How to Fill up by Spilling

I’ve finished reading How We Decide, and the book I’m reading now is An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. It’s one of those books that aren’t to be denied (nor should you). Rave reviews kept turning up across the world of my web browsing, seeming to ask me, “How about now? Are you ready for me yet?”

Go get a copy of your own. This book is a gem, and I recommend it highly. I’ll be buying it by the case so I can gift it to everyone I know.

The book feeds your soul as much as your tummy, probably more so. It’s a well-seasoned weaving of “philosophy and instruction into approachable lessons on instinctive cooking.” — that comes from the book jacket, and it’s a good description. The book appeals to those who aren’t chefs, but want to come to a good partnership with cooking because they like good food and want to eat it without too much fuss and bother. Respectfully and knowledgeably, yes. Professionally and elaborately, no.

That’s me, through and through. I know my kitchen intimately mostly because of keeping it clean; from a culinary perspective it feels like a foreign land even though I somehow raised a healthy family with its help.

But before I go too far down that rabbit hole, this post isn’t about cooking, or even learning to.

How to Build A Ship

Author Tamar Adler writes;

“There are times when I can’t bear to think about cooking. Food is what I love, and how I communicate love, and how I calm myself. But sometimes, without my knowing why, it is drained of all that. Then cooking becomes just another one of hunger’s jagged edges. So I have ways to take hold of this thing and wrest it from the jaws of resentment, and settle it back among the things that are mine.”

The chapter that begins with this paragraph is called “How to Build a Ship” and it’s about how Adler gets her inspiration back when it has momentarily slipped away.

As a quick but helpful aside, Adler says she has two loves: food and words. Her chapters are evocative in their announcements: “How to Light a Room” is about how herbs perk up food. “How to Live Well” is about understanding how wonderful the lowly bean can be. “How to Make Peace” is about how rice and ground corn (grits in the South, and polenta in Europe) are pacifists, because they “fill bellies and cracks in our meals, and they fill the cultural divisions in our appetites, which really, in the end, are the same.” This chapter got its name from a quote attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who is best remembered for his novella The Little Prince:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood, and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

So Adler takes his advice, and does just that for us, as her readers and hopeful voyagers. She explains how she gets her love of cooking back when she needs to, and guess what? It’s the shortest chapter in the book (at least as far as I’ve read). It’s because love has a way of sticking around, staying close to you.

How to Weave Cloth Without Thread

For me, weaving is about making learning relevant and useful; a beautiful cloth can be anything you want it to be, and mine is Managing with Aloha.
[We talked story about it here: Learning and Weaving: The absorption benefit of your Personal Philosophy]

When I read Adler’s “How to Build a Ship” I couldn’t help but think about those of us who are managers, and how often — much, much too often — we’ll “drum up people to collect wood” or “assign them tasks and work” when we should be teaching them “to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

I think Adler is right about her hunch that we have to fall in love again:

“My answer is to anchor food to somewhere deep inside you, or deep in your past, or deep in the wonders of what you love… I say: Let yourself love what you love, and see if it doesn’t lead you back to what you ate when you loved it.”

For her, it’s about the eating experience as much as the cooking experience. It’s about being where food has made everything surrounding her more vibrant and alive.

The question I have for you then, is this: Exactly what is the managemeant experience that will continually refresh your own inspiration, always helping you get your mojo back?

To put it more simply: When are you completely, and beautifully, in love with being a manager?

If you rewrote Adler’s chapter for the work you do as an Alaka‘i Manager — for your Ho‘ohana — what would you call it?

How to Fill Up By Spilling

My choice would be “How to fill yourself up by spilling” because of the spirit-spilling of Aloha. Spirit-spilling is what the beliefs I hold within my Alaka‘i calling are all about: Alaka‘i Managers are those who help people work from their inside out.

When I have been able to do that for someone, I feel full. I’m tremendously full, feeling nourished and satisfied. I feel healthy, and as alive as I have ever felt.

If my day falters in some way, I’ll usually get my inspiration by learning from people, willing to accept whatever they choose to share with me. It’s my quickest way, and it’s virtually guaranteed.
I get my continued energy in creating partnerships with them, or some other weaving (making the learning personal, relevant, and useful).

I count my successes as the people I’ve left behind better than I found them. To see them grow, or irrevocably identify their own strengths, knowing that I helped in some way, is extremely rewarding to me.

Recalling my ‘how to’ (to relight the fires of inspiration) gets easy for me to do, because all I have to remember are names. Faces, and the little details of people’s stories will come flooding back into my consciousness, and I begin to smile, I just can’t help it.

Then The Craving ever-beneath The Calling begins all over again. I want to be part of more stories, and so I get on with my ‘ship building.’

Loving this book!

I’ll leave you to think more about your own ‘how to’ with a final quote from Adler;

“So I listen hard. I listen with the purpose of remembering. And this digging into sounds and into days I have heard and felt roots future meals in the unchangeable truths of past ones.”

“Let smells in. Let the smell of hot tarmac in the summer remind you of a meal you ate the first time you landed in a hot place, when the ground smelled like it was melting. Let the smell of salt remind you of a paper basket of fried clams you ate once, squeezing them with lemon as you walked on a boardwalk. Let it reach your deeper interest. When you smell the sea, and remember the basket of hot fried clams, and the sound of skee-balls knocking against each other, let it help you love what food can do, which is to tie this moment to that one.”

When has being a manager been its very best and most beautiful for you?
What do you remember about it?

How will you do it again?

Write an About Page, even if for a Readership of 1

You need not be a webmaster or blogger to have an About Page: Write one which is just for you.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, and of how it’s such a fabulous exercise of self-attuned and value-aligned thinking, because of three reasons:

  1. My online reading habits. Whenever I click somewhere new to me, an About Page is the first thing I look for. I want to know what people believe in, and what they happen to be working on currently as their Ho‘ohana. That information can be tough to find, and it shouldn’t be if the site or platform is the work of genuinely authentic people.
  2. It was time to update my own About Page here on Talking Story, and writing as a physical activity always delivers in some way. Thinking about something, and forcing yourself to write it down as you flesh it out, even if just to explain it to yourself, are two distinctly different activities, and they build on each other quite well.
  3. Writing my D5M Playbook has reminded me of how small jobs are, and how abundant ‘work’ is in comparison.

To sum it all up, you can write an About Page too (or elevator speech, or Ho‘ohana Statement), to grab hold of your own abundance, and get it into more focus — “it” being the work you find you gravitate toward most of all. That physical activity of writing about it, will often turn on another tap, releasing very attractive thoughts about what you GET to do, and still WANT to do, and probably can. The work you enjoy is what bubbles to the top, just like buttercream does in milk — and like spirit-spilling does, when we treat Aloha as a value.

Write a simple page about your Ho‘ohana work that’s more like a letter to your Aloha Spirit, saying “I know you’re there, and I still hear you guide me!” in wonderful self-affirmation.

Writing about the work you love doing is value-mapping Nānā i ke kumu (Managing with Aloha chapter/value 17): You “look to your source” to thereby know your own truth — that whole, beautiful truth about who you really are… sense of place, sense of work, sense of liberating life design for best well-being.

There’s never been a better time to reinvent ourselves.

We all know that the recessionary economy we’re still in has made earning a living a whole new ballgame. There are several struggles to overcome still, but let’s hō‘imi, and focus on the good ways we’ve been forced to make a change. We get to creatively reinvent ourselves in more liberating and individually-customized ways as we work within our means.

People are too big for jobs and always have been. We don’t fit into them completely enough, especially people like you, who have decided to explore being an Alaka‘i Manager.

‘Job’ will often pigeonhole us into somebody else’s preconceived notion about it, as documented on a ‘job description,’ a construct written for a business objective, and not for you individually as the unique packaging of the Aloha Spirit you are. So ignore the word, and any title you may have which is attached to it, because job is a too-small container for the wealth of working capacity you have — ignore the thought if you can, and focus on all the work activity you do instead.

Job is scarcity thinking — it’s a restrictive definition of sameness and uniformity.
Work is abundance thinking — it’s an activity-packed definition of individuality and possibility.

In my case for example, jobs like author, coach, business owner just don’t cut it; they’re far too general. I’m always trying to laser in to greater detail, and the marvelous result is that being more specific and descriptive doesn’t restrict me. My quirky qualifications actually help me see more possibility that I might have missed before, and I better understand my own niche and place in the world.

Bursting forth

We can’t be the life of every party, but we sure can rock the party we’re at.

I’ll be tweaking my Ho‘ohana descriptions forever, always exploring and experimenting, always revising and refining. I fall in and out of love with the words I choose to describe myself, and I love that talk story opportunity I get when people say, “You do what? Tell me what that means.” It’s part of the fun of it all. Work can lighten up, that’s for sure, and be more playful and inventive.

Wikipedia is a great place to discover how some of the people you may admire most had actually defied the conventions of traditional jobs and forged their own destiny. Here are a couple of examples:

Martin Luther King Jr. “was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for being an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. King is often presented as a heroic leader in the history of modern American liberalism.”

George Bernard Shaw
“was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60 plays. Nearly all his writings address prevailing social problems, but have a vein of comedy which makes their stark themes more palatable. Shaw examined education, marriage, religion, government, health care, and class privilege.

Shaw was most angered by what he perceived as the exploitation of the working class. An ardent socialist, Shaw wrote many brochures and speeches for the Fabian Society. He became an accomplished orator in the furtherance of its causes, which included gaining equal rights for men and women, alleviating abuses of the working class, rescinding private ownership of productive land, and promoting healthy lifestyles. ”

So tell us, what are you all about today?

Always remember that motivation is an inside job. When we honestly reflect on it, we often realize that self-motivation is the only kind that counts in the best work we do. That’s great news when you think of all that energetic, pure-talent possibility inside you, just waiting to come out to play.

I’d be honored to be your Reader #2 if you draft an About Page for the first time” I know many of you reading this, and you’re a very interesting bunch. If I wrote your About Page, it would be absolutely impossible for me to describe you in a single job title, or even in a single paragraph! So for heavens sake, don’t do that to yourself.

Stand tall, and stake your claim with what you believe in, and thus, what you work on (another way to describe Ho‘ohana in English :) In fact, do feel free to use the comment boxes to have others in our Ho‘ohana Community meet you. How would you describe your Ho‘ohana these days, your intention with the worthwhile work which makes your heart sing?

Here is the “About the Author” write-up now in the latest draft of my D5M Playbook in progress:

Rosa Say is a workplace culture coach who is determined to reinvent our workplaces value by value, and conversation by conversation, making our working communities healthier and more rewarding for us all. As founder of Say Leadership Coaching, Ho‘ohana Publishing, and Writing with Aloha, Rosa is hired as a speaker, teacher, and coach for her expertise in values-based business management, and as a change agent leading organizational culture design.

Rosa is known for her work leading the Managing with Aloha movement within Hawai‘i and internationally, a philosophy which draws from her 30-year career in the resort hospitality industry and her current business laboratories in writing and coaching for a variety of fields, including education, medicine, governance, and land development due to her specialty of Sense of Place acculturation. Her ‘Ohana in Business modeling initiatives are focused on enabling people to achieve self-sustenance as the shared Kuleana of thriving communities — in her most passionate vision, ‘public welfare systems’ become relics of the past because people no longer need the crutches.

Published in 2004 as the first of her books, Managing with Aloha is considered a classic values essay which describes how Hawaii’s Language of Intention and Sense of Place perception delivers a sensibility in work ethic which can be brought to the art of business universally. The book is widely used as an indispensable resource for managers, for Rosa is their most vocal advocate and champion when management is courageously redefined for developing people and their human-powered energies. Rosa publishes the popular Talking Story blog, and the ebooks she writes “on managing and leading as accessible verbs” are published to encourage the constant curiosity, questioning, and creative energies of her Ho‘ohana Community’s learning conversations there — please join us!

Rosa lives on the Big Island of Hawai‘i and travels frequently in her passion for speaking with audiences of managers seeking to bring the values of Aloha into their work practice. Learn more about her current projects at

Honey Collector

Your Aloha Spirit, Tightly Curled and Regal

It’s been years since I had written the first edition of Managing with Aloha, and I’m not the same person. Neither are you. Yet I sincerely feel what the book proposes remains relevant, and working with it is rewarding.

Our continued practice can help us both, keeping us grounded in universal values as we continue to grow, learning more together in other shared experiences. These have been six years of working with MWA intensely in one type of coaching that has proved very fruitful, yet is changing for me in response to the way the workplace is changing. Exploring those possibilities (and others) is what Talking Story is all about.

There’s another way of tackling change that I call the judo approach: absorbing the force of the blow and flipping it to your advantage.
Sara Davidson, Leap! What Will We Do with the Rest of Our Lives?

So you’ve read the book” Now what?

It’s a question you should ask yourself about every book you read, and not just Managing with Aloha. Even the answer, “Now nothing. This one entertained, but I choose to not have it influence me” is self-expressive; the decision was made for a reason you have validated.

When you read a book, you open yourself up. You take stuff in. Thing is, your reading will either flow straight through you and not matter much as you return to the real world of your life, or it will stick, lining the walls of your insides with a new kind of self-captured texturing you can continue to draw from.

I love that you can drink of such an emotional connection to what you read in a way that comes from inside you. Think about it: someone else wrote the words, and they aren’t reading them to you. You can’t hear the emotion in their voice, or see it in their expression. You have only the words to draw it from: their words, but your meaning for them regardless of the writer’s intent. The emotional connection comes from inside you, and your own personal truth (Nānā I ke kumu: You look to your source.) , not from whoever wrote them.

It’s the same thing that your Aloha Spirit does for you. Perhaps that’s a good way to start our Managing with Aloha Mondays, reviewing Aloha, our foundational value in MWA. Over the years, this has remained the single most reprinted quote from the book, something I am very grateful for, as it should be our focus:

“Every single day, somewhere in the world, Aloha comes to life. As it lives and breathes within us, it defines the epitome of sincere, gracious, and intuitively perfect customer service given from one person to another.”

The Breath of A Life

Aloha is the combination of two smaller Hawaiian words, ‘alo’ and ‘ha.’

Like your Aloha Spirit, Tightly Curled and Regal— and ready to uncoil its promise.

Ha is the breath of your life, a concept which is like DNA to the Hawaiian way of thinking.

When you breathe in, and collect your breath, you are collecting a type of human intelligence from three centers of being, which is DNA-like in that it is unique to you. It comes from your gut, where your ancestral wisdom resides, your genitals, as your intention for continuing all life in future generations, and your head as mindfulness which is as close as you can come to being graced with divine intervention. Those three things (ancestral wisdom, forward-looking intention, and divinity), combine in each and every breath you take, the breath which will propel you toward living the rest of the following moments. This propulsion is what we mean by someone’s Aloha spirit. It is fueled by ha, the breath of your life, and the engine of your body.

Whereas ha is inside you, ‘alo’ is on the outside. Your ‘alo’ is the face you present to the rest of the world, and much different from DNA, your alo is of your choosing. Your demeanor, your presence, your blending into the world and opening up to what each and every day offers up to you —and to what each and every person you encounter offers up to you —you choose to make those encounters happen well, or you don’t. Alo is sort of like personality and mood, whereas ha is more like the character you have when no one is looking, character you will always have, and only borne of ancestral good.

Unconditional Acceptance, and the Expectation of Good

One of the most beautifully compelling beliefs about the Hawaiian culture, is that there is no such thing as a bad person from the standpoint of ha: People are born good. There is only bad behavior, chosen in the manipulation of your alo for some mis-directed reason, but a reason which can always be redirected toward good when you manage to purposely connect to your ha.

This is a belief a person can choose to have: You need not be of Hawaiian blood or ancestry to believe in the goodness inherent in humanity.
(…and you do choose to be the company you keep!)

So put them together, your alo and ha, and Aloha is living your life from the inside out, where both inside and outside are a harmonious and healthy match, perfectly aligned, and willingly shared with the rest of the world.

Thus Aloha is referred to by most in Hawai‘i as the value of unconditional love. Love for self and others. Loving yourself enough to share who you are in complete authenticity and vulnerability. “What you see is what you get, and it’s me, and it’s good!” It is a greeting hello, as in “I offer myself to you completely.” It is the Aloha of goodbye, as in “when we part our Aloha remains ever shared between us, helping us remain healthy and connected” for life is not meant to be a solo proposition.

What stayed inside?

So I ask you again. You’ve read the book” Now what?

What stayed inside as part of that emotional connection you made to keep it close? What has “lined the walls of your insides with a new kind of self-captured texturing you can continue to draw from” so it will be a part of your ha forevermore?

Savor it. Imagine it there, within every breath you take in the week to come. You decision to knowingly identify it (as your given ha) or choose it in some way (as your chosen alo) is a great way to start this every-Monday MWA journey with me.

Footnote: There is more backstory to MWA Mondays here if you are interested, including an index of relevant resource pages: Monday is for Managing with Aloha. My Book Page is here.

We Learn Best from Other People

The title of this posting is one of my favorite phrases. I am quite sure those who know me best would say it has “broken record” status in the coaching I like to share.

“We learn best from other people” is the core belief of the Daily Five Minutes (our workplace tool which is the nucleus of the Managing with Aloha philosophy). It is a tool turned habit, in which conversation rules supreme. We can get into each other’s heads in a natural way through conversation, and with the good intention of learning about what is there, so to fully honor and respect the immense wonder of someone’s mana‘o (their thoughts, beliefs and convictions).

“We learn best from other people” is the ever-present mantra that sings in the background of this and every blog within our Ho‘ohana Publishing ‘Ohana; I love blogging because it triggers conversations within our community, and at times more globally. The conversational potential of the blogging platform is amazing, whether those conversations are held on the blog itself or triggered elsewhere throughout our hub of communications.

The missions of Managing with Aloha (delivered by my business, Say Leadership Coaching) and Ho‘ohana Publishing (delivered by Writing with Aloha) are my learning and talking story constants keeping me ever-grounded yet feeling happily, busily productive.

Then every autumn, “We learn best from other people” returns to me in a long-standing seasonal habit of self-coaching in which I seek to say “thank you” to the people who add so much to my life. Culminating in Thanksgiving, November is wonderfully made for Mahalo, our value of appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness. I edit much task-related project work out of my life within October’s Sweet Closure initiative, but not people: I edit task out diligently and purposefully so people have more room to step into my attentions again as the holidays approach.

With Aloha

This year however, I am thinking my Mahalo must be much more conversational, and I find I am wondering how to make that happen in a more meaningful way. To merely say “thank you” is not enough, no matter how sincere I might be in speaking those words (and though we don’t say them enough, I don’t believe they should be said lightly either). This is a gut feeling, plain and simple; I have a greater conversational need (and to be more accurate, mine is a greater listening need), and I have learned to listen to these feelings of spirit-spilling when they make themselves known to me.

MY MANA‘O (what I believe to be true) ~ ~ ~

In Hawai‘i, many kÅ«puna (elders) will say there is a reason our gut is at our physical center. Our heads and hearts must come lower; one must get out of the clouds and the other out of the clutches of others. Second, the elemental feeling we get from the land under our feet must rise up and be held in higher esteem, for there is divine power in the ‘āina, and it is our sense of place. Third, we must care about others, but we must care about ourselves first, and enough to connect to our own source, our aloha. So it is only natural that our gut (na‘au) is the true seat of our wisdom (na‘auao), for it is where all these things come together to center us with good balance.

This makes a lot of sense to me, because I experience it so much, and very gratefully so.
—From Managing with Aloha Coaching

We now live in a world where technology has changed so much with the way we communicate. We email, we text, we Twitter. We lifestream, blog and self-publish. We star in our own mini movies and post them on YouTube for all to see. Yet do we realize how much of these new ‘communications’ are ways we broadcast more than listen, doing so with a very limited audience?

I’m one who loves these new tools and if you are reading this you know I use them extensively, but in this coming holiday season I am newly committing to the art of one-on-one in-person communication. I want to live up to the name of this blog in a more focused way. I want to talk story, and learn what I can from the best library and collection of wisdom which exists in our world: Other people, especially while they are still gracing our earthly living with their presence.

New technology communications and talk-story conversations have something in common: They are only as good as what you are willing to devote to them. No input, no output. However talk-story conversations have a big advantage: You don’t need to buy something, plug it in, program it and learn to use it. You aren’t limited to others who have the same tool; for instance I am fully aware that I only reach others with Twitter accounts when I tweet, and they largely have my same habits. Those I want to learn from most, so I can grow and improve in a more diverse way are probably not there, much as I wish they were. For instance children who can teach me to play again, and to wonder again, are not there: I need to reach them personally, and talk to them on their turf and not mine. The kÅ«puna, our elders who can share so much history and life experience with us, teaching us to better navigate our futures, are not there: I need to reach them personally too.

People surround us, waiting for us to interview them, and ask them questions about what is most important to them, and why.

The people around us have the potential to be the best teachers we have ever had, and ever will have. They are open books, written with the wealth of their past experiences, yet reading beyond the past tense. They continue to be vibrantly alive, perpetually thinking, and willing to share their thinking with us, wrapped in both the simplicity and complexity of that beautiful weaving of belief and conviction we in Hawai‘i call their mana‘o. All we have to do is ask. But do we? Sincerely, and genuinely ready to listen as patiently and completely as need be?

In the coming weeks, I will give my thanks for the mana‘o which lives within the children and elders I am blessed to have close in my life. I invite you to join me, and to newly experience for yourself how “we learn best from other people.”

Here is what you can expect from me here:

I want to return to our Talking Story conversational basics, interspersed within the management and leadership commitment I have to Say “Alakai” ”“ that is important too, or I wouldn’t do it at all.

I want to return to a review of the Daily Five Minutes ® and the workplace Huddle, and I will be doing a hunt-and-seek throughout all my Ho‘ohana Publishing archives to see what conversational gems we should review again in this quest to learn best from other people.

I hope you decide to take this quest with me.

My mana‘o [The Backstory of this posting]
Recently my postings more exclusive to Talking Story has been project-personal and transparent: I am working on my October Ho‘ohana of Sweet Closure along with you. If you are just joining us and would like to read them in order, this article would be number 5 on this list:

  1. Is it Time for Your Alaka‘i Abundance?
  2. October’s Ho‘ohana: Sweet Closure
  3. The Ho‘ohana Story of Your Year
  4. A Copy of the Best is Still a Copy (Your wanting is not selfish!)

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