planet I'm on.

One of my heroes is Ignatius of Loyola, the medieval fellow who started the Jesuits. Four hundred-plus years ago, he invented an exercise to help figure out what planet we're on. He called it The Examen.

It's a short exercise, best performed with a slice of quiet wherever you can carve that into your day. Simply begin with awareness of where you are and gratitude for where you're at.

Then reflect on your day and take note of those areas where you found energy, purpose, passion, maybe even a sense of peacefulness. Likewise notice those areas where life was on edge, dry, defeating, anxious.

And that's it. No need for decisions or judgement. Just awareness of places where there's life and places with no life. With that awareness, Ignatius figured folks would make better choices and live better lives.

"Where's life?"

It's a good question to ask often. Way better than the one I usually ask, "How's life?"

My friend is smart to have listened to simple, piercing words like that. And then ask,

"What planet am I on?"

Most admirable is seeing someone who trusted the answer, and had the guts to pack up and move from the dead zone to a place where there's life.


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Friday, August 6, 2010

My Island, My Brain

by Bill Hickey

FRIDAYS POST asked last summer if you have your island. A place to go to let wisdom find you.

After seeking My Island for many years, I finally found it.

The only way you get to My Island is by riding a ferry-boat for twenty minutes to a place unsuspecting tourists hope, believe is a quaint little town at the end of the boat ride.

To me “quaint” does not mean a historic town with cute boutiques, wine bars, overpriced art galleries and restaurants with entrees that are inedible and unpronounceable. Go to Carmel, California for that kind of quaint.

My kind of quaint is 21st century Madeline Island in Lake Superior. And it is the only vacation place in America where there is….nothing to do.


There is nothing to do on My Island. And I hate missing any opportunity to be there.

I suspect that the local chamber is not fond of me. But, who cares. I don’t even think the place has a chamber of commerce.

There are two paved roads. A couple of okay food joints. A Robert Trent Jones golf course. A state park. A city park. A historic Catholic church. And, of course, a town dump. (Now called an environmental disposition center).

The most happening place is a burned down café, a bar actually, that smokes the competition when it comes to night life, despite the sign out front greeting patrons with this message, "Sorry, We're Open."

Other than that, there’s nothing to do.

The speed limits are horribly, painfully slow. But this gives you a chance to see plentiful, prancing deer, an occasional bear, wolves, a plethora of birds and of course the main attraction, Lake Superior.

Like the island’s effect on your speedometer, this place has a similar effect on your brain, a known medical condition -- known to me anyway -- called "island brain." You slow down with island brain. Well, you better slow down, or you’ll go nuts.

Most of us in our everyday lives are convinced we have no time for a place like this.

A place where you'll find a very limited supply of Sunday papers.

Where the chow from the food joint’s kitchen arrives on its clock, not yours.

Where an evening of entertainment is a full-color display of the northern lights, accompanied by the hoot of a great northern owl, good people and, before tucking in, a good book absorbed amid the still woods and the big lake’s rolling waves forever running ashore.

Every time I leave My Island, I hope my island brain lasts more than a few days when I return to civilization.

I hope you find your island. And, when you do, I hope you get island brain like I do. You’ll find you’re not really missing much.

You’ll find that’s the beginning of wisdom finding you.

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(Bill Hickey lives in the Twin Cities. Bill is a husband, dad, attorney, entrepreneur and former notary public. He admits to writing this piece under the influence of island brain.)