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Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Goodbye Blogger...

the Alchemy of Soulful Work has a new home:


I guess this was bound to happen. It's actually the third time I've considered moving to TypePad and something about this one just stuck. I've come to find that TypePad is easier to tweak, has loads more tools, and solves some of the pesky workarounds that I was forced to implement. In all, it was just time to graduate to a more professional platform.

Now with every move there are some challenges in getting used to the new neighborhood. My primary concern is that now that you're here as a loyal reader, I'm asking you to find me at a new address. Please understand that I apologize and hope that you'll make a little extra effort to reconfigure your RSS reader or however you read your blogs to the new address. Hopefully, you'll find your way to my new home. If you get lost, send me an email and I'll point you in the right direction.

This will be the last post at the old blogger address. So please come and visit at the spiffy, new digs at See you there. Housewarming gifts are optional :)

Friday, March 04, 2005


Developing Chaordic Confidence

Chris Corrigan at Open Space has a fantastic post from a week ago called Values, tools and authentic facilitation. What immediately pulled me into the post was this:
Work as practice. And by practice I mean something akin to a spiritual practice, whereby one undertakes a life of value and meaning through living in a particular way. When I feel my facilitation practice deepening, I notice that what I do is becoming more and more aligned with who I am.
I can think of no more noble way to approach our work than that. It's about taking pride in our chosen craft and finding ourselves in our profession.

But, then Chris took it deeper and discussed chaordic confidence, the idea that we have the ability to stay in chaos and trust that order will emerge. Scary, terrifying, liberating, and ultimately a source of the greatest creativity we can generate. It seems to be more than what we do and even how we go about doing it; it's about getting to the why behind what we do. In terms of Chris's work as a facilitator, he describes it like this:
Developing chaordic confidence is more than acquiring more tools. It is about integrating an approach to life and work that is anchored in a set of principles and values that serves our clients. For me these values include believing in the wisdom of the group, trusting that chaos produces higher levels of order and seeing conflict as passion that can be harnessed in the service of progress.
He offers a couple of powerful points of reflection...Do we know what our principles and values are? Do they anchor our own approach to life as well as work? Are they principles and values that serve others? Brilliant questions to consider over the weekend.

Categories: c.Creativity; c.Learning; c.Spirit

Thursday, March 03, 2005


Happy (Belated) Birthday Dr. Seuss

I really meant to write yesterday evening, but life sort of got in the way. Anyway, for those of you who have kiddies, teach kiddies, or are just a big kiddie yourself, you probably know that yesterday (March 2) was Dr. Seuss's birthday. In honor of this brilliantly whimsical man, the Bailey girls and I read some of our favorites: The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and There's a Wocket in My Pocket (unfortunately, we couldn't find Hop On Pop). Not too long, we'll introduce them to Oh, The Places You'll Go.

Earlier, we found Seussvile which is a neat website with games, interactive stories, and all kinds of other fun stuff (I'm kind of partial to Catch a Thing).

I have to admit that I don't know that much about Theodor Geisel and his biography on the site is a hoot. It seems he was destined to be Dr. Seuss. In his early years, his mother worked at her father's bakery and would memorize the names of the pies on special each day and then chant them to customers. If young Ted ever had difficulty falling asleep, his mother would do her pie chants. He later credited her "for the rhythms in which I write and the urgency with which I do it." I think I'll make learning more about him a higher priority.

And did you know this? One of Dr. Seuss's publishers made him a bet that he couldn't write a book using 50 words or less. Well, he did. Can you guess which book it is?

Green Eggs and Ham!

We're all fortunate to have had Dr. Seuss in our world. What a creative, playful soul.

Categories: c.Books; c.Play

Monday, February 28, 2005


The Reflective Commute Part Two: Confidence with Clarity

I knew there was a part two to this, it just took a couple of days to get it out...

I found the Fast Talk of the March 2005 issue of Fast Company to be particularly fascinating. Since this is Oscar month, they profiled folks who work in the business of moviemaking. While everyone appreciates the creativity of the actors, set designers, costume designers, etc., the folks who really work behind the scenes demonstrate their own sense of artistry. There's something very interesting to me about working within the film industry; I can relate with the individuals they profiled and their persistence to make things happen. To me, they offer reminders of how necessary it is to have a strong sense of faith and commitment to your vision, confidence in your abilities and intuition, and a very thick skin for rejection.

I liked what Meredith Finn, the Director of Acquisitions and Production for Fine Line Features/ New Line Cinema said:
In my work, it's so important to remain confident in my own ability. I didn't go to film school, I didn't know I was going to work in film, but I've always been very opinionated and passionate. It's other people's role to question my opinion; they wouldn't be doing their job if they didn't doubt me on some level.
It's easy to get frustrated and angry when others doubt our opinion and question our abilities (perhaps even more when we're in the middle of a career transition). But, that can only help us make stronger cases for ourselves. It can set us on fire to improve not only what we do, but be more clear about who we are.

The Clear Leader is the title of the article by Marcus Buckingham who has an intriguing book coming out called The One Thing You Need to Know...About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success (why do business books have such long titles?) Based on the content of the article, I gather that the argument he makes is that great leaders know a thing or two about clarity. One idea that really struck me was this:
Somehow, many leaders think their job is to analyze the world's reality and complexity and reflect it back to their people. Not true. As a leader, your job is to make people more confident about the future you're dragging them into. To that end, you need to tell them why they're going to win.
It reminded me of something I've been thinking about when it comes to interviewing. A good interview is really a conversation rather than an interrogation (though I have been in ones where the hiring manager never realized the difference). Just as the hiring manager is trying to determine whether we are a fit for their organization, it's important for us transitioners to consider what we represent to them. We are the future and we bring something new to their culture. We need to help them feel confident about the future and clearly define why together we can succeed.

Categories: c.Careers; c.Leadership; c.Management; c.Organizations

Saturday, February 26, 2005


The Reflective Commute Part One: Disruptive Questions

It's been way too long since my last entry. Reason is I've landed a short-term gig with the Smithsonian Institution in downtown Washington, DC. The work is nothing too glamorous, but I get to contribute to a good organization and use some of the expertise I've built up over the years.

Getting to work means a fairly lengthy commute (pretty common for us DC Metro residents) and I tend to take public transportation so I have a chance to read. If I'm not reading one of the books you see in the left column, I'll pull out a magazine. Right now, its the March 2005 issue of Fast Company. I know its a good issue by how many pages I have dog-eared and this one's been well marked up.

Here's the March issue link:
It's too soon for this issue to be free and open to the public, but log-in if you're a subscriber.

Here's one of the highlights for me:
Marshall Goldsmith's article called Do You Love What You Do? Besides the fact that the article talks about loving your work (not much of a surprise that I'd be interested in something like that), I was drawn to something else. He begins the article with a story about Warren Bennis when he was President at the University of Cincinnati. Goldsmith writes that Bennis was addressing a university audience when a friend asked him, in front of everyone, "Do you love what you do?" After a long, uncomfortable pause Bennis answered that he didn't know.

What Bennis's friend did was ask him a disruptive question because it prodded Bennis to deeply question his assumed career path. Goldsmith writes:
That revelation plunged Bennis into deep reflection. It dramatically altered his path through life. He had always thought that he wanted to be the president of a university. It had not dawned on him that after he got there he might not actually enjoy the life of a university president.
This is one of the most effective tools in the coach's toolbox. As a career coach, my goal is to ask one disruptive question each session. Sometimes I'm successful and sometimes I'm not. I'm also conscious of the inherent risk when asking clients a disruptive question because it's ALWAYS uncomfortable to have assumptions challenged. But, that's the type of question that a client ultimately comes to coaching to be asked. It's highly difficult to ask yourself a good disruptive question; it lingers in your blind spot - close by, but outside of your immediate awareness.

So, if your career is not what you want it to be and deep down there's something gnawing at you, it's time to find someone who can ask you some disruptive questions. Whether that coach is me or someone else, you owe it to yourself to love what you do.

Categories: c.Careers; c.Coaching

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


What's Up With The Kids These Days?

Don Blohowiak at Leadership Now has a post today called Coddlers. He writes about how twentysomethings just entering the workplace are not truly ready for its demands. He calls it the generation influenced by the evil twins called Needy and Fragility:
The managers lament goes something like this: These kids don’t want to take responsibility. They don’t want to do anything that’s hard. They want positive stroking for the littlest accomplishment, and literally cry at the slightest hint of criticism.
While I take sharp offense by the tone of the post (guess I'm having lunch with Fragility), I can't help but think that there is some truth to his message. I've had this article form MSNBC bookmarked for a couple of weeks and it seems to support at least part of Don's argument: Prep your child to become an adult. It has an extended excerpt from the book Ready or Not, Here Life Comes by Dr. Mel Levine. He argues:
We are in the midst of an epidemic of work-life unreadiness because an alarming number of emerging adults are unable to find a good fit between their minds and their career directions. Like seabirds mired in an oil spill, these fledgling men and women are stuck, unable to take flight toward a suitable career. Some are crippled before they have a chance to beat their wings; others have tumbled downward in the early stages of their trajectories. Because they are not finding their way, they may feel as if they are going nowhere and have nowhere to go.
So Don's probably right, there is something going on. But rather than instantly assuming the parental (or perhaps more appropriate paternal) role that traditional managers seem to hold fast to, today's managers must first understand and attempt to empathize with what's going on with their younger employees. Consider this from perspective from Mel Levine:
There are dramatic differences between the unwritten rules for growing up and those governing careers. For one thing, a child is encouraged to be well-rounded, while adults are permitted (even required) to commit to specialties. So long as grown-ups are effective within their chosen niches, the world will overlook or even fail to notice their gaping flaws elsewhere...

A sizable hunk of a child's success is measured by her ability to comply, to learn what she is expected to learn, and to do what she's told to do. An adult must be able to chart her own road maps. The odyssey leading into adulthood can be a lonely and harsh voyage, especially if a startup adult is naive and uninformed, if he's never learned to be a mapmaker.
Mel Levine's book is intended more for parents and those who care for our children than it is for managers. As a parent and a coach who works with emerging professionals and leaders, I understand the deeper issues of what's taking place right now. I also see where we need to refocus our work as parents. If our children are not ready for adulthood, that's our failing and no one else's. One of the chief responsibilities we have as parents is preparing our children for what comes after being a kid. We need to look for opportunities in which they can experience the fact that being an adult can be challenging, arduous, lonely as well as fulfilling, exciting, and fun. That way, when they encounter managers who complain about "kids these days," they might be able to smile and say, "Yeah, tell me about it..."

Categories: c.Career; c.Leadership; c.Management; c.Parenting

Monday, February 21, 2005


Our Own Personal Biography

Perhaps its the frustrated historian in me, but the title for this article in the Christian Science Monitor caught my eye. It's titled Presidents' Day Thoughts on Monuments to Decent Lives and written by

It takes a special kind of following to warrant being memorialized on a postage stamp, let alone on coin or currency...Still, each of us, in our own way, carves out a bit of history that should be set down - for our own edification, and for each of our families and a few friends.

He pens some thoughts for his son at the end and I immediately thought of my two daughters. There will be times in their growing lives that they will wonder who their father was: what he saw that amazed him, what he experienced that influenced him, and he did that made a difference. And there's room to include the less than perfect moments that taught hard lessons.

This isn't an exercise that needs to be put off for when we reach a certain age. Consider it an organic document, one that lives to be added on to. Consider how he ends the article:

Appraisals of one's worth or contributions do not require book-length memoirs. Monuments to a decent life do not require marble or granite. And nothing you set down has to be written in stone.

Categories: c.Living; c.Parenting

Sunday, February 20, 2005


New Features Added

I'm kind of a geeky tinkerer when it comes to websites and blogs. I've been wanting to implement a couple of new features for a while and this weekend, I finally got them in place.

The first is a categories and search feature. It's not as spiffy as the one that comes along with TypePad, but it's not bad. Takes a little more effort on my part, but it does what I want for it to do. So if you're looking for anything in particular here, you have two choices.
  1. Select a category from the pull-down menu. I've been as thorough as possible in tagging all archived posts.
  2. Click the Advanced Search button. This will take you to my customized PicoSearch page where you can search by any word or phrase you want.
The second feature is the one I'm most excited about. I've found a service that allows me to implement ratings on each of my posts. Why would I want this? I don't know for sure. My feeling is that there are regular readers out there who don't post comments (and that's okay, I do the same at some other blogs; we're called lurkers). But at the very least, I'd love to get feedback on my writings. While I write from my heart, it's gratifying and educational to know if what I write has impact on my readers.

A note about the rating service, IRate: the guy who is developing it is just getting to really putting some muscle into it for us bloggers. If you're interested in setting up a rating system on your blog, visit: Just please be patient as we work out some of the kinks.

**Mad Scientist Update**
(02/21/05) I've decided to take the ratings off the main page; it was severely impacting the load time for the blog. But each entry still offers the ability to rate it. At the bottom of each entry on the main page is a link that takes you directly to the rating area of the permalink.


Saturday, February 19, 2005


Something New...Even In Repetition

I absolutely adore Kathy Sierra and her thinking. I have to admit sometimes I'm afraid to visit her blog Creating Passionate Users because I know I'm going to have to think deeply and maybe, just maybe have to rethink some assumptions.

So, on this beautiful, but cold Virginia Saturday morning, I visit and find another thought-provoking post. I couldn't but leave this comment:

Once upon a time I was a non-profit manager in charge of membership services. One of the reasons I left was because of the monotonous repetition of the work. Not like doing the same thing day after day after day, but there's a sort of schedule that you maintain. Each month you know what needs to be done. What I craved was more variety.

Now as I reflect back on that work and reading your post, something interesting has entered my thoughts. I think love and passion are essential, but so is curiosity. I wonder if the Finns get curious each time they perform "Don't Dream It's Over" and ask whether they can add something new to it. Not like use a new lyric or sing a different note, but something deeper. Can I explore a new place in my soul when I sing this beautiful song?

And so it has me thinking about how I would moan about the fact that I had to keep doing the same work over and over again (I'll always seek variety, though). But if I ever find myself in similar situations or jobs, perhaps I can ask that question. Can I explore a new place in my soul, discover a new form of creativity, develop a new method for connecting with my customer/member when I do this task?

Thanks for bringing me back to a deeper place, Kathy.

Categories: c.Careers; c.Creativity

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Cool People In Your Own Backyard

It's really cool to run into exciting, interesting people in your own neighborhood. The other day, I noticed a new shop opened in the same shopping center as my Starbucks-home. The name of the store is the Curiosity Zone and with a name like that, who wouldn't get curious and want to look around inside.

Turns out that this shop is devoted to curious kids and us adults who still have the curious kid inside. It's described as "a state-of-the-art science and tech enrichment center for kids ages 1-12. It is a place where kids can go to think, invent, create, explore and learn, learn, learn." Neat, huh? The shop sells neat science-fair kind of stuff, but even better, it has a kid-sized classroom/laboratory where they host hands-on group lessons and birthday parties.

As a dad of two daughters (as well as a bit of an amateur science geek), I was hooked so I found the owner and talked with her for a bit. Mary Porter's story shows just how powerful a dream can be when it comes to living a life worth living (check out her bio - what's cute is the "then" and "now" pictures). She's a former lawyer who had talent and brilliance in that profession, but yearned for something else. From her bio:
But what does growing up to be a corporate lawyer have to do with being a kid scientist/ engineer/inventor? Well, not a whole lot. And that’s kind of my point. It wasn’t until life unexpectedly took me to Seattle and to a startup Internet company that went crazy and went public in a blast of innovation that I finally started to get it. It was like a million of those fireflies glowing at full wattage. I was supposed to be creating and inventing stuff.
And so here I am. It took me a while, but I finally got here. I devoted the last couple of years to studying, playing, brainstorming and creating with some pretty amazing kids, parents and teachers. The result is the Curiosity Zone -- a place I wish I’d had as a kid, and a place all of the wonderful kids in my life today are proud to have helped invent. It's a place where kids can go to let their curiosity fly; where they can think, invent, create, explore and learn, learn, learn!
I have to admit her personality is engaging, her vision is exciting, and her passion is contagious. Listening to her speak with such enthusiasm for growing her business and inspiring children's curiosity, I'm already thinking about how I can help her. And she wouldn't have to pay me a dime. I would do it because I believe in what she's trying to build.

Folks, if you live in the Washington, DC area, come out to Ashburn, VA and visit Mary's store. Bring your kids and your curiosity. And even if you can't visit, you can still build a version of the Curiosity Zone in your life and make a place where you can "think, invent, create, explore and learn, learn, learn!"

Categories: c.Careers; c.Creativity; c.Play


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