The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Engaging in conversations

One of the things I enjoy while developing the work I do is having regular conversations with peers. And today’s conversation with Andy was no exception. We were reminding ourselves of the time it can take to learn something in-depth and how this process might need to take that time.

On his journey to becoming a coach, Andy’s teacher required the group to read the assigned articles three times. He explained that every read would lead to a different conversation with the article.

The idea reminded me of the descriptions Mortimer Adler shared in his bookHow to read a book”. But at the same time, as Andy reminded me, the way we’ve been taught to read a book comes along with a different mindset, than the one of having a conversation.

The way most of us have learned to think about reading a book is to either be entertained or to learn something, The latter is what Adler is seeking to teach us. He does a great job at it, showing us how to dig in. He shows us how to get the most out of a book by enabling us to learn what it is about.

What he doesn’t try to teach us, is how to think for ourselves.

Approaching articles or books with an idea of having a conversation with them, is an invitation to read with one’s own point of view in mind. And at the same time, it’s being curious about what the other can contribute to changing it. The invitation to have several conversations is a reminder, that sometimes we need the time to settle in with the other, to overcome our first reactions, and open up to the ideas the other is seeking to convey.

It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea. By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise. And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very good. I need time to think about it, too, to make mistakes and recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, to defeat my desire to declare the job done and move on to the next thing. – William Deresiewicz in his essay “Solitude and Leadership”

The ability to have conversations belongs to the most important skills leaders need to have. It’s one Andy shows in season one of his podcast “Leadership is No Accident.”


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