Less Cornered

We are called

to the centre, to the braves.

Centre stage, we brace

Wherever that place, we must sway

Together we pray

not without rage,

centre behold

we are here, less cornered.

But never to stay, always an encounter, then detract

the chase remains.

“Less cornered” is a term originated from David Whyte, author of Consolations, The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

How am I made for the world?

“How am I made for the world”? ~David Whyte

One of the most frequent questions asked in childhood is, “what are you going to be when you grow up”, as if there is only one destitute of vocations. There is one career path that we are meant to follow. Once found, all falls into place. We will receive satisfaction from our work, regular pay checks and scheduled leisure with friends and family.

In “The Three Marriages”, David Whyte invites the challenge of work-life balance. Our sense of self, derived from our commitment to our partner and loved-ones, from our work and from our own wellbeing, is in fact the very foundation of joy in all three areas.

In juggling the tasks of spouse, parent, child, sibling, boss, mentor, employee and many more, we ought to be aware of who we are, i. e. our “marriage” to the self. This ever-present undercurrent not only drives our external relationships but also integrates all of which that is “us”.

Marriage is a great analogy for the most intimate kind of relationships. One where the boundaries of self and the other are blurred.

In Ken Robinson’s “Finding Your Element”, he discusses the search for passion; “what do you love and what do you love about it”? But is it simply that we find what we love to do, do it and happiness proceeds?

Paulo Coelho refers to the “personal legend” as what “makes the world more alive for you and makes you more alive within it”. But what truly makes us happy can elude us. Whyte, therefore delves into the inclinations by which we are called, the tendencies that are in fact “bigger” than the finite path.

There is, within us an innate leverage of fulfilment that gives our lives purpose and meaning. That influence embodies not only what we do and to whom we marry but also, who we ultimately are. We are engulfed by a greater force that motivates us to explore certain paths. And if these paths don’t enhance one another in a way that ultimately empower that great virtue, they will lead us to disappointment and sorrow. But if we can discover what truly drives us and propel our decisions, we enhance that strength. That strength is our essence.

Our choice in what we do, who we marry and how we interact with the world depends upon our relationship with that which is innate. When we enforce that which motivates us, our paths are not only clear but they entwine. All decisions become of less weight. They are the most natural unfoldings. We no longer choose between our job and our family. They are one. And how we integrate them calls on the keystone of self-knowledge, an understanding of our inner being so innate that we may be afraid.

Naturally, we are afraid of what could be revealed. But this conversation with the self is so important and significant. Once conquered, we are invited to a banquet with all those we are connected to and we can celebrate. We celebrate the love and the passion, the joy and understanding. The recognition of what made us and therefore, how we are made for the world.

Armed with such affirmation, we brave the world and establish our significance. And how apparent we are. We are indeed wonders of creation for which the world requests. We are elated beings so adept to what the world needs. All our relationships observe such celebration. We are made to rejoice. We are called to be glad, in all of our endeavours, the spouse, the work and most importantly, the self.

Music is the Space Between the Notes

“Music is the space between the notes.” ~Claude Debussy

When I was a young pianist, I loved playing Claude Debussy. His first Arabesque was one of my favourites; the romantic interlude, fluid melody and vaporous softness enticed buoyancy through my imagination.

In classical music, arabesque denotes a piece of floral and decorative music that merges exotic and flow. Debussy was known for his Deux Arabesque, which were composed in 1888 and 1889 amidst French Impressionism. He was influenced by art forms at the time that depict natural lights in its mutable gaze. His first Arabesque contains many gestures of such luminous arch. As each melody phrases into his harmonic presence, translucent movement contours through pace.

Such beautiful consonance is in fact, interpreted as much by audible as by what is unheard. Deliberate absence highlights dulcet presence. Focus allows space to emerge as full being. What isn’t there gives shape to what becomes the process.

Our work, in so many instances is simply to yield that space. Whether creating music, writing a poem, solving a problem or addressing a speech, the “work” had already been done. Our job in the moment, is to allow.

Framing the space is the craft. How do we determine what goes and what stays? Marie Kondo claims in her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” that, “the question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life”. “Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future” cultivates clutter. Instead, choose to keep only what truly “spark joy”.

Space cultivates being. That which “sparks joy” emerges from the recognition of redundancy. As we reduce noise and invite space, harmony derives. Our natural lyrics converge into focus. Expressed as presence.

How good are we, really?

Perhaps the question, “what do we do well” could lead us in.

Some may say, I play the guitar well. I am good at my job or I consider myself a good parent. But how good are we?

Though the evaluation of “good” can be subjective, we generally derive a sense of satisfaction from completing a task to the best of our ability. When we have given all that we have to a job, no matter what anyone else thinks, we feel good. On the other hand, if we have only offered a portion of what we know we are capable of, we feel like a failure. Even if we receive praise, we know we could do better. Dissatisfaction lingers.

Of course, there is an assumption here that we care about what we do and how well it is done and received. If not, neither the outcome nor gratification matters.

Consider what we engage in that we feel are done well. How did we arrive at such conclusion? If the assessment was derived from a external complement then, we know comparisons were involved. Even when self-evaluating, one applies contrast.

So are we then only as good as the next person is not?

In any contest, competitors need only be as “good” as they can win. But what about in tasks like parenting, meditating and shovelling snow, where excellence might be defined through subjectivity and conclusive opinion may not exist?

This is where being “good” become less about merit and requisite but rather, passion and dedication. In Ken Robinson’s “Finding Your Element”, he describes passion as “a deep personal attraction to something — a strong affinity or enthusiasm that can lead to profound enjoyment and fulfillment”.

Our passion is something that drives us. Something that we continue to pursue regardless of how “good” others consider us to be. What becomes of us when we pursue our passion is deep joy, continuous yearning and timeless gratification. Pure enjoyment calls us to the purpose. Compensation seems unjust.

These are the tasks almost “bigger” than us. We are not only engaged in them but they also engage us. We “do” them as much as they are done through us. What we cannot undo, what we are akin to and can only express as what we “love to do” is in fact, our natural essence and legacy.

In “The Alchemist”, Paulo Coelho calls this our Personal Legend, our gift to the world, our call to serve as much as it serves us. As we submit this virtue, we are “in our element”. We do as we are bestowed and that is how good we are.

Simplicity is Hard to Build

“Simplicity is hard to build, easy to use, and hard to charge for. Complexity is easy to build, hard to use and easy to charge for.” ~Chris Sacca, Investor

Chris Sacca knows a thing or two about business. As a former Google employee turned Silicon Valley venture investor with capitals in Twitter and Uber, he is known for stating that, “simplicity is hard to build, easy to use, and hard to charge for. Complexity is easy to build, hard to use and easy to charge for.”

Not only is simplicity hard to build and charge for, it is what we all take for granted and want more of. When great products seamlessly enter our lives, we integrate them with ease. It is what defines well-designed websites, hand soap, toothbrushes, paper clips, electronic devices etc etc.

They enhance the user experience by amalgamating the essence of the task with thoughtfulness. The product integrates into its setting so pleasantly, as if it were there all along. The user unknowingly calls forth the product. It then guides him to complete a task with grace and comfort.

According to John Maeda’s “The Laws of Simplicity“, comfort often means saving time (Law 3). A user perceives time reduction in many cases, as simpler. In reality, he has been given the chance to use the extra time for something else. Maeda gives the example of shortening a commute that amounts to extra time with loved ones, which ultimately enhances a person’s wellbeing. In the case of overnight deliveries, they allow a sooner product arrival, which also increase the customer’s satisfaction level and bring about joy.

A simple product must fundamentally embody the user’s intent. Products that come fast serve their purpose. But while time reduction can sometimes translate to a simpler user experience, time merely denotes one dimension of our experience. In order to develop a simple product that elutes a user’s effort, the creator must understand what to take away. And as the chef design officer at Apple said, “to be truly simple, you have to go really deep” (Isaacson, W. 2011 Steve Jobs).

Steve Jobs was known to have cared deeply about his products this way. Both the external appearance and the intrinsic arrangements were essential to the whole. He understood that superior products do not distract, instead they add value. He knew how to connect a consumer’s need with what the product ultimately offers. And he arranged the products from the inside out even though most consumers would never see a product’s interior. He fully embraced wholistic simplicity and his products do not even entertain fuss and clutter. In the end, users are invited to an easeful focus that brings about clarity of usage.

Maeda gives the example of the iPod as the quintessential simple product that combines “blurred grouping” and function organization (Law of Simplicity Number 2). Although users may not instinctively know how to operation the product, it generally does not take long for them to become familiar. Such product’s grouping boundaries are “blurred” which according to Maeda, allows the abstract aesthetics to shine through. And when a consumer looks at a simple iPod, it is easy to overlook its value. In truth, layers of interpretations and knowledge are required to create an extraordinary simple product. Compared to a “complicated” product with “bells and whistles”, where a consumer can easily become “hooked”, a simple product’s value lies in the skillful deciphering of the its true essence, i. e. the depth of what the product is and why it exists.

In order for a product to remain authentic while focused on delivering its genuine usefulness, its creator must not only stay curious but also loyal to the conviction of its success. How do we all, create such innate efficiency and fluid simplicity?