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Checking-in

I feel excited, hopeful, frustrated and disappointed with the progress of our thesis. I feel this way because I feel like I need to see more immediate value coming from it. I also feel this way because what we have done so far has whetted my appetite to go further... but we had not planned to go further. I wonder if my partners, and the advisors would be willing to make the shift. I wonder also if the people who are the subjects, or prospective subjects of this project would be willing to dedicate even more time than they have.

I assume that you, the reader, are feeling confused and bored because I have neglected to provide you with the proper background for what I just wrote about. Maybe you are hoping that I will. Yes, I will.

So, originally, the plan was to present/interview as many people as possible with some of the sustainability related ideas, as well as a framework for thinking strategically about their own lives, and what they can do. I first wanted to interview "lots" of people. This fell apart when we quickly saw that we needed at least five hours with the subject. Not many people are willing to give up five hours of their life, even if they agree with the cause. (and something that has come out of some of the interviews that we have done is a pervasive idea that "sustainability" is our job... people are glad we are thinking about it for them). Still, we have been quite busy talking to a few people for many hours about how the topic relates to their life.

At first we saw people coming up with new ideas... a few "ah-ha" moments. It was satisfying. Maybe too much so, in that it made me thirsty for more. I am learning a great deal about how to present the ideas to people in a way that they understand, but now that I am no longer so focused on just asking the right questions, and more focused on the answers, I am feeling that the answers we are getting are much more superficial than I had really hoped. I know there is more buried in the subject's heart, but there is just not enough time to dig it out. Five hours will no longer do... I need 10, 15, 20 hours per subject.

Another factor in the superficial nature of the questions, is that we have been overly (in my opinion) worried about not "influencing" the subjects answers. This has led us to pussy-foot around glaring issues, not asking "why didn't you mention XYZ as one of the major factors in your decision making process?" when we know that if we bring it up they will have another "ah-ha" moment.

My new goal for the project is still to talk to as many people as possible, but the "as possible" phrase is key. I would be ecstatic to find as few as three or four people who would donate 15 - 20 hours over the period of a month to really go through this process, to really analyze their life, to really think about what they want for the future, and why they want it. I would love to follow them around for a day (understanding that they would act differently) and ask them questions along the way. I would die to be able to look into their cup-boards and ask them to comment on the contents.

Is it doable? Is there anyone that would really donate 20 hours in a month? What if we were to compensate them? How much is appropriate? (the money is from our own pockets.) Is there anyone out there who has 10 - 20 hours they could spend in Skype or chat taking part in our "survey" in the month of March?


* * *

Anyway, I was just checking-in... letting you know what was on my mind, now that the computer is alive again. There are other things on my mind as well. Such as...

If you are a regular long-time reader, you would know that in high-school (12 years ago) I had a girlfriend from Sweden. While not a direct factor in my decision to come to Sweden to study now, without her influence I would not have ventured to Japan where I eventually met Tomoe, who eventually got me into the whole "sustainability" thing, which eventually led me here to Sweden to study. So now it has come full circle.

Anyway, before coming here I knew I would look her up to see if she was still in Sweden. (although a part of me wants to keep it a mystery...). I had planned to learn Swedish first, but that plan proved to be impractical given all the other things I had to do (and my laziness and inefficiency).

Last week or so I finally bit the bullet, admitted to myself that I would not learn Swedish before I contacted her, and wrote an email to her sister whose email address I got from the high-school alumni page.

I told her to pass on my email and web address to Maria, letting her know that I am in Sweden and if she would like to meet, to please write to me. I didn't want to force her. The only thing is... after I sent the email, my sever crashed. I thought "no problem. I'll just write to her sister again and explain that I had email troubles so I wasn't sure if she replied." So I did that. Then today I find out from other people that emails they have sent me over the past week have been returned... so I don't know if she might have tried to reply a second time as well.

If she did try to reply, at best it makes me look like an incompetent boob. But if she didn't try to reply and I send yet another email saying "Just checking to see if you got the last two emails" I am suddenly a psycho that has been stalking her for the past twelve years..

I feel anxiety and fear and shame about that.


* * *

If you have read this far, you may have recognized that I am using the phrase "I feel ..." quite often. If you are a regular reader, you may have picked up on the fact that I mention empathy sometimes as one of my goals (to become more empathetic).

Today I caught the last half of a talk a fellow student was giving on "Compassionate Communication". I wish I would have been there for the entire discussion. She introduced some basic ideas from the Center for Nonviolent Communication .

When I say basic, I mean really basic. Probably, nothing in here that people didn't already "know", but as far as really "knowing" it and putting it into practice... this may be the my greatest "find" of the year. Although I missed most of the session, what I saw on the board when I walked into the room was mind-blowing to me and really says it all...

Basics
  • Honesty: When I see _______, I feel ___________, because I need _________. Would you be willing to ________ ?
  • Empathy: Are you feeling _____________ because you are needing ___________? Would you like ______________?

When I see that I feel excited because I need people to understand what I really want to express, and I need to be able to understand what other people are feeling in order to reach a mutual agreement. Who would have thought that just filling in the blanks could be so eye-opening?

Of course there is more to it, but I guess I have to read some books to find out.

* * *

Finally, I am feeling incredibly hopeful because my thesis partners and I went to a local grade school today to "interview" some of the students for our project. (The reason I missed the first half of the compassionate communication session was that I was taking a nap due to grade school starting at 8 am! Did you know that!?!!?)

They were incredibly well-informed and knowledgeable about the topics we wanted to discuss. Namely, the systematic nature of the earth and the ecosystem. They were able to explain things about how the natural cycles work that I don't even remember learning until a few years ago. They were able to list more "potential actions" that they could take to move toward sustainability than the adults. The only problem is that many of the actions they mentioned were not those that they themselves can take now , instead, they were actions that the adults around them should take. I would have loved to have more time to explore what they think they can do.

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