Next-stepping and other Verbs

You’ve probably noticed that I fall in love with certain words and phrases and then won’t let them go. Truth is I don’t want to let them go, and don’t try to; I much prefer pulling you into them with me. It’s how our Language of Intention gets constructed. Case in point:

Add “Next-stepping” to your vocabulary: Next-stepping is how long-term happiness can reveal itself in short-term actions: “What should you do with your life? Find out!”

We choose Useful, not Conventional

My word loves shared with you are becoming post tags here on the site, because I’ve decided it will be all-in MWA and not blogging or publishing by the rules (one of which uses keywords for SEO search-ability… not that important to you, or to me.) My current efforts have been to be more selective too, where “Less is More” because our Less is good! Let’s use tag conventions which are much more useful. You’ll know our site tags are values, or words and phrases about our practice — the stuff we actually do as Alaka‘i Managers living, working, managing and leading with ALOHA.

Most writers-who-publish don’t do long paragraphs either, or much long anything nowadays, but we shouldn’t be concerned with length for length’s sake (or for brevity). “What is enough?” is a better guideline for whatever we feel needs saying, don’t you think? When I reread parts of my book — which isn’t that long altogether — I really notice how much shorter my paragraphs have become online; they were way longer in the book, and I had a great team help me as copywriter-checker and editor, so structurally they must be right! A big reason they’re shorter now, is because of our after-the-book connections and work in culture-building together: We’ve continued the conversation with many new additions to our Language of Intention. Our paragraphs can be shorter because of kaona (fewer words, more meaning).

Examples of my word/phrase loves? Ma‘alahi for sure (the persuasion of calm), and Hō‘imi like we just talked about, but we’ll stick to English tags… Positive expectancy. Intellectual honesty. Abundance thinking to banish any scarcity mentality. Self coaching is an oldie but goodie, so is spirit spilling. I say value mapping or value immersion these days much more than value alignment (to be more specific, for both are included in value alignment). And talking story; we can’t forget that one!

One of my favorites that’s kind of new, relatively speaking, is value-verbing. It’s about something I’ve done as a manager for as long as I can remember, but I only started to actually call it value-verbing a couple of years ago. About March of 2010 is traceable; I had an MWA presentation back then that I’d call “Values, Verbs, Vitality and Your Verve” which flowed out of the work I was doing on the Aloha Virtues — which I still love, but virtues didn’t fit into my work at the time as well as values and verbs (unstoppable those two!) and I had to choose. Those virtues tend to come back at holiday time with the 12 Days of Christmas… maybe they will this year as well; we’ll see.

It’s been great getting my partners in business to say value-verbing too. Before, they’d say something like, “Rosa can talk funny sometimes, it’s her hapa-Hawaiian thing, but we know what she means.” Hapa-Hawaiian is when you speak by mixing English and Hawaiian together — so see, they ‘talked funny’ and in shortcuts too!

A post update on our Language of Intention: Managing with Aloha’s Lexicon Morphology and a new Reference Page: Conceptual Index.

Big Rocks, Pebbles and Sand

Have you heard of the Big Rocks metaphor? I first heard it decades ago in the context of time management, as a strategy for setting weekly priorities: Big Rocks are what you give most of your attention to, then pebbles, then sand, which means you can train yourself into ignoring the sand, or at least dealing with it last; the smaller priority should have smaller chunks of your attention to them. The time management gurus would tell you to imagine putting all three into a bucket you can carry, the bucket representing your time that week, and what you can actually pull off reasonably well. They’d say to put the big rocks in first, then the pebbles, and then the sand, because sand will fill in whatever space is leftover, and if it doesn’t, no biggie — pun fully intended, for this was coaching of the “don’t sweat the small stuff” variety.

Well I never fully bought into the metaphor, for when you live in Hawai‘i you know that sand has a way of getting into everything once you begin to track it around with you. You can’t just ignore it, you have to deal with it, or it will irritate you and grate on your nerves way, way more than any rock or pebble you can just push to the side for later. Sand can also make life interesting when those rocks and pebbles keep you weighted down with them in the trenches and get rather boring or oppressive… oysters make pearls with sand, after all.

I used the Big Rocks metaphor once for a client who requested it, in helping him with a KŪLIA I KA NU‘U campaign for his managers. It worked pretty well in the way brainstorming does to eventually narrow your focus (you notice how the fun part gets to be crossing off as much as you can on the flipchart’s storm surge? No! to this, No!! to this, and definitely No!!! to this…) but those managers of his were really, really good at cramming in their sand, and forcing it to fit within the conversation. Management is like that, especially in the hands of mid-level managers grouped together, who have suddenly discovered they can be a force to be reckoned with (okay, I admit it… I was cheering them on. Aha! moments are incredible fun.)

Values, Verbs and the Energy of Vitality

All to say that if I make the metaphor useful in its spirit of intent taught to me (for it’s classic Language of Intention stuff), Values are definitely my Big Rocks.

Verbs, and the way I’ll habitually ho‘o or everything, turning nouns into verbs to make stuff happen (i.e. the value-verbing), are my Pebbles.

And here, in this site culture-built by Managing with Aloha, what’s mine is yours, and becomes ours.

I prefer to think of our Sand as our Energy: Sand has that vitality and verve because it moves so easily, both in the ocean thanks to the surf, and out of it thanks to us. There’s always some room for it, even in the metaphor, or the big rocks and pebbles won’t get cushioned; they’ll grate against each other, suspended with weird spaces… How about keeping some space open for the unexpected that week? Now there’s a novel concept…

The sand that falls out of the bucket for now may be my Aloha Virtues, though vitality was one of them! They’re all listed here if you’re curious; you can always find them listed with our Resource Pages on the Archives page. I haven’t made room for more of them in the bucket I carry daily, but I’m getting stronger and can carry a bigger bucket one of these days so they’ll fit and stay with me consistently. For now, I like to think of them nestled in a bed of kind and gentle oysters while vitality represents.

For Energy, go for the ING

An easy way to start working with pebble-pleasant verbs is to embrace words with ING endings. That’s definitely where Energy comes in with vitality, vim and vigor! (I couldn’t resist :) For example, reading, writing, drawing, playing, listening and the 4 Big Rocks we talk story about the most with our with Aloha qualifier: Living, working, managing, and leading. We like ING words because they’re so kēia manawa: They’re about stuff you are actively doing right now in a carpe diem, seize the moment kind of way, currently involved with them in some kind of flow whether beginning, ending, or still pacing somehow — all those places are energizing when you make them that way. Grammatically speaking, ING words are called gerunds, and this article on Grammar Girl will explain more if you must know, but we’ll keep it simpler.

As an Alaka‘i Manager, you want Energy in your culture and lots of it, and you should want it bad, for energy is your greatest resource. It’s that secret sauce that will get everything else to happen for you — everything. Energy is action; vibrant, vital action in progress. It’s that feeling of excitement and enthusiasm that “something is happening here!” No energy, no fuel, no movement, nothing but a very bad case of the blahs.

ED words (like lived, worked, managed, led) are finishers and endings, and you have to be sure about them. You want to ING in a great way before an ED sneaks up on you before you’re ready for it (think for a moment, about the difference between learning and learned). But that’s another article for another weekend.

“Testing… testing 1, 2, testing…” Are we comfortable yet?

As you know, we’re restarting here, and as of this writing, Managing with Aloha has just 11 posts counting this one, but those posts already share 34 tags (tags are not added to Resource Pages). 19 of them are our Hawaiian values. Here are a dozen others with a fun test so we’re all caught up with each other: Can you guess which of the 11 posts will show up in our value-verbing when you click on them?

Here are eight of the post titles to help trigger your memory, those that were more article-worthy versus getting site-mapping comfortable with housekeeping stuff:

  • What if I’m not a manager?
  • Let’s Define Values
  • What is the Aloha Spirit? It’s you!
  • Talking Story is Thriving. It’s What We Do.
  • The Visibility Guarantee: Your Values
  • Values in the Driver’s Seat: An Exercise
  • Palena ‘ole Positivity is Hō‘imi— look for it
  • What should you do with your life? Find out!

And here are some of the tags we’ve added to our 19 Values as our Pebbles so far. ALL of them can be considered value-verbing tools in Living with Aloha, including the two nouns I have tucked into the list. For the Alaka‘i Manager, they are about culture-building with energy.

  1. Abundance thinking
  2. Asking for help
  3. Circle of comfort
  4. Good questioning
  5. Journaling
  6. Managing
  7. Next-stepping
  8. Positive expectancy
  9. Self-coaching
  10. Spirit-spilling
  11. Talking story
  12. Value-mapping

If you had a favorite value-verbing within any of my previous publishing for you, and you’d like to see it “pebble-in” here too, let me know! I just added another 2-word INGer with this post: See if you spot it in the after-post footer where the categories and tags normally show up.

And be brave! Invent the language you want to use within your own workplace culture. Be creative and have fun! Vocabulary and language are our communication powerhouses, whether you’re a hapa-Hawaiian, hapa-European, hapa-Asian or someone else. You can harness the power and energy of Language of Intention so easily, especially because we all have the Aloha Spirit.

Review Key Concept #5 on Language of Intention and curate your own culture simply by taking notice of the “insider’s language” you use on a regular basis, and jotting it down. Then be a culture-builder: Is there anyone you work with who seems to be out of the loop with your shared Language of Intention? Bring them inside the Circle of Comfort, for that’s what you’ll give them when they learn it, and can speak it too.

Postscript: Circle of Comfort is an oldie but goodie from my book: You can read about it as the objective of The Daily Five Minutes in this book excerpt: Chapter 11: ‘IKE LOA. That chapter will also get you thinking about that ING and ED difference between learning and learned.

About Rosa Say

Rosa is the author of Managing with Aloha. She’s a writer and photo-taker, a workplace culture coach, and a zealous advocate of managers everywhere. She’s a wife and mom, sister and daughter, manager, leader and worker bee, living the best life she can, just like you. Learn more about Rosa at


  1. Anne says:

    *****’s! I love this post! It’s filled with energy! !!! :-)

    • Rosa Say says:

      Aloha Anne,
      I’m not sure what *****’s! means, but I’ll take it :) I do feel your Aloha and good intention because they are carried on the waves of all the talking story we’ve done up to now. Thank you for being here too, and adding your energy to the mix!

  2. Ceseli says:

    Ahhh…energy! All our thoughts are simply energy which we create and throw out to the universe so make all those thoughts positive, productive and inviting ones! Access Consciousness (check out their website teaches us to say, “What else is possible?” Use this when things are going great or when they are not but just try it for awhile and see what happens. It’s amazing! Also, instead of saying, “Well it doesn’t get any better than this!”, which sends out the negative energy, say, ” Can it get better than this?” and it does! These are just great tools to be able to bring about the abundance we all want in our lives, whatever form that takes. Blog about your results from this exercise or practice and share it with us. Thank you for inviting me into your blog, aloha nui loa, Ceseli

    • Rosa Say says:

      “Access consciousness” sounds very much like what we call “positive expectancy” and “spirit-spilling” Ceseli. I wholeheartedly concur that all our thoughts carry our Aloha-fed energies with them, coupling our good intentions with whatever we give our attention to.


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