Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

 

The need to be both vulnerable and authentic has been on my mind for months. Choosing to experience vulnerability, or having “the courage to be imperfect” as Brené Brown describes, is empowering. It’s a necessity not a flaw.

Resisting vulnerability weakens rather than strengthens. It takes honesty and self-awareness not to recoil in uncomfortable moments.

Brené wisely states that we cannot numb emotion selectively.

It’s not easy but it appears to be essential for personal growth and lasting relationships. We can never truly connect with others without a willingness to be vulnerable. There is more to it than I’ve explained. It takes repeated  experience to ‘get it.’

Brené gets it. Do we get it? More importantly, do I get it? 

 

“As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”

Lonesome Road by Cory Voglesonger

Years ago as my grandparents were driving through the mountains of North Georgia, my grandfather at the wheel and my grandmother at his side, my grandfather made a series of wrong turns before he realized he was lost. After trying several different routes he was not only unable to determine where they were headed, but he was eventually unable to get back to where they had been.

After all attempts had been exhausted he turned and said, “We’re lost.” My grandmother replied, “I’m not lost.” “What do you mean you’re not lost?” he asked. She said, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost.”

The recognition that being together means never being lost is a profound truth. It was a characteristic of their marriage of over sixty years.  Location didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. Being together, side by side, patient with each other, and knowing that those we travel with are far more important than when or how we reach our destination was what mattered.

After making a few course corrections they eventually found their way back to familiar roads. Throughout the rest of their lives together they continued to travel across the back roads of Georgia with their children, grandchildren, and other family members, occasionally getting turned around but never lost.  Their travels are a metaphor for their life together.

Are we truly lost when those who matter to us most are close by? My grandmother didn’t think so. Her nine little words, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”, speak volumes. They are also a reminder that kind words, spoken well, can last forever.

The Great Questions We Carry

A defective four leaf clover.

Each year at Christmas my grandfather gives everyone in the family a small hand held puzzle. Often these puzzles are clear cubes containing metal balls and rings that must be aligned to complete a design. Most of the time I can see what I think the outcome should be, yet the challenge is finding the solution before I lose interest.

The wisdom in these little puzzles is clear. They parallel the individual and collective questions we all carry. Some are trivial and amusing, easily put down and picked up again. Others are larger and require more time and effort to solve. After a little fiddling these larger puzzles are often shelved in hopes that “some day” we’ll have time to spread out all the pieces and restore order to the chaos.

We seem to reserve a special place for the truly great questions and we keep them within constant reach. These are the questions of life that won’t let go. They demand our attention.

At times I’ve attempted to force pieces together that don’t belong. Particularly the beautiful pieces that seem so good together. Fabricating solutions in ignorance or accepting answers that are comfortable, but not accurate.

While there are clearly right and wrong choices, there is a wide spectrum of individual solutions within those bounds. Yet the constants, the rules that apply across that spectrum, can be difficult to identify independently. Many of life’s variables are in constant flux. We rarely get a bird’s eye view of the labyrinth, and few of life’s puzzles are cut as evenly as factory made cardboard and plastic.

Fortunately, when we find solutions we share them. Small and simple things can be the greatest gifts. Answers to long sought questions can be the key to gaining mountain top perspective on the dark valley of our lives. Sometimes answers come like a flood and other times in painfully slow drips.

The key is having a desire to search for solutions. To believe the answer exists and to keep working to discover answers that are equal to the questions.

What does this have to do with education and training? Everything.

Living in a “Fill the Space” Age (Or the myth of emptiness)

Life is great and small

We are living in the “space” age. Not the science fiction version with flying cars and tight pants but an age where every moment, every space, must be filled.

In our cities homes are stacked on top of each other. We build in as much as we build out. Hollow space is considered either a potential commodity or a design flaw. If you have empty space, or “free” time, the American question is; what will you do with it? What will you do to fill the space you’ve been given to make it larger, to make it better?

In our market economy product saturation, or infiltration, presides. Competition for space in the most precious of all real-estate markets, the human mind, is in constant flux. It seems no space is too sacred for the adviser’s pen. The desire to fill ourselves, to fill our own sense of emptiness, makes nearly every space, and every item, exchangeable.

Nothing is its own for its own sake. All can quickly become a token, a trading card for something else to fill the ironically increasing void in our expanding world.

As we look deeper into the origins of life and farther into the expanse of the heavens we find that both are endless. The visible world is growing as we gaze into what we thought was invisible, with new eyes. Yet there is a harmony in what appears to be chaos. The order runs deep and balance is maintained. There are limits keeping order between the spaces.

While in this accelerating age of space filling I hope we will choose to value the sacred space of the human mind and stop catering to those who would exploit our most vulnerable locations.

Folktales Vs. Fairy tales

Fairy tale

Is there a difference between a folktale and fairy tale? In the following paragraphs Arthur Henry King (1910 -2000) reveals the strength of a folktale and the emptiness of fairy tale.

Matters like these should occupy the minds of parents and educators rather than the pleasantries of sedation and distraction that are constantly in view.

We need to acquaint children with folktales, which are the classics of their own tradition. And we need to recognize that there is a great difference between a folktale and a fairy tale. A fairy tale is a make-over of a folktale. A fairy tale tries to make the world more pleasant than the folktale represents it, pleasanter than it really is. Under the impression that the world will be bad enough for children when they come to it. The fairy tale represents life as something restricted and magically protected. The fairy tale does not help children at all.


If you turn to the original Grimm’s folktales, you will find that the folk have profoundly understood over thousands of years that children must face up to nightmares and horror and cruelty. And since children have to face up to those things, the best place for them to do so for the first time is on a parent’s lap, where they have a sense of security. If children are not “terrified” on their parent’s laps, they will be terrified in their dreams when their parents aren’t there. We know enough about children from a very early age to know that they have their nightmares and their horrors and their darkness. If we don’t give them those kinds of experiences, they still have them.


By becoming acquainted with folk literature, children may be educated. By that means, they may grow up facing reality. And if they grow up facing reality, there will be no crisis of confidence between them and society.

Arthur Henry King – Arm the Children, BYU Studies 1998, page 243-244.

Know Your Audience: A short example from Pixar

onemandbandfilm.jpg

Pixar’s short film One Man Band is an excellent example of presenters who don’t know their audience. Here is the story from Pixar:  

With one coin to make a wish at the piazza fountain, a peasant girl encounters two competing street performers who’d prefer the coin find its way into their tip jars. The little girl, Tippy, is caught in the middle as a musical duel ensues between the one-man-bands.  

The street performers become so competitive that they lose sight of their role as musicians. Each makes several assumptions that weaken any chance of “winning” the coin:  

  1. They have what the audience needs
  2. The more they push the better the message
  3. They must compete in front of the audience to win
  4. Their art/product/message is secondary to winning
  5. They have more skill than the audience

Unfortunately these assumptions are not limited to cartoons. Trainers who assume they know the subject matter better than the audience and disparage the competition are far too common. Another problem is when the services being provided are viewed as secondary.  A presenter who wants to stop on the edge of what is wanted, at the expense of the audience, misses the point of being a messenger.

Fortunately, Pixar didn’t stop on the edge and delivers an excellent story. They could have stopped producing short films years ago but they’ve chosen to deliver greatness in small packages even when the audience has already paid.  

The opposite of One Man Band is my favorite Pixar short, Boundin’. Buy all four minutes and forty-three seconds of Boundin’ on iTunes and watch a master teacher embodied in a jackalope.

The CommonCraft Show: Attention grabbing low-tech educational videos

Below are two attention grabbing plain English educational videos from The CommonCraft Show. The first is about Google Docs and the second, CFL bulbs. If you think there is no profit in this kind of work, think again. Google is a CommonCraft Productions customer.

Sometimes a simple design is better. Watch and learn.