Meeting. Conference. Seminar. Do you get queasy at the thought of attending an event with one of these words in the title? So do we. Such events are usually linear, goal-oriented, and can be downright dogmatic. While we are all (including you!) highly experienced, even expert, at several things we could teach classes in, CopperMoon Advancing Retreats (retreats where you Advance your Awesome!) take you down the path of experiences, experimentation, and intentional, mindful collaboration.

So, what do we mean when we say we are all about experiences? Most people are familiar with workshops, classes, study groups and other ways of advancing your awesome. We wanted to do something a little different.

What We Mean By Experiences

It may help to start with lists about what we mean and what we don’t mean.

Indistinct picture of road and farmhouse

Experiences are:

  • About the process and the journey
  • About learning things
  • Collaborative
  • About recognizing and searching for the wisdom and perspectives of others

Experiences are NOT about:

  • An expert standing up and teaching you what they think
  • A particular end result (though we hope everyone gets something positive out of the experience)
  • Being right or learning the “right” way to do things
  • Transferring knowledge from my brain to yours

Clear as mud?  Let me elaborate.

It’s not about taking my knowledge and stuffing it into your brain

I know some interesting stuff about productive conflict, a lot of stuff about communication and technical writing, and some detailed stuff about llama physiology and reproduction that you probably don’t want to get me started on.  My colleagues here at CopperMoon know a lot of awesome stuff too. You know stuff that none of all of us know. If we were teaching traditional workshops or seminars, someone who Knew All the Stuff about a subject would get up in front of people who Want to Know All the Stuff and pass their knowledge along. Probably by talking a lot. Maybe with slides.

There’s nothing wrong with this approach, and it’s quite effective at sharing knowledge.  And, it’s been done, and done quite well, by lots of folks.

We’re trying a different approach, which we hope will lead to some interesting advances for us, for you, and for everyone who participates.

It is about growth that’s not possible alone

If you’ve been following CopperMoon’s page on Facebook, you know we’ve been doing a lot of cobbing lately. One thing LightFoot (and all of us) have gotten out of this experience, is that it’s something you can’t do alone. There are numerous studies out there that show again and again, the best ideas come from effective teams working together toward a solution.

Many hands building our cob walls

So, people with varying levels of knowledge, passion, and personal perspective come to the table to discuss a subject that we’re all interested in. We set some ground rules to ensure effective teamwork, and then play. We play with ideas, experiment with possibilities, and drill into the collective knowledge of the group. We draw forth from that collaboration insights, solutions, results and or techniques that none of us individually could come up with.

1+1+1≠3  

Maybe we come up with a solution to a problem that works for all of us, and maybe we each come up with an individual solution that works only for us, only for today, and only when the moon is in Jupiter. It’s experimental, and is all about the journey, the collaboration, and the shared focus. The real results may not be solid or concrete at first, but may take some time to mellow and incubate, maybe ferment, before they come to blossom.

This may sound willy-nilly and indirect, but I’ve found that it is the BEST approach for anything is not my way, or your way, or even a compromise between your way and my way. The best answer is an entirely different way that a bunch of smart folks worked on together, bringing all of the stuff they know into the process.  THAT’s what we want to facilitate – intentional collaboration.

What about the willy-nilly part?

Let me talk for a moment about why we’re taking this approach. The world is full of rules, how-to books, and gurus telling you they have the right way, or the right thing, or the most amazing 12-step process to enlightenment. The problem is that you are you and they are them. What works for them may not work for you. Everybody’s different, and I want to help everyone live in a world where there is no failure.

Think of it this way — all of the things we know are tools. You can use tools in lots of different ways, for lots of different things. Experiences are practice with the tools — maybe the ones you already have, maybe new ones; maybe used in ways you’ve done before, maybe applying them to new situations in innovative ways.

So what do we mean by no failure?

Failure implies there is a limited number of right ways, and every other way is wrong. But, there is no universal right way and wrong way. The factors in play are too numerous for black and white thinking. The world is rainbow. I love purple and orange together. You may love green and lemon yellow everything. We’re both right. We’re both following our happy path of color combinations. Few people will argue about that, but then will quickly turn around and tell you you’re doing your life wrong in areas that are far more individual and far more impactful than your favorite color. It’s YOUR life!  No-one knows better how to do it than you. My right way might be a *starting* point for you to explore your right way, but it’s highly unlikely you can walk in lock-step with me and be happy. If you can take away the perception of a ‘right way’, there’s a bright happy rainbow world devoid of failure out there. And if you want your rainbow to have mostly green and lemon, that’s great (and mine will be different).

Picture a world without failure, grasshopper

Grasshopper

What does a world without failure look like? Well, if there’s no failure, and no right or wrong way, people are much more willing to try out things. Mentally put yourself in that world for a minute, and imagine what your life would be like if you could enthusiastically and without fear:

  • Try something new, without any specific instructions.
  • Find several different ways of doing things. (The tyranny of the right way means once you’ve found it, you can stop looking — fight against tyranny and keep looking for a while!)
  • Deeply consider other people’s perspectives.
  • Continually look for ways to improve things that are already working well
  • Try something wacky to see what happened. In front of other people. WITH other people.

That last one is one that gets me up in the morning. I LOVE to experiment and see what happens. If there’s no failure, then all of my experiments are just fact-finding missions.

This weekend, I took some simple creations in low-fire clay and put them in my bonfire. Not a single piece came out whole. Not a failure!  I learned a lot:

  • Not all of the objects turned white – that means the bonfire might not be hot enough to properly fire even low-fire clay (So, bigger fire next time!)
  • All of the objects broke. Some exploded.  I’m guessing either the heat wasn’t even enough, or the objects weren’t all the way dry, even though they looked dry. (So, give lots of extra time for drying and try again, since that’s the easiest thing to change)
  • My Cage of Pottery Protection Awesomeness did its job well. The pottery didn’t get damaged by falling wood. My cage survived.

If I saw this as a failure, I might just give up. Seeing it as a learning experiment means I’m even more excited to try again and see if I can change things and get it to work.

Sounds like kindergarten!

If this reminds you of your years making mud pies and learning to play Red Rover, it should. Somehow, as adults, we lose that ability to just experiment. That childish exuberance where you can see your experiment explode, and just say “cool” (or “groovy” if you’re from my era). And plunge ourselves right back in. Society seems to have this view of an adult as someone who Knows All the Things and Doesn’t Make Mistakes (and Doesn’t Act Silly or Giggle Loudly, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post).  So, since we’re not computers, and we don’t *actually* know all the things, we just start avoiding things we don’t know about. If we want to try something new, we pay someone who knows how to do it to teach us the right way. We stop learning experientially, and I think that’s a shame. So we’re going about changing that, and making it okay to experiment, okay to collaborate, okay to have your experiment results not be what you’re expecting and not feel like that’s a bad thing.

Ok, you convinced me. So, how do I do that?

I have two things to say about how to go about experiential learning:

  • It depends
  • It will all work out… how is a mystery.

Before you throw things at me, reference the whole everyone is different point above. We have to stop treating people like cookie cutter cookies. Some of us aren’t even cookies, we’re biscuits!  Or we’re clay, or we’re the cosmic dust that plays among the rings of Saturn. Seriously, don’t try to eat that stuff…

Be the process

The point is, with experiential learning, we make it up as we go. We encourage everyone to be as active a participant as they feel comfortable at that moment, and to pay it forward and be encouraging to everyone else in the group.

Jankas basket

You are responsible for your own experience and your effect on others’ experiences, and you choose what you get out of it. Are you finding it hard to see? Come closer or ask for help. Don’t understand? Ask questions (remember: no failure, so it’s safe). Each experience we have is different, because there are different people with different life experiences and different knowledge, boundaries, and desires. Part of the fun of it all is working together and seeing what comes out with THIS group of people THIS time working on THIS project.

Oh, and one caveat: There *is* a time and place for experts, classes, reading, and more structured learning. Some of these, we’re recommending below. We’re not going to be holding any Experiential TIG Welding group experiments anytime soon.

Give us Feedback!

Practicing what we’re holding up for your consideration, experiential experiences is an experiment in itself. We’ll be trying things, getting your honest feedback about opportunities for improvement, and folding it all back into the mix to make something greater than us. Have ideas? Share them with us, or come join us in an experience and make it happen yourself!

Resources

Here are some of the experiences we’ve had that have helped us get out of Failure is Not an Option mindset and into the Experimentation Zone. All of these have some really good things and some have things in them we found less than ideal, but all of them gave one or more of us some insight, personal growth, or aha moments that we really value today. Research, look into them, and see if one of these feels right for you:

Come Experiment with Us!

Our next Experience at CopperMoon is currently under incubation. Join us at a Jamalot and check out our website or Facebook page for updates!