the perspective from the top deck

journey view metaphor life
I journeyed the other evening on the top deck of the 436 bus. In the front seat.

The view was a panorama of life. Lights, noise, people, machines, movement. London at its liveliest.

Yet I noticed how journeying this way seems somewhat removed from reality. The bus sways in a slightly disconcerting manner. It rounds corners in a less than natural movement. An almost crab like sideways slide, conjoined with a floating sway. Perhaps delivered through a combination of where the front axle is and the height and flex of the bus carcass? The sensation in my seat is one of disconnect from the road. Not grounded. A little in conflict with the laws of motion; arguing against gravity.

My journey moved to train. A rhythmic sway, merged with sleepy hum as the world rushes past. Not the panorama of the bus front seat, but a sideways glance at a speeding blend of nature and manmade construct. More grounded in one sense, definitely more urgent, more purposeful, but a perspective on life and the world that sped past without detail, without richness.

My final leg was by car. In control, driving. Close to the ground, direct response between feet, hands and movement. Yet my attention focused solely on the road – the journey ahead, the vehicles, the junctions, the risks. No time for sideways glances, no time to really notice people, activity, beauty.

I wonder how much time we spend in our lives travelling in one of these metaphors?

Either stood back, with a wider perspective, but somehow floating above reality? A little disoriented. Observing, but not involved?

Or speeding forward, intent on reaching our goal quickly but with little opportunity to notice the world around us other than an oblique awareness of the blur of movement?

Or deciding our own path, in control of our destiny, our own speed, but necessarily focused on the journey ahead. One lens, one angle of view with little capacity for enjoying our surroundings?

so, how do I change that?

service change
If my car stops working, I take it to a dealer or garage and say please fix this. Generally that works. In part, that’s because the car is one of many identical models. It has a specification. The mechanics are trained and no doubt have detailed on line manuals describing how every part works as well as knowledge of the steps required to breathe life back into those parts that don’t.

We all possess many ‘things’.  If they stop functioning to our needs we fix them, or we replace them.

We are so used to this, we somehow seek to apply the same laws of our materialistic consumerist world to our very humanity.

But here’s the thing…
Human beings are inordinately more complicated and each one is stunningly and beautifully unique. No manual. No like for like replacements.

To hope that all of your learning, life experience and behavioural pattern making since birth, can somehow be re-modelled in a few simple steps … a bit like reprogramming the central heating timer … is curious.

And yet we do.

I often get asked in coaching sessions a question a bit like this one … “So how do I change that?”

It’s almost as if we believe we’ve just missed out on a chapter in the ‘How to be a happy human being’ book. Or perhaps misinterpreted some instruction along the living highway which explained how we were supposed to be. Or maybe that we think someone else messed it up for us, so now we have become aware we can just change course, tweak something, switch out one part for a new one. Whatever our thinking about how we came to be like this, we seem to think this ‘expert’ in front of us, this ‘human mechanic’, can somehow put us right.

Changing ourselves is hard work. Rewarding, but always hard work.

And as we set out on that journey, we would do well to remember that we are unique. To value that uniqueness. To seek to enhance and grow what is, not discard it as broken or not good enough.

the transition to Autumn

autumn season
I like this time of year.

The light is different. The colours somehow deeper. The air somehow crisper.

Change is coming, as evidenced in the leaves and the trees, yet there is something peaceful about the shades of Autumn. A calm, crisp beauty and a rich palette of colour in nature.

I notice how the properties of Autumn align for me with things that matter to me. Light, depth, peace, beauty and a uniqueness of difference in colour reflecting human diversity…

Maybe your favourite season is Autumn too, but it says something different to you?

Maybe your season is Spring? New shoots, new life, bracing breezes, changeable weather, possibilities?

Maybe Summer? Maybe Winter?

Which season is your favourite and what does it say about you?

the gift of light, the tune of life

light gets in

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That is how the light gets in

Leonard Cohen

We only see, because light enters our eyes.
Light illuminates everything.

Yet so often we try and keep light out. If we aren’t perfect, we attempt to conceal our weaknesses, our failings. Our judgement of self means we often wrap up our gifts, our truth, our own light. All sealed up like a neatly wrapped Christmas gift, with tape on every edge. Our gifts wrapped safe, but hidden from view.

We do this, not just in our work, our projects, our outputs, our external offerings to the world. So too with parts of our internal self, our humanity. We attempt to neatly package away our mistakes, our unwelcome behaviours, our memories, our judgements, our fears and our dreams.

Often we wrap them badly. So that despite our efforts, when shaken, the contents leak out.

Still we persist, as if boxing them neatly away is the best thing. The safe option. Yet as the lyric suggests, we simply give ourselves fewer bells. Our melody is simplified. Our music reduced to a few chords or notes. We are less.

Maybe we should embrace the cracks? Enjoy the light? Peek in through the partly open corner, remove a small piece of tape and see what the dim light illuminates?

Seek to play our tune with all of our musicality?
Percussion adding brightness to woodwind,
strings showing dexterity to booming brass,
baritone adding depth to our tenor?

the shadow cast by judgement

shadow judgement
I was struck the other day by two meanings for the word judgement.

In a meeting we were lamenting the loss of a capability to make judgement calls. The ability to hold uncertainty. How rules, laws, policies etc have made us over sensitive to getting it wrong.  What’s the ‘right way?’ we ask. Our risk averse nature in an essentially critical world would seem to make the art of judgement a difficult tool to handle.

In a separate conversation we were discussing the dangers of judgement. The judgement we all make about other people and about ourselves. The way, in an increasingly diverse and inclusive world, we still jump to conclusions about people and equally get stuck in our own patterns of judgement about ourselves.

Wanting greater judgement, yet at the same time challenging its use.

I looked to the dictionary.  The relevant definitions are “the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions” or “an opinion or conclusion”

Perhaps that’s the point?  One misses the ‘considered’ or ‘sensible’.  Jumping to an opinion or conclusion without considering alternative perspectives, without seeking to explode well worn patterns and subjectivity?

Judging ourselves and judging others casts a shadow over our lives.

It strikes me, we need to get better at this, as human beings.


the emergence of the selfie

looking at self
What gets a lexicographer up in the morning? Where does the energy come from?

Maybe the advent of new words? Maybe the evolution of old ones?

Selfie is a new word. This sudden penchant for capturing ourselves against our current environment. Looking at ourselves in our context. Getting an arms length perspective. Using a selfie stick to get even greater perspective. To see from further out. To fit more of our situation in.

Our desire to share these 2D representations of self in these static snapshots of life, is curious. We seem strangely reluctant to show ourselves in living 3D, in reality, as we exist in the world with other human beings. Alive. Both beautiful and beautifully flawed.

Of course we have always had the ability to look at ourselves from the outside. Inside our head. Long before technology gave us the ability to record an image, many of us did that in our mind’s eye. Imagined it. We see ourselves in that awkward conversation. See ourselves in that meeting where we were criticised. See ourselves in that beautiful moment of joy, of fun, of love.

Our mind’s eye has an important advantage over the selfie. We are not limited to the current moment. Not limited to a selfie snap and a hard drive of past experiences captured in still reflection. Inside, we can do this imaging, this ‘selfie’, for our future too. Imagine our own future. Our upcoming holiday. Our new home to be. We can manipulate the image – past or present. Make it brighter, more colourful, turn it around, zoom in or out. Take parts out, add parts in.

Take a mental selfie now of where you will be next week, next month, next year.

Perspective and context are crucial to our humanity. They allow us to see possibility, to reflect, to dream, to make sense, to know we’re ok.


Remember too though that living, sharing, enjoying reality in the moment are more deeply human. Share the gift of you, now, in glorious living technicolour. Not just in smiling, staged, two dimension tomorrow.

Don’t just take a selfie. Be one.

Lexicographers – let’s add ‘be a selfie’

stuck in the tunnel of life

stuck tunnel life
My tube train stopped today at Edgware Road. The driver informed us that we would be held there for a while. There was a problem with the train in front.

It got me thinking. If a train becomes completely immovable, what happens then? The tunnel, the only route forward, is blocked. I guess we would all decamp and be forced to exit the platform, leave the station and find another way to our destination. Or I guess we could wait. Wait for life, for someone else to remove the blockage so that we can continue on our chosen path.

It struck me that in the event that this happened, we would just cope. Sure we might moan that we’ll be late, gripe about the cost of tickets and the poor service, worry that we don’t know how to get to our destination, but we would find a way. We would move on. Yet in life we often get stuck and stay stuck. Unable to see another path, we become disabled.

Of course London Underground would probably have staff available. Advice would be on hand. Guidance about how to get to our destination. Failing that, we would simply surface and surf. The Internet would tell us what to do.

Life isn’t like that. Even if people are around to listen or to give advice, our life situation is more complex, more individual, more unique, than the tube journey. The Internet doesn’t offer solutions to complicated life problems, riddled with feelings, entwined with complexities of relationship, weighed down with challenges of expectation, paralysed with the fear of coming up short in some way.

As fellow human beings, we seem hopelessly ill equipped to support each other, even if we were minded to.

Maybe this is the Internet we really need?

making meaning from now

making meaning from now
The concept of ‘now’ intrigues me.

I have always considered myself someone who is very present, in the moment, in the ‘now’. But reading something in a book by Steve Chapman the other day, gave me a different language to describe it. This is what I took from what I read…

Time as we know it, is a social construction, a human invention, something that over many centuries we have honed and agreed universally as a good way of orienting ourselves to movements of the solar system, and to getting to our next meeting on time!

The most obvious ever-present reminders of the concept of time, are the clock and the calendar.  These have developed over centuries from lunar calendars to solar calendars, sundials etc… to, I guess, the i-watch.

This clock time, or chronos time – the on going perpetual march of seconds, minutes, hours – ticks away on our watches, clocks and electronic systems all over the world.

Daniel Stern argues that if chronos time were real, then the moment of ‘now’ would be so fleeting that we would never be able to dwell on it long enough to make meaning of the experience.  We would in effect be goldfish, with each ‘now’ moment lasting +/- one second; the unit of chronos.

The Greek concept of kairos offers an alternative perspective. Kairos is a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature. In kairos there are no seconds, minutes, hours, just the idea that kairos time is a passing moment of consciousness, in which something happens that offers us new meaning in our experience.

The author of my book summarises the two like this…

chronos time is a concept informed by clocks
kairos time is a concept informed by meaning

What would happen in organisations if we abandoned chronos time and just interacted, communicating, learning, until a new collective meaning emerged?

Meetings wouldn’t have agenda items with start and end points, but each item would be explored until collective new meaning emerged. Some agenda items might take five minutes, some items ten times as long.

Of course for this to work, people need to be open to learning, open to having generative conversations, open to enquiry with others as to where collective meaning existed, or was lacking.  People would need to be very present in this ‘moment of meaning making’. No longer slaves to chronos time, people would interact throughout the day until sufficient meaning had emerged for individuals to move forward, for the business to move forward.

In such a kairos informed culture I wonder if this would make us more curious, more exploratory, more accepting of alternative viewpoints and enable us to both seek meaning in our work and in our lives? It might also free us to play with our creative spirit.

What would happen if we lived our lives to kairos time? Not just at work, but all our experiences?

Even as you read this, you may be seeking to find new meaning for you?

Welcome to kairos 🙂