conversation is an engine

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Posts Tagged ‘sketch

A better way to set goals

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1000 words: from goal to discipline


Revisit and add detail as you go forward

Mrs. Kirkistan and I talked up goal-setting with our good friends over New Year’s Eve. Goals get a bad rap these days and I know why.

Looking back at my 2013 goals, I see they were too ambitious and without proper milestones. Even so, they served as directionals that propelled me forward as I revisited them over the course of the year. Mrs. Kirkistan and I will take an hour or so and talk through and pray through our goals before the weekend. Then I’ll post them on the back of the door into Suite 102 of the Livingston Communication Tower (high over Saint Paul).

As I labor to expand and then trim back my personal, business and spiritual goals, I realize more than ever this is not a static process. Much like the sketch above, I’m sort of blocking out broader desires and expectations while adding in definite dates and details for only a select few. But some of these goals fit better as disciplines than goals with timelines attached. For instance, the discipline of writing 1000 words a day has served me well over the past few years (thank goodness I never stipulated they had to “good” words—that kind of pressure would gum the works). That goal has turned to a discipline, which is great—the day feels wasted if I’ve not written 1000.

I have a goal of publishing ListenTalk: Conversation is an Engine early this year (that’s right, Juxtapose: How to Build a Church that Counters Culture is back to the original title, for those who follow such things), and I have a few milestones with dates attached to help make that happen. Last year’s goal helped me finish the book and get it to and back from an editor, though I severely underestimated how much time it would all take.

But some things just work better as disciplines, like ongoing exercise and the daily ground-breaking conversations with colleagues and potential collaborators.

How does goal-setting work for you? Rather than give up on goals because they are too hard, is there some useful piece you can take and make work for you?

By The Way: Check out this meditation on goals from The Pietist Schoolman: I like his challenge to focus out, rather than just in, on personal goals.


Image credit: via 2headedsnake

Written by kirkistan

January 1, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Stop-Action Living & How to Pay Attention

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Jean Laughton’s Mythic West Borders Her Real West

Put a frame around the scene before you and the scene changes. The frame creates distance from the action, which is both useful and off-putting.


Useful in that the frame helps you stop and see what is going on. Moving parts fall (momentarily) silent and you are released to think critically about the action. Note that critical thought need not be negative or a complaint or a sardonic aside. Critical thinking can result in even more whole-hearted agreement with the action. Critical thinking can also lead to backing away from the action.

Off-putting in that the frame truncates the scene and isolates it from everything else. Off-putting because the people in the scene see the camera and note you’ve switched from action to observer, which most of us find discomfiting. Pick up a camera or sketch pad and you’ve suddenly marked yourself as something other than what is happening right here and now. Pick up a camera and watch people freeze or back away.

Edmund Husserl (that 19th century mathematician/philosopher/phenomenologist) talked about leaving the “natural attitude” and bracketing his experience to come to fully understand/appreciate the experience. Actually, Husserl advised breaking with the natural attitude and bracketing experience to get on with his phenomenological work. Henri Cartier-Bresson always used a 50mm lens to capture the surrounding action, so his audience could see the central action in context and form stronger conclusions. Damon Young, in his Distraction, cites Henri Matisse in explaining how art became his way of looking at the world:

“I am unable to distinguish,” he wrote in 1908, “between the feeling I have for life, and my way of expressing it.”

Any way you cut it, paying attention and making your experience available to others are somehow linked. In Jean Laughton’s work, she takes her camera in the saddle and documents life as working cowgirl. The images she creates are mythic and telling and honest.

Walk through a few of Jean Laughton’s images and you’ll be glad she is paying attention. Laughton seems to have found a way to live in the scenes even as she brackets them. Her frames seem to not take her away from the action. The result is both memorable and accessible.



Image credit: Jean Laughton via Lenscratch

Written by kirkistan

September 18, 2013 at 10:03 am

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