Friday, May 9, 2008


Some friends are at the stage that they are wondering, "What now? What's next?" A couple have been fretting on this for a long time but only looking under the odd rock to see if their life purpose could be hiding there.

As my dad once told me, "You'll never figure out what you want to do sitting in that chair. You've got to get out and try things, see what you love and hate, and go from there." Or as the French say, “Bouge Toi!”

As a fashion editor shared when I showed up with a modeling book, a design portfolio, a photography portfolio, and an illustration book hoping she'd help me choose my path, "I won't tell you which to pick, but I can tell you to choose one. Do it till it's not fun anymore, then pick the next thing." She went on, "I'm 35. I've already had 5 careers and hope to have 5 more before I stop." Great advice. I'm doing NONE of those things now--although I've explored them all.

In the same way, it's hard to extend your self knowledge if you are looking each day at the same artifacts of who you are. Get off the chair, get curious, go try something new. Get into motion. You never know what you'll find. Like Doon Wilkins says, "Get stumbling." Expecting to KNOW FOR CERTAIN before exploring, is unrealistic.

Infamous Sun Tzu says, if you don't know yourself, it doesn't matter if you know the terrain and the opponent, you'll lose every time. In this "battle" for purpose for your life, you must know your Self. See him/her through different lenses by thinking AND doing.

Don't wait until you can find "The Perfect Thing". Get in motion toward Some Thing. That way your muscles will be strong and ready to spring when you see the Next Thing. Along the way, you may just find some clues pointing towards Your Thing.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Papery thoughts

My new friend Genevieve sent me some wild one-page paper cut outs by Peter Callesen.

They are magical aren’t they? So simple. It’s what isn’t shown that defines the object as the object itself. I was thinking that this is so true of many things. It’s the ultimate irony.

In accounting for example. It can be very creative. Things, like profits, that aren’t even there can appear. Debts, disappear.

In what people say, “Oh I don’t mean to be critical but...” Or worse, “I’m the kind of person who is very direct.” And then they aren’t.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Compassionate Warrior

Yesterday I talked about Aikido the martial art with the main tenet that you “fight so that no one will lose”--this means even your opponent. The founder, Morihei Ueshiba had trained legions of martial forces for decades, but then he had several Visions--the mystical kind which change everything.

In his book, The Art of Peace”, he talks about how these visions caused him to shift his training program so that the primary skill of a warrior became compassion.

Now, “compassionate warrior” is a hard thing to get one’s brain around. I’ve been thinking for years about how that applies in the real world. The Dalai Lama is the best example of this I suppose. When the Chinese were on the offensive, he left Tibet. He could have chosen to fight (and get slaughtered). But he avoided the conflict. And says that the Chinese afford him his best learning opportunity.

When I was in the Edmonton airport one day, I spotted a buddhist monk who was traveling. I asked his permission to pose a question, “How is a warrior compassionate?”

He replied, “Whenever you take up a position, you spend all your energy defending that position. Do not take a position” Think about that for a sec. How often have we wasted energy defending a position that wasn’t worth it? Is it ever worth it?

The obvious answer is “of course” like if someone’s trying to hurt your mother or steal your baby. But maybe it’s in the stolid nature of taking a position that there’s a clue. In Aikido, they talk about being like “silk in the wind” and “breaking an opponent’s sword” so he/she can’t be hurt. This is an interesting Entering into the opponents world. Their world and my world are the same.

Think how different this is from the War on Terror. That’s taking a position and posture. It could have been so different. I felt the world yearning for Bush to take a different position when maybe a choice would have been to be more compassionate. More fluid.

What if Peace was a verb? Not an end state to be fought for then defended. But rather a way of being. A way of living.

Life is less conflict ridden with compassion as its goal. One tough part is becoming compassionate before the others in your world. I mean if a neighbor wants to bash you over the head with a rock and steal your food...or shoot you because he didn’t like the look you gave him or the way you voted...

The Bible includes “the meek shall inherit the earth”, and “the peace makers are the children of God.” Not a bad guide for civil society. How do we get There from Here?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Aiki Principles

I Love Wikipedia! I just zoomed over there to look up the genus of “irony” and found featured on the home page the history of Aiki Jujitsu the martial art I practiced! It’s rare to ever find references to it. Since moving to a new city, I have been missing my Sensei, Ric Cameron. He knows so much about the history and principles of the art as well as the practice.

Being “poor student” I have not retained nearly as much as I would have liked about the art. Takeda Sokaku innovated Aiki JuJitsu just prior to the turn of the 20th century. The Ju Jitsu part is mostly about joint locks and bone crunching techniques. But where things get interesting is in the Aiki part.

This quote* from Sokaku’s son Tokimuni, “Aiki is to pull when you are pushed, and to push when you are pulled. It is the spirit of slowness and speed, of harmonizing your movement with your opponent's ki. Its opposite, kiai, is to push to the limit, while aiki never resists.” (Read about my conversation with a buddhist monk tomorrow for more on this idea).

Aiki Jujitsu greatly influenced Aikido founded by Morihei Ueshiba. My life continues to be informed by Aikido’s main precept which is: “to fight so that no one will lose”. I admire the wisdom inherent in that phrase. The philosophy behind Aikido is that of the skilled warrior first being compassionate.

Wow. Imagine that! How would global conflict change if our warriors’ first skill were compassion?

I see corporations moving to this stance of fighting so that no one will lose. Instead of Competition being the main driver, Cooperation and Collaboration is emerging. Instead of “us against them”, there is “us with them” mentality that is more pervasive. The Gen X’ers have insisted--in fact they would say “Us IS Them”. And Boomers looking for more meaning in their lives are searching for a new alignment of the personal and meaningful with corporate vision and mission.

(Except maybe in broadcasting and online video distribution)/

* = Pranin, Stanley (1996). Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu: Conversations with Daito-ryu Masters. Tokyo: Aiki News. ISBN 4900586188.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Toronto Rocks!

Returning to Calgary from a trip to Toronto, I was walking through Terminal 1 behind two guys dragging giant duffle bags. One guy had a lacrosse stick over his shoulder. Not a common sight, so I looked down at the bags and saw the Rock’s logo.

I knew I would be elevated to Awesome Aunt status with the nephews if I could score an autograph. But felt too timid to ask.
The two voices in my head were arguing about if I had the guts when I stepped forward with my pen. How could I not ask? What would I say to my nephews, “I would have got the Rock’s autograph but I was too scared...”?

The wonderful Aaron Wilson took me over to where the rest of the team were checking in for a flight to Edmonton and I got my autographs. THEN I remembered, just in time, that my Macbook Pro had a camera! Sweet! Here I am with the gorgeous-and-talented men from the Toronto Rock. ( This is where the Dare and Do have a little bit more power than just the Dream!)

Hey Tommy and Jamie, who’s your favourite aunt now? Oh yeah, I’m right over here...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Void your Warranty!

Did you ever have friends who used to take stuff apart?
You know the toaster, the dishwasher, the lawnmower, the TV? I had a cousin who was amazing at this. Jimmy could take anything apart and fix it. And I wish I’d hung out more while he did.

These days with disposable mindsets, we tend not to fix stuff. Or if we want to, don’t know how or where to go to find out. If we didn’t have parents who encouraged deconstructing to build understanding of how things function, then we are likely at a loss.

The other day my daughter kicked my fancy iron off the counter--she was dancing on the island at the time. The iron smashed and Lauren looked glum. “Oh good!” I exclaimed, “Now we can take it apart and see how it works!” Imagine the look on her face.

We need to know how the world around us works. We need to be unafraid to tinker. To explore. To change things up.

When the maintenance man came to fix my dishwasher, he told me that there was no one to take his place when he retires. No one with communication skills who could also tinker with stuff until it worked. This is NOT GOOD. So I got him to agree that if I got some kids in a room with an old dishwasher, he’d let them wield tools and take the sucker apart! And the idea of Tinkering Studio, or whatever we’ll call it, is born!

Saturday I met with some like minded Tinkers--or is it Tinkerers--who want to make it ok for kids to explore the mechanical and technical world around them. I was as excited as a kid with a toy train! We made some progress on where this could and would go.
And soon we’ll be opening a Tinkering Space where kids can come and take stuff apart, build new things out of old things, and generally do what adults get to do in their own workshops. Get curious and busy!

More to follow. It’ll be great!