‘Imi ola; Form and Function

Preface: If you are new to Talking Story, Ho‘ohana „¢ is the monthly newsletter of Say Leadership Coaching, sent on the first weekday of each month to our email subscribers (You can learn more, and subscribe here). Talking Story is home to the Ho‘ohana „¢ online essay of each issue, and we explore more on the newsletter’s theme periodically through-out the rest of the month.

As the days of July came and went, I found myself thinking ahead quite a bit. August and September have become months of special and very specific meaning for me. (This was our Ho‘ohana last August.)

They are character building months;

They are months for questioning and testing foundations.

They are months dedicated to never resting on one’s laurels, while slowing down just enough to truly appreciate how delectably good those laurels have been, and still are meant to be. After all, it is still summer, and summer is for simmering, not for rushing.

Cook to recipe. Simmer. Taste. Add some spice, or some salt. Simmer some more. E komo mai e ‘ai; (come in and eat). Invite your guests to feast with you.

This August marks the 2nd anniversary of Talking Story, and the 3rd anniversary of my business, Say Leadership Coaching. What a glorious three years it has been. We have eaten very well. We feast well in each other’s company.

And then there’s September.

August and September go together in a kind of easy, tasty two-dish meal. However the September dish is always a new one in some way. We haven’t made it before, and we know we’ll need to practice it a few times before we put it on the table for our guests. But first, we ourselves must learn the recipe. But which recipe, and for which dish? There are so many to choose from!

September has become a month cooked up with all things which concern our love of learning. As done a year ago, I will be inviting other writers to explore it with me, so that this September, you can again look forward to our Ho‘ohana Community Forum on Lifelong Learning. I can already tell you that come September, our value of the month will be ‘Ike loa, to seek knowledge and wisdom. We will seek it within the incredible pool of knowledge we have right here in this community.

So August becomes about preparing for September too. Just because the table isn’t set yet, one can’t assume it is quiet in the kitchen. Therefore this month, this anniversary August worth celebrating and simmering, will be dedicated to the value we in Hawai‘i call ‘Imi ola.

I think of form and function with ‘Imi ola, for within this value we seek the best possible form for our lives; form itself is elevated in importance. Ola is the Hawaiian word for life. ‘Imi means to look for, to seek. At the core of living this value, is our instinctual understanding that our lives are the gifts of possibility, and we are worthy of lives which can be pretty spectacular.

Let me say that again: We are worthy. We are worthy of spectacular lives.

Form is not a static thing; it is dynamic. With ‘Imi ola we look at patterns, routines, ebbs and flows, and now that it is August, we can take the liberties of summer’s lightness of spirit in doing so. This is a time we can reflect without taking ourselves too seriously, and knowing that new learning is on the September horizon we do get bolder and braver. We attempt to unshackle ourselves from anything which might be dragging us down or holding us back, and we experiment more freely.

And yes, we look at function too. We connect function to the intention within our form. That is to say, we connect it to our Ho‘ohana, the on-purpose, passionate work we do.

It is said
that the concept of form and function has its origins in architectural design, and I like the thought that we are the architects and designers of our own lives. I like the imagery of it; that we can design the most spectacular building called our life, with rooms which naturally flow one into the other, just the way they are supposed to. Yet the walls are there to celebrate the uniqueness of character we have in each room too, for we are complex in our interests. We are fascinating. We value our own differences.

‘Imi ola; to seek one’s best possible form for the life they live. Don’t you love the thought that we can create the best possible future for ourselves? We can learn virtually anything we have to learn to do so. After all, everything was once thought of as impossible until the first person did it, right?

However I think that too often we tend to live within this misguided notion that we have to pay our dues in a less bright present to get to that best possible future. We all too quickly assume we have to struggle a bit first for the payoff later. Says who? And for what reason? Why can’t you live a great life now while creating an even greater future? Why can’t you play with the form and function of your own life today as you shape it for tomorrow?

It is to that liberating viewpoint we dedicate this bountiful month of August.

We’ll work on the form we want, for the functions we believe in. Come September, we’ll be able to choose more wisely, more confidently from all we’d like to learn.

That’s the plan, my anniversary month plan. My hope is that it ends up to be a celebration for you too. What do you think?

———————–From the archives:

A year ago: Our August Ho‘ohana is Ho‘olaule‘a; a Celebration!
A preview to what is coming: September Ho‘ohana; Lifelong Learning


  1. says

    Love this concept Rosa – to seek the best form for the life I live. I’m looking forward to working on it with you this month. Happy Anniversary!

  2. says

    Thank you Terry – and working on it with me you will! This is something I have come to appreciate so much about blog-thinking out loud in the aloha of our Ho‘ohana Community; I challenge myself to bravely post a new month’s Ho‘ohana based on what I feel I should be doing … and then I have to walk my talk!
    My Talking Story anniversary has come to be about another year of accomplishments made possible by all of your wonderful support and encouragement: This is a Ho‘olaule‘a (celebration) we will enjoy together.

  3. says

    Innovate with Form and Function

    Form Follows Function.
    Or does it?
    This phrase appealed to the common-sensible manager in me from the very first time I heard it. It seemed so pragmatic; so logical and reasonable; matter-of-fact even.
    In business early on, I was taught that good manag…

  4. says

    POP ² Management

    Remember “management by objective?”
    In the early years of my own management career, management by objective was the single-minded battle cry for business. It was a time when we took certain things for granted, like the hard work ethic of our staff;…

  5. says

    ‘imi ‘ola: Designing a spectacular life

    Seems I’m not the only one interested in metaphors of other disciplines for the way we structure our lives. I’m a tangential fan of Talking Story , and the concept of ‘imi ‘ola has to do with looking at patterns,

  6. says

    Even though I’m not in the management business, I always find your columns useful and entertaining, often simply for managing my own life.
    This was especially good (found via lifehack) but I have to say that I always have difficulty with metaphors such as houses or pictures or sculptures, because they are static art forms. I’ve been exploring the idea of dance as a metaphor for a “life like art” on my blog. I read the idea of ‘imi ‘ola as sort of a choreographic planning time, after you’ve tried out various moves and combinations, finally getting to the point where you’re ready to put it all into practice for the performance. Is that about right?
    And considering the immense richness of dance traditions from the islands, any other relevant ideas that might come out of it?

  7. says

    Aloha Gray, thank you so much for commenting, for that is precisely right – beautifully, interpretively, and creatively right!
    I adore your concept of fluidity.
    There definitely IS a strong connection with our hula tradition of dance in the islands, and you have the wheels turning in my head now with the suggestion. Let me think on it more.
    For now, I’ll share another way the building metaphor has come up for me with client coaching: Windows.
    We talk about which windows are open to the breezes, to let in fresh air, invigorating the entire inside, and which are shuttered closed, and why. We talk about how picture windows have disappeared from homes in our architecture today, and why they were a stable of new-home construction in the 1950’s.
    Metaphors can be so useful and thought-provoking! I am definitely going to spend some time at your blog to learn more about your idea of dance as a metaphor for a “life like art.”

  8. says

    Selfish Mentoring

    One of my favorite themes in the MWA coaching curriculum is something we refer to as the ‘selfish mentoring of ‘imi ola.’
    ‘Imi ola is the Hawaiian value of personal vision; it literally translates to ‘seek life’ and as a business value, we …