The Four Levels of Listening

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Here’s the single best word of advice I’ve ever learned: Listen.

When I was young and confused, trying to figure out how the world works, I had to listen. When I traveled the world and encountered new cultures, it was even more crucial to listen. Learning sociology meant learning more deeply how to listen. In the wilderness, trackers showed me how to listen. As a coach intent on helping people, my first task is to listen. As I train coaches, I find myself saying it over and over again: listen.

Right now the world seems to consist entirely of huge changes and challenges. With so much uncertainty, […]

How to Seek Sanctuary in a Time of Chaos

Every few months I have a recurring dream: I’m walking through my home and notice a door I’ve never seen before. I open the door to find an enormous room—a cathedral, actually—with sky-high ceilings and glorious stained-glass windows. My reaction isn’t surprise, but recognition. “Oh, yeah!” I think in the dream. “I knew this was here all along! I just forgot.” Along with the memory of the space comes the memory of its function. The cathedral in my dream is there to offer sanctuary.

A lot of us could use a little sanctuary right now. As I write this, cases [...]

4 Key Elements of Resilience and How to Master Them

When I talk to people whose lives have been upended by the global pandemic, it’s almost like watching some massive, monstrous bully beating on them. The disease itself can be horrifically damaging, even for those who survive it. Sheltering in place has created more unemployment than the Great Depression. Almost a third of a million people have lost family members. All of us have lost the familiar rhythms of activity that once filled our time and lifted our spirits.

And we have no idea how long it will last.

Blow after blow, the punches just keep coming.

Pondering all this, I recently [...]

Like Violets in Early Spring

So in spite of everything, violets are blooming in the forest around my house. One day there were none, the next day, they’re everywhere.

I’ve been chatting about this with Elizabeth Gilbert. In her book BIG MAGIC, Liz cites a mathematician whose father told him to publish his ideas quickly, because “When the time is right for certain things, they appear at different places, in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.”

In science this is called “multiple discovery.” It happens a lot: calculus, oxygen, and evolution were discovered at the same time by different scientists.

Well, last week, [...]

Little Hints of Magic

So last Christmas I bought a jigsaw puzzle for my family. It was fun—a nice center point where we could gather and chat.

I do that almost every year, but after this holiday was over, I bought another puzzle. Then a couple more. Then half a dozen. I spent about a month tucking puzzles into our closets and shelves like some kind of manic, jigsaw-obsessed squirrel.

Then, of course, it happened. You know what I mean. THE APOCALYPSE.

About a week into the national lockdown, I got a random email from someone in a nearby neighborhood association. The writer was looking for [...]

Gratefully Receive Your Own Love

God bless the wonderful John and Kitty, who built and later sold us this house! I never would have thought to put in a little gym, but they did. Since the shutdown, my son Adam has been working out harder than ever, video-conferencing with his awesome trainer.

Here’s the thing, folks: Adam is doing this because he wants to. He decided to start working out when he was in high school. I’ve never been able to force any of my children to do anything. I lack the stamina. But when they follow their bliss, they do things that blow my [...]

Time to Transform

Any normal year, I’d be prepping for my annual pilgrimage to this place: Londolozi, South Africa. This year, though I can’t go there, Londolozi is helping me see this pandemic in a different light.

In the 1970s, two South African teenagers named Dave and John Varty were devastated by the sudden death of their father. The boys were advised to sell the family’s barren cattle farm in the bushveld. Instead, they decided to try something they called “restoring Eden.” Not realizing how crazy this idea was, the Vartys spent years repairing the terrain and waterflow, bringing native plants back to [...]

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