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As a native Bostonian (or at least Bay Stater), I often meet people who are from another part of the country and state that Bostonians are cold and mean, unlike people from other parts of the country, and that I’m “different and not like them”. I counter that I’m exactly like the other natives here, but as I have to translate concepts so often in my work, I’m better able to articulate the differences to others in terms they understand. After a particularly interesting talk I ad on Friday (thanks David!), I figured that it world probably be best for me to put my thoughts on writing. This post is basically a continuation or further development of my post on Chilly New Englanders.

My main point is that New Englanders have good boundaries. Sometimes a little to recalcitrant and difficult to penetrate, but they are are a part of who we are. We’re pretty aware of others and when we’re being invited in, and when we’re bring intruded. We give people space and wait for them to give us a signal. This Is very different from the warm welcome that most people from the Southern US do automatically. A comment I heard from a Southerner is that they want to be seen as welcoming. From a Northerner’s perspective, it’s an invasion. We want to know who we’re talking to, and what connections there might be.  My mind goes back to a very old formality that used to be common: The Calling Card.

It used to be in ages past, if you were going into a new city or starting in a new community, you would bring a calling card with you that introduced you to people and it would be from someone that they already had a relationship with.  You then knew that this new person was one that you already had something in common with.  While it might have been one of “good breeding” back in those days, a big thing was that you could talk about the same things.

In our modern times, we have the same thing.  Think about Yelp, Amazon, or any of the major social media sites.  You can ask about a business, product, or person, and figure out what their reputation is.  You don’t just pick up any book, movie, restaurant menu, etc.  You’re usually looking to see if you have some connection to it.  Has this actor performed in something else you liked?  Does the owner of this restaurant own another one your friend ate at and liked?  In our world, we’re constantly looking for references.  Just in New England, we tend to still do it for social reasons.  Does this person also like the Red Sox?  Does she also knit?  Does he do genealogy?  We’re looking to see if we have something in common, so we know we’ve got a good likelihood of getting along.

So, where do you get your references?

Puerto Rican Beach - Artwork 13 of 200 for 2013

Puerto Rican Beach – Artwork 13 of 200 for 2013

It’s been a hard Spring. As maybe some of you have noticed, I haven’t been blogging much in the past few months. Not only was it a tough winter in New England, but I had a bunch of personal challenges happening to me also that took up a lot of my mental energy. I’ve also been lucky enough that I’ve been getting a lot if new career consulting clients, so that’s kept me busy and away from writing.

Now that we’re finally starting to have consistent good weather here in Massachusetts, I’m starting to have the mental space to get my thoughts together. I’ve been working more at being consistent in my morning meditations and yoga practice, as well as get some reflection time in. It feels so nice to feel like I’ve got what I call “mind space” to actually be more responsive instead of reactive.

Part of that now is that I really need to take more time to be creative. I performed at the New England Folk Festival and it brought back to me that I need to do more music playing (and practicing) as well as doing more artwork. I set a goal for myself in 2013 to produce 200 pieces of art (a doodle in my journal counts. It’s about volume here, not quality). I’m up to 17 so I’ve got to kill the critic and just start producing.

Additionally, I’ve reconnected with a great muse who I’ve known for years, but we’ve started to look at ways that we can collaborate to a deeper extent. Tara Rodden Robinson is a specialist in productivity and coaching, and has a great energy (check out her blog and website!). In talking with her, I lamented that I haven’t been writing much recently, and her response was “Ken, you’ve got too much to offer. Get writing!”

So, with that, here I am again. So, Tara, this blog post is for you!

So, what do you need to return to?

Dover Town Library

For the second year in a row, I used the day after Thanksgiving not to go out and buy things (although I actually did a little of that) but to use it as a time of contemplation. Last year, the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge started after I went to the Peace Abbey in Sherborn to meditate, read, walk, journal and get grounded. I knew I wanted to do that again, and I was searching around for a retreat center that I could go to, but since the Peace Abbey is now closed, I was having a hard time finding a place. I then thought about how I could go to one of the many beautiful libraries in Massachusetts and do my retreat at a small town library. I wanted one that I didn’t have to drive too far to, but that I hadn’t been at yet. I chose the Dover Town Library, which is the town next to Sherborn.

It’s a beautiful, newly constructed library in a historic, old building. They have a nice reading section with many comfortable chairs. They even had coffee and desserts available (not that I could eat any of them, as they were all gluten-filled). I spent about four hours there, and I just alternated back between journaling, drawing, meditating, reading, and looking at my plans for the future, and seeing what I really wanted to do with my life in the coming few months. It was very grounding to get away from the busy-ness of my current life, and to start listening to that little voice in my head that had great dreams and wants. I think that we don’t listen to that voice in ourselves nearly enough. Usually, we can’t even hear it over the cacophony of the roar of our lives.

So, when was the last time you heard your inner voice?

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It’s past Memorial Day, so in these parts it means that summer is officially in session. I know that many people have a reading list for the summer. I have not been one of those people. I don’t tend to read books as a “start here, finish book, start the next” type of reader. I tend to pick up about four or five books and read them spottily and sometime finish them, sometimes not.

My bookshelf has been crammed with books that I thought would be great to read, but I’ve never gotten to them. In the quest to be more intentional and to actually do things that I say I want to do, I’ve decided to publish my summer reading list and write a review of each book after I’m finished. I don’t tend to read fiction and as you’ll see most of them have something to do with spiritual, career, or productivity matters (or all three at once!) I wish I liked to read fiction, but as you see they are all non-fiction

Here are the books that I’ve decided I want to try to finish this summer:

  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: This book has been suggested to me more times that I can imagine from so many people, and I understand this is about how we can be with our creative selves.
  • Transitions by William Bridges: Career development is all about changes, and this is the standard book in my field. I’ve never read it before, so this is sort of my “good medicine” that I really need to experience.

  • Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal Stone & Sidra Stone: I, like so many, have some internal issues to work though, and this book was recommended by my friend Elsa (a mental health counselor) as a good resource for looking at this issue.
  • Planets in Work by Jamie Binder: Another recommendation from Elsa. I have been researching archetypes, and I’ve been looking at how those show up in astrological readings. This looks at how astrology could be used in career development decisions.
  • A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle: This book was given to me by Casey Miller and he read this many times on his cross country bike trip. I’ve seen videos of Tolle speaking, but never read any of his works. It’s about time.
  • Awakening in Time by Pamela Kristan: I was at a presentation Pam gave at the Theosophical Society of Boston, and Pam’s work has to do with the intersection of productivity and spirituality. As you can imagine, this is right up my alley. I had to see how I can incorporate her ideas into my work.
  • Living & Loving Well by Joseph Stuczynski: Joe presented at Easton Mountain a few years ago, and his work focuses on getting clear with our values in order to make good decisions in our lives, especially about our personal relationships. This is more of a workbook to clarify your goals, so this should be a quick win in getting it done!
  • Mastering Respectful Confrontation by Joe Weston: Joe is an amazing human being and presenter, and I have been to numerous workshops that he has done, and this book puts done in words what he preaches. Joe’s main concept is that the concept of power in our culture has gotten to be connected more with physical strength and power over others, and he bases his alternative vision on Easter philosophy as the power within and with other people, and how we can have conversations that empower everyone and don’t deny our own needs. This is great stuff!
  • Making It All Work by David Allen: I have been a “Getting Things Done” (GTD) fan for a number of years, as David Allen’s philosophy about personal productivity is all about how to free yourself from the stress of life and having a “mind like water” so that you can easily accomplish things in your life without fretting about them. I was lucky enough to attend a seminar last year that David personally taught, and Making It All Work is the continuation of those theories.
  • How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy! by Paul Chek: In 2008, I was part of an online weight loss challenge through RealJock.com (which I won!) and DIAKADI Body was the exercise consultants on this. Though continuing to follow their great advice, I found out about Paul Chek’s work, which integrates the concepts of health, exercise, and nutrition with a more holistic & spiritual sense that really attracted me. I don’t know it so well, but have liked what I’ve seen.
  • Mindfulness by Ellen Langer: This book was given to me by my boss back in the early 1990’s, and while I’m obviously interested in it, I never finished this book that was one of the first on the subject. It’s time. Thanks Dave!
  • Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert: Dan’s research into what makes us really happy (as opposed to what we say makes us happy) has been really enlightening to me, as I work with people to get at the core of their happiness.
  • Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good by Manuel Villacorta: In the aforementioned weight loss challenge, Manuel’s crew at MV Nutrition in San Francisco was invaluable to giving me the knowledge to eat better and lose weight. This is a new book that just came out last month, and again, I need to read it to remind myself of all the knowledge that I’ve learned (and maybe forgotten!) I highly, highly recommend that you pick up this book!

I might not get them all finished by Labor Day but it’s an intention (not at goal!).

So, what are you reading? Do you have any comments or experiences with any of these books?

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View out Robbins Library Window, Arlington, Massachusetts, May 2012

Like probably many of you, I’ve had a busy and rough spring, and with the coming of Summer (yes, it’s coming!), life is starting to slow down a bit. I’ve been joking that I didn’t need a Mental Health Day, but a Mental Health Week. I was feeling so frazzled that I really needed some reflection time.

Beware of what you ask for. Last week after a major responsibility, my whole body just seemed to collapse with a flu. It started with just exhaustion, but soon moved into the stuffy head and coughing fits. It’s been about a week, and I’ve been forced to really stop my regular schedule of events and work and just stay home and take care of myself. It’s really been about pressing the reset button for me. This has been a pattern for me in that I run myself into the ground, and then am not available to do anything for a while. This time, I tried to see this as a gift (what other choice did I have?) Instead of just laying about and bemoaning that I was so sick, I looked to see what I could do different this time and listen to my body to see what I could do to help it heal.

I’ve been doing a lot more journaling, done a lot more sitting quietly instead of browsing online (which is a lot easier now that I have an iPad!), and just listened more and thought about what could really benefit me. I got sick for a reason, and I have been trying to see the underlying patterns that have gotten me sick, and questioned if those are good for me right now. I feel like I’ve uncovered some things about myself that are good lessons for the future. Rest assured, those things will probably come out in future blog posts.

I’m almost well, but am going to try to keep these learnings in my day to day life. While I can’t take three hours to get ready every morning to go out (how I wish!), I can see what aspects of them I can take and incorporate into my daily routines. More work to do.

So, have you ever had a time that you were forced to stop, and what did you learn from it?

Invisiligns – Week 6

Sorry I haven’t been blogging as often as I normally do. Between clients, presentations, the redesign of my website, the video project and other life issues, my focus has been on areas other than writing blog posts. I’ve been working on not beating myself up on these issues and just letting them be. As I’ve stated before about my work, while important, it’s not life or death. I say to my clients that they need to be kind to themselves when they’re stressed, so I try to listen to my own advice.

One new thing in my life is that I am now on Week 6 of wearing Invisiligns. They are clear plastic aligners that I wear all the time to reset my teeth. I chipped both my front teeth within three months of each other and my dentist suggested I get them. As my teeth have been moving together since I had braces when I was 13, and there just isn’t room for them all. It’s a little awkward and makes me be really more conscious of my eating, but supposedly I’ll have a brand new smile in 34 more weeks. I think it will be worth the wait.

I get a new set of trays every two weeks and each one works to move my teeth just a little bit each time (sort of like tightening your braces if I were to have the old metal mouth again.) The change from week to week isn’t dramatic, but the cumulative effect over the entire span of time should be impressive.

As you know from my writings, I always like to pull parallels from normal life and shine that thought onto career development. This made me think of so many of my clients that what to move toward a big new career or start a creative endeavor. Too often, they are paralyzed by the amount of effort it will take to get there, and don’t do anything. Any people want it now, and any thought that something will take a little effort I’ve a long period of time is completely daunting to their psyche.

I’ve been reminded over and over again that it’s the constant attention to the daily actions we have that really make the difference in our lives.  I know when I lost a lot of weight, it came down to the decision every moment to not eat something.  If you want to progress in your career, you need to take the small steps of learning a new skill, attending a professional meeting, asking for a new project, etc.  It’s about being intentional in your daily life with your eyes on a goal.  You can’t do it all now, but you can build a foundation brick by brick. Start your practice now!

So, what small steps are you taking today?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a program at the Theosophical Society of Boston by Pam Kristan, and the subject was “Awakening in Time: Practical Time Management for Those on A Spiritual Path”.  Pam’s presentation was on thinking about how to manage your time and consider how it fits into your spiritual context.  The most interesting thing for me was concept of Sufficiency Practice.  Just like yoga or meditation being a practice, Pam mentioned that we need to think and consider what we’ve done already in order to appreciate it before we go into the next thing. This is also the work of my friend Gina LaRoche and Seven Stones Leadership.

Just like in any presentation, the standard set up for that is an introduction, presenting the content, and then a wrap up.  Too often, we completely forget about the wrap up.  The following is another video blog on my concepts on this.

So, are you noticing what you’ve already accomplished?


20120103-093014.jpgIt’s the third day into the year, and already a number of New Year’s Resolutions have bit the dust.

I have not been one to put a lot of weight into making resolutions as it seems like people think this is the only time of year that they can make changes to their lives, and I like to encourage everyone that we can make a new life for ourselves at every moment. That said, it is a great time to reflect on things and see how you want to move forward in this moment.

I was lucky enough over the New Year’s weekend to have taken a few workshops at Easton Mountain, namely in gratitude, attraction, and mindfulness. They overarching message to me in these leanings was one in intention. Too often in our busy world, we are doing things that we have trained ourselves to to without thinking. While that serves us well in some fields (like driving a car) it’s not as good when we are trying to have a conversation with someone or packing for a trip. I have personally experienced many a time when I had to clean up or take extra time when I did something unmindfully.

Another concept that I’ve picked up from my recent studies in Tantra is the concept of intentions vs. goals. I’ve spoken to the idea of goals here many times and I still think that there’s a great use for them, but also have discovered that sometimes it’s better to have an intention about something. To really mix metaphors, I also have realized from my study of GTD that there’s a difference between a project and an area of focus. A project is one where there’s a clear end point (e.g.: re-tile the bathtub) where an area of focus could be something you’re responsible for, but you can never really say is ever completed (e.g.: keeping a healthy body). A goal works for a project, but not as well for an area of focus.

Therefore, I don’t have a resolution (goal) for this year, but I do have intentions. If I were to have a goal, I’d succeed or fail. I want to be more present all the time towards an intention instead. For most of my life I’ve been very goal oriented (and will never be without goals!) but I’m realizing done areas of my life need me to be more mindful in each moment and striving toward something, and intentions seem to be a better fit for that.

My intentions for 2012 are to be more present in each moment and consider what is in my best interest. As you can tell from this, I can’t have this be a success or failure; it’s just a continual striving.

So, what are your intentions for 2012?

Blooming Tree in December, 2011, Cambridge, MA

Two things happened this weekend that gave me a new perspective, and it was totally unexpected.

On Saturday, I got up, went to yoga class at The Arlington Center (highly recommended), went and did some shopping, came home, cleaned up, and then about mid afternoon noticed that I hadn’t been on line all day. At that point, I just said to myself that I should continue this and see how it goes. I ended up relaxing and doing some drawing, and then went to the great Nowell Sing We Clear Christmas concert and saw a lot of friends.

On Sunday, I went to church and heard a great sermon by Ministerial Intern Elizabeth Nguyen on “May We Be Interrupted“. In the sermon, Elizabeth talked about this time of year is when we naturally stop, or interrupt our natural activities to slow down and reflect. Of course, our commercial world doesn’t want us to do that and hypes up the energy level to jolt us out of that. We can interrupt that if we choose.

Also, unexpected things can happen when we make ourselves available to that “eureka!” moment. How many things in life have been discovered because things didn’t go to plan? How many new, cool places have you found because you went off your normal route? I had that experience on Saturday as I didn’t check my email and messages all day. I interrupted my normal pattern and found something new. Granted, I still felt secure in what I was doing. I might not have felt the freedom to do new things had I not felt I had to take care of myself.

Many of the experiences I’ve been having in the past year seem to be reinforcing the same message: Take care to set up a safe, comfortable space for great things to happen, and get out of the way. In many ways this follows my career development philosophy, in that you need to take care of your own professional development with an eye to your goals and what’s needed to get there.

So, what interruptions have you been allowing in your life, and what discoveries have you made from them?

20111115-150752.jpgBeing successful, whichever way you define that, can be a difficult thing, as there are so many variables in the mix. It’s a combination of you, what you have to offer, the needs ofothers, and the zeitgeist of the moment all aligning. While you can’t change the world situation (on the large scale at least), you can affect your own situation.

As was mentioned to me again this past weekend, you need to “put on your own air mask before helping others” and that all comes down to managing your own needs first and foremost. You need to know what the situation is out there (e.g. Is there a need or market for someone who sings show tunes while riding a unicycle?) before you know what parts of you you need to develop. That being said, you also need to know what’s important to you before you decide which people, companies and industries you need to investigate. No use in trying to please someone or something that isn’t important to you.

That being said, there are three different areas that you have to be sure of yourself:

  • Head: Do you really know what you’re talking about? Are you sure the information is accurate? I’ve had too many clients take action steps because the “heard from somebody” that a certain job or industry would be a good choice. Do your research and get the facts.
  • Heart: Is this something that matters to you? Are your insides feeling good about what you’re doing? You need to know what’s important to you before spending your time, money and energy pursuing something that you are going to throw away later. Granted, sometimes you don’t know for sure, but listen to yourself first.
  • Guts: Do you have an instinct that you should do something? Not sure shy you’re interested in something but you know there’s a reason deep inside you? Our minds are complex and don’t always state our needs clearly to us (like our dreams). Again, it’s something to listen to.

We can’t ride on just our head, heart, or guts, but need to balance a great insight from one of them with wisdom from the others. Do you really want that great paying job that will make you travel too much? Are your dreams of Broadway stardom realistic given your mortgage? You need to consider all parts of you.

So, are you listening to your head, heart, and guts?

Note: If you want to another opportunity to slow down and listen to your body’s wisdom, please consider coming to my Alternative Black Friday workshop: Taking Stock of Your Life.

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

Ken Mattsson

I am a career consultant who specializes in the connection between what your spirit wants to do in the world, and how to marry that to the work that you do in order to support yourself. While I work with people in all fields, I specialize in working with "creative entrepreneurs" and the LGBT community.

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