Here on Remembrance Day (our Canadian name is more apt for today’s missive than “Veterans Day”), it is a great occasion to appreciate our freedom and also to recall what keeps us from forgetting: practices.

I had a powerful reminder about the importance of practices that follows the theme of the previous blog entry. At the end of October, I had the privilege of attending “Being A Leader and Exercising Leadership Effectively: An Ontological/Phenomenological Model,” a six-day leadership course that was led by, among others, Steve Zaffron (pictured on right below). We did some great work with Authentic Listening.

Werner Erhard, Mike Jensen, Steve Zaffron

Werner Erhard, Mike Jensen, Steve Zaffron

Any attempt to summarize what is meant by “Authentic Listening” will be incomplete, but this is to give you an idea: “In short, listening so as to leave the speaker not only heard and understood, but with the experience that he or she has actually been “gotten” and is complete. Remember that you are neither agreeing nor disagreeing, rather you are recreating where you are, what is so where the speaker is.” The power of being listened to in this way can leave you free from the concerns that you had prior to the conversation.

One night during the course, my roommate and I were reading each other the slides on Authentic Listening when I got a FaceTime call from Paula and Andrew. Andrew was upset about some events from school. Fortunately I was primed to listen in a particular way. He expressed some frustration and I recreated him. He continued and I recreated him each time. I literally watched him sink a bit in his chair as the air of his upset eased out of him.  Then it was time for him to head up to bed.

Paula then greeted me with “You got him. I didn’t get him.” She described how she was hooked by her own concerns. I felt like we had somewhat dodged a bullet. Here’s the thing: I have had the capacity for authentic listening for years, but it simply hasn’t been operative – because I have not been practicing.

This is so true for the many things we “learn” in courses. We many increase our awareness and develop a bit of skill, but we only use effectively that which we practice. It would be ridiculous to go to the gym six days in a row, then not work out for months and expect to be fit. It is equally silly to have an intense experience in a course and stop practicing the skills, techniques, or ideas and expect to be effective.

I’ve long been a believer in practices, yet my passion for practices is renewed. I see supporting others in their journeys by creating and providing practices as central to my ongoing contributions. Stay tuned for “Onto Mastery.”

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