TT2015 – Waiting for Cora’s Return

In classical Greek Mythology, Persephone
(Who was also known as Kore or Cora)
Was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter.
Hades abducted her to his underworld
Where she lives before returning in spring
To cause the cycle of life to continue.

Even though it is now springtime in the North
Cora has drawn humanity in her underworld
In a way not seen for a generation.
This prolonged winter is out-of-sync with
The natural seasons, but gives us time to reflect
And become more conscious of the world around us.

How should we best prepare for Cora’s return?
Many minds are mulling on this at the moment.
They say that even when she returns,
The world will never be the same again
Our expectations, our structures, our systems
They will all have to change.

So, for each of us, we have an opportunity.
We can spring clean our lives before her return
We can make a list or an inventory
Of those things we like and want to keep
And those things that we want to let go of.
In preparation for Cora’s return.

Deeper than that, we can choose to make
New life choices that affect other people
Use the time to pray for, ponder and meditate
On a better world for all.
To reconnect to our own true nature and
To remember the fragility of humanity.

More than anything, to rediscover our ability
To create and nurture deeper relationships
With the things that matter most to us
And to simplify our lives by reducing clutter
And unnecessary noise in our busy lives.
So we are truly ready for Cora’s return

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TT 1950 – Where did Santa come from?

Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop
He was born in about 280 in Patara, Lycia
Which is in modern-day Turkey
His parents both died when he was young
And he used his inheritance to help
The poor and the sick.

There are many legends surrounding Saint Nicholas
He is supposed to have saved three men
Who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death.
He is said to have died on 6th December 343.
His reputation went before him as a gift-giver
As well as the protector of children and sailors.

So how does that explain where Santa Claus cames from?
Well, his story as a Saint became popular in Europe
Until the Reformation when Saints became unpopular.
However, the Dutch kept celebrating his feast day
On 6th December – children put out their shoes at night and
In the morning would discover the gifts he had left for them.

In the 1700s, Dutch immigrants took the legend
To the Americas where he was known as “Sint Nikolaas”
Or more commonly by his nickname “Sinterklaas”
There, he went through many transformations to become
Known by his present-day name of Santa Claus, although
The present-giving was moved to the Christmas festival.

Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem in 1820 called
“An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas”.
He described Santa Claus as a jolly, heavy man
Who comes down the chimney to leave presents
For deserving children. He also drove a sleigh pulled by
Magical Reindeer flying through the sky.

Cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the legend in 1881
Drawing Santa with a red suit trimmed with white fur.
In the early 1930s, Haddon Sundblom illustrated
A marketing campaign for the Coca-Cola Company.
And so the kind, charitable bishop from Turkey morphed
To became the jolly Christmas icon we know so well today.

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TT1947 – Learning to Learn Again

When faced with a challenge, some folks lark about
Thinking it’s funny. I used to do that sometimes.
But as I get older, I find that those that behave like this
Are oft lacking some training, skill or knowledge.
Perhaps even covering up some learning difficulty …
Because they have not applied themselves to MASTERY.

I was reminded by this last week by my flute teacher
His name is James and he has a first-class degree in Music.
He’s versatile enough to play in both a symphony orchestra
As well as in a jazz or blues band. Read music and improv –
After years of what he calls “shedding” it (which means
 Long, tedious practice in the garden shed!)

James has helped me to re-learn the Art of Mastery.
I’m not sure if you ever took music lessons at school
My first piano teacher was very solemn and stunk of perfume
She didn’t like my casual attitude to learning.
I hardly ever practised one week to the next
And she became more and more frustrated by me!

She taught me FACE and “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit”
(As well as others I can’t remember for the Bass Clef).
These have been useful with the flute because
All the notes you play is in the Treble Clef.
Since then, I have not read music. I’ve just “larked around”
But if you want to play with others, you need to read music.

What does it take to become a Master in a given field?
Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers that
It requires 10,000 hours of practice.
That’s catchy and easy to remember but completely false!
It’s not the number of hours that are important.
It’s about the quality of time spent practising & rehearsing.

James tells me there are two types of students.
Those who want to learn to read and play in an orchestra
And those who just want to play by ear.
I used to be the latter, but am now re-learning the fun
Of reading music for the first time.
It’s a slog, but getting easier as each week goes by.

James wasn’t born when I started to learn to play the piano
But I still remember my first teacher’s perfume. Yuk!
James is many years younger and wiser than me,
He has taught me how to learn (again)
And he has three words he uses to describe the Art:
DISCIPLINE, FOCUS and PRECISION.

Dedicated to James Penny – my awesome flute teacher who gives me lessons over Zoom every week (or so). Let him know I sent you!

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TT1944 – On the Benefits of Hindsight

When you look back in life
Have you ever noticed that
Many things have happened to you
Because of a set of chance coincidences?
They appeared in mysterious and magical ways
Which were not obvious to you at the time.

Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward;
You can only connect them looking backwards.
So you have to trust that the dots
Will somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something:
Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

Do you trust your dots connecting in your future?
I was in the garden one lazy afternoon when
A strange cloud appeared in the sky
Weaving like a numeration of starlings.
A moment later a swarm of tiny dots landed
Just twelve feet in front of me!

That chance landing of a swarm of bees
Has taken me on a life-long journey of wonder and
Study into the magical world of the honeybee.
I’ve never met anyone else who experienced
A swarm landing directly in front of them –
But I am sure there are others, somewhere!

Steve Jobs further postulated:
“Believing that the dots
Will connect down the road
Will give you the confidence to follow your heart
Even when it leads you off the well-worn path;
And that will make all the difference.”

Do you have the confidence to follow your heart
Even when it leads you off the well-worn path?
What surprising coincidences or dots have lined-up for you?
What special places, people or natural happenings
Have lined up for you in magical ways?
Tell your story and please share it below!

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TT1942 – Listening to Silence

Listening to Silence

Listen!
Stop what you are doing!
What do you hear?
Listen for those subtle noises
That are normally drowned-out
In the busyness of life.

Listen more!
The chatter, the clicks, the hubbub
Listen to the space between the noises
They are quieter and even more silent
Than the silence you started to listen to –
Quieter, even, than the quietest sound!

What else lies in the space between?
It is a space to meditate on
The past and the future.
It is the place of pure presence.
Absence of anything,
It holds the answer to everything!

Claude Debussy once said,
“Music is the space between the notes.”
The notes might dance harmoniously,
But the rests dance closer to the truth.
A hidden message that you can only hear
If you listen to for the silence.

In conversation, there are those that compete
To drown-out the silence.  They do not listen
They are on “permanent send”,
Not yet charmed by (nor knowing of) the fact
That they were given two ears and one mouth
For a reason: to listen twice as hard!

Try it for a minute, then an hour, then even a day.
Muted by the desire to listen more.
Not just to the noise, but more importantly,
To the space between the notes
That play to the timeless music of glorious silence.
The answer lies in the space between.

© Lorne Mitchell 2019

Picture from iStockPhoto 178359962

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TT1941 – Will or Flo?

There is a tension between 
Willing something to happen
And going with the flow.
Will tries to control the situation.
As Flo becomes less attached,
Will becomes more so!

Flo has a wisdom about her
Acting with Grace and effortless ease
Such that magic often happens.
Will can’t understand how she does it
So he tries even harder
To control the situation.

So who wins? Will or Flo?
Flo and Will are not natural partners:
They are like Fire and Water.
Too much heat and Flo evaporates
In a puff of steam: she’s gone!
Off to find consolation in condensation.

Too many of Flo’s watery ideas
Extinguish Will’s fiery inspirations
Which dance from one flame to the next.
They are no match for the bucket
Of intangible wishy-washy water that Flo
Throws on Will’s energetic flickers of intent.

So is there any resolution?  Indeed!
Erf can help by grounding the situation.
He provides a hearth and channel 
So Will and Flo can co-exist in separation.
Ayr can also help Will to focus his fiery resolutions
As well as Flo, crystallising her thoughts with a chilling wind.

In any polarising situation, two forces
Will flow better when a third comes into play.
Dilemmas are broken with new vibrations
Played out with the different elements,
Each one needing some of the other to find
The sweet spot of our creative genius.

(To my friend Bee, who reminded me all that
I have forgotten about the magic of the Four Elements!)

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TT1940 – Waste Not, Want Knot

Waste not, want knot.

Autumn leaves start to turn
And she blows her chilling wind.
The rain now feels colder and wetter
Than the September kind,
Flooding the parched earth
And bringing a new spring.

It’s time for a clear-up
(Or is it clear-out?)
Out or up, no matter, stuff has to go…
To make space for new things to come.
A sort of Spring clean in Fall
(There are no words for it… yet)

The strange thing about this time of year
Is that releasing those things that you no longer use
Can be seen as leaves falling from a tree
They may still be of value to others: 
One man’s waste is another man’s water
It’s the want not, waste knot!

Do we REALLY need it?
Do we have a PLACE for it?
Will we really USE it enough to own it?
Do we LOVE it any more?
When was the LAST TIME we used it?
Won’t we bee better off if we RELEASE it?

Where there is tension, let it resolve.
Where there are liabilities, let them be settled.
Where there are past traumas, let them rewind.
Where there is resistance, go with the flow.
Where there is anger, let you have peace.
Where there is darkness, let it be light!

Want not, for there is an abundance for all.
Horde not, for others may have more need.
Release yourself from things that no longer bring you joy.
(For me it’s unread books and unplayed musical instruments)
Untie the want knot and release yourself from stress.
Come, join the revolution!

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TT1939 – Stepping into the Centre

Stepping into the Centre

At the end of every quarter, I move into the centre of the circle.
The centre is constantly shifting and changing.
Sometimes it can feel a bit stuck in place or time.
Othertimes, it has everything spinning around at 100 miles an hour.
But there is always a still centre to be found somewhere in there.
Calmness in the eye of the storm.

It is that centre that I seek out every three months.
To give me space.
To take stock.
To look backwards and forwards at the same time.
To celebrate what has been done.
And to meditate on where we might go in the future.

This week is a particularly special time of the year.
The hard work of opening-up the combs and extracting the honey is over.
We have an angel called Heather who helps us with that part.
It is now time to bottle the sweet amber nectar.
Some say it’s been a bad season for others.
But we have been fortunate this year.  It’s looking like a good ‘un!

The honey itself pours into the jars in a vortex of swirls
Sometimes left-handed, other times right.  Never straight-down like water.
As each jar fills, the trick is not to stop the flow too early,
Nor too late before the honey overflows onto the floor and makes a mess.
There is a rhythm to it which becomes quite meditative.
Like all skills, it is a combination of practice, timing and feedback.

You are never quite sure how many jars you will fill. 
Nor how many total pounds of honey you will jar.
The mystery of not knowing whether this will be a record season.
But it really doesn’t matter.  It is what it is.
I don’t worry too much about which particular flowers they have come from. 
They make their own unique, delicious blend.

Harvest time is such a natural time of the year to close circles.
The celebration of the friendships made
And a time to reflect on those who have passed.
Now to get ready for winter.  It’s going to be a cold ‘un, they say. 
 Time put the winter quilts into the tops of the hives. 
The circle is closed.

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Inventors are from Uranus. Investors are from Venus.

Sometimes you trip over a word and it takes on a shape.  It bugs you until you look at that shape and see something different.  Something unusual.

That happened to me this morning.  I received a note from a friend of mine who was talking about Elon Musk and his investor dilemma.  Whilst typing back a reply, I said: “it’s the difference between an inventor and an investor”.  And the shape of these two words hit me!  They were so similar – and yet poles apart.

So, as is my wont (an old English word meaning habit or custom that spellcheckers highlight as a mistake, but it isn’t), I set to with the idea that an inveNtor and an inveStor are two opposing forces under tension in any business.

And whilst deciding that this was, indeed, a good analogy, it struck me that so many letters are shared between these two words. In fact, seven out of eight letters are not just the same – BUT THEY ARE IN EXACTLY THE SAME POSITION IN THE WORD!  The only difference is the fifth letter – where one is an “N” and the other an “S”.  How can two such similar words have such contrasting shapes positions in business, yet share so much at the same time?

To use the old analogy “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, it got me thinking about which planets would inveNtors and inveStors inhabit?  I looked up this idea on an astrology website and found that Venus is the bringer of love, beauty and money.  So that will do for the inveStor community (though I sometimes find it hard to see how those three words fit nicely into one sentence.

As for Mars – well that is a non-starter.  We needed another planet.  And so I typed-in “innovation” to find that Uranus represents technology, rebellion and innovation!  That will do nicely!

So, inveStors are from Venus and inveNtors are from Uranus.  There you go!

Yet that wasn’t enough.  I further studied the two words to find that the only difference were the two letters: N and S  – and suddenly it hit me!  They are also polar opposites on the dial of a compass!  I was so encouraged to find even more elegance down this particular rabbit-hole!

                                     North, South or somewhere in between?

 

Further to discovering this chance pairing, I thought again.  Whilst looking at the meanings behind the planets, I came across  Mercury, the Messenger God who is know for communication, day-to-day expression and  coordination.  A vital and often missing ingredient when inveNtors and inveStors cannot see each other’s point of view.  What other letter (in the same place as the N and S) could be a catalyst for change?  What could be the Mercury that goes between Venus and Uranus (though I know full-well that is impossible in our particular solar system – but work with me on this!)

And so I came across the letter “R”.  One of the few that makes sense and is a word.  An inveRtor.  It has a medical meaning, but I preferred the one used in electricity – which converts AC to DC current and back again.  An inveRtor is a converter of energy from invention to investment.  Perfect!

So, in summary, we need more inveRtors in business to go between the impossible stances that inveNtors and inveStors take when they stand-off in their own worlds of creativity and resolution.  A few more inveRtors that will be comfortable in the space between what is impossible and what is possible.  A few more inverRtors that will help  inveNtors like Elon Musk save the planet with his fantastic ideas to make the world’s transportation system run on electricity without making all the inveStors run a mile!

As it was such a great rabbit hole to go down (and it is Thursday and I have not written Thursday Thoughts for a while), I thought I would write-up the story.  More to follow soon!

Please do leave a comment below if you see any other strange or fantastic happenings on the road from invention to investment.

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The Art of Rounding Things Out

With a large part of my early career spent designing and testing telecoms billing systems, one of the inexact sciences that I still find intriguing is the word: “rounding”.  I remember one client making millions of extra pounds with the Finance Director requiring their new system to round-up every recorded minute as opposed to rounding them down – even though it was against the regulations.

Yet rounding errors and rounding up and down is a small part of the “art of rounding things out”.  The circle is probably the most drawn, painted and elegant symbol in Art that continues to enthral us, whatever age, gender, colour or creed we are:

(Source: https://www.pinterest.com/jhilts/round/)

Rounding things out is an almost innate human need.  And some are better at it than others!  Indeed Belbin allocated one of his nine famous team roles to the “completer finisher” – defined as follows:

The Completer-Finisher is most effectively used at the end of tasks to polish and scrutinise the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest standards of quality control.

Strengths: Painstaking, conscientious, anxious. Searches out errors. Polishes and perfects.

Allowable weaknesses: Can be inclined to worry unduly, and reluctant to delegate.

Don’t be surprised to find that: They could be accused of taking their perfectionism to extremes.

(Source: http://www.belbin.com/about/belbin-team-roles/)

Surely a very useful person to have on any team – particularly as the team comes to the end of a task?  Somehow, though, in the modern world, completer-finishers do not seem to be so highly valued.  Technology firms with meteoric values and no customers just want to get on and create the next feature.  Dreams and visions win over completed circles.

The recent big storms hitting North Western Europe was another reminder for me that we continue to pollute our oceans with plastic – and that we are taking very little effective action to curb the rising trend of more and more plastic being dumped daily into the ocean.

Any rising consciousness of rounding things out is increasingly drowned out by the advertising industry pushing for the convenience of fast food and throw-away packaging.  “Someone else’s problem.  Let me get on with my life.  I’ve got too much else to worry about than where my rubbish will end up!  In any case, I don’t have the space for all those extra sorting bins in my tiny flat!”  Roughly the words from a forty-something London urban female I met recently.  She comes from a different planet from the one I live on.

I suppose that some of my angst on this subject stems from spending a year in Berlin in 1980.  If it could be fed to the pigs, it was.  Otherwise, if it was rubbish, it was very carefully disposed of by folding it up or squashing it.  Disposal of rubbish was very expensive because the number of landfill sites inside The Wall were scarce.  Programmed about such things in my early ’20s, I suppose I have kept a consciousness that most London forty-somethings would think quite abnormal.

I’ve never particularly seen myself as having the characteristics of a completer-finisher.  However, the older I get, the more concerned I am becoming over the lack of importance attached to round things out.  Indeed, after a recent Circular Business Design workshop we ran, I coined a new term “Telosonance” meaning “having concern for where something might end up”.  From the Greek word “Telos” meaning objective or end-result” and an ending sounding like resonance, it creates a word for something that we don’t seem to have in everyday use in the English language.

Maybe the “art of rounding things out” is a similar idea as Telosonance?  Except that it is the consequential action that follows a concern or feeling that things, people or places are not lined-up to complete the disposal of the thing-in-question in an elegant way  – in other words – “to round things out”.

I’m not sure the Finance Director of the dodgy telecoms company that I worked with those many years ago would have worried about any of this, but it is a subject that is close to my heart at the moment.  I truly believe that we need to applaud the ways that completer-finishers think about problems.  Sooner or later, we are all going to have to worry about where things end up and help find elegant ways to round-out and clear up the mess that we have made over the past 100 years.

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