Sensible Shoes


In the mood to write after a hiatus, I gave my brain the task to answer “what shall I write about?”. It’s often a title or theme that gets me going. I cannot yet explain why Sensible Shoes popped into my head so quickly and clearly. Perhaps it will become obvious to me as I continue writing.

One quick Google search later, I’m somewhat surprised to discover that “sensible shoes” is not a common expression, beyond talking about one’s shoes. Being no more a shoe guy than a car guy, I struggle to think of why I feel like I’ve come across those two words frequently enough to consider them an expression. In any case, our mind works wonders and I think mine is simply finding new ways to paraphrase and emphasize the message I most need to hear right now.

If sensible shoes are about practicality and comfort, then they are indeed my kind of shoe. Though I have a knack for occasionally making things more complicated than strictly necessary, my preference definitely lies in the pragmatic and simple. The purge and downsizing described in A Minor Thing are examples of it. On the professional front, however, my efforts to find my new comfort zone continue to stretch and conflict me.

I’m currently mostly a training facilitator. There are many formats in which to exercise this work.  Some are more akin to being a professional speaker (short-ish presentations to large groups) while at the other end it’s practically one-on-one coaching. I’ve dabbled in a large chunk of that range and I’ve identified some settings that just don’t suit me. I’ve also pinned down some passion points and core skills that fit me quite nicely. Yet it all still feels too scattered to me. It’s as though I’ve uncovered amazing ingredients from various recipes and I can’t see how to turn them into one fine dish.

For all I know, this wonder-dish is staring me in the face and I’m blind to it. Whether it is or not, I am wayyyy over-thinking how to choose my road forward. The options and permutations are too many. The pros and cons lists are in different languages and I lack the conversion tools to get them on the same plane.  This leads someone like me away from decision-making… or to decisions that hold for anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. It is with that in mind that on New Year’s Eve, I declared “Act” as my word for 2017. I felt mildly satisfied with that, knowing that I’ve tried that mindset before and it wasn’t quite enough. But it’s a start!

A few days ago, I was browsing an article shared by a friend. One of its recommendations was “make a decision”. Since this was aligned with my theme, I gave that section a closer read and discovered the suggestion that “good enough” is often “good enough”. The critical part of me (it’s a rather large part) first thought: “well, that’s definitely not going to work for everyone”. This was followed by the realization that it typically works for me! Yet I am not applying “good enough” to many aspects of my work choices, resulting in some unwanted stress.

In fact, re-reading this last paragraph, I see that exact inner conflict illustrated. My belief is that there’s nothing that works for everyone. I’m quite comfortable with this belief, but not what it leads to. My sense is that many people do believe, or at least act like they do, that there are “correct answers or ways”. This clash between dogmatic certainty and the willingness to look at people and the world as too complex to have binary solutions causes me much grief. My brain understands that nothing will work for everyone, but somehow refuses to allow this insight to give me a break when it comes to designing and delivering my work. I find myself trying to find the right or perfect model, practice exercise, solution or word… instead of looking for ones that will mostly do some good to a fair chunk of people.

All of a sudden, one of these approaches strikes me as particularly sensible!

“The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.”   –    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe




The turbulence has subsided and outside the small window, I see magic. The clouds are scattered, some looking lonelier than others. The early evening sky is casting hazy shadows on the desolate, yet inviting beauty that is the rocky island of Newfoundland. From 32,000 feet, the vast unspoiled land below reveals its disdain for flatness. Also showcased is water, water everywhere… and that’s while flying over the center of the island. Imagine the Minnesotan land of 10,000 lakes. Now imagine that every one of those lakes is broken into 78 pieces of all shapes and sizes. It’s like a massive storm swept over the land and left innumerable puddles of water. I find it quite magical indeed.

I have a strong Newfoundland bias. It was born at sunrise on a clear July morning in 2007 as we drove off the ferry at Port-Aux-Basques and the Long Range Mountains slowly came into view.



I was hooked immediately. Moments ago the site of that picture was just below me as we prepared to leave the island behind. I’m feeling a familiar longing: a longing to spend more time here.

I’ve been fortunate to visit many times since that July morning; work calling me over on most of those occasions, as was the case for the last two days. I joined a dear friend and colleague in the delivery of a leadership workshop for some of her clients. We have our own brand of magic when we collaborate to support and challenge groups like this one, and as she dropped me off at the airport, we both felt pretty darn good about our contribution to the growth of these dedicated folks.

In the background, however… turbulence. My friend’s wedding was a motivation for another Newfoundland trip a few years ago. Sadly, her relationship is coming to an end and, as is often the case, this separation is a trigger for some reflection and questioning. Re-uniting the dream team for this workshop also brought my own internal debates to the forefront. These co-facilitated sessions that get people to plunge into the deep end of the self-awareness pool are more rewarding and pleasant for me than facilitating on my own, but are they enough to keep me fully engaged in this work I’ve been enjoying for almost 9 years now? I really don’t know; though I think I really do!

The fog that is hampering the clarity of my way forward is no doubt contributing to my hesitation to act. Fear of turbulence resulting from making a change while unsure of my desired destination is a potent inhibitor.

Turbulence, however, is what reminds you that you’re flying. In fact, I’m constantly amazed at how relatively little bouncing around there is as we zoom through the air at 900km/hr. And so it is with life… mine anyway. I’m extremely fortunate on so many levels and I would do well to use this light turbulence as a reminder of the awesome journey which I continue with gratitude.

“Turbulence is life force. It is opportunity. Let’s love turbulence and use it for change.” – Ramsey Clark

Turbulence – Steve Howe