Archive for “September, 2011”

I was shocked – a parable on multiple perspectives

If not shocked, I was in disbelief when my wise and worldly friend told me he had never heard the parable of the five blind men and the elephant. I see it as a metaphor holding some key attitudinal principles for our times.

In case you haven’t heard it, here goes my paraphrase:

Five men (in the story it was always men) who were blind from birth are brought into a room where there is an elephant and are asked to describe it. One man grabs ahold of a leg and declares that the elephant is like a post. Another, grabbing the ear, says, “no, it is flat, and flaps around.” Another, feeling the tail says, “no, you are both wrong. It is like a small paint brush.” Yet another one of the men, holding the trunk says, “it is like a big fire-hose.” And so on.

Everyone one of them was partially right, and yet so totally wrong.

Key lessons:

First: Don’t believe everything you think. Your perspective may be true, but it’s most likely partial truth. If you get attached to your perspective as being the only correct one, you will miss out on the rest of the elephant. Yes the elephant is like a post, but that is only its leg.

Second: Gather multiple perspectives. The more perspectives you have on a topic — up to a point, but that is a separate post — the less partial your version of the truth becomes.

Third: Find a way to integrate multiple perspectives. It’s not enough to gather them. We need a way for them to all make sense in relation to each other, in a way that also allows for new future discoveries. (This is one of the reasons I appreciate “integrative decision making” and “dynamic steering” — two principles within the fascinating organizational practice called holacracy.)

One of the things I do for my organizational clients is facilitate meetings in which we surface dissenting views in a way that is constructive for the group. If it sounds hard to do, it’s even trickier to teach how to do. People’s knee-jerk reactions are so deeply ingrained, we interpret a different perspective as if it were an attack on what we’re saying, instead of getting curious and opening to the possibility that it can make us all wiser.

Upshot: train yourself to –
1) Notice when you’re in “either/or” thinking, and
2) Develop “both/and” thinking.

–> Train yourself to always look for how multiple seemingly contradictory truths can be integrated.

The surprising usefulness of fear, Pt. 3

My definition of courage is not: lack of fear.

My definition of courage is presencing any fear that might be there — and regardless — taking the next step and the next.

When it comes to events or public speaking one my favorite expressions, gleaned from Outward Bound when I was 18, is “The trick is not getting the butterflies out of your stomach, but getting them to fly in formation.”

For added inspiration, check out this blog post of Seth Godin’s. It contains several excellent links, including the interview on Dorm Room Tycoon that I mentioned in Part 1 of this post.

The surprising usefulness of fear, Pt. 2

At the end of your short life — all our lives are short, and the clock is ticking — you will most likely regret the things you didn‘t do, more than the things you did.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
~ W.H. Murray (often mistakenly attributed to J.W. von Goethe; emphasis added)

Check out this short clip (2:39) of Jeff Bezos, founder of, on the “Regret Minimization Framework”…

The surprising usefulness of fear, Pt 1

For me it’s not about “fear is good or fear is bad.”

The trick is in distinguishing which of the many voices of fear is speaking.

(I really enjoyed how Seth Godin talked about how sometimes our freakouts — especially the fear that paralyzes us, or causes us to turn back, play small, & stay in our comfort zone —  are a sign that we’re on the right track! This is a HUGE insight, because incredible, amazing times like ours are demanding that we step up and into more of our greatness. (That interview is here.)

“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” –Vincent Van Gogh