Category Archives: Journal

General post

Listening to far away

One of the things I enjoy about summer is the opportunity to take in the sounds of nature within my own neighborhood.  As I reflect on the way I’ve come to interpret the sounds outside my window I realize I use a similar process to interpret the goings-on around me at a variety of levels.    
My morning routine in the warm weather is to open my front windows and back door before doing some yoga and meditating.  The combination of introspective activities and sounds of the neighborhood coming alive makes for a nice contrast as I prepare for my day.

As the sun rises the birds do the same.  I don’t consider myself knowledgeable of the creatures that share the neighborhood with me but I have gotten to know some of them over time.  It is that lack of knowledge that makes it all the more interesting to listen to the sounds coming through my windows.  As the summer goes on, I find myself becoming aware of the changing patterns of activity outside my windows.  Some of the birds use the neighborhood as their summer home while others are just passing through.  I used to think that most of the birds I’m familiar with (robins, crows, cardinals, etc.) arrive in early spring, stay for
The summer, and fly South early in the fall.  The bird’s behavior has proven to be more varied and subtle than I had originally thought.  As the sun rises, the sound of birds, insects, and human activity makes for quite an active sounds cape.  Some of the birds have distinctive songs while others simply cheep and chirp.  Some appear to be solitary while others are social. 

Lessons learned:

At first listen, the sounds outside my window present themselves as a sonic wall.  As I explore those sounds they take on an intriguing depth and texture.  The variety of sounds tells only a limited story.  Distinguishing one sound from another, one creature from another, only provides an inventory of the sources of the sounds.  Another way of listening to the sounds outside my window is to listen to the layers of sound coming in my window.  I hear a solitary Cardinal near the house.  I routinely hear another solitary Cardinal singing a block or so away.  The crows cawing away to the north of my house make up one group while those to the southeast make up another.  The zillion chickadees, finches and wrens (If there’s a whole bunch of something, you can just say a zillion) in the bushes in the back yard make it hard to know if there is another group elsewhere in the neighborhood.

As I focus on the intersection between specific creatures and the layers of sounds, I apply patterns to what I am listening to.

From these patterns, I draw inferences regarding the behavior and relationships among the creatures:

  • Cardinals appear to be solitary creatures.
  • Hawks form in pairs.
  • Crows are social within their own kind.  They also seem to have great disdain for Blue jays.
  • Finches, wrens, and chickadees are very social among other creatures their own size.
  • A squirrel can sit in a tree and complain almost indefinitely.
    Applying the lessons:

As I reflect on what I’ve learned about the creatures in my neighborhood I am also struck by what I haven’t learned about the creatures in my neighborhood.  I’ve used the elements of time, space, and perspective to infer relationships among the various creatures.  Without all three of these dimensions my level of understanding would have much less clarity.  Having said that, I realize much of my understanding is really just speculation based on a very small sample size.

As I transfer the insights I’ve picked up from the sounds of nature I recognize my inferences are likely to be equally insightful and/or misguided.

  • The cars racing down the highway at rush hour seem to universally contain stressed out people.
  • It is a rare occasion to not find friendly people at a bus stop.
  • The very young children in the grocery store at 5:00 PM are almost universally crabby.
  • I can’t even imagine the psychic load carried by the young Syrian doctor I talked with last night.
  • I don’t talk politics with the people who participate in the Servant-Leader roundtables I facilitate, but I probably could.
  • We are more alike my friends than we are unalike (Maya Angelou)

The fact is I make assumptions based on the depth of knowledge I gather from the level of experience I have with my surroundings.  I hear the volume of traffic and make assumptions about the mindset of the drivers.  I know that little people often need a release after being in daycare all day.  And that, most people are happier when someone else does the driving.  In other situations I know to take a more measured approach to arriving at conclusions.  In any event, as the geese gather to make their journey South for the Winter, I am grateful for the time we’ve had and the lessons they have shared.

The girl who ruined my Christmas newsletter

We’ve been sending out a family newsletter at Christmas for many years.  I thought this year’s newsletter was going to be a tale of trauma, drama, and happy endings in the Lococo household.  In reality, the trauma and the drama were overrated and the happy ending turned out to be the recognition of the precious gift of ordinary life.

This past spring, I started having an irregular heart beat while exercising.  On June 2 I learned I was born with a heart defect that often goes undetected, with the primary symptom being sudden death.  The recommended treatment:  coronary bypass surgery.  The surgery took place on September 9th and the recovery process lasted well into the Fall.  Needless to say this was the topic of our attention for most of the year.  I expected the story of my heart surgery would fill a space in the newsletter consistent with the amount of space it occupied in our memories of the year.

My perspective took a significant turn on November 15.  A 17 year old girl we know through our social networks was involved in a head-on collision with a driver going the wrong way on the highway.  Like me, Anna encountered an unexpected, life threatening situation.  That’s where the similarities end.  As I reflect back on the heart defect I discovered this year and compare that discovery to the single moment in time that is likely to shape Anna’s life for many years to come, I realize my plans for our 2015 Christmas newsletter were largely narcissistic indulgence.

Lessons learned

The challenge I found myself facing was how to put my own experience into context along side Anna’s on-going experiences.  I truly faced a life threatening situation this year.  The fact of the matter is that situation was (permanently) resolved through a medical procedure that is routinely done on a daily basis.  Anna, on the other hand, just got home from the hospital last week and is now sleeping in a hospital bed in her family’s dining room.

In unpacking this challenge I found myself realizing that since I am completely recovered from my surgery and, in reality, healthier as a result of correcting the birth defect, chronicling my experiences is little more than an exercise in storytelling.  Anna’s experiences are on-going with many unresolved questions.  Her story is interactive and is dynamically affected by the responses of everyone involved, including seemingly pedestrian bystanders such as myself.

When I think of Anna and those around her the following ideas arise:

  • There is little Anna could have done to avoid the terrible accident she was in – and yet, feeling sorry for her doesn’t seem to be the appropriate response.
  • Anna has every right to wonder “Why me?” as long as she doesn’t fall into that ugly space of “It must have been supposed to happen.”
  • Anna has earned the status of “Super Hero” in demonstrating the grit and determination required to get to this point in her recovery.  And yet presuming Anna will not face dark times as a result of what she has been through is naive and inconsiderate.
  • The challenges Anna’s family faces in ensuring she receives the care she needs in order to recover from her accident are seemingly endless and overwhelming.  To forget that “Things are the way they are because they got that way.”  diminishes the fact that bureaucracy (of all sorts) can be a humongous barrier to health and well-being.

Applying the lessons

As I come to the end of this reflection I find myself focusing on the differences between storytelling and soliciting a response from people.  I am also struck by the balance between empathy and sympathy.

Here are my take-a-ways:

  • Good storytelling brings the reader/listener into the story.
    In seeing themselves as a part of the story, a reader/listener is called to place themselves in the place of the subject(s) of the story.
  • In the best stories, the reader/listener will carry the story in their heart long after the details of the story are forgotten.
  • When we hear a story of challenges faced by others our responses are often a mix of sympathy and/or empathy.
  • Sympathy often takes the form of:  “I’d hate to be you”; “I’m happy that didn’t happen to me.”  Empathy takes the form of “What would I do/feel if I were in your shoes?”
  • Sympathetic action often takes the form of helping to fix a problem.  Empathy calls us to walk hand-in-hand with others.
    As I recognize how narcissistic my story of drama and trauma was this year I feel called to empathize with Anna and her family.  I just don’t really know how to do this.  It seems step one is to reach out my hand.

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Copyright 2016, Dan Lococo.  All rights reserved.

Pushing and letting go

Yesterday I got fed up with the slow pace of change in trying to receive the same access to public spaces that others freely enjoy.  I put my foot down and let the organization’s managing director know my patience had run out.  I outlined the problem, my legal rights, and my plans to enlist the help of third party agencies in ensuring the organization came into compliance with the laws that guaranteed my rights.  Within a few hours action had been taken and it seems the problem is well on its way to resolution.

This morning I meditated, as I do each morning.  My meditation was restless as I sat on my cushion.  After the chimes signaled the end of my meditation session I just sat for a while.  I decided to practice sitting in a full Lotus position just to see how well my joints would accept the position while I meditate.  I took a few minutes of mindful breathing to see how it would feel.  In the absence of chimes to measure the time of my meditation I just sat with my breath and no other distractions.

Sometime it is the pushing and sometimes its the letting go that gets me where I want to be.

The gift of wise leaders

One of the things I get to do each month is facilitate a Servant-Leader roundtable here in Milwaukee.  Servant-Leadership is a set of practices first articulated by Robert Greenleaf.  I was asked to write about my experiences for the Greenleaf Center’s blog this month.


You can read the post at the Greenleaf Center’s blog:


You can get a hold of me at:

Dan Lococo


Blak Friday is a part of our culture

Over and over again this weekend I have been hearing advertisements of “Blak Friday” sales.  I find this interesting as the term black Friday originated from the idea that retailers profitted from the rush of sales immediately after Thanksgiving.  It seems somewhat ironic to find a nation-wide celebration of corporate profitability following a day where (fewer and fewer of us) gather to celebrate family and friends.


While it is inspiring to see the number of businesses that are remaining closed on Thanksgiving day it is disconcerting to find the openness of the celebration of corporate profitability.  In an economy that is driven by consumer spending (approximately 70%) we still have a long way to go before we, as consumers, start driving the bus.


“Stay at home Friday” and “Small Business Saturday” are welcomed responses to our devotion to the transfer of wealth away from the average person, but we still have a long way to go. 

On being a whole person

“Does the rose have to do something? No, the purpose of a rose is to be a rose. Your purpose is to be yourself. You don’t have to run anywhere to become someone else. You are wonderful just as you are.” (Hanh, 1998, p. 152)

Five habits from Parker Palmer

I had the opportunity to spend the day at Alverno College attending their “Community Conference 2013: The Art of Happiness.” The keynote speaker for the conference was Dr. Parker J. Palmer, who spoke of the five habits of the heart featured in his book Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage To Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit (Palmer, 2011). The current political upheaval in Washington, D.C. seemed an appropriate backdrop for Palmer’s topic.

As Palmer’s speech unfolded he led the audience from looking at politics in a democracy as something private individuals passively observe to a process by which we build and reinforce the fabric of community. It was a pleasure to hear Palmer speak and to lead the audience to their feet at the conclusion of his remarks.

Five Habits of the Heart:

  1. An understanding that we are all in this together
  2. An appreciation of the value of “otherness.”
  3. An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways
  4. A sense of personal voice and agency
  5. A capacity to create community

The message I got from Palmer’s speech was of how the groups we are a part of can either lead to isolation and alienation from others or can lead us to a recognition of our own identities as a basis for our interactions with others. This led me to recognize how Palmer’s five habits speak to me personally as I work to develop Mainstreaming on Main Street® (MoMS) as a platform for the conversations that need to take place in order for persons with disabilities to integrate into the fabric of community and economic life.

As guiding principles, Palmer’s five habits provide guidance regarding the scope and limitations of constituencies. I have identified four core constituencies to be addressed through MoMS: persons with disabilities (pwds), persons without disabilities (pwods), advocates who work in the name of service to pwds, and those who partner in support of pwds.

When I originally started this journey I was naive enough to think Palmer’s first principle was enough. If we just recognized we are all in this together we could all be holding hands and singing “Kum ba yah” in no time. As my perspective on the topic has developed, I have come to recognize that each of these constituencies represents a distinct group or tribe. Tribal identification can be beneficial and advantageous for both the tribe as a whole and for the individual members of the tribe. What Palmer’s presentation added to my mindset was the value of holding tension in life-giving ways.

Palmer’s five habits were both a road map and reinforcement to the path I’ve envisioned for MoMS. They also serve as cautionary regarding the services I am developing in association with MoMS. The reinforcement comes in the affirmation of my original premise of MoMS. The cautionary comes in the development of specific services and service outcomes. Palmer’s five habits serve as a reminder that individuals find their own voice in their own way. The creation of spaces where people gain confidence in their own voices and engage with others in building community is as much a voyage of discovery as of anything else. My role in service to the conversations I hope to foster may best be delivered through facilitation and convening rather than through prescriptive practices.

Five habits link:,d.dmg

Sept 26 Servant Leader roundtable

The notes below are the summary of a roundtable I facilitated on Thursday, September 26, 2013   The group consisted of 22 leaders from a variety of for profit and nonprofit organizations.

Topic for the day: A Servant-Leadership practice you have been cultivating in your professional or personal life: How did it grow and what has it become a part of?

Listening: Listening creates the opportunity for others to share what is most important to them. Through listening we bring value to people’s lives. Simply being present to others is a strong indicator of their value as a person. Sometimes just listening is all we can do but that’s still a great deal.

Modeling: A leader is always modeling behaviors for others to follow. Demonstrating the behaviors we hope to evoke in others provides examples for others to follow. Be brave about showing your passion. Others want to be passionate too, but, some are afraid to show their passion. Once they see someone else, “dancing”, they get out on the dance floor.

Relationships: It is important to be intentional about the relationships we have with those we lead. The practice of greeting people and asking about them is being polite. It is when we remember what was said and take the time to follow up on the passing comments that we demonstrate our care for others. Sincerity and trust go hand in hand in developing strong relationships with followers. People know we care when we are open to learning what is important to them beyond the confines of the workplace. We need to be present to people as they are, where they are.

If we really want to build a strong organization we need to go beyond an “open door” policy. Specifically scheduling time to meet one-on-one with people is the only way to be sure to connect with them. Meeting outside of the workplace allows for limiting of distractions. The absence of an agenda creates the opportunity for what is important to present itself.

Self awareness: We cannot know others without knowing ourselves. This is something that takes silence and reflection. We need to be willing to laugh at ourselves and be transparent to others. Self knowledge is often the result of an epiphany and often a result of personal challenge.

Growth and change: Organizational change creates opportunities for growth. We can leverage these opportunities for growth or limit growth in the event of change. It was noted: When Jesus left they didn’t recruit a new messiah, the disciples stepped up. There is great value in allowing emerging leaders to step up in the face of change.

Leadership: When we look at exemplar leaders we often find people who served by meeting the needs of others. We can spend time and effort on principles of S-L but it is the small activities of day to day interactions that are the key of servant leadership. It is important to see ourselves as leaders of leaders. As leaders we are charged with creating opportunities for others to have the epiphanies that will lead to their own personal growth.

Randy Crump described a situation that would seem to call on the best of skills of a Servant-leader. In acting as an intermediate between groups with differing interest on the same value pool an S-L is called upon to consider the needs of all parties and seek an agreement that is mutually beneficial to all.

A Time to Regroup

I just completed two weeks of what I had set aside as vacation time for myself.  It wasn’t actually vacation but it was a good opportunity to regroup and see how I spend my time when I’m doing the things I really want to do.

I hadn’t planned the time in advance, that seemed like it would be counter productive but I did make a list of the things I find bubbling up to the top of my consciousness on a regular basis.  I used these as a guide for the past two weeks.  The result?  I found I did far mor productive, “I really want this complete and off my list.” things than I had expected.  This is not to say I didn’t spend time on my hammock but I applied the same criteria to down time as I did to productive time:  if I was motivated to focus my attention on an activity, I did, if not, not.

The final result of this time to regroup is I probably got done as much in the past two weeks as I do in any given two week period.  The difference is I found I was more relaxed, more focused, more aware of my own feelings, and happier than in the average two week period.

The challenge will be to understand how to carry this experience forward into the next 50 weeks.

The sound of the cardinal behind the cardinal

As I was meditating this morning I found myself attracted to the song of our local cardinal.  What I realized is it was actually two cardinals singing in harmony.

With the warmth of summer, we keep the windows open enough to feel the fresh air and the sounds of the season.  We have a cardinal that starts singing each morning at about 4:30 AM.  It has become my informal alarm clock this summer.

The cardinal also acts as a reminder for me as to why I meditate.  My goal is to be more present to where I am and who I am in the world.  With this goal in mind I have gotten in the habit of opening the windows in our living room before I start my meditation session.

I frequently hear the cardinal’s song as I meditate.  When I don’t hear the cardinal singing it is often because I have drifted off into the world of “monkey mind” where random thoughts bounce around in my head.  .  What I have discovered when I am present and my mind is quiet is that there are a number of cardinals in our neighborhood.  I have simply made an assumption that once I hear the clear sound of the closest cardinal within earshot I don’t really need to listen much farther.

I can’t help but wonder how often I fail to hear the sound of the cardinal behind the cardinal or the quiet voice behind the loud voices closest to my ear.