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Archive for April, 2010

rLiving Day 1: Tweeting to Speaking [Directness]

Posted by Simon on April 30, 2010

I follow 399 people on Twitter and I’m being followed by 366 (as of today). One followee/follower is @odguru, as I knew her for a few weeks. Then I clicked on her profile and found out that she’s Christy Pettit and that ‘od’ in odguru is Organizational Development (and ODscore is her company: Where social networking meets systems thinking). Along with a lot of other people, we crossed paths during a weekly tweet chat, #lrnchat, about all things learning. And today we spoke on the phone!

Our connection up until today was a few mutual retweets and responses during those weekly 90 minutes. Then Christy said something in a public tweet to me, right at the end of yesterday’s session that particularly piqued my interest. So I sent a DM (Direct Message) to her:

The subsequent phone call from Christy today changed, or maybe even created, a relationship.

Relational Proximity Dimension #1 is “Directness”. My relationship with someone is better and healthier the less mediated it is. It can be mediated by technology or other people: these reduce our ability to communicate fully. It can also be mediated, even when face to face, by dishonesty and fakeness: there’s a real me and a real you, any fronts we put up reduces directness.

Today my relationship with Christy grew significantly because we went from tweeting, and not very often at that, to speaking on the phone. The directness of voice-to-voice – hearing the multi-dimensionality of her voice, her tone, her enthusiasm – made her more of a person in my life than before. I’d say, in fact, that before today there was no relationship. I only knew a few of @odguru’s thoughts and ideas (140 char at a time). I knew from the content that she was very smart and experienced. And I appreciated when she RT’d or responded to my tweets. But now I can say I know Christy Pettit. A teeny bit, anyway. And I’m delighted to know her! We had a really interesting and engaging conversation:

Our relationship also increased in Multiplexity (Dimension #3, which is esentially is about knowledge) because we connected in a different context from #lrnchat, and talked about more than just the #lrnchat question.

This may all seem a little dry and even obvious, but think about any relationship you have, and how “direct” it is, then consider if the lack of directness explains the nature of the relationship, good or bad.

[Note: The context or purpose (Dimension #5) of a relationship will determine to what extent increased directness is necessary or desired. With the 399 people I’m following I can’t possibly, and don’t want, unmediated with them all! But even so, the growth of any ‘relationship’ is constrained to the degree it is mediated.]


Posted in Directness, first-follower, RelationalProximity | Leave a Comment »

30 Day Project completed! And just starting!

Posted by Simon on April 30, 2010

I raise my hat to Andrew Wicklander. If you remember, David Sivers gave away an idea. Andrew Dubbers took it and created 30 ideas in 30 days and gave them away. Andrew Wicklander took one of those ideas, recruited a support team, and said he’d execute it 30 days after Dubbers submitted his last idea. And he did!

And here it is:

He had to learn Ruby on Rails to do it, and used his support team for resources, ideas and feedback (I was next to useless in this front, to be honest) and get it done by Apr 30th. And he did! If you want a project manager, I recommend Andrew. That’s his business. He’s a man of his word, he acknowledges what he knows and what he doesn’t know, he sets boundaries and accountabilities and holds people to them (with grace and candor), and he taps the resources he needs to achieve his goal! Congratulations Andrew. What a great inspiration!

Watch the video on site for more background and how the site works. I’ve added a 30-day project (see here for the idea; I know, need to simplify it). And now I have to do it. My obligation starts today & if I don’t keep up with doing something every day, the project becomes inactive, and is then deleted within a week! You can watch my progress here. When I complete an item you’ll see a link to what it was.

Oh boy, that does it. Now I’m accountable. Here goes.

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First Follower music and image

Posted by Simon on April 15, 2010

I’ve been a little slack keeping up with my fellow First Followers. We’re down to about 6 now, the other 5 having fallen off the blogging wagon.

Anyway, tonight I took some time to find out what they’ve been doing. Not all have kicked off their 30-day projects. But check these wonderful artists out!

Deb Walsh is a musician. Her project is to put a new musical idea on her website,, every day for 30 days. Most of her creations are piano instrumentals. Here’s a lovely vocal piece created in the context of remembering with a gratitude a year since her mom had a stroke:

April 4bydtwalsh

Cheryl Sterling, is a quilt artist (Sterling fibrearts) based in Chicago. She’s taking photos every day for 30 days and putting them on her blog I LOVE this photo from Day 4! As she comments, “I needed a little help getting ready for tomorrows photo, so I called in a few favors.”!

Cheryl Sterling 30-Day project Day 4

Both these artists took me out of my immediate busy-ness and pre-occupation. I thank God for artists!

Posted in first-follower | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

30 days of relational thinkin’ and livin’ (First Follower)

Posted by Simon on April 10, 2010

I’ve decided on my First Follower 30 day project! Not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner; the subject is what I mostly think about.

The premise: The foundation of human flourishing is relationship. Ultimately, the foundation is love, but love is predicated on relationship. The more “proximate” one person/entity is to another, the better/healthier the relationship, therefore the greater flourishing. “Proximity” doesn’t necessarily mean physical/spatial, although in most contexts it’s an important factor in relational health.

There are at least five factors that strongly determine Relational Proximity*:
1. Directness (the degree to which the relationship is unmediated and truthful)
2. Continuity (the degree to which it has a history, the parties meet regularly, and it has an expected future)
3. Multiplexity (the degree to which the parties know each other through different contexts)
4. Parity (the degree to which there is a symmetry in power)
5. Commonality/Purpose (the degree to which they agree and share a sense of common purpose or identity)

It’s important to recognize that you can have all of these and be devoid of love or commitment. These are not about feelings. But try love and commitment without them. And a deficit in any of these may at least reveal why the relationship struggles.

The project: 30 days of Relational Thinking and Living.
This project goal is to to gather data about, and to encourage, the health and vitality of relationships between: individuals, groups, institutions, even countries. The tasks will be twofold:
1. Build a virtual database of articles, stories, videos that illustrate the dimensions of relational proximity (positive or negative).
2. Select one relationship (of any type) and within 30 days develop a habit of relating that improves on each of the five dimensions of relational proximity.

I still need to work out how I’ll do this, how to socialize it, and when to start. The first task could be accomplished simply by posting something every day for 30 days using or Diigo or Evernote with tags for each dimension; then using some kind of aggregation or API to pull the info together. The second task could include having to blog or post an example of what you’ve done to improve the dimension. I’ll flesh this out in the coming days, probably quite a few days. I’ll also need to provide more detail and explanation on each of the dimensions so everyone who joins fully understands them.

One handy tool may be available soon from Andrew Wicklander, whom I’ve never met but is a major reason I’m doing this. Andrew is building a 30-day calendar; an idea created and given away for free by Andrew Dubber. Dubber was inspired by David Sivers after Sivers produced Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy! See this graphic from a previous post that illustrates the First Follower line of inspiration.

*Relational Proximity
The terminology and model are not mine. I’ll say more about the source and thinking behind it eventually. But for now just indulge me and go along with it. I’ve been thinking about this model since I came across it in 1992, but only in recent months has it started to finally gel in my mind and have I come to see the power and applicability of the framework. The model has in fact been used and applied for 20+ years in contexts as varied as conflict resolution in South Africa, Rwanda and Sudan; in inner-city employment schemes; in health-care management, and in economics, business and leadership. I will argue in future posts that it also provides a very useful language and analytical framework for the ‘social’ part of social media, and for building social capital.

So recall the two tasks above for the 30-day project. And for now think of a relationship that you or your organization has and consider how healthy it is with respect to these dimensions.

Let me know if you’d be interested in taking part in the project. Also, what do you think of the concept and the five dimensions?

Posted in first-follower, RelationalProximity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

Posted by Simon on April 4, 2010

Wave-particle duality.
Perfect Love.
Pluto not being a planet.
Purpose beyond reproduction.
The Red Sox ending an 86-year World Series drought.

Today was a special day to remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ – and therefore the possibility of my own resurrection – and realize that I still believed this particular impossible thing.

We’re not entirely rational creatures (see David Rock’s work on how our brains work).

The scientific method takes a leap of faith in its non-empirical reliance on reason. And it seems to benefit very much from doing so. Being finite beings we have to start somewhere ‘inside’, with certain assumptions for which we have no foundations. And reason is a good one that continues to work.

But it’s not all we need. Purpose and love seem to have a role in our creatureliness also. Though not irrational, they don’t seem entirely rational either.

Impossible is one of those words that we should have a little bit of reluctance to utter. It’s too often used to shut down the mind and imagination. It’s too often the result of an unquestioned paradigm that itself fails to adequately explain the way life actually is, or should be, or could be.

When a friend cries out, in the midst of grief, “Why?!”, don’t give them a ‘reason’. When a student or colleague cries out, “why not??”, don’t immediately give them a ‘reason’. Words and reason are not always up to the task of explaining purpose, or [im]possibility. And neither are they often adequate or sufficient for demonstrating love.

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a seemingly impossible reality that yet exemplifies and creates in me reason, purpose and love. As difficult as that might be to swallow, before or after breakfast, He informs and empowers me about the way life actually is, could be and should be.

P.s. I tried to make this note include something about the First Follower project as part of my weekly obligation. In fact it has been present in my mind all the way through because David Sivers, Andrew Dubber and Andrew Wicklander are people who seem to you scream out, “don’t tell me this is impossible!” and they encourage others to go beyond the present limits of our imaginations. God has weaved possibility into the fabric of all his creatures.

Posted in Good News | Tagged: , , , , , | 10 Comments »

I have no other explanation

Posted by Simon on April 2, 2010

20 years ago today, on Good Friday, I was sitting in the lounge at my parent’s house in Harrow, north-west London, happening to look at the clock, 4:20pm, and I thought to myself, “oh my! … wow! … God exists?!”. And then amazingly my life went in a different direction. So my dad said, a better one. I have no other explanation other than that the invisible God, who came in the person of Jesus of Nazareth that first Good Friday 2000 years ago and was crucified on a cross, inexplicably made himself known to me and put a different Spirit within me.

This isn’t an argument for faith, for faith in God, or even faith in Jesus Christ. This is just (part of) my story. Make of it what you will. I may dare, in future posts, to try to make an argument for those, but that’s not what this is. Everyone has a story to tell, and this is mine. The story is still ongoing. And truly, it will only make sense, to me or anyone, if it’s part of the bigger story that God himself is telling.

A few weeks earlier an American exchange student, Karen, turned up at my volleyball club. A normal, funny and energetic person who confounded me by being normal, having deep faith in Jesus Christ and was able to say, “er, yeh, I don’t know, that’s a good question, I don’t get that either”. Her realness made it impossible to write her off as a whack job.

I was 22, fit and healthy, and had friends, family, parents, sport, car, travel, money, girls. I was at the peak, really, of life. No need nor searching for God or party-pooping religion.

Conversations with Karen revealed a couple of things, both profound. One was that I’d never actually thought about my life, purpose, meaning, reality, God. I had no intellectual or reflective life at all. In fact, I didn’t read, or think, about anything. The other was that there was a depth – of wonder and of grief – to life that I hadn’t known but now realized was real. So I was compelled to give these some serious attention. In retrospect, that was probably the moment that God took the blinders off me.

She handed me Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. I read it. Didn’t get it. Read it again. Still didn’t get it. As I said, I had NO intellectual life. Twice more. And on the fourth time, at 4:20pm, that Good Friday, I thought, “Holy Cow!? oops, sorry lord! But wow!”. And that was it. It felt like a revelation, though deciding if I was going to live “for God” or not felt like a real decision, albeit a no-brainer.

I have no other explanation for what happened next other than that the Jesus-God changed my heart and mind: I started think and have compassion for the poor (and ended up in El Salvador during the civil war and in the Burmese jungle instead of sight-seeing around the world). I started feeling, and slowly showing, gratitude and love for my parents (my dad started liking me). I started to feel that maybe, given the ghastliness of the world, that maybe I should and could do something about it (still working out what that means). I started to take an interest in this amazing world (I developed an intellectual life and an appreciation for art and beauty). In my initial zeal I did go through an embarrassing black-and-white phase that I’m afraid didn’t show a lot of sensitivity or understanding to those who disagreed with me (I like to think I developed some humility quickly).

I’m sure more people do these things already, and do them better and with more heart and sincerity and actual action than I ever will. All I’m saying is that I changed, and I have no other explanation for it than Jesus the God-man who was crucified, so it seems, for me. Not just me, but yet me.

I say I changed because of him because I see and feel his death, and resurrection, as effecting love, truth*, forgiveness and reconciliation in me. Love, truth, forgiveness and reconciliation. These seem good to me. But they diminish when I pull away from God or think more about myself than of others, they grow as I trust in him and give my life for others.

That’s my story. Not everyone’s is like that, though I’ve met many who tell similar stories. It also doesn’t quite make sense yet. Life and reality doesn’t make a lot of sense yet actually. But I believe in One who ultimately will make sense of it. And so far it seems a good, even if not easy, path to be on.

* I want it. I don’t care, really, what it is, even if it ends up meaning that Jesus isn’t true. I don’t like hell or death and I’d love it if gravity would sometimes not be there, but if they’re real I’m an idiot to deny them. I’m aware of ontological and epistemological truths (told you I started reading), that there is Truth, and truth, and that some truths are relative. But I have both deep conviction and, as far as I’m able, a totally open mind to where the evidence takes me. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

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