Since 1977, I have been sending out a newsletter called LEARNINGS. Here is how I began the first issue:
This newsletter—LEARNINGS—is my way of sharing with you what I am learning. Often I learn something with one client that would have been useful with another client the day before. In order to bridge that gap of time and also to bridge the gap of space that separates me from clients and other friends outside Cleveland, I will share my learnings with you regularly in this newsletter.
That statement feels amazingly accurate more than 35 years later. The only real change is that I moved from Cleveland to London and then on to the Crook of Devon in Scotland.
In the earlier newsletters, I shared one or two learnings each time. Then I read a wonderful book by Michael Phillips called The Seven Laws of Money. He describes the Taoist approach to creating Seven Laws about anything.
I like that approach except that instead of announcing Laws, I prefer to share Learnings. I’ve now discovered Seven Learnings about all sorts of things, including Journaling, Love, Retreat, and Diversity. The latest Learnings starts here; the rest are in the Learnings Archive.
LEARNING: I am much more effective when I follow through.
As I sit here at my desk and stare out my window in a successful attempt to avoid writing this newsletter, I can see the tennis players in the courts across the street. As they try to get the ball over the net, they are a continuing reminder to me of the importance of follow-through. Taking aim – in tennis, life and career planning, writing, human relations – is important. But it is equally important to follow through on that aim. So I will quit watching tennis and start typing.
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION
The third edition of WHAT WHERE WHO is at the printer and should be available soon. Even though I have added some things, the revised version is still a concise, clear introduction to life and career planning.
Although I originally designed it for the times when I am asked to introduce life and career planning in an hour, I have also used it when leading off much longer programs as a way of introducing people to the key processes of identifying skills, setting priorities, and interviewing for information.
I am most grateful to all of you who have waited patiently while your checks and purchase orders gathered dust on my desk. Your reward will be to receive the new edition at the old price of fifty cents.
If you would like a copy, send 75 cents and stamped addressed envelope or send a dollar if you want me to pay postage. The quantity discounts are 5% for 51 to 100, 10% for 101 to 500, and 20% over 500.
FINISHING TO BEGIN
LEARNING: I can begin making new plans only when I have finished with the old ones.
A few months ago I spent a day with Sonia Nevis in a workshop on FINISHING, during which I made an important connection between my Gestalt training and my work in life and career planning. In Gestalt theory, I can focus on only one thing at a time and my focus moves through the stages of awareness, excitement, action and withdrawal.
That last stage of withdrawal is vital: until I let go of one thing, I cannot focus on the next. This explains to me why I – and my clients – often find it difficult to leap right into planning a new life. We need to finish up the old one first. For instance, if I have been fired or laid off I am probably angry about that. If I am returning to the workplace after spending time at home, I may have some regrets about leaving that situation. In any case, it is helpful to deal with those feelings directly.
One way to finish up a situation is to make a list of “parting shots” to fire over your shoulder as you ride out of town. The shots can be both negative or positive. Or you can make a list of the things, the ideas, the feelings, and the experiences that you will take with you from this situation. This can help you let go. For me, these are the LEARNINGS that I take with me.
LEARNING: I have more impact on my own future and the future of others when I aim higher.
I am free to use skills I’m weak in and don’t enjoy in a lousy climate with people who drive me crazy in abominable working conditions requiring special knowledges I don’t have in pursuit of values I abhor at a salary that is an insult. However …
INWARD AND OUTWARD WRITING
George Simons and I are again offering our writing workshop. Our winter retreat at Shadybrook last February was a tremendous success. In between skiing and sitting by the fireplace, we did an incredible amount of work on writing. Even those of us who are experts at blocking our writing had to be reminded of meals sometimes because we were too busy writing. George offered his latest ideas on keeping a journal and we all participated in the feedback groups.
This year George and I will do the workshop three times – on the West Coast, in the Northeast, and here on the North Coast. If you prefer to call this the Midwest, then you haven’t seen Lake Erie from Shadybrook. The retreat settings and the community of writers who participate will make this an exciting series of workshops for us and for all of you who join us. See the other side of this newsletter for the dates and locations.
URGENT OR IMPORTANT?
LEARNING: I am much more effective when I distinguish the important from the urgent.
This is something that I learned from my brother. Those of you who have brothers will know that learning from a brother is significant in itself. Giles, who is an consultant based in Washington, D.C., came up with this idea when he was designing a workshop and wanted people to focus on what was really important to them.
In the condensed version of this exercise, I list five things that I need to do by Monday (these tend to be urgent) and then five thing that I want to do during my lifetime (these tend to be important). My next task is to combine the lists into one imperative list of things both important and urgent. I can get at a big important thing by making a small part of it urgent.