Category Archives: Language

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

You know that shocking experience when you are driving to a known destination and then get lost in your thoughts? At some point, you snap back to attention and wonder, “How did I get here, I wasn’t even thinking about it?!” That is neuroplasticity or brain plasticity. It is an amazing capability we all have and can be nurtured and utilized throughout our lives. Yes, “old dogs CAN learn new tricks“.

What is this phenomenon?

Mike Torres, of Refocuser, gives an excellent definition, as well as an explanation of function, in his piece Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits.

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice. An example of how neuroplasticity works: when you view the brains of people who frequently practice playing the violin under fMRI (functional MRI) they appear to have developed a larger area of their brain devoted to mapping their fingers.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

This change is directly related to the quantity and the quality of the practice they’re performing – their brains are adapting in very real and tangible ways unbeknownst to them... The more practice you accumulate, the more ingrained or grooved the pathways become.  Of course the inverse happens as well: if those pathways aren’t utilized, the space will be used by other pathways needing room to grow. Use it or lose it! …Your brain can change based on repeated experience…People of any age have the ability to learn new things and form new habits. Mike Torres, Refocuser

Watching Nathan play intricate, complicated runs on his classical guitar boggles my mind. How can he think that fast? It’s lots of practice that causes the brain to connect to the hands, and those difficult pieces get “under his fingers” almost without thinking.

Years ago a friend gave us this book Never Too Late by John Holt. In his “musical life story”, Holt describes how he learned to play the cello in his 40s. We were encouraged by this during a time we moved to Egypt and learned Arabic in mid-life…when language-learning is supposed to be especially difficult.

I love neuroplasticity but it gives me hope, in getting older, of keeping skills and developing new ones, even as an aging person…unless I give in to dumbed-down practices excusing myself for the same reasons of “getting too old”.

When my older brother suffered a stroke, it was neuroplasticity and the repeated efforts of his medical and therapy team that got him back on his feet. He finally “repeatedly practiced” his way back to independence. The personality changes seemed more ingrained, however, they changed, too, as he exchanged his anger and bitterness for a hopefulness and longing for healthy, loving relationships. As he refused to give into anger and chose soft responses, his personality seriously changed over time…with conscious that eventually turned unconscious practice.

How does all this apply to us in the workplace and life, in general? We are confronted at times with a situation that confounds us – a new uncomfortable skillset, an unpredictable relationship, or an unfamiliar decision-making process. Neuroplasticity helps us to not just give up on mastering either a new work process or a complicated interpersonal situation.

Debbie Hampton has written an excellent summary piece on this that will help kick-start any new habit formation necessary for us to continue to do excellently in our work. She was influenced by Dr. Michael Merzenich’s work published in his book Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. I have listed below Merzenich’s 10 elements of how we can rewire our brain. You will find Hampton’s summary on each very instructive. [I comment briefly on each but don’t miss what she says in her article.]

10 Core Principles for Remodeling Your Brain

1. Change is mostly limited to  those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. We have to want to learn and change. If we give up, stay resigned to the status quo, or remain fed-up, change will not happen. Want change!

2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse)  the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. Focus and persistence or key to mastery.

3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. Practice strengthens pathways for behavior. Whether it’s learning a new computer system or developing a different way of communicating with a boss…practice hard-wires.

4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to cell cooperation, which is crucial for increasing reliability. I see this in musicians who live-stream and can read listener chats, respond to them, and continue playing all at the same time. Crazy.

5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This is definitely the mechanism that gets us to our destination when we stop thinking about where we’re going.

6. Initial changes are temporary. Habit formation takes time, and somehow the brain interprets whether the change is vital. Amazing.

7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. At the simplest level, this is the mechanism of how we “talk ourselves through” a situation. Or when an athlete goes through his routine in his mind before he’s back out on the track or in the pool.

8. Memory guides and controls most learning. Our brain actually helps us to remember what we did well and discards what we didn’t.

9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize — and reduce the disruptive power of — potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” The more we practice, either a physical skill or a way of thinking through a problem, we actually get better at it because somehow the brain reduces the background noise (which can include insecurity, fear of failure or self-doubt).

10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. Dr. Merzenich warns us, as we get older that we “use it or lose it” by our own decisions to stop learning and mastering new skills and behaviors.

Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

How are you using neuroplasticity to help you continue to grow in your work and personal life? Trevor Blake encourages us to set the tone of the day positively and don’t defect from that. Using self-defeating language can blur our focus and mental capacity for mastery. Read more of his excellent counsel here.

As we age, or give in to “what is” at the moment (tracks greased by depression sometimes, or perceived lack of ability or opportunity), we may not realize the great positive effects of neuroplasticity. However, the good news is that we can keep learning and changing and mastering what work and life and relationships bring our way. It’s never too late.

 

Neuroplasticity: Your Brain’s Amazing Ability to Form New Habits – Mike Torres

How to Rewire Your Brain for Success – Trevor Blake

Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life – Trevor Blake

Brain HQ Website

How Does Neuroplasticity Work – an Infographic

Never Too Late: My Musical Life Story – John Holt

Deadly: Brain on Multitasking – Bukunmi Adewumi

Toxic Thoughts – Dr. Caroline Leaf

Saturday Short – Eating Healthy – Elastic Is Not So Much My Friend As a Close Acquaintance

Photo Credit: Sweet Little Bluebird

Sitting at my desk, I’m sitting very straight with great posture thanks to the corseting effect of jeans that fit me better a few months back. Struggling into those button-top, zippered jeans was one of those New Year wake-up calls. Eating healthier is usually one of my top resolutions, but it didn’t make the list this time…well…yet.

I was going to write how elastic is my friend and then discovered a West Coaster named Aurea has a food blog by that name (Elastic Is My Friend). Then, given my wrestling on this pair of jeans, I’m thinking elastic is more a close acquaintance…not as close as these jeans feel right now, but much preferred over them.

A friend of mine and I talk a lot about language.  Words are a great interest of mine, and it’s fascinating how their usage changes over time. Take the word “muffin tops“. In another “once upon a time”, muffin tops (that bulge over the top of our too-tight jeans) was called “love handles”.  The latter is a much more affectionate or endearing phrase than the first. Both words are a bit of a tease, as in poking-fun-at-sort-of-thing, but Urban Dictionary gives us women, at least, a break. Its definition calls love handles cute, curvy, etc.

Photo Credit: Foodiggity

Anyway, I digress.

Eating healthier would definitely help me become friends with both elastic and these jeans, which are causing me to breathe more shallowly than is probably healthy right now.

What would help me eat more healthy? Not all the diets out there that are either trendy or costly…just not into all that focus on food.

In the not too distant past, I have turned my eating habits around and made jeans my friend using three actions.

  1. Lay off the sugar. – Everything has sugar in it. Well, almost everything. I’m not into extreme food plans, but just getting sugar out of my  diet for a few weeks or months has resulted in weight loss, a change in my appetite, and even my food preferences. Since everything has sugar in it, I’m not talking about everything, but the obvious concentrated sugar foods.
  2. No Fast Food. – When I prepare food, I tend to make healthier food than when I drive-through or pick up something on the run. Not rocket science, but for me, it has to be something I resolve. Just too easy to pull in and pick up a fast lunch or beverage.
  3. Eating Stops at 7:00pm. At some point, I have to determine to “Stop the Madness!” For me, if I exit the kitchen by 7:00pm (not carrying food) and just don’t go back in there…my habits and cravings will change. They have before…they can again.

So mid-way through January, in a pair of jeans I can still fit in…I’m resolved to begin moving in this direction. Not the strongest resolve I’ve had going into a new year, but stronger than I had this morning.

Elastic…aaaaaahhh. Looking forward to peeling out of these jeans and putting on my pajamas later…AND closing the door on the kitchen at 7:00pm.

I’m thinking there could be some sort of conspiracy in the fitness clothing industry how it’s all so stretchy and comfy, with elastic at the waist. Effective for work-outs but just as lovely lounging on the couch in front of the TV…with that enormous bowl of popcorn or dish of ice cream.Photo Credit: NYTimes, NPR, Pinterest

Sheesh!

Focus! Need to definitely keep wearing these jeans until bedtime.

How about you? Any helps in forming habits where we don’t need such close friendships with elastic? Please share in Comments.

YouTube Video – ActiveWear

YouTube Video – Fed Up – Official Trailer

5 Friday Faves – Thanksgiving Infographic, Emotional Intelligence, Christmas Commercials, Friends, and Dancing

Blog - Friday Faves

Well, Friends…we made it through another week. Given the world we live in these days, that’s something to celebrate. As I sit in my favorite work space besides my desk at home, listening to a friend’s Pandora picks, I’m so grateful for one more week and all the good in our lives.

Hope your week was remarkable and your discoveries sweet. Here are five of mine. Please share your favorite finds in the Comments below. I have learned so much in the last couple of weeks about how others think about the events of these days…growing my understanding is such a good thing. Thank you.

1) Thanksgiving Day Infographic – Natalie Brown of Buzzfeed posted an incredibly helpful infographic for those of us who are cooking that Thanksgiving dinner – 19 Charts on all things yummy for the holiday table. This is my favorite such find this week. Two other articles listed out multiple such infographics. Ysolt Usigan posted nine Thanksgiving infographics for all you who may love infographics like I do. Morgan Hauck listed another 6.  Everyone’s family has their own particular traditions. Along with all the favorite dishes filling the table, my mom-in-law will have Bible verses, on giving thanks, by our plates. Taking turns saying around the table what we’re thankful for is part of our Thanksgiving custom as well…sort of a given. I also found this list of questions/conversation starters…not that we need any further help with Pinterest and all. Still…I love anything that stirs conversation on a day when family gathers for food and football.blog-thanksgiving-dinner-she-knowsPhoto Credit: She Knows

2) Emotional Intelligence – OK…so there are smart people and then there are emotionally intelligent people. If you don’t have a sense of the difference in these two, Paul Sohn posted an infographic (yay!) that gives an excellent description of emotional intelligence. There are a lot of smart people out there but what a joy when your boss, as smart as he may be, is also a great communicator wit and appreciator of people. blog-emotional-intelligence-ucreativePhoto Credit: UCreative

3) Christmas Commercials – Even when true-life hard things leave me dry-eyed from the starkness of the situation, a Hallmark commercial during the Christmas holidays regularly cause me to tear up. In recent years, the UK John Lewis Department Store Christmas TV adverts have also touched my heart. My favorite Christmas commercial so far this year comes to us from Heathrow Airport in London. Two oldish Teddy Bears…but so much more.blog-coming-home-for-christmas-newsodyPhoto Credit: NewsOdy

I won’t give it away (watch it here), but it probably affects me so much in thinking how we are not always able to be with all our family at Christmas…and what a joy it is when we are.

YouTube Video – Top 5 Christmas Adverts 2016 UK

4) Friends – Ben Keslen wrote a piece earlier this year on the benefit of good friends. He cites research on how close friendships help us live longer, fight depression and stress, and generally adds to our happiness and well-being. Not exactly rocket science, but fueling the fire to go out to make friends if either our lifestyle or season of life has drawn us into a more solitary existence. blog-old-friends-john-lundblog-friends-inspowerPhoto Credit: ; John Lund; Inspower

Keslen did give an exception, pointing to a different study that demonstrated that really intelligent people have a less significant need for friends. Odd but interesting. I’m very thankful for good friendships that have endured through great change and separation.

Swiping Right on New Friends – Caroline Lester

5) Dancing – I don’t listen to pop music much these days. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar arranges music themes from video games, movies, and TV shows. I listen to that pop music often. Occasionally, thanks to Facebook and other social media, a few songs grab my attention. Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling is one of those happy songs that makes you want to move with it…even me. Dancing is something of a jubilation…a response to words and music that I never want to get too old to enjoy! See if you can listen without moving.

Bonus: One of the most beautiful languages in the world is Arabic. Too often heard in our news in the context of war and political unrest, I wanted to post this short piece on the 10 Most Common Expressions About Love in Arabic.

blog-love-in-arabic-flickrPhoto Credit: Flickr

Have a restful and restorative weekend, Folks. Amidst these days of change and stretching news cycle we’re experiencing in the States, post-election, I hope you found something here to lift your heart a bit. Then…we get back out there and do all we can to “bring good news to the poor; …bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” [whatever binds us]. (Isaiah 61:1)

Keep dancing!blog-dancing-in-the-church-fred-luterPhoto Credit: Blog.Al

Monday Morning Moment – Stewardship – Stewarding My Part Well in Today’s Workplace

Blog - Stewardship - work.chronPhoto Credit: Work.Chron

All of life is stewardship. Doesn’t it make sense? Our jobs, our relationships, our personalities, and our future have multiple layers. When we think of stewardship, rather than ownership, or entitlement, or giftings, or personal rights, we take on a much broader, healthier view or life. Writing about it previously here, I wanted to focus more, this time, on our workplace.

In 1993, Peter Block wrote a revolutionary book entitled Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest. He updated and expanded it twenty years later (in 2013). Block defines stewardship as “the willingness to be accountable for the well-being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us. Stated simply, it is accountability without control or compliance”.

Words mean things.  When we use the word “steward”, we loosen our grip on ownership – of our job, title, product, and work relationships. However, we do not loosen our commitment on personal responsibility. This is the gem of stewardship – a gem in the workplace that can be mined by each one of us.

Years ago, in nursing school, we used Virginia Henderson’s definition of nursing which focused more on facilitating the patient’s return to caring for him/herself than on the “giving care” component we often think of with nurses. Nursing as stewardship. When our children came along, we as parents would need to decide whether to home school or put our children into a private or public school.  Another parent gave us wise counsel: Whatever your decision, you are responsible for your children’s education, some of which you may contract out to other teachers or institutions. We, as parents, were stewards of our children’s education.

In the workplace, we have heard the word steward used in the service industry: union shop stewards, ship stewards, stewards on airlines, stewards of estates. However, the stewardship that Block describes can proliferate at all levels, especially if our leaders set this value and mindset. What if an organization determined to have an inclusive model of accountability where all employees operated by serving, rather than controlling, those in their influence (colleagues, customers, vendors)?  What if we chose to apply ourselves to the work before us, with deep personal care and commitment, rather than under a boss’s control or need for our compliance?

Stewardship as a concept and value is both time-tested and trendy. Check out REI‘s commitment to customers in delivering quality outdoor gear…and also to its employees. Stewardship.Blog - Stewardship - slideplayerPhoto Credit: Slideplayer

My first encounter with this word, stewardship, was as a child hearing the parable of a master preparing to leave on a journey. He entrusted the three servants with some measure of his wealth (talents). Their master had given each varying amounts of money, according to each servant’s ability. The master would be away for some period of time and meant for his servants to “steward” the money. Two servants invested his money in such a way that each doubled the amount entrusted them. The third servant, fearing the master (and possibly lacking confidence in his own ability), hid the money entrusted to him. He only had what he’d received in the beginning to give back to the master. The first two servants were rewarded for their faithfulness, care, and initiative, but the last cautious, fearful servant suffered the consequences of his inaction.

There is much to learn about stewardship from this old story. Stewardship is taking personal responsibility and interest in quality of service or product and depth of relationship. Like in the story, it could mean taking risks ourselves or with each other (especially leaders entrusting other team members with decision-making and design). It means empowering others in discussions and details that we might prefer keeping for ourselves (except that we are stewarding toward a larger outcome). It means making investments in others and in the over-all organization. Stewardship is the embodiment of employee engagement…all-in, whatever it takes, for that greater good. Lastly, the story spoke to rewards for those diligently stewarding what was placed in their care, and the consequences of those who refuse to be engaged…which leads to a place nobody really wants to go.quotes of bill gatesPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

Leaders and managers who are willing to give up control and who genuinely care about their employees and customers become true stewards themselves. They set the standard for stewarding across a company. Whether leaders are on board or not, any of us can still have ownership of a new-old way of thinking and practice. We can steward well what is our responsibility or under our influence. Again, this type of “ownership” is not about owning the job, the product, or the relationship. Stewardship is the owning of our personal responsibility – our piece of what could be excellent, and our piece of what’s not going well, and applying our experience, knowledge, giftings, and heart to benefit all touched by our service. Our stewardship.

BLog - Stewardship - 2 - whatcomlandtrustPhoto Credit: Whatcomlandtrust

What are your stories? Do you see the impact of your stewardship? Of the stewardship of others? Could you see how this might color the culture at your workplace? Is your company one where top-down, bottom-up, people care about each other and what they’re doing? It shows…if you are, or if you’re not. Stewardship.

Blog - Stewardship - John Wesley - QuotesgramPhoto Credit: Quotesgram

Monday Morning Moment – All of Life Is Stewardship

Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest (2nd Ed.) – Peter Block

Five Lessons for Our Lives From the Parable of the Talents – Hugh Whelchel

Monday Morning Success – How Biblical Stewardship Transforms Your Work – Hugh Whelchel

Blog - Stewardship - Winston Churchill quote - ololmke

Photo Credit: OLOLmke

Transcendent Condescension – What Is That and Is It a Good Thing? Oh, Absolutely!

Blog - Condescension - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery - thegospelcoalition.orgPhoto Credit: The Gospel Coalition

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8

There are words, it seems, we can’t use any more in polite company – words that have changed as culture changes and have been altered, perverted, in the common language. I have happened on such words by using them and then being gently corrected by my 20-something-young friends. “That word doesn’t mean what you think anymore.”

Condescension seems to be one of those words. In today’s usage, it  has come to mean “an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain”. Merriam-Webster has retained some of the fuller meaning of the word: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.

Our most recent Advent service at Movement Church focused on the transcendent condescension of God. Pastor Cliff spoke on it and our worship team led us in singing Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (lyrics follow below). As we were catching up with visiting friends and their young adult children, we had this lively conversation on whether referring to God as condescending was correct or not.

Oh yes…in the fullest sense of that word!

Hang in there with me as I take you through a quick study of the word…with the help of others much smarter than I am.

“God is condescending.

It’s true. However, the problem is not that God is condescending, but that most people have no idea what condescending really means, nor why it should be a good thing that God has such an attitude.

If you were paying attention during high school English class, you know that there are actually two definitions for every word. One is the denotation, which is what the word actually means. The other is the connotation, which is the way the word is usually used in popular conversation. Condescension has a pretty bad connotation; it’s usually used to refer to someone who thinks they’re better than you are, and talks down to you as if coming down to your level is a major chore for them.

The denotation, however, is quite different. The word itself merely means “to come down [descend] together.” The prefix “con-” means “together with.”

If you split the word up and look at its parts, “to descend with,” you actually get a pretty good idea of what God’s interaction with humanity is all about. While it might be offensive for me to act as if I was in any way superior to my fellow humans, it would be silly for God to pretend that he was not superior to us in every single way. Descending to our level is the only way he could possibly have a relationship with us at all. There is certainly no way that we humans, imperfect as we are, could otherwise ascend to his level. Unless God comes down to our level, we’re stuck with this gigantic gap between God’s holy perfection and our miserable imperfection.” – Jim Barringer

“Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another.” – Charles Spurgeon

“There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension.”Jonathan Edwards

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Condescension, when applied to Redeemer God, is a word that must be reclaimed from the common vernacular of this culture. God, in sending His son, did not just descend. He condescended…He came down to be with us. He came as close as it was possible for a holy God to come to His people…bridging the great gap we could not bridge in our own helpless estate. He came down to be with us.

“To think that everyone was going about their own business, like today, and that in less than 24 hours, Jesus would have been born. In a place, not His family’s own. Among animals and strangers. To a young couple on a journey. No family around. That God broke through to say He loved us enough to CHOOSE to step out of His place of perfection into our deprived, poverty-stricken, self-absorbed places. As a Babe. On a mission. Born to die. So we might live. WOW… tomorrow. And the world didn’t have a clue.” – Stephanie Zimmerman Kuhn

Thank You, God, for your glorious transcendent condescension. We are forever changed.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery 2

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come behold the wondrous mystery in the dawning of the King,
He, the theme of heaven’s praises, robed in frail humanity.
In our longing, in our darkness, now the light of life has come;
Look to Christ, who condescended, took on flesh to ransom us.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: He the perfect Son of Man,
In His living, in His suffering, never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam come to save the hell-bound man,
Christ, the great and sure fulfillment of the law, in Him we stand.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: Christ the Lord upon the tree;
In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption; see the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory, grace unmeasured, love untold!

Come behold the wondrous mystery: slain by death, the God of life;
But no grave could e’er restrain Him, praise the Lord, He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance; how unwavering our hope:
Christ in power resurrected, as we will be when he comes.*

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery by Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa

God Condescends – Charles Spurgeon

Jonathan Edwards: The Infinite Highness and Condescension of Christ

God Is Condescending by Jim Barringer

Messiah, the Condescension of God Transcendent

The Condescension of our Transcendent God by Lee Tankersley

The Condescending God?

Does Condescend-Condescension Always Have a Negative Connotation?

Lady Catherine’s Condescension

*Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery: Hymn Wednesday

“In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us”*

5 Friday Faves – On Foster Care, Losing Control, Best Bakeries, Pornography, and Efficiency

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! I have guests visiting from out of country so writing time has taken a back seat to sweet times with friends. Still, what a week this has been in discovery. I chose just five favorites but would love to hear (in Comments below) what some of your faves of this week are. Learning is one of my favorite pastimes.

  1. On Foster Care    – It’s dangerous for me to start with such a topic because many will click out of this blog just on reading the title (“Not me”; “Not interested”). Foster care is not for everyone, but it has to be for some of us. What if we worked together to provide safe and loving homes for every child in crisis? Chris Campbell and Team of 111Tulsa, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, started just such an initiative. I read a bit of the story in his wife’s blog  A Turning Point then I wrote about foster care. We can care for these children together.Blog - Foster LetterPhoto Credit: AshleyAnnPhotography.com

2.  On Losing Control – This week, a blog by Jenilee Goodwin entitled The End of Me popped up in my inbox on a busy day. It might have gone unread except for that title. My Mom, my life-long best friend and the head cheerleader of Team Me, died over a decade ago. That was a grace-covered jolt to my sense of life and its dependability. God helped me through that long season of grief because He had already brought me through an “end of me” experience very similar to the one Jenilee describes in her blog. Crossing cultures and learning languages and the raw not-doing-anything-well are huge opportunities to see how tenuous our “control” is. God is dependable; our circumstances are not. Her piece was beautiful and deeply personal. Wherever you are in life, you will gain much by reading her story.Blog - Mom's funeral

3. On Best Bakeries – When Business Insider does an photo-splashed article on The Best Bakery in Every State, I took the time to read it. Or should I say “savor it” – without endangering my health. Finding that the “best bakery” in Virginia to be Blackbird Bakery in Bristol (as far across the state from us as could be found), I will drop my own “Best Bakery” in here. For doughnuts anyway, that bakery is the Westhampton Pastry Shop.  Ridiculously yummy. What’s your favorite?

Blog - Best Bakery - Westhampton Pastry Shop

Photo Credit: Westhampton Pastry Shop, yelp.com

4) On Pornography – A very serious topic – I placed it on purpose under “best bakeries” because there are all kinds of addictions. The scary difference is the fact that some addictions have outward presentations (like food, drug, and alcohol addictions). Not pornography. Addiction to pornography can do its damage in the quiet and isolation of one’s personal space in front of a screen (phone, tablet, computer). Yet, its damage reaches into relationships, career, and even our own anatomy and physiology. This Is Your Brain on Porn probably won’t deter someone addicted to pornography, but it could sound a warning that what you think is “not hurting anyone” really is…those you love…and you.Blog - Your Brain on PornPhoto Credit: Ideapod, Churchm.ag

5) On Efficiency – If you got this far, you are in for a huge treat. This week, as I watch friends go through a company downsizing, the subject came up of efficiency and effectiveness. Does one necessarily lead to the other? Are they the same? In learning more about that, I came across this happy little article by Eric Gilbertson on the push for efficiency in our colleges and universities – The Pursuit of Efficiency and the Pursuit of Folly. Sweet article. Then the book Team of Teams which my husband recently read (devoured really) came to mind. General McChrystal writes brilliantly about adaptability, not efficiency, as our greatest need in the workplace of the 21st century. Work matters…and the people doing the work matter. Get this book…your appetite will be whetted by the articles linked below.Blog - Efficiency and Adaptability - General McChrystal

Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal

Efficiency in Business Isn’t Key Says Retired General

Gen. Stanley McChrystal: Adapt to win in the 21st Century

Work Smart – Let General Stanley McChrystal Explain Why Adaptability trumps Hierarchy – Forget everything you ever knew about your company’s org chart—and that’s an order.

The Tim Ferriss Experiment – General Stan McChrystal on Eating One Meal Per Day, Special Ops, and Mental Toughness

Your Brain On Porn

Love Your Neighbor – Foster Parenting & Adoption – Every Child in a Safe and Loving Home – www.debmillswriter.com

5 Friday Faves – a Language Learning Guide, a Tribute to Jeannie Elliff, a Friend’s Blog, an Infographic, and Singing Contractors

Blog - Friday Faves

1. A 12-Step Program for Language Learning – 12 Rules for Learning Foreign Languages in Record Time — The Only Post You’ll Ever Need by Tim Ferriss. Besides English, I’ve learned Spanish, Arabic, and a bit of French – through a variety of learning methods. This blog post with Benny Lewis is the best counsel for anyone embarking on learning a foreign language. He offers 12 rules for learning a foreign language and includes several links to more resources. Really helpful! Maybe I’ll learn Mandarin one day…

Blog - Language Learning - Tim Ferriss on Twitter

Photo Credit: Tim Ferriss; Twitter.com

2. A Radio Program – Tribute to Jeannie Elliff  Our friend, Jeannie Elliff, died on July 20 after a long battle with breast cancer. She was a young 69 years old. Her husband, Tom, and all four of her children spoke at her memorial service. It was the most beautiful service I’ve ever seen honoring a woman who loved God and all of us so completely. Revive Our Hearts Radio is doing a two-part tribute (October 1 & 2) entitled Faithful to the Finish: The Life of Jeannie Elliff. Nancy Leigh DeMoss moderates the tribute, using audioclips from the memorial service. You can listen via the website and the transcript of the program is included in the link.Jeannie & Tom in chemo clinicJeannie & Tom in Chemo Clinic – Photo Credit: Facebook.com

3. A Friend’s Blog on Love – My friend, Marlo, writes a blog entitled Pressing On which chronicles her family’s journey to life after the death of their daughter/sister, Anna. This piece focuses on the sixth verse of 1 Corinthians 13 (also known as the “Love Chapter” of the Bible).

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. – 1 Corinthians 13:6

I never really thought about this verse until I read her blog. It’s an important truth and Jesus lived it lovingly. As are we to do so as well.

“He was both/and. He was holy and he was loving. His holiness was not a barrier to people because it was paired with love. Jesus met people where they were. He knew their sins and loved them anyway. He did not rejoice in their wrongdoing, but showed them a better way. If we are going to be like him, we have to approach people the same way.” – Marlo

Blog - Love - 1 Corinthians 13

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

4. An Infographic20 Common Ways We Make Bad Decisions. I love infographics, being a visual learner. This one is fascinating as it lists out the many factors that lead us to making bad decisions. Which ones are you the most vulnerable to?

Blog - InfographicPhoto Credit: DailyInfographic.com

5. Singing Contractors – Have you ever taken advantage of an empty room to belt out a song? It sounds so good, right? Well, not as good, maybe as these guys can make an empty room sound. I don’t know how The Singing Contractors got started singing together, while working, but I’m glad they did. You are watching the beginning of a YouTube phenomenon.

What are some of your favorites from this week? I’d love to hear them.

Collaborative Conversations – Quotes to Stir Your Thinking on Leadership and Language in Workplace Decision-making

Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: AJCarlisle.files.wordpress.com

Change is normal, and resisting change is normal as well. You may be part of an organization or company where sweeping changes are being implemented, even this week. Or maybe you are not on the inside loop of these decisions, so you are not privy to the change coming. Whether you are part of that process or not, consider how you might have a role in making change work, in your sphere of influence, among your colleagues.

You may already have read and profited from the book Crucial Conversations. Now consider collaborative conversations. Collaboration, simply defined, is “working together towards shared goals”. Collaborative conversations bring a collective intelligence to bear on the problem to be solved, vision to be defined, or direction to be changed.Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: ThoughtFarmer.com

David Perkins, a Harvard professor, wrote about collaborative conversations in the workplace, using the metaphor of King Arthur’s round table. He described the beneficial nature of bringing several principal players (or stakeholders) to the table and treating each one with an equal or autonomous voice.

“A round table makes it a little easier to pool mental effort. A round table makes a group a little more intelligent…For a group to display intelligence in a sustained way, the members have to value their exchanges and stick together to keep making them. This depends on positive symbolic conduct [side messages sent by our words and behavior]…and collaboration… It’s not ideas, but people with ideas that make things happen.” – David Perkins

“One of the simplest ways to immunize a culture against broken trust, corruption, and animosity is to build a common vision.” – David Perkins

Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations is a tremendous resource in developing this kind of decision-making work environment. An Executive Book Summary* can help you get started.

I personally thrive in such a setting and intuitively understand the value-adding nature of collaborative conversations. In researching this workplace topic, and choosing the links below, I came across a fascinating paper** by Heather Davis, a professor of RMIT University Australia.

Davis presented her paper at the 14th International Conference on Thinking (2009, Malaysia). She discussed how workplace leaders often choose “languages of war” in making and communicating decisions and creating change. Her paper is heady stuff but if you read her thoughts below you will want to read the whole paper. It gives huge support to the role of collaborative conversations.

“In [leadership’s] ‘language of zealous allegiance’, there are expectations of allegiance [in the workplace] that lay a path for uncritical acceptance and passivity. This manifests in an expectation that followers be conscripted wholly to the cause. There is little room for questioning. [Davis quotes Hage]: “Conscription means one important thing: there is no questioning of orders, one only executes them; ‘either you’re with us or you’re against us’. “ (Hage, 2004, p. 3).””

“Rhetoric plays out in the workplace too and can be tested by how well leaders:

  • hear and acknowledge the ‘other’ point of view,
  • see the ‘other’ as people rather than pawns or simply abstractions,
  • manage the distance, materially and metaphorically, between themselves and the people and sites affected by their decisions.”

“In the corporate world there are many examples of executives living and working in gated communities or otherwise removed by dint of corporate hierarchy or geography from the people and conditions affected by their decisions. Often, these leaders are also surrounded by people who can only agree, leading to little opportunity for double loop learning or deeply reasoned decision making processes. Whether our leaders live in gated communities is their business, but if they think, work and take refuge within a ‘gated’ mindset then we all need to be concerned. These conditions lead to hubris and have been the undoing of many leaders and corporations.”

“[Leadership’s] language of regrettable necessity translates directly to the “There Is No Alternative”. [This strategy] is used to always move the focus of discussion away from any big picture ‘why’ questions. This is done by shifting the focus to discussions only about the budget pie or, more particularly, the piece of the budget pie that is contestable. People find themselves fighting for a slice of the budget pie and energies focus only on the ‘pie’ and getting the biggest piece of it. This shifts the focus from larger issues such as whether the budget is set correctly, what has been included and what has been excluded. Thinking about alternatives is never an option.”

The role of the organisation is ‘to know its purpose and not be diverted from it’ (Drucker, 1993). This is a timely reminder here – easier said than done in times of flux, complexity and discontinuous change.”

“Language is the visible tip of the cultural iceberg that largely remains hidden.”

“Perkins (2007) used two metaphors in his presentation and so far I have only privileged the five languages of war metaphor in this discussion. The other metaphor used was the “five languages of peace”. The main difference between Perkins’ languages of war and peace are that the war metaphor is founded on exclusivity and a preference for limiting discourse to its [leadership’s] own narrowly defined boundaries. Perkins’s peace metaphor is founded on inclusivity and opening up the space for conversations and conflicting views [i.e., collaborative conversations].”

“Oppositional language and the pitting of one deeply held worldview against another will not lead to resolving the underlying problems of the workplace. Rather, space for conversations to surface underlying assumptions is required. Perkins’ language of peace metaphor confirms that that there are always other lenses to view the world through, not just the one that [leadership] prefers.”

Provocative reading from this Australian educator. Bottom line: Those of us in leadership carry a great burden of responsibility. We at times must make difficult and sometimes painful decisions. Adding voices to that decision-making can generate even more challenging processes to negotiate. Still, we will make more sustainable decisions for “better futures” if we bring those most affected (or most experienced or insightful) to the table. Whenever possible. That’s the gain of collaborative conversations – working together toward shared vision and shared ownership.

Stay engaged in your workplace. You can make a difference.

*King Arthur’s Round TableHow Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations by David Perkins – an Executive Book Summary

Leadership Lessons from King Arthur – a Review of Harvard Professor David Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table

How to Lead When Change is the New Normal

The Art of Collaboration (Collaborative Behaviors) – by Steve Dale (includes a SlideShare)

Collaboration: What Does It Really Mean?

**Troubling Invisible Barriers to Better Futures: Surfacing the “Five Languages of War” in the Workplace – a scholarly paper by Heather Davis, presented at the 14th International Conference on Thinking

The Five Literacies of Global Leadership – What Authentic Leaders Know and You Need to Find Out – by David Hames – Business Book Summary

What Is a Coaching Conversation? from Opening the Door to Coaching Conversations by Linda Gross Cheliotes and Marceta Fleming Reilly 

The Perils of Indifference – a Speech by Elie Wiesel

Cutting Through the Hype – What “Collaboration” Really Means – ThoughtFarmer.com

Making the Workforce Work! The Collaborative Workforce Initiative

A Family Lexicon – Words That Grow Up With Us

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A lexicon is defined as “the words used in a language or by a person or group of people.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

As a family grows up together, they develop their own language. Sure, it’s usually with words everyone knows but with a context that’s intimate, a context that says we belong. Family can have its prickly stages, but the language of family is deeply embedded. Even as the children grow up and have their own families, the collective memory of these words, just like with favorite songs, take us back to another time. A time that these words had love, place, and situation wrapped snugly around them.IMG_0040 (3)In the days our children were little (before our third came home to us), this lexicon began to develop. You can even tell the ages of our children by some of our acquired favorite sayings.

Below are some of our Mills Family Lexicon. I wrote them down over the last several weeks, as they popped into our times together. Some the children have outgrown, and we look forward to adding new ones with the next generation of kiddos.

“Breffix, Comptible, Pannicakes, Whatchoosay?” Words we still use even though we’re all grown up…sort of.

“Turn on the Pancake Music” – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Saturday morning pancakes were always accompanied by Vivaldi. I’m thinking the kids still all have a strong urge for pancakes when Vivaldi plays.

Bobwhite whistle – We lived in big cities when the kids were growing up (Cairo, Egypt, the biggest). Lots of airports. I wanted to be able to get their attention without words. This worked then….and did for years later. It might have lost its magic now (or with earbuds, who knows), but for years……they stopped whatever they were doing and looked up.

Do not feel sad. Many things cannot fly. Rocks. Trees. Sticks. Spike.” – from the film Land Before Time

“Hold on tight, Knuckles!” – a line off the Sonic videogame; first coined in our family, when cousin Jonathan and our guys were tubing on the river behind Uncle Mark’s boat.

“Charlie Brown” – enough said, about our melancholy guys

“You’re killing me, Smalls!” – from the film Sandlot

“Too hot! Too hot!” – from the film 101 Dalmations

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” – from Charlie Brown Christmas

“I. Am. O.K.” – [Thou Shalt Laugh; Taylor Mason]

“Every lit-tle thing’s gonna be alright.” – chorus of song by Delirious

“This is a sick world we’re living in! Sick people!” – from the film Jingle All the Way

“Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” – Dad, from the film Rush Hour

“You wubbin’ me the wong way.” – Elmer Fudd, Geico commercial

“Are you dead, Man?” – from the film Cool Runnings

“No, only mostly dead.” – from Princess Bride

“People are idiots!” – from Everybody Loves Raymond‘s dad Frank

“Let’s go shoot buffalo!” – said his buddy Zach Anders at Nathan’s 4th birthday partyBlog - Daniel & Nathan

“Meskeen” – Arabic word meaning “pitiful” or “to be pitied” – resorted to when one of us is throwing a pity party. Other language words also used without thinking. “Malesh” is also an Arabic word meaning “It’s O.K.” or “Never mind” or “No worries”, Daniel’s French interjections sometimes come out of nowhere- including “Quoi?” (“What?”) and “Mafoix” (although I don’t know what it means).

“Either deal with it or die to it.” – again Dad’s short admonition when we keep ruminating over a conflicted situation or relationship

“Do not grow weary in well-doing; you will reap a harvest, if you don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:9 – there are the many Bible verses that were there for counsel and encouragement; this is one.IMG_0003 (12)

“Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite. You either.” – sing-song back and forth at “lights out” while kids were growing up

I know…too stinkin’ adorable, that one – “the Walton’s”, not ours.

What are some of your family’s lexicon words/sayings? Please share them in the comments below.

What Is Your Family’s Lexicon?

WikiQuotes – Sonic the Hedgehog

90 Quotes That Will Change the Way You Think

YouTube Video – The Mom Song Sung to William Tell Overture With Lyrics

This is What It Would Sound Like if You Talked to Your Parents Like They Talk to You

YouTube Video – 10 Things All Moms Say

The “littles” with Memaw & PapaIMG_0020 (8)

…and a bit later with MomMom & PopPop2007 - Jul - Vacation in Delaware