Keep Your Mower Rolling (the momentum imperative)

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It was hot yesterday so…not too sensibly, I waited until the middle of the afternoon to mow the lawn.

It didn’t take more than the slightest effort (walking 10metres to the shed) for the sweat stain on my straw hat to start spreading. Forty minutes later I was really flagging. I stopped briefly for brow-wipe and a drink from the hose. It was really hot, and dusty. Then back to the mower which, suddenly, I could not move.

There was a small sharp stone wedged under my front wheel. I was intent on pushing over it but I didn’t have the power. But I kept shoving anyway and got hotter and more annoyed. My heat-aadled brain was unable to grasp the obvious option… pull back and get some momentum.

That stone was my broken excel formula, my failing email communication with my difficult client, my presentation that wasn’t humming. Sometimes shoving madly forward gets you nowhere. But a pause and some renewed momentum usually does the trick. Roll. Bump. And you’re over that little stone.

Get up some real speed and nothing will stop you.

Show. Don’t Tell

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Years ago I had a serious crack at writing fiction. One of my teachers, the late Laurie Clancy (pictured) was an old school Australian short story writer and critic. He was possessed of a warm, serious, funny and sad narrative tone and he had a face to match. Amongst the many insights Laurie imparted, “show me, don’t tell me” has stayed with me and remains a powerful metaphor for life beyond fiction writing.

To give your characters life, you must show their actions to your reader. By only telling, you omit evidence, you forfeit richness and create doubt about the believability of your characters. Each exposition and development must be illustrated, not simply told. Think Hamlet’s slide into madness, Ahab’s escalating vengeance against That Whale or Raskolnikov’s delusions of grandeur as he plots his Crimes, before Punishment.

We observe those characters by their actions just as our observations of those around us powerfully inform our view of them, beyond what they merely say.  Clancy’s advice is never truer than when we pursue credibility in our work. We must make action our central narrative device. Our deeds and successes must be shown, not just told.

The Selfish Mentor

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A mentor should actively seek gain from their mentee relationship (I’m not convinced that mentee is a real word, makes me think of manatees…). Anyway, one of the first questions a new mentee asks me is, “so, why do you mentor?”

The correct answer seems to be about giving something back. I’ve used this reply. I’ve talked about helping others but, in truth, I’m a Selfish Mentor.

The Selfish Mentor gives of his time only with an expectation of something in return. I’m aiming to develop myself too. And I know that I’ll get great , if I give great too.

Mentoring develops a wonderful symbiotic relationship. Both mentor and mentee come together out of self interest and, as they grow together, enrich themselves and each other.

Selfishness builds a richer, more fulfilling relationship for both parties. The giving causes taking…and the giving given, allows for taking.

And that’s why my desire to gain moves me to give the mentee the best I’ve got.

Lessons from the Orthopaedic Zone

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Last summer, in less than a mouse-click, I snapped my fibula and tibia and dislocated my ankle at roughly 45 degrees to my shin. Now, I’m a big fan of experiential learning but I have to admit, as a I lay screaming, the idea of reviewing David Kolb’s axiomatic model of reflection, the Cycle of Learning, wasn’t on my to-do list. I did come to learn, not long after, that there is indeed a website for everything. http://www.mybrokenleg.com does exist.

When Christopher Hitchens invoked the Nietzschean phrase, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, he professed serious doubt about cancer and it’s treatment making him stronger. Ha, but a broken leg…nothing really, in the scheme of things.

Did it actually make me stronger. Doubtful. Though it did give me a lot of time to think. Mostly, I lay calmly and thought about the calming effecting of laying calmly. Nice feeling, if you can get it.

I try to recall that restfulness now that I’m upright and mobile and occassionally stressed to the eyeballs. I have to admit it is difficult to remember. I’m not sure I have any lasting lessons from the orthopaedic zone. Or maybe there is this…sometimes unexpected things happen and then you get up, get moving and get on with it.