Turning A Story of Challenges into a Story of Delightful Discoveries

On New Years Eve, 2017, I was celebrating the completed publication of Getting to the Bottom of ToP: The Foundations of the Methodologies of the Technology of Participation with a colleague. The last year of getting the book published was extremely challenging, and I have been stressed with having to deal with one obstacle after another. As I was talking with her, I realized that there were several amazing events of synchronicity that happened during the publication journey. I suddenly realized that I could shift my story to emphasize the high points rather than the struggles.

One such event was discovering the book At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails as I read the books section of the newspaper. Sarah Bakewell not only describes phenomenology and existentialism in plain language, but also includes biographical sketches of the philosophers, which provides relief from the intensity of understanding their philosophy, and insight into what motivated them. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and ended up using quotes from her book as section and chapter titles.

Another event was even more synchronistic. IAF (International Association of Facilitators) asked me to go with a team to present at a conference of NCDD (National Council on Dialogue and Deliberation). When I arrived at the conference, I saw a name that I recognized – 25 years ago I had had many interesting interchanges on an early IAF listserv with Rosa Zubizarreta, but I had never met her in person. So as soon as I could find her, I connected and we enjoyed continuing our conversation. Then, at a table, she started to talk to another participant about her mother, who had done bilingual education in California. When she gave her mother’s name, I gasped. In writing my earlier book, Art of Focused Conversation for Schools, a colleague had sent me a book by Alma Flor Ada which had a guided conversation method she had created for classrooms (in both Spanish and English) which mirrored the focused conversation method and I had quoted her extensively. I had no idea that she was Rosa’s mother! Then Rosa introduced me to Tom Atlee, with whom she had collaborated to publish The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World that Works for All. Tom’s book was in the conference bag, and upon reading it, I realized that he had some rare insights into how the methods work with groups. I also used a quote from his book to introduce Section 2.

Although the journey of writing, editing, and publishing this book was difficult, I learned a great deal that I had not anticipated in the process. And this is a story of success, not of challenges alone.

(Getting to the Bottom of ToP, by Wayne and Jo Nelson, is now available from iUniverse.com  and also from Amazon.com)

About jofacilitator

On Sept 1, 2020, I celebrated 50 years of work with the Institute of Cultural Affairs, facilitating meetings, groups, communities, and organizations, making it possible for ordinary people to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives. I retired on December 31, 2021, but still volunteer with the organization.
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