The most important contribution of a collaborator is to serve as an enthusiastic audience

51ejbnxvrl._ac_us218_Today I wanted to post about collaborative circles. At work I’m part of the marketing team. All members have diverse talents. We collaborate together to make the team greater than the sum of its parts.

In collaborative situations, the goals don’t seem as clear as I’d like them to be. That’s why I enjoyed reading “Collaborative Circles – Friendship Dynamics and Creative Work” by Michael P. Farrell

The book starts out with the adage, nearly the same as Steve Jobs is quoted saying: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

“The best things come … from the talents that are members of a group; every man works better when he has companions working in the same line, and yielding to the stimulus of suggestion, comparison, emulation. Great things have of course been done by solitary workers, but they have usually been done with double the pains they would have cost if they had been produced in more genial circumstances. – Henry James”

The most important thing that prevents collaboration from happening is a closed off group that is dominated by a single gate keeper.

“If communication within a friendship group is open, if the members are not dominated by a defensive mentor anxious to preserver a particular vision of the field, the interaction in the group may start percolating toward a new vision.” – Farrell

The biggest insight regarding collaboration comes halfway through the book. Ever been paired off for group work in a class only to find that your collaborators were pessimistic Eeyores?

“One of the most important contributions of a collaborator is to serve as an enthusiastic audience. A respected peer who serves as admiring but demanding audience can be a powerful stimulus to creative work. When the mirroring other takes the creative person seriously, attends to small advances, and responds with appreciative criticism, the person becomes more centered and invests more in the creative process.” – Farrell

So what’s the formula for a productive collaborative circle?

“The center coalition consists of the members who consolidate the insights that emerge within collaborative pairs, integrate them into a coherent theory , and convey the vision to newcomers into the circle.” – Farrell

And finally, why can’t we meet online instead of in-person?

“Internet communication may facilitate the formation of circles, and it may enable them to maintain contact between meetings, but I do not think it allows for the kind of in-depth dialogue that leads to meaningful personal development and creative work. For this kind of interaction, there is no substitute for ritualized meetings and working side by side.” – Farrell

I hope these insights clarify the role you play in a collaborative group. To summarize the suggestions for better collaboration, stick to these goals:

  • Work in groups: Great things have been done by solitary workers but they have usually been done with double the pains they would have cost if they had been produced in more genial circumstances
  • Be open: Keep out the defensive mentors and anxious preservers
  • Be enthusiastic: Sometimes being the best collaborator is being an enthusiastic audience
  • Meet in-person: In-person meetings allow for in-depth dialogue that’s required for meaningful personal development and creative work.

Did this help clarify the role collaborative circles play in creative work? Contact me I’d love to hear about it.

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Mindfulness is the willingness to turn toward our experience

41CASF11djL._AC_US218_Today I’ll be posting on Judson Brewer’s “The Craving Mind.” This book has a bunch of good ideas regarding how to curb your social media use.

A lot of habit-breaking advice recommends mindfulness. This usually means, “If I am aware of what I am doing, I won’t indulge in bad habits.” But what if there’s more to the meaning of mindfulness than you think?

In “The Craving Mind.” Brewer clarifies the role or mindfulness in stopping our bad habits:

“Mindfulness is just about being interested in, and getting close and personal with, what is happening in our bodies and minds. It is really this willingness to turn toward our experience rather than to try to make our unpleasant cravings go away as quickly as possible.” – Brewer

Human beings are very bad at turning toward their experiences rather than trying to make their unpleasant cravings go away as quickly as possible.

In a study, participants were asked to stay in a quiet room by themselves for 20 minutes. They weren’t allowed access to any of their usual distracting devices – no smartphones, no tv, no radio. All they had was a tiny device that delivered an electrical shock when the participant pushed a button.

Here’s the surprising thing. The majority of the participants used the device to shock themselves and keep themselves entertained rather than face their own solitary thoughts. Let me repeat: they rather shock themselves than be forced to listen to their own thoughts!

If mindfulness is more than the awareness of your thoughts, it is the willingness to turn toward our experience rather than trying to make our unpleasant cravings go away as quickly as possible. How do we prepare ourselves for this willingness?

Everyone’s on social media. But not everyone posts. I believe the first step to turning toward our experience is to be mindful of what you get from posting to Social Media:

“We learn to go online or post something to our social media sites in order to get the reward that indicates we are relevant, we matter. Each time we are assured, we get reinforced, the loneliness is dissipated, and the connection feels good. We learn to come back for more.” – Brewer

Mindfulness works to curb your addictions by giving yourself enough time, energy, and space to examine just why you are taking part in them. The first step is calming your mind and sorting your thoughts.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” – Brewer

Brewer goes into more detail to describe the process of observing and being mindful to curb addictive behaviors.

“We taught people to pay attention to their habit loops so that they would become disenchanted with their previous behaviors by seeing clearly what rewards they were actually getting. Target craving and you can conquer an addition. And this targeting of craving was not through brute force but, counter-intuitively, through turning toward or getting close to it. Through direct observation, we can become as the term ‘asava’ is translated, less intoxicated.” – Brewer

So if you still feel bad about yourself for posting on social media, remember this quote,

“Ego, the self which he has believed himself to be, is nothing but a pattern of habits.” – Alan Watts

Change your habits, change your life. Did this post help to clarify the role of mindfulness is curbing your Social Media habit? Contact me, I’d love to hear about it.

The 3 Stages of Emotional Slavery

A few weeks ago I finished reading “Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life” by Marshall B. Rosenberg. Here is the second post I’ll be doing on this amazing book.

In this post I’d like to discuss some of my own shortcomings regarding emotional slavery. Then I’ll list out the 3 stages of emotional slavery. Then I’ll finish by challenging you to do a quick self-inventory to see where you land with your own emotional development.

As a child, my parents taught me to always put other people’s feelings before my own. Your brother’s bike has a flat tire, let him use yours. Your friend dropped his ice cream cone, give him yours. Your friend’s Super Nintendo broke? Let him borrow yours.

At a point, all of this giving left me with nothing.

As I got older I noticed that I was short-changing myself because I had a black and white view regarding how much emotional security everyone needed from me. Without even asking them.

I had not taken the next step in emotional maturity. I had become a willing participant in my own emotional slavery.

“Emotional slavery is where we believe ourselves responsible for the feelings of others. We think we must constantly strive to keep everyone happy. If they don’t appear happy, we feel responsible and compelled to do something about it. This can easily lead us to see the very people who are closest to us as burdens.” – Rosenberg

If we stick to this script we’ll be prepared to “turn the other cheek” and “follow the golden rule.” This approach works fine for toddlers but it starts to break down as you get older. Stick with stage 1 of emotional maturity and you set yourself up for emotional slavery.

Even worse, if you meet someone that sees how willing you are to take the blame or give up your own resources they will start to take advantage of your generosity.

Keep at this and you’ll be bled dry – emotionally, physically, and you may even lose some money. So how do you prevent this from happening? You need to develop and reach stage 2.

“In stage 2 we become aware of the high costs of assuming responsibility for others’ feelings and trying to accommodate them at our own expense. When we notice how much of our lives we’ve missed and how little we have responded to the call of our own soul, we may get angry.” – Rosenberg

At stage 2 we’re able to see how much we’ve led ourselves astray. The only person that truly knows what we want is ourselves. And if we are unable to clearly say that, feel it, and know it, how will others know. We need to start noticing how much of our own lives we are missing when we’re busy tending to the needs of emotional vampires.

Take stage 2 too far and you might become an asshole. That’s why evolution to stage 3 is so important.

“Stage 3 is emotional liberation where we respond to the needs of others out of compassion, never out of fear, guilt, or shame. Our actions are therefore fulfilling to us, as well as to those who receive our efforts. We accept full responsibility for our own intentions and actions, but not for the feelings of others. And at this stage, we are aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others. Emotional liberation involves stating clearly what we need in a way that communicates we are equally concerned that the needs of others be fulfilled.” – Rosenberg

Now that you’ve seen all three stages, where would you rank yourself? How did you learn to navigate all three stages? Was it difficult to put your foot down and say, “No, I’m not free to help you move house on my birthday weekend.”

Did this post help to clarify what steps you need to take to evolve your own emotional maturity? Contact me, I’d love to hear about it.