Archive for the ‘ Learning ’ Category

Wandering The Navajo Pollen Path

Annual events such as birthdays, holidays, or the New Year inspire us to re-orient ourselves as we ask some important questions: Where am I and how did I get here? What goals did I set what have I achieved or missed? Where am I headed and how will I get there? What have I learned and who has helped me? What I am grateful for and what would I like to change? Where did I struggle and where did I rise?

Three years ago, when I was emerging from great struggle and conflict into self-realization and growth, a dear friend introduced me to the Navajo Pollen Path, pictured below.

Navajo-Pollen-PathAccompanied by a ceremonial chant:

Oh beauty before me,
beauty behind me,
beauty to the right of me,
beauty to the left of me,
beauty above me,
beauty below me,
I am on the Pollen Path.
In the house of life I wander,
On the pollen path.

The Pollen Path symbolizes an individual’s journey through life and it is rich in myth and meaning. Originally created as a sand painting, it was used in ritualistic healing ceremonies during which community members gathered to support an individual on their spiritual exploit. Following their own footprints at the bottom of the image, the initiate passes by two guardians who usher the individual into the spiritual world. As the initiate continues up the cornstalk, which symbolizes sustenance, there are several points along way where pollen is sprinkled to germinate his growth. Within this sacred space, the individual experiences positive and negative forces and he encounters spiritual messengers, depicted as male versus female and representing the different energies of the sun and moon. These helpers arrive at a critical time when the individual’s path is dramatically struck by a bolt of lightning, electrifying his opportunity to either seek and accept help or be stalled on his journey. If he is brave enough to continue forward in the after-shock, the individual meets a dove at the top of the cornstalk, which symbolizes peace at the end of his path. He has reached spiritual enlightenment and is now free to follow his footsteps back to the beginning where he will be ushered once again into a new pollen path.

It is circuitous to remind us that our journey has many starting points, stalling points, opportunities for growth, and people in our surroundings who are there to help us in ways we often are not aware of until we emerge from the path stronger and ready to start again. The Pollen Path can be used as a reminder that struggle is a natural part of life and a necessary condition for progress. It can serve as a reminder to never take for granted the beautiful hearts and souls who have helped you along your journey, and it can provide a sense of purpose knowing that you might be instrumental to someone else’s growth.

Like many of you, I have reflected on my trials and triumphs from the past year and I welcome a fresh start at the dawn of the New Year. May you find what you seek in 2015! In the house of life you wander, on the Pollen Path. It’s a continuous journey—Make it a beautiful year!

Photo Credit: Pollen Path

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com. Continue reading

Streaming: The Future of Virtual Learning?

There is a revolution happening in the world of video games. It is called Twitch. It’s a website where gamers can directly stream footage of their game daily and provide voice commentary. Most also share their webcams in the corner of the screen and respond to chat either directly in the chat window or via voice. They generate revenue through subscribers who pay monthly ($5 on average) for special benefits (like being entered into giveaways) and donations. And it’s gaining so much popularity that Amazon purchased it for almost a billion dollars and was considered the fourth largest source of internet traffic in the US in early 2014.

Pewdiepie Playing Goat Simulator

So why is this important? Well, within the realm of learning, MOOCs have gained much popularity for providing content on the go at little to no cost. But the content is not flexible and other than forums, there’s no fast way to interact with the content provider, especially if you need clarification or have a quick question. It lacks the feel of communicating directly with a live human being. And virtual training/learning is great, but could be expensive and the scheduling might be inconvenient or infrequent.

video-blogging-300x224

In a sense, MOOCs are like YouTube, where people upload content and others view it. So what is out there for learning that is like Twitch? Currently, virtual training/learning and live video blogging comes the closest. But imagine if there were entertaining individuals streaming, for instance, a fun learning videogame or sharing some interesting but educational videos for just a half hour every night and providing witty commentary. And also answering questions out loud on the video as you ask them in the chat window. And providing free giveaways for both subscribers and regular viewers.

How-To-Video-Your-Way-To-Success

There are technology platforms already in place to enable this type of streaming to occur. And there are many people who would benefit from this type of content. And for the streamers, there is revenue to be generated through subscribers. I believe that this will be the next big learning platform to take off once more people start taking advantage of this technology, particularly when more of the YouTube generation starts to enter the workforce.

What are your thoughts? Would this be something that would interest you?

Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Managing Your Mind

Doorway to Consciousness

Before you can effectively manage your career, relationships, home, hobbies, and the pursuit of your dreams, you’ll first need to master the skill of managing your mind. Yes, it is a skill. Yes, it can be learned and strengthened through the practice of meditation. Essentially meditation is mental training. Mindfulness—my preferred form of mental training—is the practice of focusing on present-moment experience. As simple as it sounds, it certainly is not easy! Mindfulness is learned experientially and getting a firm grasp on it takes time, but not as much as you might think. In this popular TED talk, Andrew Puddicombe explains it best:

The mind is the seat of consciousness, the realm of all mental and emotional processing, somatic sensation and perception, and the intricate combination of moment-to-moment experiences we call life. That’s where it all plays out, in your mind. Knowing that, you can see why a calm and well-functioning mind is the foundation for health and happiness.

How can mindfulness help? Focus. Blanchard consultants and coaches will attest that in order to sustain learning after training, focus is key. Without focus the untrained mind is like a puppy, distracted by anything that moves. Training a puppy takes energy and discipline. The process can be frustrating and it won’t work without consistency and patience. Mental training is similar. In its natural state the mind is like a puppy, running in circles and sometimes colliding with walls because it can’t stop. Frantic mental activity perpetuates stress, anxiety, pain, and struggle. When we lack focus, we lack control over our experience. We cannot always change the events that occur but we can change how we experience them. Mindfulness is a way of redirecting attention and thus acting with greater intention and less struggle. It starts with noticing what you are experiencing in the present moment and simply observing without judging it—Sort of just sitting with it rather than reacting to it. Mindfulness is the space between stimulus and response.

mindfulness_poster_UK

A common misconception about mindfulness, as Puddicombe explains, is that “people assume that meditation is all about stopping thoughts, getting rid of emotions, somehow controlling the mind. But actually it’s…about stepping back, seeing the thought clearly, witnessing it coming and going.” Did you know that we spend nearly half of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing? Astounding! Cognitive neuroscientists have shown that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind, and an unhappy mind is an unproductive one. Instead we can choose, in any moment, to sit with reality by mindfully bringing our attention back to here and now.

TNH_Meditation

Looking for an introduction to the practice of mindfulness and how it can improve your wellbeing? Here are some resources to get you started:

Mind full, or mindful? The choice is yours.

About the Author: Sarah is a Professional Services Intern at The Ken Blanchard Companies. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in Consulting Psychology, and her research is based on mindfulness. Contact: sarah.maxwell@kenblanchard.com.

Motivation: What’s Yours?

I was asked a question today: “What motivates you?”

I immediately thought about context: Motivations for work-related tasks? For my own personal goals? And then I thought about life in general. What motivates me to get up every day?

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This is such a powerful question. The answer says so much about who you are as a person. Whether you are internally or externally motivated, and your reasoning for why you are motivated in that way can shed light on your values and morals. Even how you frame the answer conveys what you find most important in your life.

And yet, despite the wealth of information this simple question could provide, many leaders don’t ask this of themselves and of their direct reports. Leaders can uncover why they’ve become leaders and what strengths and weaknesses they possess. They can also discover how engaged their workforce is and how to better inspire their employees.

So go ask yourself and those around you, “What motivates you?”

motivation

Image Credit: 1 | 2

Are You Blind to Change?

The video below by Derren Brown demonstrates a phenomenon called “change blindness,” where a change that should be obvious goes unnoticed.

You can find a similar experiment here, which was done at Harvard. How resilient to change blindness are you? Let’s try an experiment of our own. Something is changing between the flashes in a very obvious way in the picture below. Can you spot it?

Change Blindness - Market

How about in this picture?

Change Blindness - Soldiers

Was it difficult for you to spot the change in each picture? Don’t worry, it takes a while for most people. The longer the flash or delay between the slightly different images, the harder it is to see the change.

This can be the same with people. For instance, you may not notice a change in the demeanor of your direct report until much later, after which might you ask, “has he/she always been like that?” And by then, it may be difficult to understand exactly when the change happened and why. Even small changes in the organization can go unnoticed, until someone checks in on how things are going.

To combat this blindness, ensure that you are checking in frequently enough with your direct report. But, of course, there’s the risk of looking like a micromanager. When you meet, explain that you are simply there to support his/her success and allow the conversation to flow from your direct report (“Is there anything you need from me?” or “Is there anything I can do to support your work?” are great ways to quickly check in). If he/she is a novice on the task, provide more direction. If not, provide encouragement and autonomy while focusing on the positives.

When it comes to keeping an eye on the organization as a whole, metrics can provide insight on what changes are occurring. But instead of pulling every available metric, focus on the top 3-5 metrics that relate back to your business strategy and goals for the organization.

Since big changes may be happening without your knowledge, dedicate time to discovering these changes and their causes. This can provide valuable insight into what is happening now and what you can do to promote the growth and betterment of your organization.

Images Credit: User jbitel on Imgur

Leading Through Goal-Setting and Daily Mini Performance Reviews

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I was shocked to find that some leaders don’t take goal-setting and performance reviews seriously. Instead, it’s considered a formality or something done because it is “required”. Once a year, managers and employees meet to discuss goals that were forgotten a week after they were set and never revisited throughout the year. Two signatures later, they return to what they were doing.

Proper goal-setting is so important because it sets realistic expectations for performance and prevents employees from ever being confused about what they need to accomplish next. Every day, employees should refer back to the goals and use them to plan out the day. And managers should have regular conversations with employees on what goals are working, what goals are not working, and what goals need to change.

SMART-goal-setting-examples

Essentially, this is a performance review spread throughout the year. Then, when it comes time for the actual performance review, there are no surprises. This places focus not on the “final exam”, but on the daily tasks that employees do to make progress toward each of the goals.

So meet with your direct reports regularly and have conversations focused around goals with the perspective that you are there to do whatever you can to help them meet those goals. You are the coach; they are the athletes. And by setting those goals and making daily progress, nothing can stand in the way.

“Success isn’t owned — it’s leased. And rent is due every day.” – @JJWatt

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Image Credit: 1 | 2 | 3

Pent Beneath Fancy Knot

To the one pent beneath fancy knot,

pent behind fancy knot

pent behind fancy knot

It is curious to look at your affair
Catching you gaze toward heaven
Each afternoon seeking fresh air
Petitioning social network for leaven
Numb cheek now fermenting                                                        

Who could rejoice with thee now?

Fatigued, slipping into some ancient chat
You lie back in whispering waves of mocha
Toes banked in lukewarm grains of sand
Swimming in ocean’s of caramel bliss
Careless of the call you just missed

 

Pent beneath fancy knot

Ulysses’ alarm, pale reason to depart
Returning home at sundown—eyes half shut
Visions of Marla—the happy stray mutt
Once proud royal, mourn the day left behind
Slumber to the door—the angel’s tear has descended
You slide softly and silently into your favorite spot.

 

Still pent beneath fancy knot

 

by J. Diamond Arnold

Jason Diamond Arnold is a Leadership Consultant and Learning Media Producer at The Ken Blanchard Companies. He is Coauthor of Situational Self Leadership in Action a real time, real work, leaning experience that develops effective communication and collaboration skills for individuals in the workplace. He is Co Producer and Director of Stepping Up to Leadership with Scott Blanchard, at lynda.com.

 

 

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