The Circle Way — University of North Texas

Enjoyed teaching and hosting The Circle Way today with Caitlin Frost, Chris Corrigan. It’s part of three days of participative leadership.

The colored papers are statements of things that these senior leaders (Deans, Assistant Deans, Provost, Department Chairs, Faculty) are proud of at the university. It was a harvest from a check-in process to start our first day together.

Lots of good stuff spoken.

Lots of good energy shared.


My last eight days have been filled with good teaching and community. First The Circle Way Practicum. Then immediately following, Soultime, a men’s weekend retreat. Both times were rich with story telling, with tenderness, and with the learning that only comes from having ample time together. I love the non-linearity of learning that arises in these two environments. It is the sensation of not just living, but being lived. If it were meditation, rather than breathing, it would be the sensation of being breathed. If it were writing, rather than me writing words it would be the sensations of words writing me. To discover, even glimpse what is beneath the surface of perceived reality — that’s gold. To do that in community — that’s priceless.

This morning, I’m peeking my head up at the home of Chris Corrigan and Caitlin Frost. Chris and I just had coffee at his kitchen table. Shared a bit of breakfast together. Caught up. This kind of friendship is also priceless. It’s a gift.

And with that, I’m loving Chris’ words from an earlier blogpost on Artistry. What I learn in deep experience together of the ilk of the last eight days, is that I crave the artistry of practice and living. The dutiful mechanics of practice and living have their place. As in, really important place. But, the impulse of artistry — well that touches the being breathed, being written, being communed part, doesn’t it.

Enjoy Chris’ words. I did. And the coffee. And the breakfast. And the friendship.

The 14 steps of the artists journey to mastery (based on the last 30 years of my experience)

1. Cultivate the desire to create beauty
2. Discover a medium for doing so
3. Seek the teachers who can teach you how to use the tools of your medium faithfully
4. Use the tools faithfully to make simple things.
5. Ask why things work and why they don’t
6. With that knowledge, modify your tools to do what needs to be done beyond simplicity.
7. Discover the limitations of your tools.
8. Become a tool maker
9. Take on apprentices and teach them to use the tools faithfully to make simple things
10. Take on apprentices and help them reflect on why they are succeeding and failing.
11. I don’t know…I haven’t got there yet
12. Unimaginable to me, but I see it.
13. Wow.

14. The unrealized ideal master that I aspire to become, should I be given more than one lifetime to do so.

Along the way, be aware of the following:
* self-doubt
* errors at different scales
* mistakes and regret
* joy and surprise
* the desire of others to learn from you
* the feeling that you have nothing to offer them
* times of steep learning and times of long periods of integration
* waxing and waning of inspiration
* Rule 6a applies at all times.

Soft Skills are Permanent Skills

Pal Chris Corrigan shared an article during a client call yesterday. Together with Caitlin Frost, we are working with the client, a university system that is daring to rethink education. Not just creating more degrees, but rather, learning to change the way that learning happens. From individually accessed to communally accessed. Learning to think together for change and for a change.

I love the reference to soft skills and hard skills. The latter is things that can be trained. Even automated. The former is things that can be approximated my complicated algorithms and artificial intelligence, but really is the deep practices of collaborative connection. It needs humans. It needs us to dare to be more fully human, not less.

Here’s a snippit. The full article from Harold Jarche, a Canadian man is here.

Are soft skills the new hard skills? I asked this question six years ago. I would now suggest that hard skills are really temporary skills. They come and go according to the economy and the state of technology. Today, we need very few people who know how to shoe a horse. Soft skills are permanent ones. In a recent New York Times article the company LinkedIn had identified a number of currently in-demand skills.


Cloud Computing Expertise
Data Mining and Statistical Analysis
Smartphone App Development
Data Storage Engineering and Management
User Interface Design
Network Security Expertise


Time Management


Companies are realizing that they can train for hard (temporary) skills so they are focusing on hiring for soft (permanent, meta skills).

Friendship is the Business Model

Somewhere along the way, people began advocating for business and friendship to become separate. Like any separation, it had good intention. When it comes to business and friendship, curbing nepotism comes to mind.

But also. like any separation, it’s easy to overplay the initial good intent, rendering two things that are inherently related to be oddly and weirdly disjointed. Run amuck, this separation is a process of building not just protections, but protections around protections. The image for me is a system of hedges meant to create boundary from something in the middle. The original concept is to protect what is in the middle. However, humans being who we are, the emerged and frightened concept is to protect the hedges too. It’s like a parent saying “don’t ever go in to the kitchen” when the real need is to not turn on the gas stove and leave it unattended.

It was Chris Corrigan that first taught me this phrase — Friendship is The Business Model. It was in one of our Art of Hosting events over the last 15 years. It was a contrast to prevailing assumptions that friendship is too soft or too corrupt to be aligned with good business desire. Chris embodies this kind of friendship, which makes it all so much more accessible. He’s a stunning teacher, a sensitive and thoughtful human being, and a person who invites friendship as a most core practice. And, as always, I love the bridging between hard core business and deep human abilities. How can you argue with a good business model — that’s unchallengeable, right. Friendship, well that’s something that’s most often referenced as good to experience, and usually is interrupted by some comment from the business paradigm of “let’s get back to the real world now.”


In organizations — and in leadership in organizations — patterns matter. It’s less about tenacious command and control of all the infinitely minute details (though there are of course times and circumstances when that matters). It’s more about creating just enough narrative, practice, and container for patterns to be practiced at scale. Friendship is one of these. Funny, right. How silly. Friendship as narrative, practice, and container implies that it is important to develop our relationships with each other. It defines what we are up too — it’s not just producing products and services that can scale in the capitalist model. Friendship as narrative, practice, and container gives us alternative insight to what we are scaling. Friendship as a core to creativity. Friendship as an essence for innovation. Friendship as a core competency to lean into difficult circumstances. Friendship as organizing system for doing the daily work.

The best friends I have aren’t trying to coerce me into something. And if they are, it comes with a playful wink and a smile. The best friends I have are tuned to a bigger picture of evolving lives and circumstance, and are able to be serious about it, but also playful. The best friends I have lean into a mystery and enjoy going it both together and alone, but mostly together. When I think “business models” I think of what you go to the bank with to receive support of capital. Friendship is a kind of capital to grow together — and, yeah, is more than just numbers, and isn’t just open Monday through Saturday 9:00 – 5:30.

Narrative. Practice. Container. Business Model.