Tuesday, January 22, 2013


January Main Article  

"In the simplicity of things we find the extraordinary.
Alas, many people being uninterested in simplicity,
walk right past what they are seeking."
- Papi Conpelo

Randy Cheek is known throughout Sonoma County for his work as a marriage and family counselor. A founding member of The Collaborative Council of the Redwood Empire, Randy works locally and travels globally encouraging and teaching therapists, financial professionals and attorneys to work together is service to folks engaged in the entanglements of dispute.   In the early 1990's our kids entered kindergarten at Petaluma's Wilson School. It was then we met. We've been friends since. Randy is a colleague in thoughtful practice. We self published a small pamphlet, "Rising Above Conflict".

Randy listens. He serves. He inspires. He always leaves me thinking. Occasionally, though not often, we meet for coffee, catch up on life, share stories along with accompanying laughs (or tears). Saturday afternoon December 29, 2012, we sat and talked a while at Acre, a locally owned spot downtown. Our topics: childish adults, grown up kids, amateur mountain climbing as a metaphor... and believe it or not ...stretching.

On the subjects of childish adults and grown up kids - this was entirely about me and some folks who my youngest son and I know.

Regarding mountain climbing, however, Randy related the story of a recent adventure. One day near the beginning of 2012 his friend, John Martin, asked, "Randy, how'd you like to climb Mount Whitney this year with me?" Randy shot back a quick reply - "Sure!" And so an adventure began ... stretching each into months of prep... working out ... losing weight ... securing equipment ... scheduling time ... increasing cardio strength ... more working out ... recons, etc. Finally the trip came and their base camp was established. They made an extreme early morning rise (1AM) to ascend. Along the way met some interesting characters: two old men, one tree, a young woman and the marker.

Two Old Men. In the dark, trail lit with headlamps, Randy and John encountered two old men. Over the next hours paths crossed and separated. Each pair ran out of trail, got lost, wandered back, found the other pair, then joined together to walk a while until their steps again diverged. This happened a few times. Morning light began to grow - colors shifted - reds became orange then yellow and on and on. One of the old men decided to give up his trek. The other walked him part way down the mountain passing Randy and John on their way up. Then the fellow leaving went his way, and his old partner turned uphill deciding this was his one-and-only-chance-left-in-life-to-make-the-climb, he linked up with Randy and John and continued.

A Tree. "You know Lance," said Randy, "the scenery up there is incredible." I asked what inspired him the most. "The vastness and the ruggedness." Hmmmm. "But one thing truly caught me off guard." What? "It was a tree." How so? "Its narrow roots that sprung long ago from one seed, barely wedged in rock, somehow survived extremes of temperature and pressure and over the years a sapling stretched to this huge old tree. It's still there supported by a narrowness of root and rock crag." Wow! "Yea, goes to show you how important being firmly grounded really is."

One Young Woman. On final ascent Randy found himself doing some serious huffing and puffing. A full year of prep. Aerobics. Working out. Increased cardio performance. Yet, this final stage was still a strain. Every step, a trudge of its own - until he heard something moving swiftly behind him. "The air was thin, I thought I was hallucinating an angel's voice." He turned and there she stood. Twenty-eight years old. No pack. No equipment. Walking steadfastly at a rapid clip.
(Randy) "Uhhhh ... Where'd you come from?"
(She) "Oh me? I decided to walk the John Muir Trail this year and found myself here today. So, hey might as well climb this."
Then off she went.

Randy - he got inspired. "You know," he said, "you'd be amazed what something like that can do for your attitude on a climb like this. I got my wind. I stretched my legs ... and off I went too!"

The Marker. At the top of the Mt Whitney sits a marker. Randy enjoyed his climb along with the young woman and John.   There along with tens of others they rested. Then came a loud yell. "Where is it?!?" All eyes turned. The old man, this new climbing companion, had arrived and was shouting. Everyone cheered and pointed as he sprinted at 14,000 plus feet in altitude - his last final steps to stretch and hug the marker. "I'm 80 years old. This has been one of my life's dreams."

Randy and I continued to talk and drink coffee. When we were almost complete we reflected on the lessons of our "catching up". Randy offered I watch something that he said would be profound: a TED Conference presentation by Dr. Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. So I did.

As with the story above, I'm passing a recommendation along to you. It's about involvement, the mind-body connection, and making a difference in your own life. And interestingly - it has real science behind it. Randy shared that along with his Mount Whitney climb, this TED presentation was one of his profound findings of 2012. As a clinician Randy put to the test what Dr. Cuddy offered in her presentation. The result? He now uses the simple practice for his own wellbeing; and he has his clients similarly engaged. All have produced extraordinary results.

GO HERE --- Sit, watch, listen and enjoy! Then, take action yourself. (OR walk on by - your choice). Two old men. A tree. One young woman. The marker. All quite simple. So is what you'll see and hear. Stretch out. Do something!

In the morning

Reach into the day
From the night that wrapped, warmed
And welcomed you
Gracefully into her arms

Sunlight teaches you
To touch the earth around you slowly
Heed this

The day will be here soon enough
Welcome it
But no faster than the caress that nurtured
Releases you from her eternity
Into daylight's moment

The gladiator knows
From whence comes strength
To that place She gladly returns
Throughout the battle

Linger a while
The dance and fray
Will greet you soon enough

Meet both on terms
Filled with memory of a hand
That touched you throughout the night;
Even when you slept alone
You didn't
You never do

You are always returning somewhere
Let it be to the Peace
That knows you

This day will adjust around you
And you can
Send it on its way

© Lance Giroux, January 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

On Motivation- A Return to Basics


"Step away from your schedule," suggested a colleague. "Sit quietly with me a few minutes to watchThe Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, a Dan Pink RSA talk." This colleague respects my time, so I took her advice.

Dan Pink departs from conventional reward and punishment motivational models. He offers something beautifully and artfully put, and it makes a lot of sense. I enjoyed him so much that I felt it worth passing along to you here at The Ronin Post. I believe you'll like it. Beyond that, it could inform your own practices aimed at effectiveness and influence. At the end of this article I'll invite you to pass it along to others.

But before you view it, here are some thoughts I'd like to share.

As I watched this piece I found myself recalling days spent with a long-ago mentor who often addressed MOTIVATION. He offered that once we subtract survival, sex and fear from the mix of motivators there basically exists three, especially when viewed from within a professional context: Money, Recognition and Cause.
  1. Money - a tangible, medium, a touchable reward (stone, clam, dollars yen, RMB, pesos, etc.) that is exchanged for products and services;
  2. Recognition - an acknowledgement of individual or group effort that carries emotional weight and says, "You and what you have done matters, you and it have been noticed and valued";
  3. Cause - an ideal or "ism" that touches one's sensibilities of something greater - duty, vision or honor, often seen in connection to others and/or adding a deep meaning to life, and often opening to something we call spiritual or moral.

These motivators are impersonal. They carry no inherent significance. All significance is assigned by the individuals involved in the process - i.e. either those who motivate or those being motivated. While time, history, story, craftiness, etc., can establish scenarios that imply inherent significance, if you take the time to peal the stories aside you will find that significance comes down to individual decision making. Moreover, each of these motivators can be used in constructive or destructive ways depending on the individual or groups taking action and their desired outcomes. They achieve a wide array of results. Some we label "good". Others we shake our heads and frown at ... or worse.

Money buys stuff.   This stuff can make you healthy or it can destroy health and kill you. It can encourage life-giving results. "Let's till this ground and grow some good food for the people who live in this town." - OR it can lead to behavior considered abhorrent. "Let's train our players by rewarding them each time they actually hurt someone on the opposing team". I'm not referencing the New Orleans Saints. Take a look.

But money yields to very short-termed rewards. It comes; it goes; i.e. it's rather cerebral, intellectual and not very sustainable.

Recognition can also be displayed in constructive and destructive ways. A young barista feels the compliments that come from her boss, coworkers and her regular customers. She consistently goes the extra mile. She comes in early, helps new hires distinguish between irate self-important clients and those who enjoy good service. She stays late and helps after everyone else has punched the clock and gone home, but she doesn't have to.

She appreciates hearing a sincere Thank You when it comes, and she loves it when someone says, "You make this place somewhere I want to be" - as long as it's honest. At the end of the quarter she's named Top Regional Employee - something she didn't know existed. But now she does. So do her co-workers. They take note, pitch in a bit more and create a better work environment.

By contrast there are those who work with or for someone who attempts to motivate through words that only berate, or whose positive words are actually shallow, canned and memorized in order to get things to go my way. This person hasn't a clue as to why those around him act out negatively at every opportunity. We might do well to check out Bob Hoffman's Negative Love Syndrome.

But here's the reality - a dose of recognition (positive or negative) actually lasts longer over time. Much more than money, recognition touches the emotional feeling nature and takes longer to dissipate.

Cause, as with the two motivators already mentioned, can be viewed in terms of aspects both bright and dark.

"We can end the hatred that divides these neighborhoods," one leader said, "if we will just hang in there and keep a Dialogue going that seeks common ground."

"But," came the reply, "no one cares, we're broke - in fact, everyone around us is broke; and no one is noticing us anymore."

"I know," continued the leader. "That's why we have to keep going. History teaches us to not give up. Let's get out there and talk with people in ways that open them to possibility, dignity, respect, hope and mutual understanding."


"We can put an end to this coming together of neighborhoods, this insane notion that basically we're really the same," the leader said. "If we hang in long enough and keep disagreements going we can force them out and keep this all to ourselves."

"But," came the reply, "no one cares, we're broke - in fact, everyone around us is broke; and no one is noticing us anymore."

"I know," continued the leader. "That's why we have to keep going. Now get out there and see if you can stir things up, muddy the waters, create some confusion, disinformation and misunderstanding. For crying out loud insult someone - step on their dignity."

Truly we all have to discern how it is that we use what we really believe in. We must all ask, "To what end am I using My Cause?" - and - "To what end am I being used by Someone Else's Cause?"  

Recently the sensei at our aikido dojo called a student out onto the mat to perform under the pressures of multiple-attack. He did this to help the individual prepare for an upcoming exam.   There was a moment when the student lost his presence of mind and mumbled aloud to himself, "What am I doing?" Sensei heard the words (as did we all) and immediately replied, "I don't know, but that's a good question!"

NOW, back to where we started. For the next ten minutes shut the door, ignore your mobile phone, don't engage in some Pavlovian response to the blings of incoming email. Do yourself (and those you value in life) a favor. Sit with Dan Pink. Start here and enjoy!

When you're done consider how you might put into practice what Pink's presentation brings to the surface for you. Then I hope you'll share this marvelous talk with others to serve whatever it motivates within you.

©Lance Giroux, November 2012