A wide focus won’t yield the same kind of growth as a narrow one. A broad focus produces a big picture with lots of connections, while a narrow focus goes deep. Both are good, but something special can happen when we combine the two: Faulty learning (depth) and gaps in knowledge (breadth) show up quickly and can be corrected on the way to fundamental breakthroughs.
Archives for February 2018
Things that happen quickly can be intense. So can things that are hard – emotionally, physically, or mentally. Sometimes we would rather avoid it, but intensity can be used for good. Intense learning situations that are expertly guided and well designed can produce unimaginable change and growth.
I experienced this early in life as part of the D.C. Crew, a series of residencies led by Savion Glover in the early 1990s. Then again more recently at the Cultivatorium – a three day intense coaching event designed by Renee Freedman. Both had focused and sustained intensity, and lead to major breakthroughs for me.
For the past 4 years I’ve organized a one week, 50 hour, tap dance intensive. We go deep. For a long time. We’ve witnessed awesome breakthroughs. And the learning continues far beyond the end of the week.
That’s the thing, isn’t it? Intense experiences stay with us. Design them for good and we just might change the world.
The plane landed, pulled to the gate and that unmistakable bell sounded. Immediately, the sound of metal against metal and the ruffling of people and clothes followed. Everyone unbuckled their seatbelts and moved into the isles. I had the middle seat. I waited.
The passenger to my left got up and began to get her bag from the overhead compartment. I had stashed my jacket there and wanted to let her know to feel free to move it if need be. I looked up and began talking. I got a look in return that read something like, “What are you looking at?” I tried to explain, she began to pull here bag out, my jacket was a mute point. I stopped talking. Just then I noticed them. Hidden under the hood of her hoodie was a pair of large over-the-ear (assumably noise-canceling) headphones. She hadn’t heard a word I had said.
Then I got to thinking about how much of the technology we use separates us from our current surroundings.
The personal mobile device allows us to change who we relate to, what we see, and what we hear wherever we are. I don’t need to talk to the stranger next to me, when I can talk to my best friend who is 100 miles away. I don’t need to look around when what’s on my device is more interesting. And I don’t need to listen to what’s around me when I can curate my own personal soundtrack.
The airport I’m sitting in as I write this is silent – but for the conversations happening within earshot, a few announcements over the PA, and low hum of the escalators and ventilation system. No music is playing.
(I’m also writing this on my phone, looking up every few minutes in an attempt to pay attention to my surroundings.)
The personal music experience (that started with the Walkman, thanks Sony), is a wonder. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by their favorite tunes all the time? But the listening of music to the exclusion all else?
I get it. We want to be in our own world. A world that’s better than the one we’re currently in. I’m guilty of wanting that escape, too. But the world we’re in will never change if we all live on our own islands. Digital or otherwise.
In multicultural societies, especially major cities (trade and transit hubs), shared spaces produce new common language and engender the skill of quick translation. These spaces, filled with people exercising these skills, ultimately become the connective tissue between all the cultural pockets of the society.
In today’s world these spaces and these skills are more and more important to avert the division that seems to happen inherently as cultures rub up against one another. If you’ve become sensitive to the division around you (or potential for it), practice the skills of quick translation and the creation of common language, create spaces where people from multiple cultures can meet, be a force for connection.
We need it now more than ever.
Give me fish and feed me for a day. Teach me how to fish and I will be fed for the rest of my life.
There’s only one problem. Our systems and culture are built for efficiency, immediate results, and the commodification of goods and services. A single fish is easy to price, the transaction is immediate, and in its a measurable metric of accomplishment. Additionally, some conditions simply mandate feeding. There’s no time to teach.
Teaching requires time, and a different kind of relationship to the people your caring for. I don’t just want to see you fed, I want to see you feeding yourself (and others).
This isn’t an either or question. It’s more about knowing that they are different things, but both can happen at the same time.
Teaching is process. Feeding is content.
I was writing some content for this website when I stumbled across a thought. The spelling of the word ‘shepherd’ looks like of truncation of the description, ‘who the sheep heard’. Which lead me to this video that proves the assertion that sheep only respond to their shepherd.
That lead me to this question: Whose voice do I hear that causes me to follow?
Does that voice lead me to good things of service like feeding (the hungry), tending (to the hurt), and guarding and protecting (the vulnerable)?
If not, is that the right voice to be responding to?
Food for thought.
Labels are shortcuts, and efficiency can be good — sometimes. More often, labels come with preconceptions that are never tested, that deny any variance, and put unnecessary walls up around people.
We’re all busy. We want the shortcut. Acknowledge that its there. Use it if necessary. But never let it become the default, lest we walk blindly – never testing our preconceptions, flattening our vision of the world, and never walking through walls that weren’t meant to be there in the first place.
Outright lies are offensive. Half-truths are worse. A lie laced with just enough truth to confuse is truly deadly.
Lies are easy to call out. The half-truth is harder to discern. We are caught up by the truth in it, and use that truth to justify the greater lie. It’s sneaky.
Don’t want to get caught? Ask more questions. If someone makes a statement, draw them out further. Test their framework. This is particularly important when it comes to people in positions authority, but we can practice with anyone. Even ourselves.