Most discoveries, even today are a combination of serendipity and searching. Siddartha Mukherjee
New York City turned on the sunshine this week. Amid all the frantic noise, the incessant honking of horns and jack hammering of renovation, the sky stretched out, an expansive blue. With a sense of wonder I set off to find my place in this busy city.
I spent a wonderful afternoon with John Stepper (author of Working Out Loud) in Greenwich Village. We explored the way our lives intersected through mutual friends, colleagues and interests. So many points of connection. We have both done our first TEDx talk in the past 6 months and laughed about the behind the scenes anxiety that accompanies the step out onto the little red circle of carpet. Soon we discovered that we had many things in common. This is what happens when we slow down and listen to each other with a lot of curiosity. I’ve been getting a lot of practice over the past 5 weeks on how to listen more closely.
Working Out Loud Circles are purposeful meetings with a small group of individuals over a 12 week period to build mastery and autonomy. Rather than a networking group, WOL Circles are framed by three questions:
- What am I trying to accomplish?
- Who can help me?
- How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationship?
I’m captured by this idea that we might be able to take WOL circles into healthcare and make our work visible while contributing with generosity to the relationships we want to build with others. It seems to me this might just be an antidote to the learned helplessness that I keep bumping into in large services. We know from the work of Albert Bandura that developing self efficacy or guided mastery increases our sense of well-being and allows us to attempt more complex tasks with a strong sense of our ability to accomplish success. People completing WOL Circles report the same outcome.
I’m going to start a little experiment when I get home to see what a WOL Circle might look like in a healthcare service. It’s 12 weeks and only one hour per week.
In the spirit of true generosity John Stepper has made all of the resources you need to start a WOL Circle freely available online. So check out his website at Working Out Loud
After our delicious lunch we headed down Bleeker Street so John could introduce me to his favourite bookstore: BookBook. Well, not so much the bookstore but the table outside the store where the sale items were piled up. John refers to this as the Engineered Serendipity Table. The story is that whatever you need at the time will somehow be sitting on the table. So we headed over and right there was a small pile of The Empathy Exams by Lesley Jamison. Here was a book sitting in the sunlight on the Engineered Serendipity Table that posed the question I had been grappling with: How should we care for each other? We instantly formed a book club of two and promised to read the book and share our notes.
This had me thinking about so many opportunities we are presented with every day that invite us to connect more deeply with others and to extend our relationships with mutual curiosity and generosity (thank you John for paying for my copy).
What might it be like if we were to increase our practice of being present and listening deeply and then being generous? I think it could only deepen the connections we are making.