If I identify the main feature of my personal growth—a task well worth your effort too—it is a shift in orientation. Where once I was primarily interested in changing the world (in the sense of carving my own path, creating a unique path; not trying to change the entire world) and changing others, I am now primarily interested in understanding the experiences of others. Where once I was focused on developing tools of reason and logic to understand reality, I am now free to build upon (not abandon!) those tools to use empathy and compassion to understand others. Certainly, this remains an aspirational work-in-progress, but it is work, in progress, none the less.

But what if the primary way in which we are unique, and one of the ultimate causes of our remarkable rational and linguistic capabilities, turns out to be the unique way in which we are emotionally drawn to one another and the world? What if humans have become so rational and linguistic because of the very special kind of social way we interact and emote? How might it change our way of understanding ourselves, our relationships with and responsibilities to one another, our fellow animals and our planet if we came to see the foundation of human uniqueness not in our capacity for reason, but in our capacity for empathy? If we realised that we are the very special animal we are because of our very special ways of caring for and about one another – a care that we project into the nonhuman world?

~ Hayden Kee from, https://aeon.co/essays/emotional-synchrony-is-at-the-core-of-what-it-means-to-be-human

What if, indeed! I clearly see a trend in the sorts of things I read, the blogs I follow, the podcasts I listen to, the conversations I seek to create, and the movement opportunities I chase. How about you?


Make the time

Nine years ago (journaling for the win!) I went from zero to rock-climbing in just a few weeks in preparation for a spontaneous, multi-week trip to Colorado. I was staring at my calendar leading up to the trip, and trying to imagine how I’d empty the weeks; how would I stop doing all these things that I do every day to make room for being away.

So I started chopping. This was the turning point where I started getting clear about what I was allowing into my life. First I figured out how to work ahead, or push off work—that’s the usual thing to do in preparation for going away. But then I unsubscribed from countless emails to avoid them piling up, then I unsubscribed from notifications from various services, then I entirely dropped services, and then I started getting intentional about what I was gathering to engage with.

How can I get more cultured / interested in things? I constantly feel I am missing out on conversations as I just don’t have any drive towards joining in. Everything looks meh.

~ Gavin Leech from, https://www.gleech.org/hype

All of my efforts to “make time” over the last nine years have made me realize that I clearly do not have the problem Leech is discussing. I have the other problem. I seem to already be naturally doing all the things he suggests. And I’ve no idea how to stop doing any of that stuff.


Fatal but not serious

My deepening dive into conversation will continue for the foreseeable future. I’m still in the phase of learning where, the more I read and listen (explicitly to podcasts but also just to conversations in life in general) the more I discover that I don’t know. I’m definitely in the epoch of “study the masters” and “learn the state of the art.” But still, sometimes things snap into a clear relationship to things I already know.

On the whole, you could say that if you are defending your opinions, you are not serious. Likewise, if you are trying to avoid something unpleasant inside of yourself, that is also not being serious. A great deal of our whole life is not serious. And society teaches you that. It teaches you not to be very serious – that there are all sorts of incoherent things, and there is nothing that can be done about it, and that you will only stir yourself up uselessly by being serious.

But in a dialogue you have to be serious. It is not a dialogue if you are not – not in the way I’m using the word. There is a story about Freud when he had cancer of the mouth. Somebody came up to him and wanted to talk to him about a point in psych-ology. The person said, “Perhaps I’d better not talk to you, because you’ve got this cancer which is very serious. You may not want to talk about this.” Freud’s answer was, “This cancer may be fatal, but it’s not serious.” And actually, of course, it was just a lot of cells growing. I think a great deal of what goes on in society could be described that way – that it may well be fatal, but it’s not serious.

~ David Bohm from, On Dialogue

Everything, everywhere, in every moment does not need to be serious. That’d be exhausting. But if there’s too little in my life that is serious, my behavior starts to polarize. Moments where others want to introduce some levity become to me strident and annoying. I’m finding there’s a balance—but that’s not quite the right word because I’ve not yet discovered how to actually balance this…



If we can accept the idea that all real change is a shift in narrative—a new story as opposed to the received dominant story—then the function of citizenship, or leadership, is to invite a new narrative into existence. Narrative begins with a ride on the wave of conversation. For greatest effect, we need a new conversation with people we are not used to talking to.

~ Peter Block


Bias toward the future

The insights from large group methods have a bias toward the future and devote little or no time to negotiating the past or emphasizing those areas where we will never agree anyway. The most organizing conversation starter is “What do we want to create together?”

~ Peter Block


Generous silence

Generous silence provides space for the other person to be with their own self, for you to be with them for presence to show up. It allows them to take a breath. It whispers, “this is an interesting place to be. Let’s hang out here for a moment.” […] Generous silence can allow the delicate insights of a conversation to blossom and bloom.

~ Michael Bungay Stanier


Just ask

If you’re a pole vaulter, you need a long runway to pick up the speed required to plant the pole and flip over the bar. Odds are you are not a pole vaulter. You don’t need a runway of context, justification, and general flim-flam to be curious. It’s not really about you. Save everyone the time, and just ask the question.

~ Michael Bungay Stanier


Thank you

When someone reveals something that they’re struggling with, or something painful that happened to them, I often find myself saying, “I’m so sorry, thank you for sharing that with me.” Let’s acknowledge that you’ve just said something, that there’s nothing I can say that’s gonna lift that pain. By saying that, you’re focusing the conversation on what they’ve disclosed to you. You can also talk about how you’re talking about it. You can say, “I don’t know what to say right now. But I just want to tell you, I’m really sorry to know that.”

~ Anna Sale



The results of fully listening are profound and couldn’t be more relevant today in times of immense distractions and a world constantly in a rush: Others feel accepted.

They feel heard. They take their own words more seriously. By thinking out loud, they are discovering their own words and, by that, their own true selves.

~ Klaus Motoki Tonn from, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/listening-act-hospitality-time-think-klaus-motoki-tonn

This article touches on a number of different things which are interesting about conversation. I was surprised to realize that despite its having several great quotes from famous authors, this bit from Tonn was the part I kept returning to. It’s just deposited quietly in the middle of the whole thing which made it all the more delightful to discover; if I’d only skimmed I’d surely have missed it.

Let’s be fair: In today’s world, no one actually listens and every thing is intentionally distracting as it clamors for our attention. That makes what should be the “simple” act of listening into something profound. I’ve encountered the effect Tonn’s highlighting many times. The more I listen, the more each guest seems to be on a journey of self-discovery. The more I implicitly promise not to interrupt them, the more confident becomes their self-exploration. And it’s made all the more special by their not expecting it.



The paragraph above has a topic sentence, then three fragments. Yes, fragments. Like this and the one before it. A fragment is a non-sentence; it does not have a subject and main verb. Students are taught that fragments are errors. Hogwash! Writers use fragments all the time. Your English teacher may not like it and the college admissions office may not either. But, learn to use the fragment.

~ Mylinh Shattan from, https://treehouseletter.com/2022/08/15/the-sentence-fragment/

Shattan is writing about writing, and mentions how sentence fragments can hold imagery. I’ve been wondering if this isn’t a critical skill for spoken conversation. Speaking a fragment feels like throwing up a sign post: “Exampleville 15” is helpful in that it gives a definite distance. Deep in a conversation, if I drop in a fragment, it can be a way to indicate I think we’re headed somewhere in particular; fragments can check that are trains of thought still match. Fragments dropped into conversation make sense—like inside jokes—because we’re both on the same journey.


Jake Gyllenhaal

But I have this very strong belief in the unconscious. And the idea that like, that we spent that it is driving us, it’s like this massive river that we’re floating on. And we’re sort of unaware, obviously, sometimes where we’re going, and I don’t think we have much control over it, because that brings in the question of like, Fate, destiny and free will. But I believe that there’s a way in which you can kind of hop on to as in performance as an actor, like onto another river a little bit, if you work hard enough, you kind of like, move your unconscious into a space.

~ Jake Gyllenhaal ~5′, from episode 37 of Off Camera, https://offcamera.com/issues/jake-gyllenhaal/listen/#.Y1xEtC-B2Zw

This is an early episode of Sam Jones‘ podcast, Off Camera. At just under an hour, it feels a little shorter than most of his other episodes—but it’s full of great things none the less.

They talk about Gyllenhaal’s work ethic—where he got it, and what it means to him. There’s also some fun side-tracks into some of the movies he’s made, Southpaw in particular gets discussed. If you’re in any way a fan of Gyllenhaal, you’ll enjoy this.

Being interested in the art of conversation, one of the details I keep an eye on is the balance of how much of myself (as a host) and the guest are talking in the episode. My personal preferred balance is 3:1 for the guest—25% host and 75% guest. It turns out (transcription services report the percentages) that this episode is exactly that balance.


Should I keep blogging?

This is not a passive-aggressive maneuver to get you to scroll to the bottom, read the footer and consider supporting my work. (It would mean a lot though if you did.)

This is a serious question which I ask myself at a frequency approaching every minute. All the benefits are not directly measurable.

Exposure — In order to ensure I have material to write posts, I have various processes and systems that force me to skim an insane amount of stuff pretty much every day. If you imagine skimming my weekly email in a second or two, that’s 7 items. I skim about 300 to 500 items every day. A small number each day catch my attention enough that I toss them on my read-later queue. There are 764 things on that queue at this instant. It takes me significant time to read them, but often just a few seconds to realize, “yeah this is going to be a blog post” (and then I go on reading to the end and then I write the post.) If I stopped blogging, would I still do all that work to be exposed to ideas?

Learning — Writing blog posts creates a third “imprint” in my mind. First a glance, then a read, and then thinking about it. Even if I sometimes abort the blog post mid-writing, it’s still three different repetitions. And I have software that feeds me my own blog posts (“what did I post 10 years ago, today?” etc.) so I am constantly re-reading everything on this site; that’s more repetitions as things drift into history.

Integration — If I write a blog post about it, I generally try to figure out its relationship to everything else. Adding blog tags is the most obvious bit of integration. But figuring out what to pull quote involves deciding what is salient to me. And deciding which part(s) I want to focus on, magnify, or disagree with requires further integration.

Writing — Thoughts swirl in my mind. Characters appear on my screen. There are several skills one can work on between those two sentences.

All of that goes into feeding my personal growth and priming my curiosity. Since good conversation is powered by genuine curiosity, all that stuff also enables my person mission.

Should I keep blogging? It doesn’t feel like stopping is realistically an option.


I’ll be podcasting and presenting Art of Retreat 2022

During the Sept 24th weekend, I’ll once again be recording conversations with community leaders and movement enthusiasts at a retreat in the Cascades outside of Seattle. Follow that link If you’re interested in the nuts-and-bolts of what I do in order to create some conversations. Over there, I’ll be posting replies as the project progresses over the next two weeks. I’ll be showing my work—preparation, packing, gear, field recording, and post-production. I’ll try to cover everything from ideation to the final deliverables.

The first piece of context is, what is the event that I’m attending? It’s an immersive gathering celebrating leadership in parkour. We bring remarkable leaders from the global parkour community together for 4 days of learning, sharing, and play.


The event is a concept which has been held in various locations over the years. It’s near and dear to me both in the sense that I’m into parkour and I’m into podcasting. I’m also leading an interactive session about Creating Better Conversation.