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Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions (book 9 of 12)

Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions (book 9 of 12)

September 29, 2019
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“The way to power is by giving, not by taking.”

I got it from Sara. She read it, marking the pages where she found little gems of wisdom and insight, and then mailed it to me.  And I, in turn, made it one of my twelve English books of the year: Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes. The book was first published the year I was born, 1972, and the copy I was gifted is an enriched classic published 1994.

“A fascinating story” is a blurb by Library Journal included in the preface. And yes. It is. Spanning high and low, delving into Lame Deers personal life as well as ancient stories such as that of White Buffalo Woman, dipping a toe into the use of herbs as medicine and components of rituals, and much more.

There are several passages I found of great interest, here are two providing me with great amounts of tankespjärn:
“A medicine man shouldn’t be a saint. He should experience and feel all the ups and downs, the despair and joy, the magic and the reality, the courage and the fear, of his people. He should be able to sink as low as a bug, or soar as high as an eagle. Unless he can experience both, he is no good as a medicine man. Sickness, jail, poverty, getting drunk – I had to experience all that myself. Sinning makes the world go round. You can’t be so stuck up, so inhuman that you want to be pure, your soul wrapped up in a plastic bag, all the time. You have to be God and the devil, both of them. Being a good medicine man means being right in the midst of the turmoil, not shielding yourself from it. It means experiencing life in all its phases. It means not being afraid of cutting up and playing the fool now and then. That’s sacred too.
Nature, the Great Spirit – they are not perfect. The world couldn’t stand that perfection. The spirit has a good side and a bad side. Sometimes the bad side gives me more knowledge than the good side.”

“This kind of medicine man is neither good nor bad. He lives – and that’s it, that’s enough. White people pay a preacher to be ‘good’, to behave himself in public, to wear a collar, to keep away from a certain kind of woman. But nobody pays an Indian medicine man to be good, to behave himself and be respectable. The wicasa wakan just acts like himself. He has been given the freedom – the freedom of a tree or a bird. That freedom can be beautiful or ugly; it doesn’t matter much.”

How different this is to the way the culture of the world I perceive myself a part look at it. We strive for goodness, for the perfect gurus, damning each and everyone forever if there were ever a speck of dust marring their perfect image. We do it for politicians and business leaders, for holy men and women and artists, for anyone we want to put on a pedestal.

Being put on a pedestal, never be allowed to slip up, make a mistake, falter. Neither here and now, in the future nor for that matter, in times gone by.  Could there ever be a position I’d want less than that one?


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2019, to read and blog about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, one every other week, books that I already own.

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Professional capital – Transforming teaching in every school (book 2 of 12)

February 24, 2019
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Professional capital – Transforming teaching in every school.
A book by Alan Hargreaves and Michael Fullan.

“In the end, nobody can give you professional capital. It’s an investment. […] Nobody’s going to be prepared to invest in anyone unless they are willing to invest in themselves. This is by far the best place, and indeed the first place, to begin.” 

I remember a coachwalk I had with a client, who got a massive insight into exactly this: how he had mistakenly believed that it was the sole responsibility of his employer to invest in him, rather than something he also had responsibility for. By (also) investing in himself, he would be increasing his own human and professional capital, serving both himself as well as his current, and future, employers.

“Working with big ballroom audiences, or conducting training workshops outside of school or using one-to-one coaching to enforce compliance with imposed programs, has little deep or long-standing impact on teachers’ daily practice.
What is crucial is what happens between workshops. Who tries things out? Who supports you? Who gives you feedback? Who picks you up when you make a mistake the first time? Who else can you learn from? How can you take responsibility for change together? The key variable that determines success in any innovation, in other words, is the degree of social capital in the culture of your own school Learning is the work, and social capital is the fuel. If social capital is weak, everything else is destined for failure.”

As I have been working with Pernilla Tillander with all pre-school as well as all school-staff in the commune of Skurup in the south of Sweden during 2017-2018, I am totally onboard here. We have done four half-day workshops with all staff (in groups of maximum 70 people), spread out over two semesters, with process leaders following up b e t w e e n the modules – and those follow-up sessions have been absolutely critical for the success of the personal group development we were hired to provide! Because the truth is this: we can provide an opportunity for personal group development through leadership training. But we, me and Pernilla, are not the ones who makes it happen for real, that is up to the participants. We do our bit of the work, of course, but the rest is up to the participants. They have to do the work: “The best place to begin is always with yourself. Your own experiences, frustrations, ideals, and sense of self are the crucial starting points.”

Now, this is a book with a lot of good stuff. It’s well laid out and presented, and ends with clear and concise suggestions for developing roadmaps ahead, on three levels, for teachers; for school and district administrators; and for state, government and union/federation leaders. And I definitely think there’s a lot of value to be had, in making the suggested changes to ensure a growing and continuously evolving professional capital. (And honestly, they do target teaching and education, but there’s plenty of value for any person, organization or workplace interested in culture and development through learning better, more and continuously.)

Hargreaves and Fullan push all the way to the edges of the box I call the school system. But boy would I like to see them push beyond those edges! Now that would be something extraordinary, that’s for sure. Because although they are great at prodding sore spots, identifying areas that must be transformed…. they are still locked within the paradigm of schools, in the way schools are, and have been, since they were first created. They do make a pass at the unit of the lesson but fail to take their own advice, never fully making a pass at the unit of schools.

“The unit of the lesson that Hattie adopts as the standard currency of teaching and schooling is more than a century old. Yet, lessons have never been the only unit of teaching and they will likely become less and less the unit of teaching in the future. […] If we are saying that it is outdated to base teachers’ contracts on class sizes, using the class as the unit of calculation, then we have to acknowledge that among administrators and researchers, the lesson may be and should be becoming equally outdated as the unit of teaching and learning too.”

Don’t you agree with me that it would be very interesting to see them take this critical viewpoint up a notch or two, encompassing the entire system of schooling and education?


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2019, to read and blog about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, one every other week, books that I already own.

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Advent Calendar 20 – Time and patience

December 20, 2018
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My youngest cooked dinner tonight. I had asked him and added the extra challenge that I wanted him to make a new dish, which he did. Once he was finished, and we were eating, astonished he realized a full hour had gone by.

And yes. Of course. Cooking from scratch takes time in and of itself for me as well, but I’ve practiced chopping onion way more than he has. So I told him as much, telling him that’s one of the reasons why I want him to help with cooking dinner. It will give him the necessary practice, and in time, he will get more and more skilled at it. All of it. Deciding what to cook, checking to see that all the ingredients are available, planning what do do when while cooking, and finally the joy of sitting down to eat a homecooked meal.

And yes. Of course. If I had taken over the onion-chopping chore, it would have gone a bit quicker. But that’s where patience comes in. For me. Because if I had taken over, impatient and hungry, he wouldn’t be learning, would he? Things take time. And sometimes those things take patience to endure.

Being gentle has me being patient with myself. And those around me. It’s a vital ingredient of growing, of learning. Letting time work in my favor, allowing skills to get honed. My lindy hop-dancing is another example. I attended a beginners weekend a month ago, and have since attended four social dance events, held Wednesdays in my hometown. Have signed up for the B-level class in the spring, and so look forward to it. Because I know, that with a gentle mind, time and patience, I will get better at it. I mean, I am already better than I was a month ago, because practice makes if-not-perfect, then at least better. Without the two factors of time and patience (and curiosity, a willingness to learn, to try, to learn from mistakes and many other factors of learning!) learning would not happen, as I wouldn’t be giving myself a chance to learn.

And I want to. I love learning new stuff! (You too?)


Advent Calendar 2018 – number 20 of 24 – on the theme of being gentle.

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On the issue of the day

November 20, 2018
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I often return to blog posts of the past. My blog posts of the past. As I’ve been blogging for 6 years – more or less daily for 5 of those years – there are quite a few blog posts to choose from.

When there’s an interesting article or question or observation asked, many times I am reminded of something I’ve written that is relevant to whatever prompted the connection being made in my mind. So I search for it (and oftentimes find what I am looking for. Not always though) and can share what I’ve written and pondered about… about whatever really. Fear. Mistakes. Dancing. Coaching. Existential questions. Anything really!

And what is apparent, is how timeless many of my posts are. They can be recent or have 5 years to them, and still be as relevant today as when I wrote them. It’s not valid for all of them though, and listening to Seth Godin on Good Life Project, I got some insight into why that is. Seth was telling Jonathan Fields about “the issue of the day” and how he makes a point n o t to write about is – in specifics (listen from about 49 minutes in):

I care enough about my vision of the world that if I thought that I could change the way we did things by blogging about it, specifically, I would do it. But I feel like, a) chiming in on the issue of the day is a trap because it protects us from having to take responsibility for a larger view. […]
I think you can read at least half my blog posts as political, but none of them are saying Today, I think this person is wrong and this person is right, because as soon as I do that it’s so easy to ignore what I said because I am not on the right team, what ever team you want to be on. And so, I don’t want to play that sort of short-term tribal thing. Instead I want to say thank you to people from where ever you are coming from for giving me two minutes of your time, think about this. And if you think about this and still want to support that, well that’s your choice because you are a grown-up. Because I don’t believe what you believe, I don’t know what you know, I don’t want what you want. But here, here is a thought that feels to me coherent, and hard to argue with, and I notice things, do you notice this? And I know that that kind of input has influenced my life coming up, particularly as a teenager and surely thereafter, way more than when someone says this person is right, that person is wrong.

This is truly food for thought for me, and in how and what I write. Because I do chime in, now and again, on the specifics of the issues of the day. And those are posts that have a much shorter lifespan than posts that take the larger view.

I love how a new thought can open up for new perspectives – will this lead to changes in how and what I write? Or not?

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Key person of influence (book 7 of 26)

April 8, 2018
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Key person of influenceKey person of influence, by Daniel Priestley. A book gifted to me by my friend Michael Sillion, aka Captain Future. He gave it to me with the sweetest inscription, with the hope that it would inspire me as much as he has been inspired by me. And yes Michael, this is a book that inspires me. There are a few threads that stick out for me from this first read (yes. This is a book I will reread.):

  1. I will get going with my podcast plans. (Plans that have been plans for far too long, it is time to get started.)
  2. The distinction between resources and resourcefulness. This is an angle I have not previously come at the concept of resources from, and it makes for quite an interesting perspective I must say. Love it!
  3. This is a book full of questions that I would like to sit with – ponder, reflect upon, throw out there and see what comes back… (hence the re-reading intention!)

As for the second thread, here’s a paragraph from the book, with a sassiness (of course!) that puts a smile upon my face:

No matter what you need in your business or your life, getting it will be a function of your resourcefulness rather than whether the resources are available. Of course they are available. 

The three biggest factors that determine your resourcefulness are:

  • The questions you ask.
  • The people you know. 
  • Your willingness to stretch into the unknown. 

All of these factors are things I’ve been very actively working on.

The questions you ask.
A very dear friend of mine recently reflected on the fact that she now asks many more questions than she did upon meeting me (in 2013). The mantra “the questions you ask are more important than the answers you give (or receive)” is a way to be in the world that I’ve been hammering home (for me as well as for those I spend time with) these past years.

The people you know.
Ever since the same time that I met both of the people I’ve referred to above, I’ve “collected” people that inspire me, people that make me strive to be my better self. Matthew Kelly says it perfectly in The rhythm of life, a book I’ve yet to read, but definitely want to:
The people we surround ourselves with either raise or lower our standards. They either help us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves or encourage us to become lesser versions of ourselves. We become like our friends. No man becomes great on his own. No woman becomes great on her own. The people around them help to make them great. 

We all need people in our lives who raise our standards, remind us of our essential purpose, and challenge us to become the-best-version-of-ourselves.

Your willingness to stretch into the unknown.
I used to fear the unknown. I had the mistaken belief that my worth, my value as a person, resided in my ability to know, to be wise, knowledgeable, a veritable Encyclopedia Helenica… So for me to admit to not knowing, scared me senseless. I still struggle with this, there’s a lot of long-lived patterns of automatic responses for instance, giving the impression that I know full well what’s being talked about, even though I don’t have a clue, but a lot of it’s gone. Perhaps helped along the most by two aspects of my personal development these past five-ten years or so; my ability to be gentle with myself (and not knock myself upside the head with a mental shovel whenever I make a mistake or don’t live up to high inner standards) as well as my curiosity (also a trait I’ve actively cultivated).

The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

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Letters from a Stoic (book 4 of 26)

February 25, 2018
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Letters from a StoicTim Ferriss talks about it a lot.
My brother read it this summer when we met up at mom’s place.
And I got it in the fall, when picking up a few books from an online bookstore, so when the reading challenge of 2018 crystallized in my mind, including Letters from a Stoic by Seneca was an easy choice.

It’s amazing that this book is made up of letters written almost two thousand years ago, and here I sit, reading them. Two thousand (!) years later. That is mind-blowing. Aside from that, there are parts of the book that really resonate with me, and other parts I struggle with. I do like the Stoic drive to “learn in order to be a better human”, but at the same time, the prescriptiveness of the Stoic way of living jars with my fairly recent understanding that what works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for you.

But how can I object to advice such as this on reading:
“You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find lasting place in your mind.”

Or thoughts such as this on friendship:
“But if you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.”

And trust (in my naivety I do go for the first one, perhaps that’s why I like this line?):
“Trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one (though I should call the first the worthier and the second the safer behavior).”

And this, taken from a longer conversation on traveling, which I find to be of extraordinary value today, what with the migration issues we are facing, which I believe will only get worse. Unless, that is, we heed Seneca’s words:
“Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there. We ought not, therefore, give over our hearts for good to any one part of the world. We should live with the conviction: ‘I wasn’t born for one particular corner; the whole world’s my home country.'”

As I flip through this book that I just finished reading this morning, I gaze upon page after page of my scribbles in the margins, marking a passage here, a phrase there, a sentence or two and quote after quote, and I realize, here’s a book I want to re-read soon, at least once more. Makes me understand what Ferriss is talking about, when he says about Letters from a Stoic that “I’ve read it dozens of times, and I loved it so much that I turned it into The Tao of Seneca, a three-volume set of audiobooks. If you prefer a written version of the Tao of Seneca, you can find it here for free.

Throughout the letters, Seneca is clear on one thing above all else, coming back to it again and again, and that is how philosophy, the love of wisdom, is to be put to practical use:
“What we hear the philosophers saying and what we find in their writings should be applied in our pursuit of the happy life. We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching, and the spirited and nobel-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application – not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech – and learn them so well that words becomes works.”

This cuts to the core of one of my pet peeves concerning the self-help genre, which is that many people don’t seem willing to do the work. Reading book after book, without actually trying it on for size. Somehow believing that just reading it, will make whatever the book is talking about come true? Laziness? An unwillingness to step outside both comfort and possibly safety zones? To use Senecas words, reading, but not applying the advice. And that will not make a change in how life is perceived, not in the least. And to finish off where I started this post, how will I ever know if what works for you (or the Stoics), might work for me, unless I try it?

The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

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Will you tell me?

December 15, 2017
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As I read page after page of Humble inquiry by Edgar H. Schein, I am guessing a bystander would have wondered what I was up to, with all that humming and hawing. Humming from recognition and having flashbacks to my own experiences, hawing from making mental notes of and agreeing with great aspects of humble inquiry.

Then I got to a question, that made me stop. Reflect. Ponder.

Making yourself vulnerable will elicit a more personal conversation, and through successive rounds of asking, telling, and acknowledging, trust and openness will build to the point where you can ask the difficult question, ”If I am about to make a mistake, will you tell me?”. You can then assess whether you have achieved the climate of psychological safety in which all of you will help each other and communicate openly. If it still feels uncomfortable, you can humbly ask, ”What do we need to do differently to get to that point of perpetual, mutual help?”.

Have I ever been humble enough to ask? Have I ever been humble enough to listen if someone told me I this?
Where have I ever been, that have a culture inductive to making such an ask? Have I?

humble inquiry

(And yes, I have. But not in as many places and/or relationships as I would like to – so there’s room for improvement.)

Inspired to continue blogging on the theme from the #blogg100-challenge in 2017 I give you:
The book ”Humble inquiry” by Edgar H. Schein.

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I stand accused

July 14, 2017
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I realize how difficult it is to be human together, to relate to one another, especially when language and culture creates barriers that make us falter, stumble, thread carefully, for fear of harming, of confusing, of misunderstanding.

It’s not a great feeling, to be accused of wrong-doing. But each is entitled to their view, and as their experiences are shaped by their current state-of-mind, I am the first to see beyond my initial reaction, and spot the world view underlying the accusation.

standing accusedKnowing I don’t set out to harm, to expose, to do wrong. I don’t. I might do it, anyway, because of my own fallibility, exposed to situations new to me, unsure of what’s the best route ahead. Finding my way, slowly, as if I was stepping barefoot into a stream, threading on sharp rocks, carefully making my way forward. Sometimes needing to retrace my steps, because the path ahead turned out to be a dead-end, filled with sharp stones I cannot make my way across. Hurting, cold water, cuts and bruises from the stones, and yet. I keep on walking. There’s nothing else to do. I have come to far to turn back, and yet, I have not come far enough to actually see the light at the end… Not knowing what my next step is, I pause, gather myself, and while exhaling, gently feel my way forward, inch by inch, all the while trying, still, to stick to my core value: wanting to make a positive imprint, to make a difference. 

The older I get the more I realize the importance of grounding myself in what that means. For me. Finding out, by trial and error, what it entails. How I do it. How do I make a difference? How do I make a positive imprint? Learning from my mistakes, fine-tuning actions and intentions, being ever more precise in my language, minimizing the risk for mishaps and misunderstandings. But never seizing to act. Never to stop doing, for fear of doing wrong, of standing accused. I’d rather do, and be accused, than not do, and risk ending up at the end of life, regretting what I did not do, when I could have; regretting not speaking my truth, when I had the opportunity.

So here I stand, accused, knowing I would do it again if I had the chance.
I might do it slightly different, but not for the fear of being accused of wrong-doing, but for what I have learned in the process.

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Lethal absence of hope

March 5, 2017
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Here’s an episode of On Being with Krista Tippitt that I listened to first time around a couple of years ago. I recently listened to it again, and it affected me as much second time around. It’s with a Jesuit priest named Greg Boyle, famous for his work with gangs and gang members in and around Los Angeles. Perhaps you’ve heard about Homeboy Industries?

In the podcast, Greg Boyle describe what gangs are all about in this way:

It’s about a lethal absence of hope. It’s about kids who can’t imagine a future for themselves. It’s about kids who aren’t seeking anything when they join a gang. It’s about the fact that they’re always fleeing something, always, without exception. So it shifts the way you see things. Somebody, Bertrand Russell or somebody, said, “If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” And that’s kind of how we want to — I think we need to proceed in something like this. So if you think it’s the Middle East, you’re quite mistaken. If you think it’s Northern Ireland, wrong again. It’s about kids who’ve ceased to care. So you want to infuse young people with hope when it seems that hope is foreign.

BoldomaticPost_It-s-about-a-lethal-absence-oA lethal absence of hope.

Oh, that’s powerful.
That hit me right in the gut.

And there’s so much more in this podcast, so please, take a listen. (And you can actually read it as well, but I do urge you to listen. There’s a feeling behind the words that is very apparent when listening to Father Greg speak about his homies.)

If what we are facing is a lethal absence of hope, and I don’t doubt it for a minute – what can I do? What can we do? What is there to do? And I don’t mean specifically about the gangs of Los Angeles. I mean about the lethal absence of hope that is visible everywhere. I don’t think there’s a country on earth, not facing just that somewhere or other within the confines of its borders. Do you?

So how to approach a lethal absence of hope?

In 2015 I ran a series on herothecoach.com with Sunday postings of podcasts to my liking. In 2017 I will be re-posting some of those blog posts – and this is one of them, originally posted here – , mixing them up with new podcast recommendations. Given my recent deep dive into hopelessness as well as what hope is, and is not, this seemed a very fitting podcast recommendation to repost. Enjoy!

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16/24 – Is there trust?

December 16, 2016
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wrong

Mmm. You’ve been there. So have I. Too many times.

When that which shouldn’t happen, happens.
A mistake.
A white lie that erupts and turns into the lie from hell.
An unexpected turn of events, when worst comes to worst.

And, oh yes. Is that ever a sure way to know, if trust exists or not.

Close my eyes.
Remember. Back when I was 9 months pregnant with my first child. Another millennia.
Had gotten a phone call from my husband, the father of my unborn child, whom I’d been together with for ten years.

I’m breaking up with you.

Hard to believe. Difficult to take in.
That didn’t happen to someone like me. Couldn’t. Shouldn’t.

When he came home later that day, or possibly the day after, I asked…

Would you stay with me tonight?

I just wanted to be held. To forget. For a moment. That life had just turned upside down, and I was going to become a parent in a totally different manner than I’d planned for.

No. I can’t.

That’s when I knew. Whatever trust had been, was no more. Not there. I never let that stop me from trusting again, though.

I am, at heart, a person who trusts.
Would life be life without it?

Reflection #16 of 24 from the notes I took and the experience I had at the Seth Godin Q&A-session in London, November 2015. This was my Advent Calendar 2015 on herothecoach.com, and as I loved each and every post so much, I am reusing them for this years’ Advent Calendar here! These reflections will be posted daily from December 1st to the 24th.

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