Friday Challenge: Patterns

You have heard “actions speak louder than words”. I recently saw a post somewhere in the world of social media that said it a little better.

Patterns speak louder than actions.

Patterns are actions, repeated over a time. 

Question words,

Test actions, 

Trust patterns.

The trouble is that for many of us, our own patterns are caught squarely in our blindspot. It is easy to see the patterns of others. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see our own without help.

This is one of the most powerful and vulnerable questions you can ask another person. It is also one of the most possibility-unlocking questions you can ask:

What are the patterns you see in my life?

What would be possible for you if you could see the patterns in your life that are caught in your blindspot?

I have had the privilege of doing handwriting analyses for a few different people over the years. I always find it amazing that these patterns are evident inside the handwriting. And almost without exception, those patterns have been hiding in plain sight. Once exposed, however, the patterns begin to change almost immediately. 

The experience follows a very predictable routine. 

  1. Revelation. “Wow, that really is me. Do you think everyone notices this?”
  2. Contemplation. “I wonder what people actually think of me. I wonder what I’ve missed out on because of this. I wonder what would be different in my life right now…”
  3. Transformation. This tends to come fairly quickly. The challenge is revelation. Awareness plus accountability creates a very expedient path to growth. 

How will you expose the patterns in your own life? Who will you ask? Better yet, who will you ask today?

I want to thank the mentors in my life for their courageous input into my life. You know who you are. I love you.

Insight: Build the Habit of Reading

People overcomplicate reading. We make it work and then we hate it and we neglect it. And somehow we know it has the power to change our life. So then we try again. We grab a book, read for a few minutes, get bored, put it down, check social media, feel guilty, make excuses, rinse, repeat.

The problem is that we have made it painful. You have made it painful. If you had the privilege of being read-to as a child, you will remember it fondly. The stories were engaging and you loved them. My own children demanded story time. They loved it. And I loved reading to them.

So what made reading fun when you were a child and how could we leverage those same principles? Think about it. You had two things happening as a child that are missing in the drudgery of reading as an adult.

Step 1: Read what you like

The first thing missing is that you actually liked the content you were reading. The problem with most reading you ‘should’ do is that it does not interest you enough to hold your attention.

For example, you may believe that you should read that book about meditation a friend recommended. Or that you should read that book about time management you heard about in a podcast. Or that you should read a book about running effective meetings your boss told you about.

Ugh. So many ‘should’s. Stop it. No more ‘should’ reads. In fact, if you have a list of ‘should’ reads, go ahead and destroy it. Delete it, tear it up, burn it or put it inside a model rocket you built and send it into space. Destroy it in whatever way feels best to you.

Now make a new list. This list is just categories of things you actually want to read. Not specific book titles, just types of things you want to read. Fiction. Novels. Stories about love or history or food or dogs. True stories. Not true stories. Stories people wrote from their own experiences. Or maybe it is not stories for you. Maybe it is about how to play the guitar better. Or how to coach youth football. Or how to improve your golf swing. Or how to understand the language of your toddler. What actually interests you enough that you would search up a youtube video in your free time? Put that stuff on your list.

And that is step 1. Read what you like. Now on to step 2.

Step 2: Read how you like

I have a small collection of very old hard cover books. They are fragile. They have a certain smell about them. The pages feel a certain way. I love those books. Sometimes I read them just because I want to be inside an old book.

I have a ton of paperbacks. They have pages folded over, sticky notes, highlighter and pen marks everywhere. I read those books differently than the old hardcovers.

I have some picture books. Like the kind you would see on a coffee table. A graphic walk through the entire bible. Portraits of Canada. Cars of the 60’s. Sometimes I just want to look at the pictures and read about stuff that captures my attention in that moment. Like how the Mustang came to be. I have football coaching books that are full of pictures. Others on paperback.

I have a collection of Kindle books, and another collection of e-books in Apple’s book app. There are times when I am sitting around in a doctor’s office waiting for an appointment and I will just grab a book and read through pieces of it. I’ll grab my iPad and head out onto my front porch in the evening and read for a while.

I also have a huge collection of audiobooks. Anytime I am driving, or flying, or exercising, I will grab an audiobook and let someone else read to me. And I do not always listen carefully through every word. But I do trust that my brain is catching more than I am consciously aware of. Sometimes I just want to get lost in a good story that someone else is reading.

I have plenty of books in multiple formats. I might get the audiobook first and then realize I want to slow it down and mark it up. So I will order a paperback or download a Kindle version. I might have a nice hardcover I do not want to mark up so I will have another version I can scribble in.

There is no single best type of book. They all have pros and cons. Consider the context. Consider the intent. Consider the time you have available. Consider the mental bandwidth you have at your disposal. And then just grab the type of medium you like.

Go slowly through one book at a time. Or listen at 2X speed and crush a book every week during your commute.

How reading evolves

I typically have anywhere from 3 -12 books in my current reading list in a variety of the formats I have listed. Multiple categories. Multiple topics. Then, from time to time, I will take a couple of weeks and just live inside one book. 7-Habits is like that for me. Once every year, I make an effort to just work my way thoughtfully through that book.

If any of this sounds like work, you missed step one. If you are genuinely interested in a topic, you will be drawn to it. If you are still hearing a voice saying “yeah but, I should be reading more business stuff instead of all these Vince Flynn novels“, you are still missing the point.

Build the habit by reading what you actually want to read. That is the most important factor. You will find that you cannot put the book down (in whatever format that is).

And then an amazing thing happens.

You will fall in love with a format and/or a style and/or an author and/or context and then you stumble into something that connects to the thing you started with but in a way you would have never guessed and you only found it because you were just doing something you loved doing.

That is intentionally a run-on sentence. And a metaphor for life. Read it again slowly.

Read what you like.

Read how you like.

Reading will never be work again.

Insight: The World Is a Beautiful Mirror

The world is a beautiful mirror.

I tend to find that in most circumstances of our lives, what we see most often and others are the same things that exist in us. This seems to be especially true when we have negative traits that seem to be in everyone around us.

For example, if I constantly find the people around me to be arrogant, it just might be true that I am seeing in them a small reflection of what is a prominent characteristic in myself. Our brains have an incredible ability to hide this information from us. And it truly appears as though the problem is only in others.

Jesus uses hyperbole to describe this problem. In Matthew 7 he reprimands:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’

Matthew 7:3, NIV

No one actually has a plank in their own eye. It is telling, though, that the plank is made of the same substance as the sawdust. This is the underlying principle of the mirror.

That which I readily see in others is likely originating with me.

This is equally true only of positive and negative characteristics. If I tend to be highly trustworthy, I will likely find trustworthiness in others. If everyone around me is a thief and a liar, it might to me well to check the mirror for some honest personal reflection.

As leaders, this principle tends to flow through our teams. I have observed this in many different organizations. Business and non-profit, paid and volunteer. I have even come to recognize that the people begin to resemble one another in physical presentation. They look alike. They dress similarly. They speak in similar ways.

What is the application for you? What is it that you are constantly finding in others that frustrates you? What are you finding in others that you like?

The Problem

Seeing your own reflection clearly can be difficult. Your brain has worked a lifetime to hide from you the very things you wish to see. Often, it takes the eyes of another to clearly see what seems hidden to one’s self. Choose someone you trust, and someone who will speak candidly. Resist having this kind of conversation with a person in whose eye you see the ‘sawdust’. Find a trusted, neutral, third party.

And then turn on your listening. Just absorb and contemplate. You may find that you want to defend yourself. That is only reinforcement that you need to dig in and listen.

The mirror is beautiful because it reveals to us that which holds us back. It shows us the way to self improvement. It unveils leadership deficiencies. It is an important part of your growth.

Are you willing to look in the mirror?

Book: Become What You Are by Alan Watts

Alan Watts is one of my favorite authors/thinkers. I recently stumbled on this book of his in a podcast, and immediately ordered it. Fittingly, it has a mirror front and center in the book. One of my favorite personal sayings is:

The world is a beautiful mirror.

Dan Friesen

On page 10 of this book, Watts cites these words:

The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror; it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep.

Chuang-tzu

I think I could reflect on that statement for years, and probably spend the rest of my life learning how to live it out.

This book lands on my list of books to re-read for sure. In Watts unique style, it is packed with thought-provoking ideas. Enjoy.

Book: Natural Brilliance by Paul R. Scheele

Paul Scheele is a genius. I’ve had the privilege of spending time with him and learning from him in person. He possesses a special kind of magic. He has training in NLP and hypnosis and roots that go back to involvement in the early career of Tony Robbins.

Natural Brilliance suggests that we all possess the ability to powerfully shift the course of our lives.

Overcome any challenge…at will

Paul R. Scheele

When we address a challenge in our life, we typically only look at two perspectives. Our present state of pain and some possible future positive state. We compare those two perspectives and then take a small step toward future positive. The moment we take that step, we realize that there are some future negatives we have not considered. Furthermore, there are present positives we have not considered. So we get lured back and enter a stuck state where we vacillate between present and future states.

The book shows you how to address those stuck states from the natural brilliance you already possess.

This is a read-and-do kind of book. Take your time going through it and put into practice what you learn. It offers practical shifts to the way you live.

Friday Challenge: Unity

Dr. Cialdini talks about the timeless principle of unity. The important distinction is that a relationship of unity does not look at whether or not I am like someone else. It looks for a relationship that says I am of someone else.

Have you taken the time to ask yourself what you might think, do, or believe if you were of someone or something else?

Book: Stillness Is The Key by Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday continues his thoughtful and meaningful writings from Stoic philosophy. This book is a nice addition to his work, building off from the themes he set in The Obstacle is the Way, and Ego is the Enemy.

In a busy and noisy world, it is hard to find peace and quiet. It is even harder to find that peace and quiet internally. Ryan unpacks sound strategies that make peace possible, and demonstrates how that peace can have profound impact on personal growth and performance.

Book: Stealing Fire by Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal

This is book #6 on my top ten list.

The official website of the book has a robust description, including this excerpt:

Over the past decade, Silicon Valley executives like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk, Special Operators like the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets, and maverick scientists like Sasha Shulgin and Amy Cuddy have turned everything we thought we knew about high performance upside down.

Instead of grit, better habits, or 10,000 hours, these trailblazers have found a surprising short cut. They’re harnessing rare and controversial states of consciousness to solve critical challenges and outperform the competition.

Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal

I will warn you that this book deals with altered states of consciousness. It takes a close and evidence-based look at how human beings enter a state of flow individually and in collectives. It uncovers the restorative, empowering and addictive nature of this state.

I will only ask you this. Once you have read Stealing Fire, please comment below by sharing what you do or have done to enter a state of flow.

Enjoy the read!