Saturday, August 26, 2023

Be Sides

I understand that not everyone likes math but stay with me for a few minutes!  In high school Geometry, we memorized many theorems -- and maybe, understood some of them!  What caught my interest were the shapes of objects and the formulas that helped to measure these objects:  squares, circles, triangles...  and all their variations -- rectangles, trapezoids, spheres and cylinders (if we moved into three-dimensional objects).

The intersection of art (image) and science (measurement) intrigued me, especially when I heard similar observations in Biology and the other sciences.  Example: how nautilus shells and some flowers follow geometric patterns and measurements.

When are you -- we -- in equilibrium?
(Photo credit: Sides of Equal Length, SplashLearn)

No matter what age we are, we can still learn from math, science, art, and the social sciences.  For instance, observe the current discussion -- or lack of discussion -- surrounding what "woke culture" means or when is it appropriate to teach or learn certain subjects or DEI initiatives (diversity, equity, and inclusion).  Instead of allowing curiosity and exploration to guide us through each of these topics, people are demanding -- sometimes dictating and legislating -- one side or the other.

We are no longer focusing on theorems that need to be tested (methods we learned in school).  Instead, we are talking about who controls narratives, beliefs, and historical perspectives.

When do we invite others into our inner circle?
(Photo credit:  Bring People Together,
Growing Great Schools Worldwide)

As in last week's blog, Sides (click here to read), dialogue brings people together NOT to win people over... to one side or another... to a certain way of thinking... or to accept a specific value system.  Dialogue provides opportunities for us to hear or experience another idea, perspective, belief, or conclusion.

This interaction does not take away choice of -- or control over -- a Way of Being.  Rather, it invites us into the possibility of expanding... to stand beside (Be Side) a different way of being... to compare... to stay open... and then to choose.  

But the true choice is to stay in relationship... that is, to dialogue!

Are you and your ideas at the table for dialogue?
(Photo credit, Exchanging Ideas
in the Boardroom
, Unsplash)

What emerges from dialogue might be understanding, curiosity, and more questions.  I notice that when I slow down my need for control or don't close the opportunities too quickly, another option emerges: how to stay in relationship!

Our invitation this week is to stand beside another person and see what she or he is seeing.  What questions arise? 

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, August 19, 2023


Do you remember as elementary school students when we were asked to "choose sides"... for sports teams, spelling bees, or to form study groups?  It was one thing when "the adult" (teacher or coach) selected the sides: Usually, it was based on where you sat in the classroom or "odd versus even" numbers.  The process to divide us seemed more random.

For physical education, though, team captains or leaders were appointed by the coach and these two people got to select their teams.  In these situations, many of us were chosen later in the process or at the very end.  Friendships or physical skills were key factors in being selected.

Whose side are you on?
(Photo credit:  quote by Veera Hiranandani, QuoteFancy)

There are many examples of how our society creates sides or divides us: professional sports, political parties, health status, age, religious and cultural groups... not to mention skin color and ideologies.

We cheer on our chosen groups and boo or ridicule "the Others."  We compete to win, and oftentimes we want to beat others.  We sit with or only listen to those on our team, in our party, or those who think like us.

Unlike grade school, though, when we went back to our seats after the spelling bee or contest -- re-forming ourselves back into "Our Class" or "Classmates" -- we remain separated in this Real World we co-inhabit.

Where would you sit?
(Photo credit:  Taking Sides, DepositPhotos)

Is divide and conquer part of our human nature?  Was it a survival skill we picked up along the way?  Or is something else emerging in our society where out-casting members of our race has become the norm? (Think of recent reality shows where voting people off the island and "You're Fired!" are now part of our lexicon.)

As a project leader at work, I had teams of people focused on specific tasks and outcomes.  Once we had accomplished our goals, people would return to their departments.  New teams were formed when other projects were identified.  There was continual movement of separating and coming together -- contracting and expanding -- based on the collective needs of the organization.

Do you find it difficult to not take a side?
(Photo credit:  Taking Sides, DepositPhotos)

The purpose of dialogue isn't to convert people over to your views or values.  Rather, listening and trying to understand another perspective opens all of us to possibilities:   Either-Or might transform into Both-And; Win-Lose could become Win-Win.

It's the elasticity of the rubber band that allows it to expand and surround whatever it gathers and holds.  When the band becomes too old and brittle or when it is stretched beyond what it can hold, it will break.

 I wonder where our elasticity is these days as we listen to people who think and act differently than us.  Are we too brittle and ready to break?  Or are we willing to nurture the elasticity that will hold us all together?

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Learning to Fly

I can remember the moment I learned I could fly!  As a child and into adulthood, I loved to run.  One day our family was picnicking at Mt. Madonna Park outside Watsonville, CA.  We were climbing around and exploring the old ruins of Henry Miller's summer home.  (Miller had been a local cattle baron in the early 20th century.)

Our young imaginations were rebuilding the house: the porch, living room, kitchen, and bedrooms.   What was it like to live on top of this mountain decades before?

I began running down the hill, leaping into the air as I ran.  I covered large swaths of the downward slope with each leap.  It felt like I was flying!

My parents were shouting words of caution -- about being careful, slowing down, not falling or twisting an ankle. But I survived... and reached the bottom of the trail way ahead of anyone else!

Do you believe in yourself?
(Photo credit:  Taking a Leap of Faith in Yourself,
Lakefront Psychology)

This memory came back several years later when I was on my high school's cross-country team.  A county-wide race was scheduled at Mt. Madonna, covering the trail that I flew down years before.  What was different?  I was competing against people much better than me!

The exuberance of childhood had been replaced by coached strategies of when to pass an opponent, ways to conserve or apply energy, and how to psyche out another runner.  The freedom of flying was gone.  Rather than reaching the end of the race ahead of everyone else, I felt that I had failed to fly.

What words of caution undermine our confidence?
(Photo credit:  What Failing Students Want
Us to Remember
, Edutopia)

Now, many years past those high school competitions, I still remember when I could fly... and when I could not.

We carry these messages of freedom, hope, caution, and being grounded throughout life.  It seems to be the human experience of understanding our Unlimited Spirits of creativity, energy, love, and connection encased in our Limited Bodies.

What would you say if you could fly?
(Photo credit:  What if I Fall? poem, Erin Hanson)

How then do we fly again? Through listening, encouraging, dreaming, imagining, and creating a better world of possibilities and opportunities... for family, friends, work colleagues... and strangers.

Our invitation is to believe in one another!  Let’s learn to fly… together!

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)


Saturday, August 5, 2023


Moral codes are interesting:  as we grow up, our parents and teachers try to explain and demonstrate the difference between Right and Wrong.  As we gain in life experience, we learn that other countries and cultures might see a situation differently.  Where does that leave us?

As an example, look at the death penalty.  Many religions teach of the sacredness of life, yet some allow exceptions when a person steps grievously outside the norms of society.  Some countries no longer execute their citizens but many U.S. states insist that the death penalty is a deterrence against violent crime and serves justice.  Where does that leave us?

What interests me about moral codes is how we internalize them:  that is, how the code becomes individualized when the finger points at us and when we choose to rationalize our own behavior.  Where does that leave us?

What does it feel like to be accused?
(Photo credit: Put an End to Blaming and Shaming,
Center for Compassionate Leadership)

If you drive a car or e-bike or scooter or bike, let me ask a question:

Do you follow all of the laws and safety codes (e.g., wearing seat belts; following speed limits; signaling; not texting; not driving intoxicated; staying in bike lanes; wearing helmets...)?

As you ask yourself this question, what are the thoughts or reasons that surface:

  • I drove slightly above the speed limit because I was late for work or getting the children to school.
  • It was a yellow light and barely turned red; I knew I could make it through safely.
  • It was important that I answer that phone call or text.
And how about:  "It's okay until I get caught" -- or -- "Everyone does it"!

Have your words or actions indicted you?
(Photo credit:  Creative Commons Indictment Image, pix4free)

I guess we could talk about the difference between moral codes and driving laws, but I wonder how we would listen or discuss the implications of right and wrong in each situation?  What is driving us to defend our self-indicted actions?
For instance, one idea might be an ideal that guides our way of thinking (Theory Espoused) and the other is the practical reality, our actions (Theory-in-Use).
Where does that leave us when these two aren't aligned?

What are we learning about ourselves?
(Photo credit:  Lessons for PR Pros..., prnewsonline)

I am sure you can guess why this theme is on my mind these days!  We are living in an unusual time when the very concepts of right and wrong are being questioned; when truth and lies are blurring; and where real and fake no longer have meaning.
Though we were raised not to talk about religion and politics, it seems that these are the very subjects where our dialogue skills could be practiced.
Questions to consider:
  • Is it important that society have norms and standards?
  • How do we collectively determine what is right and wrong?
  • What happens in a pluralistic and multicultural society when individuals do not adhere to the same norms and standards?
May we take a closer look at ourselves this week and self-indict where our actions could align better with the ideals we espouse as Americans and people of goodwill.

Larry Gardepie

(click on link for website)