Chapter 1: Die Empty

“Before I Die, I want to ________” mural
“The death rate is hovering right around 100%.”
General positive encouragement to be all you can be without excuses.
Chapter 2: Your Contribution
Principle: “Your body of work should reflect what’s important to you.”
“Can I lay my head down tonight satisfied with the work I did today?”
3 Types of Work:
  1. Mapping – “work before the work,” planning, plotting, setting priorities
  2. Making – actually doing the work
  3. Meshing – “work between the work” that makes you effective – learning, developing, etc.


4 Types of Working Profiles
  1. Developer = Mapping + Making + Meshing
  2. Driver = Mapping + Making – Meshing (starts strong, but fades due to lack of innovation)
  3. Drifter = Making + Meshing – Mapping
  4. Dreamer = Meshing + Mapping – Making
Chapter 3: The Siren Song of Mediocrity
Principle: Mediocrity doesn’t just happen suddenly; it develops slowly over time.
Satisficing – selecting an option that is sufficient to meet enough of our ongoing expectations.  Settling for the best available option that meets most of our requirements.
You can’t simply change your external situation without changing your mindset and methods.
The 7 Deadly Sins of Mediocrity (ABCDEFG)
  1. Aimlessness; The key to conquering aimlessness is to concretely define the battles that you need to fight each day in order to make meaningful progress, then focus your efforts on those above all else.
  2. Boredom; Maintain intentional curiosity
  3. Comfort; “At a certain point, past innovations inhibit future innovations.”
  4. Delusion; Cultivate self-awareness
  5. Ego; Don’t be afraid to fail or admit to failure
  6. Fear; Fear thrives on the unknown.
  7. Guardedness; Be relational
Chapter 4: Define Your Battles
Principle: To counter aimlessness, you must define your battles wisely, and build your life around winning them.
Know what your life’s major mission is.
What work am I willing to suffer for today?
Passion often follows action rather than the other way around.
Chris Martin “suffered” for football because it served a higher purpose of getting at risk kids out of bad situations.
Chapter 5: Be Fiercely Curious
Principle: To prevent boredom from dulling your senses, you must approach your work with a curious mind-set.
“While a curious, questioning mind-set may seem inefficient when we’re under pressure to deliver quick results, it actually makes us more effective in everything we do.”
“Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.” (Alexander Pope)
“Creative Inversion” – “For example, you know that you need an idea for the 4: 00 p.m. strategy meeting, but you have absolutely nothing to offer. Everything you come up with feels like a bad rehash of a previous idea, and no matter what you try, you can’t seem to come up with something that feels fresh and profound.”
Two strategies for cultivating curiosity: (1) Establish Hunting Trails, (2) Develop Possibility Thinking
Hunting Trails: Set aside structured time for this.  Read and reflect.  Think of questions you want to learn about – not just from books, but from encountering things.  Have a space to do this work – (time, energy, and physical space) – the “bliss station.”
Relating similarities of otherwise dissimilar things can help generate new perspectives.
Four elements of possibility thinking: Aspirations, Affinities, Assumptions, Attributes (all can help find the edges of a project, like a puzzle)
Two kinds of “blocks”: Conceptual & Executional
Conceptual blocks aren’t solved by “knuckling down.”
See questions at loc 987
Chapter 6: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Principle: To make a valuable contribution, you have to get uncomfortable and embrace lifelong growth and skill development.
Satisfaction tends to come from saying “yes” to challenging things.
“Don’t allow short-arc comfort to convince you to compromise your long-arc goals.”
“If you could make anything happen in your job right now, what would it be?”
Contingency response – some constraint must change
Ownership response – something one can control must change
Three Kinds of Growth Goals:
  1. Step – short arc (day)
  2. Sprint – medium arc (1-2 weeks)
  3. Stretch – long arc
These all support one another.
Remember to define what you’re willing to give up in order to accomplish a goal.  Everything is a trade-off.
“You cannot pursue greatness and comfort at the same time.”
Chapter 7: Know Yourself
Principle: Knowing yourself will help you counter self-delusion and pursue the unique contribution you alone are capable of making.
Story about someone else taking credit for another’s work
Tap into the qualities of those you admire…like kids taking on superpowers.
Read biographies.
Make notes of very specific qualities in people.  The specificity makes them more emulatable.
Set a timer ever hour as speed bumps for effective work.
ACHE – Method for Evaluating Work:
Chapter 8: Be Confidently Adaptable
Principle: Confidence and adaptability prevent an inflated ego from stalling progress on your most important work.
“Rules become so pervasive that they’re meaningless.”
Ways we exercise control:
  • Playing the Victim
  • Snark, Cynicism, and Overcomplexity
  • Judging your work relative to others’ rather than on its own merits
  • Expecting to be accomodated
Cultivate a service mind-set.  GIFT Acronym:
Forward momentum
Conduct SWOT Analyses
Chapter 9: Find Your Voice
Principle: Find your voice and conquer the fear of failure by taking small, calculated risks each day.
Find what you alone can do.
Calling can often be an iterative, trial and error, journey rather than a clear sense of direction from the beginning.
Factor “experimentation time” into your workflow schedule.
Don’t hold back because things seem “too obvious.”
“Cover bands don’t change the world.”
Follow your intuitions.
Chapter 10: Stay Connected
Principle: Establishing genuine connections with others will prevent guardedness from infecting your life.
There are two common mistakes that lead to decreased effectiveness and regret: avoidance and squashing conflict.  “It’s easy to defer important conversations to a more convenient time.”  [Recall Tim Ferriss: “The quality of your life is proportional to the number of hard conversations your willing to have.”]
Tranquility does not equal health.
Working through conflict contributes to the connecting depth of the group.
Strategies on Connecting with Others:
  • Find Mirrors – people in your life who have permission to speak the truth to you about what they see
    • Identify mirrors (at least 2)
    • Alert them of specific things to look for
    • Get together regularly – prepare a mirror reflection each time
    • Adjust regularly
  • Use Probing Conversations (5)
    • Three “Assassins” of Creativity:
      • Dissonance – things don’t add up; professed beliefs don’t match reality
      • Fear – often a figment of our imagination; thrives when undiscussed.
      • Expectation escalation – this week’s remarkable performance becomes next week’s expectation; talk about expectations
    • Five Conversations
      • The Clarity Conversation – bring alignment and combat dissonance; define the work/expectations
        • Clarity questions:
          • How does what I’m doing tie in to why our organization exists? (Converse: Is there anything we’re doing now that seems out of character for us?)
          • Can you clarify the objectives once more?
      • The Expectations Conversations
        • Do you know what is expected of you?
        • What do you expect from me and am I falling short?
      • The Fear Conversation – “all about shining light into dark, unspoken places and neutralizing fear where it lives.”
        • What are you afraid might happen and why?
        • What was the last risk you took? (Talking about risk is a great way to minimize it.)
      • The Engagement Conversation
        • What’s inspiring you?
        • How do you feel about the work we’re doing?
        • What’s the best thing we’re doing and why?
      • The “Final 10 Percent” Conversation – the ‘parking lot conversations’ or ‘meeting after the meeting’ of stuff left unsaid, but now shared in quasi secrecy
        • What is something I’m doing that doesn’t make sense?
        • What’s the smartest thing I’m doing right now?
        • What’s something obvious that you don’t think I’m seeing?
Chapter 11: Live Empty
Daily checkpoints help refocus on effectiveness (over efficiency).
Five step process to scan life for action points (EMPTY):
  • Focus on your Ethics
    • Look at your appointments, commitments, tasks
    • Consider how to apply your values/ethics to them
    • Consider potential pitfalls
  • Focus on your Mission
    • What will change as result of my effort today?  Step goal?  How will I know if today is a success?
    • What isn’t already represented?
    • What needs to go away?
  • Focus on People
    • Who will you interact with today?  Consider them individually.
    • Are there any open relational loops to close?  5 conversations to have?
    • How can you serve others today?
  • Focus on Tasks
    • Consider your daily priorities (“Brilliant work demands dedicated time on your calendar.”)
    • Define your projects
  • Focus on You
    • What will you do today to develop yourself?
    • What do you need to start moving on?
    • Be grateful.
    • Dream a little.
People tend to respond to questions about their job with, “I’m a ….” rather than “I ….”
Chapter 12: Forward
You alone can find the bears for your life map.
Without drive, nothing in this book matters.
Victor Frankl – Those who fare best through suffering are those that ascribe meaning to their suffering (through narrative).
Existential vacuum – not knowing what the deeper purpose of life is
Not, “What do I expect from life?” but “What does life expect from me?”
The “lag” can zap energy from our work.  It is the gap between cause and effect.
Three things that keep you moving forward in the “lag:”
  1. Confidence in your vision and ability to bring it to fruition
  2. Willingness to say no to other things that tempt you to divert from your course
  3. Daily, diligent, urgent progress
“Hustle is the best antidote to lifelong regret.”
Quitting should be a strategic choice.
Someone who is optimistic expects the best while actively working to bring it about. Wishing externalizes responsibility and hopes that everything lines up according to plan, but doesn’t do anything to actively bring about the desired change.
Two things will paralyze our creativity faster than anything else:
1. We haven’t defined success.
2. We haven’t defined failure.

Go through alternating cycles of tension and release.  Stay out of the “gray zone.”
“Hustle overcomes nearly every shortcoming.”


I preached this sermon on March 30th, 2014 at Grace UMC as part of our Release: Finding Space for the Resurrection Lenten worship series.  The text was John 9:1-41.  Audio is below.

I have a little test for you.  Let’s see how many of you can get this right. 

This is a highly successful British commercial designed to help vehicle drivers become more aware of cyclists.  The idea here is that we tend not to see what we’re not looking for.  The converse is also true; we tend to see what we are looking for.  Our Scripture this morning is a spiritual awareness test.  Those who profess to see are blind in ways that they are unaware of.  Those who are blind, through God’s help can see in ways that go far beyond mere physical sight.  What you see depends on what you’re looking for. 


On the surface, our Scripture is a healing story of sensory blindness.  But you don’t have to read between the lines very much to realize that Jesus is talking about blindness and sight in spiritual ways.  Jesus tells us that he came into the world  “so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.”  This plays out on both the physical level and the spiritual level.  Things are upside-down.  Sight itself is a kind of blinder.

NCAA Tournament

Every year at this time, I tune in to the men’s NCAA basketball tournament.  I don’t watch even a second of college basketball until the tournament starts.  Then I blindly declare which teams will win.  I’ve only kept up with the results and watched parts of games here and there this year.  There have been times in my life when I was a bit more devoted to watching the tournament.  In college, I can remember cutting class to watch games on Thursday and Friday mornings during the first round of the tournament.  There have been times when I’ve watched the games at work by streaming the games online and using the handy “boss” button on the website which brings up a spreadsheet to make it look like you’re working.  This was before I came to Grace, of course.  I’ve even won a few pools over the years.  But my favorite memory of the NCAA tournament isn’t any of these things or even any spectacular comeback, upset, or buzzer-beater shot.  My favorite memory was a little side wager I had with a friend of mine. This friend of mine was even more into the NCAA basketball tournament than I was.  He was a roommate of mine throughout college and we participated in the same basketball pools.  He is a die-hard University of Louisville fan.  I remember being frustrated with him after sticking my neck out for him to get him a job at a church I worked at managing an after-school program for middle school students.  After only a few weeks on the job, he didn’t show up to work one Thursday.  I called him and he told me he had driven to Atlanta on a whim with some friends to watch the NCAA tournament live.  This guy was seriously into the tournament.  Now there are 68 teams in the men’s tournament – there used to be only 64.  Sixty-four is a really good number to have a tournament with.  If you’re about my age, a 64-team tournament was all you could remember at this point.  Really, you want the number of teams to be easily divisible in equal ways so all the brackets turn out evenly and all teams will have to win the same amount of games to win the tournament.  4, 8, 16, 64 are all excellent numbers of teams to have a tournament with.  I heard on the news one day that there were going to be 65 teams in the upcoming 2001 tournament.  That seemed very strange to me.  65 teams would ruin the mathematical beauty of the tournament.  When my roommate got back to our house that evening, I told him that there was going to be 65 teams in the tournament this year.  It was unthinkable to him.  He thought I must be either pulling his leg or woefully misinformed.  He was so certain that we put a $5 wager on it.  It’s good when you can bet on things that you are 100% certain of.  And both of us were.  Sure enough, he found out for himself and I had my tournament pool fee covered for that year.  What you see depends on what you’re looking for.

Looking for Sin

In our scripture, everyone around the blind man seemed to be looking for sin.  They were as sure as my roommate was about the tournament that sin was to be found somewhere.  Like the number 64, sin is a really great concept for explaining lots of things…like why someone was born blind.  It held certain ancient Jewish worldviews together.  And so they searched high and low for the sin.  They kept asking questions.  Did his parents sin?  Didn’t Jesus sin by healing on the Sabbath?  They ask some really dumb questions – “Could the blind man have sinned causing his own blindness at birth?”  Think about that for a second.  Others ask the blind man, “Did you see where Jesus went?”  The blind man answered rather politely, I think, saying, “I do not know,” when he might have been tempted to say, “No, I did not see where he went.  I was blind, remember?”  And when the answer to the question, “Where is the sin?” wasn’t obvious after all their searching, it began to divide them.  But, they kept on asking and kept on looking because they just knew it was there.

Mom’s Scissors

My mom is a very orderly, determined, and thorough sort of person.  Very little of this seems to be genetic.  One day, her favorite scissors turned up missing.  My mom doesn’t lose things.  My sister and I tend to lose just about everything.  Just this week, I left my keys in my dad’s car.  And so when my mom’s favorite scissors turned up missing twenty years ago, she assumed that like everything else that turned up missing around the house, it must be the fault of either my sister or I.  And so, she made us put everything else on hold and search the house high and low for the scissors.  This emergency household search party wasn’t an unusual occurrence.  Usually, we’d find whatever we were looking for relatively quickly and usually it turned out that my sister or I was to blame for something being out of place.  But the search for these precious scissors went on and on.  I didn’t know where they were.  I didn’t care where they were.  I just wanted to stop looking for them.  We looked everywhere, but when they didn’t turn up, we had to look everywhere again.  My mother knew that scissors don’t just disappear and that they had to be somewhere.  She was determined to find them.  My mom looked everywhere with intensity because she knew the scissors had to be somewhere.

You can imagine my delight when later that week on Sunday, my mom discovered that she had left the scissors in the Sunday School classroom that she taught in at church.  I think God must have orchestrated this event just so when ever I lost something, I could remind my mom, you know, you lost something too one time, if I remember correctly.  You search differently when you’re certain something is out there – like those around the blind man, you keep on looking until you find what you’re looking for.  And if it is something a little less concrete than scissors, something like sin, you start pointing out those things you’ve decided must be the sin you’re looking for.  The more convinced you are of your own rightness, the more susceptible you are to being judgmental.  Judgmentalism always asks the question that the disciples and the Pharisees were asking, “Where is the sin?”   And what you see depends on what you’re looking for.  Judgmentalism is a way of seeing the world that looks primarily for where sin can be found.  Usually, you don’t have to look very far.  But there is another question being asked by the blind man, one that leads him on a very different kind of search.  The blind man asks the question, “Where is God?”  The blind man is looking for God.  When asked about Jesus the first time, he says that he must be a prophet, an agent of God.  In the person of Jesus, he saw God working.  Scrutinized further by the Pharisees, he says, “Here is an astonishing thing!”  This has never happened before in the history of the world!  What further evidence do you need that this man is from God?

Seeing God

The blind man saw what he was looking for as well.  But the search for God is very different than the search for sin.  Jesus reverses things.  You have to be blind to see God.  You’ve got to release that which you’re so certain of.  I think that’s because God grabs us when we least expect it.  God likes to surprise us.  In this case, he hawks a loogie mixes it with dirt and wipes it on a blind man’s eyes.  I didn’t see that one coming.

Many of Jesus’s parables are about searches.  The search for the lost sheep, a lost coin, a pearl of great price, or a treasure hidden in a field.  Too often we think of that search as finding sinners.  But we’re all sinners.  What if the search is more about finding places where, as Jesus said, “God’s works might be revealed.”  One of my favorite quotes from the popular book, The Shack, the character for God, called Papa, says, “I don’t need to punish people for sin.  Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside.  It’s not my purpose to punish it, it is my joy to cure it.”  God doesn’t need help pointing out the places where sin exists.  God invites us to see in such a way that we can be part of healing it.  We can help reveal the work of God.

What Do You See?

The disciples and the Pharisees aren’t wrong about sin being all around.  The world is a very broken place.  But when we ask first, “Where is the sin?” instead of “Where is God?”  We judge.  And we’ll find sin – because that’s what we’re looking for.  And in calling it out, or judging others, we neither redeem sin, nor do we see God.  Rather, we find ourselves in a kind of hell – the place where misery, pain, and sin reside.  That’s what we see all around us, because that’s what we’ve been looking for.  What you see depends on what you’re looking for.  But the gospel vision asks a different question, “Where is God?”  God is over here in the fixing of what is broken.  God is over there just waiting to forgive sins big and small.  God is right there within you waiting to help make sense of what you don’t understand.  God is everywhere weeping alongside pain and tragedies of all kinds.  You can’t see God when you’re looking for sin.  But God is there.  God lives in the hearts of sinners.  We see God most clearly on the cross, right between two sinners, taking on the sin of the world.  If you were looking for sin, on the day Jesus was crucified, you would see it up there on the cross.  On the other hand, if you were looking for God, you would see it up there on the cross.  What are you looking for?


dino rock

I preached this sermon at Grace UMC on March 16th, 2014 as part of our Lenten sermon series, “Release: Finding Space for the Resurrection.”  The text is John 3:1-17.  Listen below.

Has anyone every told you a story of something incredible – so incredible that you couldn’t help but to have some doubts about it?  I have.  In fact, it came from some of you.  A couple members of our church, Buddy McMullin and Larry Curry, told me a story one day several years ago.  The story was so incredible that it never really left my mind.  About a year later, I asked Buddy about it again and heard the story for a second time.  And this week I took time to hear the story again from Larry.  Incredible stories often leave one with lingering doubt.  And questions, lots of questions.  How can these things be?

In our Scripture this morning, Jesus speaks of something incredible.  Something that leaves a Jewish leader named Nicodemus with some lingering doubt.  And questions, lots of questions.  Let’s hear hear this story.  I’ll be reading from John 3:1-17.  After the reading, I will give God thanks and I invite you to respond, “Thanks be to God.”

Buddy & Larry’s Excellent Adventure

After hearing Larry’s incredible story – I felt like Nicodemus.  The story goes like this.  Buddy, Larry, and a few others were out riding their dirt bikes as they often do through the mountainous terrain of some backwoods area of Northern Alabama.  This dirt-biking crew were just minding their own business enjoying the brisk ride through the woods when they happened upon an unprecedented archaeological find.  At first it just looked like an unusual pile of rocks.  But it was interesting enough for them to stop their bikes and take a closer look.  Upon inspection, the rocks seemed to be oval-shaped, but had fossilized together in cluster-like formations.  They realized that this was no standard pile of rocks.  This was an incredible find.  This dirt-bike crew realized they had stumbled upon a nest of dinosaur eggs.  And not just any dinosaur eggs – these were Tyrannosaurus Rex eggs.  The ground they stood on was an ancient breeding ground for the mighty T-Rex.  Not only were there eggs, they could see dinosaur parts in the fossilized remains of this rookery.  One of the members of this crew was answering the call to nature, if you know what I mean, when he realized he was doing so right in the middle of a T-Rex footprint, etched into limestone.  The footprint was complete with three pronged-toes pointing forwards and one pointing backwards including the claw marks. [more…]

Todd Doubts the Incredible

Now, I’m not an expert in dinosaurs or fossils, but all of this seemed to me to be a rather incredible claim.  It occurred to me that Larry and his crew may have found something unique, but T-Rex eggs?  “How can these things be?” I asked them.  “Could there be another explanation?”  Buddy responded to my question, “What else could it be?”  Larry said, “if it looks like a dinosaur, sounds like a dinosaur, you can find examples just like them in books, then it’s a dinosaur.”  My doubt remained.  I thought to myself, “These guys aren’t exactly trained paleontologists.”  How can these things be?

Aside from the sheer incredible nature of such a find, I had other reasons to doubt.  They never said exactly where these eggs were found and they won’t tell you if you ask them either.  For the first time, this week, I managed to squeeze out of Larry that this area is near Paint Rock Valley, but that’s as specific as he would get.  Finally, last night, on the eve of my sermon, as if to taunt me, Larry sent me a picture of one of these rocks that he enlisted some local help in smuggling out of the area that now adorns his backyard.  Buddy and Larry claim that if they let the location out, then historical markers would go up, lots of people would travel to the site and the sacredness of this incredible place would be threatened.  They could no longer smuggle fossils out.  This did not help my doubt.  The picture didn’t clear things up for me.  Their rationale for secrecy also has the convenient benefit of preventing anyone else from corroborating their story.  Moreover, I doubted the credibility of the storytellers.  Larry, is a consummate deal-maker, and has been known to embellish on things from time to time.  Originally, I thought I detected his trademark sly grin during the first telling of this story.  Buddy is a masterful storyteller himself and just seems to relish folksy stories such as this.  Both of them are what you might call “characters.”  I could totally see these two “characters” creating an incredible claim, a whopper of a tale, from a small nugget of truth.  I even sensed a bit of pressure during the storytelling.  Pressure to say, “I believe you.”  I even wondered if this was some story that they tell every preacher that comes their way, just to see what happens. I didn’t want to be the gullible young pastor.  Eventually I realized, they weren’t trying to trick me – they believed this incredible thing.

Nicodemus Doubts

I remained doubtful, but neither was I ready to totally dismiss their claims, either.   I was curious, but didn’t want to be gullible.  Doubt is that place between belief and unbelief – it can go either way.   I think this was the space that Nicodemus was in.  Perhaps it was the reason why Nicodemus went to Jesus at night.  The scripture says Nicodemus was a leader of the Jews. Jesus was seen as a threat to the Jewish establishment.  His radical interpretations of Jewish law and startling claims that he was born from above, the son of God were blasphemous.  But, it seemed, that God was moving in Nicodemus’s life.  He wasn’t ready to believe, but clearly he was curious enough to want to speak with Jesus.  But he couldn’t just come to Jesus in the day time – he would be chastised for giving Jesus any credence at all.    The rest of the Jewish leadership might find out and label him as gullible.  But, neither did Nicodemus want to dismiss Jesus outright.  And so he comes asking the question, “How can these things be?”

The Earthly & the Heavenly

In talking to Nicodemus, Jesus makes a clear distinction between the flesh and the Spirit.  Between the earthly and the heavenly.  Like Nicodemus, we don’t have too much trouble believing in either the earthly or the divine.  We certainly all understand the flesh and the earthly.  Likewise, we come to church and talk about Godly things and certainly ancient Jewish leaders like Nicodemus took God very seriously.  But Nicodemus had doubt that the two can ever meet.  That the heavenly and earthly can touch.  This is where we tend to doubt as well.  We think of heaven as only a place where we go once we die.  We think of Jesus as being the single exception where the divine and fleshly live together.  The divine and the earthly are separate.  But Jesus says something incredible: “You must be born from above.”  You can carry the DNA of God within you.  You can be a son or daughter of God.  That changes things.  What is born of the Spirit is spirit.

The Spirit & New Birth 

In Scripture, the Spirit – the breath or wind of God – seems to be present, whenever new life is born.  The breath of God swept over the waters in the Creation story.  God breathed life into Adam and Eve. In the prophets, wind often accompanies God’s promise of deliverance from oppression.  A rush of violent wind came over the believers at the birth of the church at Pentecost.  And here new birth – being born from above – is linked to the Spirit.  The wind blows where it chooses.  It’s unpredictable.  It resides within you, but it comes from a source beyond you.  It is the eternal within the temporal.  Birth in the Spirit guarantees unpredictability.  Jesus says, “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  Then Jesus goes on to say that whoever believes this, whoever can be born from above may have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, born from above so that we too might be born from above, that the eternal life of heaven, might be the life that we can live right here on earth.  Jesus says that he came not to condemn the earthly, but to save it by touching it with the heavenly.

Doubting That Heaven Touches Earth

This is what we doubt.  We find ways to reduce heavenly and earthly contact just to Jesus.  When we hear John 3:16, we think the belief in him part is limited to our believing that Jesus is the Son of God.  And that this is what gives us eternal life.  The good news is much more incredible.  Much more difficult to believe.  Jesus had been talking about being born from above.  Jesus told Nicodemus that he was not the only one who could be born from above, he said, “You must be born from above.”  The Greek for the word ‘you’ here is actually plural, so Jesus literally says, “Ya’ll must be born from above.”  It is universal.  All of us have the capacity to be born from above, to be sons and daughters of the living God, to carry the divine, the heavenly within our earthly bodies.

Jesus Explains It Again

It seemed that Nicodemus didn’t understand it, so Jesus explained things again another way.  Explaining things through the analogy of new birth didn’t seem to work.  And so Jesus alludes to a story about another instance of the divine touching the earthly that Nicodemus would be familiar with.  The Israelites were being punished with poisonous serpents for whining in the wilderness.  People were dying.  Moses prayed to God for deliverance and God told Moses to make a serpent upon a pole that the people could look upon.  When they did so, they would live.  It was an invitation for the earthly to connect with the divine.  The symbol of the serpent made its first appearance in the Bible as a pull away from God, inviting Adam and Eve away from the heavenly.  The serpent is the ultimate symbol of earthliness.  But in the story of Moses and the serpent on a pole, God redeems the earthly and in fact uses the most earthly symbol imaginable as vehicle for life, the conduit of heaven.

People Hungry for the Word of God

In seminary, I had the opportunity to serve and learn as a chaplain at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital in New Jersey.  My job was to check in with patients in the hospital, just to be a listening presence for them.  I would hear their stories and offer prayer.  If anyone needed spiritual support in any way, I would do my best to provide it.  One day, a patient in the ward I was serving came up to me and said, Chaplin Todd, “The people on this ward are just hungry for the word of God.”  Not knowing exactly what to say, I just responded, “Oh, that’s great.”  He grew more emphatic, “No people on this ward are really hungry for the word of God.”  I responded, “Does someone want me to read Scripture to them or need me to request a Bible for them?”  “No!” he said.  Then he held up a Bible that I didn’t notice before. And this Bible literally had a huge bite mark taken out of the corner of it.  And he said again, slowly, “People on this ward are really hungry for the Word of God!”  And then I really had no idea what to say.  How can these things be?  We were talking past one another.

God Does the Incredible

So were Nicodemus and Jesus.  Jesus was trying to connect, but it seemed that Nicodemus didn’t have ears to hear.  He knew what Jesus’s words meant individually, but he missed Jesus’s meaning.  That’s what happens with incredible claims.  We have doubt that such things are even possible. Ordinary people you know making astonishing archaeological finds.  People literally eating the Word of God.  Or most incredible of all – our own bodies being born from above as the sons and daughters of God.  It isn’t so much that we doubt God – it’s that we think we know the earthly so well.  Who are these ordinary dirt-bikers to make such an astonishing discovery?  Who am I to be born of God?  We are too well acquainted with our earthliness to gullibly believe such incredible claims.  The divine and the earthly are separate…but God is bringing them together.  For God so loved the world.  The heavenly so loved the earthly.  Love is an attracting force.  God is always finding ways of touching the earthly.  And when the divine touches the earthly it is redeemed, born from above, healed of poisonous serpent bites, given life.  Life, in all of its incredible, eternal, abundance exists only to the extent that heaven and earth have come together.  Everything else on this earth is perishing.  But God has not come to condemn the world, to let it perish, but to save it. And so the kingdom of God grows – on earth as it is in heaven.  It seems too incredible to believe.  News too good to be true.  How can these things be?  God so loved the world.

Even you.  Especially you.



working beneath the surface
Thomas Riskas – 1997, Executive Excellence Publishing
  • Riskas began to grow discontent with initial change in clients that later backslid, which was true for himself too. He came to believe that our darker side has a “hidden agenda” that is “running the show (15).” Riskas left the Covey group to do inner work.
  • “I had moved from the stage of the ‘camel,’ which was the season of instruction and obedience, to the stage of the ‘lion,’ whose task it was to kill the dragon named ‘thou shalt’ and come to my Self (16).”
  • “the notion of care replaced the notion of cure (17).”
  • Robert Johnson: “There comes a time in life when a man’s ego doesn’t have the answers…He needs to give himself over to the unconscious and drift with its tides until he finds an island of new consciousness for that era of his life (17).”
  • “Please keep in mind that nothing of enduring value can be realized without paying a dear price, particularly in matters of the soul (18).” [more…]
Introduction – Attending to the Soul’s Hidden Agenda: Essential Perspectives and Overview
  • Synonymous terms for hidden agenda: “self-actualization” & “transcendence” (Abraham Maslow); “principle of individuation” (Carl Jung); “law of progression” (Riskas)
  • “The hidden agenda accounts for happiness and misery…the whole range of human experience (22).”
  • “The hidden agenda does not interpret success or failure as we do (22).”
  • “The heart has reasons the mind cannot understand (22).”
  • “I believe that each person’s conscious quest for personal wholeness or individuation takes our entire world to a higher level of consciousness, morality, and interdependence (23).”
  • “We need to use disequilibrium to avoid deterioration (24).”
  • “It has been said that when the student is ready, the teacher enters. The reverse is also true: When the teacher is ready, the student enters (26).”
  • “Some people, after reading this book, might wonder how they can get others to work beneath the surface…My response is that such a concern is part of the problem (26).”
Chapter One: All the King’s Horses…Why Popular Approaches to Human Development Don’t Result in Sustained Effectiveness or Personal Wholeness
  • “To grasp the meaning of the world today we use a language created to express the world of yesterday. The life of the past seems to us nearer our true nature, but only for the reason that it is nearer our language.” – Antoine de Saint Exupery
  • Four missing elements in our search for wholeness:
    • (1) Today’s conventional wisdom lacks real appreciation for human limitations and the unconscious values and wisdom of the soul.
      • Weakness is not irrelevant
      • “The truth is, most of us do not have access to enough of our natural power to function at ‘peak performance’ on a consistent basis, and ‘willpower’ is simply not enough (33).”
      • “The power to choose our response seems more a function of our degree of consciousness than sheer willpower of determination (35).”
    • (2) We lack sufficient consciousness, maturity, and wisdom to ensure balance, consistency, and true integrity.
      • [Todd: Consciousness “above the surface” is expanding perspectives that take in larger and larger frames of reference. Consciousness “below the surface” is expanding ownership ofdisinheritedparts of one’s self. It would seem that the two happen concurrently, but I’m not sure about that.]
      • Often, we imitate the form of success without the interior substance to accompany it, including the shadow of success.
      • “I find that such efforts often amount to nothing more than a form of cosmetic surgery or character ‘face-lift.'” [Todd: Resonates with Maxwell Maltz (a plastic surgeon) and Psychocybernetics]
      • New skills & habits are “often employed as strategies to keep us from the truth about ourselves.”
      • The “quest for transcendence of self is…a misguided response to deeply held beliefs of powerlessness, inadequacy, and unworthiness (36).”
    • (3) We have become so enamored with the false notion of perfection, and neurotic in our pursuit of it, that we have lost touch with our own darkness.
      • Jung: “In the unconscious is everything that has been rejected by consciousness, and the more [principled] one’s consciousness is, the more heathenishly does the unconscious behave, if in the rejected heathenism there are values which are important for life (37).”
      • Jung: “Observance of customs and laws can very easily be a cloak for a lie so subtle that our fellow human beings are unable to detect it (37).”
    • (4) We lack the desire, or even the willingness, to face the truth and clear the past of our wounds, losses, and wrongdoings.
        • Parable of Sower (Matt 13) as analogy
        • “To ignore or deny the whole person is to mobilize extremism, strengthen the walls of denial, fortify pride, etc (41).”
    • “We can indeed rebirth ourselves by bringing together…the conscious and unconscious elements in ourselves, which will produce a new state of consciousness (43).”
Chapter Two: Damning the Flow: How We Get Stuck in Life and Stop Growing
  • Two questions:
    • What stops our growth and keeps us stuck in old patterns of self-defeating thinking and behavior?
    • What stimulates our growth and releases us from the grip of these self-defeating patterns
    • The answer to both is: wounding (psychological and spiritual) and the suffering that comes with it.
  • Five Existential Wounds of the Soul:
    • Deprivation – being insufficiently loved, esteemed, accepted, respected, or nurtured
    • Deprecation – being falsely accused, shamed, belittled, or disapproved
    • Isolation – being misunderstood, wrongly judged, persecuted, cast out, or overlooked
    • Rejection – being abandoned, neglected, or unappreciated
    • Stultification – being controlled, smothered, or stifled
    • Loss of Power and Identity
  • We also self inflict wounds by acting in ways inconsistent with what we know is right in our hearts (47)
  • These wounds “leave us stuck in our dependency on validation, approval, and acceptance (47).”
  • These wounds are called “sore spots” or “reactive complexes.”
  • *** Reactive complexes have a will of their own. ***
  • “Our wounds can, in strange ways, prepare adn shape us for our unique callings in life and make us more responsive to the Voice of Necesssity that serves our hidden agenda for wholeness and self-realization (48).”
  • Fear of facing our needed inner work, results in addiction to:
    • Controlling behaviors
    • Rationalizing or defensive behaviors
    • Mood altering behaviors
  • “Dependency needs” – safety, approval, validation, love, and esteem
  • “Being needs” – growth, meaning, loving, and transcendence
  • via Robert Bly: “Every part of our personality that we do not love will become hostile to us (51).”
  • In childhood, we put rejected parts of ourself into a bag (only to try and retrieve them later in life)
  • All things in the “bag” equate to lost energy now unavailable to us
  • What we put into our “bags,” we also simultaneously give over to those who provoked us to put it into our bags
  • Men tend to marry women like their mothers.  Women tend to marry men like their fathers.
Chapter 3: Living a Lie: How and Why We Unconsciously Undermine Our Relationships
  • Four levels of lies (chart on 66):
    • Level 1 – lies associated with our “ego-idea” & self-conception
    • Level 2 – False or Inhuman Expectations; the unrealistic “shoulds”, moral assumptions, etc; source of self-criticism (these become inhuman “when prefixed by ‘always'”)
    • Level 3 – False Beliefs; the *false* beliefs that anchor down our position into rigid relationships (these enable us to avoid responsibility or accept too much responsibility)
    • Level 4 – Ego Defenses; strategies for avoiding responsibility & preserving self-conception (outer shell protecting our most fundamental lies)
  • These lies tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies, often spiraling downward from there.
  • In the deviation amplifying feedback chains, we tend to play the role of victim or rescuer, both of which fuel the downward spiral
  • “Rescuers tend to become victims when they don’t receive sufficient compensation in the form of appreciation and acceptance (71).”
  • “Hidden within the victim is an unacknowledged rescuer (71).”
  • Reactive cycles often begin with negative judgments that form when unrealistic and/or uncommunicated expectations are violated (78).
  • “Most managers get into trouble because they forget to think in circles (80).” (Karl E. Weick)
Chapter 4: Breaking Reactive Cycles and Getting “In Relationship” with Others
  • Ten requirements for breaking free (6) and preventing (4) reactive cycles:
    • (1) We need enough self-awareness to recognize when we’ve broken “out of relationship” and into a reactive cycle
    • (2) Become the kind of people who value the truth more than being right
      • The ladder of inference (Chris Argyris):
        • Step 7: I take action based on my beliefs
        • Step 6: I adopt beliefs about the world
        • Step 5: I draw conclusions
        • Step 4: I make assumptions based on the meanings I added
        • Step 3: I add meanings
        • Step 2: I select data from what I observe
        • Step 1: I observe “data” and experiences (first rung of the ladder)
      • “We do not see things and people as they really are, but as we are (86).”
      • “It is also common for us to see our own undesirable traits in others.  This is down as ‘projection (86).'”
      • “Perception is often projection (86).”
    • (3) We must examine our unrealistic expectations of others and bring them into reality
      • “Blame is the avoidance of responsibility (87).”
      • John Bradshaw’s method for bringing expectations of others into reality:
        • #1 – Identify characteristics of an “ideal” person in your relationship (ideal boss/wife/friend)
        • #2 – Identify accusations that would violate the ideal (“degraded”)
        • #3 – Create a list of real characteristics that reflect a dark and light side
          • Maslow: “We are at once gods and worms.”
    • (4) We must work consciously to convert the false beliefs we embrace to truth
      • Grandiosity is “believing your own bullshit (91).”
      • “We often sell out to fear and revert to complaining, quiet resentment, backbiting, or some other form of passive-aggressive behavior that makes things worse (93).”
      • “When should an issue be confronted?  Whenever it becomes an issue that, upon calm reflection, bothers or concerns you (93).”
      • There’s always a way out.
    • (5) We must get honest and “start over” with the person we’re out of relationship with
      • Be authentic about our personal feelings, observations, and concerns.  “Naming the Drama”
      • Listen empathically to the other person, the respond honestly to clarify needs and boundaries, negotiate solutions, and communicate natural consequences
    • (6) Resist the provocation to return to the fray
  • “Although reactive cycles are painful and unproductive, we are strangely addicted to our suffering.  Without it we could never be “right” about other people (98).”
  • Four requirements for staying out of trouble:
    • (1) Align our expectations with reality
    • (2) Make our assumptions and reasoning visible to others and give them the opportunity to confirm or correct our thinking
    • (3) Get into proper (mature, respectful, adult) relationships with others
      • Plaque: “At no time, while I am helping you with this or any other problem, will your problem become my problem.  The moment your problem becomes my problem, you no longer have a problem, and I can’t help someone who doesn’t have a problem.  When you leave this office your problem will go out exactly as it came in – on your shoulders.”
    • (4) Align our behavior with our values in order to respond more effectively to difficult, or “triggering,” situations.
  • Apologies can go a long way.  See moving story of author and his father (103-106).
  • Look for indicators of self-deception in your own behavior:
    • See 108 for full list.  Below are ones that resonated with me:
      • Avoiding self-reflection
      • Disregarding inquiries
      • Minimizing seriousness
      • “He or she had it coming.”
      • Explaining away
Chapter 5: Rising Above By Descending Below: The Personal Quest for Self-Knowledge and Wholeness
  • Se”Much of what we call ‘normal’ is psychologically undesirable (111).”
  • “Successful individuation is never total, it is only an optimal achievement of wholeness (112).” (Aniele Jaffe)
  • We work towards individuation by continually:
    • (1) differentiating and integrating all aspects of the personality
    • (2) attending to the needs of the soul
    • (3) clearing the past
    • (4) responding ethically and faithfully to the call of the soul
  • “Therefore…it is the greatest of all disciplines to know oneself, for when a man knows himself, he knows God.” Clement of Alexandria
  • Self-knowledge loves the deep
    • So much of what we do “is motivated by forces we are not even aware of (113).”
    • Most people confuse self-knowledge with “only that small part of their personality they are conscious of (114).”
    • Self-knowledge requires differentiation – us being clear about who we are and who we are not
    • Differentiated people know when they are reacting in their name or in someone else’s; when they are being genuine or when they are not
    • Self knowledge means “I know who is who within me…subpersonalities or complexes that guide…my life (115).”
    • Recognize the difference between “the voice of internalized external authority (father, mother, etc) and the voice of internal authority (115).”
      • Internalized external authority: the voice of should and ought
      • Internal voice tells us what we must do
    • “Inner realities are part of us, they do not define us…I can be overtaken by a dark mood and not only know what is happening to me, but who the mood is and what she or he wants (115).”
    • Self-knowledge requires integration of all these parts.
    • “Rarely does self-interest display itself frankly as selfishness.  More often it hides behind the very moral idealism it is denying in action; a legal, moral, or even religious argument is likely to be given for what is at base a selfish action.  And what is more, the moral disguise usually deceives even the self who has donned it (116-7).” -Langdon Gilkey; Extended quote at: http://toddnorenhentz.tumblr.com/post/74971290174/the-deceiving-immorality-of-morality
    • You might be involved in “righteous” self-deception if…
      • (1) you stubbornly refuse to admit the possibility or capability of wrongdoing
      • (2) you exhibit absence of due diligence in pursuit of truth
      • (3) you show absence of good conscience evidenced by peace and quiet assurance or bad conscience evidenced by defensiveness, irritability, etc.
      • (4) you employ strategies like blaming, accusing, or self-excusing
      • (5) you avoid legitimate suffering
    • Icarus (118)
    • With self-deception, we are prey to collective self-deception where “the ‘I’ becomes the ‘we (118).'”
    • “Group Think” is collective self-deception typically rallied around a “righteous” cause; “the dark side of unity”
      • Riskas uses Goleman’s example of JFK Bay of Pig invasion as example of Group Think (119-120)
      • Group think can include: “illusion of invulnerability,” “illusion of unanimity,” “suppression of doubts,” stereotyping, and “ethical blinders.”
      • Goleman: “Stereotypes are self-confirming.”
    • Four continuous steps of integrating the shadow:
      • Facing the shadow [Todd: when feelings (esp. dark) emerge, ask self, what might be lurking in the shadow that produced this in me?]
        • “our perceptions of others…are really projections of ourselves”
        • Good illustration from Star Wars – Luke & Yoda in swamp (125ff)
        • You can’t destroy your shadow
        • Effective facing the shadow methods:
          • Eating the shadow – whatever we hate or admire in others, we are.
            • When something bothers you, probe what it is about yourself that makes it bothersome
            • Not all in our shadows are negative.  Sometimes we admire things in others that are unrealized positive qualities of ourself
            • Five step process of “eating our shadow:”
              • (1) What is it in someone else that is affecting us?
              • (2) Ask, “How am I seeing this person?”
              • (3) Look for the same traits within one’s self
              • (4) Look for lost power that we have given away that the other demonstrates or look for lost power in the other that would affect us similarly
              • (5) Ask how can we (re)claim our lost powers
                • Playfully act out negative image of lost power; feel what it is like
                • Engage in ritual to reclaim the lost power
                • Ask for 100% of one’s powers to come back to one’s self
          • The “Flip Side of the Coin” – identify the negative poles of our strengths; e.g., “determined” person is stubborn, inflexible
            • The less integrated one is, the more they enter into negative poles
            • The positive poles of our weaknesses are also in our shadows
            • The shadow side of our strengths isn’t their opposites, but their extremes; the shadow side of our weaknesses are the virtues of that weakness
            • Ask yourself what causes you to move from your positive pole to your negative pole?
          • Listen to Feedback (esp. those who know you best & hearing same feedback multiple times)
            • R. D. Laing: “The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice.”
            • Touching story of man facing faults putting “terrible” feedback scores on transparency for all to see (138-140)
            • Owning negative feedback paradoxically gives one more power
          • Dreams & Active Imagination – windows into the soul
            • “The personal shadow usually appears in the form of others of the same sex as ourselves, and the soul image in the form of the opposite sex (140).”
            • Steps in dream analysis:
              • (1) identify significant “dream images” (can people people, places, events, things, etc.)
              • (2) find associations that resonate with you related to each “dream image”
              • (3) connect your dream image and its associations with an inner part of yourself
              • (4) interpret what is trying to emerge from your dream
              • (5) dialogue with your “dream images,” particularly in helping to embrace your shadow
            • In addition to “shadow dreams” we can have “bigger” dreams that come from the “collective unconscious” dealing with “the revelation of evolving wholeness” or instinctual patterns/prescription/symbols/archetypes that lead to wholeness and transcendence. [Todd: This seems to resonate with Rupert  Sheldrake’s “morphogenetic fields”]
            • Jung: “The collective unconscious is an image of the world that has taken aeons to form…archetypes…have crystallized out in the course of time…they are the ruling powers.”
            • “Some dreams lend themselves to a literal interpretation, most are highly symbolic.”
            • (From footnote #20) Robert A. Johnson, author of Inner Work, recommends this four step process to interpret dreams (very similar to the 5 steps above):
              • (1) Go through the dream and write out every association that you have for each dream image.
              • (2) Connect each dream image to a specific dynamic in your inner life.
              • (3) Interpret the dream – Ask: What is the central, most important message that this dream is trying to communicate to me?  What is it advising me to do?  What is the overall meaning of the dream for my life?
              • (4) Do something physical to honor your dream – Don’t just keep it in your head.  Perform some ritual.  But use common sense and don’t act irresponsibly.
            • (Still from Robert Johnson in footnote #20) Four principles for validating interpretations:
              • (1) Choose an interpretation that shows you something you didn’t know.
              • (2) Avoid the interpretation that inflates your ego or is self-congratulatory.
              • (3) Avoid interpretations that shift responsibility away from yourself.
              • (4) Learn to live with your dreams over time – fit them into the long-term flow of your life.  If you can’t settle on an interpretation, live with it for a while.
            • Some psychologists consider active imagination more effective than dream analysis for accessing the shadow.
            • When we experience images in our active imagination, “we also directly experience the inner parts of ourselves that are clothed in images.” (Robert Johnson)
            • “In active imagination I am not so much ‘talking to myself’ as talking to one of my selves…[an] exchange between the ego and the various characters who rise up from the unconscious.” (R. Johnson)
            • Robert Johnson’s 4 steps to active imagination:
              • (1) Inviting the unconscious.
              • (2) Dialogging with and experiencing dream figures.
              • (3) Adding the ethical element of values.
              • (4) Making it concrete with physical ritual.
            • Ways to get into active imagination:
              • Close your eyes.  Clear mind of distractions.  Enter into a dream that is unresolved that you remember.
              • Quietly and patiently wait for some image to appear.
              • Personify a mood, obsession, emotion, impression, intuition, or stirring.  Once an image appears, ask, “Who are you?  What do you want?  What do you have to say?”
            • Additional tips for active imagination:
              • Don’t attempt to control the image.
              • If you sense the image feeling something, ask it about what you sense.
              • It is good to record as you go.  The image will wait.
              • Sometimes, you’ve got to reframe what is emerging for you to do to be more ethical.  Negotiate for an acceptable solution.
          • Slips of the tongue and humor can reveal our shadows.
            • Includes reactive language like, “I can’t…” “I have to…”
            • Look for addressing someone with someone else’s name.  Ask yourself what it means?
            • Humor can reveal things that ring true for us even if we wouldn’t consciously identify with it (e.g., inappropriate jokes).
          • Reactive episodes also can reveal our shadow – they tend to reveal wounds that are causing us psychic pain.
          • “Considering the Inconceivable” is another way to access the shadow.  Use the following:
            • Answer: “I could never…”
            • Under what circumstances might the inconceivable become consciously conceivable to you?
            • Think of a recent criticism someone has made of you.  What character flaws associated with that criticism are you resistant to seriously consider?
            • “Whatever we are adamantly unwilling to own is part of our nature (153).”
          • Countervalues are the values of one’s shadow.
            • “The ‘dark’ values of the shadow are complementary to the ‘light’ values of the ego, not contradictory.”
            • The following questions can clarify countervalues:
              • Under what conditions might harshness, disobedience, jealousy, hatred, and so forth be ethically justifiable?
              • What might the consequences be in employing these countervalues?
              • How might such values be employed in good faith?
              • How might self-deception be involved and avoided in the decision-making process?
            • “‘Ethical isometrics’ is a powerful way to work beneath the surface in developing [a wholistic] ethical consciousness (154).”
    • Experiencing the shadow – feel the shadow to make it a more conscious part of yourself
      • Intellectual knowledge of your shadow isn’t enough.  You’ve got to feel it.
      • Merely intellectualizing one’s shadow can be “a subtle form of denial.”
      • One way to do this is to sit and listen to one’s self in silence.
      • We need an “imagination for evil.”  Without it, “evil has us in its grip.” (Jung) [Todd: This can all give new meaning to “He descended into hell.”]
    • Embracing the shadow – understand the broader context of shadow’s concerns
      • Jung: “But what if I should discover that the least amongst them all…[is] within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?  Then as a rule, the whole truth of Christianity is reversed: There is then no more talk of love (156).”
      • Compassion towards self is critical to embracing the shadow.
      • The most productive place to look for understanding is in our family of origin.  This is the “deeper significance of ‘honoring’ my mother and father (159).”
      • The more we resist shadow work, the more we need it.
      • John Bradshaw’s tool for embracing the shadow:
        • (1) Make a list of people you dislike, rank them.  Write a line or two under each name of the qualities that repel you.
        • (2) Read over your list, pausing and reflecting on the awful aspects of the listed people.  Which aspect brings out the most sense of righteous outrage?
        • (3) Reduce the people to their single most reprehensible trait.
        • (4) Each of these personality traits represents one of your disowned traits.
        • (5) Each disowned part has an opposite energy that is part of your ego.
        • (6) Talk to your disowned part directly.
    • Bring the darkness into light
      • Star Wars analogy integrating darkness and light continues on 165-166.
      • “One of the most effective ways I have found to [integrate our negative shadows] is through internal dialogue (167).”  Try asking your reactive self:
        • What are you feeling right now?
        • How are you seeing this?
        • Why are you seeing it this way?
        • What are some other ways of seeing it?
        • What information are you missing to make a more accurate judgment?
        • What are you inclined to do and what might happen if you do?
      • After wrestling with these kind of questions: Ask, Is this what you want?  What is the right thing to do?  …in expressing your feelings…in resolving this issue…in satisfying your needs
      • Exercise for recognizing the shadow side of your strengths (169):
        • List your strengths
        • List stressful situations that tend to produce a reactive response
        • For each item in the stressful list, determine what strengths you employ in dealing with them and what corresponding negative shadows emerge as well.
        • Determine how to ethically deal with the situation harnessing strengths and avoiding the extremes of shadow.
  • “Self-disclosure begets self-disclosure.” – Carl Rogers
  • Sometimes we run into a collision of genuine morality/duty and what our deepest self seems to be calling us to do.
  • Thomas Moore proposes a “therapeutic way of life” that “is not a self-improvement project.”  It involves deep listening to one’s self.  Risksas suggests the following to live this way:
    • (1) What concerns (physical, emotional, or spiritual) am I experiencing right now that concern or distract me?
    • (2) What is my soul trying to communicate through these symptoms or conditions?  Try using active imagination (see above) to communicate with conditions.
      • “We make the darkness productive by infusing it with light, not by suprpessing, denying, or shaming it through moralizing (176).”
    • (3) How can I best respond to the call or complaint of my soul?

Chapter 6: Beyond Habits…Responding Honestly to Our Needs for Deep Spiritual Healing and Renewal

  • “Do you so love the truth…that you welcome…the idea of an exposure of what in you is yet unknown to yourself?” – George MacDonald (181)
  • There are “hidden wedges” in our lives that prevent natural growth from occurring.  Sometimes asking for forgiveness is the answer.
  • Healing wounds in the spirit caused by wrongdoing includes 6 steps:
    • (1) Recognize our selfishness, the pride of our self-righteousness and one-sidedness, and our wrongdoing
      • “Some…now suspect hidden guilt as being the central problem in all psychopathology (185).”
    • (2) Admit our acts of wrongdoing (confession)
    • (3) Sincerely apologize for the wrongs we have done
      • “There are no strings attached to genuine apologies (187).”
    • (4) Make direct amends, whenever possible, to those we have harmed
    • (5) Commit to a life of greater integrity
    • (6) Forgive ourselves and those who have offended us
      • It is impossible to forgive others when we are playing the victim role.

      “The Love Letter Technique” (John Gray) – Work through this letter outline to facilitate forgiveness:

      • (1) Anger & Blame: I don’t like it when…I resent…I hate it when…I’m fed up with…I want…
      • (2) Hurt & Sadness: I feel sad when…I feel hurt because…I feel awful because…I feel disappointed because…I want…
      • (3) Fear & Insecurity: I feel afraid…I’m afraid that…I feel scared because…I want…
      • (4) Guilt & Responsibility: I’m sorry that…I’m sorry for…Please forgive me for…I didn’t mean to…I wish…
      • (5) Love, Forgiveness, Understanding, and Desire: I love you because..I love it when…Thank you for…I understand that…I forgive you for…I want…
    • “To ask well is virtually to answer (194).” – Robert A. Johnson
  • Four step process to heal childhood pain and grief based on Gestalt “empty chair” technique and J. Konrad Stettbacher’s four step approach.  Set up with an empty room and two chairs facing one another:
    • (1) Identify triggering events that “set you off.”
    • (2) Select one of your triggering events that has emotional energy behind it and allow your memory to produce an actual situation.
    • (3) Begin the confrontational conversation with the imaginary other in the chair across from you.
    • (4) Substitute the person in the chair with one of your parents.  Modify the context to better fit home life.
    • (5) Demand an explanation from the parent by questioning their behavior.  Then switch chairs to the role of the parent and tell the child why you did what you did.  Then move back to the child’s chair and respond.
    • (6) Make demands of your parent.  Tell them what you want and don’t want.
    • (7) Remaining in the child chair, imagine yourself in the parent chair and make the same demands of yourself as the internalized parent.  Repeat until you believe it.
    • (8) Sit in the parent’s chair and identify with the wounded child, considering his or her feelings.  Ask for forgiveness.
  • Don’t actually confront your parents.  This exercise is about internalized parents.
  • We must also work to heal the loss of close family members.
  • There is a “mystery” that happens when personal change occurs.  It can’t be explained.
  • Moving “The Story of Joe” on pages 202-206.
  • Moving story of Teddy Stallard and teacher Jean Thompson on pages 206-208.
  • “The voice emerges literally from the body as a representation of our inner world (209).”
Chapter 7: Emerging from the Darkness: Toward a Higher Vision of Living and Leadership
  • Think in polarities, by which Riskas means nonpolarized thinking (which is ironic).  This allows us to see the complexity of humanity within others and ourselves, e.g., obedience that brings freedom, weaknesses that reveal our strengths.
  • Four internalized realities to help us get to nonpolarized thinking:
    • Perception is projection
    • Things are not always what they seem
    • Our judgments are limited
    • We tend to look for and produce the necessary evidence
  • True moral dilemmas force us to stand alone in the moral tension.
  • It isn’t enough to feel that you’re right.  You must feel compelled to do something by a higher voice from within.
  • We must learn to recognize the unique voices of our own internal assent in order to understand them fully.  These voices can include wholeheartedness, rationalization, restraint, hesitancy, and more.
  • Working below the surface enables us to practice nonattachment in the face of unconscious extremes.
  • “As anxiety increases, consciousness decreases (229).”
  • “Until we are willing to lose our job, we can’t do our job (229).”
  • To go straight around the circle means flowing with resistance and not against it.  [Todd: resonates with Polarization and the Healthier Church]
  • Self is “I am.”  self is “I think I am.”  The voice of God is “I am.”
  • Listening to the I am within can cause us to be at odds with our communities – a “losing of our life to find our life (233).”
Epilogue: The Hope for Tomorrow
Working beneath the surface is timely.  The world is demanding it.  This “requires a journey into the darkness wherein one’s center can shift from the ego to God, and from God to the Self (238).”  “Real character is formed in the midst of the battles for the soul (238; Hugh B. Brown).”

Brain Rules


Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

John Medina – 2008, Pear Press

Finished January, 2014.
http://brainrules.net/dvd (short videos summarizing each chapter/rule)
Chapters have summaries at the end

Chapter 1: Exercise – Rule #1 – Exercise Boosts Brain Power

  • “one of the greatest predictors of successful aging was the presence or absence of a sedentary lifestyle.”
  • “when couch potatoes are enrolled in an aerobic exercise program, all kinds of mental abilities begin to come back online.”
  • Gold standard: 30 minutes of aerobic activity 2 to 3 times weekly
  • Physical activity also helps with all sorts of mental diseases
  • Exercise provides greater access of oxygen to your brain [more…]
Chapter 2: Survival – Rule #2 – The Human Brain Evolved, Too
  • Weather changes compelled cognitive changes, adaptation to different landscapes – “Variability Selection Theory” (Richard Potts)
  • Prefrontal cortex controls “executive functions” and separates us from other animals
  • Three brains:
    • Paleomammalian Brain – Lizard Brain – Four F’s: fighting, feeding, fleeing, and fucking
    • Mammalian Brain – Second Brain – Emotions and Memories
    • Cortex – Human Brain –
  • We have the ability to predict the interior mind states of others [Todd: Isn’t this a problem too?]
Chapter 3: Wiring – Rule #3 – Every Brain is Wired Differently
  • “A great deal of the brain is hard-wired not to be hard wired.”
  • Brain wiring is as unique as our individual experiences. These are physical brain changes in the actual brain.
  • The major structural wiring is basically the same in different people
  • The neurosurgeon believes in billions of different types of intelligence
Chapter 4: Attention – Rule #4 – We don’t pay attention to boring things
  • “The more attention the brain pays to a given stimulus, the more elaborately the information will be encoded – and retained.”
  • [Todd’s note: This seems very similar to the message of Made to Stick]
  • Four practical truths about attention:
    • Emotions get our attention
    • Meaning before details
    • The brain cannot multitask
    • The brain needs a break
  • We seem to need “emotional hooks” to provide breaks for our brains every 10 minutes or so.

Chapter 5: Short Term Memory – Rule #5 – Repeat to Remember

  • “People usually forget 90% of what they learn in a class within 30 days.”  Most of this occurs within the first few hours after class.
  • You can increase the life span of a memory by repeating the information in timed intervals.
  • Memory can be divided into 4 sequential steps: encoding, storing, retrieving, and forgetting
  • As the memory encodes, it binds memories to other things
  • All senses are used in memory
  • Scientists don’t have an answer for the “binding problem” – how we manage to keep tabs of information for years
  • Three real world applications for binding:
    • The more elaborately we encode information at the moment of learning, the stronger the memory.  The trick for communicators is to do this in such a way that hearers do this on their own.
    • A memory trace appears to be stored in the same parts of the brain that perceived and processed the initial input.  (Concete walkways made from grass paths)
    • Retrieval may best be improved by replicating the conditions surrounding the initial encoding.  “Context-dependent” and “State-dependent” learning
  • Information is remembered best when it is elaborate, meaningful, and contextual.  This is why examples are so powerful.
  • Introductions are everything.  The first time something happens it has disproportionate power to be memorable.

Chapter 6: Long-Term Memory – Rule #6 – Remember to Repeat

  • Working memory’s three-component model – auditory, visual, and executive.
  • Our long term memory of events can be very inaccurate on the details.
  • “Present knowledge can bleed into past memories and become intertwined with them as if they were encountered together.” [Todd’s note: Honesty can be a very tricky thing.]
  • “The typical human brain can hold about seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds!”  Re-exposure is key to long term memory.
  • “Maintenance Rehearsal” – re-exposing memories to one’s self for long term memory
  • “Elaborative Rehearsal” – tendency to talk about events, cementing them in one’s mind
  • Ebbinghaus’ “forgetting curves” illustrate the need to repeat information quickly after learned. [Todd Idea – type notes after lecture 2 hours later; Do something on social media with information a few hours later; Force self to write reviews on Amazon of books; Force self to blog about readings and learnings; Read then listen to Audiobook later; Make one-page summaries and then review in intervals]
  • Intervaled repetition of knowledge helps recall and learning.
  • Exposure yourself to information “more elaborately” for higher quality retrieval.
  • Best recall practice >> Fixed elaborate intervals of exposure to information.
  • “It’s not called romance; it’s called long-term potentiation.”  (LTP)
  • It can take years (as many as 11!) for long term memory to solidify (hippocampus letting go of its cortical relationship).
  • Our memory is unstable until solidified.
  • Long term remembrances reenact our original patterns during the first moments of learning.
  • Forgetting allows us to prioritize events.
  • Medina suggests restructuring school to favor intervaled recall both in the short and long term.
Chapter 7: Sleep – Rule #7 – Sleep well, think well
  • Sleep is intimately related with cognitive performance.
  • Without sleep, anyone will go into psychosis.
  • Brain activity is greater than during waking state during REM.
  • Scientists don’t exactly know what sleep is for.
  • The basic pattern we need is 16 hours consciously awake to 8 hours asleep.
  • Two systems seem to be at “war” with one another – one trying to keep you awake, another asleep.
  • Different people have different sleeping patterns, e.g., “larks,” “hummingbirds,” and “owls.”
  • Everyone seems to need a 30 minute nap sometime in the early afternoon – it is part of our natural cycle.
  • Obliquitous insights can often come to us after “sleeping on it” as they did for Mendeleyev and periodic tables.
  • We replay daily patterns at an accelerated rate during our sleep.
  • Some real world ideas:
    • Match sleep chronotypes to work around their productivity schedules – “A business of the future will need to become involved in some aspect of its employees sleep schedules.”
    • Promote naps
Chapter 8: Stress – Rule #8 – Stressed Brains Don’t Learn the Same Way
  • In situations of extreme, continued stress, we tend towards “learned helplessness,” preventing us from seeing options.
  • If these 3 are present, someone is stressed: (1) objective, measurable, physiological response, (2) the stressor is perceived as aversive, (3) stressee does not feel in control of the stressor
  • The cortisol and other physiological responses to stress come from the hypothalamus and are necessary for our survival
  • Our stress response is shaped to incidents that last a few minutes, not years.
Chapter 9: Sensory Integration – Rule #9 – Stimulate More of the Senses
  • Three steps of sensory perception: (1) sensation, (2) routing, (3) perception
  • Multisensory perception includes recall (esp. long term)
  • Rules for multimedia presentation: (Two senses – sight & hearing)
    • MULTIMEDIA – Words AND pictures are better than either alone
    • TEMPORAL CONTIGUITY – Corresponding words and pictures should be shown together
    • SPATIAL CONTIGUITY – Corresponding words and pictures should be spatially near one another
    • COHERENCE – Exclude extraneous material
    • MODALITY – Animation + Narration > Animation + Text
  • Smell can evoke memories (Proust effect), especially emotional ones
Chapter 10: Vision – Rule #10 – Vision Trumps All Other Senses
  • “We actually experience our visual environment as a fully analyzed opinion about what the brain thinks is out there.”
  • Our brain puts together a single approximation of what our two eyes see.
  • Cool experiment that shows how eyes see slightly different things at 3151/pg 230
  • The brain uses your prior experience with events of the past (in part) to create the singe images from 2 eyes
  • Creating vision in the brain takes up about half of the total power our brain uses.
  • Text and oral transmission are WAY less effective than pictures
  • Donald in Mathmagic Land – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nav0kVa66xk
  • Usually, movement is better than still images.
Chapter 11: Gender – Rule #11 – Male and Female Brains are Different
  • Only the male’s Y chromosome determines gender with the SRY gene.  Y has been shedding genes throughout evolution.  X has not.  [Todd: Could there be long term evolutionary advantage in the female typology?]
  • Many of the 1500 genes on X chromosome involve brain function.
  • There are brain structure differences in men and women – amygdala (larger in males) & serotonin production (faster in males)
  • Right brain as creative; left brain as analytical is a folk tale
  • The right brain tends to remember the gist, while the left tends to remember details.
  • Women are better (as a statistical whole) at “verbal capacity.”
  • Boys tend to cooperate through competition.
  • Both genders maintain hierarchy through communication, but males tend to do so through more direct dominance, whereas females through cooperation
  • It is impossible to declare these differences to be wholly or even mostly biological.
  • Math and science may lend themselves to rewarding competitive tendencies with more objective “right answers,” whereas language arts may lend themselves to more cooperative, “me too” discussion of feelings that reward cooperative tendencies.

Chapter 12: Exploration

  • Babies model how we learn – hypothesis, experimentation, testing
  • Adults can learn and actively create new neural structures, even if some start to become permanent
  • Medical school is a good example of a balanced blend between classroom theory and knowledge with real life practice and hypothesis, experimentation and testing



Ingenius: A Crash Course on Creativity

Tina Seelig – 2012, HarperOne

Finished December, 2013.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – Alan Hay
“Creativity is an endless renewable resource.”
“The parts of your brain that are responsible for self-monitoring are literally turned off during creative endeavors.”  (118)
innovation engine - ingenius
Chapter 1: Spark a Revolution (AKA, Expand/Change the Frame)
“All questions are the frame into which the answers fall.”  (231)
– Copernican revolution
– MC Escher painting
– John Cage’s 4’33” music piece
– Joshua Bell’s subway violin performance
– Difference in orgnization of cities in the West vs. in Japan
– Arbitrariness of cuisine eaten at different meals
– Pop-up resturants
– Tesco’s QR code grocery shopping
– Netflix as movie, not DVD delivery
– prosthetic limbs as fashion statements
– history class where students write the history
– analyzing jokes
“Take a careful look at jokes, and you will find that the creativity and humor usually come from shifting the frame.” [more…]

Chapter 2: Bring in the Bees (AKA, Let Ideas Have Sex)
Create ideas by mixing unusual things.
– chindogu
– New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest
My ideas: #1 – “I’m here to make you more thankful.” #2 – “Congradulations, you’re in management now.”
– sex toy with two household objects
[Todd – I’m recalling here, the Shots of Awe video where “ideas have sex”]
Proximity facilitates cross-pollination.
– Silicon Valley proximity; also universities
Pablo Picasso, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”
“It is theorized that a small jolt of dopamine is released in our brains whenever we connect the dots.”
Engage lots of people to cross-pollinate
– Twitter hires cross-disciplinary people on purpose
– In Bangladesh – rising sea water and higher blood pressure are linked
– Ticks, lime disease and blue-belly lizards
– Guillain-Barre syndrome’s cure sparked ideation for cancer cure trials
– parallel play
– Metaphors frame problems, e.g., crime as virus vs. crime as monster
Chapter 3: Build, Build, Build, Jump! (AKA, Brainstorm and Iterate) 
– Align from Jan to Dec
First solutions are often not the best.  The 3rd idea is often the most creative.
– “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving” or TRIZ; “Algorithm of Inventive Problem Solving”
– OnTech’s self-heating container
– Alistair Fee’s poetic, music, video imagination challenges
– Brainstorming
Four core tenets of brainstorming: 1) deferring judgment, 2) generating lots of ideas, 3) encouraging unusual ideas, 4) combining ideas
“it is really difficult to reserve judgment when someone suggests an idea that you think is stupid. And it is hard to continue generating ideas once you think you have found a viable solution.”

Brainstorming Guidelines from The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley

  • Design brainstorming space
    • stand up
    • lots of room to move around
    • lots of room to capture ideas – whiteboards, flip charts
  • Choose the right people
    • Brainstormers aren’t the same as the ones making final decision
    • Include different perspectives
    • 6 to 8 people ideal; after this, break into multiple groups
  • Consider the topic
    • Not too broad or too narrow
    • Consider the framing of the question
  • What else should be in the room
    • relevant props
    • prototyping materials – markers, paper, scissors, tape, cardboard, etc.
  • Use warm up exercises
    • progressive poem
    • Mad-Libs
    • Make words from long words with letter cards
    • Silly prompts – “How would you design eyeglasses if you had no ears?”
  • Set rules
    • No bad ideas
    • Don’t criticize ideas
    • Build on ideas
    • Don’t evaluate ideas (esp. initially)
    • Encourage wild and crazy ideas
    • Give a goal – come up with 500 ideas
    • Come up with the worst ideas you can
  • Create a fluid process
    • Only one conversation at a time
    • Challenge participants to look from a different point of view
    • Eliminate obvious answers to propel creative solutions
    • Prompt setting/context change ideation (e.g., underwater or on the moon; limited or unlimited budget; past or future)
    • Keep things to short statements
  • Idea capture
    • everyone should have pen and paper
    • mitigate the tyranny of the pen
    • mind mapping
      • who, what, when, where, why as initial branches
  • Consider the time
    • Hard to maintain energy beyond an hour; 45-60 minutes ideal
    • End on high note
  • When you’re done
    • Consider voting, perhaps top several choices in various categories
    • Categories could include things like: cost-effective, easiest, quickest to get of the ground, etc.
    • Capture the products of the brainstorming
As with anything, practice helps you get better at brainstorming.

Chapter 4: Are You Paying Attention? (AKA, Observation is Important)

lucky people are more likely to “see” things than unlucky ones
we’re often blind to the water around us
 – Dating experience – dating agents, breakup buddies, relaunch kits
observation is key to creativity
– registration cards were a wealth of information
– weather related loss insurance
– magician asks us to select one out of six cards; step 2 – now it is missing, but all 5 are different cards
– Seinfeld’s “talking about nothing.”  Funny is drawn out of the ordinary.  Waiting rooms
– Audubon bird count
The practice of watching makes one more observant and see in greater detail.
– The Stanford Safari
– Store detail question list (911)
– observation logs
– Twyla Tharp’s boxes of ideas and scraps of information in The Creative Habit
– IDEO’s redesign of Am. Red Cross’s blood donation – “Why I give board”
– Mir Imran reading medical journals for patterns and inconsistencies; ablation & Atrial Fibrillation (AF)
Chapter 5: The Table Kingdom (AKA, Space Matters)
Environment shapes creative capacities.  In the present and developmentally as we grow up.
– Cafes have different environments – some that facilitate conversations with strangers; others that discourage it
– Real Estate agents bake fresh cookies in houses they are showing.
– Marble curtain art piece created in a space conducive for creativity.
– “The Square” mobile credit card processor is elegant as are its offices.
– Environment of the d.school
– Office moved into a transformed van inside office building
Proximity to others in work environments affects collaboration
– Teams doing four different jigsaw puzzles, each with 25% of the pieces; setup ended up being a key variable in this game
Red focuses attention.  Blue fosters creative thinking.
Music can be powerful in setting the environment
– Rocky
– Skiing to rock music vs. soft, elegant music
– Wine experience changed by music
Ewan McIntosh’s Different Types of Spaces (all need)
  1. Private Space (e.g., office)
  2. Group Space (e.g., kitchen table)
  3. Publishing Spaces (display work that has been done)
  4. Performing Spaces (share or act out ideas)
  5. Participation Spaces (engagement with what’s going on)
  6. Data (e.g., library or database)
  7. Watching Spaces
– Creative offices at Pixar
– Creative offices and games, toys, etc. at Scribd
“Space is the stage on which we play out our lives.”

Chapter 6: Think of Coconuts (AKA, Toggle Your Constraints)

“Creativity loves constraints.” – Marissa Mayer
Time is a constraint.
Creativity under the gun matrix:
– Apollo 13 example of creating a filter under urgent conditions
– eBay’s “Auction for America”
– Startups need to succeed quickly
– Monte Python and the Holy Grail – coconuts are better than horses
– Eric Ries’s “minimal viable product”
– Create a line of greeting cards in 30 minutes
– Twitter’s restriction to 140 characters
– SMITH magazine’s six word challenge – Six word memoir
Also of value: take away all the contraints or remove them one by one.
– Amazon did this with financial constraints which led to free shipping
“Constraints are a tool that can and should be modulated up and down to catalyze and compound creative energy.”
Chapter 7: Move the Cat Food (AKA, Design Your Incentives Well)
– Car games with different rules
Rules influence behavior.
– “gamification” – rapid feedback, rewards and punishments, real social engagement
– Chevy Volt’s mpg gage functions as game
Feedback impacts behavior (Todd’s note: recall Drucker’s “what gets measured, gets managed”)
– “tip-o-meter”
– presidential debate monitors
With infrequent feedback, we tend to do what we know is safe and will work.
– “I Like, I Wish, What If” Discussion
– “Written?  Kitten!” – Every 500 words, you’re shown an image of a kitten.
– “Write or Die” – programmed punishments for not writing, including “kamikaze” mode
“Creativity is enhanced when you reward both success and failure and punish inaction.” – Robert Sutton in Weird Ideas that Work
– BF Skinner shows that random rewards produces more consistent behavior
– Relay races propel better behavior
– “Fun Theory” stairs as piano keyboard; world’s deepest trash can
– Scrabble rule tightening and loosening – more creativity and higher points in tight times
– FDA can loosen and tighten rewards to change incentives around different classes of medicines
– Ira Glass’ This American Life profile of popular teacher in Chicago over a ten year period with rapid changes; accountability rules shattered creative environment
“You get what you reward.”
“you should craft the rules that reward ingenious solutions to both short-term and long-term goals.”

Chapter 8: Marshmallow on Top (AKA, Weave Fun, Morale Into Process)

– Only a few from team climb to top of Everest to claim success for team
– Rodrigo (team leader) decided entire team could go to the summit
– computer game similating Mt. Everest climb
– Edward de Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” model
  1. White hat – facts and logic
  2. Green hat – generating new ideas
  3. Red hat – intuition
  4. Blue hat – organized, process oriented
  5. Black hat – devil’s advocate; what won’t work
  6. Yellow hat – eager to make everyone happy
Try changing roles to see different perspectives.  Put on different hats to facilitate different kids of skills needed in different situations.
Julian Gorodsky’s Roadblock Checklist:
  • Do you take time out for reflection and evaluation of team process?
  • Do you stay together when the team is under pressure?
  • Do you divide the workload relatively evenly?
  • Do you take responsibility for problems instead of blaming others?
  • Are you respectful of personal and professional differences?
– Malcolm Gladwell’s “Bakeoff” article
– Marshmellow challenge
Play facilitates good work.  Employee morale is very important.
Losada ratio – 5 positive interactions for every negative interaction.
– Mark Beeman’s research has shown that complex problems are more likely to be solved when solvers are in a positive mood.
– Much of “cheating” in school is actually collaborating.
Chapter 9: Move Fast-Break Things (AKA, Fail Early and Often)
“An experiment is a question which science poses to Nature, and a measurement is a recording of Nature’s answer.”  – Max Planck
Creativity requires experimentation.
– MIT study of children and toys – when posed as “experiment,” toys are more interesting
Telling people “how to” can reduce creativity.
“Genius is the ability to make the most mistakes in the shortest period of time.”
Failures are data.
– Investor Vinod Khosla takes risks on projects with 90% chance of failure.
– Instagram as an iterative success
“In writing, you must kill your darlings.” – William Faulkner
– Tinkering School
– Olin College’s lab approach
– “Failure Faire” – riddles, gambling game, post secret website
– Show your work to others in its infancy so you don’t get too attached to it and can abandon it if necessary
– 1185 Design – produces lots of designs for clients and then whittles them down
– Simply Recipes was one of 5 blogs written by its author, the other 4 were discareded
– Seelig’s dad taste experiments and pulse lie-detector tests
– Chegg’s textbook rentals
– Facebook’s motto – “Move Fast – Break Things”
– Google’s 70-20-10 rule
Chapter 10: If Anything Can Go Wrong, Fix It! (AKA, I Think I Can…)
– Seelig’s course on creativity and the attitude of those on the outside wanting to get in.
– name change from consumer marketing to creative marketing
– finish the quilt no  matter what patchworks you have to work with. Life is more like a quilt than a puzzle.
– Start Up Chile
– Some are afraid of failure, others of success.
– John Adler’s braceless tumor removal technique
– plastic bags in Haiti used to make fabric, mold into nut shelling molds
– X Prize
– Diamandis’s Law – It will go wrong, fix it.
– NASA/DARPA – travel to another star
Chapter 11: Inside out and Outside In
– Sangduen Chailert, or Lek’s, Elephant Nature Park
Knowledge is fuel for imagination.
– See Mark Twain quote on the best swordsman needing to fear the complete novice, b/c what they do may be unexpected
Tangential knowledge can help too
Imagination: connecting/combining ideas, reframing problems, challenging assumptions
If knowledge is fuel, imagination is an endlessly renewable resource.
– Improv box/present idea
Attitude jump starts creativity.
EEG reveals that we show an “o crap” impulse, quickly followed by a “what went wrong” impulse.
Resources facilitate knowledge.
Habitats are an external manifestation of our imagination.
Cultures are the habits and attitudes of whole groups of people in which we participate.
All elements of the Innovation Engine are inexorably linked.
The outside of the Innovation Engine mirror the elements in the society of the internal, personal elements inside the Innovation Engine.
– Endeavor organizations helps create models of local innovation

change by design


Change By Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation

Tim Brown – 2009, HarperBusiness

Finished October, 2013.
Great video here on IDEO’s design process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taJOV-YCieI
  • Design has a human-centered; not technology centered worldview
  • “David Kelley” – “Design Thinking”
  • Innovation is now a survival strategy
  • Change by Design’s two parts:
    • design thinking as applied to business
    • a challenge to us all to think big
  • Mind map over linear organization.  Mind maps help emphasize organizations. [more…]
Part 1
Chapter 1
  • Shimano – Japanese bicycle company
    • people are scared of biking
    • coasting bike: a simpler bicycle?
    • 2 phases:
      • ideation
      • implementation
    • The process is inherently iterative
    • Innocentive – crowdsourced engineering
    • The internet itself is under 5,000 days old
    • All problems are design problems
Chapter 2
  • Study the extreme users to understand how best to design things
  • Do the right things well than more things
  • Consider the groups and contexts in which products are used.
    • Includes social location
    • At core: empathy
  • Designer is “us with them.”
  • Users are now collaborators
  • unfocus group- extreme users
  • “Chance only favors the prepared mind.”
Chapter 3 A-Mental Matrix
  • Waves of creativity:
    • Inspiration
    • Ideation
    • Implementation
  • Convergent – make choices
  • Divergent  – create choices
  • Balance between the two are needed.
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
    • put data together
    • creative
  • Creative teams need time, Space, and money to make mistakes
  • Take lessons from the trial and error of biology
    1. whole ecosystem can experinent
    2. those dealing with new realities are most motivated to change
    3. Ignore who creates idea
    4. Favor ideas with a buzz
    5. Top of the organization should prune, tend, and harvest ideas.
    6. Stress overarching purpose.
  • Act on ideas from the base.
  • Alexander Pope: ” To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
  • Build on the ideas of others-iteration
  • Consider visual thinking.
  • Butterfly tests with post it notes.
  • Deadlines can help urgency
  • No “priesthood” of designers
  • Key: integrative thinkers- keep multiple ideas in tension.
Chapter 4: Build to think or the power of prototyping
  • Get to tangible quickly.
  • Prototypes allow parallel ideas to develop
  • Don’t invest too much in a prototype
  • “Just enough”
  • Ideas and services can have prototypes as well-usually physical.
  • Also-storytelling, character building
    • “Customer journey”
  • Looking at the whole experience is important, but makes things more complex
  • Acting out is a form of prototyping
  • You can let proto types into the real world. A/B testing
  • Virtual prototyping
  • You can prototype big ideas and organizations too.
  • Repeat story often
  • The successful prototypes teach us something
  • Start early, early goals
  • slows you down to speed you up
  • As you move on the prototypes will be fewer, but in greater resolution
  • Piloting can follow prototyping
Chapter 5: Returning to the Surface or the design of experiences
  • Experience is now important
  • The emotional is important
  • Participation over consumption
  • Digital age has introduced possibilities of participation
  • lmprovization is key
  • An experiential blueprint includes the emotive experience
Chapter 6: spreading the message, or the importance of storytelling
  • 4th dimension- designing with time
  • time processes are individually unique
  • We don’t necessarily Want more options
  • Advertising needs to help people tell their Story
  • Design challenges can be effective
  • Challenges create stories
  • Design thinking can help us deal with a greater range of problems.
Part 2: Where do we go from here?
Chapter 7 : Design thinking meets the corporation, or teaching to fish
creativity design chart
  • Consumer-centered perspective
  • See chart- ways to grow matrix
    • extending
    • adapting
    • managing
    • creating
  • diversify across the matrix
  • Knowledge work shifting to team based collaboration
  • Focus on training others how to design
  • It is easy to lose sight of design when urgent needs emerge and demand jm mediate attention
  • Design thinking is actually a huge advantage in economic downturns
Chapter 8: The New Social Contract: we’re all in this together
  • Design based marketplace shifts
    • blurring line between products and services
    • design principles applied at larger scales and complex systems
    • new era of limits
  • There’s a shift to services
  • Ensure products tomorrow thru research today
  • display products in the environment they will be used in
  • Consider the Whole ecosystem in your design especially sustainability
  • figure out what people really want ( not energy efficiency but Comfort’ style ‘ Community,)
Chapter Nine :
Design Activism, or inspiring Solutions with global potential
  • Biggest challenges may be with Social problems
  • Design thinking extends the perimeter around the problem
  • Necessity is He mother of innovation
  • Design thinking across the entire spectrum of the problem
  • Design think’n
  • may shift us to prevention over cure
  • Play and Play and creativity in kids is an in kids is an important skill to nurture
Chapter 10 :
Designing tomorrow today
  • Design is always interdisciplinary
  • Design begins with convergence
  • Start with humans (not technology)
  • Fail early and often
  • The real test of a prototype in the real world
  • Get professional help beyond your organization
  • No silver bullet of innovation. More like silver buckshot
  • Budget to the pace of innovation
  • Find talent anyway you can
    • look for the weird
  • Design for the project cycle
  • Always ask why
  • Wittgenstein: “Don’t think, Look.”
  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Demand options. Let 1000 flowers bloom , then let them cross pollenate
  • document process of growth
  • Design your life – iterate along the way- prototype

change by design mindmap




The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why

Phyllis Tickle – 2012 (Reprint Edition), Baker

Finished re-reading August, 2013.  Best parts to re-read are chapters 1 and 5.

Brief Summary: Roughly every 500 years, the church seems to have a “giant rummage sale,” shedding off old ways of being, doctrine, and practice, adopting new understandings, beliefs, and activities giving rise to new vitality.  We’re in the midst of the latest such rummage sale, “the Great Emergence,” which rejects the church and scripture as the only religious authorities and seeks a larger role for personal experience.

Syntopical Learnings: Window from 900 BCE to 200 CE very important in human religious history.  Compare to John Hick’s 500 year and geographic religious window theory.  See page 30.  “Axial Age” and “The Great Transformation” [more…]

Part I: The Great Emergence: What Is It
According to Bishop Right Rev. Mark Dyer, roughly every 500 years the church holds a “rummage sale,” shedding off elements that have become untenable, leaving itself less ossified and with a more pure, vital, and growing self.
Chapter 1: Rummage Sales – When the Church Cleans Out Its Attic
500 years ago: The Protestant Reformation
1000 years ago: The Great Schism (over leavened vs. unleavened bread and the filioque controversy)
1500 years ago: Gregory the Great and the Chalcedonean controversies regarding Mary as theotokos and Jesus as one person with two natures or two persons, resulting in the Western/Eastern vs. Oriental Church (Coptic, Ethiopian, Armenian, Syrian)
2000 years ago: Birth of the Church; destruction of the Temple
Page 29-30 – 500 year cycles continue in Judaism (and Islam?) with Babylonian Captivity, End of the Age of the Judges/Beginning of the Monarchy
Chapter 2: Cable of Meaning: The Loss and Discovery of a Common Story
There is an outer exterior to our religion that has to be worn down before its interior is exposed and examined, giving way to the rummage sale.
Part II: The Great Emergence: How Did It Come to Be?
Chapter 3: The Great Reformation: A Prequel to Emergence
Leading up to the Reformation there were competing popes, negotiating for authority.  Sola Scriptura dispensed with the question of which pope had authority.  This fueled literacy, which in turn fueled the Enlightenment.  Lots of other changes accompanied the Reformation, such as the rise of the nation-state, middle class, capitalism, Copernican theory, and the printing press.
Chapter 4: Questions of Re-formation: Darwin, Freud, and the Power of Myth
Michael Faraday enabled the use of electricity, giving rise to the postmodern age (even more than Darwin and Einstein).  Cores of fundamentalism became:
  1. inerrancy of scripture
  2. divinity of Jesus
  3. historicity of virgin birth
  4. substitutionary atonement
  5. return of Christ
  6. obligation to evangelize
  7. Jesus as personal savior
The rise of television, pluralism, and new understandings of “self” and their combination continued to fuel the Great Emergence, by newly questioning where authority comes from.  We can’t come to “post-Emergence stability” until we answer two questions: 1) what is the humanness of humanity, 2) what is the relation of the world’s religions.
Chapter 5: The Century of Emergence: Einstein, the Automobile, and the Marginalization of Grandma
Einstein’s “Special Theory of Relativity” lead to the Heisenberg “Uncertainty Principle.”  This further eroded sola scriptura.  The Quest for the historical Jesus, made even further progress in ending sola scriptura as the Jesus of history became disconnected to the Jesus of the Western Christian Church.  Pentecostalism gave one of the first answers to the authority question – direct experience with God (vis-a-via the Holy Spirit).  “It was Grandma…who rode hard on the preacher and his tendency toward fancy or newfangled sermons and imported theories of God.  Grandma was, in essence, a brake – a formidable one, in fact – on social/cultural/theological change. (87)”  The automobile mobilized people away from Grandma, particularly as it eroded Sabbath observance.  Marx served to transfer some authority to the state – even in places like America, the wrestling with Marxist ideas quietly expanded government control and reduced formal religious authority.  Groups like AA lead to the rise of feelings like, “I’m spiritual, but not religious.”  AA’s emphasis on the addicted helping the addicted “was the first to strike a blow right at the Pastor’s Study as the seat of all good advice, holy counsel, wisdom, and amelioration.” (93)  The Bible’s ambivilence on slavery sewed some seeds eroding Sola as did the rising rights of women, increasing divorce, female ordination, and lastly homosexuality.  Additionally, Vatican II and the questions of abortion and end-of-life medical issues have been slowly pulling the church away from dogmatism rooted in Sola.  While the Great Emergence is putting to rest the doctrine of sola scriptura, the Reformation doctrine of the priesthood of all believers is even more celebrated in this new era – particularly enabled by the rise of the “information age” and all its accompanying technologies.
Women’s entrance into the work force during World War II, symbolized by Rosie the Riveter, would give Americans a new vision of what women could do, particularly the next generation of women, that would forever change the American family putting men and women on more equal footing – or at the very least creating the expectation of equality in the minds of most.  Further fueling change in the American family was the birth control pill.  The rise of working women, two-income households, and nontraditional family structures has reduced the time of “family-based religious instruction and formation.”  As mothers and grandmothers went to work, they ceased to be “principal storyteller and domestic rabbi,” with the result that the next generation of Americans “became more and more untethered” from the Christian narrative and Scripture.
Sidebar: Hegel “taught that everything had, inherent in it, its opposite…Once the two opposites in any thing had resolved their conflict, they would synthesize, and the thing they were would cease to be.  Thus all life was only a becoming, never a being.” (88)
Sidebar: “Marx’s contribution originally was to take Hegel’s Absolute and de-spiritualize it, so to speak….Government or the state becomes the presence of the Absolute on earth, and it is the duty and salvation of every person to serve the state.” (89)
Part III: The Great Emergence: Where Is It Going?
Tickle is now attempting to talk more about the content and substance of this new thing called “emerging Christianity” and not the larger context which gave birth to it.  She wishes to restrict her discussion to the North American Christian context, but acknowledges it cannot be artificially separated from similar emergings in “first-world Judaism” or from emerging Christianity in other industrialized Western countries.  Tickle singles out England, Ireland, and Wales as being “at least twenty years” ahead of the curve and suggests that they might be “very useful and…predictive…for North American observers.”
Chapter 6: The Gathering Center and the Many Faces of a Church Emerging
The definition and direction of emerging Christianity is not yet as clear as it was in retrospect with the Reformation.  Tickle identifies Walter Rauschenbusch as the earliest American perceiver of an emerging Christianity.
(Roman Catholic, Anglicans, some Lutherans, Orthodox)
Social Justice Christians (a.k.a., “Mainline”)
Conservatives (a.k.a., “Evangelicals”)
Tickle acknowledges two omissions from this table: Quakers and Mormons
Tickle says the temptation is to place entire denominations in each box and this may have been a relatively accurate exercise several decades ago, but we must now be much more fluid with individual Christian and Christian groups wholesale identification with any particular box to the exclusion of other boxes.  There’s another divide to consider as well – Christians who tend towards orthodoxy (believing the right things) and those who tend towards orthopraxy (doing the right things) along the horizontal axis of this quadrilateral; this divide is permeable as well.
There is an emerging center rising up from all 4 quadrants and across the ortho- divisions.  With more and more socialization happening in offices and other city type situations without ordained clergy or the family’s biblical tradition centering, “watercooler theology” has emerged.  In essence, this is a radicalization of the priesthood of all believers.  Divisions that had long persisted had to be talked about rather than simply persist in their own silos.  This emerging center “was no longer Protestant…it was no longer any ‘thing…’  it was…a melange of ‘things’ cherry-picked from each quadrant…without any original intention.”  Some organized gatherings coming out of this center have emerged in pubs, bowling alleys, and eventually some have developed into non-denominational churches.  The one unifying characteristic that the emerging center seems to share is “being incarnational.”  Tickle uses the term “inherited church” to name the goods being donated to the rummage sale by this emerging center.
A backlash is developing within each quadrant to the emerging center – perhaps 9 to 13% of each quadrant.  Tickle suggests the quadrilateral above has transformed into a “rose” – with an emerging center, with corners of resistance cut away at the point furthest from the center in each quadrant and with the lines dividing the quadrants able to bow in either direction.  Tickle suggests that the backlashing groups act as a “ballast” to the emerging center, holding it in place during a stormy transition.  There are another 30% in each quadrant that are neither reactionary nor clearly part of the emerging center.  Tickle divides these people into four distinct categories:
  1. Traditionalists, who are the closest to the reactionaries, but tend to accommodate to social change
  2. Re-traditioning group choose to stay closely identified with their quadrant, but seek new ways to recover original vibrancy and adapt to new cultural realities
  3. Progressives are more comfortable getting rid of old doctrines and willing to make major changes suggested by the emerging center, all while remaining identified with their quadrant
  4. Hyphenateds are the closest to the emerging center without being entirely part of it, who identify themselves with names like Presby-mergents or Metho-mergents, etc., representing a full desire to embrace both the emerging center and hold on to what is good about their own quadrant.
Chapter 7 – The Way Ahead: Mapping Fault Lines and Fusions
In addition to the horizontal line marking the division between orthopraxy and orthodoxy, the vertical line marks a division between those who adhere to sola scriptura and those who don’t.
great emergence authority chart

present shock


Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now

Douglas Rushkoff – 2013, Current

Finished August, 2013.

Douglas Rushkoff on Twitter: @rushkoff
Chapter 1– Narrative Collapse – Makes the case that we’ve lost our narrative framework and tend to gravitate towards that which provides meaning/entertainment in the present

Narrative Collapse
frames that make meaning are being replaced with present experience

Big Stories
Big/meta stories are fading away

Now-ist Pop Culture is Born
more self-referential humor

The beginning, the middle, and the end have almost no meaning. The gist is experienced in each moment as new connections are made and false stories are exposed or reframed. In short, these sorts of shows teach pattern recognition, and they do it in real time. [more…]

Rushkoff, Douglas (2013-03-21). Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (Kindle Locations 418-420). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Narrativity is replaced by something more like putting together a puzzle by making connections and recognizing patterns.

Rushkoff, Douglas (2013-03-21). Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (Kindle Location 510). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Reality Bytes
Shows setup to incite conflict; very short attention spans favor extreme sports, very short video clips

Real-Time Feed: The CNN Effect
There is less time to reflect.

Occupy Reality
Tea Partiers mean to wipe out the chaotic confusion of a world without definitive stories; the Occupiers mean to embed themselves within it so that new forms may emerge. It’s not an easy sell. The Tea Party’s high-profile candidates and caustic rhetoric are as perfectly matched for the quick-cut and argument-driven programming of the cable news networks as the Occupiers are incompatible. Though both movements are reactions to the collapse of compelling and believable narratives, the Tea Party has succumbed to and even embraced the crisis mentality, while Occupy Wall Street attempts to transcend it.

Rushkoff, Douglas (2013-03-21). Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (Kindle Locations 808-812). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Infinite Games
Fit with our movement towards the present over narrative

Chapter 2 – Digiphrenia: Breaking up is hard to do
Time is a technology
People are analog.
Time itself is a technological innovation that has unfolded over time.
“The timekeeper is no longer the controller of the clock, but the programmer of the computer.”

There are rhythms, phases, etc. embedded in us biologically that interact in unique ways – good and bad with the new digital order.

Pacing and Leading
How do we react and harness digital tools in light of chronobiology?

The Space Between the Ticks
we no longer observe analog time; time is more chronos than kairos

Do Drone Pilots Dream of Electric Kills?
What does it mean to fight a war where only one side’s troops are in jeopardy, and the other side may as well be playing a video game?

Rushkoff, Douglas (2013-03-21). Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (Kindle Locations 1743-1744). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

“human attention” – the new scarcity (1784)

In the digital realm we are either the programmers or the programmed—

Rushkoff, Douglas (2013-03-21). Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (Kindle Locations 1859-1860). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Chapter 3 – Overwinding
long clock – that operates on a 10,000 year cycle instead of a 24/12 hour one [idea: kingdom clock]

We’ll call this temporal compression overwinding— the effort to squish really big timescales into much smaller or nonexistent ones. It’s the effort to make the “now” responsible for the sorts of effects that actually take real time to occur—

Rushkoff, Douglas (2013-03-21). Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (Kindle Locations 1932-1934). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

Time binding – we “can take the experiences and pass it on to the next generation through language symbols.”  “Each generation can begin where the former left off.”

Chapter 4 – Fractalnoia
We’re looking for patterns – whether they exist or not.  Present connections and relationships between things matter more than static knowledge.
Chapter 5 – Apocalypto
Apocalypto is the belief in the imminent shift of humanity into an unrecognizably different form.

[Todd: I think DR misreads Teilhard de Chardain and Kevin Kelly.]
[Todd: DR portrays resistance to the “singularity” to be very much at odds with the grain of society.  I think he’s overstating it.  DR champions the uniqueness of human beings.]
An “apocalypto” perspective evades responsibility and grants technology superiority.
“We look to technology not merely as our replacement but as our heir.” (3666)  To which DR says, “the reports of our death may be greatly exaggerated.”
Present shock provides the perfect cultural and emotional pretexts for apocalyptic thinking.
Time was a solution to the theological conflict introduced by monotheism.  Time is monotheistic theodicy.

The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three

The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity

Cynthia Bourgeault – 2013, Shambhala Publications

Finished July, 2013.  This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read.  It’s a tough, but rewarding read.  Try your best to read it as a mystic for the best results.


Compares doctrine of the trinity to being like a gift that a couple assumed was a tea cupboard, but was actually a ham radio.

Chapter 1: Why Feminizing the Trinity Won’t Work
The trinity is an arcanum.
“Law of Three” is hermenuetical key to the acanum of the Trinity.
Summary: Trinity is more about process & movement than being. To freeze a member of the trinity into a gender role plays the ontology game rather than the game of an unfolding Spirit. [more…]

Chapter 2: Exploring the Law of Three
Foundational Principles of the Law of Three

  1. In every new arising there are three forces involved: affirming, denying, and reconciling (or affirming, denying, and neutralizing).
  2. The interweaving of the three produces a fourth in a new dimension.
  3. Affirming, denying, and reconciling are not fixed points or permanent essence attributes, but can and do shift and must be discerned situationally.
  4. It is always at the neutralizing point that a new triad emerges.
  5. Not any set of three items constitutes a trinity but only those sets in which the three can be seen to be dynamically intertwined according to the stipulations of the Law of Three.
  6. Solutions to impasses generally come by learning how to spot and mediate third force, which is present in every situation but generally hidden.
  7. New arisings according to the Law of Three will generally continue to progress according to the Law of Seven.
  8. The idea of third force is found in religion in the concept of the Trinity.
Bourgeault, Cynthia (2013-07-02). The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (pp. 24-25). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

“It does no good whatsoever simply to align oneself with one of the two opposing forces in an attempt to overcome the other. A solution will appear only when third force enters.” (625)

[Todd: Very similar to polarization theory & nonduality.]

“[Attune] oneself…to [the] third force and [strive] to midwife it in the situation at hand.” (625)

At a very broad level, the “law of seven” indicates that there are “stopinders” that are places on a scale or line where energy fades and impulses of energy are needed to push forward.

[Todd: This does seem to correspond to my experience of my fading energy at points of the day. Also, with stages of development. “sophomore slump”]

Law of Three > “World Creation”
Law of Seven > “World Maintenance”

[Todd: (reflecting on quote at 688 ): Is the search for the unified theory kind of the problem? It is a binary.]

[Todd: At 688ff, Gurdjieff sounds like “Rambaldi” from Alias]

Chapter 3: The Law of Three in Action
The third force combines with the other two forces and introduces something completely new.  “Surprise is almost always an element in a genuine LOT unfolding.

The third force is best accessed through an alert, flexible presence that can hold the tension of the opposites.  “Perhaps the most accuurate word to describe the delicate symbiosis at work here would be to say that third force is midwifed, and the midwife is our conscious attention.”

Chapter 4: The Law of Three and the Enneagram
The personality typing version of the enneagram isn’t well respected in Gurdjieffian circles.  They tend to see it more as representative of the LOT & the LOS (law of seven).  Bourgeault is sympathetic to Gurdjieffian laments here, but also holds both teachings in tension in typical nondual fashion.

Points 3 & 6 in the enneagram represent stopinders where energy breaks “and the additional energetic impulse needed to keep things proceeding on course is known as a conscious shock.”  These points are part of the original triangle.

Part Two: Metaphysics in Two and Three
Chapter 5: Blueshift
The “Great Chain of Being” of perennial philosophy is inherently a dualistic system, with God/spirit on one end and matter on the other end.  Christianity, claims Bourgeault, has another metaphysical dimension.  “God does not lose energy by plunging into form.”  If anything, the opposite is true.

Chapter 6: Dynamism
Recent theologians, particularly Bruno Barnhart and Teilhad de Chardin, have emphasized the dynamic ongoing creation God is involved in.
Barnhart: Divinity enters into earthly matter to initiate a new sacramental creation.
de Chardin: Cosmogenesis has become Christogenesis
Recent Trinitarian theologians have also leaned towards a more dynamic version of the orthodox formulation.  Catherine LaCugna, building on Karl Rahner’s assertion that “the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity” she sees the Trinity as the dynamic movement of God in the world.  Raimon Panikkar sees the Trinity as “an icon of the mind of Christ and extends that mind outward as a cosmic principle.”  Beatrice Bruteau sees three as the “prototype and prerequisite” for the expression of divine agape love.  Bourgeault builds on these with the LOT to suggest that “the interweaving of the three produces a forth in a new dimension.”  It adds predictive capacity.  It frees our metaphysics from anthropomorphic language.  Applies universally to all matter, ideas, etc…kosmic in scope. Gives a lens to correct/update orthodox Trinitarian theology bound to a dualistic metaphysic.

Chapter 7: Jacob Boehme, Ternary Master
Jacob Boehme posits something relatively close to the law of three and sees a tertiary structure to the generative love of God that brings all things into being through an interactive process.

I don’t quite understand all the stages of Boehme’s cosmological vision as Bourgeault explains them, but at some level it is a creative process like the law of three.

Bourgeault sees Boehme as articulating the  LOT (law of three) giving rise to a fourth thing, which plays a role in the next tertiary structure.

Chapter 8: Seven Properties, Three Forces
This chapter directly connects LOT to Boehme’s cosmology.

Boehme’s anguish/fire stage links to the third force and is where consciousness arises.  Boehme’s light is the new arising.

According to Boehme, the light is a “counterstroke” – an authentic double of God, now in the dimension of separability.

To prevent something similar to the dualism inherent in the Great Chain of Being, Bourgeault uses the unity (God) as a constant denier position in the next 2 tertiary arisings which works perfectly with the enneagram and LOT/LOS.

Chapter 9: Counterstroke
In Bourgeault’s application of Boehme, the counterstroke is the new arising that also serves as a force in the next tertiary arising.

Part III: The Unfolding Trinity
Chapter 10: The Essential Ground Rules
  1. The interweaving of three produces a fourth in a new dimension.
  2. New arising from the former triad becomes holy reconciling in the new triad.
  3. Holy denying (second force) will always be played by the divine Unmanifest.
  4. New arising in any triad is a counterstroke of the now-displaced holy affirming from the former triad.

Bourgeault, Cynthia (2013-07-02). The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (pp. 131-132). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

Chapter 11: Stage 1: The Proto-Trinity
In undifferentiated unity, there is no self-awareness. The yearning for full divine self-awareness is the “driveshaft” of the divine movement towards outward manifestation.

Boehme: the perceiving of the Unity is called love.

“Consciousness is born on the rack of desire and its frustration.”

Chapter 12: Stage 2: The Primordial Trinity
Triangle can be read here as Father (denying), Spirit (affirming), and son (reconciling)

Also, Unmanifest (d)
Manifesting (a)
Manifested (r)

Word emerges as counterstroke to desire.

God as unmanifest always retains denying position,  which presents an emanationist creation.
Perceptivity follows quickly.
What Boehme calls light/love, Bourgeault calls “Heart of God”
Boehme’s term Christosophia

Chapter 13: Stage 3: The Sophianic Trinity
Word becomes manifested (r)
Heart of God manifesting (a)
Substatiality is new arising.

Heart of God (love) is now what calls all things into being.

Citing Tomberg, B suggests science will ultimately reveal not just that matter is condensed energy, but also of condensed consciousness or spirit, but wants to “blueshift” this claim.

The initial Incarnational move into the created order is mercy.  It is an actual substance, a very subtle energy, the very foundation of our souls.

Extended Merton quote on the spark of Divinity within.

Related to Tomberg quote, Holy Substantiality is the counterstroke of perceptivity.

Chapter 14: The Incarnational Trinity
In the 4th triad, we are in time.  Jesus is the new arising, substantiality is (r), word/Spirit is (a).  Jesus is the counterstroke of love.

B sees HS & Father & Mary (immaculate conception) as containing metaphysical truth.

Chapter 15: The Messianic Trinity

5th trinity assumes orthodox filioque position.
“Pneumatic corporeity”
In spring, nature prepares “the nuptial banquet” of the manifestation of the HS in the 10 days of the Ascensiontide.
The Ascensiontide is the “Harrowing of Heaven” – a parallel mirror to the “Harrowing of Hell” – “he descended into hell…”
“Ever hereafter in the realms of being, the encounter with the Holy Spirit will be a personal encounter with Jesus.”

Bourgeault, Cynthia (2013-07-02). The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (p. 168). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

“Transfigured eros is the immortal diamond fused at the very heart of the density of this world. It can be fused only here, under these extreme conditions of density and pressure.”  (TNH: Is this what Tomberg and B mean when they claim that matter isn’t simply condensed energy, but also condensed consciousness)

Bourgeault, Cynthia (2013-07-02). The Holy Trinity and the Law of Three: Discovering the Radical Truth at the Heart of Christianity (p. 169). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.

Chapter 16: The Pentecostal Trinity
Kingdom of God is the new arising, HS is (r) & Son (body of Christ) is (a)
See several highlighted quotes in book
Chapter 17: The Economic Trinity
Oikonomia, or divine plan, is new arising.  KOG is (r), HS is (a)
(TNH – There is something similar to dispensationalism about all of this…)
We’re moving towards a subtler form of corporeal existence.  Blueshift movement compresses the raw materials of physical time and space into “spiritual artistry.”
“We do not begin our journey with a soul, but end up with one.”
We lose nothing of our body in entering the more subtle realm of spirit.
Chapter 18: The Reflexive Trinity