Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Sum is Far Greater Than Its Parts or a Different Picture Altogether

“Indeed, to some extent it has always been necessary and proper for man, in his thinking, to divide things up, as if we tried to deal with the whole of reality at once, we would be swamped. However when this mode of thought is applied more broadly to man's notion of himself and the whole world in which he lives, (i.e. in his world-view) then man ceases to regard the resultant divisions as merely useful or convenient and begins to see and experience himself and this world as actually constituted of separately existing fragments. What is needed is a relativistic theory, to give up altogether the notion that the world is constituted of basic objects or building blocks. Rather, one has to view the world in terms of universal flux of events and processes.” David Bohm

The contribution an individual can make in his/her life goes way beyond the bits and pieces of individual deeds and tasks. Lately I’ve come across this need for people to be able to reduce things or compartmentalize things in such a way that they can rationalize it or measure against it based on what they already know, not the depth and breadth of what they don’t or the infinite possibilities.

Let me give you a few examples….

In the government, in order to have someone in an area of expertise on call to be able to draw from their services when needed, there is generally a standing offer in place for the organization to utilize. When a service doesn’t ‘fit’ into any box they’ve categorized before, they begin to take the service apart. When I commented that if the description of the services is not articulated in the proper and specific way, what the organization will get will ultimately be a generic, watered down version of a service that nowhere near represents what they wanted in the first place. The response I got was “Other people will so some things similarly, so we will get some of what we want” or words to that effect.

Actually they won’t.

In another example, when someone wanted to take the training I do for the School of Shadow Coaching™ which teaches seasoned executive coaches this unique model of coaching, the person making the inquiry was so intent on being able to compare it to other means of coaching he had experienced in the past, that he didn’t look at the global impact or uniqueness and complexity of the training. He needed to have a rationale, understanding in comparison to what he already knew rather than looking to learn what he didn’t.

One cannot take apart a procedure, model, or concept into tiny bits and expect the same results. It’s just as much the putting together the pieces of various puzzles, perspectives, overlying concepts and key dynamics that takes what might be ordinary in its components and give you extraordinary results.

To bring an analogy to the table I know very well, years ago, when my son was born with partial paralysis, the treatment the specialist recommended was absolutely not acceptable and we looked elsewhere for answers. We had asked if surgery were possible and the answer was “No. It’s way too dangerous, never been done and it is not an option”. We could have taken that as gospel and not looked any further, signing the papers that would pretty much eliminate the problem (in the specialist’s mind) and redefine my son’s life or quality of life forever.

We found a surgeon doing research in this field who agreed to try surgery. When we went to our national health care insurance asking for funding for this, as the cost was thousands of dollars, what they did was try to compartmentalize it into what they already knew. So an exploratory was X amount of dollars, a nerve repair X amount and so on. The total came to a few hundred dollars as what they didn’t have fee charts to measure against, they ignored altogether. Did they take into consideration that microscopic surgery was being done on an infant, not an adult or that the nerve repair was just next to the spinal cord? No. It was generic. There was nothing about the day long procedure that fit any mold, however the outcome far exceeded the bits and pieces that the health insurance table described.

Shadow Coaching™ goes layers deeper than any conservative executive coaching and emerges the observer in the client themselves so results are ongoing, evolutionary and in many cases, life and career altering. It’s not the ‘what was’ of coaching. It’s the cutting edge of coaching.

So may I suggest to all of you who look to put things in boxes so they’re explainable and understandable within the realm of what you already see, know and have experienced in the past, that in order to grow and fly in life, you need to learn what you don’t already know, experience the unexpected, and forget measuring by the yardstick of what was, as there’s no ceiling to what can be; just sky. The sum can be far greater than its parts, or even another picture altogether.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Looking Forward

"Telling the future by looking at the past assumes that conditions remain constant. This is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror."-- Herb Brody

What was is just that….in the past. We can learn from it, decide to repeat how we did something because it worked for us, or to absolutely never go there again because it didn’t. One of my major roles is to look at a situation or snapshot in time that created something extraordinary for my client, and rather than him looking at what transpired as a stroke of luck or a fluke, I put words around it so he can repeat it again if he so chooses.

Alternatively often I share with my client something that happened that didn’t work for him, and help him become so aware of the intricacies of that situation that he will make sure he doesn’t react in quite the same way again.

However the purpose of what I do is not to keep my clients in the past but to give them the vehicle with which to create their future right now as each moment unfolds. The future is built on what we do in the present. They’re building blocks, yes, but not independent segments of life. They all need to fit into some sort of puzzle we put together to invent what we want to evolve into. If we constantly live in the past, whether in our own problems or successes, there would be no growth. And even though we would try to recapture the glory of days past, the thrill of it would fade until we’d look back and have nothing to strive for right now.

Conditions never stay constant. As we grow, learn, experience through life we start this moment in time from a new wrung on the ladder. Forcing ourselves to go back to what was is like starting the climb all over again. Why in the world would we ever want to do that?

Looking forward…
Donna Karlin

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Waking to What's Possible

The first moment when you transition between sleep and wakefulness can be the most amazing moment of the day. No matter how down or stressed you might have been the day before, if you look at life from the perspective that anything can happen….that magic can appear when you least expect it and open your mind to it, then that possibility will always be there.

Anais Nin said “The dream was always running ahead of me. To catch up, to live for a moment in unison with it, that was the miracle.”

When we close our eyes to the possibilities of life, magic, wonder, realisation of a dream even for a short time, we miss all that’s extraordinary in what we expect to be an ordinary day. Expectations are strange ‘creatures’ aren’t they? They’re like intentions. Intentions equal results. When we truly have an intention, we will make it happen. Just like expectations. If we expect the day to dump on us, we will look for the negative. When we look for the extraordinary in an ordinary day, we will find that too. And when we take that time to meet that new person, speak to someone we thought we might want to speak to but never took the time to, get to truly know a person rather than the superficial, we can be touched in ways that will change us profoundly and, perhaps, take us to a place in our lives we had only dreamed of.

Life is a series of twists and turns, connections of sorts. We connect and our realm of understanding of ourselves expands. Through new people our horizons and experiences unfold, and we not only learn about them and a bit more about the world, but ourselves as well.

Through every person I meet, and how I connect with them, my world expands, as do my ideas, ways of being and the depth of who I might be. Some connections are stronger than others. Some leave me with a sense of wonder that there’s so much more to discover, I can’t wait to see what unfolds.

Years ago I was so busy getting through life that I didn’t live it. I certainly didn’t embrace it. It was more getting through a day and surviving it. My perspectives have changed. The way I live my life is in direct proportion to my beliefs. It’s also about what I can give rather than what’s in it for me and through that I’ve grown exponentially.

The other day I was telling a client how much of a challenge it is for me to write, and one of the reasons I write my blog is to force me in a way to express my thoughts, hopefully helping others along their paths at the same time. It’s been almost 3 years since I started blogging. My audience has increased dramatically (80 subscriber countries as of today!) and it never ceases to amaze me how my words can touch people from all over the globe. When my readers email me or comment, the connection strengthens. And for those who already know me and work with me, it’s a way for them to see who I am, not only what it is I do.

In so many ways I’ve been lucky. I have caught up and lived in unison with some of my dreams. And I hope to catch up with many more along the way. That’s the magic of life. Are you paying attention to your dreams and the possibilities each day might bring?

Looking forward…
Donna Karlin

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Be Daring... Be Different...Be Impractical

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” - Cecil Beaton.

Years ago, even though it didn’t fit the norm in the socio-economic world I grew up in, I pursued my passions. I was very, very lucky that I came from a home that supported learning, and even though I’m sure my parents didn’t always understand the path I embarked on, they supported me through it as they saw how passionate I was about it. So unlike the other ‘girls’ I grew up with who went on to university to study science, teaching, the arts….I dove into my passion; music. I was already living the world of a performing musician, practicing as many hours as I could fit in, auditioning for the Montreal Junior Symphony until I could get good enough and hopefully a position in a ‘real’ orchestra, though the MJS really did work us hard.

Now before you think this wasn’t altogether outside the realm of normalcy, let me add that my instrument(s) were percussion; definitely not the norm for a female in those times. It was me up against 17 guys who all wanted to vie for the same 3 positions. Competitive didn’t begin to describe it. We practiced until 2:00, 3:00 in the morning and then had to be in class for 7:00. I had more hours of class, rehearsal and performance time than my brother did in medicine. It was hard to be different, definitely wasn’t a practical profession to go into, and really was out of the ordinary. But I loved every minute of it.

And I achieved my dream of obtaining a position in an orchestra as well as smaller, well-established groups where concerts were sold out the moment the tickets were put on sale. It was an intense life and a lifetime ago.

Life steered me in a different direction and guided me to become a coach. Do I regret it for a minute? No. Again I was on the cutting edge, learning coaching skills and techniques well before there was a CoachVille, an International Coach Federation or even the professional term coaching used outside the world of sports. We created as we learned, brainstormed until our heads were about to explode….and tried to describe what we were doing in terms that didn’t exist yet. Still, if there is any profession where one never plays it safe it’s coaching. That’s probably my biggest challenge when I’m speaking to groups, teaching or mentoring someone who is embarking on this profession. If we can’t stay two steps ahead of current trends and the ‘norm’, help clients see beyond what they already know, then we’re not doing them a service.

One of the many reasons why I love the opening quote isn’t necessarily because it describes my life to a ‘T’, which it does, but because it asserts integrity of purpose and imaginative vision in everything I do, live, think and believe in. Because I can do that and show my clients how to embrace that into their lives, they will never be slaves to the ordinary as their lives will no longer resemble ordinary. They reach for the sky, no barriers, no roadblocks; they just fly.

One of my favourite expressions (and what I do) is “diving into the deep end of each day”. Magic and the extraordinary does exist in our every day lives when we take the time to notice, embrace it and welcome it.

Donna Karlin

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Power of Stories

We live a story. Every day a new page or chapter is written as life unfolds through surprise, design and circumstance. There is nothing more powerful than getting a point across or teaching as by narrative. Stories are as old as time itself and are an integral part of our lives. From early camp days when we’d sit by a roaring bonfire, share stories….personal anecdotes, horror stories or stories we created in broken telephone games, they all had a vital role to play in our lives.

I can teach models and concepts but there’s nothing as powerful as putting scenarios to those models, sharing real-life situations that illustrate their meaning. And there’s nothing more powerful than showing how people in real life react and grow because of a situation or experience they’ve lived through.

We share stories that bring tears, laughter, and bring forth our imagination as we create dreams around the possibilities those stories evoke.

There is no better way to communicate who you are to another person than by putting yourself into the context of a story they can relate to as well. A commonality is formed….a bond of sorts where both parties can place themselves into the same context, yet live and experience something totally different.

As the holidays approach, I bet we can all sit at the same table and yet have a different story to share. We see things differently based on who we are. Just as we can all sit in the same meeting, go through the same organizational change exercise and have a different focus…different learning experience even though we are all working towards achieving the same organizational goals. Once we recognise we’re all individual pieces of the puzzle and have so much to learn from those around us, only then will we be ready to truly hear their stories.

They don’t all start with “Once upon a time…” nor do they all end with “…and they live happily ever after”, however they are all a piece of the story of life we live every day. We can teach through our own story and relearn who we are through the process of telling it, as we see how other relate, question and grow as the picture unfolds.

What is your story? What is uniquely you? Did you take charge in writing it or let someone else choose its twists and turns?

Donna Karlin

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Monday, April 03, 2006

The Rest of Your Life

As we get older, we tend to look at the rest of our lives rather than the next 5, 10 or even 15 years. We look at what we want to get out of our days, what we can contribute, how we can enjoy our lives more and embrace life in all its contexts.

It’s easier to look at our lives from the perspective of “This is what I want to live, never mind for the next little while, but forever.” It’s more than goal setting; it’s lifestyle changes. We also tend to look at life from the perspective of “I’ve had enough of this. It’s time to move on.” And the questions become “What’s so important to me that I want it….I want it now and forever?” and “What don’t I want any more that I’ve put up with for way too long?”

Once you accept responsibility for everything in your life two things happen. First of all you are no longer a victim of what life seems to hand you and life becomes simpler, and secondly, you take back the power to change your future and create the life you love.

Once we get older we’re more open to the possibilities of what lies ahead. It’s more important than ever to prune your life of toxic relationships, ways of being and mindsets that no longer have value. Once we get rid of all that holds us back, the choice to keep what is working and embrace what we want is much clearer.

I cannot imagine ever retiring. The choice I made to become a coach was as much based on who I am as what I do for a living. It gives me the opportunity to connect with amazing people all over the world, to create, experiment with new concepts and ideas and, most importantly, wake up every morning wanting to jump into the deep end of each day no matter what it would bring. I do what I do for the joy of it. That’s the bottom line.

I am crafting a life with the pieces of the puzzle I want around forever. And knowing I’m the one creating my own future gives a comfort level that goes beyond anything I’d ever experienced. It doesn’t mean life won’t change on a daily basis. What it does mean is I’m the one responsible for how I live through the choices I make.

So look at your puzzle of life, what are the 10 pieces you want to keep forever and what are the ones you need to discard to make room them? What no longer fits? What are you ready to let go of that’s no longer serving you?

Looking forward…
Donna Karlin