My colleague, David Robinson, just completed his book The Seer: The Mind of the Entrepreneur, Artist,Visionary, Seeker, Learner, Leader, Creator…You. David’s book follows a young entrepreneur and his Socratic interactions with a mysterious guru Virgil. The book is about seeing the world in a different way.
I just finished a very early draft of my first book, Emails to a Young Entrepreneur. The core exercise in the book is about flipping your perspective each day.
The exercise is simple – at least once a day break a habit and then do something different.
Applying Flipping Perspective
As “human doings” we quickly move our day to day actions to habits or tacit behaviors. Habits are those things we do without thinking about them. For the next seven days, apply the Breaking Patterns exercise each day.
Start by making a list of all the patterns that you do on a daily basis that you don’t think about. Some questions to help you get started:
- Do you drive the same way to work each day?
- Do you eat the same foods for breakfast each day?
- Do you do your emails first thing in the morning?
- Are all your emails textual?
- Do you eat lunch with the same people every day?
- Do you read the same newspaper or news source each day?
- Who is a colleague or friend or family member you haven’t talked with in a long time?
You get the idea. What are your habits or patterns of behavior that you just do and don’t think about?
Start with one of the easiest patterns to break like the way you go to work each day. Take a different path to and from work today. While you are breaking your pattern, take a photo or video of some aspect of the pattern that you are breaking. Notice what is different while you are breaking the pattern. Are there different things that you are seeing, hearing or feeling?
When you get back home or to a quiet place after experiencing the breaking of your pattern, do a free writing exercise as part of making meaning from the pattern break. Using the picture or video that you took during your pattern break, start free writing about the experience. Write for five (minimum) to ten minutes (maximum). Look at the picture and your writing, and reflect on what the experience of breaking the pattern means.
The process in a nutshell:
- Select a pattern to break today
- Break the pattern (take a photo or video of one of more parts of the pattern break)
- Do 5 to 10 minutes of free writing on your experience
- Reflect on what breaking the pattern meant for you today.
Here are a few of the flipping perspective free writing journal entries:
January 1, 2014
I finally kept my butt in the seat long enough to write a full draft of my first book. I can’t believe it. It is done. While talking to David, he shared that he’d been revising The Seer by having Kerri read him the chapters of the book. It hit me in an instant that what I need to do is voice record each chapter and then play it back in my own voice. This will be a completely different way to hear what I am writing. It will help me to understand what my writing voice actually is. This is the method that poets use to hear their poems and which I’ve never done with my own poetry. As I experimented with this today, I realized there are two benefits to this process. Just the exercise of trying to speak all that is written helps me to see which sentences are most difficult and need rewriting. Then listening to the words in my own voice is really helpful in getting a sense of how it will come across. Oh, if only I had a deep magical voice like David Whyte when he is telling his stories and reading his poetry and giving us a sense of what was behind the poem that he wrote. I know how much more meaningful the business books I read were when I had a chance to meet and interact with the author. Russ Ackoff was the first author I did this with. I read Creating the Corporate Future in a made up neutral voice. After meeting Russ, all of his other books were now coming through my head in Russ’s inimitable style. Should I go ahead and get serious about these recordings and do an audio version of the book as well as the written version? Certainly this is a flipped perspective for me – listening to what I write rather than seeing what I write. Maybe I can develop my auditory sense as well as my visual sense? Can this be something I write in a blog post? Can I capture what edits I make after I do the speaking of the chapter so that I can see what patterns are coming from the auditory edit rather than just the visual edit? Reading versus hearing – what are the essential differences in these two modalities. I wonder if Elizabeth has some pointers to our comprehension or response based on whether we hear the same information or read the same information? Could this be another exercise to go along with the watching the video exercise with Dana Dyksterhuis? Could this be another revenue stream by selling the audio books as well? The juxtaposition of the audio player on the written text is interesting as well. What if we could do the iPad app of T. S. Eliot’s Wasteland where somebody reads the poem and the color of each line changes as you read through? The power is in the experience of hearing and seeing at the same time.
January 5, 2014
I always sit at the aft end of the Seattle-Bainbridge Island ferry. Something about not wanting to be at the front of the boat with the Type A extroverts who want to rush to get off the boat. I enjoy sitting at the back reading my Kindle on iPad and sipping my coffee from Commuter Comforts. Yet, the most spectacular view on the ferry is at the front. Clearly, I’ve gotten too much in the habit of commuting versus flipping my perspective to SEEING. So this morning on the 7:05 as I head to the airport for my trip to the Vistage FOVC seminar in San Diego I sit up front. It is an interesting winter time of day as the sky is mostly dark black but you can start to see a faint streak of light on the horizon. Today the sky is crystal clear (and a cold 28 degrees). I was treated to an immediate glorious sight as we turned south out of Eagle Harbor – Mt Rainier. I forget that sitting in the very front row, the window serves as a frame to see the world. Here was Rainier framed so beautifully in the window – a silhouette. Then the ferry made the left hand turn to head to Seattle. The skyline of Seattle looks like a faint Christmas tree kind of blinking small line on the horizon. I look for a while and see the sky lightening and hoping that there would be a sunrise before I got to the Seattle side. As I looked out my “window frame” I decided it was time to continue reading Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. I pulled out my iPad and got immersed in Rilke. After five minutes, I folded the cover back and started chuckling. The whole point of the flipping perspective exercise, was to change perspective to get out of my habits. Here I was back in my habit of reading on the ferry, not noticing anything. I put the iPad in my backpack and enjoyed the sights of getting closer to Seattle and saw the silhouettes turn into real buildings as the sun’s early morning light slowly emerged. I took several photos a few minutes apart hoping that I would get the buildings to fill up the height of the frame. As I looked at the image that was showing up on my iPhone, I saw that the internal lights on the ferry were creating a mirrored effect. I was doing a selfie. I got two perspectives in one – you can look through the glass at Seattle or you can see the reflection of Skip and others in the first couple rows of the ferry. As the ferry slows to dock, I see another view – the condensation from the window on the outside sloshing back and forth in a mercury silver trickle – back and forth as we turn. Never seen that before.
January 12, 2014
Yet another gray day as I make it to Sunday Mass at St Cecilia’s on Bainbridge Island. I am late and most of the pews on “my side” of the church are full. For a moment I thought about flipping my perspective by going to the very front row of the church. However, I had enough of that at the learning conference this week. There was space in the very back pew and I thought that more appropriate after an emotionally intense week. Just as I sat down a family of five with two boys and a four year old girl entered the pew in front of me. Now that I have grandchildren I have a smile when I see young kids and imagine what Alice and Hazel are going to be like in a couple of years. As the mass moseyed ahead I was immersing myself in the traditions of the Mass. Then I looked to the right and the young lady was sitting on the window sill sketching in her blank paper book. Sitting and sketching as close to the natural light on this gray rainy day. I immediately wanted to get up and take a photo. I’ve been looking through those windows at the woods outside for 20 years and it had never occurred to me that the window sill might serve as an alcove seat for a young child. Who knew? The young child was happy as a clam. I was warmed and delighted at both the child finding this new way to use semi-sacred space and the patience of the parents not to disrupt their daughter’s creativeness. As the mass ended and everyone headed back to their cars, I shared with the man next to me what a delight it was to see the young lady in the window. We both had one of those shared grandfatherly moments of enjoying the gifts of the young to inspire. He asked me why I didn’t take a picture of her when she was sitting and drawing. I shrugged my shoulders and said that I didn’t want to do anything to disturb the moment. So I took a picture of the empty window, but in my mind’s eye the girl was still there in the window sketching in her notebook. The mind’s eye is always more generative for me than the photo itself.
Spend a few days flipping perspective and reflect on any changes for how you are seeing the world. Feel free to send them along for inclusion in my book.