I blew it. I broke my first rule and failed to control my ego.
Not sure what the lovely woman I met at my 35th graduate school class reunion felt, but I’m certain she hadn’t expected the slight and unfiltered commentary that poured out of my mouth.
In my haste to catch up with my classmates, I spotted one across the room standing in a small circle. Had I interrupted an earlier conversation? I’m guessing that’s why this stranger to me raised the topic, that brought out my less admirable qualities.
This very poised and polished woman expressed her enthusiasm for a storytelling webinar she had heard. Coincidentally, I too had participated in the same webinar.
The mistake was my response to her comments in which I undid any credibility I hoped or once had. I blundered in, may have even tossed my head and rolled my eyes expressing annoyance. of course, I can’t really explain what happened or why. For example, I’m guessing that I behaved and acted badly to someone’s eagerness to “learn” how to tell stories–the most natural of human behaviors.
Now in the quiet of my home, the emotions calm, the memory distant, the source of my annoyance is clearer to me.
I’ll admit, I’m lazy when it comes to learning. It’s considerably less work, requires less effort when I ask someone else to tell me the key ideas that will make me successful.
It’s probably why I had bothered to sign up for the storytelling webinar IDEO offered. And it’s probably why I was so bothered that IDEO had attracted an even wider audience of participants.
When we ask someone else to give us the gist or spare us from sifting, sorting and working out what’s important, we take the magic beans approach to learning.
The magic beans reference is to a fairy tale in which Jack, the main character, is framed as a fool. Why would I mention a fool’s tale?
Don’t worry if you don’t recall the fairy tale, because the story is only a device to help you remember the message. I assume, like me, you too take pride in what you know.
Take a moment. Think about the effort, time and attempts you spend acquiring knowledge that pleases you and makes you proud.
By chance, if you’ve got a recorder nearby play along for a moment. Or open the audio or video application on your phone and hit record.
“Repeat after me.”
“Do what I do.”
Let me be clear, I’ve given you an instruction and now your ability plus your will needs to work out a response. That last bit, the work out? It mixes conscious and unconscious processes. It coordinates the central nervous system receptors and transmitters that pass on the fight/flight triggers that route, interpret, select and cue whatever you do.
Your decision, answer or activity turns out to be a reactive bundle that rapidly assembled in response to my instructions.
Watch/and or listen to your recording.
Were the phrases the same? what differences, if any did you notice?
I presume that you too are calm reading what I’ve written. Do you know the reason I asked you to record this little activity and ask you to compare them? I’m guessing you are also still wondering how any of this relates to magic beans, bonus points if you are beginning to connect all these little messages together.
Congratulations if you are aware of the following:
- The power to learn and adapt is innate in all of us.
- Reflection and replay increase our understanding as it invites us to turn our focusing lens on ourselves and notice what we do as well as what we don’t do.
- Deeper learning occurs when we expend time and dedicate effort to learning any task or understanding someone or something.
- Thinking releases other chemicals and changes how we feel. Circumstances dictate whether we feel drowsy or anxious and the extent of triggered connections.
Back to the real world
with respect to my own failure, and the story I mentioned at the onset of this post, I now get to the purpose and intention behind this posting.
Personally, I spend more time thinking and less time doing. To think through a problem or even identify its root cause requires different skills than applying the fresh thinking or even deeper understanding. True, situations and circumstances vary. Social factors, in particular, affect our behavior often ahead of our awareness.
In my social scenario, I reacted emotionally with little or no thought, intention or consideration for others in my presence. When this happens, I’m less clear and much less effective as I’m reacting to a narrow set of cues. Of course, this is a considerable improvement over my previous habit of interrupting people before they finished telling me anything.
When does my intention to know differ from my hunger for magic beans? Our behaviors give us away. What blew my ego’s cover, was my belief that I knew more than what was being said and I was impatient enough to prove it.
What I didn’t do was practice active listening, use my knowledge to ask questions and honor what others may or may not know. Magic beans are always worth less than you pay for them unless you exercise a little critical thinking.
Earlier I gave you some simple instructions and then used more than the three instructional words to explain what I was doing. What informed my purpose, my intention and lent credibility to make you consent and participate?
The only way to test what you know is to repeat it, think and then write it out. It’s why the teacher in me knows that I’ll be better after I’ve had the chance to think things through. When I just start talking I’m thinking outloud. In some situations that’s appropriate, as in when you want to collaborate. But if people cut you off, then chances are your learning or recitation isn’t worth much.
The best way to apply what I know is to practice and test it, not by giving a lecture but by applying the learning in a demonstration of its meaning.
What about you, do you have any suggestions or ideas for how I can get out of my own way, be open to more possibilities?