I found Bill’s approach to be inspiring, and immediately went
home to incorporate his ideas into some OpenPlans materials that I’d been working on (e.g., a new page on our website describing our transportation business — you can now see Bill’s “beliefs / people / intentions” pattern loosely reflected). I won’t try to reiterate Bill’s big ideas, because that has been done (here is a good overview, and here’s a video of Bill’s Ted X talk). Both are worth a read / watch.
Since then, one takeaway has really stuck with me: the idea of speaking from the heart.
A fairly large part of my job is talking & writing about what we do; to funders, clients, partners, students, the press, etc. I believe in our mission, and think that we have done and continue to do good work. At this point, I can speak pretty easily about it, and do my best to weave our complex mission and activities into a (reasonably) cohesive story.
But I realized that I don’t always speak from the heart as much as I should or could. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a difference you can feel — when I think of speaking from the heart, I feel the focus moving from my head down to my belly. To the place where you just know the things you’re talking about, and why they’re important. You aren’t nervous or worried about getting it right. To use Bill’s language, speaking from the heart brings you back to feeling the connection your people, your beliefs, and your intentions (the feeling reminds me of the notion of the Ideal Performance State, as described in The Making of the Corporate Athlete which is also worth a read).
When I think back on the times when I haven’t been happy with how I’ve performed in a speaking gig, I can usually trace it back to being too much in my head and not enough in my heart/belly. For instance, in September we announced Civic Commons at the Gov 2.0 Summit. I did a small part of of the announcement, which went fine, but I didn’t consider it an A+ performance (and got endless shit from Clay Johnson about it). According to my wife, who watched the video (I didn’t), it was a B; not completely embarrassing, but not particularly great either. Fine. Afterward, I realized that I had gotten too far into the weeds — was too much in my head and not enough in my heart. Tired, uninspired. If I were to do it over, I would have focused on the core ideas about why we believed the project was important and why we were part of it.
Speaking from the heart gives you energy and confidence. It gets you back to the real reason why you’re involved and why you care. It’s powerful and easy at the same time. It’s an idea that I will keep with me.