Monthly Archives: April 2017


A thought around my new mantra that says,

“we need to design for memory, rather than for experience,”

which says,

how can you remember what you never membered ( joined together )

how can you recollect what you never collected?

how can you revision what you never visioned?

The Mind is a time machine that will gladly go back to a different place and time if the place and time are composed into a pattern of significance. i keep hearing about the Experience Economy and Starbucks, but people dont say that the reason you go back to Starbucks- if you do- is because you remember the good time and the good coffee.

Experience that only stays experience doesn’t do any more work. Experience translated into memory is where the real pay off is.



Is it any wonder that Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior decided early on that the battle for peace and justice was always primarily a soul battle, a spiritual conflict about conversion of heart, not about massing weapons or converging interests, designing road maps or negotiating concessions?

Those who want to map the path to peace as a set of techniques have been seduced into confusing means for ends- because tools by themselves don’t build a house or plough a field. The diplomats whose careers have spanned multiple attempts at agreement have the credentials and the experience- its not lack of know-how that gets in the way. its the lack of will. And not just political will. It has more to do with what others have called moral courage, a courage that summons us all to get back in touch with our core human values. It is a courage that asks- Is what we most value in life worth living for, worth striving for, even worth failing for, more than worth dying and killing for? Courage cuts to the core, gets to the “coeur” of things, the heart. You can’t fake it.

Expediency sets a different agenda. You are forever watching tomorrow’s poll numbers, worrying what issues are too risky to take a stand on, You play it safe and yet, that can lead to even greater danger. Playing it safe when the house is on fire means you huddle in a room hoping the smoke will abate and an angel will rescue you. Not smart. Where did playing it safe ever get you? No one is safe if everyone chooses safety first. No, our safety resides in a quality of audacity,

That firefighter who breaks the door down to get you out of the fiery room or the smoke-filled train, the whistle blower who risks her career to call out the injustices of the surveillance state, the teenage marcher at Selma who peacefully faces the dogs and the tear gas, or that lone figure facing the tanks in Tiananmen Square: It is courage that keeps us safe.

We might try to do radical change on the cheap, but history is not on our side. Can there ever be a shift from oppression to freedom or war to peace or cruelty to compassion without someone daring to say No, daring to put his body on the wheel of fortune to stop the killing machine?

Courage I believe is at the heart of every lasting human change, and while many think it is rare, it is not. Every commander in battle who has had to lead his troops through the barrage knows- Courage is even more infectious than fear.

Lets have a Conference about that.

“When you over-prescribe, you under-surprise.”

A principle that comes out of work where I tend to always see more possibilities and cant resist putting them into instructions before workshops, meaning that the participants will tend to worry about doing it right than giving themselves permission to dream, create, evoke,

When I anchor back to the core of storywise work, I remember not to go into too much goal-focus mode because if I ask people to tell me a story of an obstacle they overcame or their greatest success, then I get what I asked for- its the story I want. Is it the story they want?

If I ask, tell me a story that contains the burning issue for you, or the story that is dying to get a safe space to be told, or a story that you had never dreamed of sharing till now, ( under prescribed) you get surprise, from you as the coach and from the teller who gets even more interested in their own story. They often amaze themselves.

When you under- prescribe, you leave room for over-surprise.


How to map Life through the Territory of What Matters:

What % of our life fits into these quadrants-

It matters….. and I am doing it ……………..%
It matters…… and I am not doing it ……………%
It doesn’t matter…….and I am still doing it ………………%
It doesn’t matter……. and I am not doing it. ………………%

if sometimes our lives feel ungrounded or light weight,
perhaps we are doing too much of what doesn’t matter
and not doing enough of what does matter.

To live a life that matters,
make what matters matter.


The new book, all the rage is, Start with WHY, but Why? dare I ask?

I want to write a book in reply, titled, Dont start with WHY, start with WHERE. Because Why assumes there is a reason, whereas more times than not, WHY is a SITUATION, not a reason. Why are police in controversy? Why are young men from minorities being targeted? Why is America still so scared of terrorism? Don’t formulate some grand theory about racism or class, just go into those streets and meet those people and you understand that a thousand reasons wont do justice to the situation.

A why question implies that people have the luxury of an answer, as if the world must always conform to cause and effect logic, or that people always have the freedom to have reasons, rather than acting out of necessity. Most human complexities are compounded by answer-denying situations and once you give an answer, its immediately wrong because there is no one answer.

The answer is wrong because the question is wrong. Don’t ask WHY, ask WHERE and understand that WHY is a symptom of our infatuation with “Tidying up intolerably messy Truths.” WHY is not a doorway into the situation that will soon reveal the real geography of meaning, that “why you are” has everything to do with “where you are” and most of us are born there, which is a situation, not a reason.

where is the why?

Follow up thoughts, when you ask WHY about something in the past, you get an explanation or an excuse or an alibi, Why did you do this, Why did you walk away? etc, looking for an excuse, but when you ask WHY about the future, the idea of goals and ends come into play, which in a way is a different WHY altogether, you are not soliciting an alibi so much as a dream, a vision, an empowering purpose, and so perhaps that WHY needs to be called something different, the WHERE TO, Start with the WHERE TO, where do you want to take us, And WHERE FROM, where did this dream come from, which are locative questions, allowing people to put themselves in place.


( A note sent to NSL class of 2015 that might be of interest)
What pro ISRAEL and pro PALESTINE can mean in WASHINGTON DC

One of NSL’s alums made this comment about when he encountered the Israel and Palestine lobbies in Washington, they seemed more Pro Palestine than he as a Palestinian was. He suspected the same with the Pro Israeli Americans, they being more Pro Israel than most Israelis were. I certainly have found that. When someone is more Pro a cause than the native naturally attached to that cause, you have to suspect that something else may be going on which says more about them than their cause.

When Irish Americans are more Pro Ireland than the Irish, is that about some sort of identity quest, about what they want to be. When CUFI is more for pro Israeli than just about anyone, you realize its not because of the Jewish people, its because Jesus said he would return. The real story often resides in the story behind the story.

Lobbyists in DC here are PAID to advocate a cause, for example for climate change or Pro Life, or Palestine or Israel, so you know their pro- stance means Professional- they are paid and often paid very well to push a point of view.

Similarly, when someone is so ANTI a cause than the ones who are most legitimately aggrieved, men who are more upset than most women about gender bias, or white Australians more upset than aborigines about racism, then again, something seems out of balance.

It is always worth asking- Is someone hijacking someone else’s story for their own ends. No story is innocent. It pays to check if someone’s story truly belongs to them.

NSL Notes to the Management Team Today

“Our role is to invite our members to speak out of the authority of their own experience rather than speaking out of their experience of Authority which keeps treating them as children, telling them who they are, how to think, what to say.
Our project is to help them (and ourselves) know the difference between the authority of owned experience and the experience of inherited authority.

at the core

At the core of every human being is a mystery- something ineffable, something so beyond words. The power of a story is that it can evoke in words what is beyond words, it can catch the faint echo of that mystery without having to define it or put limits around it, or defend it. The theologian would describe it as “mysterium tremendum et fascinans” meaning that it is holy, sacred, something other, that which makes you take off your shoes and bow.


We were showing the NSL team the Vietnam Memorial, this week and explaining how this site of memory had morphed from a place of nation-splitting controversy to a place of healing, a place to mourn and heal.
We were walking out when a thin older woman appeared, with long blond hair and glasses. She was clutching a crumpled white piece of paper with a name and a number E63. Her pleading eyes caught mine and she asked me, “How can I find someone?” I looked at the note and told her that the A- Z register was at the other end, but she said she had the panel, it was E63.

Mo, my Palestinian friend on NSL who was at my side, also tried to help. She said, I think I can find it, and as she turned away, I went forward to suggest she check the register, but Mo pulled me back. He whispered, ” She is really upset- let her go.” and thankful that he could see her tears more than I could, I retreated but not before asking her, “Was it a friend or relative?” She said, “We were engaged.”

We walked with the NSL team to the Womens’ Vietnam statue and I watched as this lady walked to E63 and with her fingers felt for the name, When she found it, she collapsed at the foot of the panel, and her body seemed to disappear into the depths of her loss, even after so many years.

As i showed my NSL team the Pieta of the nurse holding the body of the dying soldier, I was hiding my tears for this lone women who finally found the name of her lost love. How many futures had she lost? I thought of my mum, an RAF nurse, who loved a dashing Canadian pilot in World War Two and how she wrote poetry to console herself when his plane disappeared over Berlin.

We were finishing the tour, time to go home and as we walked back past the memorial out to Constitution Avenue, there she was again.
I went down to her and she recognized me, and I embraced her and said,” I am heartbroken for your loss.” And she said “Thank you for your help.” and then she asked me, “Who did you lose?” I heard myself say, “My Mum and Dad fought in World War Two, and each lost their closest friends in battle and I lost what they lost- Even if I never went to war, like they did, we all had to grow up in their war. ”

Her question haunts me still, “Who did you lose?”

If the true cost of war was ever weighed, it would be the story reflected in the sorrowful women at that Vietnam Nurses Memorial who remind us that in war, we are all losers, we lose our loved ones, we lose our sanity and our humanity, we lose those futures we sacrifice for the sake of some unresolved past.

Yes, she was engaged to be married and war tore her love away. And 40 years later, the tears have still not dried.