Identifying what you want to do and what prevents you from doing it. Recording in Los Angeles in February, 2008.
What Do You Do Now? Download
How to attend: gathering information (internal and external), check for balance; How to intend: get a symbol, generate possibilities; How to commit: take action (even a small action), keep cycling, watch signs, stay in touch with body and feelings, think evolution; participants’ comments; reminder to stay in your own experience
So this is the fourth section of Making Things Happen on February 3, 2008, and it is called What do you do now?
It’s always like this, you know. You take everything apart, and you realize it is a complete mess but you can’t stay there; you’ve gotta do something.
So we’re going to go back to what you want to do—what you want to make happen—whatever that is. And we’re going to run through how you do each of the three stages. And what I’d like you to do, as I’m talking about these—’cause we don’t have a lot of time left—what I’d like you to do is to make some notes on the handouts or wherever is convenient for you, on what you specifically have to do, with respect to the project or the issue or whatever you have chosen to address.
The first stage as we’ve talked about is to attend, and that consists of gathering information about it, which includes internal information, which you may or may not be aware of, as well as external information.
Just to take a very mundane example: you need a new computer. Or I’ll take another one, which I’m dithering around all over the place, is I want to get an LCD or one of these micro-portable projectors, which you can just plug your computer in and it projects up on the screen or a wall. It’s your cheap television, because you can just plug DVDs into your computer and it will play it—nice big screen. But it’s also very good—there are some things I want to do with the teacher development program on designing websites and so forth, which would be much easier if I can project all of that. So I’ve been shown a projector, and I’ve been doing various amounts of research—that’s gathering information—and also clarifying what you want. What do I actually need it for? How am I going to use it? And if you want to go deeper than that, what will each projector say about me as a person? [Laughter]
This is, you know, this is why people buy cars, right? You don’t buy a car because it takes you from A to B; they all take you from A to B. The advertising industry has got us to the point that everybody buys a car because it says something about them as a person. How many of you own Priuses? How many of you own BMWs? How many Mercedes? How many Volkswagens? They all say different things; you know that you’re watching the wrong ad if you aren’t interested in it.
So, clarify what you want. Now this is the important part: check for balance. I had this idea about how to correct a lot of the problems in America. There’s a task I set myself, I guess about ten years ago when the polarities in the political scene became very apparent. So I sat around by myself thinking about it, and I came up with this idea to use federal grant money to train cadres of people whose sole purpose was to be able to do two things: to promote conversations locally about issues that are of local importance, and to become very good at getting more grant money, for that purpose.
The idea was to start a grassroots initiative which would be so low on the radar that it wouldn’t incite the forces of opposition, and would work to depolarize people politically, because you’d get them working together on concrete issues, which were immediately relevant to the local communities. And this is something that could be done in all of the small towns and cities all through America. And it probably wouldn’t take more than $250,000 of seed money, which is not a lot of money to raise, to do the whole thing. Completely ridiculous project for me to do. Why? Because I don’t have the ability to sustain the kind of energy that would be needed for that. And I know that is something. I’m still trying to find someone who’d like to take this project on, so maybe someone listening to this will do it, and that will be great, because I think it’s a very simple thing; certainly federal grant money is available for that kind of purpose. Get a bunch of people in their 20s and 30s trained for that, and let them loose. But if I do the check for balance it doesn’t work.
In Unfettered Mind we have what we call the core participant group, which is a group of about 15 people—most of whom are here in L.A.—volunteers who make a lot of stuff in Unfettered Mind happen, which I couldn’t possibly do myself, you know. People like Lynea, and Molly, and Heather, and Diane back here—don’t want to miss anybody—Raquel, and so forth. But one of the principles that we have is the project has to be a way of waking up—not only for the people who will benefit from it, but for the people who are actually doing it. It also has to not be so big or so complicated that it will drain the resources of Unfettered Mind and introduce an imbalance.
So we built into our way of appraising projects and selecting them—sorry Chuck’s also a part of that—a check for balance in how we select projects. So we can all come up with big things…we may come up with things which seem very simple but the inherent imbalances may be revealed by the five whys for instance.
Another case—this is from a colleague of mine—one of her students said she wanted to lose a certain amount of weight. And when asked why, she said so she would be more attractive to potential partners. Okay, but that became extremely unbalanced because whether she actually wants to be in a relationship or not is a very moot point. So she’s never going to be able to lose the weight because the underlying issue is not settled.
So you need to check what’s actually going on here in you. Is this something that is reasonable, that is workable, that you can get sufficient clarity about? Or does it reveal something else which needs to be addressed first. And very, very often as I recounted in my attempt to write a book back in Santa Fe, it revealed a very fundamental underlying issue: I didn’t want to write another book on basic meditation. Totally boring. [Laughs] But I wasn’t aware, ’cause I wasn’t that in touch at that point, and everybody said, “Well write a book.” Okay fine, but I came away from this saying I don’t want to write this book. That’s it!
So, this is very important. All of this is about attending like what is actually going on. One of my favorite quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh is, The practice of meditation is the study of what is going on. What is going on is very important. And this is a very good quotation because what is going on in you is what is important. You know, what is going on in you—that is your life. That’s it! What is going on includes everything we experience. And the first step to doing something awake is to be in our experience. So all of these things are very, very important. Any questions before we move on?
How are you doing applying this to your personal project? Any comments? Anything anybody else would like to say here? Diane? Can we have a mic for Diane please? Kathy there’s one beside you.
Diane: Under the check for balance I was reminded of the question that you told me a while back to ask myself: do I really want to do this? [Laughter]
Ken: Yes, that’s a good question, just before you jump off the cliff. Do you really want to do this? Okay. And in that check for balance, how do you check for balance? It’s not an intellectual process. You check for what goes on in you physically, and there’s so many people who’ve said, “Well I don’t know whether I should do this or I should do that?”
And there are a couple of questions that I always ask them: when you sit physically with this, how do you feel? When you sit physically with that, how do you feel?
And very often they’ll go, “Oh.” Their body knows what it wants to do. And so you work with direct perception; you work with what you know in experience, in yourself, which includes physical awareness, awareness of physical sensations, awareness of emotional sensations, and awareness of awareness itself. Not awareness of all of the stories, ’cause as I’ve said repeatedly, the stories are ways to get away from what we’re actually experiencing.
When you drop and you become grounded in your body there’s a sense of greater awareness and you include that sense in your experience. That’s loosely speaking the way of being aware of awareness itself, or including it anyway.
The second step is intend. Now here we use a little magic. That’s the first one—get a symbol. Yeah. You want to go to Africa? Buy a miniature elephant. Or a lion, or whatever. But get something which symbolizes this project, this activity, what you want to make happen. It should be something that is easily carried around, and you just carry it around with you—in your pocket, in your purse, wherever. And you take it out every now and then, and it just is a reminder—oh this is what I’m aiming at, this is what I’m doing.
You know, if you go back to our mundane one, and the computer, you know, take a key from a broken keyboard, you know—that’s your symbol. And it can be anything. I mean this is in a certain sense like a fetish, but by getting a symbol you’ve taken it into your life, so now it starts to work. It’s there, it’s part of your life now. And it’s a way of making it physically part of your life.
Next step is generate possibilities. This is actually the fun part. When you’re generating possibilities—here is my acronym for this—it’s a good English word: COOOS. It stands for Creative-Outrageous-Ordinary-Obvious-Silly.
So what can you conclude from that? Anything. Just take all of the restrictions, all of the “Well, that’s not possible,” and just dream and imagine, and build on ideas; do this with a friend, whatever. There’s no effort to make any of these practical or workable; it is simply generating ideas.
You know, Einstein is famous for saying, If at first the idea is not completely absurd, there’s no hope for it. [Murmured laughter]
Several years ago I was hired by a company, and the person who hired me was right in the middle of middle management, not in a high-leverage position at all, though quite respected in the company, and she said, “I don’t know how to put this in words, Ken, but…” and she started to talk, and I said, “Oh you want to transform the culture into a learning culture do you?”
She went, “You have a vocabulary for this?” And we got into a really animated conversation, and she said, “Yeah, this is exactly what I want to do.”
So there I was being hired by this middle manager, to drive change from the middle. So I called up a bunch of colleagues who were all consultants and management people and said, “How do you drive change from the middle?”
And they all said, “You can drive it from the bottom, that’s grassroots stuff. You can drive it from the top, but you can’t drive change from the middle.” I said, “Thank you very much, but that’s what I’ve been hired to do. Goodbye.” [Laughter] And, we did.
We generated a strategy, and it took several years, but it produced some very significant change in the company. So you just generate possibilities. You do not know what is possible. Just come up with ideas. Be creative. There’s this hilarious case, which I don’t think is still a case—with the CIA back in the ’60s or ’70s, when there was this heated debate going on about whether such and such a person was alive or not. And somebody says, “Well it says in the newspaper here that he’s giving a speech in Mexico.”
You know what the response was from around the table? “We don’t rely on external sources.” [Laughter]
So don’t omit the obvious. You know, not all of the ideas have to be crazy, they can be actually very straightforward. [Laughs] They can be very ordinary; they can be very silly, but you generate a bunch of ideas. Now in the arena of creative problem solving, this section is called divergence-where you just throw all kinds of things up and you build, and you build, and you build. You know, 90 to 95 percent of it’s gonna be not workable.
So what you do after that is you take a look at all of these ideas you’ve generated, and you think, “Okay, what are some that could actually work?”
So you have to have some kind of criteria. That’s where all of this stuff becomes important. And you have to see what fits with your own way of operating, what fits with your own values, what fits with the circumstance of the situation—what’s actually possible?
There’s a key idea here that I want to throw in, which I didn’t put in explicitly, but it’s just come to mind. Time and time again—and the reason I can talk about this is that everything I’ve said not to do, I have done at one time or another. So I mean—as I said to somebody during the lunch break—I can talk about making things happen, because I was really, really bad at making things happen. Now I think I’m mediocre at it. But it’s something that I’ve really had to learn how to do.
And my favorite refrain used to be, “Well we can’t do that because…”
Now whenever I hear this from somebody I just go nuts. Because you’re not describing why you can’t do things. When you use the phrase, “We can’t do that because…,” you’re actually describing the territory in which you need to operate. You’re not describing a reason why you can’t. You’re just describing, you know, there’s a boulder, right there! And maybe there’s another boulder right there. Okay, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way around those boulders. You’re just describing the territory. Do you understand what I mean here? ’Cause I hear this time and time again, “We can’t do this because so-and-so will never agree with it.” Well no, that just means you either find a way to get him to agree, or you find a way that his agreement becomes irrelevant, or you find a way that doesn’t involve him at all.
So that takes you back to this stage.
You narrow this down to three or four possibilities that might actually work, and then you pursue those, okay? And there has to be some evaluation mechanism in this, as what gives you to choose—that can be anything from personal preference, to price, to interest, and so forth. Again referring to writing, it wasn’t till I figured out what I really wanted to do, which was back here, that I was able to converge on an approach which allowed me to write, or enabled me to write An Arrow to the Heart.
And then, the next step is to commit. You take action. Now there’s a joke that goes around. There are four frogs standing on a log. One said to the other three, “On the count of three we all jump into the water. Agreed?” And all the other frogs went, “Yup.” First frog goes, “One, Two, Three!” How many frogs are there on the log? Four. Execution is much more difficult than decision. [Laughter]
So, the key here is to take action. Start doing something, however small. This is part of my crack-in-the-dam theory of change. You want to change a certain way, for instance—at one place I’ve used it myself, and other people have found it helpful—you have a problem with generosity. Okay? You give something, no matter how inconsequential, to somebody, every day. It can be a paper clip. It can be literally one penny. If you really have a problem with this, make it a grain of rice. But you give something, physically, to somebody, every day.
And what happens is, there’s a movement there. And just that movement—where you’re…something is…and you have to let it go, and it goes into the other person’s hand—that starts the habit, or the possibility of letting go and giving in you.
Now you all know what happens once there’s a crack in the dam: a little water starts to seep through—the dam’s finished. It’s just a matter of time. Once there’s a crack in the dam, the dam’s finished. And so this is why I say, you take action; you start doing something.
One of the best ways that I’ve found to take action is to set a time frame. It will be done before “X.” And it can be totally arbitrary, as it is in many cases, but it’s again a way of taking action. Now, through this whole process, you need to keep coming back again and again to where you are in your body and your emotions, because once you start this process, everything starts to move around.
And this is why we have this one down here called Keep Cycling. And it doesn’t refer to cycling on a bicycle. Once you start taking action, watch the signs. Again, in some sense this is a little magical. But the principle here is, when you’re moving in a direction that works, you will generally find things start to flow in a certain way—they get easier. There may be great challenges, but you’re able to pour your energy into them in a good way. And, so, that’s an internal sign to watch for.
There also can be some not-so-subtle external signs. For instance, maybe you decide to take Christina’s thing of learning the piano. Okay, so she buys a piano and she calls up a piano teacher, and goes to the appointment and she’s not there. And so I call her up afterwards and she says, “Well no, I’m not teaching piano anymore.” Okay, so that one didn’t work out. And then you contact another piano teacher. And that one doesn’t work out. And then you contact a third piano teacher, and for another reason, that doesn’t work out. Watch the signs.
You know, something’s going on there. Part of watching the signs for me is rule of three. When something happens three times, same dynamic, it usually indicates that I’m caught in a reactive pattern—there’s something that I’m ignoring. [Unclear] So, and certainly when I’m teaching people about difficult conversations, whenever you find yourself going through the same dynamics in a conversation with a person three times, you’re both in reactive patterns, and it’s appropriate to start talking about the form of communication that’s taking place. Forget about the topic, ’cause it’s not working. You follow? Rule of three.
And keep cycling; that is, at every stage of this, check. ’Cause we’re doing this in terms of being awake, not just being efficient and just getting things done, but in terms of how do we make things happen and stay awake in the process. To do that you need to be checking. Where am I in this now, where am I in this now? Because once things start moving you say, “No this isn’t the direction I want to be going in, I’ve got to reexamine my whole—what’s going on here? I’ve got to reexamine my intention here. What am I doing?”
So there’s going to be constant recycling and—did I put this in the handouts? Yeah, there are a couple more here. The Rely on Direct Perception is what I’ve been talking about in terms of staying in touch with your body, staying in touch with feelings, because that is the world of our experience. Everything else—relationships, other people, in any form, other people’s opinions—these are all projections of one sort or another. It’s our own experience. Now some of you experienced this when we were doing some of the exercises earlier, that as this conversation was taking place, there were certain experiences, and when you made the effort just to be in your experience, you got in touch with stuff that you couldn’t get in touch with otherwise, or you saw things more clearly than you could otherwise.
And that didn’t come from a reasoning process. It didn’t come from an intellectual process. It didn’t come from absorbing somebody else’s opinion. It came from your own efforts in direct awareness yourself. Just being right in your experience. So that is how you stay awake in this process, by constantly coming back to what is my experience here? And you have that sense: this doesn’t feel right. Pay attention to that. Don’t ignore it, just as we talked about earlier—don’t ignore those feelings. At least consider that there may be something operating there.
I want to make sure…yes, okay [referring to handouts].
Another reason for keeping cycling: first, once you initiate this process everything is always changing—that’s impermanence. Second, as some of you quickly discovered in some of the work we did today, one’s emotional needs keep resurfacing, and when we live to satisfy our emotional needs, we inevitably end up struggling, because those emotional needs were laid down early in our lives, and there is no way of meeting them. The people are gone, we’re different, we can’t live in the past, and yet many people spend their lives trying to do just that. So you need to be aware of those emotional needs, experience them, but not succumb to them—or get lost in them would be a better way of putting it.
And the third thing is that as things start to move, your identity—who you think you are, your self image—starts to change. And this is something that came up right at the beginning. Maybe you end up feeling more powerful than you realized, and for a lot of people they back off right there saying, “I can’t handle this.” Other people feel more vulnerable—opens up things—but our sense of ourselves will change. Our sense of ourselves is a similar projection, just as our sense of others is. And so, again, don’t get lost or confused by that. But these are all things that are going to change.
Last point is—Think Evolution. We discussed genesis and conditions versus cause and effect earlier. Genesis and conditions is the language of evolution; cause and effect is the language of physics, really. And evolution is the much more appropriate model for this kind of thing. That is, one thing leads to another, which makes something else possible, which then makes something else possible.
As we develop attention we become capable of doing things which were simply unavailable to us without that same level of attention. Technically this is known as emergent phenomena or emergent abilities in the language of evolution and complex adaptive systems, but the whole working of karma is much more an evolutionary process than it is a strict cause and effect process. So at each stage, whatever you’re doing makes other things possible, and that’s why one needs to keep recycling, but to view it as a process of unfolding rather than simple cause and effect: I do this and then this comes about. Because basically each of us is a very, very complex system, and you start moving something over here, and for some reason all of this stuff over here starts to change. So that’s why we need to have that large awareness, stay in touch with our experience, and work on this.
Now I’ve been talking here for a while. I asked you to make notes on this kind of stuff as it relates to some of the ideas and some of the things you’ve been working. So what are some of the things that I’ve been talking about that spark some chords or some resonances with you? Carolyn? Do we have a mic anywhere? Randye? Okay, we’ve got one.
Carolyn: The checking for balance—I kept thinking of it in terms of energy, and I’m already spread pretty thin, but I thought, “Okay I’ll make some priorities now.” But I realize something else that the balance…that would also affect my balance, is that if this project does go through, I’m going to be a little bit more highly…more visible. And that brought up another thing that I hadn’t thought about. I work behind the scenes, and this is going to push me forward. So the balance of being a little more visible brings up another vulnerability thing about how will I deal in balance with…you know, this is gonna create something else. [Laughs]
Carolyn: So, you know, am I ready for that kind of energy thing that is…that I know for my field really that is…has demands on you? So…
Ken: Right. Which means that if you’re already spread somewhat thin, or thinly, then there are certain things you—if you’re going to move in this direction you probably need to cut back, so that you actually have the resources available for that.
Carolyn: Or factor it in when it comes to that point, you know, ’cause it’s a, you know…
Ken: Or you could leave it to the last minute. That wouldn’t be unlike… [Laughter]
Carolyn: That’s my strong suit, right? [Laughter]
Ken: Okay! So you’re very much the one who sort of anticipates these things and works that way. That’s okay! That’s how you work. Right? Anybody else? Any particular resonances here? I know I put out a lot of stuff in the last few minutes but…yes?
Student: Well for me—and it…and it’s a good reminder from the retreat in October—Monsters Under the Bed—it just…it’s…it’s, they’re all very good reminders—but about going back to your body and really tuning in…I…I…it just reiterates how important that is, and just to be aware, and…and paying attention to that, for me.
Ken: You see, we have the illusion that—and this is a paraphrase of something that comes from Uchiyama Roshi—we have the illusion that we are born into this world, we live for a while in this world, and then we die and leave this world. As he says, This is an utterly inverted way of looking at things. When we are born, our world of experience is born with us; we are not separate from it. Our world of experience consists of sensory sensations, through the organs of the various senses; and their sense of the body is simply a set of tactile and some visual, emotional sensations, and awareness, and all of the thoughts and stuff, the movement that takes place—that’s our actual world of experience. Other people, jobs, careers, family, are ways in which we group our experience and organize it. It’s a world…and at a certain point usually in the process of growing up, we move away from the world of actual experience into the world of shared experience, or as I like to say, the world in which we think we live.
And once we start ignoring the world we actually experience, then we create the condition for imbalance to arise. What’s extraordinary is that if we pay complete attention—and those of you who study Tibetan Buddhism may have come across this term omniscience, occasionally referring to high lamas (I think it’s totally the wrong translation), it is complete knowing, is how I would prefer to do it, knowing completely what is happening in one’s world of experience—this is doable. And when you know all of that, then you know what is happening in what appears in your interaction, with what appears to be another person.
But if you’re completely in that experience, then any time there’s any imbalance in it, you respond immediately to it. So you actually never move out of balance, and this is where listening becomes very important, and listening very deeply, because if you listen deeply, then somebody says something, and part of your body goes, “Ewwwwww,” and you go, “Okay,” and so now you hear things in a different way. And you don’t get caught up in what you want to get across, so you never get into an argument. Very simple. We only get caught up into an argument when we’re more concerned with what we’re trying to express than what they’re trying to express. That’s when we get into an argument.
But by paying complete attention to that, just to our world of experience, then we will know what to do in each situation. And the knowing will arise quite naturally, it will not arise through an intellectual process, it’ll arise through an experiential process, and it’ll be immediate and direct.
I was giving a talk out at Claremont to this, and we did a demonstration, where two people were engaged as a role-play in a difficult conversation, and I pointed the person to this possibility of being totally in their experience, and then what to say next in the conversation came [snaps his fingers] just up like that, and he freaked out. He freaked out because he hadn’t thought it. And he had not ever experienced knowing something without thinking before.
But this is available to us, all the time. And that’s the kind of knowing that we seek to uncover in our practice. And we uncover it by making the effort to be completely in what we experience, not what we project, which is basically, what the world that we think we live in. Okay, that’s a bit of a long ramble there, but I hope I get the point across.
Okay, other areas of resonance that any of you found? Okay? Yes?
Student: One question, actually that I had, was—you mentioned when you were talking about what we’d like to stand for, and how we’d like to live—you mentioned if you want to make something happen, and it’s not naturally part of your repertoire, then you won’t be good at it. And, like, ’cause it doesn’t come to you naturally, but I’m sort of just wondering how then…how then do you become good at anything?
Student: I mean, or not that…not that it’s about not becoming good, but there’s definitely things you want to nurture in yourself, and…
Ken: Yup, okay. Now, a little clarification there. I made that comment in reference to how do you operate, not what do you stand for.
Ken: And it has to do with how we make decisions and how we come to do things. And that has that private-shared thing. Some of this can be learned, but a lot of that is laid down by conditioning, and we’ll find that we’ll only be able to change it to a certain point, and that’s why I use the example of me being a salesman—it’s absurd. I mean, I can learn how to do it, and I’ve actually read books on salesmen, I know all the theory etc., etc., etc. But it’s a very different matter; it’s not how I relate to people because I’m not interested in selling them. I had a friend way back in Vancouver who came to town, and—’cause we knew each other from back East—and he said, “Well I’ve got to find a job,” and I said, “Well how are you gonna do that?” “Oh, I’ll find one.” And he went to Singer Sewing Machine and said, “Hire me.” They said, “What do you want to do?” He said, “I want to do sales.” And so the guy said, “Here’s a paper clip. Sell it to me.” Now, how would you do in that job interview? He got the job, because he was a salesman.
Now I’m not saying that we have these types, but there are certain kinds of things that some of us are good at and some certain other things—what’s really important is to find what you are good at. Rather than trying to correct things that you aren’t good at, which can be…it’s often far more fruitful to become really good at the things that you’re naturally good at. ’Cause that’s where your strengths lie, and that’s where you’re going to be able to put energy. And when you…it comes to nurturing yourself, to try to correct what you perceive as a weakness in yourself, you’re constantly reminding yourself that you’re weak there. And that is not necessarily a nurturing ability, or a nurturing activity, whereas taking something—well, this I do very well. How can I do what I want to do here using this set of skills or this set of abilities that I have. Then you’re operating where you’re very effective and very capable. Lynea?
Lynea: That makes…
Ken: Oh boy.
Lynea: Sorry. That makes sense to me on the one hand, but I guess what’s coming up in my head is Michael Jordan. And I’m thinking about, okay, so here’s somebody who, when he was young, presumably the story is, you know, was excellent on the right, and just then realized, well he had to spend a lot of time learning to dribble on the left, and just exercising, so I guess I wonder when I think about these things there, I’m extremely lopsided when I look at this, and…
Ken: Well yes, but let’s take Michael Jordan. After he reached the pinnacle of basketball what did he do?
Lynea: I have no idea.
Ken: He tried to play baseball. And he didn’t get very far. [Laughter] Because it’s a very different set of skills, even though he’s an extraordinarily gifted athlete, baseball requires a different set of skills from basketball, and even he did not have them.
Ken: Or maybe he could have developed them if he had started younger, but it wasn’t happening, so after a couple of years in the minor leagues, he dropped it and went back to basketball. And…
Lynea: So, are…are you saying on some level there’s a way of recognizing that there are times when you can actually develop the capacity for certain things, and then, you know…
Ken: There are definitely capacities one can develop, no question. But you were saying you were lopsided. If it’s not uncomfortable for you, then…
Lynea: No it’s not…
Lynea: And I mean, I’m like…I’m 10 percent commit, 80 percent attend…or something absurd like…
Lynea: Sixty, 30, 10.
Ken: Sixty, 30, 10. Okay, well then it’s very simple.
Lynea: Get other people to take action for me. [Laughter]
Ken: You know…and, I mean this is what I do, because I am somewhat similar: 60, 30, 10, and I don’t buy that you’re 10, because you do things, very well. I just don’t—observing you and seeing what I do—you’re very, very effective at getting things done. But there are some people who, you know—and Diane here will tell you about this [laughs]—you know, you…say “okay”, and then just get out and they make the phone calls. In fact I’ll give you a concrete example.
Back in ’86, I was organizing a retreat with Kalu Rinpoche, who was still alive at that point, and this was up at Big Bear, and we knew we’d have about a hundred people at this retreat, and we had five visiting people with Rinpoche—Rinpoche and his attendants and so forth—and there was a lot to arrange. And, I was just going, “Okay, so we’ve got to do this, and this,” and I thought most of it through. I did most of this and a good bit of this, and then I couldn’t pick up the phone, and start calling people, saying do that, do x, do y, do zed. I mean there was stuff in me that prevented me from doing that. And somebody came in and said, “Can I help you with this?” And I said, “Yeah, I’m lost, I don’t know how to do the next step.” And she looked over everything and said, “It’s done Ken! You’ve done it all!”
I said, “I have?”
“Yeah, just, give me two days.”
And two days, everybody was assigned, everything’s done, and the retreat went with no problem at all. But getting that action part, that was the hard part for me. Now I have worked to get myself better at that, so I’m not completely dependent, but if I really…I know that these are my areas that I can do that and I will know it to be more effective for me to get people to do things—especially if it’s a major project—than relying on me to do it all myself.
Whereas other people, they don’t want to do this. They’re not interested in the information. They just want to be said [told], you know, “What are things I can do? Give me x, give me y, give me zed,” and they’ll just go and do it, and they’re really, really good at it. And the big thing is—and I want to bring this to everybody’s attention—you say I’m really lopsided. No, we’re all different. Okay?
And the tendency is, when we see that we can’t do something, is to regard that as a weakness. That is one way of looking at it, but I prefer to look at it as part of attending. This is the situation. Okay, how do I work with that situation, rather than how do I become something that I’m not? That help?
Lynea: Yup, thank you.
Ken: Okay, it’s 4:30, last comment here Maya, and then I want to conclude.
Maya: I’m sorry, this is kind of related to that…that one is also related to your comment about Michael Jordan.
Maya: I mean, wasn’t it though sort of, how you were talking about kind of thinking in the margins, like wasn’t he in some ways thinking in the margins, in trying to do something that he wasn’t necessarily…
Maya: Perfect at? And…
Ken: He was exploring possibilities. Absolutely.
Ken: And thank you for reminding me of something. On this convergence… [Comment from audience] Pardon? Well there are basically two strategies here that you can use. One is you can select things that…you know, you’ve got this big list and you can actually select them. And the other way is trial and error—that you’ve got this big list, you try one. How does that work? And you try another, how does that work? You try another. The advantage of trial and error is you get actual experience in it. But basically, I mean…there’s…there’s actually a great deal written on both of these divergent processes and convergent processes. You know, it’s studied quite a bit, so you have to figure out the ways. I think if you look up creative problem solving on Google, it will take you to a lot of stuff. I don’t have any concrete, explicit references. But it’s one model for creative problem solving, and you’ll probably find others, too.
I mean, a lot of this stuff that we’ve been discussing has been thought and re-thought in different ways, and so you’re going to come across it presented. What I tried to do, and one of the reasons why I spent a lot of time thinking about this workshop, is I didn’t want to give you one template to work from, because that might only be the template which works for my particular style. And that’s why I wanted to spend some time, however briefly, on having you appreciate that you have your own style of working, and parts of it may work better, and parts of it may not work as well for you. The parts that don’t work well for you, those are the parts to look at actually changing or finding something, some other way of working with them so you don’t move out of balance. But that was the purpose of this, ’cause I wanted to try to do this generally enough, that it didn’t just say there is this one way of doing it, ’cause that’s what usually happens here.
Again I’m gonna come back to the theme: stay in your own experience. Really pay attention to that because, amazingly enough, all of the answers are actually there.