Hearing Keats

The right book, the right time. It arrived the final day of 2016. It frames the perfect success opportunity for 2017.

Tom Asacker’s I Am Keats.

There are books you read, there are those you devour. Tom’s books I devour.

Former GE executive. Business strategist. Branding guru. Tom mines the power of story and its impact on success. His 2013 bestseller The Business of Belief is one of my favorite books of the last five years in any genre.

“It’s a bit out there,” Tom warns me about I Am Keats.

Nope, Tom. It goes right to the core where professional and personal success originate. Two 19th century poets. Coleridge and Keats. Coleridge is order and organization. Cognitive wisdom. The perpetual quest to understand and predict. Keats is imagination. The vigor of the senses. The inspirational power of beauty. The risk.

Life is better with a little more Keats. And a lot more rewarding.

When all of your planning gets you the same old results. When strategy actively inhibits serendipity. When your gut wisdom contradicts what you have meticulously planned. When your story of how it should go is annihilated by circumstances.

A little more Keats.

Yes, we know, we know, we know. And we don’t listen. Keats is the wisdom of the unplanned moment. It requires our willingness to hear, to not subjugate that which we hear to our plans. And it needs the courage to investigate.

Do you know how Keats speaks to you? It’s the language of non-analytical insight. Buddhists call it prajna-wisdom. Here are some of the perennial ways in which this insight expresses itself:

  1. The Little Voice: It’s often a whisper. It’s persistent. Faint. It talks – and I will assume for a moment that you’re not mentally disturbed. A fleeting thought can be such a whisper. It is there – but because we’re preoccupied with other stimuli we miss it. And when we actually hear it and don’t like what the voice says, we dis-miss it. Let’s not. When we DO listen, it invariably invokes a better next action. 

  2. The Twisted Gut: When your stomach consistently tightens into a knot, when you just don’t “feel good” in the midst of a plan, an effort, an action, when the tightness extends into other parts of your body – well, it can be caused by many things. There’s a good chance, however, it’s a simple cry to change course. Try another tactic. Abandon “wrong” effort. So hear the call. Discover the next right action. Wrong struggle simply begets more wrong struggle. 

  3. The Vision: Some folks claim they don’t see stuff (Tom Asacker belongs to that tribe). Hooey. Visual insight is available to all of us. It’s another dialect in the Keats lexicon. The blinking billboard. The middle-of-the-night dream. The glossy ad in a magazine. And the mental connections such images invoke. Don’t block it with overthinking. Notice the image. Linger. Enjoy the associations it invokes, and embrace them without instant censure. 

  4. The Battlefield: When you do fierce battle with a suggestion someone has made. When you can’t stop responding, either in words, or writing, or the rapid-fire chatter in your head. When you have this gnawing sense that your reaction may be larger than the situation warrants – respect the gnawing sense. Pause. Decide to get off the battlefield. And in lieu of analyzing the situation, invite the wisdom in. That’s the path of grace. The right next action will be blazingly clear.

I plan, you plan. We’re already Coleridge-trained. And successful business execution benefits from smart planning and conscious execution. But as you execute in 2017, consider this possibility. A little less Coleridge, a lot more Keats.

Hear the language of Keats. Catch the wisdom of the moment. And whenever possible, choose wisdom.

Thank you Tom Asacker.