Monday, January 11, 2010

A Day at the Metropolitan Opera

Listening and Being Present work as a team. I was at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on Saturday for two operas: Der Rosenkavalier and Turandot. In Der Rosenkavalier the audience was pin-drop quiet ... a marvelous audience completely captured by the beauty of the music, the acting and the story. We were, as a group of 3,000 people, listening as one. It was an extraordinary experience.

What was that about for me? The Met has the English translation on the back of the railing. It is immediately available to only my eyes (every seat has this). One can briefly glance at it to follow the story as needed. Here's what I learned by listening to such a level and in such an environment:

When about 22 I first attended this opera ... it was gorgeous and great to see it ... but I did not understand the full impact of the story. Why? I was too young to capture the nuance and the depth of what was transpiring. This time I was not too young but had lived a long life inbetween. I listened with a captured mind and heart and a full appreciation for the story being told in such a magnificent way. Oh sure, I could have been captured solely by the beautiful voices, set and costumes and the waltz we all know too well. Those were there; they completed the picture.

The second opera Turandot was completely different ... a full stage with action and a plot of love and death. Once again, in the same day, one was called to be present, fully present for another 3 hours. Yes, it was possible and why not? What could be more wonderful than to listen and watch the magnificence of extraordinary performance with a beauty that captures the eyes as well as the ears.

Being in the presence of those who were also listening with passion and open hearts was all I needed to myself be fully present ... continuously for 4 hours plus 3 hours. This phenomenon made the length of time non-existent and the stories alive.

What is this all about? Let's see ... can coaching be this way? Are you able to sustain a context of appreciation and presence in order to listen actively and openly for several hours in a row?

What do you believe it takes?

If you read my story about the Met, perhaps you will understand what I believe it takes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Private Sadness

My dilemma is around privacy ... do I want it and if so, how much? Do I not want it that much and willing to be more public?

Today I'll go past what I might ordinarily do in that regard and speak more personally than I usually do. I hope you're okay with this.

My brother died yesterday at 66 while in hospice. Alcohol was his guiding force and not a very beneficial guide as you can imagine. It killed him.

He never ... never ... ever ... stood up and took charge of his own life. Only once in the past 40 years did I hear him sober and I didn't recognize him when he called. He squandered a profession that saw him at the top of his game. You see, he was the exterior designer of the original HP 35 calculator ... the first one. The insides were designed but not the external package, keys and displays. This was a genius design and one that sent him to the top of Hewlett Packard Advanced Design. But he never made that work.

I had a 35 and still use an HP 12-C every day. Brilliant designer, he was.

Well, he once admitted that he drank from the time he was 13 ... but in those days who talked about such things, even if we had known? That was the beginning of "not listening."

I stopped listening to my brother a long, long time ago. The very skill I use every day was useless to me. I am not proud of myself here. I make no excuses for this but I truly never understood why he never sought an end to his prison. Many times he would call to tell me he was going into rehab but he never stayed a day in any. If alcoholism is an illness then he surely had it and was disabled by it at an early age.

There are times in life when one does not or cannot listen to another person. It gives me no pleasure or solace to say that frankly I had no influence on my brother and so it seems I lost all interest in truly listening to him. What a sad commentary on how I gave up caring. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Accidental Lesson in Listening

I was in the bank today with plenty of time to conduct my business ... a rare moment so I do everything at one time. On the TV a controversial report on CNN was playing. One of the people in line turned to those behind him (I was out of the line waiting for something else) and began using language probably not welcome by everyone. He was opining about the new flight restrictions and the "stupidity of everyone." I noticed how quickly others joined in or nodded. I was in a place to watch and hear.

Did I want to hear this person opine? Not really, so it was up to me to tune it all out. I was immediately reminded of how we selectively perceive, listen and hear. I did not want to judge this person but of course I did to some extent ... and I wouldn't join in as I had a positive experience at the Toronto airport two days ago ... even with all the changes, pat down, searches. It all worked and for my benefit.

Anyway, what does this have to do with coaching? As a student of humanity ... one cannot help but become this after coaching for as long as I have ... I need frequent reminders that I am in charge of how I listen and what I hear. This goes for client work. Given every client is different from every other client, I must listen with generosity, acceptance and appreciation. If I cannot do this every time I am not coaching ... I am doing something else. Harsh as that sounds, listening is the heart and soul of coaching techniques and so must be the gift you and I give to another. And a wonderful gift it is.

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." ... William James

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Holiday Drama

While we're in the thralls of the main holiday season of any year, the subject of drama truly is approporiate. We have religious observances, mad scrambling retail buying, the end of the year approaching, a new year arriving with immense fanfare. And all of it is a human construct designed for drama whether we think (or thought) so at all. Well, so what?

For me it's a perfect time to sort through the bits and pieces of the dramas of my life and work. I generally have a couple of weeks of introspection (always dangerous for me) to ponder the reality that my life does have drama of my own making.

How does this apply to my coaching or yours?

1. I simply must renew my compassion level for the dramas of others.
2. I also must not assume others have the same dramas playing out as I do.
3. I must renew my capacity to be patient with myself and others.
4. I must not listen to the existing dramas that accompanied me into this world ... that was a gargatuan failing of mine when much younger (back to #1 above only this time adding myself).

So my coaching benefits by renewed compassion for all concerned, my return to not knowing everything, and my appreciation that an idle mind over the holidays actually can be in and of itself rather renewing rather than a time for mischief and concern.