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?

Culture-Building: First, understand what Management can be

When are you expected to work with your manager?

Where does individual ownership give way to partnership, and to the team dynamic?

Over and above the day-to-day focus within the work which is done, what are the visionary, mission-driven possibilities elevated in the near future?

How do mavericks grow in your company? How do your best ideas gain support, and then attain traction and velocity there?

These are the kinds of questions which every healthy workplace culture should have definitive answers for, answers which are aligned with the values that company stands for.

Management can then be managemeant.

Culture building needs a solid foundation that serves as fertile ground. We know values are critical. So are their champions.

Those champions should be your managers.

When organizations choose to adopt Managing with Aloha as part of their culture, they’ve done their homework; they usually know about the Core 21, the 19 Values listed on the blog sidebar, the 10 Beliefs, and the 9 Key Concepts. It’s a lot to take in at first, and it’s highly weaveable, but usually 1 Question trumps them all in the eager minds of those anxious to begin:

Where do we start?

My answer is always the same: Reconstruct the role of your managers.
(article, and coaching category) Understand the true cultural work your managers can perform for you when they are liberated and motivated to do so.

Work With Your GiftsThe evidence is clear: Managers create culture. Ignore them (i.e. devalue them), and they can destroy it. My core purpose in writing MWA was to help prevent that sad, damaging downslide from happening, because I know what a positive force great managemeant can be.

In most of the organizations I visit, there is quite a distance to bridge between managers and their staff; they’re operating in totally separate orbits and worse, they’re content to “leave well enough alone.”

Problem is, “well enough” for them isn’t delivering much well being to the workplace culture.

To Do: Today

Help your people understand what a partnership with an Alaka‘i Manager can be about. Help them see why that partnership is so useful, and how enjoyable it can be.

If you do nothing else, get your own perspective in check, and create a healthier relationship with your own manager; set a good example as you flourish in that new partnership.

Go back to the questions at the beginning of my posting: Answering them, and engineering the change which is necessary (with value-alignment) will get you much closer to the well being which will vastly improve the health of your culture.

Comfort Station, Hughes Company 1915, via Baltimore City Life Museum Collection, Maryland Historical Society

Postscript/Weaving: Role versus Practice

If you are a long-time Talking Story reader, you know that I am very insistent on having Alaka‘i Managers adopt and practice D5M, the Daily 5 Minutes, writing things like this:

“I need to be crystal clear about something:
If you’re not giving your staff the gift of the Daily Five Minutes ®
you’re not Managing with Aloha „¢”

~ So you want a MWA jumpstart. Do the Daily Five Minutes.

Adopting D5M gives Alaka‘i Managers a great tool for making everything else happen (‘everything’ being the full spirit-spilling, work-sensible philosophy of Managing with Aloha).

What the D5M does, is collect timely inputs (the talk story) from an ongoing partnership, so the two people involved will always agree on what they should be working on next, working on it Kākou, together.

Before that actually happens, D5M concentrates on the foundational stuff of getting a good partnership in place, so it can be a functioning partnership. There must be comfort between people first: Then, and only then, can they work together to achieve greater things.

This is why there must be Managing with Aloha champions within a culture; they are the braver, more vocal ones who foster better health, and push through any obstacles, just like Ricky does in her workplace culture as a teacher.

Bottom line here, is that I write Talking Story to help you make your way toward being one of those champions. Write me when you have questions; you’re not alone.

D5MBetterMgr

I am reading: How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer

As of this writing, it’s only $2.99 on Kindle, and your experiences are like the blade of a comprehension slicing pair of scissors (more on that in a moment).

I’ve been batching the weave-able reading I’ve had on my To-Read list about the brain, figuring that each book would reinforce my learning retention with the others, and help me learn-through my questions:

  1. The book I started with (not exactly about the brain, but related to it via our ideas): Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Berlin Johnson: Review here, on Talking Story
  2. Second was Brain Rules by John Medina (very short review on GoodReads, for now.)
  3. How We Decide is my third. There is a short-but-telling interview with the author on the Amazon page which includes this bit; a memorable analogy:

“Herbert Simon, the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist, famously compared our mind to a pair of scissors. One blade, he said, represented the brain. The other blade was the specific environment in which our brain was operating. If you want to understand the function of scissors, Simon said, then you have to look at both blades simultaneously. What I wanted to do in How We Decide was venture out of the lab and into the real world so that I could see the scissors at work.”

I decided to post this earlier than I usually do (as full book review), just in case you want to read along with me: The price is certainly right! (You don’t need the Kindle device itself; you can download it from the Kindle page to your computer.)

I’m just 15% through it, about to start Chapter 3, Fooled by a Feeling, and so far am liking it quite a bit. Lehrer has a very easy-to-read writing style.

Rosa’s Highlights

As a bit of a mini-reader for your own weaving possibilities, here are the highlights I’ve done in the book so far, thanks to the copy-ease of my Kindle account: (Michael Hyatt wrote up a good how-to here: How to get your Kindle Highlights into Evernote.)

If you decide to read along with me, do add your own observations in the comments — we can talk story about them :)

How We Decide: Introduction

From the perspective of the brain, there’s a thin line between a good decision and a bad decision, between trying to descend and trying to gain altitude. This book is about that line. ~ Read more at location 84

Ever since the ancient Greeks, these assumptions have revolved around a single theme: humans are rational. When we make decisions, we are supposed to consciously analyze the alternatives and carefully weigh the pros and cons. In other words, we are deliberate and logical creatures. This simple idea underlies the philosophy of Plato and Descartes; it forms the foundation of modern economics; it drove decades of research in cognitive science. Over time, our rationality came to define us. It was, simply put, what made us human. There’s only one problem with this assumption of human rationality: it’s wrong. It’s not how the brain works. Look, for example, at my decisions in the cockpit. They were made in the heat of the moment, a visceral reaction to difficult events. ~ Read more at location 89

It turns out that we weren’t designed to be rational creatures. Instead, the mind is composed of a messy network of different areas, many of which are involved with the production of emotion. Whenever someone makes a decision, the brain is awash in feeling, driven by its inexplicable passions. Even when a person tries to be reasonable and restrained, these emotional impulses secretly influence judgment. When I was in the cockpit desperately trying to figure out how to save my life—and the lives of thousands of Japanese suburbanites—these emotions drove the patterns of mental activity that made me crash and helped me land. But this doesn’t mean that our brains come preprogrammed for good decision-making. ~ Read more at location 98

There is no universal solution to the problem of decision-making. The real world is just too complex. As a result, natural selection endowed us with a brain that is enthusiastically pluralist. Sometimes we need to reason through our options and carefully analyze the possibilities. And sometimes we need to listen to our emotions. The secret is knowing when to use these different styles of thought. We always need to be thinking about how we think. ~ Read more at location 108

The mind inspires many myths—such as the fiction of pure rationality—but it’s really just a powerful biological machine, complete with limitations and imperfections. Knowing how the machine works is useful knowledge, since it shows us how to get the most out of the machine. But the brain doesn’t exist in a vacuum; all decisions are made in the context of the real world. ~ Read more at location 120

The goal of this book is to answer two questions that are of interest to just about everybody, from corporate CEOs to academic philosophers, from economists to airline pilots: How does the human mind make decisions? And how can we make those decisions better? ~ Read more at location 131

Chapter 1. The Quarterback in the Pocket

The problem with seeing the mind as a computer is that computers don’t have feelings. Because emotions couldn’t be reduced to bits of information or the logical structures of programming language, scientists tended to ignore them. ~ Read more at location 302

For too long, people have disparaged the emotional brain, blaming our feelings for all of our mistakes. The truth is far more interesting. What we discover when we look at the brain is that the horses and the charioteer depend upon each other. If it weren’t for our emotions, reason wouldn’t exist at all. ~ Read more at location 314

When we are cut off from our feelings, the most banal decisions became impossible. A brain that can’t feel can’t make up its mind. ~ Read more at location 342

When a person is drawn to a specific receiver, or a certain entrée on the menu, or a particular romantic prospect, the mind is trying to tell him that he should choose that option. It has already assessed the alternatives—this analysis takes place outside of conscious awareness—and converted that assessment into a positive emotion. And when he sees a receiver who’s tightly covered, or smells a food he doesn’t like, or glimpses an ex-girlfriend, it is the OFC that makes him want to get away. (Emotion and motivation share the same Latin root, movere, which means “to move.”) The world is full of things, and it is our feelings that help us choose among them. ~ Read more at location 379

The evolution of the human brain changed everything. For the first time, there was an animal that could think about how it thought. We humans could contemplate our emotions and use words to dissect the world, parsing reality into neat chains of causation. We could accumulate knowledge and logically analyze problems. We could tell elaborate lies and make plans for the future. Sometimes, we could even follow our plans. ~ Read more at location 468

When it comes to the new parts of the brain, evolution just hasn’t had time to work out the kinks. The emotional brain, however, has been exquisitely refined by evolution over the last several hundred million years. Its software code has been subjected to endless tests, so it can make fast decisions based on very little information. ~ Read more at location 475

When evolution was building the brain, it didn’t bother to replace all of those emotional processes with new operations under explicit, conscious control. If something isn’t broken, then natural selection isn’t going to fix it. The mind is made out of used parts, engineered by a blind watchmaker. The result is that the uniquely human areas of the mind depend on the primitive mind underneath. The process of thinking requires feeling, for feelings are what let us understand all the information that we can’t directly comprehend. Reason without emotion is impotent. ~ Read more at location 495

Chapter 2. The Predictions of Dopamine

The brain is designed to amplify the shock of these mistaken predictions. Whenever it experiences something unexpected—like a radar blip that doesn’t fit the usual pattern, or a drop of juice that doesn’t arrive—the cortex immediately takes notice. Within milliseconds, the activity of the brain cells has been inflated into a powerful emotion. Nothing focuses the mind like surprise. ~ Read more at location 659

When the ACC is worried about some anomaly—for instance, an errant blip on a radar screen—that worry is immediately translated into a somatic signal as the muscles prepare for action. Within seconds, heart rate increases, and adrenaline pours into the bloodstream. These fleshly feelings compel us to respond to the situation right away. A racing pulse and sweaty palms are the brain’s way of saying that there’s no time to waste. This prediction error is urgent. ~ Read more at location 671

This is an essential aspect of decision-making. If we can’t incorporate the lessons of the past into our future decisions, then we’re destined to endlessly repeat our mistakes. ~ Read more at location 679

Human emotions are rooted in the predictions of highly flexible brain cells, which are constantly adjusting their connections to reflect reality. Every time you make a mistake or encounter something new, your brain cells are busy changing themselves. Our emotions are deeply empirical. ~ Read more at location 708

When the mind is denied the emotional sting of losing, it never figures out how to win. ~ Read more at location 791

Dopamine neurons need to be continually trained and retrained, or else their predictive accuracy declines. Trusting one’s emotions requires constant vigilance; intelligent intuition is the result of deliberate practice. What Cervantes said about proverbs—”They are short sentences drawn from long experience”—also applies to brain cells, but only if we use them properly. ~ Read more at location 813

Even when Robertie wins—and he almost always wins—he insists on searching for his errors, dissecting those decisions that could have been a little bit better. He knows that self-criticism is the secret to self-improvement; negative feedback is the best kind. ~ Read more at location 846

The problem with praising kids for their innate intelligence—the “smart” compliment—is that it misrepresents the neural reality of education. It encourages kids to avoid the most useful kind of learning activities, which is learning from mistakes. Unless you experience the unpleasant symptoms of being wrong, your brain will never revise its models. Before your neurons can succeed, they must repeatedly fail. There are no shortcuts for this painstaking process. ~ Read more at location 882

A bit of early weaving, for resourcing later

  1. Written back in February of 2009: Decision Making: How do you do it?
  2. More in my Talking Story tag on decision-making, and on decisions
  3. My Talking Story tag on thinking
  4. A personal favorite, written in June of 2007: Believe in Your Biology

Biology (and the history of our evolution as humans) is something I have definitely become more friendly with since I was force-fed it in school: I like learning how my own biology can make my own observations more logical, or at least soften them with a more comforting understanding … that scissors-blade effect in action!

Learning and Weaving: The absorption benefit of your Personal Philosophy

Absorption

You see, hear, and read a lot each day.
You discover goodness, and learn all sorts of things.
And if that’s not enough, you share in what I write about here, or find and clip on Ho‘ohana Aloha.
How do you apply what’s most useful to you and retain it?

I’ll ask the question in another way: What is the Personal Philosophy you weave it into?

Weaving

As a Talking Story reader, you know that my weave is Managing with Aloha, the value-verbing philosophy I’ve based on 19 values and 9 key concepts. Managing with Aloha has been an extraordinary gift in my life, serving me in several ways. I don’t pretend nor profess it to be the ‘be-all and end-all‘ — in fact, it’s somewhat the opposite: What it does for me, is absorb additional learning so I can quickly use it and retain it.

Here is an example of how I did this yesterday, as my commentary on The Five Universal Themes of Business as compiled by Todd Sattersten:

1. Clarity of Purpose:
MWA Key 3 – Value Alignment, and
Key 8 – Sense of Place

2. Wisdom in Decision Making:
MWA ӬKey 3 РValue Alignment, and
Key 9 – Palena ‘ole (Growing within your full capacity)

3. Bias for Action:
MWA Key 2 – Ho‘ohana (worthwhile, intentional work), and
Key 7 – Strengths Management

4. Openness to Change:
MWA Key 4 – Role of the Manager, reconstructed, and
Key 6 – ‘Ohana in Business (strategic form/function)

5. Giving and Getting Feedback:
MWA ӬKey 1 РAloha (as the foundational rootstock it is), and
Key 5 – Language of Intention (our communication key)

Creating a culture is creative, romantic, dreamy. But then you’ve got to give it teeth, and get it to actually happen. Third, you have to Ho‘omau, and persist in stewarding that culture so it will sustain itself and live beyond you or any single manager.

You can use MWA in this way too if you wish, or you could use another philosophy: Before Managing with Aloha came together for me, I used Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for nearly a decade, a philosophy which I would discover he’d based on the timeless principle called the Law of the Harvest:

We tend to reap what we sow.   “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny,” the maxim goes.

Scout Orchid

Usefulness is about Fit

When you learn something new, and you want to keep it close, and make it optimally useful to you, ask yourself, “Where does this fit in my personal philosophy?”

Ask, “How could this grow me?”

Push your thinking toward the value alignment (or concept alignment) that is evolving into what you truly believe, and increasingly will stand for.

Focus on your Deliberate Inputs. Don’t be too quick to move on and gather more. Dwell on what you just learned, and take more time to savor it. Think on it more deeply, and question it. Discard the clutter, and weave in the keepers. Take action in some way to satisfy your sense of urgency. (This is a good suggestion: Recreate whatever inspires you.)

One glorious day you’ll have Ka lā hiki ola, that ‘dawning of a new day’ where you realize you have your very own version of Living, Working, Managing, and Leading with Aloha. It’s your brand and your Personal Philosophy. It’s become your weave, for you’ll never stop learning, and that’s a good thing.

Palena ‘ole

You have way more capacity than you’re aware of at this moment, whether physical, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. Weave it into tangible being.

Learning (the value of ‘Ike loa) is a fabulous thing; weave in your ‘loose ends’ and see what you can create.

Tab it and mark it up!

Aloha! Just joining us?

Talking Story is the blog home of those who are learning to be Alaka‘i Managers — those committed to managing and leading with Aloha. Read a preview of the book which inspired this movement, and visit our About Page. Purchase Managing with Aloha at Amazon.com in hardcover, or in the Kindle Store.

Talking Story with Rosa Say