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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?


About to jump off a cliff on my first hang gliding adventure! Puerto Rico March 2013

I have sort of been hibernating for the past number of months and dealing with some issues that have been difficult, but just like the crocuses that are finally coming out of the ground, it’s Spring!  It’s time to start anew.  I’m ready for it.

I was just in Puerto Rico for vacation in the beginning of March 2013, and I decided that I wanted to really stretch myself.  The people who own the guest house where I stayed (Barefoot Travelers outside of Humacao, highly recommended!) also run kayak and hang gliding adventures, and I decided to push myself and do it.  I was really scared, but I just knew things would be okay, as Bob my instructor has done this thousands of times.

Hang Gliding about the Puerto Rican landscape, March 2013

Hang Gliding about the Puerto Rican landscape, March 2013

I also went zip lining and went on the highest (and second longest) zipline in the world, at Toro Verde in Orocovis, Puerto Rico (see the video below for a taste of it!) When I came to Puerto Rico, I decided that this was the time to really stretch myself and do things that scare me.  I’ve always been scared of heights, and doing things like hang gliding and zip lining, where I’m basically jumping off mountains was huge leap of faith, literally!  I didn’t know if I could really do it, but I have to say that I got the most amazing experiences out of it.  It was in many ways the breaking down of the fear that was the biggest thing for me.

So, what have you done recently that really scares you?

We’ve all been hearing a lot about this Winter Solstice being the end of the long range Mayan Calendar, and many are interpreting this as being “the end of the world”. I don’t know that many actually believe this are are doing apocalyptic planning like we’ve seen with so many religious zealots pronouncements before. I think that it’s been the impetus for more End of the World parties than anything else. We have our calendars that we put up on our walls every year, and we don’t think that it’s the end of the world every year. Imagine if you had to carve your calendars out of stone! You’d surely only make it so big, especially if you were dealing with as long a calendar as the Mayans were.

I saw a picture earlier on Facebook that had a man with the sign “The Beginning is Near”. I really like that one, as it focuses more on the fact that you can think of this as the start of something, and we all tend to like the possibilities of new things (why do you think we are always shopping so much and hoping that new shirt/house/car/spouse will finally bring us happiness?) There have been many more people that I’ve been seeing that are using this time to envision a time of a new vision of life, and I think that we’re seeing that in the world in general. Granted, there are many who are scared at things changing and are doing their best to hold back the tide of change (our most recent election and the reaction of many is proof of that.) As many of us know, it’s usually the resistance to what is that creates the most pain, and I think that a lot of the fear and pain in our society comes from people who want things to be one way when they are actually another. Look at how much money is being poured into voter suppression and marriage equality efforts. That’s coming out of a fear-based standpoint. These people are so attached to their own position that they can’t see the reality of what’s in front of them.

As I think most people are pain-averse, it would be actually easier to just accept what’s going on, and see what we can do with it. One group that is doing something more positive is Birth2012, and they are designating December 20-22 as Three Days of Love. How can we try to view everything and all people we come in contact with from a loving standpoint? While that sounds pie-in-the-sky, it does speak to are we really intentional about what we’re doing and thinking, and can we actually approach people with best intentions. I’m trying it, and would encourage you to also. What could be so bad about that?

So, what are you starting new this epoch?  Bright Solstice to you all!

First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist

I was lucky enough this past Sunday to be at the Coming of Age ceremony at my church, First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist. The Coming of Age ceremony is a process where the kids who have been in religious education are now transitioning into the Youth Group, but they do it with a whole year program of investigation of the world, where they see themselves in relation to the congregation, and what their own beliefs and feelings about the world are. It culminates with this service where the kids run the service, and instead of a sermon, each of them get up and read to the congregation their Credo (latin for “I believe”) statements. They’ve been working on them for months to hone what it is that they truly believe about their world, and it is so amazing to see these 13 and 14 year olds speak so articulately to a large audience about something so personal.

I was commenting to people afterwards that we as adults don’t get this opportunity too often. As I grow and change, I know that my feelings about the world have changed. While I have been doing a great deal of personal and professional development over the past number of years (as I hope is apparent from this blog!), I haven’t really formulated it into a crystallized format for presentation. It’s quite the gift, and showed me that I really should take the time for that more often. I got a hint of that in my personal retreat that I took last month (and am planning on doing monthly from now on).

Professionally, I’m all about what is your message and how are you delivering it to your appropriate audience. As I’ve discovered time and time again, the lessons learned from one area of your life are usually very applicable to other areas.

So, what do you believe and can you describe it to others?

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?

A number of years ago, I was at an organizational development workshop where we brought in an improvisational comedy troupe to give us some training on improv techniques.  I remember is being very cool and somewhat freeing, as the whole thing was about “Yes, and..”, which is sort of the equivalent of playing verbal hacky sack.  You’re trying to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible, and it’s very light hearted.  Also, you have to be very present about where you are and what’s going on, as you don’t know what’s going to come next and be ready.

As I have been doing my own personal development (as well as professional development) work, I’ve noticed that this concept can help you in all sorts of areas.  One thing that I’ve said over and over is that I’m a firm believer in reality.  I wish I were six feet tall, but I’m not, so what can I do with what I’ve got.  I’m not going to be 25 again, so how can I be the best middle aged man I can be.  You can’t deny what’s here, but it’s best to play with what you’ve got. It’s also accepting the personal power that you have within the situation.  You are powerful if you have control over your own actions in the moment, and don’t give them away to others.

I was thrilled when I found the YouTube video of Jane Lynch‘s Address at the Smith College 2012 Commencement.  In this, she expands on the topic of “Yes, and..” to state that we have to accept what we’ve got, and see what creative opportunities we can do with.  I invite you to watch the video and see how you can think about including more spontaneity and possibility in your life.

So, when was the last time you said “Yes, and..”?

Hello blogging world!

Ken at Taos Plaza, Taos, New Mexico, August 2012

I know, I’ve been a bit AWOL for a while.  I’ve had an amazing summer where I was traveling a lot and had a lot of adventures.  I went to New York State, New Brunswick, Provincetown (yes, there will be the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge post for that!), Kentucky, and New Mexico.  I have not tended to be a big traveler, but this year was different, and I was trying something new.  It has been a great experience with new learnings, and you will be seeing comments and pictures about them on this blog.

That being said, I’ve let you, and most importantly myself, down by not keeping up with blog posts.  Writing down my thoughts and comments on spirit, passion, and career is not only a way to put my thoughts in concrete form and promote my ideas to you (and any potential clients), but also a spiritual practice.  In the zen practice of every action you take can be mindful and promote your spiritual health, I’ve been blogging to keep myself focused and active in mind.  I’ve been more active in body this summer with all the traveling, and I have gotten better with being more consistent with my yoga and meditation practices.  That is a good thing, and I’m happy for that.

I can’t change the past, and it does absolutely no good to get down on myself for avoiding this, as I won’t be a better blogger now because I have a judgmental voice in my head.  I can just be kind to myself and move on forward.

So, how are you being kind to yourself and acknowledging your past shortcomings?

Ken at Swede Road, Little Ridge, New Brunswick, Canada, July 2012

Ken at Beach Point Landing, Truro, Massachusetts, July 2012

I just had a great time in New Brunswick and Mount Desert Island, Maine on a trip to find some family roots.  I had a lot of plans, and was recommended by a good friend (Thanks Scott!) to be more in the moment.  Here are my thoughts on that in video form.

So, have you gotten a great opportunity just because you were present to it?

Ken at the Hamilton College Chapel, Clinton, NY, 3 June 2012

I just returned from my college reunion at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. I won’t tell you what number reunion it was for me, but I’ll just say it was “a big round number” as I like to call these things. We had about 30-35% of the graduating class back, and, while this is the third time I’ve been back to College Hill, it is the first time that I was there where I felt like I was fully present. I think that a lot of people step into sites that were scenes from earlier in their lives and they revert to the person they were there, and stop being the person they are now. I’ve done that in the past, and was working really hard to be present in the fullness of who I am now.

Ken rock climbing, Hamilton College, 2 June 2012

One thing that I think is the norm for any college reunion is drinking. I think I had more in 30 hours than I normally have in a month! I was lucky to be staying in campus housing so I didn’t have to drive anywhere. In some ways I think that is to numb yourself from feeling everything as well as to try to relive your old activities, and get away from the staid live of the present. I got to see a number of friends that I was close to while I was a student, including choir buddies (I sang most of my time there are was a

member of numerous singing groups), roommates (Eric, I swear I will go to Wellesley soon in the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge. Thanks for following!), suitemates (great to meet your family Dave!), and even people I never talked with while I was there. I even met someone who I never spoke with in my four years on campus to find he lives a little over a mile away and might be interested in my career consulting (yup, it’s a tax deduction right there!).  I even got to go rock climbing for the first time in my life.  They certainly never had that when I was on campus!

Tom’s Natural Foods, Cliinton, NY. The place where I first learned about natural foods.

I also tried to do some thing that are being true to me. There was a yoga class that I took, and I first did yoga on campus where I was the only student to an upperclass woman from Brazil. That, and the health food store in the village of Clinton were things that got me to think about health issues and set me up for the 26 years that I’ve been a vegetarian. These were the seeds that grew to make me who I am now.

A really new thing for me was that I got to attend a GLBT Alumni gathering. I was not out to myself then and very few people on campus were. Now they have a building where they have programming and are very visible on campus. In talking with a number of the current students, it sounds like it’s not always the easiest thing, it’s a lot different than my time. I also got to meet other GLBT alums and find out that there’s a GBLT Alumni group! It’s amazing to think of being all of myself there. (Note: another gay alumnus of Hamilton wrote a great article for the New York Times about his experiences at reunion, which mirrors a lot of what I’m saying here.)

There are three things that really struck me while I was there:

  • One of my fellow alums was there who really made an impression on me. I didn’t know her that well while I was on campus, but we knew each other enough to say hello and chat. She’s obviously had challenges in her life as she was walking with a walker and utilized an iPad to type out what she had to say that couldn’t be relayed in hand gestures. She was in yoga class with me, and was everywhere during the weekend. I know that she had some assistance, but she was very self determined and was definitely showing up fully as she is today. I didn’t get to speak with her much, but I did tell her she if a very strong woman.Thank you, Classmate, for your presence.
  • A friend of mine that I’m still connected on Facebook asked me what it was like being gay in college and if I was out, did I hide it from people, etc. She said it must have been very difficult and she felt badly that she couldn’t have done something to make it a better experience. This was totally unprompted and really made me feel cared for. It was something small, but made a big difference in my heart.Thank you, Friend, for your presence.
  • While I was not out in college, there was a guy who was. He was an athlete and well liked, and was really the first colleague that I had that was out. I didn’t have the words for it at the time, but I realize now that he was the first guy I had a crush on. Unbelievably, he was there and I got to say thank you to him for being out, and that it made a difference to me even though I didn’t come out then. He said it was awkward, but he knew that he had to do it. I wish I could have been that brave.Thank you, Role Model, for your presence.

I was working hard at being present and being me authentically while I was there. This is difficult in lots of situations, but by forcing myself to do that, I gained some strength and that I can be more me in any situation and can take that into my future.

So, are you being present even when it’s tough?

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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