Archive - November, 2012

Connection equates to art.

When we show up, it happens. When we risk failure and humiliation, it happens. When we pay attention, it happens. Art happens. Hugh MacLeod sent out this recent print in his newsletter. Art requires connection or it dies. Art happens when, as Seth Godin states in his latest book, ” we’re truly alive”.

I witnessed it this week when friends connected a mutual friend to solve a ranching problem involving cattle. For me, I have been flooded with incredible friends coming to my aid and asking me to share some of my own art as try to fund my next stage as an entrepreneur. Becky McCray did it this week when she connected to dozens of her readers who are learning what she and Barry J Moltz offer through their book Small Town Rules.

The gas attendant last night did it when she looked me in the eye and said, “how is your night going”….and actually meant it.

My son is doing it this weekend as he and his Lego League robotics team attempt to qualify for state. I think we can all learn something from the fresh, bold and untarnished spirits of 12 year-olds.

So how will it happen for you today?

Watching Others: Part 3 of how to connect

This past Sunday I finally sat down to watch the Pixar film Brave. During the film what I ended up watching most was my daughter’s face. When Princess Merida rode through the kingdom on her horse, my daughter let out a giggle and her face lit up. Deep inside something was truly touched watching the princess ride freely on her massive steed and climb cliffs and. For most of this year she has been fascinated by anything related to princesses. This has not been any ordinary disney induced phenomena either. She asks me questions like “Why do princess stories always have a villain?” or “Why are so movie princesses always blonde and white?”

I could easily miss this opportunity to speak into her life. At nine she seems to be soaking up so much from her mother’s life and influence. From me she wants to know my strength and love. She wants to know she is cared for and delighted in.

So I ended up watching her face and eyes on and off during the film. They were like clues into her heart and soul. I made note of them and tried to think of things to ask her later. And believe me those questions have to be good because it is hard to get her talking about anything.

So what does this have to do with connecting? It is no different with others in our lives. When we meet someone new we should be just as mindful. We connect best when we first watch and learn about the other person. We know the right questions to ask when we look for the cues into their story. We know their story only when we slow down enough to hear what they have to say or study their expressions. A persons smile or their eyes can tell you so much.

In the previous posts in this series I focused on getting over fear and being ourselves. But this one takes a dedicated effort beyond those first steps. It means that in our demand filled world we have to stop for a moment and make someone else the only one who matters.

Showing Up: Part 2 on how to connect with others

Chris Skaggs just being himself

I love a scene in the movie Braveheart right before the Battle of Sterling Bridge. It is a short exchange between William Wallace and his friend Stephen.

Stephen: Fine speech. Now what do we do?
William Wallace: Just be yourselves.

To be yourself, to show up in the full weight of who you really are is essential to making long lasting and powerful connections.  When that happens we offer so much. And even before we do business, become close friends or share much of anything we have given a gift of art. Seth Godin in his new book The Icarus Deception says it so well:

“Art isn’t pretty. Art isn’t painting. Art isn’t something you hang on the wall. Art is what we do when we’re truly alive.”

Here is an example. My friend Dennis Rivera is a photographer with an incredible eye for beauty. He shows up everyday on my Instagram stream with images that capture my heart and inspire me to show up in my own way. And it does not stop there. Others see his art and respond the same way. But Dennis is not just a great photographer he is also the kind of person you want running your customer engagement campaign. In his own words he is “the most vocal person arguing for the customer, the reader, the end-user”. He has the wit and charm that is needed to help others navigate customer needs. He shows up.

True connection creates art. We are meant to create it together. And it begins by showing up with yours. Others will follow in your wake.

This is a second post in a series on the basics of connecting with others. The first post was all about the fear flinch and killing it: Nine Cold Showers: The Connection Flinch

If you like this series you might also like these: Disruption and listening.

The Day After: Grab a Pint and Keep a Friend

Last night, as the votes were tallied, electoral votes awarded, and speeches were given,  I was reminded how diverse my friends are. The updates coming in from Facebook and my inner circle on Twitter  showed statements so wide ranging that I am pretty sure some of them would never sit at the same table and share a meal. Am I overstating this? I don’t think so. But does it have to be this way?

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

– Thomas Jefferson

One of my favorite political science professors in college was on loan from Oxford for a season. I really enjoyed his removed perspective on American politics. One book he assigned us has stayed with me all these years and has helped me understand the polarity of our country when it comes to presidential politics. But even more so I think it helps us see how this polarity can often harm one of our deepest assets, our connectedness.

In Visible Saints, Edmund S. Morgan unpacks the history behind the original formation of communities in the colonies. Decision making was initially structured around the religious organizations stemmed out of the Puritan establishments. Tests were created to determine an individual’s salvation and thus your ability to vote not just within the church but as a community member. This (not surprisingly) opened a whole myriad of problems. How do we determine a persons heart? But I don’t want to talk theology here. I do want to draw attention to the consequence of that system: division. And that division has only spawned deeper separation.
That same professor shared with me how he was amazed that in Europe he often found himself at odds with friends over politics. They would have lively discussions in the pub over pints and even red-faced arguments over issues. But then they would walk outside, embrace each other, and go home as close of friends as when they had arrived.
My hope is that politics aside, we can push past what separates and divides us, and be friends, countrymen, brothers and sisters.