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observing Retrospectively…

by | Dec 31, 2020 | observe, Retrospective, Return To Forever

Retrospectives are at their heart all about observation.  It is taking time out to look at what has happened, compared to what you thought would happen, and then adjusting accordingly.  There are formal mechanisms in the Agile community that accompany any set of “Sprints”, and one of the key points is to ensure that judgment is mostly suspended as different perspectives are offered from the participants.  Good facilitation ensures that problem-solving and resolution is suspended – until it is clear whether or not there even is a problem… So how do you facilitate and observe yourself, particularly with a Brain that lies to you?  The key is of course is… music… 

Let me start with the good news:  you can change your programming.  The Brain is constantly wiring and rewiring itself, so if you can begin to focus it differently, it will slowly change.  Now for the bad news – it takes SIGNIFICANT work to convince your Brain that change is worthwhile.  After all, those paths are literally burned into your neurons, and without a good reason, it is pretty lazy, and actually just sticks with what it knows, thank you very much.  This is particularly true when you are low on energy as the brain consumes a lot of energy particularly when it is “reprogramming”. 

One of our speakers in our Neuroscience class talked about a phrase that I think is worth thinking about: “emotional flu”.  Her matter of fact explanation is all about observation: it is a “body budgeting” issue.  When we are tired, not well hydrated, or have been hammered with bad news, we have no energy to change our “feelings”.  In fact, her contention is that emotions mostly fool us.  And that we have the cause and effects backwards… our emotions CAUSE our actions…  and the analogy that I want to use, of course, is … how we process MUSIC… 

By the late ‘70s, jazz fusion was almost mainstream, and jazz bands were touring.  Dallas was a big enough venue to get good acts, and at Southern Methodist University (SMU), we had a great (smaller) hall in McFarland Auditorium.  I had actually just started dating Beth, who had not yet learned my eclectic musical style.  I got tickets to see Stanley Clarke, and advertised what I expected: “a calm, low key, classic jazz concert”.  

She accepted, and we showed up… for one of the most raucous nights of music I have seen 😉  He literally leapt all over the stage, and was anything but the calm, cool, collected tall guy with the big instrument 😉  It deepened my respect for him… and challenged me to think about “Jazz” in a whole different way.  The track today gives you a taste for his complex understanding of harmonies, unison lines, and of course, blistering bass lines along with bass chords and harmonics which should remind you of Eddie Van Halen, just an octave lower 😉  (And if you want to think this is all studio work, here he is LIVE). It is also very comical, particularly towards the end where it screams Spike Jones and some other tongue-in-cheek references — so typical of Clarke.

I am hoping that very few of you have heard this particular track or group. When I say “Jazz Bass” – your Brain fetches what it already knows, in my story a tall smooth slow romantic evening, and prepares to be “right”. When you actually hear music for the first time, your Brain quickly compares these new notes to what it “knows”, and it predicts from the little bit of data it has, and guesses wrong… which causes the Brain to have to either shut it out and ignore it …. or reprogram.  If you stick with the song, eventually pieces will be “familiar” – particularly in classical music where the Overture introduces what your Brain will eventually “hear” in full, and now predicting correctly, the hormone released makes your Brain (and you ) feel great… and you have a new “favorite” song… 

Your body’s “budget” determines what your Brain does.  Back to HALTS, if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, or Stressed… yeah, reprogramming doesn’t happen.  It simply shuts out the change, otherwise known as “learning” and retreats, and produces feelings of loss/stress and cortisol that puts on weight 😉  And even that pattern is a pattern… like “I don’t like Rap” – so my brain won’t even pay attention to what is actually happening.  It literally disposes of the “data” my ears are sending it… And this is the most subtle problem with reprogramming – you have to reinforce the new data – 3 to 6 times more often, otherwise, your Brain sticks with “what it knows”.. Or thinks it does…. actually to be correct, what it has made up and reinforced as “true”.

In my Retrospective, I noticed that my Brain was more prepared for this year than the average brain.  I lived through 2008, which freaked me out about business…, and I knew to turn off the TV.  I also had worked remotely for 15 years, so that was not hard for me.  And, while I liked to participate in politics, I noticed my own “body budget” was diminished by anything in that space.  I also knew what recharged me: music – LOUD music that I knew, and I knew I had a way of connecting with people through it.  I noticed that I felt rushed to try and tell the story of an artist in one day, so I stretched it to a week, or two… and I realized editing was needed, and not my core skill set… 

… and ultimately it comes down to a core stance that my Dad taught me that I offer to you:  “Change the problem to one you can solve”.  This idea, like music, tricks you into thinking you know what is coming, and then twists it JUST enough to get your Brain to think – wait, what?  And in that gap, change starts.  As you facilitate your own Retrospective, my recommendation is to try to talk about yourself in the 3rd person – that observational distance will slow down judgment. Find specific things that went well this year… and 3 to 6 times as many things that didn’t.  They are there, EVEN in this year… And watch your body budget – do it when you are rested, hydrated, and, of course.. duh… along with music your Brain knows… and YOU “like” 😉   It is not as complicated as it sounds, and certainly not as much as this amazing piece of music is, which is what you can be for yourself… The Magician.

 

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