Wisdom 2.0 Day 3

Well, day 3 culminated in me taking the stage in front of a good 1000 or more people declaring my intention to bring the wisdom movement to NZ.  So there was that.  And in the funny way that life works, less than five steps off the stage I met with the lovely Kath Knight who shares this passion.  Thanks universe 🙂

But what about before that?  What happened on Day 3?


The day started with a moving call to action from Roshi Joan Halifax.

“Compassion as the Radicalisation of our Time”

She talked about the growing need for compassion in the world.  She talked about how compassion

  • primes our wellbeing and resilience
  • makes us happy when we help others
  • lowers inflammation and boosts immunity
  • improves longevity and decreases stress

The secret sauce to compassion she said is connectedness and relatedness.  And this is a problem in our increasing digital age.  She drew the distinction between compassion and empathy.  Empathy is a cognitive and emotional construct, however compassion requires more – feeling concern and desiring to reduce the suffering of others.

She has come up with a movement called GRACE.

  • G – Gathering Attention
  • R – Recalling intention
  • A – Attuning to oneself and to others
  • C – Considering what will serve others
  • E – Engaging and ending.

She finished up with the strong message – disrupt complacency, engage compassion.  So we don’t get mass destruction from mass distraction.

Wisdom Movement – Thriving Together

Next up was the People’s Stage instalment of Wisdom Movement.  This is a movement recently started by Monique Martineau seeking to build a wisdom community all year round, not just when the wisdom conferences happen.  The highlight of the talk for me was the exploration of polarities, adapted from the work of Polarity Partnerships.  Anna McGrath and Margaret Ryan presented this part.

They talked about polarities as being quite different from having a problem to solve – because solving a problem is not ongoing, there is an endpoint and they’re solvable.  There are independent alternatives and often contain mutually exclusive opposites  e.g. Shall I paint the wall yellow or blue, shall we hire Fred, what questions shall we ask in our engagement survey?

Whereas if you look at it in the terms of polarities to leverage its quite different.  These are ongoing, there is no endpoint and they are not solvable – they must be leveraged together.  So there are interdependent alternatives and always contain mutually inclusive opposites, e.g. Cost and Quality; Authenticity and Kindness.  The one that really spoke to me was the example we explored in the session which was Achieving on one side and Grounded Calm on the other.

When you have explored the polarities, then look at the positives and negatives of each.  So for example the positives of achieving are : full self expression, make a contribution, financial independence, more opportunities; the negatives of achieving are : burn out, imbalance, loss of perspective, illness.  The positives of grounded calm are : on purpose, focussed, ease, joy; the negatives of grounded calm are : lack of resources, self absorbed, disengaged, loss of confidence.

When you feel an early warning sign that you are stepping to far into one of the positive or negative spaces of the polarity its time to take action steps.  (see the picture I’ve attached).  Basically if you’re feeling burned out and are getting stick, its time to take action steps to get more grounded calm.  If you feel that you are disengaging, its time to take action steps to kick start achievement.  In this respect its self correcting.  When we can successfully self correct we move towards our greater purpose of what can be achieved by leveraging those dual polarities, if we get stuck in the negative results we lose or move away from our greater purpose.

This is taking an individual example but you can also take leadership and organisational polarity examples, such as:

  • Individual AND team
  • Task AND relationship
  • Logic AND emotions
  • Responsibility AND freedom
  • Organisational purpose AND organisational performance
  • Data driven decision making AND intuitive decision making.

You can basically look at any two polarities, be they personal, family, community or anything at all really.  Just ensure that they are both required for success; and both poles are worded positively.  Fascinating 🙂  And so blinkin’ obvious when you see it written down, but hard to access sometimes when you need it, and thats why having a mental framework can be so helpful.

There’s a few more things you can pick up in the pictures below.

photo (3)photo (2)

Full Plate, Empty Life: How to Achieve More by Doing Less

Great presentation by Christine Carter about being more productive by single tasking.  I think everyone knows by now that our brains don’t actually multitask, they switch attention rapidly from one thing to another.  This makes us less productive.  Christine said it perfectly when she said our brains are not like computers designed to run multiple apps at a time.

She talked about three myths / lies of our modern lives:

  1. Busyness is a sign of importance; withstanding stress is a mark of character.
  2. More is Better – work more, get more money, buy more stuff.
  3. Doing Nothing is a Waste of Time.

She turned each of these around.

  1. Allowing yourself to focus one one thing at a time avoids cognitive overload that hinders our productivity, emotional regulation and decision making.  We can step into flow where it feels like time stands still – more productive and the opposite of feeling busy.
  2. Find the minimum effective dose – e.g. how little time can you spend on your email and still be effective; how little time can you spend on social media and still be connected?  She shared her “better than nothing” workout which is 3 minutes every morning including 25 situps, 25 pushups and a one minute plank.  She says she’s never been stronger, she found her minimum effective dose.
  3. Our brains benefit when we ‘waste time’ – i.e. when we daydream.  This allows us to access creative insight, which gives helps us make those big breakthroughs – its like when we have our best ideas in the shower.  The big challenge here is to break the habit of reaching for our phones when we have ‘nothing to do’, because doing so doesn’t selectively numb our emotions, it doesn’t just make us less bored, it also means we feel less joy.  Let yourself feel how you feel with curiosity and acceptance.  Loved that.

She talked about a sweet spot of ease/joy and power.  We just need to get out of our own way and hit that sweet spot.  Remember a relaxed muscle is stronger than a tense one, And as Socrates said “beware the banality of a busy life”.

The Crossroads of Should and Must

Holy Shit!  This woman is amazing.  Her name is Elle Luna and she has been on an amazing journey over the last 12 months or so since she published an essay “The crossroads of Should and Must”.  She explained how she had a recurring dream every night for a month or so in which she stepped into a white room where the floor was concrete, the walls were a bright shining white and there were factory windows on one side.  She didn’t know what it meant and shared it with a friend, who said something extraordinary – “why don’t you go and find it in real life”.  I mean, as us kiwis say, what the actual fuck! So anyway, she went onto Craig’s List and after searching found this room, went for a viewing with 20 other people (who were in her magic room – how dare they!) and got the space.

The first night she was in there, she broke down in tears and said ‘Why am I here’, and she said the room ‘spoke’ to her and said ‘to paint’.  Cripes I’ve got goosebumps just writing this.  So she went and unpacked her painting supplies that she hadn’t used in the last five years or so, and started painting, and painting and painting.  Now she is an artist, has exhibitions, and teaches kids to explore art.

The most incredible part of this is when she said: “When you decide to follow your dream in real life, where do you go?”.  For her it was Craig’s List – but what is it for you?

She talked about the need to step back and examine the should and musts in our life.  The shoulds are often plentiful and strong – and if we follow this path we may end up living our lives for other people, to meet their expectations.  The must is often one very strong pull.  This is what you believe when you’re alone, it allows no compromises, it is unavoidable, it is undeniable.  It might be brutal, and it might be hard.  Its not always or even often the easy road.

So examine the shoulds.  e.g. “You should never…..; You should always……; You should know better than to ……; You should not ……”.

Ask yourself:

  • Where did these shoulds come from? (an ad, a song, a community, your family)?
  • Is this should true for you? (right now at this time in your life)?
  • Do I really want to keep holding on to this should?  [Note, this might be yes, in which case it becomes a must].

If once you have examined your shoulds you find that you don’t need or want this should in your life, then lay it down gently and kindly and tell it you no longer want to carry it with you. By removing the shoulds you make way for the musts.

Importantly she also pointed out that this isn’t a one time deal, we return to this exercise many times in our lives, sometimes several times a day 🙂


There are a couple of buts here that are worth exploring.

  1. But what if I don’t know what my must is?  She advocates ringing people who knew you in childhood – what did you love to do as a kid, this often contains the seeds of finding our must.
  2. But what if this raises questions that are really scary? Then get practical.  In an ideal word, your job, your career and your calling would all be aligned; but sometimes your job allows you to make the time and ability for you to pursue your calling (your must).  She talked about the other jobs that famous artists had over time – of selling used cars, as plumbers.  This was food for thought.
  3. But I don’t have time in my life to explore my must.  You need to make time for your must. She referenced a lot of Christine Carter’s talk in terms of how to make life less busy and more productive.  Schedule some ‘must’ time into your calendar.

Finally, she rounded out by saying “its not enough to reach the treasure, one must bring it back”.  She implored everyone to share their musts with the world – and share it with people who are waiting to receive it?  And finally the quote that really rounded out her presentation, one from Mark Twain : “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”.

Final Conversation

The final part of the day was a conversation between Leila Janah and Tim Ryan.  The thing that stuck in my head here was when Leila remarked that the great myth of our time is thinking that we are all separate from one another.  When she talked about how our bodies are made up of the same matter that makes up everything else on earth and that we are all just a collection of atoms, it causes us to question this common view.   This view means we think that as I sit here writing this and that as you sit there reading this that we regard ourselves as separate and not connected.  However when you zoom out and and get a new perspective, you can see we are all interconnected.  I thought that was a great note to finish the conference on.

Oh – not mentioning the getting up on stage and sharing my commitment to continue this work in NZ.  Woot.

More on that soon.

So thats over and out from me.  Mel x


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