View this message in your browser

Hi all!

We just had a long weekend here, and it's thrown my whole week for a loop. I feel like I'm still catching up. (Scratch that — I am still catching up!) I'm pretty sure I said the same thing after the last two long weekends, in August and September, but it has only just dawned on me that I could do something different.

The problem with long weekends is that I lose Monday, and I really need Monday. It's not like the other weekdays: it's the day I plan my week, anticipate crises, and prioritize tasks. If I try to launch into my week on Tuesday without planning on Monday, I'm rudderless.

So I made a note for the next long weekend, to beware!, and make Tuesday into an honorary Monday. Unfortunately the next long weekend is not until February, so who knows if I will remember why this is important by then! I can only hope. (I just checked the calendar and I'll send a newsletter the week of the long weekend, so maybe we'll find out together!)

In the meantime, I did manage to write a little something for today's newsletter, about what you might call "stepping into uncertainty". Enjoy!

A pair of deer – possibly a mother and child – stand on the bank of a still river. The deer are reflected in the water. It's misty. The larger deer nibbles from a bush at the river's edge, while the smaller one looks to the left, ears pricked forward as if something has caught their attention.

Go as far as you can see

On the evening of the second Tuesday of every month, I get together with friends and do puzzles. Not jigsaw puzzles or simple crosswords, but a set of six unique puzzles created just for each month's event. The puzzles are usually fairly hard and involve some non-obvious mechanism. Usually, when we read the instructions, we don't know how we'll eventually solve the puzzle.

I used to hate not knowing how things would turn out. I never started things unless I could clearly see the whole arc of the journey: I will go to the grocery store and then the bank, stop for coffee and come home; I will leave early for the airport, catch the plane, rent a car and drive to my mum's house; I will go to university and get a degree and then a job; I will get pregnant, have babies, raise them and we will have fun together and it will be awesome.

(It speaks to my affluence, privilege, and great good luck how often things have worked out just the way I expected them to. It's also evident that I don't choose to do very risky things.)

I'm in the middle of training on a team coaching system called the Living Systems Approach. It's accurately named, Living Systems Approach, because it's not a method or a formula. It's completely bespoke — each team coaching engagement is created ad hoc in response to that team and their needs.

The thing about that is you have to dive in and start working with the team before you know exactly what you're going to do. As Brian Cyr, one of the instructors, put it "You go as far as you can see, and then you can see further."

Obviously this is quite uncomfortable for me.

When I did puzzles by myself, I used to give up on them pretty easily, almost as soon as I didn't know what to do next. It was partly fear of failure (and what it would mean about me if I failed), and partly a lack of trust that I would eventually figure it out, with more time or effort.

That tendency to give up had to go when I started doing puzzles with friends: I couldn't give up while everyone else was still working! So I learned to persist, and so much more.

I learned some puzzling skills, of course. I learned that there's always something you can try, and that it's usually more fruitful to do something than to stare at the page and try to think. I learned that sometimes the thing to do is work on another puzzle and come back to this one later, and sometimes the thing to do is ask for a hint. (I learned that it's okay to ask for a hint, but if you just try for a few more minutes, you often don't need to.) I learned that the harder you work, the more satisfying it is when you solve the puzzle. (Usually, unless it was hard because it was badly designed.)

I also learned that it's okay to not know, and that not knowing now doesn't mean you will never know. My puzzle friends trust that if they keep looking at the puzzle, trying things, thinking, rereading the instructions, talking, and trying more things, eventually a light will go on and the way forward will become clear.

That's the key: Trust.

Trust in yourself, that you will be able to figure it out and that you will be able to recover if you don't.

Trust in the process. We talk about lot about "trust in the process" with coaching, because the process of coaching is inherently powerful: There is a clear and structured process and a well-defined set of competencies. With puzzles, the process is looser, but that weird cycle of read-try-erase-think-talk-read-try-erase usually does bear fruit.

And trust in other humans. Trust in the client is a huge part of coaching: it's a basic tenet of coaching that the client is creative, resourceful, and whole.

All these lessons apply to team coaching, too. There is a period of not-knowing, somewhere between first being hired and a couple of sessions in, where you don't understand the problem, the relationships, the questions, or the experiences you need to create to make things happen. But I'm learning to trust that if I approach team coaching (and other ambiguous adventures) with an open mind and some skills, I won't go too far wrong.

What's New?Striding into the future. Amy walks towards the camera down a hall in an industrial office building.

What is new? Not much, since last newsletter. I've been coaching, getting coached, writing more (as a result of getting coached), reading, watching TV, running most days, poking at my new website (except when Squarespace is down 😒), studying team coaching, studying Korean, planning, trying to be a better person, trying to keep my and my family's spirits up, wearing a mask, washing my hands, making kombucha, etc. Normal stuff, you know.

Fun and Interesting

  • The Wall Street Journal has called us "the Bernie Sanders" of browsers. The non-profit internet organization Mozilla is doubling down on their attempts to make the internet less horrible, and they have created a set of resources so people can improve their own internet experience and join the effort to make it better for everyone. Unfck the internet []
  • Languages are, as a rule, much more elaborate than they need to be, so the streamlining doesn’t deprive the speaker of expressive power. Linguist John McWhorter writes about how communities of people who are obliged to learn a new language tend to create a characteristic, streamlined and slang-rich "multiethnolect" version of the language. (I'm curious whether this is happening to English in Toronto.) How Immigration Changes Language []
  • It's not just the number of people using them, it's the even greater number of people who feel better about their city just knowing that they are there. City planner Amanda Burden talks about designing delightful public spaces, how they make urban density work, and why you have to fight for them. How public spaces make cities work []

Thank you for reading this far!

If you like what you read, hit reply and let me know, or forward it and let someone else know. If you have questions or comments, hit reply and let me know. If you have seen something interesting out there, hit reply and let me know. Are you seeing a trend here? If so... hit reply and let me know! I look forward to hearing from you. ❤️

Amy Rhoda Brown Coaching
Copyright © 2020 Amy Rhoda Brown Coaching, All rights reserved.

I live and work on land which for thousands of years has been part of the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe and the Huron-Wendat. Today, this meeting place is still home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island, and I am glad to be able to live and work here.

(I've seen some expressions of anger from Indigenous people about land acknowledgments lately, but I haven't done my research about why, exactly. I assume it's because land acknowledgements can be trite and some people think that reciting one absolves them of any further effort? Anyway, I'm going to keep this here for the time being while I do more research.)

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp