Saturday, November 27, 2010

Be "Unclear but Learning", But Not "Confused", Even If You Are.

Words create worlds. The same way that God created the world by His words, we do the same. It is that image of God in us. Taking this to heart, I have lately vowed to eliminate the word "confused" from my vocabulary in favor of "unclear" and "learning". I find the former stressful, disempowering and disheartening, and the latter at worst resilient & hopeful, and at best calming & empowering.

The fact is that I work in, and with, many truly "confusing" scenarios that take a lot of energy, concentration, patience and collaboration to resolve. In these scenarios, I need to conserve every ounce of energy and resource I have to get the outcomes I am shooting for. When I take a stance of being "unclear" or "learning", I create a world that will be cleared up with persistent patience, and that will yield learnings that will have benefit going forward. These words settle me down and refocus me on the task at hand leaving more energy for resolution with less lost on tantrums, woe-is-me-ing, and fretting.

This "unclear but learning" space is very different from a world where I am confused. Some might say this is frivolous wordplay but I challenge you to trade these words in your internal and external talk. You will be more energized and so will those you collaborate with.

Write to tell me about it when it happens to you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Day At TEDxPhilly!!!

Fab day at TEDx Philly! Well worth investment. Excellent speakers and topics! Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, a perfect setting! So inspiring, so emotionally moving, so intellectually challenging, such a great chance to network with kindred souls, ideophiles and world-changers, actual and aspiring!

My favorite speakers ( were:

Chris Lehman talking about schools training for life and citizenship more than just for work. (

Simon Hauger talking about project based education and students who innovate better than corporations and major universities and his desire to

Jay Coen Gilbert talking about B Corps (Beneficial Corporations) as distinct from C or S Corps (

Nic Esposito talking about Urban Farming, Food Security and local Economic Viability (

Stanford Hamilton talking about links between music education and life achievement and moving me to near weeping tears with a live performance of his Philly Youth Orchestra (

Key next steps are:

1. Lobby my local legislator about B-Corporation legislation.

2. Make time to educate underskilled, underemployed people I know about Urban Farming as an educational and economic opportunity

3. Make time to restart my piano lessons to I can be a jazz pianist by 55.

4. Find a way to support project-based education as a sponsor, coach, mentor, etc.

Key takeaways were:

1. You have to remember that you are an artist - Aptowicz. Budget, time, money and energy for this.

2. The world is no place for rest but for effort - Mutter

3. Nothing is denied well directed labor - Mutter

4. Schools should teach how to learn, live and to be citizens, not just how to work. - Lehman

5. Lehman's points: 1) ask questions, 2) seek answers, 3) build real stuff, 4) share and 5) change the world

6. Presently, humans are the most environmentally just and humane we have been in the history of the world (paraphrase) - Nic Esposito

7. We need to move from owning means of production to owning means of existence - Nic Esposito

8. We are moving from 20th century shareholder capitalism to 21st century stakeholder capitalism - JC Gilbert

9. We must harness the power of business for the purpose of civil society - JC Gilbert

10. We must bridge the curiosity gap in children, (and ourselves) - Stanford Thompson

11. You cannot teach critical thinking without critical conditions - Azeem Hill, W. Philly student & X Prize Competitor

12. New term of the day - "data exhaust". We all have it.

13. Our innovation birthright can reverse itself and become someone else's. (paraphrased) - Evan Malone

14. Hackerspace is the recreation of the future. - Evan Malone

It was certainly a productive day indeed! And one more bucket list item is marked off. :-D

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Wrestling with Angels To Get Our Blessings, New Names (& Limps)

Most of my life one of my favorite stories have been that of Jacob's wrestling match with the Angel (from the Christian Bible). For those unfamiliar, the long story short is that Jacob was up one night preparing to save his family from his brother, Esau, who he believed was going to kill him. After his preparations were done, and while Jacob was alone, a man, some say an Angel, others God Himself, picked a fight with him. They fought all night and we know Jacob gave Him a run for His money because He could not get out of a hold Jacob had him in, even after knocking Jacob's hip out of joint. The ensuing negotiation, where Jacob stated famously, "I will not let you go until you bless me" resulted in Jacob getting a new name (Israel, because he successfuly overcame his struggles with man and God), a blessing, and a limp from that dislocated hip.

The connection between this story and my own life hit me like a bolt of lightning this morning during my devotions as I pondered how well am I wrestling with Angels in my life?. Isn't life, work and family, a continuous wrestle with man (and yes, God, though we often do not see it that way) to gain a blessing, spiritual and otherwise? The problem is that we too often do not see it that way.

How often, when attacked like Jacob, do we not wrestle well and hold on to the situation until we get the blessing the situation holds for us? How often do we let opportunity go in our impatience and impersistence, and by doing so lose our blessing and our new name?

We have all sorts of wounds and limps from these wrestling matches but do we have have the blessings which should go along with those limps? Do we have the blessing but simply have not acknowledged it? Hmmm.

Take stock (with pride, though not hubris) of the limps and the blessings you have received in your wrestles with man and God in the context of your work. Take this story and its lessons into those present and future situations where you will have to wrestle with Angels and make sure you hold on until you receive your blessing, your new name, and yes, your new limp.

Wrestle well with your Angels today!!!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Since Work is Long, also Make it Meaningful!

So it would seem that our work hours are not going to get any shorter either at work or elsewhere. Some would say, taking a longer historic perspective, that they are in fact shorter than they used to be. That's not making us feel better though. Let's face it, life is work.

So since we cannot shorten our work hours, I submit we should focus on transforming the quality of the work we do in those hours. This is in our control even if the other is not. We have so many opportunities to do this every moment. We can do it in the attention to detail and the crafts(person)ship we bring to our tasks, in the compassion and empathy we bring to our work relationships, in the the celebration of good result, and the gathering of learnings from unexpected results. The point is that with proper attention, compassion, empathy, celebration and learning, we can significantly raise the quality of our many work ours. Since this is our life (literally), why not live as high quality a work life as possible. This does not come natural but can be learned with patient, persistent practice, and to our benefit and all those around us.

Bring this greater quality to our long work hours requires:

1. slowing down our attention, if not our pace

2. being passionately detached and you can read more about this at my blog post on this topic

3. being deliberate in "starting with the end in mind" and being mindful to celebrate when that end is reached

4. valuing effectiveness in our work at least as much as efficiency.

As you take these steps, take time to reflect on the meaning your work is making in terms of your ability to:

1. provide and model for your family

2. improve the lives and wellbeing of your customers

3. develop your own character, reputation and skills.

Good "quality & meaning making" to you!