The solution is located within the problem; the solution gives rise to another great problem

A July 25, 2015 article at the Canadian Stuttering Association website is entitled: Community Involvement and Stuttering.

The text, based upon a draft that I wrote on the morning of July 24, 2015 while on vacation in Prince Edward Island, reads as follows:

It all began with a problem. The problem was that, fifty years ago, I stuttered so badly there were times I could not get out any words at all. Fortunately, I found a way to address this problem – by attending the ISTAR (Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research) clinic in Edmonton in 1987. After that, I was able to speak more or less fluently even to large audiences.

I practised my newly-acquired fluency skills every day for several years, and regularly analyzed two-minute recorded segments of my everyday conversations, to make sure I was applying my skills correctly. What has worked for me will work for many but not all people who stutter; what I describe is what has worked for me. Close to three decades later, I’ve done well in maintaining my fluency skills. I have spoken about my encounters with stuttering in articles at the CSA website and in an online video that has to date been seen by more than 700 people.

Reaching out

After attending ISTAR, I found I needed to compare notes with other people who stutter who had gone through similar experiences. I formed a self-help group in Toronto, the Toronto Stuttering Association (SAT) in 1988. Working with others – starting with a core group of people who were members of SAT – I helped organize the first-ever national conference for people who stutter, which took place in Banff, Alberta in 1991. Members of a self-help group in Alberta were also key players in the organizing of the event. The conference led to the founding of the Canadian Stuttering Association.

Getting active in the community

I am now involved in community self-organizing projects at the local level in the Long Branch neighbourhood, in the southwest corner of the City of Toronto, where I have lived with my family for the past twenty years. These local projects involve the application of skills that I learned in the course of twenty-five years of volunteer work on behalf of CSA and other organizations, relating to community self-organizing, communications, decision-making, networking, and media relations. Had I not had the prior opportunity to learn and practise such skills, year after year, I would not have been able to help out, with the same degree of success, in a wide range of local projects.

My Preserved Stories website highlights the community projects I’ve been involved in to address development issues affecting the character of neighbourhoods such as Long Branch. In 2010 I worked with other residents to ensure that a local school remained in public hands, rather than being sold to a developer who would have built condos or townhouses on the archaeological remains of the historic Colonel Samuel Smith homestead. The project involved the release of $5.2-million, by the Ontario government, just prior to the 2011 provincial election. I’ve been involved in extensive volunteer work on behalf of the Liberal Part of Ontario ever since. Gratitude is a strong motivating force in my work as a volunteer. Gratitude always has been a strong source of motivation, in whatever volunteer work that I do.

Facing fears, solving problems

It started with a problem. Then I solved the problem. I’ve been solving problems ever since. What a delight it is to have a problem in front of me. Within that problem is the solution to it. Finding the problem is a lot of fun and releases a tremendous amount of energy and enables all things to work out beautifully in the end. Things work out beautifully until the next problem arises, at which time you start the whole enormous process all over again, working together with as many other people as you can find, in order to achieve success in solving the problem, whatever the problem may be, that confronts you, in the present moment, of your life.

Jaan Pill is a retired schoolteacher and a co-founder of the Canadian Stuttering Association. More about him and his community work is available at his website, Preserved Stories.

[End of text]

1) Leadership succession

The original text was much longer; Lisa Wilder of the CSA has shortened it, and in other ways modified it (with my okay) and thereby vastly improved it for the purposes of publishing it at the CSA website.

Two key principles, not included in the above-noted text, concerns what I’ve learned about leadership succession and a flat-hierarchy approach to decision-making.

When I was involved in the initial organizing, that led to the founding of the Stuttering Association of Toronto (SAT) in 1988, one of the people that I spoke to said that such groups had come and gone in the past. That is, an organizer would emerge, a group would be founded, and would flourish for a time. Then the organizer, the leader of the group, would in time get burned out or would move on to other pursuits, and the group would fade away.

When I heard that comment, I decided at once that I would approach things differently. From the very beginning, I decided that leadership succession was a key thing to keep in mind when a person forms a group. I served as a leader of SAT for a few years, and then we arranged for another person to take on that role, after which another person would be the leader. We also arranged for each person, who wished to, to be chair of two meetings is a row.

When I began work at the national level, with the founding of the Canadian Stuttering Association, we made leadership succession a key part of the constitution of the organization. Similarly, the concept of leadership succession became a key part of the constitution of the International Stuttering Association.

2) Flat-hierarchy approach to decision-making

My preference has always been that every person, in an organization, who wishes to express a point of view, should be listened to very closely. My preference has also been that key decisions would be made with as much input, from as many members, as possible. My expectation was that, as a result, all of the members of the organization would have a strong sense of ownership of the organization, which would be very valuable for its future growth.

3) Evidence-based practice

A third thing that I learned, in those years, is the value of evidence-based practice, a topic that I’ve often addressed, at this website.

Part of that narrative concerns the distinction between the brand and the back story, a topic that I’ve also often addressed.

4) Each person’s ‘book of life’ is of interest, and has its characteristic limitations

A fourth thing that I’ve learned is that, whatever I’ve learned, through my own experiences, has its particular limitations – the limitations of what one particular person can learn, in the course of a given person’s ‘book of life.’ That theme is concerned, in turn, with my interest in the experience of the present moment – with a person’s reality, whatever that reality may be, in the here and now.

By that I mean that, even more than what I can learn, from other people’s experiences, whether through speaking with them, or hearing them speak, or reading their texts, I can learn many things through my own experience of the present moment.

In that regard, I’ve had the good fortune to receive good instruction in the practice of mindfulness – again, as I’ve explained from time to time at this website. I learned about mindfulness within a course of instruction  in which the technique of mindfulness was separated – to the extent it’s possible to achieve such a separation – from the belief systems, whatever they may be, that are part of the traditional cultural practices within which concepts such as mindfulness may be typically embedded.

As a result of what I’ve learned, I’ve found it really useful to have a closer look at the evidence – the back story as contrasted to the brand – as it relates, by way of example, to Buddhism – or Buddhisms, to be more precise – as highlighted in recent posts including:

Buddhist Warfare (2010) highlights connections between Buddhisms and violence.


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