Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to School: Everything Starts with an Idea


Students may have said I was breaking all the rules of what I call "Mountain Modesty" over the past several days.  They may have perceived my story as bragging about myself, and I was a bit.  

But, mostly, I was trying to describe how every achievement begins as an idea.   

Recently, one of my ideas -- first hatched in 2004 -- manifested as the published 3-page essay in a new book called, What the Best Law Teachers Do, by Michael Hunter Schwartz, Gerald F. Hess, and Sophie M. Sparrow (Harvard U. Press 2013).

Hang with me here for a moment.  You will like this less conventional way of thinking about how an idea goes from beginning to full execution.

Yogis who talk about the energetic system of chakras will tell you that every idea moves through six of the seven chakras to manifestation.  The "Third Eye" chakra -- located between the eyes in the middle of the forehead -- represents where, in the mind's eye, we think up ideas.

The next step in their manifestation is at the "Throat" chakra, where we talk about the idea to ourselves and to others.  The idea begins to take on more form and specificity.  Some yogis associate this chakra with creativity.  Others associate it with power, but without taking the idea to this next step, it probably simply slips away.

Next, the "Heart" chakra plays a role.  Tied to passion, the idea now picks up the energy of your drive, desire, and love for it.  You talk about it with even more excitement and test whether you have sufficient passion for it to move forward.  You also test whether the idea is consistent with your true self.   

Now we get to the chakra at the "Solar Plexus," right in the middle of your stomach, where all those abdominal crunch exercises build core strength.   Now you must decide whether to use your own personal power and strength to continue to develop the idea and to take action to bring it into being as a tangible work product of some sort.  Again, without this crucial step, the idea simply stays on hold.  It falls in the "Someday-Maybe" category of your to-do list.

But, if you do take those steps you are now entering the phases that see it move from your personal sphere of influence into the world.  Now you use the energy of your "Sacral" chakra to enlist the help of close partners to birth that still embryonic project.  So, if you have created a beautiful painting as an expression of the power and energy in your "Solar Plexus" chakra, you now talk with your friend -- the gallery owner -- to see if she would like to display it.  Or, maybe the partner is a loved one, a boss, a colleague, a coach, or someone else who wants to align with your creative energy to produce something wonderful.   After all, this is the chakra associated with sex and reproduction. 

Now the "Root" chakra. This chakra represents the energy of your group -- whether family, community, or business "tribe."  It takes the energy of your tribe to make your project a broader success.  This is the last stage in the manifestation of your idea.

So here is the path I started in 2004.  

First, I borrowed from our law school library the book, Teaching the Law School Curriculum, by Steven Friedland and Gerald F. Hess.  I'm a process person, and I really wanted to learn how to be a good teacher. (Here is where I apologize to the students who suffered through that learning curve the first few years I taught law school courses.)   I loved this book, constructed of short essays by 20 or so law professors. It describes different approaches to teaching and assessment in law school.  The discussions showed passion for teaching, great love for students, and the use of creative, but carefully planned approaches.  It opened a world for me that also jived with my experience as an adult learner.   

Second, I recall saying to myself: "I want to be in the next edition of this book!" (Third Eye and Throat chakras.)

Next, in 2009, Sophie M. Sparrow, law professor at University of New Hampshire, sent an email soliciting essays for the new edition of the book she and two other authors planned to write. (She was using her Root chakra to enagage with her tribe.)  I emailed her back suggesting an essay on using props in the classroom. (Using my Sacral, relationship-based, chakra because I knew her from her visit to our school for a faculty workshop on group learning.)  

I also circulated the email to my ASL colleagues (my tribe) in case someone else also wanted to submit an essay.  Professor Stewart Harris wrote an essay on paying attention to course evaluations submitted by students, which I think he called: Sometimes We Do Suck.

Fourth, I wrote my essay and submitted it for consideration. (Using my Heart and Solar Plexus chakras.) 

Fifth, In February 2010, the lead co-author, Michael Hunter Schwartz, sent me an email saying: 
I am excited to inform you that we would like to publish your submission, “The ADR Toys and Tools Show: Using Props in the Law School Classroom” in Techniques for Teaching Law II (Carolina Academic Press, forthcoming fall 2010).  We feel that your use of props is incredibly clever and the idea of using such props has application beyond an ADR class. 

That was a really great day.  I was probably leaping around my office, smiling and clapping my hands!

But now, the real manifestation process began.  And, it was in the hands of the three co-authors, including Gerald R. Hess, the author of the first edition I loved so much.  I relaxed.  I waited with patience.  These folks are gifted legal writing professors with a very long list of ideas they fully manifested.  And . . . they have built a loving tribe of legal writing professors who respect these co-authors deeply.

And, then I waited some more.  Then more.  "Hmmm," I began to think.  "What is taking so long!?"

So I asked Michael about the status.  His reply:
It turns out that Harvard Press' editorial process is more extensive and elaborate than we had imagined.  The good news is that our two anonymous reviewers were very enthusiastic, and the book passed the publisher's internal review process with flying colors.
"Phew,"  I sighed.  Still on track, but clearly the tribes associated with all these various root chakras are tough to master.  Yet, I was confident the co-authors would push this book out into the world.  

And then -- nine years from the date when I first hatched the idea -- on August 16, 2013, Amazon.com sent me a notice announcing the sale of the book.

That, too, was a really great day!

So students and friends, I share this story because we know how easy it is to give up on our ideas.  They get stalled at the higher chakras of energy -- heart or solar plexus.  And we may also fear reaching out to our partners and to our tribe for the help we need to fully manifest our projects.  

And yet, our ideas and projects serve others and, in the process, also make us better people.  

So, dream big, then work like hell, and with patience, to manifest those dreams.  

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