I Live A Charmed Life – By Design

“… sound doctrines are all useless… you have to change your life. (Or the
direction of your life.)… wisdom is all cold… you can no more use it for
setting your life to rights than you can forge iron when it is cold… The
point is that a sound doctrine need not take hold of you; you can follow it
as you would a doctor’s prescription. – But here you need something to
move you and turn you in a new direction… Once you have
been turned around, you must stay turned around. Wisdom is passionless.
But faith is what Kierkegaard calls a passion” (Wittgenstein, L. (1980) Culture and Value, introduction by G. Von Wright, and translated by P. Winch. Oxford: Blackwell, p.53).

Yesterday was my first official day running the daddy day care, as the experience has been called. More formally I began a twelve week “family medical leave act” leave of absence from my traditional work to continue the care of my now 4 month old son.  Just to clarify, I was off throughout most of the month of December using vacation time performing the same task and assisting him in his journey from around three months to four months.  The difference now is the amount of “at cause-ness” that went into taking three months off from a day job that I’ve held for over ten years.  The difference is the value that I’m noticing in trading my not too shabby salary for an irreplaceable experience.  Isn’t this really what defines value – what you’re willing to give up for one thing in order to experience another thing?

From what I’ve been told, I am part of the 3% of American men who take the incredible oppoortunity that the FMLA provides. Would I say that I’m special for being part of such an elite number? Is that the point of this post, to indicate what a great American man I am, what a dedicated father, what a groundbreaking thinker and life live-er?  Well, I am still housing this ego so maybe partially.

Sharing this story is also partially a tribute to “my old man” (as Springsteen may have said).  It’s an acknowledgement of the context in which he, and many of us fathers, live our lives as the provider, the bread winner, income earner.  Trading these experiences of being there with our children who we love so much that we would trade the time that we would have with them to go out day after day and provide for their survival.  The money that buys the food, water, shelter that allows our species to continue on.  As a child I had a sense that was how it was for my father, sensed that he didn’t particularly care for the 6 am to 3 pm, five days per week for 35 years blue collar life.  But I was clear that he did it for his family and for that I knew I was loved even if it wasn’t verbalized.

It’s also an acknowledgement of the shifting context that enables women to work (for equal pay, maybe?), be the primary income producer in a family, and provide value and meaning into a working world equal to what it is that they’re giving up to fight that fight and endure that struggle, and equal to what they’re leaving behind.  I see my joining the 3% as the seldom noticed back of the hand of that struggle.  Yet, you can also hear the “speaking from” the current paradigm exhibited here and that’s the real point.

The intended value of this post – you trading your time to read it for what you may get out of it – is in noticing the privilege that this opportunity is for me, and then noticing that it’s part of a carefully laid out plan for producing results consistent with living a life equal to the opportunity that living life is.  A once in a lifetime shot to live fully in the one and only life that I have.  Living a life that is equal to the opportunity that living life is does not just happen.  I like to say that I live a charmed life, which I do.  It isn’t charmed in that it just “magically” happens however.  I live a charmed life because I take the stand that I live a charmed life.  I say that I live a charmed life and then I produce results consistent with living a charmed life (or I don’t).

There was a great deal of build up, tension, uncertainty and ambiguity in getting to this point, living a charmed life does not mean living an easy life by any stretch.  Which is why I write this post today, rather than a few weeks ago.  I will occasionally share the massive failures in not producing the results consistent with living a charmed life – the ratio of 3:1 – 5:1 positive to negative must be maintained in this blog as a matter of maintaining the authenticity of it.  The results have been tallied in this exercise and it looks like we’ve made it.  The build up began over a year ago while I was still in the MPOD program, in the early stages of executing the formal plan, which has all been part of the overall plan, the sound doctrine.

While one is in the midst of any major change initiative it is often difficult to measure whether any change is really happening.  Changing the course of one’s life toward a previously unimagined future is often the most challenging of all change initiatives to measure.  When it is your life that is changing you’re just too close to it to know if it is “turning out” as envisioned.  Following a path that is being created as each step is taken is like navigating a thick forest on a moonless night.  You have your compass and you use it, but until you emerge from the brush as the sun rises above the clearing you’ve “entered”, created really, you can not know if you’ve navigated rightly.  Attempting to measure in the midst of the trees and darkness is a futile endeavor, orienting your steps with presence and purpose and letting your physical intuition be your guide is useful yet mis-steps are likely to occur.  It is only in looking back at that forest in the daylight that you can fully appreciate the steps that had been taken, the risk that was navigated.

Building some competence through practical application of causing intentional change allows your muscles of intuition to strengthen, your resolve to walk your own path is refined, and your willingness to trust yourself, to have faith when the common, everybody knows the way it’s supposed to work, wisdom of the world is butting up against the stand that you are.

Look, I know that I’m just taking time off to stay home.  Millions, billions of people have done this.  For me, it’s not something that I’d ever considered, not because I didn’t consider it like I thought I couldn’t do it but because it never even showed up for me as a possible option that life could present to me.  In the spectrum of possibilities that life presents it was always there.  I didn’t see it.  I wasn’t open to looking to see what I wasn’t able to see.  It was concealed.  Then, along my path of continuing to question everything, to be a space where truth can show up, it revealed itself, unconcealed itself.  Aletheia.

My son caught a cold over the holidays.  He was a snotty, moaning, sickly mess on my first two days of daddy day care.  I’ve had sick babies in the past but I’ve never experienced them the way I did my son today.  In the past, these things were my wife’s concern, my mother-in-law’s, the baby sitter’s – I didn’t have a clue how to comfort a sick baby and I was going to be at work anyway.  That was the way it occurred within that context.  Yesterday and today, I experienced the complete privilege and satisfaction that goes along with being only of service to a sick little baby, even when all that service can be is to hold them and comfort them as they moan with that raspy sick little baby voice.  No room for my petty concerns, just room for being the space for comfort.  Charmed – by design.

From Love,


We’re Stronger Together, Except When We’re Not

This blog and my life are about unconcealing what’s already there, getting closer “from” truth so it may be experienced, presenced and lived out of.  When we’re closest from truth there is an experience of love and being loved, a foundation from which all things are created.  I have no proof for this, but it is my assertion and it has been my experience.  I have also experienced that when we come from truth/love/aletheia we develop and design more powerful, stable and sustainable human institutions, relationships, and futures on top of a solid foundation.  Many of our common and current models of interacting with ‘reality’ leave us powerless and unstable, longing for and seeking something or resigned that we’ll never find what’s already surrounding us.  It’s an experience of insatiable hunger.  This makes sense to me now, having unconcealed enough of “what’s so” to be able to recognize these moments of clarity more readily.  From the moment we pop out of the chute, we are afraid, and cold, and crying for survival.  We go on in this confusion until we are able to settle into who we are, who we’ve always been, which had been concealed from our view.

Having said that, truth/love/aletheia is change which brings up that fear.  When standing in truth/love/aletheia change is. Truth/love/aletheia is right now and then it’s right now and then it’s right now.  It occurs as change to us as our memory works to process what has happened to position us to better deal with an uncertain future.  This post is a start at pointing out the paradox or dialetheia that occur alongside change.  It’s also about disrupting the world as we know it today and intentionally designing a future and a world that works, whether that be an individual world, an organizational world, or a whole wide world.  

Change is loaded language.  People know many things about change including that “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”, or that “People don’t resist change, they’re just more attracted to something else.”, or that “You can’t change, Rocky!” (did I mention yet that I’m a fan of the Rocky movies?  You can hold it against me if you like or love me more because of it…either way I love them!), and on and on.  Yet change from truth/love/aletheia has very little to do with knowing anything.  Change is regardless of what you know or don’t know.  There is however the discomfort that arises with the uncertainty and the illusion that we like to create of having some control.   Especially when things are working, can we even keep our selves from wanting to keep them working?  Or when they’re not working, that longing for all of it to be other than it is.

Intentional change requires knowing some things and paradoxically it’s an emergent phenomenon requiring giving up the control illusion.  To be able to see that something has changed you do have to know what is now, and then you have to intend what is to be then. Change is measured from one point in time to another, based in some result or metric.  The requisite of change is measuring or identifying some starting point so you can get to another point with another result and say, “Look, something’s changed.”, or maybe “Things have changed ‘the same’ over a period of time”, or sometimes, “Awww man, this stinks, nothing’s changed”, or whatever your favorite whine is. 

Anyway, getting comfortable with intentional change takes practice and a willingness to play.  It’s honestly pretty straightforward to do once you’ve done it with intentionality and if you haven’t an amazing model of “how intentional change happens” has been designed through years of research by Dr. Richard Boyatzis, one of my professors in my MPOD program.  The model, known as Intentional Change Theory (ICT), was the most pleasant surprise of MPOD for me.  I’ll be honest.  I’d never heard of Boyatzis or his theory or his work with Daniel Goleman and I’d never even heard the term Emotional Intelligence prior to my coursework.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I got into my second residency and started to read this stuff.  Talk about resonance.  This reading was an amazing and accurate representation of any change effort I’d ever put myself through.  Quitting smoking. developing the relationship of my dreams, creating a powerful relationship with my father, building a successful IT career, becoming a Master of Active Directory, creating a laundromat empire (laughing)…all of these successful change processes followed the spiral of ICT. 

My favorite paper reads currently are regarding the use of Intentional Change Theory in the development of groups that work.  Which is what has brought me to this post.  Because the theory is so clear, and at the same time so unknown, I want those of you who are out there struggling with change to understand a couple of phenomena that I’ve noticed.  They’re not always described in the papers that I’ve read, yet they’re painfully obvious from experience. 

The first of these phenomena goes back to measurement and touches on some of my other posts regarding knowing one’s Self.  It points to one of our delusions that keeps us from experiencing truth/love/aletheia and it’s something that I first experienced through my work with Werner Erhard.  It’s the notion of where one occurs, first for yourself as a phenomenon and then for and to others or yourself reflected from others (The meaning of the gesture is in the response – my favorite Complex Responsive Process folks say).  Werner distinguishes it as the “listening” that one is, or the space, or the clearing.  Since it’s a phenomenon in and of language, listening is the clearest distinction for me. 

Said more clearly, hopefully, I listen myself a certain way.  To use a specific example, when I smoked, I was a smoker.  There was no doubt about it.  I knew I loved it, I was addicted to it, every day the first thing that I’d reach for when I woke up was a cigarette, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to quit, and everything about myself occurred inside of that “listening” I had for myself.  In Intentional Change Theory, this is explained as my real self.  To change, I first had to invent a vision of me, occurring in the future, as my ideal self.  By practicing and experimenting with different behaviors (I subconsciously had taken stock over my many attempts to quit of my strengths and weaknesses, though they didn’t seem to occur in my experience, they did) and I, through trial and error and very unceremoniously, developed a learning plan which eventually led me to stop smoking for good about 8 years ago.  I sit here today as that Ideal Self, the person who knew at that point that if he could just quit smoking, would be able to do anything.  Here it is, anything.

Seriously.  This is anything, and nothing, and everything.  It wasn’t possible prior to inventing and fulfilling that vision of my ideal self.  It took a lot, there were many times that the hope generated by the vision of this future just wasn’t there.  That is the individual aspect, and I think it’s pretty clear, especially in hindsight the way it worked.  The Theory is a validation of the process I went through.  There is a more insidious aspect to this “listening one’s self” bit though, it’s pretty well concealed and difficult to distinguish until you’re out of it, or until somebody points to it. 

If you can see that we’re unconscious about the way we “listen” ourselves, you’ll recognize that we’re very unconscious about the way we “listen” other people.  It’s pointed to in ICT as the “Ought Self”, as the way it occurs for us, and there are additional studies that show the way our listening imposes an outcome on others.  This ought self has a pull to it which reminds me of the first attack in the movie Jaws.  She was out there swimming, just doing her thing and then it came and pulled her under.  She did her best to rise above it but it wouldn’t let her go and eventually just dragged her under.

Again, I’ll use the smoking example though I have more pernicious and wicked examples that come more readily to mind.  In the smoking example, we all reinforced each other.  See, I grew up with a group of fellows that I’d known since grade school.  Many of us started smoking together in high school and we “knew” each other a certain way.  Knowing people that way and being known that way is a very powerful mechanism – I mean, we REALLY knew each other.  So much so, that we knew each other’s strengths and knew each other’s weaknesses.  This is where much of my base experience of being loved developed…when you are loved fully for exactly who you are and for exactly who you are not and it’s never expected that you should be any other way…that is what it is to be loved.

When you are unaware of the way reality is created however, through Social Constructionism, you may find yourself stuck by the very people who love you.  They certainly don’t do it to be malicious or to hold you down, because of course they want what’s best for you (except when they don’t because they do know you’re trying to change and it scares the bejeezus out of them because they think that change isn’t already happening anyway – ha – another post, on another day).  There came a day though, with those friends that loved me, when I realized that if I was ever going to fully realize myself, or at the very least quit smoking, that I may have to separate myself enough from them to experiment and practice with new behaviors.  To surround myself with supportive people who knew that in my Ideal Self future I didn’t smoke.  My lungs are pink as my ideal self…pink as the day I was born.

I made the determination, after a while of actually pulling it off (not smoking) on my own or in my newer circle of support, that when I did immerse myself back into experiences with my friends that before I had a cigarette I would first leave where I was, being with them.  It wasn’t that I didn’t love them, but I knew that, as Martin Luther King said, “I cannot be who I ought to be until you are who you ought to be.”, and that as much as they were constraining and enabling me I was constraining and enabling them.

What’s the point then?  Be aware of the power your listening has of those around you, be aware of the power that the listening of those around you has on you, and never, ever be afraid to sometimes step out on your own and find some new friends.  Your old friends will someday love you all the more for it.

With Love,


Sharing Everything

Leading up to and when my relationship with my wife began I was experimenting with some behaviors that were fairly new to me…ala, experimenting in the cycle of Boyatzis’ Intentional Change Theory.  It didn’t take long until I was seeing powerful results in my relationship to warrant moving from experimentation to practice.  I think what really happened is that I committed to practice anyway prior to seeing any results.  The behavior I’m talking about is one of full disclosure.  Sharing everything.  Whether I wanted to or not.  Whether it seemed like a good idea or not.  Definitely whether it was safe or not.  It took some time, but over the years I felt fully known by another human being.  Not just sort of known, or mostly known, but fully and unequivocally known.

Freeing and powerful are words that come to mind when I think of the new space of relationship that this allowed for.  It really altered what was possible in relationship and at the same time it forced me to alter who I was being not only in the relationship but outside of the relationship.  Certain things that I may have tried to “get away with” in the past weren’t possible anymore when full disclosure was the order of the day.  Being pushed around in shopping carts by drunken friends while totally inebriated took on a whole new meaning when truth was a commitment to be lived from and within.

Despite the fear that is initially present with it, once the possibility of that kind of relationship is revealed there really is no choice anymore.  I first saw it, like a lightning flash, when somebody I knew told me about a truth that she told.  She put everything at risk and told it anyway because she saw that to not tell it was just a waste of time and that to tell it, and to put everything on the line anyway, would change everything in an instant.  That’s the way it works too.  As soon as it comes out of your mouth everything changes.  There’s no taking it back.  It’s a$$ on the line, no holds barred, life at stake.

In that space and with everything on the line, relationships take on a whole new meaning and gain a whole new area to expand into.  Secure, real relationship is built as long as that integrity is maintained.

Eventually, and it takes a while, a certain level of comfort develops with disclosure.  One is secure and grounded in one relationship with another human being that “helps, supports, and encourages each step in the process” and experimentation begins again.

This is where I am today.  I’ve been experimenting with full disclosure.  With many people.  Experimenting, seeing what would happen, observing, pulling back, trying again.  Could I develop deep, powerful relationships with many people?  Create a tribe as some people call them.  Could I be so known by them that they begin to see that I am them as I see that they are me?

Somehow, it doesn’t feel like it’s being courageous when it’s just an experiment.  I’m just learning after all – building on my strengths while reducing my gaps.  But man is it freeing and fun.

With Love,