The Brilliance of Life, Published at MasticadoresUSA

Photo by Tobias Keller on Unsplash

I am so pleased to announce that my poem, The Brilliance of Life, is now available at MasticadoresUSA. Another big thank you to, Gabriela Marie Milton, and the team at MasticadoresUSA for their support, and for publishing this piece.

The Brilliance of Life

My heart breaks
with every
breath I take,
and though
I’ll keep moving,
there are times when
I just sit still,
and let the emotions
wash over me…

I would be honored if you would go here and read the rest of my poem. Thank you!

#poetry, #brilliance, #contemplation, #emotions, #introspection, #life, #love, #movement, #poem, #poems, #reflection

The Reflection Series #8: Causal Loop 101

People, Performance, and Progress

Have you ever heard of the concept, the causal loop? Well, though I am familiar with the concepts that make up the causal loop, in regard to people and performance, I had never really conceptualized them like I am about to present them here.

It is important in any leadership, nay, any team environment to understand a very basic principle. Ready? Good. Here it is.

People and performance both matter. Seems like common sense, yes? Well, often only one side of the causal loop is focused on, which creates an imbalance in a very functional system. How does it work? Good question. Let’s take a look, shall we.

The Causal Loop Albany, Oregon 2021 Photo taken by Author

The Causal Loop


In any system, symmetry, or balance, is created when all the system pieces work together. With both symmetry and balance, you can move forward, or produce an output, if you like. And, like any system, when one part is dysfunctional, or is not being paid attention to, the whole system suffers. It may, for instance, still produce an output, yet there will be long-term sacrifices.

It is common for leaders to get caught up in metrics. Meaning, at some point in their tenure, and sometimes this can last the entirety of their tenure, they become obsessed with “the numbers.” It matters less what those numbers, or metrics are, what matters, is that when, as a leader, we become obsessed with results, we forget about the people that make the results happen.

Without people, results are an impossibility. Therefore, if you find yourself stuck on metrics, remember, that focusing solely on outcomes may work for a time. Really, it may. Yet, a performance only approach is not sustainable. Period.

In time, what will occur is that people will burn out, quit, and overall morale will decline. Why? Because their needs are not being prioritized. Simple.

And, like any system, if the parts of the system are not being prioritized and taken care of, the system will, in time, fail. It will always occur this way. Always.


Now, conversely if as a leader you are always focused on the people, and never focus on the performance, the system will also become dysfunctional, yet will do so in a completely different way.

When the culture of a workplace is the single focus on a team, or in a department, or in an organization or business, then leadership is missing a very important part of the balance of creating and maintaining an effective system. Performance.

Simply, there must be a focus on both people and performance for movement, and eventual traction to occur. A balance, if you like.

Maintaining Balance

It is very normal on a team, any team, for the focus to shift back and forth between the workplace culture and the people, to performance. Shifting of this kind is especially normal on new teams.

I’ve written extensively about the team I work on, and have more forthcoming, and about how the entire first year was spent developing relationships. That was necessary. As it was necessary in year 2 to develop metrics, and in year 2.5 and 3 to focus on performance and people. Both.

There is a balance that can be found, and I imagine it is different on each team, and within each organizational or business culture. Yet, a leader can find it by paying attention. Paying attention to the people and the performance.

Movement and Traction

When you have achieved balance, know that the balance will never really truly be 50% people, 50% performance. Meaning, that sometimes there will be more of a focus on people, and at times on performance. It’s really most important to develop an awareness about how the causal loop functions as a system.

If you sway one way too far, you can move back to center, and vice versa.

Now, when you’ve increased your awareness about the causal loop, and pay attention to both people and performance, guess what?

Things will begin to move, and in some cases, like ours, move so quickly and beautifully, it is quite magical. And, once things start to move, traction will occur.

With traction, you are more than moving as a team. You are moving as a team while being pointed in the exact same direction all focused on the exact same goals and outcomes. Therefore, your performance and results show this truth.

Remember, it takes time to get to a balance between a focus on people and performance; and, that it is the awareness about the importance of both that matters. And, that? Well, that’s progress. Beautiful.

#people, #balance, #causal-loop, #leadershipdevelopment, #movement, #performance, #progress, #relationships, #selfdevelopment, #teamdevelopment, #traction

A Developmental Moment #3: Creating Vulnerability, Movement, and Traction

3 Reasons Why Vulnerability is A Key Ingredient to Creating Movement and Traction for Ourselves and the World

Photo by Deva Darshan on Unsplash

I’ve written about vulnerability often this past year. Why? Well, I do believe that vulnerability is one of the most important gateways to our own development. Pretty simple really.

Vulnerability conceptually is simple, as most things conceptually are. However, practicing vulnerability, well, that’s a whole different experience.

We can talk about concepts often and at length, however, when we put those concepts, like vulnerability, into practice in our lives, they can often feel very uncomfortable. And, vulnerability is no exception.

Yet, it is so important for each of us to find new ways, which are safe, to put vulnerability into practice in our lives. Safe? Meaning, where we are with people we trust and can rely upon. Important, as when we are vulnerable, we are bearing a side of ourselves that is, for lack of a better way to explain it, raw.

Raw, meaning, that these sides of ourselves have not been exposed to, what can sometimes be harsh conditions in the world, so we must take care when we practice our vulnerability.

Now, when we find those spaces and places where we can be the vulnerable-selves we know ourselves to be, so that we can grow and learn, there are many things we will get back from our environments, and ourselves, which makes practicing vulnerability quite the exquisite experience. What, prey are those things?

Right. Well, in this article we will explore three of them. Three reasons, as I think about it, why it is important for us to practice vulnerability regularly, so that we may grow into the next iteration of ourselves.

Ready? Good. Here we go.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

1. Learn

Wow, how important is learning? Pretty important, right? Yep, I agree. Well, to learn more about the world, and the people in it, we must first, learn about ourselves. And, being actively vulnerable is key. Why?

Because we get to learn about aspects of ourselves that were previously unavailable. For instance, if you are nervous about public speaking, as I once was, and you always resist public speaking, well, you will never learn about the experience of public speaking. And?

That’s perfectly okay. However, if you are interested in tapping into a reservoir of untapped potential, then being vulnerable in the area of public speaking will be a gateway to your learning more about yourself as a public speaker.

The only way to become a public speaker is to do public speaking. You can read every book that was ever written on the topic, and still never become a public speaker. Whereas book knowledge is helpful, it is in the vulnerable practice of public speaking, for example, where we create the possibility of becoming a public speaker.

Photo by Product School on Unsplash

2. Know

Now, as we practice vulnerability, and venture into environments that we previously resisted, we learn more about the experience of, staying with the previous example, being a public speaker. And?

Then, we get the experience of knowing what it is like to be a public speaker. Again, the only way to know what it’s like to be a public speaker is to become one. Meaning, to take one step, or one action, toward the realization of your goal to become a public speaker.

And, guess what? You get to control how big those steps are. When we actively participate in being vulnerable, we set the pace. It’s iterative. It takes time.

There was a time when I was terrified of public speaking. And, I mean terrified. Then when I was about 28, I wanted to become a leader in the company I was working for at the time. Well, there is lots of public speaking in leadership. Lots of it. And? I took one small step at a time. One step, led to the next, and so on.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

3. Grow

And, the steps I just wrote about? That is growth. That’s what it looks like. You set a goal outside of your comfort zone, knowing you will have to be vulnerable to get there, and you take a step each day, or every other day, or once a week, or month.

Again, you control the pace.

Growth is an experience. It happens in the world by taking actions that we’ve not taken before. And, to take actions we’ve not taken before, especially when we are fearful or anxious, requires courage, yes, and it requires vulnerability.

Courage and vulnerability go hand-in-hand. In fact, there is a super cool quote I’ve drawn upon a few times from Brené Brown that speaks to this truth. Here it is.

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.” -Brené Brown

Book Riot

Powerful. And, it’s been my experience that vulnerability and courage are linked. In fact, I believe they are one and the same. You cannot be courageous without being vulnerable, and you cannot be vulnerable without being courageous. They are one.

Photo by Dimon Blr on Unsplash

Movement and Traction

Now, as you learn more about yourself, and begin to tap into your vulnerable areas, you also begin to know more and grow more. These three, learning, knowing, and growing are also linked. And, the concept that lies behind them? Yep. It is an experience.

When we are in action, and experiencing life, living our life in vulnerable ways, we are creating movement. Movement for ourselves, yes, and for those around us. Meaning, when we move our own development forward, we move the development forward of the people around us.

It’s the way it works.

And, when we continue this pattern? Well, traction will inevitably follow. Meaning, that as we continue to grow, and those around us grow, we create contexts never seen before. Seriously. It’s not possible that they’ve been seen, because you are doing things you’ve never done before. Beautiful.

It’s inside of this movement and traction, and these new contexts, where the possibility to change the world lives. And, I mean this literally. The world is always moved forward from contexts that contain both courage and vulnerability.

And, remember you do have the power to change the world. We all do. What does it take?

Learning more, knowing more, and growing more in contexts that were previously unavailable to us. And, creating these contexts takes courage, yes, and vulnerability. So?

Be courageous, embrace your vulnerability, and change the world for the better. One action at a time.

#courage, #grow, #growth, #know, #leadershipdevelopment, #learn, #life, #movement, #personaldewvelopment, #professionaldevelopment, #traction, #vulnerability, #vulnerabilityandcourage

A 3-minute Reflection on 3 Ways to Display and Visualize Linear Data

How Being Mindful About Our Learning Styles Creates Movement

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Several months ago, I wrote the article How We Learn, and Why it’s Important to Understand. Though I’ve always been interested in and engaged with learning styles, the pandemic has brought the need to consider new ways to continue to learn in a way that fits our particular learning styles even more present for me. And?

Well, I had an insight this week about visual learners, of which, I am one. And, thought about how important it is to ensure that no matter where we are called to work, or what data we are called to work on, that we can all access ideas and tools that can assist our efforts to continue to move ourselves forward.

Alright, so in this 3-minute reflection, I am including three ways that I create opportunities to feed the hyper-visual learner that I am. Ready? Good. Here we go.

Photo by Nareeta Martin on Unsplash

1. Print the Data and Display It

Much of the data our team uses is linear. Simply meaning that there is an order to whatever data we are handling, or using, such as step 1, 2, and then, 3. Simple.

Yet, when we are only looking at a set of steps, such as steps 1 through 3, for instance, we may not see how step 3 may be correlated, or, rather, affect step 17. And, it is important that we consider these other possible correlations.

I find great utility in printing and displaying data on an open surface. It allows me to see the data from a different perspective, and gets me away from the computer, which though very helpful, can become limiting. Limiting how? Good question. Here is an example.

The team I work on has many projects going on at the same time, with different leads from different programs. And, just like other team members, I lead my share. Now, with my projects, I will print out an aspect of that project, it may be the latest iteration of some language or numbers I want to consider, and display each one with all of the other projects I’m working on. It looks like this.

December 17, 2012

The reason that the printing and displaying technique is so effective is that it also allows me to see across programs, to possible correlations between them. The intersections of which create more synergy and foster new outputs and outcomes for our team. Super fun.

2. Display the Data Differently

Another technique we like to use is to simply display data differently. An example? Sure.

I’ve written previously about the vision we’ve created on this team, and have also written about department-level and individual-level priorities; and, how important it is that individual priorities connect to the department priorities and the larger departmental vision. These connections ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction, and that we are pointed towards our vision.

However, if you simply look at a list of priorities with a vision say as a header to a linear document, there is utility, yet it is rather lackluster. Meaning, we can do better to ensure that people see all of the priorities; and, fully understand how their priorities and the actions that live inside of those priorities are connected to the department.

Here is a very simple visual example of what that looks like.

December 17, 2020

This mind map was created using Venngage, which is a fun tool for taking linear data and making that data visual. Helpful.

These types of visualizations also let people see how their work is connected to their teammates. Especially teammates in other programs they might not see as much. Also helpful.

3. Whiteboards

Of course we’re going to discuss whiteboards, one of my favorite ways to display linear and nonlinear data and information. And, yep, it can go both ways.

Meaning, that you can start with linear data and then create nonlinear ideas and connections, just as you can start with nonlinear data and create a linear system that works for the project you are working on.

Here is an example of a linear and nonlinear whiteboard I did about some future writing I have in mind.

December 17, 2020

Here you can see the linear thinking in the sectioning off of information by parts, and then the nonlinear, which there is more of, in the variously, and in some ways haphazardly, written constructs and concepts. What am I doing? Good question.

I am getting ideas out of my mind and onto a medium that will allow me to continue to iterate these constructs and concepts for future use. As the work unfolds, there is always something I see differently and learn about, which would have been unavailable to me without working the whiteboard process as I do. Much fun.

How you manage to continue to feed your visual nature matters much less than you create the opportunity to visualize data and information in ways that continue to take your thinking, and that of your teams, further.

When we are mindful about how we learn, we can create all kinds of new possibilities that allow us to step outside of the limitations that are found in very helpful systems, like computer technology.

And, when we do so, we open up new ways to view, think, internalize, and reflect upon these data and information in ways that were previously unavailable to us, which can create more movement for ourselves and our teams.

#correlativedata, #data-and-information, #displaying, #intersectionswithinandbetweendata, #learningstyles, #linear, #movement, #nonlinear, #visualizing, #whiteboards