Monthly Archives: May 2017

Forgiveness and Daily Standups

Recently, I wrote about forgiveness.

I made a comment in there about how it was super-important to make regular forgiveness a cornerstone of your management technique.

Forgiveness is so important because it allows your people to take calculated risks, with the knowledge that they can make mistakes that will be forgiven.

Like how brakes on a car allow you to go faster[0], forgiveness of error allows people to take larger risks, to go faster.

It’s also similar the to risk/reward tradeoffs that people make while investing. If you can’t forgive yourself for the large drawdown, you will never make the large returns.

So, these are nice words, but how do you do this?

First, I want to focus on one of the words I wrote above: ‘regular’. Specifically, ‘regular forgiveness’.

I first learned this from my undergrad thesis supervisor[1]. Every single meeting we had, no matter how much I had accomplished since the last meeting, he would always talk about where we were right now, and what the next step was. It felt like a safe space, where I was not going to be judged, and I’ve tried to bring this to all of my teams since.

Fundamentally, people worry about being embarrassed and being judged, by their manager, by their peers, or people that they don’t even know[2].

Daily standups can help you remind your team that they everything is okay on a daily basis. Think about it. That regular contact is telling your entire team not just that they’re important, but also telling them that you know what they’re doing, and you approve. It gives them that solid floor underneath them that they can jump from every day, knowing that you and your whole team are waiting and willing to catch them tomorrow if they fall.

You can do this today, with your daily standup, or your weekly meeting. “Where are we right now? What is our next step?” It might take a while for people to unwind, but if you give them time, they will see that you mean it. It is powerful once it works.

The fear of being judged by people you don’t know is the most difficult to fix with this method. You can help someone understand that you will not judge them for things they do, and it’s somewhat more difficult (but totally doable) to create and reinforce that culture at your site, but it’s much more difficult to convince someone that they person that they’ve never met, perhaps on the other side of the world, won’t judge them for asking a stupid question or wasting their time.

All you can really do for this is to make a local culture of acceptance and non-judgement, so that people at least have a safe space to jump off from to take their risks.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention gender and cultural issues. I’m not enough of an expert on either of these to really comment in depth, but all of the above are often more difficult (sometimes much more difficult) for those who are not part of the dominant power group in a society.

As a general rule, think about how tense you get when asking your boss about something. Now, what if that was your boss’s boss? Now think about for each type of privilege that you don’t have, you add one level of hierarchy and tension.

So, for you, asking your boss is like, well, asking your boss. But for your female co-worker, asking her boss might be as difficult as you asking your boss’s boss.

This is why it is so important to make your organization’s culture as accepting and non-judgemental and as forgiving as possible, because you never know how much more difficult it is for the person sitting next to you to do the things that you might do every day.

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

[0]Thanks, Jay!

[1]Thanks, Brad!

[2]I’m not actually sure which of these is a stronger fear.


Recently, I wrote about forgiveness, and how important it was in my achieving a deeper understanding of meditation.

Forgiveness is an interesting topic, going back millenia. Sun Tzu wrote about it in the context of magnanimity: “Treat the captives well, and care for them. This is called “winning a battle and becoming stronger.”

One could also argue that all of Ancient Greek literature is a lesson on why forgiveness is so important.

In some readings, forgiveness was one of the virtues of Hinduism.

Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and many other religious and cultural traditions also have many things to say about the importance of forgiveness[1].

However, one could argue that forgiveness is most important and truly central to Christianity. The oft-cited Parable of the Prodigal Son speaks of the power of love to enable forgiveness (and also apparently of the importance of emotional conversation between parents and children, but I digress).

The reason I mention all of this is to give context for forgiveness. When I was growing up, it was a common concept[2], but I don’t really think I internalized it. It’s from my undergrad thesis adviser that I take my canonical example of forgiving the people working for you, and making a daily or weekly clean slate, so that you can do your best work[3].

I took this example with me, and I think helped a lot as I led teams in a variety of ways. But I had never really thought about forgiving myself.

I mentioned earlier that if you want to truly relax, to meditate, to be in your body, inside yourself, you need to have a safe space inside yourself.

But if you have not forgiven yourself, if you are constantly criticizing yourself on the inside, you do not have that safe space, and are prone to self-medicate in various ways[4]

I cannot tell you how to forgive yourself. The power of much of organized religion is that it promises to give you that forgiveness that you cannot achieve yourself.

But I can tell you something of why it is important, and how I got there. All of this arose when I was involved in a dispute. Emotions were running high, and it was distracting me from everything that I find important. Somewhere around then, G suggested that I forgive them. It’s similar to letting something go, to letting the emotions roll over you. This helped my isolate my emotions (my reaction) from what was happening outside me. I understood that I could not control what happened outside me, but I could control myself.

This helped a lot, but it was still predicated on controlling myself, not fully trusting my emotions. Still avoiding my inner thoughts because they were still not a safe space.

This last breakthrough came through a guided meditation, where I was already in a physical and mental safe space, where I was given the permission to forgive myself. I am not going to give you that permission, because I cannot. Only you can give yourself that permission. But know that you have the power to do so, somewhere inside yourself.

“Give a person forgiveness, and they will forever be asking you for such. Teach a person to forgive themself, and they shall become more serene than you can possibly imagine.”

[1]You could even argue that the Babylonian code of laws was an early attempt at forgiveness, where ‘eye for an eye’ was more forgiving than a centuries-long blood feud. Note that this link to an article on this topic is rather lurid and not for the squeamish: [link]

[2]I even went to church for a while when I was younger, and I always enjoyed the construction of the line ‘forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’.

[3]I will likely write more about this. I think it’s super-important.

[4]Any distraction will do. Not sleeping, workoholism, Oblivion, and running are among the more socially acceptable ones.

A Guided Meditation

This was inspired by a guided ‘being in your body’ meditation with Gorett, my life coach. You may also be interested in my previous post on this. Anyway, here goes:

First, you want to be wholly in your body.

Close your eyes, and make yourself comfortable.

Walk through each of your senses, and see what each of them are saying.

You may still see some colour, depending on how much light there is where you are. You may see some bright spots and dark spots, depending on what you were last looking at. Watch them. Watch them fade as your eyes acclimatize to being closed. You may see some of the sparkle patterns or moving objects that happen sometimes when you close your eyes. Watch them for a while. See how they move. Acknowledge them. Understand that they happen and that that is okay.

Next, figure out what your ears are telling you. You may hear someone in the next room, a siren in the distance, the beating of your heart. What do you smell? Is it a familiar smell? Is there anything at all? Can you smell yourself? Sometimes you can smell the inside of your own nose, similar to how you can see the inside of your eyelids. Acknowledge these things, glory in them, let them wash over you.

What are you tasting? Is it the thing you just ate? The mint from the toothpaste? Something else? Acknowledge it. Experience it fully, let it wash over you.

Where is your body? Think about each of your limbs and where they are. Are you sitting down? Lying down? Experience it fully and let it wash over you.

What are you touching? Are your hands in your lap? What is the sensation of your hands on your legs? Feel your hands, your lower arms, your upper arms as they come out of your shoulder. Flex your shoulders just a little bit to remind them that they’re alive. Feel the sensations as your muscles move. Now relax your shoulders, your arms. Feel your toes. What are they feeling? Feel your feet, your ankles, your calves, your knees, your thighs. Feel your pelvis, your hips, rotate them just slightly to know they’re there, to put them in a slightly more comfortable spot. Feel your lower belly, think about what you most recently ate, and let it go. Take a deep breath and let it go. Feel your heart beating. Feel your breath in and out. In and out. Move your shoulders again. Feel your neck, feel your ears, the hair on the back of your head, your chin, your mouth, your nose, your cheeks, your eyes, all the way to the follicles on the top of your head.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out.

You are in a safe space now. You may be hearing a voice right now, telling you things about yourself that you don’t want to hear, that you have something lacking. Acknowledge that voice, feel it fully, experience it, and let it go. Breathe in, experience it, breathe out, let it go. Breathe in, feel it, breathe out, let it go.

You are now allowed to forgive yourself. We are forgiving ourselves for many reasons. We could talk about absolution, we could speak of religion, or spirituality, but here we are forgiving ourselves because the voice in our head is getting in the way of us doing the things we want to do. Acknowledge the voice, experience it, forgive it. Breathe in, breathe out. This is a safe space of forgiveness.

Be in your body. Check in on your body, are you still comfortable? Things may have shifted. Move yourself a little bit to make yourself a little bit more comfortable.

Breathe in, breathe out. You are in a safe space. Acknowledge, fully experience, forgive, let go. Breathe in, breathe out. You are in a safe space. Acknowledge, fully experience, forgive, let go. Breathe in, breathe out. You are in a safe space. Acknowledge, fully experience, forgive, let go.

Now, on your own time, you can take as much time as you want, you can open your eyes and share with me how you are feeling, what you might be thinking. On your own time, take as much time as you want.

Flowing Around Obstacles

When I was working at the University, I would teach safety to each of the undergrad classes.

For me, part of teaching safety was helping the students find a mental space where they could act in a safe way in the lab.

Every time that I made a serious mistake, or I was hurt at work, it was when I felt time pressure, that my emotions were high, that I was rushing.

I talked about a few tactics to help with reducing the tendency to rush, including the importance of proper preparation and planning. Even as the people running the lab, proper preparation and scheduling during the lab turned a 4 hour marathon into a much more manageable 2.5 hour run. Having all of the participants also being prepared would only help this further.

Perhaps knowing that not all students would have prepared for all of the labs they would encounter, I also talked about general tactics for dealing with strong emotions in a setting where they could prove dangerous. Interestingly, looking back, it shares a lot in common with how I now think about meditation[1].

I would tell that what I did when I wanted to deal with strong emotion in a setting where that was not useful was to take all of the emotion in, to experience it fully, and then let it go[2].

I internally sometimes use the analogy of “water off a duck’s back”, but I think a far more apt analogy is how a cat feels when you accidentally do something to it. It feels the emotions immediately, reacts, and then goes back to sleeping or cleaning itself, or whatever else it was doing.

Fully experience the emotion, then let it go.

This brings me to the title of this post, ‘Flowing around obstactles’.

Last time, I wrote about writer’s block and the obstacles of tiredness and the fear of not doing justice to the topics that speak to you the most.

I talked about flow, the idea that you know that the obstacles are there, but you aren’t letting them affect you emotionally. It’s not a rigid or brittle ‘not letting’, more of a ‘letting them flow around you’.

Growing up, I focused on the concept of “don’t let it affect you”, which is effective at pushing things aside and allowing you to focus on the thing in front of you, but it isn’t very helpful at helping you to determine exactly what should be the thing in front of you.

More recently, with my life coach, we worked on relaxing into working through obstacles[3].

This feels similar to letting emotions flow into, around, then out of you.

You acknowledge them, but they seem to have no power over you. You have your essential self that you have found parts of and are piecing together, and the obstacles are of no moment, and you can flow around them, or they flow around you.

It’s not that the obstacles disappear, or are non-existent. It’s not that they don’t matter emotionally. You can see that you have emotions about them, but you can flow through that to the state where you can focus on solving the problem. It’s similar to understanding how your emotions or hackles can be raised in a situation, but it has nothing to do with the person in front of you[4]. You notice this, you flow around and through the emotions, you find the root cause, and you solve the problem.

Good examples escape me right now, but I think you get the idea. Either way, comment below!

Next time, we’ll talk about forgiveness and the essential self. Stay tuned!

[1]And the Flame and the Void, which some people have tried in real life, with interesting results.

[2]Experienced readers will note that this is an interesting counterpoint to how I was raised, which was to ‘not let it affect you’, with subtle but important differences.

[3]Somewhat similar to re-incorporating your shadow, relaxing, and becoming more whole.

[4]It’s probably the patriarchy.

Being in Your Body

Very recently, I came to a personal epiphany about meditation. I had known about it since time immemorial, had friends who extolled its virtues, and had heard about the relevant scientific studies, but had never really understood it myself.

Similar to how salmon skin rolls were my introduction to sushi, I would end up discovering meditation from an unexpected direction. One day at life coaching, my life coach and I were working on ways to help me deal with an upcoming stressful event, when we came upon the idea to do a guided exercise of ‘being in my body’.

Coming out of the exercise, I was extremely relaxed. The way I see it, part of it is the relaxation from sitting in one place, actually listening to your body and how it’s uncomfortable, and dealing with that, but most of it comes from finding all of the things which are affecting you, all the things you are paying attention to without realizing it[1]. You use meditation to find these things, make them conscious, then you can deal with them or let them wash over you. Either way, you can move beyond them. In the limit, you can do a guided meditation, then when you come out of it, you may notice things which were bothering you in a much more conscious way, allowing you to deal with them more easily.

‘Being in your body’ was a much more accessible phrase for me than ‘meditation’, perhaps because it was a new phrase, or a much simpler phrase, without any of the social and cultural attachments of ‘meditation’. ‘Meditation’ always felt very abstract, something that you would do with your mind only, something that you would do in an uncomfortable position in a boring way. Doing it in a trusting environment in a comfortable position I think was key for me. ‘Being in your body’ was also key. A vital part of the process (for me, at least), is being/becoming aware of as many parts of your body that you can, and acknowledging their effects on you[2]. So, for me, at least at the start, it is much more about body consciousness than mind consciousness[3].

The other key for me was forgiveness. IIRC, G made the connection that many people find it difficult to accept failures in themselves, and they can further find it very difficult to forgive themselves for these failures. When you cannot forgive yourself inside your own head, it is no longer a safe space, and you no longer want to spend time there. So, you might spend time distracting yourself, you might self-medicate in any one of a number of ways.

But the first step towards solving this is to understand what is going on, to understand what you are saying to yourself all of the time. Then you need to allow yourself that safe space inside your head by forgiving yourself. I don’t have a magic answer here (although I plan to write on forgiveness later), all I can say is what worked for me. What might help is understanding that the words you say to yourself may not originally be your own, and differentiating between these words and what you actually feel may help you forgive yourself.

Either way, after going through this, when I got home, S told me that seemed almost asleep standing up, I was so relaxed. I know I didn’t feel asleep, just very relaxed and at peace.

– Be in your body
– Forgive yourself
– Relax

Thanks for reading! Just writing about that helped me relive/re-experience some of those feelings, and I’m feeling much more relaxed.

[1]Cf. Getting Things Done’s ‘Open Loops’ writ large.

[2]I understand that this inconsistently reductionist and simplistic. I imagine that most of my writing is this way. After this exercise, I am at peace with this. 😀

[3]This is also reductionist and wrong, but beyond the scope.

How do you Stop Yourself From Acting?

I’ve been working on a number of posts, now that I feel that I can start writing again. It so happens that I’m feeling (I think) a little more tired than usual[1], and so it feels slightly more difficult than usual to put words to electronics.

So, I’m working on a number of posts, each of them with perhaps a paragraph or two so far. A couple of them have really poignant titles, that really speak to me. Titles so near and dear to my heart that I’m afraid to publish something that isn’t perfect. So, I start another post instead of publishing something.

It is this fear of not being good enough, a falling out of trust with my own ability that is stopping me right now. Or rather, it isn’t, as I seem to have found a way around it.

It involves trying things, trying different channels of thought until I find one where the words flow well enough from my fingertips. I think it helps that I’ve had that feeling before.

I’m tempted to make a sequel to something I’ve already done[2], but interestingly, this feels even easier. I think it may be because struggling with uploading pictures to WordPress is such a bear.

Anyways, words flowing from fingers. Following the flow wherever it takes you. You see the shoals of writer’s block, of tiredness, and you sit down, fully accept them, then playfully try different things until you find something that just flows around them as if the obstacles weren’t there at all.

More on that later. Happy creating!

[1]Who knows what is actually happening, with the amazing ability of the brain to convince you that you don’t need to be doing things.

[2]Anything on this blog entitled ‘Burning Man in Pictures’.


noun: “playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor.” (OED)

To me, it speaks of playfulness, perhaps some randomness, a willingness to play along and see where things go. Perhaps somewhere between the Pkunk and Dirk Gently.

If you played the old M:tG ‘Shandalar’ computer game[1], you may remember this card.

But I’m speaking of whimsy today because I had recently noticed that I had been feeling much less of it my life, due to some stressful circumstances that (I think) have now dissipated. You may have been following my writing for a while, and this is a large part of why I have not written in months, with the few sporadic mostly-picture posts being the most that I could put together.

I’ve been working with my life coach for some time now, on a number of things. One of the largest ones was finding space to create. I had spent a lot of time focusing on making physical and temporal space for creation, but had forgotten about creating the mental space, to be able to deal with distractions.

I almost said ‘push away’ distractions, but similar to the discussion of Saidin and Saidar, pushing away distractions is okay as a crutch, but being able to relax into the flow is much more powerful.

Either way, I’m excited to be feeling creative again, and have some ideas[2] about how to keep this going, even through the next set of distractions that will inevitably crop up.

It’s going to be an interesting year, thanks for being here with me.

-Nayrb 😀

[1]Still one of my favourite games of all time, and I think, even with all its faults, the best M:tG computer game.

[2]Interestingly, a bunch of these are around meditation, which I feel I only discovered very recently.