Friendship, Connection, Robustness

It’s a simple story. Yet also, a guiding practice.

Many years ago I became intrigued by my colleague Chris Corrigan’s statement — “Friendship is the business model.” For me it remains true that 95% of the work I do starts with some quality of friendship. People come to a workshop, like what they see and feel, and inquire about doing something similar or more. I love how this works. The work comes from friendship and grows friendship.

Lately, I’ve been intrigued to add to that statement — “Connection is the operating system.” For me, it remains true that so much of what people seek is connection. Or, the wisdom they seek is found in connection. This means that I design both small and large group process to create connection. Sometimes, just to be human — “What is it that you are grateful in your work? Is there something you feel challenged by in your work? What are the most important questions for us to explore if we are to thrive in our commitments?”

And lately, lately, I’ve added a third observation and invitation — “Connection so as to create more robustness together.” It’s nice to be nice, but that’s not the primary reason for why I create connection as a facilitator. I design meetings and agendas to help a system of people be smarter together. Or wise. Or creative. Or honest. Or able to stand in the troubles together.

Simple story. That guides choices.


Mystery, Spirit, Trust


It’s natural for us humans to make sense of things. To make sense of the journey. Individually and collectively. We can’t not. Due to the kind of brains that we have. I would suggest also, due to the kind of hearts we have. We seek meaning. We can’t help to seek pattern.

Seeking and seeing pattern is generally a pretty good thing. It helps us to see the broader arc of time and circumstance. It helps us to see the broader ecosystem of experience.

The shadow side of pattern is getting stuck in reductive linearity seasoned heavily with the lure of predictability. Its outcome is a kind of numbing. Shutting down an ever-changing dynamic into a fixed and rigid entity.

I was in a sense making moment Sunday. Glad. With friend and colleague, Quanita. We were thinking about the group we had worked with that day. We were seeking for what was underneath the facilitation, and further, what was underneath the intent to create strategic plan. We were seeking more of the story that our people were searching for together.

Here’s some of what we came up with:

  1. Mystery. Let’s not kid ourselves. There will always be mystery. Unknown. Uncertainty. Unpredictable. Nuanced detail. But mystery. In the team. In the family. In the movement. In the organization. Mystery has a different invitation than confirming a list. Mystery points both to awareness of inner, and, awareness of outer.
  2. Spirit. The operating system in mystery requires orientation to spirit. The unseen. Some layer of divine. Some layer of serendipity. Or self-organizing. Or organic appearing. I know that people have quite varied reaction to references to spirit. I would suggest there is something well behind the rational of our good brains that is in play.
  3. Trust. It’s different than knowing. It’s a gut layer of intuition. It’s internal, but most likely, arising from the external too. Trust is a choice. It’s leaning in when not fully knowing why. It’s being willing to connect ideas and thoughts and feelings without being fully clear. It’s less managing the movement of water in the river. It’s more getting in the river.

These are invitations. Mystery, spirit, and trust. In my experience, people are hungry to have these welcomed. So as to speak the truth. So as to go together, in reclaimed clarity of how we undeniably exist in connection. Naturally.

The Simple and Complex of Gathering People Not Used to Gathering

I’m in a rather impromptu conversation with three people. Quanita Roberson, co-host and co-convenor with me of our upcoming Fire & Water Leadership Cohort — she knows stuff, lots of it. And Brad Wise and Joey Taylor of BeSpokenLive — each of the handful of times I’ve been with these two I feel deeply inspired. I think of all of us as colleagues and friends, friends and colleagues — frolleagues.

The conversation is about submitting a grant application to hold a series of community connection gatherings. They are about convening diversity. They are about creating connection. They are about learning. They are about being together. This is a think out loud time. I’m just offering a few thoughts to weave into what they are already thinking and will carry forward.

In the impromptuness of it, I get an intuitive hit that rises from my belly. I love that feeling. I know these people well enough to say it out loud without needing to wordsmith it. It’s good when people can be imperfect together. Or rather, without fear of not having it all figured out.

I offered this:

  • The work (including gatherings like this) is simultaneously about the simple and the complex.
  • The simple part is bringing participants into questions and stories with one another. It just works a pile better to connect people in what they care about through their personal experience.
  • The complex part is, as Joey named, creating belonging (a fair hunk of this comes from a container in which to share stories / experiences).
  • The complex part is also about interrupting patterns of isolation (or reactive posturing, or polarized defensiveness).
  • The gatherings will come alive with a spirit of celebration, of possibility, of recalling childhood stories.
  • The magic and the complex grows from the simple.

Quanita framed it really well. Thinking of the people that might come to such a gathering, and the community restoring that can so powerfully occur, she said, “We meet ourselves by meeting each other.”

Yah, that’s good, right. We think we are just meeting each other, which is rather monumental in itself. And in so doing, we are coming to meet more of ourselves. With aha. With tenderness. Sometimes with fire. With kindness. With clarity that only comes from connection.

Well, it was only an impromptu meeting and invitation to offer some perspective. I kind of felt like in meeting each other (just a regular old Monday) that I met more of myself.

Glad for insights. And friends. And colleagues. And frolleagues on a Monday. Thinking about gathering people that aren’t used to gathering.


I am but a simple Canadian boy.

I grew up in the prairies of Alberta, nestled in what was the outskirts of urban Edmonton life in the 1960s. I loved sports. My Dad was my baseball coach for a few years. My Mom taught tap-dance after school to neighborhood kids in our basement. I had one sibling; my sister was 20 months older and two school grades ahead of me. I liked school. Math in particular. I loved times tables. I loved recess even more. I had crushes on girls. In fifth grade I asked one if I could carry her books home for her. It took me weeks to muster enough courage to ask. My first kiss came at summer camp. Different girl.

There was a time in my youth, beginning about age nine, that I started grasping for certainties that of course didn’t exist. I didn’t know I was doing that. And I didn’t want to know that certainties didn’t exist. It was my wound, a wound that I tell myself that many of us have, that had me fabricating circumstances through which I might feel a semblance of control. Through which I might feel that I was OK. Kids don’t know these things. Generally. They just adapt marvelously, and if lucky, later come to understand and empathize with some of the “why,” turning the wound into wisdom.

Control. Safety. For me, with hockey stick in hands, I’d shoot tennis balls against the basement wall to see how many times out of ten I could hit the dancer’s rail of my mom’s tap-dance studio. It was just me, the stick, and the ball. Or, racket in hand, and by myself, I’d bounce ping pong balls against Grandma and Grandpa’s basement wall, recording the number of times that I could do it without missing or breaking the rhythm, always seeking a new record high. Hmmm…, there was comfort in the basement. And then there was jogging further or faster to beat my personal bests, or sometimes, those around me. There were personal bests for doing more situps and pushups. There was seeking approval through chores accomplished — “yes, I mowed the lawn AND weeded the garden.” There was working harder and faster at my first job, the IGA grocery store.

Nobody wants to feel the wound again. Nobody wants to feel the pain of the wound again.

I was a kid. I’m coming to realize how the wound shaped me. Yes, there was pain and suffering. I coped. I tried to cope. I buried most of it, even with good people helping me. I sought validation because it was the only thing I knew to do, as a simple Canadian boy, to cope with what would take me forty years to even begin to understand more substantially and with some surprised awe.

It’s quite a thing to see the layers come off. Grown to man, I now can see more clearly, that I just didn’t want to hurt. I just wanted to feel that it was safe, again, to expect, what I would now call, unapologetic and unrestrained joy. What I would now call vibrancy and life, without subconscious fear of loss.

Maybe not so simple. But learning to see more simply. And to feel.