Four Lessons Of Going Long

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Mark Lundegren

As mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve been at work for about a year on a book spanning my seven Natural Strategy workshops.

I’m happy to advise that the book is now fully drafted and on track to be published by 2015. All that stands between the draft and eventual publication is several months of editing and polishing on my part.

That may sound like a lot of work, but compared with writing, editing is a far more specific assignment – and even a welcome prospect, after a year of waking to blank pages each day.

With this background, I hope you will allow me to characterize writing a book as going long and to point out a few lessons from the experience. There are of course many ways of going long, and I’ll define the phrase here as any personal or group endeavor that lasts several months or more, involves change or creation, requires our full attention and pulls us from other things, and has at least a little uncertainty about how and where it will end.

Writing a book has these qualities, but many other projects do as well – creating a new product or service, cultivating an organization, taking up a social or political cause, raising a child.

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Examining Our Natural Curves

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Mark Lundegren

My title may have led you to think I was going to argue for or against Rubenesque body types, or discuss a fitness insight from my work at HumanaNatura. But I actually want to share a strategy insight and talk about the curves of our lives and groups, rather than those of our limbs and torsos.

Though few of us have considered the idea that our lives and social settings can have a distinct underlying curve or shape, these natural patterns do indeed exist and are discoverable by us. What we might call our life-curves are real and tangible reflections of the way we live and, in particular, how we pattern our actions against our progressive potential.

In theory and practice, life-curves prove quite powerful – in the results they create for us, when used as a tool of personal and group strategy, and as an aid to higher quality of life and functioning.

The Core Idea Of Natural Curves

The core idea of natural curves is that elemental patterns can be shown to underlie all of our lives, even as these patterns often remain hidden to us. In essence, our personal life-curve is the overall direction that our life or life trajectory takes over time – again, against our progressive or developmental potential. In practice, understanding and seeing our life-curves is a lot like learning about climate. Like the larger conditions that span and influence the weather we encounter each day. life-curves are subtle but ever-present shapes behind the scenes, but ones that are equally accessible and even equally obvious once grasped.

As a model of a critical dynamic underlying our lives – essentially our degree of natural progressivity or tendency to increase the quality of our functioning or health – life-curves describe organic forces or patterns that reflect and ultimately govern our lives in important ways. Because of this, probing these background patterns proves essential to the work of progressive modern living. And, as you will see, life-curves are shapes that reflect processes we can each sense, assess, and ultimately alter ourselves.

To introduce this insight-rich, immediately actionable, and potentially life-changing concept, I’d like to talk about three life-curves in particular. I would also like to again underscore that this simple but powerful model of life applies to groups too. Just as with individual people, organizations and communities, and even whole societies, can be seen as having a distinct and dominating curve or trajectory – one that expresses and predicts its underlying health and progressive potential.

As background, I should add that the idea our lives and the world around us have a tangible and health-impacting shape comes from my workshops and will be discussed in my first full-length book, due out in the second half of the year. As you will see, each of the three curves I will introduce implies a very different mode of modern living or collective functioning.

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Your Organization’s Health

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Mark LundegrenIf I were to ask about the health of the organization you run or work for, how would you think about this idea?

You might understand my question as referring to the physical health of your workers or co-workers, or the level of daily stress that is typical. You may initially see my question in terms of the demands your organization makes on its members, and whether it leaves time for life outside of work.

All of these considerations are of course important aspects of healthy modern life and work, but they really don’t answer the question of how healthy the organization is, as an entity unto itself (understanding that any organization’s health influences and is impacted by the health of real people).

But just as with real people, organizations can be seen as relatively and thus comparatively healthy or unhealthy – as existing on an organizational health continuum – once we examine and broaden our thinking about the basic nature of all forms or expressions of the important quality we call health.

Three Definitions Of Health

I would encourage you to stop and spend a minute thinking about health as a natural quality of living things – be they living individuals, groups, or even whole societies – and to craft a simple definition of health.

Don’t be disappointed if you can’t come up with a good working definition right away. In truth, even among people whose job it is to think about and advance health – including physicians but also other professionals in various fields – we frequently fail to reach a full and enduring sense of what health is in its essence.

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Understanding Effectiveness

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Mark LundegrenWe all know the perils of being merely efficient. It’s not hard to think of an example of ourselves acting quickly or even expertly, only to find that our actions were not ideal for a situation. For this reason, the goal of effectiveness is generally a better one than simple efficiency, if we want to maximize the value of our efforts.

This fairly uncomplicated idea of course begs us to understand the nature of effectiveness, and I encounter people and groups all the time who struggle with this important concept. But as is the case with many complex phenomena, there is a simple way to think about effectiveness that can unlock our ability to both understand and achieve it. And this ability is true regardless of whether we are considering the effectiveness of  groups and organizations or ourselves and others.

To demystify effectiveness and make the concept immediately clearer and more actionable, we need only consider three variables: 1) a need or want, 2) time, and 3) cost. All three variables are pretty straightforward, and there is no nuanced understanding of these words required. More than likely, how you intuitively understand needs and wants, time, and cost are adequate for unlocking new effectiveness in your life and work. The trick is thinking about these things together and the ways in which they naturally inter-relate.

As part of this new perspective, we simultaneously learn to better differentiate between needs and wants, and tasks. This important distinction lies at the heart of the difference between efficiency and effectiveness, and can be used to promote transformative impacts in our lives and organizations.

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The Nine Imperatives

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Mark LundegrenAs you may know, I am at work on a book spanning my Natural Strategy workshops. The book will provide a “play at home” version covering all seven of the workshops, and is intended to either introduce the workshop content or serve as a refresher and reference after attending one or more workshops.

Already, work on the book has been an opportunity to reflect on the workshops, to review and expand the workshop materials, and to incorporate the new perspectives that inevitably come when translating bullets and charts to prose and narrative. The work also naturally provides opportunities for posts on this blog – to share elements of the work-in-progress and solicit feedback on them. Today’s post will be a case in point

My focus right now is translating the Natural Organization workshop into outline form and then an eventual narrative. In working on this chapter of the book, I started by reconsidering and expanding slightly my list of organizational imperatives…the things that purposeful groups and organizations of all shapes and sizes must do well. I have posted my revised list below for your review and comments.

The list of organizational imperatives is important for a few reasons. It provides a useful overview of needed strategic focus areas for existing and start-up organizations. It sets up a discussion of specific strategy and planning techniques essential to progressive organizational functioning. And the list even serves as a scorecard of sorts, to gauge the general health and breadth of focus of an organization.

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The Progressive Circle

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Mark LundegrenIn keeping with my recent Strategy 101 post, I want to cover some of the key elements of my Natural Strategy method in more detail. Today, I’d like to talk about an important practice I call The Progressive Circle.

Forming recurring patterns that I see quite often,  people and organizations pursuing progressive change frequently lack either: 1) a clear and motivating mid-term vision of change or 2) a strong and adventurous sense of their needed immediate next steps…or both of course.

In practice, a compelling vision and a short list of immediate actions are each essential to building lasting change and a natural complement of one another. Our vision can be used to drive and guide our next steps and choices, while progress toward our vision can test, inform, and potentially change our vision and plans.

Remove either a motivating and realistic vision or engagement in tangible short-term action, and any quest for progressive change is likely to be far less successful, or far less ambitious in scope, than it might or need be.

After all, change must always happen in real-time. It is never realized or advanced by actions delayed or imagined. At the same time, each practical step forward must be guided by values and goals – if our steps are to made intentional and optimal, and more than a random walk.

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Are You On A Mission?

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Mark LundegrenFollowing up on my recent Strategy 101 post, I’d like to explore some of the key elements of my Natural Strategy method. I’ll do this over time, one topic at a time. Today, I’d like to talk about the importance of having a clear sense of mission.

To start our discussion, let me ask an at-once simple and not-so-simple question: are you on a mission? If you are trying to maximize your personal potential, or your organization’s, understanding the overall importance of mission and your own specific mission is critical to optimal success.

Why? Because, like many aspects of strategy-making, missions open and close doors, giving us added focus and increased natural power through this focus. Missions say what we will do, and therefore what we will not do. And if well-considered, missions give us power not just through focus, but also through new motivation – by tapping into emotions and values that are important and elevating to us.

Defining Our Mission

Since the idea or meaning of a mission can vary, it’s worth spending a moment to clarify how I am using this important word.

We often hear people talk about themselves, or another person or organization, as being on a mission. Often, this means having a focus on a specific goal or outcome with a special passion or commitment. For me, this is mission with a small “m,” a definition that is essentially synonymous with being goal-directed.

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Strategy 101 – What & Why!

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Mark LundegrenOk, so we’re going to be talking a lot about strategy on this site. Personal strategy, group strategy, community and collective strategy. But strategy in any case.

It will be helpful if I spend a minute to define what strategy is, explain why it is important and even central to successful modern life, and illustrate how strategies and strategy-making at all levels can be done simply and optimally.

That should make for a pretty good post, don’t you think?

Strategy Defined

First, a definition of strategy. I went to Wikipedia to see our collective wisdom on this topic. What’s there is technically correct, but also kind of blah-blah. For me, this way of thinking about strategy reflects and reinforces the idea that strategy-making is high and dry, dull and difficult. It needlessly turns people away from the crucial topic of strategy and not toward it. Both are enormous and costly mistakes for us all!

In fact, strategy is interesting and creative, inspiring and heartfelt, at least when it is done right or thought about correctly. And when we get strategy right, it is powerful and usually transformative, remaking the quality of our lives and enterprises.  To proceed without a good strategy is to resign ourselves to results often far below our potential, and yet most people and many organizations today operate without a clear or optimal strategy.

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How Progressive Are You?

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Mark LundegrenSince my Natural Strategy method is based on the principle and practice of natural progressivity, or the ongoing seeking of healthier and more intelligent life, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I would ask, how progressive are you?

My question isn’t intended to be political or ideological, but rather practical and personal. It asks about how you live and function each day, and thus steadily over time. And though I pose the question about you, I could (and do in my work) ask the same question to groups, organizations, communities, and institutions of all kinds. And we can even ask this question about whole societies, social trends and movements, and our modern species in total.

While my Natural Strategy method and programs help people better appreciate and more directly pursue our natural potential for more adaptive and beneficial progressive functioning, this crucial natural process can start informally and intuitively. We need only begin to consider, and perhaps discuss with others, the degree and quality of progressivity or natural probing in our lives – and then in our groups and the larger social settings around us.

Here is a short quiz you can use to begin to gauge your current level of progressivity, and also get a sense of some of the practices and considerations I encourage in my programs. Give yourself 10 points for each strong yes, or 5 points for a yes that is a bit less strong, for a total potential score of 100 points.

THE NATURAL STRATEGY QUIZ

How closely do these statements describe you today? Give yourself 10 points for each strong yes, 5 points for each partial yes.

1.   When I have to do something I have never done before, I usually feel a sense of adventure.

2.   I generally gather a good amount of information when making decisions, especially big ones.

3.   I have a plan for my life that involves ongoing personal change, and a pretty clear sense of where I want to be in the next 2-3 years.

4.   Most days, I learn something new and valuable about myself or the world.

5.   I deliberately seek new experiences and learning opportunities, or challenge myself with new goals, at least once each month.

6.   I have at least three specific goals I want to accomplish this month.

7.   I am in excellent physical and emotional health.

8.   I regularly surprise myself and often see new sides of me in my thoughts and actions.

9.   I am financially secure today, or realistically will be within five years.

10. I am widely recognized by others as having useful skills and abilities.

YOUR PROGRESSIVE NEXT STEPS

In my experience, many of us initially score about 50 percent in this simple quiz – and notably before we have begun to formally explore the Natural Strategy method, and intentionally progressive and naturally health-seeking life, for ourselves.

This common average underscores, but often underestimates, our waiting potential to greatly expand and benefit from the simple but powerful natural progressivity techniques that I teach, write about, and encourage.

Regardless of your initial score, the quiz has served as an initial introduction to important ideas and practices from my Natural Strategy programs. To build on this, I would encourage you to learn more about the Natural Strategy method through the links I have included and my overall website.

Perhaps the quiz has given you specific ideas for steps you might begin to take right away to become more progressive and powerful in your life and endeavors, and to enjoy the many benefits that can come from the Natural Strategy method and naturally progressive functioning.

If you have questions or comments on the quiz, please write to me anytime at marklundegren.com@gmail.com. I’d enjoy hearing from you very much.

Health & best wishes,

Mark

Tell others about Mark and the transformative Natural Strategy method!

Ready For Prime Time!

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Mark LundegrenI’ve spent the last couple of weeks re-working and improving the early materials on this site, describing my Natural Strategy method and planned workshops and retreats, and speaking and media work.

It’s a work in progress, one that I first envisioned about a year ago while beginning work on the new sixth edition of HumanaNatura. As such, the new materials you see are not perfect or final, but I think they are ready for prime time. In the least, they are good enough so that I cannot use them as an excuse not to start doing interesting strategy posts, and to begin a larger project spanning this new area of focus for me.

If you are interested in following the development of this blog and the larger body of Natural Strategy ideas and techniques it will introduce, here’s a quick preview of what to expect:

#1 Posts – look for at least weekly posts on personal and organizational strategy here…discussing specific techniques and learnings from my workshops, highlighting good ideas and practices when I find them (or they are sent to me), and translating my growing focus on translating the principle of natural progressivity into modern life and work practices.

#2 Marketing – good or new strategy ideas really don’t make a difference until they get into the world and improve the functioning of people and groups. With this idea in mind, I’ll be creating 2-3 marketing campaigns in the next few weeks to introduce my Natural Strategy programs. If you have a similar to-do in your work, I’ll be favoring creativity and a few compelling propositions over large advertising outlays…so maybe my work can aid yours (and vice versa).

#3 New Book – with the new blog ready, next week I will start outlining a new book spanning my seven workshops. I see this project as important not just as a publicity vehicle, but also because the workshops all revolve around some central ideas and have a natural integration or progression to them…but in ways that are not perfectly clear until it is somewhat carefully described. After eight months of intensive editing work on HumanaNatura, I am not really ready for the demanding work (at least for me) of writing again, but fortunately the outlining portion of the book project will take at least until the end of the year. Most likely, I will not put fingertips to keyboard until January.

Feel free to subscribe and follow along as I develop my new blog and begin this larger body of work to communicate my Natural Strategy techniques. And definitely please comment or send a note with your ideas, if and whenever you want. I’d enjoy hearing from you.

Health & best wishes,

Mark