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Association and assimilation

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The coaching I do with individuals often involves sifting through their life experience in an effort to identify their core values and deepest convictions. These deep dives into the past then allow us to focus on telling personal stories of identity that express one’s true nature, the values and beliefs that define “who we are”. This type of personal storytelling is among the most powerful tools for inspiring and influencing our groups, in a work setting or elsewhere.  As I described briefly last time, one of the elements I find most fascinating about this process is its Proustian aspect, the moments of self-discovery when people drift into a sort of reverie as they describe … Continue reading

Unexpected revelations from within

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Every so often, I make a discovery—have a revelation, as some would say—that really should not be one. In other words, I am reminded of something that I either have known, or should have known, all along. Such was the case immediately after my van ride to the Denver Airport with Otis in January. My “revelation” was that a small event or innocent conversation can stimulate a long and deep line of reflection, leading to numerous moments of both voluntary and involuntary recall, in a somewhat Proustian way.  Why should this not have been a revelation? Well, if there is one phenomenon that I have experienced over and over with clients, it is … Continue reading

Madeleine cakes and memories

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One of the master works of the 20th century, and one of my personal favorite novels, is À la recherche du temps perdu, a seven volume tour de force by French literary giant Marcel Proust (1871–1922). In English, it exists in two translations, each with a vastly different approach and end product: In Search of Lost Time and Remembrance of Things Past.  Early in the novel, the narrator states that he once had few memories of his early childhood weekends, which he spent at the home of his aunt Léonie in the village of Combray. In fact, the memories of Combray and his aunt had lain dormant for many years, until one day when the taste and scent of … Continue reading

Connecting the dots

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Steve Jobs’ now famous 2005 Stanford commencement address consisted of three brief personal stories, one of which he called “connecting the dots”. In this tale, Jobs explains how his interest in calligraphy came to be, and how it influenced the design of the original Macintosh computer, and subsequently the entire industry.  While still a teenager, Jobs dropped out of Reed College in 1973, after only six months in residence. He explained that he enjoyed the school, but that he was frustrated by the required courses he was obliged to take, many of which did not interest him. After quitting the college, though, he remained on the Oregon campus for another 18 months, sleeping on … Continue reading

How to find meaning in seemingly meaningless work

John's reflections, Storytelling Leave a comment

Camus’ philosophical essay Le mythe de Sisyphe ends with these words: “La lutte elle-même vers les sommets suffit à remplir un coeur d’homme. Il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.”  I quote it here in French because I have never liked this passage nearly as much in its English translation: “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” In the English version, the concept is there, but the author’s eloquence somehow is lost, as is often the case with fine literature. That said, translation is a difficult exercise, and I have never been able to come up with a better version myself.  In any case, … Continue reading

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