Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Plateaus and Mastery

Practice, practice, practice. I've said this before but it's never going to be different. The road to mastery is a series of plateaus (per George Leonard's Mastery). The darn downside to spending our overwhelming amount of time on a plateau is that it's flat and boring ... well, maybe. For sure it's flat given all we're doing is practicing what we want to get great at doing.

From Mastery, Chapter 10...

"You resolve to make a change for the better in your life. It could be any significant change, but let's say it involves getting on the path of mastery, developing a regular practice. You tell your friends about it. You put your resolution in writing. You actually make the change. It works. It feels good. You're happy about it. Your friends are happy about it. Your life is better.

"Then you backslide."

What's this have to do with you? I find as I mentor and assessor coaches at all levels, that exam failure is the big backslide for some aspiring coaches. If not even taking the credentialing exam is the result of not wanting to fail ... or backslide ... then the road to mastery for you will be rather challenging for other reasons than just landing on plateaus all the time.

I'll let you chew on that for a while.

If you're gung ho! about pursuing excellence and mastery, then simply knowing that you will be "practicing" constantly, learning all the time, putting yourself out there routinely, measuring your skills against standards ... all that kind of thing. So we are once again reminded of Leonard's admonition that practice actually becomes the way life goes and will always go. If one actually arrives at mastery then the only option is to get back on that plateau.

Back to George Leonard (who by the way was a 6th degree Aikido black belt, top gun, and much more ... he died recently in his mid-'90's after still practicing Aikido at age 93).

"[L]ifelong learning is the special province of those who travel the path of mastery, the path that never ends."

"Over the long haul, there nothing like the path of mastery to lead you to an energetic life. A regular practice not only elicits energy but tames it.... On the master's journey, you can learn to put things in perspective, to keep the flow of energy going during low moments as well as high."

I hope you found the experience and wisdom of George Leonard inspiring and important.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Lessons in Self-Management

Self-management is a never-ending lesson.

It's been about a week and a half since my mother passed away peacefully in her sleep. After 5 months of family care in a hospice setting, our family can be proud of our teamwork.

So what does this have to do with self-management? Plenty. A lot. More than I thought.

As a professional coach, my role in the life and work of each client is to be their partner as we seek out insights and what to do about them. During my time in California (several trips across country) I was able to work and enjoyed my mother's interest in "people who can work on the phone." She never really knew what I was up to but enjoyed asking about every call.

It seemed pretty simple and not too difficult to serve clients while being her companion and chef (now there's an exaggeration!). Well, she enjoyed the meals so what else is important? I'm certain I was able to be present (after all the years I've practiced being present) and didn't engage my clients in what I was doing unless asked ... then only briefly. It wasn't my coaching time, after all.

Enough of the story.

It's been a week-and-a-half since my mother passed. I find myself struggling to accomplish anything except effective coaching calls ... thank goodness! Here's my insight: I am clear and present to my need to manage myself in service of my client. In this case I'm including one-on-one clients, a class in group coaching, and a class in executive coaching I taught last Saturday. All went well, are going well, and remain a delight as always. That's professional self-management! That's what I'm looking for and learning about. Above all, even when I don't feel like my morning swim, my work will thrive.

Uh, now there's that other side: personal self-management. Perhaps I'm just asking too much of myself right now. First things first: take care of my professional self, stay away from making too many decisions for a while (even business ones), and begin (begin!) to manage my personal self-management. I sort of think I'm talking myself into a behavior pattern that will work best for all concerned. After all, losing one's mother is a life-altering event ... it's been 32 years since my father died.

Here's what I think personal self-management is all about: it's about being generous with myself in allowing moments of personal grief ... then moving along to what's needed. My mother and I were very close. She would and did ask me to be gentle in caring for myself.

In our professional lives, it is my experience that above all I must be authentic ... I mean really authentic. When with a client it's about the client, when with myself it's okay to be about myself, when enjoying something it's about that.

That's presence and I'm still working on it.