Book Review: Collaborating With the River of Life

“To slalom on the river of life is a simple choice but not an easy one,” says Joe Jacobi in his newly published book, Slalom: 6 River Classes About How to Confront Obstacles, Advance Amid Uncertainty, & Bring Focus to What Matters Most.

“It is bold and requires patience and persistence. But when we choose to slalom better, to advance our ability to pivot and adapt, we uncover a hidden invitation to collaborate with the river’s flow, to stop fighting against it,” Jacobi continues.

I love the idea of collaborating with life’s oft-tumultuous river. It’s an intriguing idea–and yet no surprise–coming from Jacobi, an Olympic Gold Medalist and Performance Coach known widely for his expertise in collaboration.

In fact, I had the rich benefit of Jacobi’s collaborative one-on-one coaching last year to help me resurrect client passion. Prior, we had also collaborated on an article for Lever’s Talent Innovation blog, where we focused on strategies to help build high-performance teams. So, when I heard he was publishing his first book, I expressed desire to be an early adopter, that I would consume the book with voracity.

Last night, I read the first chapter, or as Jacobi describes it, “Class 1,” because he uses six classes of rapids to guide our river journey to “apply unique, river-based reflections to the pursuits of flow and simplicity.”

He explains early on that the book’s message is not about grit and resilience, as applied to success at the highest levels of sport per se. Instead, says Jacobi, “The core message of Slalom positions an unlikely collaboration with uncertainty to built better choices, get unstuck, respond to change, find flow, and live simply.”

I know this is a message from which I can gain value. Even in my recent years’ aspirations to find flow amid an uncertain economy and culture, undulations in business, disruptions and sea changes in lifestyle and other waves of complexity, that flow can sometimes elude me.

While I’ve readily deployed a certain level of resilience and tenacity amid the storms of life and work, a continually tenacious attitude can be exhausting—not only to me but also to those in my sphere. Therefore, at this intersection of resilience and realization, I believe the opportunity for collaborative peace resides.

I’ve been working deliberately and with a certain level of surrender in recent months to enable a calmer, more peace-filled flow in my life. But this is not without its obstacles and challenges. While I now happen to live on an island, I realize I am not an island of one, and the reverberating impacts of my actions, as well as others’ actions toward and even around me, impact flow. Sometimes this impact is accelerative to our goals and desires; other times, it creates a disruptive and negative outcome–a level of chaos, even.

Whatever the case, fear is often at the root of the more unsettling responses to change and uncertainty. And, as I dive into Jacobi’s book, I’m calmed by his words, by his wisdom and by his promotion of a “beautiful and thoughtful model to manage energy, build strategy, and foster relationships while navigating and collaborating with uncertainty.”

I’m looking forward to joining into Joe Jacobi’s classroom discussions to help reinforce an existing model, and perhaps even, construct a new model to better collaborate with the river of life.

– By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

When you decide

Decisions are powerful.

My husband, Rob and I made a 30-day decision yesterday. It centers on our values – and on a particular activity underpinning our values. The resolve and solidarity we both expressed were palpable.

I’m excited and hopeful and calmed by our decision and the decisiveness girding it. There’s something about certainty and clarity and the peace that accompanies it. There’s a fluidity when “you know” you need and want a change. It’s like the balance of stress to strength shifts, and you suddenly feel more equipped and ready for whatever life has to throw at you.

In this particular instance, it’s about something we’ve decided to pause for the next 30 days, and perhaps into infinity. But for now, small steps – 30 days is achievable.

It’s about stopping one thing to begin anew with other goals and ultimately to buoy energy, health, attitude, productivity and possibility. It’s also about empowering our minds, our marriage and our relationships.

Perhaps in 30 days I’ll share the specifics, alongside a short success story, but for now I’ll share this hope and energy that stirs my heart on Monday morning. As birds chirp happy morning songs, and our water fountain pours possibility into daybreak, I think I’ll leave you with this:

Never give up on the power of your resolve to evolve. Decisions powered by action meet with the most glorious traction.

-Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

Conservative: Aversion to Change or Reverence to Our Values?

According to one online dictionary, the word, ‘conservative’ is defined as being “averse to change or innovation … “

The pomposity of these words as they strolled across my ‘word of the day’ screen saver recently further evidenced the decline of our culture.

Not only is conservatism unopposed to innovation, most conservatives I know are on the cutting edge of all things groundbreaking.

Many are entrepreneurs, inventors of products, investors in research and development and idea innovators that have sped productivity, improved performance and buoyed overall quality of life.

However, that for which we do have an aversion is change for the sake of change, change for the sake of perverting reality and change that dishonors or is irreverent to truth.

It is this daily drumbeat not only to be ‘prideful,’ but to be prideful about all things self regardless of the moral underpinning those actions, ideas and behaviors.

As I awaken this morning to the birdsong of summer, the gentle lighting peeking through puffy clouds and the whirring of the fan quietly stirring the balmy air, I hear and see hope. Hope of persons whose fortitude is not roiled by the raucous seas of moral decline, but instead who are rising above.

I hear and see fellow humans who delight in diligence, toil in truth and bask in behaviors becoming of conservative values.

I read stories of people standing their ground, voting for life, delighting in our Lord’s favor and being the light.

All this while advancing forward, with transformative ideas grounded in technologically, scientifically, mechanically or whatever areas of innovation that make their lives, their loved ones’ lives and all who seek truth better.

All while uplifting humanity in alignment with the unchanging truth that has girded us for centuries. Because the drumbeat of advancement does not mean the desecration of the past. The light of tomorrow does not dim the truths of yesterday.

by Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

Book Review: Finding Truth and Beauty

I’m reading a new book, The Truth and Beauty: How the Lives and Works of England’s Greatest Poets Point the Way to a Deeper Understanding of the Words of Jesus, by Andrew Klavan.

While listening to Klavan being interviewed on the topic, my soul felt immediately soothed, and my mind thirsted for more. So, I quickly preordered this book and was mesmerized when it recently arrived.

His goal in writing this book was to “discover a fresh understanding of the Gospels. By reading the words of Jesus through the life and work of writers such as William Wordsworth and John Keats, Mary Shelley and Samuel Taylor Coleridge–Klavan encountered Jesus in a deeper and more profound way than ever before,” according to the description in the book jacket.

Articulating Shared Struggle

Importantly, The Truth and Beauty traverses a shared struggle that many of us wrestle with, “to understand the Gospels in all their strangeness,” and to navigate toward a life that is “the most creative, the most joyful, and surely the most true,” according to Klavan.

I often wrestle with the seemingly muddied waters of biblical truth when reading and / or studying the Gospels. Whether independently studying or collaboratively discussing in a group, such conversations often leave me feeling both buoyed and a bit baffled. How to apply Jesus’ teachings to my every day life sounds exhilarating on the one hand and oft-impossible on the next.

Klavan illustrates this feeling well when he quotes Jesus saying, “Do not worry what you’ll eat or wear. Consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. The birds find food. And the lilies are clothed like Solomon in his glory.” Klavan goes on to muse, “What mother with a hungry child could take such counsel? What father who has lost his job could take it?”

As a Christian, we understand and even embrace the premise that worry is not the answer, and that by surrendering ourselves to Jesus, and trusting him, he will take care of it. In my heart, I believe this. However, fully understanding what this means can be difficult, at best, impossible at worst.

Getting to Know the Man Behind the Gospels

To help gird his understanding, Klavan seeks out the Gospels in a way that helps him get to know Jesus, “who he was inside, how he saw the world, how he tried to make us see it.”

In other words, Klavan delves beyond philosophy to get to know the man.

According to Klavan, the voices of the English Romantic poets spoke to him. He says, it was “their poetry that broke through the quirks and limitations of mere reason, and let me feel the savior as a presence, a man whom I might truly come to know.”

He goes on to explain his why behind thinking this, including diving into the failed utopian revolutions of these poets’ age, which mirror our own present culture. He also links the project of the English Romantics to his own project rereading the Gospels.

Describing the Romantics’ “age of unbelief” which aligns with our present-day situation, he goes on to encourage, saying that these poets “either accidentally or guided by a hand they could not perceive–blazed a literary trail back from the ruins of old faith … toward the original vision that Christ delivered not only in the Sermon on the Mount but in all the words of that invisible biography that hovers in the credal silence between his miraculous birth and his suffering death.”

Klavan describes how almost unintentionally, “these poets rediscovered what is provable in the living of it: that the deepest experience of human existence, the most joyful, and surely the most true is the experience taught to us by the incarnate Word of God and bought for us by his crucifixion and resurrection.”

Exhilaration for “What’s Next”

I’m 50 pages into Klavan’s book and to say I am enthralled is an understatement.

Arising early this morning before the commitments of my career storytelling job have consumed me, has enabled time to imbibe in nourishing words and insights.

With poetry at the root of my passions, the idea of melding biblical wisdom with poetic insight in order to more joyfully experience my life as a Christian woman–in order to gain a better understanding of the man behind the Gospels–is exhilarating.

I’m excited for what’s next as Andrew Klavan unfolds his self-discovery and learnings so that I may also benefit by gaining a deeper understanding of the words of Jesus.

I’m also excited at the prospect of enriching my faith, increasing my purpose and ultimately, exuding my word of the year, which is peace. For, without peace amid the turmoil of the day-to-day I do believe all faith becomes muddled and frustrated. With peace at the core of my being, there is room for hope and joy and biblical truth to cultivate and flourish.

-Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

Valuing Each Moment

This chapter of life is about living fully today.

As the sands in the hourglass of my life become weighted more heavily at the bottom, I place less emphasis on the long game as I do the current moment. What value am I offering to others in my sphere–as well as gleaning for my own satiation–on this day, this hour, this minute?

Tomorrow is not promised.

What sweetness of early-morning peacefulness am I embracing right now, as this busy Monday emerges? Rather than delaying delight until tomorrow or the weekend, I take this new commitment seriously.

Arising at 4:45am, I imbibe in the early-morning quiet of my backyard, entranced by the sweet aura of the lights my husband lovingly strung across our stone patio. The swooshing of the palm trees as the sun stays tucked below the horizon calms before the chattering of clients demands my time and energy.

Moreover, the need to align becomes increasingly urgent, as I take action to weave a more peaceful life fabric: unsubscribing from newsletters and taking other actionable steps to steer away from content and conversations at odds with my values. Drawing lines in the sand with unscrupulous behaviors inconsistent with both personal and business beliefs.

Determining not to bow and bend to every whim of others but instead to enable the synchronicity of good work and meaningful life more fully.

-Jacqui

Adieu Sweet Ann

Oh Mom, I miss you something fierce,
An advocate whose love did pierce,
Through any doubts, through any lows,
And seeds of confidence you sowed.

Your words of wit and wisdom bloomed,
And never could we then presume,
What sentiments you would exhume
From deep within your thought-filled rooms.

How easy it could have been to brood,
But girding you we understood
Was strength that evermore withstood,
Ignore the pain, embrace the good.

Oh, mother dear, my writer’s ear,
Is listening close and what I hear,
Are echoes of your hope so clear,
That leave me yearning you be near.

To tend our gardens, feed our hearts,
To sing your songs, to be a part,
Of every day, and thus impart,
We look towards sunshine, not the dark.

And now we lovingly do bid, goodbye sweet Ann for all you did,
Enough for volumes unabridged, woven with your endearing wit,
Our hope therefore for you is this, that heavens’ gates to you reveal,
An undulating future joy, in peace may now your heart be sealed.