Planting in Shared Soil

Neuroscientist Uri Hasson researches the foundations of human communication. In a February 2016 Ted Talk–http://www.ted.com/talks/uri_hasson_this_is_your_brain_on_communication— he explained the importance of common ground to effective communication. His research shows the ways in which our brains “couple” when understanding is achieved between a speaker and a listener.

In my work as a speaker and consultant with organizations and teams, I find that business people and those who work with the public are often frustrated in the communication of ideas across cultural and other diverse barriers. This frustration, in large part is due to a lack of common ground or shared soil into which seeds of information or story are sown. Without establishing a link or coupling between individuals or in groups, the steps needed for teamwork, for supervision, for entertainment, or for any human interaction are thwarted.

Jesus, for example, who spoke into a mainly agrarian context used stories based on farming, viticulture, shepherding, fishing, etc. He used not only the language of the people, Aramaic, but he also effectively utilized metaphors from their shared experience. Martin Luther King was another brilliant communicator who built bridges of understanding with his audiences using a narrative that resonated with them and constructed new ways of thinking and feeling.

We live in a wonderfully diverse culture in which we can interact with people from across the globe either through the Internet or the person sitting at the next desk. Human resource personnel struggle to not only hire people with the right credentials for a job but to employ people who can fit in with the team. If they do not, then extra work needs to be done to aid the new employee in learning the culture of the office or of the team. I may be called in to work with individuals or with the team to find ways to move beyond the barriers, to benefit the bottom line and the relationships.

The best shared common goal includes a vision of the final goal or creative project and will meet the needs of the individuals involved in the undertaking. The ability to communicate that goal and find buy-in from the clients, the employees, the volunteers, and the investors requires coupling and shared understanding. Barking out orders and expecting people to obey will not work in our concept-oriented culture.

Using the illustration of the community garden, we all benefit and flourish when seeds are planted in the shared soil of intertwined lives.

Showing Up to the Dance

CRW_1348Visiting another culture or returning home to a culture you thought you knew provides challenges. A woman who worked in Tokyo for five years will re-enter America a different person and find the land of her birth strange, less comfortable. Businesses spend a lot of resources sending executives on foreign assignments only to find that same executive discontent and dissatisfied upon their return. Many employees leave their jobs within months of coming back to the home office. International workers with non-profits who adapted well to another culture often struggle during a home assignment or at the end of their term on the field.

The skills needed for cultural adaptation which lead to flourishing start with the importance of just showing up. A writer must show up at the computer on a daily basis in the same way your accountant sits down at her desk every morning. Moving into another culture means getting out of the house, going to the market, drinking a coffee at the cafe, or having a beer at the pub. The natural discomfort with cultural cues or language barriers are a means to connect to others rather than excuses to hide or isolate yourself in the enclave of the known.

Commit yourself to sticking with the process for the long haul. Adaptation or reintegration are not like the lottery–one day broke, the next one rich. It will literally take a village to finally feel part of the culture. Find friends and mentors to guide the process.

Simply knowing the language does not make a person an insider in any culture. No one knows that more than expats who return to their home and find themselves a stranger among their own people. They speak the same language, but they are different. The culture has changed while they were away. In the workplace, there is a new boss, and he’s often the guy who was a subordinate when you left. He moved up while you feel like you stood still or even backed up. You sacrificed to go on foreign assignment only to find yourself worse off upon your return. That is difficult to accept. You will want to quit, to give up.

The twin problems of impatient demands of success or the terror of failure will block you from flourishing. Many returning executives begin to over-identify themselves with their jobs at this stage. They place their personal value on recovering whatever advancements or job perks they feel have been denied them while away. They neglect their family and friends and pour all of their energies to scaling the ladder of success while fearing failure and defeat. This is the surest path to defeat.

Successful reintegration is possible. A flourishing life is within reach; however, it will take time and effort. Finding a mentor, having the stance of a learner, and maintaining a good humor toward oneself, others, and the community all work together toward the goal of adaptation and fruitfulness. This is often challenging, especially when returning home. Creating understanding requires tools and people.

Show up and find help. We need you.

Mark

 

On Two Books

This past week, I had the pleasure of reading Ali Smith’s How to Be Both and the challenge of reading Jon Krakauer’s Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. In the first, creativity and the joy of uniqueness enjoy the stage under the poetic prose of Ali Smith. The author tempts and teases the reader to let loose their bondage to categories and to celebrate the wonders of being human in all its hues, lines, and forms. My personal favorite slice of this delectable pie came from following the fifteenth century artist who carried me far away from modern life to taste, touch, and savor the days gone by.

“Missoula” on the other hand jolts the reader into the traumas of our current days. Krakauer delivers a brilliant treatise on the horrors of sexual assault so commonplace on university and college campuses across the United States. He regards the shortcomings of community, the failures of the justice system, and the horrendous aftermath of rape on individuals, families, and the community. The necessary compassion to heal these wounds remains unattainable amidst the onslaught of fear, secrecy, shame, and a justice system excessively bent on adversarial behavior and punishment rather than on care, restoration, and health.

Reading these two back-to-back impressed me with the importance of finding the uniqueness of every individual and with acting with compassion and care in my community. It’s far too easy to join the chorus of outrage mongers shouting from the Facebook pulpit or feeding off of the gossip spewing “journalists” available on one’s television station of choice. The difficult work takes place at the level of the neighborhood, the town, and the institutions nearby. Can I behave like Francesco in How to Be Both, who excelled in the discovery and the beauty of life during the Italian Renaissance–life that comes mixed and hued like paint into varying and glorious facets?

 

Mark

Enriching Travel

A quick post to share my latest article in Our-Times magazine:

http://www.our-times.org/travel-to-enrich-the-world.html

Celebrating Solar Power

Creation     In a recent article for Our Times magazine, http://www.our-times.org/solar-reality.html , I discussed the exciting decisions of municipalities and individuals to go solar. Clients in California have found freedom from energy bills by taking advantage of the offerings now on the table. At a recent convention in San Jose, California, one of our speakers Mrs. Jennifer Dowd shared how solar panels are now viewed as a “sexy” accessory to homes. Home values immediately rise with the addition of solar.

Driving home to Oregon from the convention under the brilliant California sun allowed me to not only see the impact of solar but to also realize the tremendous potential for answering the present and future needs of people. Drought conditions along the west put greater demand on the hydroelectric system which requires water for production. Someone said that in one second the sun produces enough energy to power the planet for a year. That may be true, but even as an exaggeration the possibility staggers the mind regarding what we are not accessing as a gift.

Yes, I’m in the industry. The hope for more residential customers to feed my family is present as I write; however, the solar industry offers a tremendous solution to so many problems. That truth fuels my passion. Celebrating solar power comes naturally. Who wants in

?

Mark

A View from La Colina

My bed and breakfast sat on the hillside a short walk from La Colina train station situated above Torremolinos near Malaga, Spain. Before the sun grew in strength over the dusty, rocky slope, I would strike out on a constitutional to think, to meditate, and to take in this luscious view of southern Spain. The beaches of Torremolinos lounge against the quiet Mediterranean. Inconsequential waves caress the light, scintillating sand. Sunbathers glow with bronzed-oil skin. A northern European family played volleyball while laughing about something one of the children had said.

On other CRW_6241a3days, eschewing the allure of the shore, I’d stop in the shops filled with the usual tourist trinkets, books on Spain, and beach gear for the poorly prepared. My favorite shop offered local art–acrylic paintings, water colors, shell art, and a wonderful assortment of colored sand displays. I frequented this shop enough to strike up an acquaintance with the young woman who ran the counter. Her Spanish/English/French abilities worked well to overcome my modest French and English. We spoke of travel, food, and art. She loved Greece and Turkey. I reminisced about Tunisia.

I grew to love Spain, though I should say Andalusia and Catalonia. I love Barcelona nearly as much. These two regions captivated my spirit in ways that are difficult to express. I believe they touched my like I wished my childhood years had done growing up in southern California. Similarities of climate and flora connect them, yet the Spanish of each region seemed more to be “my people” as if I had been born in nearly the right place among the wrong people. Maybe I was simply a few decades late for southern Californian culture.

Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the time passed around the Andalusian coastline and the views from La Colina. Perhaps I’ll return one day.

Mark

A Travel Necessity

“Do I need travel insurance?”

“Actually, you need travel protection.”

Travel protection offers you compensation for injuries, illness, and death which result in travel delays or cancellation. Protection plans can cover you for pre-existing conditions and for non-medical issues. One of my clients suffers from a medical condition which can flare up without notice. With the proper coverage, she is compensated if her medical condition prevents her from taking her business trip or vacation. Non-medical reasons for cancellation might be a court summons, bankruptcy, work schedule conflicts, weather conditions or a terrorism threat.

Not all travel protection is the same, be sure to read all of the stipulations and caveats. 2 Getaway Travel– http://2getawaytravel.com –offers comprehensive coverage on its travel protection package. You really do need travel protection especially for cruises, tours, and excursions. We not only help you find the best travel package according to your tastes, style and sense of adventure, but we are travel protection specialist who can counsel you to find the option you need. You can then relax…

Markedr8

 

Colors of Travel

20150118_085050     Among the myriad of sensations awaiting you in the garden or while on vacation, perhaps the renewed experience of color and hue most effectively breaches our walls of the mundane. The western shoreline of the big island of Hawai’i  and the eastern rainforest express an astonishing array of pageantry shared from across the color spectrum.

I’ve marveled at bougainvillea trellised on porches along a dusty track in Malaga, Spain–orange, salmon, lemon, carmine, and magenta. The greens near Bonn, Germany cast a different effect than those of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. This past month along Interstate 5 north of Salem, travelers experienced the innumerable patterns and shades of the Iris. A Goldfinch recently visited the back deck of my brother’s and sister-in-law’s home while I sipped my morning coffee.

Consider the colors, Voyager, when selecting your destination. Note their vibrant spectacle and charm when visiting an arid or stark clime. You can find a rainbow in the snowdrifts of Norway. Gold, black, charcoal, rust and reds reside on the desert painted hills. Celebrate the various allures granted through your eyes. Protect this beauty for all who follow.

 

Mark

mark@2getawaytravel.com

On loving the blank page

The blank page once frightened me. You know, the one in your essay test book that you stared at after reading the prompt or the page on your computer screen waiting for your genius to appear before starting the blog. Even the little box on Twitter or Facebook that awaits your witty remark or encouraging “hug” across the Internet. Late yesterday I wrote a few more pages of the novel I’m working on which is far easier because a context and characters already exist. I just need to take up from where I left off. CRW_1185

So it’s 2015, and I have a black page before me for this year. Well, I’ve already used up fourteen hours of the new year with sleep, reading, chatting with my wife, etc. Many of my fellow Oregonians have just sat down to watch the Rose Bowl against Florida State. I’ll catch some of the game later, maybe. I took a half-dozen punches already this morning delivered by the wonderful Lolly Daskal. She nailed me in the gut and on the chin. For your own ringside chat go to http://www.inc.com/lolly-daskal/13-personalities-traits-that-can-keep-you-from-success.html 

One of my mentors is Mr. Darren Hardy of Success magazine. He’ll be speaking at our convention in February. I first heard him one year ago in San Jose, California. His magazines regularly deliver pertinent and important information to any entrepreneur. Today’s post is no exception http://www.darrendaily.com/new-year/

I love a blank page except this one, the one at the beginning of the year. Do I dredge up old 2014 or 2013 goals and key behaviors? Is continuity or a fresh vision better? Perhaps both are essential. I think I know my big three goals and the one key behavior required to meet them, yet I fail to implement it seems. My mentors ask me to improve my ‘why’. It’s not big enough or I’ve not fully bought into it. Maybe even my why seems a fantasy. Is it too big?

Just go out and get it, I hear. What holds me back? Honestly, about half a dozen things on Ms. Daskal’s list plague my performance. I also lack proper tracking though I have an excellent daily method of operation in place–if only I was consistent. Mr. Hardy speaks of the joy of the journey. Another speaker says that if I’m not having fun, I’m not doing this right. I get it. I hear them. So, what’s the problem?

Me.

Happy New Year

Mark

Not Really the Hobbit

My son and I viewed the 3D version of the final Hobbit installment “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” The film offers a spectacle of special effects and amazing artistic skill. The acting has remained consistently good throughout the Hobbit series. However, as others have stated before me, it’s really not about the Hobbit. He’s more of an ornament for other characters to act around. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Martin Freeman in the role. He nearly achieves several Shakespearean moments; nevertheless, he’s clearly not the central character in view here. With the Macbeth-like Thorin glowering over gold, the evil menace of the Orc Lord, and the love triangle between two elves and a dwarf poor Bilbo Baggins simply loses importance except as a supporting character.

I suppose that had I never read the book, much less a dozen times, I might not worry about this slight. That being said, I truly love the Bilbo of the books and care very little of the Bilbo in this film. The rich cultures, languages, customs, and peccadilloes of Elves, Hobbits, Dwarfs, humans, etc. fell from view in the rush to create an immense war landscape a la Tolstoy but without the empathy and grace from either great writer–Tolstoy or Tolkien.

My son and I enjoyed the film together. We laughed and cheered; however, this series will not likely show up in my DVD collection.

Mark