exercising freedom in a world full of expectations

stand out

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Our world seems to run on peer pressure. Almost everything we do is in response to the expectations of others, either in conformity with them or resistance to them. Even those who seem to rebel against the culture do so in conformity to some subculture.

Like the goths at school who display their individuality by dressing exactly like other goths, sometimes our “individuality” is still about fitting in.

But there are times when we encounter a person who has a firm grasp on who they are. Their identity is so solid that they are not easily swayed by others, nor do they find it necessary to steam roll over those who disagree with them. They are able to keep “the independence of solitude” in the midst of a crowd.

The world is change by these kinds of people. Passionate people with powerful ideas willing to take fearless action.

When we work to define and accept who we really are, where our real identity comes from, then we can “keep with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

Then we can truly be powerful people.

How do you work to keep the independence of solitude in the midst of the crowd?



signs of decay or new life?

Spring takes hold of the cold earth and shakes everything awake. New energy seems to pulse through everything as trees push out new blossoms and leaves, and fungi emerge from the underworld.

Both can be beautiful.



But only one kind leads to rejuvenation and sustained growth.

I spend quite a bit of time trying to help revitalize organisations that are in decline. Finding ways to coax new life to emerge in areas which seem to have stagnated. But I’ve begun to wonder about how to evaluate the new energy that begins to emerge in these organisations.

How can you tell healthy new growth from unhealthy signs of significant decay?

Not sure how to answer that question, besides simply waiting to see what develops in the long run.

Anyone have any ideas?

acceptance doesn’t always mean agreement


One of the first rules of improv in this: Say, “Yes, and…”. This is one of the ways that improv actors help move a scene forward. In an improv sketch, whether it be short or long for, something is being built right at that moment. It is important for the actors to be aware of, and accepting of, everything everyone else offers. Otherwise an important opportunity can be missed.

I talk more about this rule here, but I want to highlight a common misstep in learning how to apply this rule.

Acceptance doesn’t always means agreement.

See, saying “Yes, and…” is about acceptance. It means you must always remain open to the offers of others and give them the same kind of consideration you give your own ideas. Now, if you don’t give your own crazy thoughts any consideration that is something else you need to work on.

Hayley Kellett clearly outlines this in her post Improv and Consent.

We need or want to agree with every offer out there in order to build a scene together. However, we do want to accept the reality we are creating together.

She then offers an example of an offer you may not want to agree with in the moment.

“Mrs. Hurticure, let’s make out!”

Let’s just assume that this is something you did not want to do. How do you respond? How do you accept the offer of something for the scene without actually doing the proposed action? Well, Hayley offers this response.

“No Javier, the interns will catch on to our affair.”

See, you can remain in the scene. Stay focused on building something together, while also disagreeing with the action being proposed. Also notice how this response actually adds something to the scene.

While it does seem like “Javier” is shut down in this small interaction, the actor offering up this idea is not.  “Mrs. Hurticure” accepts the framework that “Javier” proposes, and works within it. She accepts that she is “Mrs. Hurticure”. She accepts that they are working closely together. She even accepts the possibility that this character might be interested in making out with “Javier”. Given these restraints, that she willingly accepts, she works within that framework to move the idea forward.

This is what the principle of “Yes, and…” can offer to those of us who work within teams. We can learn to truly listen to the parameters offered by others as they put forward and idea. Then we can playing around within those constraints to see if something fruitful can be created.

Since most of us are not doing improv, we may not move forward with whatever is created, but at least we took the time to create something together. That is something worth celebrating.

So, say “Yes, and…” but always remember, acceptance doesn’t always mean agreement.