How to Not Always Be Working by Marlee Grace

I got this lovely little book for Christmas from a colleague and read it over break. How to Not Always Be Working: a toolkit for creativity and radical self-care by marlee grace is a gentle but profound book on the connections between, work, creativity, and caring for ourselves in this wild and fast-paced world we live in. The book is full of exercises to get you thinking, poems, stories, and anecdotes that help carry the writer’s overall message. I found grace’s voice to be patient, self-aware, and conversational. As someone who has read and thought a lot about these themes, she held my interest and brought me new insights. I’m grateful for this little book and glad to have read it as we enter a new year. I recommend it to everyone interested in these themes.

Conducting an Annual Review

I posted this article last year on a different blog. It’s still pretty useful and worth sharing here for those of you interested in doing an annual review or learning about the process I follow. Some things have adapted or changed for me in the past year but this is still generally what I am following.

Since taking Tiago Forte’s exceptional course on personal knowledge management, Building a Second Brain, this past summer, I have not only seen and put into practice the morning, weekly and monthly reviews, I have tried to use them to build new habits into my life.

Daily, Weekly, Monthly Reviews

Besides learning and putting into practice things such as, Progressive Summarization, P.A.R.A. and “Just in Time Project Management,” that are core to Tiago’s Personal Knowledge Management’s curriculum, the practice of “reviewing” my work, specifically the morning review , where I put into practices the principles noted in Forte’s Zero Inbox Post, has had a greater impact on my work life more than anything else I’ve done, maybe ever.

Here is an example of my Morning Review, based largely off of Tiago’s system with a few tweaks of my own.

I take Tiago’s advice and use the sticky app on my mac. I like it because I don’t use stickies for anything but my different reviews. When I wake up in the morning all I need to remember to do is open stickies, and then I just go step by step. This works well for me because when I wake up in the morning I need as low a threshold as possible to help me get started. “Open Stickies” and “Go step by step through the list” is a pretty low threshold.

Continue reading Conducting an Annual Review

Enneagram Journaling Exercises

I am a big a big fan of the Enneagram and have been using it more and more lately in my work for my own personal growth and self-awareness, as with my work with students, and staff. As I was taking some time for reflection at the end of the semester I took some notes on exercises and practices from David Daniels’ great introduction called “The Essential Enneagram.” I highly recommend the book and I wanted to share the 5 principles he writes about in terms of working at personal growth within the context of the Enneagram. This summary is completely lifted from his book (73-82).

Principle 1: Three Laws of Universal Behavior

• Wherever your pattern of attention and energy go, your behavior follows. To change your behavior requires self-observation of your pattern and energy. Self observation is an ongoing practice.

  1. How did I do today at staying aware of my pattern of attention and energy?
  2. When I reacted automatically to someone or something, was I able to bring back my awareness and redirect my attention and energy?
  3. How can I better manage my pattern of attention and energy tomorrow?
Continue reading Enneagram Journaling Exercises

On Learning How to Lose

It occurred to me recently how hard it is for people to lose, to give up, let go, or just admit that maybe they had it wrong. Why do we fight tooth and nail to get our own way? While this may not seem all that new, the part of this that really had an edge for me was when I realized that the people who seem to have the hardest time with losing are those who identify as Christians!

But surely this is all wrong!

People of faith, certainly within the Christian tradition, should be great examples of how to lose well. Shouldn’t we be known for people who don’t throw tantrums when we don’t get our own way, rather than being willing to – in some cases quite literally – go to all-out war over something? In Christian theology there is a larger perspective than one’s own – so if I consider myself a Christian I become a part of something much bigger. I learn that I can let go because I trust that there are greater forces at work in the world. Everything really is not all up to me. There may be other needs, perspectives, or desires at work.

But beyond this, losing is built into the Christian narrative.

Continue reading On Learning How to Lose

Yoda on Renewing the Tradition

I was re-watching The Last Jedi with the family yesterday and the scene with Yoda and Luke at the Sacred Tree with all the old texts hit me like a ton of bricks. Yoda is totally convergent, wanting to see the tradition renewed and remixed, while Luke is seen here clinging to “traditionalism.” This reveals an interesting twist, that often it is the one student who believes they are the ones with the responsibility of protecting tradition who turn out to be guilty of leading it towards a slow death. Luke is rebuked here by Yoda as essentially policing/protecting the tradition in a way that will kill it off. Yoda points out that the tradition can actually live without any of the “trimmings and trappings” that Luke has associated with it. I think this scene sums up the key ideas of a convergent model of renewal beautifully.

Introducing Fireweed Coffee Co.

Fireweed is a wildflower that grows in volcanic ash healing the ground underneath.

This past summer I decided to create a little side-project, roasting coffee and selling it at our weekly farmer’s market and online. Some of you are aware of this, but I have never announced “Fireweed Coffee” on Gathering in Light.

The purpose was to really make a creative outlet for myself, give me an opportunity to build community with folks in Greensboro, and improve my roasting skills. 5 Months later we’re going strong, selling about 13-15 pounds of coffee a week to friends, colleagues, and folks in the neighborhood. I love selling my coffee at the farmer’s market each Saturday. It gives me an opportunity to connect with folks and have fun “wearing a different hat.” One of the things I really love about this side project is that it remains creative rather than stressful, and it is a very basic, concrete thing to give someone a cup of hot coffee, see them taste it, and then have them smile because they really like it.

The logo was created by my good friend Seth Ferris

If you want to read more about the story behind all of this there are two places online:

If you are interested in following fireweed online you can find us on Instagram, facebook, and here on our webpage.

You can also order online for the holidays now. I will ship to anywhere in the states.


Rebuilding Faith Community

W hen we think about renewal and “rebuilding” our faith communities, practices, and programs we are a part of, it is important that we focus on the strengths and places of life so that we are building on that which is most alive, rather than spending so much time or focus on the pathologies and weaknesses of the places we find ourselves. I have found that these weaknesses and pathologies persist whether you give them energy or not, but containing them within a framework of strengths helps the community not become overwhelmed by the issues.

One of the tools I have found extremely valuable for doing this is the social model of Appreciative Inquiry, a model of renewal that I have had the privilege of walking a number of communities through. Appreciative inquiry is a participatory change process that helps a community focus on the life that is already within the community. While there is a whole process to Appreciative Inquiry, it all starts with the kinds of questions you ask. A.I. puts a lot of care into the designing of questions that are meant to stimulate passion and gratefulness for the community, in order to draw out the kinds of insights that might help us to build upon the strengths. 

For instance, A.I. asks questions such as:

  • What brought you to this community and what keeps you here?
  • What are three dreams you have for this community?
  • In your opinion, what is the best part of this community? What is the core?
  • What do you bring to the community – this could be something that is common knowledge or things that people may not know about?

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask these questions as a part of a series of Sunday morning sessions I led on the topic of renewing faith traditions at a Quaker meeting. The class was a combination of some of my work and Brent Bill’s great pamphlet: A Modest Proposal for The Revitalization of the Quaker Message. There were about 20-25 of us who worked through this reading and topic over the course of about 5 weeks. 

I think the conversation was worthwhile and would highly recommend Friends wanting to have a discussion around renewal of their meetings to reading through Bill’s pamphlet. As a part of the discussion series, I also put together an eBook with some of my thinking on the subject that can be found here. I think both resources work well together.

Continue reading Rebuilding Faith Community