For Saima: it’s ALL you

Hello little sister, I get that you did not get our conversation today.  With that in mind I have found a parable that may better convey what I clearly was not able to convey to you today.  To make sense of the parable it is worth knowing that there is tradition in Japanese Zen which can be best described as ‘trading dialogue for shelter’.  If a wandering monk wishes to stay the night then he can do so provided he wins the dialogue.  And even if he does win the debate he can only stay for one night and then must move on. The monastery referred to in the parable is run by two monks who are brothers.  The older brother is highly educated.  The younger brother is not educated – he is simple and has only one eye.  Here is the parable:

“One evening a wandering monk came to ask for lodging (for the night). The elder brother was very tired as he had been studying for many hours….

So he told his younger brother to go and take the debate. “Request that the dialogue be in silence,” said the elder brother.

A little later the wandering monk (the traveller) came to the elder brother and said, “What a wonderful fellow your brother is.  He has won the debate very cleverly and so I must on. Good night.”

“Before you go,” said the elder brother, “please relate the dialogue to me.”

“Well,” said the wandering monk, “first I held up one finger to represent the Buddha.  Then your brother held up two to represent the Buddha and his teaching.  So I held up three fingers to represent Buddha, his teaching and his followers. Then your clever brother shook his clenched fist in my face to indicate that all three come from one realisation.”  With that the wandering monk left.

A little while later the younger brother came in looking distressed.  “I understand you won the debate,” said the elder brother.  “Won nothing,” said the younger brother, ‘that wandering monk is a very rude man!”

“Oh!” said the elder brother, “Tell me the subject of the debate.”

“Why,” said the younger brother, “the moment he saw me he held up one finger insulting me by indicating that I have only one eye.  But I thought as he is a stranger I’d be polite, so I held up two fingers to congratulate him on having two eyes.  At this the impolite wretch held up three fingers to indicate that between us we have only three eyes.  So I got mad and threatened to punch his nose – so he went.” 

The elder brother laughed.

Saima, there is immense wisdom in this parable and I do hope that you get it.  Great if you get it, great if you do not get it – all is whole, complete and perfect just as it is and just as it is not.

On being wanted, loved and cared for: how I arrived with one sister and left with four sisters!

“According to Mother Theresa, the greatest disease in the West is not Tuberculosis or Leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, uncared for.” Tim Sanders, Love Is The Killer App

A life full of ‘business as usual’ encounters

Can you remember a time in your life when you turn up at someone’s house because it is something you should do. And as you knock on the door you expect a superficial experience because the people are in the room and humanity has gone walkabout – including your own? My life if it was a container would be full of these superficial encounters: unwanted, unloved, uncared for. And I am confident that I have had the same impact on many of my fellow human beings.

Three extraordinary sisters and an extraordinary day

Yesterday I encountered Asma, Saima and Selena (sisters) as I have done several times before. Yet this time I so enjoyed their company that I did not want to leave and return home. The speaking, relating, listening and the experience of each others company was extraordinary. Full of humanity – genuine sharing, caring and laughter. What was present that had been missing in previous encounters?

I was coming from the context of ‘Playing BIG’ and being the source of powerful conversations that bring the experience of the extraordinary into being. And the people I interacted with (including Asma, Saima and Selena) were touched by my honest sharing (including vulnerabilities and mistakes) and put their humanity into the mix with me. Together we touched each others lives in an ‘extraordinary’ way – definitely not a ‘business as usual’ experience’!

I got that I have four sisters and not three: I simply had not been willing to see this before. Asma is amazing and loves me; I got that Saima is amazing and loves me; I got that Selena is amazing and loves me; I got that they are amazing together and love each other; and I got that they are being loving towards their mother and father.

I love my sister Freda and the relationship is so strong that I have never wanted or wished for another sister. Today I ‘have’ four sisters. Put accurately, I declare that I am an elder brother to four sisters: Fred, Asma, Saima and Selena. And as such I take on all the ‘stuff’ that goes with ‘playing that game’. How do I feel? Great.

Final thought: ‘Playing BIG’ has expanded my circle of concern and of care. And it has also enriched my life I am delighted to be in relationship with four sisters – each of them being amazing.

I love you Freda, Asma, Saima and Selena, Please know that you have a brother in me and all that goes with that. Asma, Saima and Selena I apologise that it took me so long to get that you want, love and care for me as your older brother. I totally get that you are amazing and it is a privilege to step into being your elder brother.

How our lives, families, organisations..turn out: the context is decisive – always, no exceptions!

“The context is decisive”  Werner Erhard

What does Werner Erhard mean when he says that “The context is decisive”?  Let me ask that question in another more concrete way.  What is Werner pointing us towards?  I do not know exactly and given that is so I understand it in the following way.  Let’s think of context as ‘playing field’ rather like a soccer pitch (complete with all that goes with it including the goals, line markings etc), a rugby pitch, an ice hockey rink.  Yet ‘playing field’ is more it can also be the chessboard, the monopoly board.  There is still more ‘playing field’ includes stuff like centre court with the completion of the semi-finals during the annual June tournament.  Get the idea behind ‘context’ as ‘playing field’?

Exploring what Werner is pointing towards and making available to us when he says “The context is decisive”

Saying “The context is decisive” Werner is pointing us towards the fact that a soccer pitch calls ‘a game of soccer’ into being.  A rugby pitch calls ‘a game of rugby’ into being.  A chessboard calls a ‘game of chess into being’.  Get the idea?  I hope so and lets continue our exploration.

Now imagine centre-court at Wimbledon during the annual June championships.  The semi-finals are complete, there are only two players left in the tournament and it is the afternoon of the final – to decide who become champion.  On the day of the final there is a particular context (‘playing field’ ) that is in play – it both calls some stuff into being automatically AND at the same time this context rules out a whole bunch of stuff.  For example, given the context which gives rise to the final we can say:

  • The context calls the finalists to prepare thoroughly to be worth players on centre court and co-create a great match;
  • The spectators (sitting in the stands) have high expectations regarding the match they expect to see – they expect a thrilling battle between two masters of the game of Tennis, they expect twists and turn, they expect to be thoroughly engagement in an enthralling drama;
  • Amongst the spectators are members of royalty, heads of states, captains of commerce, celebrities of many kinds and past champions – the context has called them to be present another context (an ordinary tennis match) would not bring these people to be present and watch the match;
  • The umpire, the linesman and the ball boys and girls are carefully selected to ensure only the best end up on the court – anything less is simply not appropriate, it lacks Integrity as regards the context that is giving rise to the play;
  • The context rules out all kind of stuff like replacing one or both of the two remaining contests. It excludes the possibility that there will not be a reserve umpire, reserve linesmen, reserve ball boys and ball girls.  It also excludes the possibility that all the equipment (needed for the match to take part in a way that works) will not be checked and probably double checked. It also rules out the possibility that the sports media elite will not turn up to record and make commentary on the final.  And so forth.

What the heck does that mean for our lives, our families, our organisations, our society, our world?

When it comes  to ‘that which shows up’ and our ‘experience’ of living context is the most determining force.  To leave the context intact and get busy on changing ourselves, changing other people, change processes, changing technology – the stuff that is readily at hand and visible to us – is a fools errand, it is a futile endeavour.  The key leverage point is the context:

  • transform the context that gives being to our living and we transform our living including our experience of living and the results that we co-create and show up in our lives;
  • transform the context underlying and giving being to our organisations and the experience of leading, working in, being a customer of these organisations is transformed.   Yes, changes may need to happen when it comes to People, Process, Technology, Strategy etc.  Yet these changes will flow effortlessly from the appropriate context.  This is what the Chinese mean by ‘wu wei’ – natural action, effortless effort, that which happens without doing;
  • transform the underlying context that determines that which does and does not show up in our society and our society will be transformed;
  • want to ‘Play BIG’ at the level of our world – ‘a world that works – nobody excluded’ – then lets work, collectively, on transforming the context that currently underpins and drives what does and does not show up in our world.

Thank you Laurence Platt and Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard I thank you for bringing Transformation and Possibility into being.  Thank you Laurence Platt and Conversations for Transformation – you have been as a source of inspiration and an existence structure keeping me in touch with Werner’s work for the last ten years especially during the times  when I was lost in the darkness of ‘Playing small’ full out.  I love you!  I am grateful that you exist and that it has been my privilege to be in touch and be touched by you and your work.

They say that when the student is ready the master appears.  I first got access to Werner Erhard’s work a little over ten years ago.  I first got access to Laurence Platt’s work about 8 years ago.  Whilst I knew about the work, I was not ready to get the work.  This month on December 23rd it happened (as a result of reaching the lowest point of existence) the student was ready and the masters appeared.  I declare that there is no going back to HELL (for me) as I am present to the truth which Hemingway stated in his story “The Old Man and the Sea”

“A man is not made for defeat…a man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

Playing BIG full out: Tuesday 27th Dec 2011 – an ordinary day, an extraordinary experience

The automatic machinery of ‘Playing small’ kick into action yet fails

I went to sleep at 3:15 am and I awoke and got out of bed at 6:35.  Was I tired?  Clearly not because there was no-one in the house and no noise to wake me up and yet I did awake.  Upon waking the automatic machinery of ‘Playing small’ kicked into action and i was telling myself “i am tired, i should go back to sleep.”  What saved me?  I kicked into action and reminded me that I am ‘Playing BIG’ and I had given my Word (to my parents) that I’d spend today with them. I choose to leave for Preston (220 miles away) by 9am – that is the objective I set myself.

Dressing in accordance with ‘Playing BIG’

After showering, taking my medicine and breakfast I went up to my bedroom to get dressed.  When I had been wrapped up in playing small I would have automatically picked up and worn second class clothes – clothes that had seen better days.  Today, mindful of the fact that I chose and committed to the game called ‘Playing BIG” I took out a brand new pair of Chinos, a blue shirt and my blue blazer (with the gold buttons).  Once I had finished dressing I was aware that I was still not dressed in accordance with playing big.  What was letting me down?  The wallet and the worn out shoelaces.  I made a commitment to deal with these issues when I got to Preston.

‘Playing BIG’ rests on the foundation of honouring my word as myself

The previous day I had promised my son that before leaving the house (he was sleeping over at a friends) I would leave him £60 and that I would take the spare keys put them in a plastic bag and hide them in the rather large garden just in case he needed them in an emergency.  I was also mindful that I had committed to put the rubbish bin outside ready to be collected tomorrow morning.

I packed and then I put all of my luggage in the car. Then I put the rubbish bin out where it needs to be if it is to be emptied tomorrow.  What is missing?  Music – but not old music. So I headed back into house and remembered where the right music was sitting – I had once played the game of ‘Playing BIG’.  I took the music cassettes to the car – yes it is that long since I last played the game called ‘Playing BIG’.

Getting into the car to go to the bank I noticed that the car need refuelling.  So I headed to petrol station that had a cashpoint and took care of both the petrol and the cash.  I drove back home, took out £100 put them in a clear plastic money bag and left a note for my son.  It reads “I love you son.  I have complete confidence in you which is why I am happy to leave you to fend for yourself.”  Then I took care of the keys.  Commitments fulfilled I headed for Preston to see my parents.  I did notice that I had failed to keep one of my commitments – I was leaving around 9:10 and not 9:00 am: I am already out of Integrity and it is only 9:10am.  Whilst I noticed this lack of Integrity I did not castigate myself – I was simply mindful that there is plenty of work to do to be in accordance with ‘Playing BIG’.

On the motorway I have a blast of a time even though I got caught up in a traffic jam

Once I headed towards Preston I played the right tape – one that would help me to be in the right state – the state that correlates with ‘Playing BIG’.  I chose to play the game of sticking to the speed limit – sometimes a big ask as i love to drive fast and so am not mindful (enough) of the speed limit. Heading north on the  motorway the music and I co-created the right state – I was singing and ‘dancing’ to the music.  Now that might not seem like a big deal and yet it is.  i does not sing – not even in the car.  And i absolutely does not ‘dance’ in the car – “Heavens, other poeple are looking and they will think I am an idiot! So don’t do anything to attract attention to yourself.”  So it was a huge achievement to simply drop this and sing and ‘dance’ to the music – full out.

i hates, loathes, traffic jams.  i relates to itself as SPECIAL and as such expects EVERYTHING to work. i being SPECIAL does not like to be inconvenienced and detests having to wait in line. i gets FRUSTRATED and ANGRY when traffic jam occurs.  i curses this third world country where the roads are lanes are closed off because of repairs and this creates traffic jam.  i thinks that anyone that is involved in a accident is a MORON – why can’t these people drive properly?  How can some people be so inconsiderate as to take part in an accident and thus inconvenience competent folks like i?

North of Birmingham there was a traffic jam – a big one. i immediately kicked into action – it started castigating me for being stupid enough to take 20 minutes out the service station to ring my parents and do my stretching exercises.  Incidentally, I did stretching exercise in public by giving my being SIGNIFICANT – initially i did not like this as people were looking at i and giving funny looks.  All the time I was doing the exercises i kept complaining and urging I to stop this madness and the associated embarrassment.  Back to the traffic jam.  i was about to complain about the station and I came into being saying “The Self is providing me with an opportunity to practice patience so lets practice patience.  Let’s go further and be fun whilst practising patience.”  That is exactly what I did – I stepped up the level of expression in its singing and dancing.  Furthermore, I opened the windows so that others could hear – to deal with the issue of i being SIGNIFICANT.  i did not like this and closed the window several times.  Each time I came back into being and dealt with the situation. In the end I was driving with the car windows open whilst singing and ‘dancing’.  We (I and i) got some looks especially from the car drivers in the cars coming in the opposite direction. Around 13:20 I arrived at my parents home.

Lack of Integrity: i gets the better of I in two domains

Whilst this may sound splendid and it is.  It is also true that i bested I in at least domain: I failed to keep its promise of sticking to the speed limit.  Now and then i got the better of I and put the foot down and broke the speed limit.  So upon arriving at my parents I noticed at least two areas in which I had failed to honor the commitments associated with ‘Playing BIG”: breaking the speed limit and arriving at 13:20 rather than 13:00 – the time I had promised to my parents.

An extraordinary shopping experience

My niece who is ten years old and rather shy was at my parents.  My parents are old and so she (Zara) was sitting at the table coloring.  After eating lunch, mindful that I had committed to sorting out the out of Integrity dress issues and coming from a stand of ‘good fellowship’ I asked Zara if she would like to go shopping with me.  She said “Yes” and by that time my eldest nephew (Mohammed) came into the house and I asked him if he wanted to come along as well.  He also said “Yes” so I told them both that I would be leaving at 2:45 and so they need to be ready to leave by then.  Zara was ready.  Mohammed was not ready.  I was not ready.  By the time I got ready and left the house with them both it was closer to 3:00.  I noticed this lack of Integrity – failing to play full out to honor my word.

Whilst the three of us left the house only Zara and I walked to Preston town centre.  Mohammed did not want to walk, took the car and told me that he would meet us in the town centre.  Heading to the centre I took Zara’s hand and started to talking with her.  I noticed that I can barely hear her – she is so shy that she speaks so softly and that makes it difficult to hear her.  That works fine by her because that is what she wants – not to be heard, not to be noticed.  So I chose to offer myself as a model of self-expression in order to get her to get that it is OK to express oneself and that one can have fun with it as well.

I am no poet yet I came with rhymes and I sang them out loud. People noticed and the world did not end.  After a little while I asked Zara to join in and at first she was hesitant.  She was laughing at my singing and yet refused to sing.  Later I invited her to sing she agreed and so we sang a rhyme that I created on the spot that Zara could connect to and which she finds funny: “I love my daddy, he is a fatty, yet he is my daddy, I love my daddy!”  What I got that I am no poet laureate I can make up rhymes – and on the spot.  This was something new to me – i had always thought of itself as being useless at this kind of stuff, i does not take to poetry, i finds it a turn-off.

Mohammed joined us at the outskirts of the town centre and then wished he hadn’t.  Why?  Because I was singing out loud – loud enough for people to hear me and look at us.  He did not like that one little bit and kept telling me to stop pleading that it is his town and that he has to live here.  I simply ignored him and continued singing especially as Zara found this amusing and from time to time joined in.

In the centre which is the first shop that I noticed?  The one that tends to stock clothes that I like and which fit me: Moss.  So the three of us headed into the shop and I started looking at the shirts. Why?  Because I got that I am not happy with the quality of some of my shirts. Why?  Because they are an expression of ‘Playing small’.  Steve, on the shop assistants, came over to ask if I needed help. “Yes, please!” is what I said. Steve started showing me some shirts, I was not impressed.  I said “I don’t want anything cheap. I want the best quality shirts – the shirts that feel good against the skin for 10 hours a day and which do not crease easily.”  Steve recommended some shirts.  I asked to try it on to experience the feel.  And that is what I did.  I found that whilst Steve had measured my neck and given me a size 15.5 shirt I found it to be too small.  So I asked Steve to find me a size 16 white shirt.  I tried it on and it felt good against the skin: it proved that the shirt I was wearing was cheap.  So I kept wearing the shirt and asked Steve to get me another 4 shirts.  He was caught by surprise and told me that they were unlikely to have four size 16 white shirts in stock.  I confidently requested that he go and look – “give it your best shot” or something close to that is what I said.

Steve came back with four white shirts.  Excellent.  I told Steve that I wanted to leave the shop with 10 of those shirts. So we set about finding the other five shirts.  We found four but not the fourth.  Steve suggested other brand shirts, I refused.  Why?  Because I had chosen to buy the best quality shirts and this brand was not the best quality brand.  Taking a lesser brand would have polluted the other nine shirts that I had bought.

Being a good salesman Steve asked me if I needed anything else. “Yes, I do,  I am looking for belts”.  Steve showed me various belts and I tried them choosing several. Then I noticed a higher quality belt and tried it on – it fitted perfectly.  So I told Steve that wanted four of those belts.  We left the shop having bought 9 shirts and 4 belts.  But that was not all.  I had sang in the shop and embarrassed Mohammed so much that he locked himself away in one of the dressing rooms.  It was worth it though because Zara was finding this funny and by now at least one step outside of her narrow zone of no self expression. I had also got Steve a little bit and I believe he got my sincere thanks for being so helpful and helping me to achieve my objective.

Then Zara and I found ourselves in the high street (the main street) full of people many of them out shopping and looking for bargains. Mohammed had felt so embarrassed that he quit and left for home – that worked out great as he took my shopping back to his car and back to my parents.  Walking down the high street, holding Zara’s hand I sang and Zara joined me now and then.  I saw HMV and headed there knowing that Zara was bored at my parents and likes to watch movies.  There we bought the DVD’s that caught our attention – both of us left the shop happy.  Then we sang ourselves to Debenhams as I still needed a wallet and was up for finding more Chinos.  Whilst it did not look promising we persisted and found the wallet and two pairs of Chinos – both of these trousers fitted perfectly.  We queued, we paid, we left and headed back to my parents.

The delight of Krispy Kreme doughnuts!

Not wanting to go back the same way we had come – it occurred as being boring and ‘Playing small’ – we chose a different route.  And what did I see?  Advertising for Costa Coffee and in particular Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  i would frown on eating this kind of junk.  Yet, I thought about Zara.  I asked her if she liked Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a big smile came across her face and she said “Yes!”.  So we headed to Costa Coffee and queued yet I was disturbed that I could not see any of the KK doughnuts.  i noticed that the Costa Coffee staff were inefficient – not at all on the ball.  i does not like this at all – everyone should be performing efficiently.  i particularly does not like having to wait as a result of lazy, incompetent unprofessional staff!

I noticed the automatic machinery of i whirring into action and I stopped as just as it got started.  So I queued for several minutes and then out of the corner of my eyes I saw the Krispy Kreme shop. So we headed straight for it and bought the assortment of 12 doughnuts for £9:45.  Zara was delighted: she had refused my offer to carry any of the shopping bags, she did not refuse the invitation to carry the KK doughnuts.  She was beaming and I felt great seeing her happy.  When we got home we gathered my niece (Sophia), Mohammed and my parents around the dining table.  Everyone helped themselves to a selection of the doughnuts French style – taking a quarter of so of each doughnut.  Yes, there is an advantage of being married into the French – they know how to eat right: a little bit of everything so that you can taste the different ‘flavours and tastes’.  At the end of this sharing we had six happy people.  Great – I had made a contribution to my parents which was the major reason for coming up to see my parents.

Honoring the dress code commitments

By now it was the evening and set about the task of replacing the tatty shoe laces with the new ones that I had bought from Clarks.  At first it just did not happen – the shoelaces would not go through the holes.  i was saying “Wrong shoelaces, she gave the wrong shoelaces the idiot. i’ll just have to go back and change them.” Once again I, who is enrolled in the game of ‘Playing BIG’ stepped up the plate and dealt with the situation at hand.  I figured out that the shoelaces should go through the holes.  I found pliers and used these to thread the shoelaces  – job done, commitment kept, Integrity in!  Excellent.  Then I set about polishing my shoes: easy to do and resulted in a big smile on the inside and outside.  Job done – all dress code commitments kept.

Sorting out the car

I think it is accurate to say that about now just about everyone my younger brother, my nieces, my nephew, my parents had noticed that I was no longer i:  they commented that I looked different (dress), that I looked younger.  When my younger brother commented on the change and that he was delighted I shared with him that I had been immersed in the game of ‘Playing small’ and been living in darkness for some 10 years.  He got that, he agreed and he liked the new me – I suspect he experienced me the way that he used to experience me when I made stuff happen.

Having established a bond I asked my brother to clean my Honda Accord – inside and out – so that it is reflection of me – the I ‘Playing BIG’.  He agreed to have my car ready by 10am tomorrow morning.  Then I asked him what was happening with regards to my Mercedes Benz.  He told me that he had figured out the problem.  So I asked him if it had been sorted out, he told me that it had not.  What will it take to get it sorted out?  He told me that it would take a day.  So I asked him if he was up for sorting it out by the end of Thursday.  He agreed.  Excellent – another loose end and lack of Integrity addressed.  By this time my brother and I were getting on great.

Powerful conversations: calling it as I see it and it lands where it lands, I am ok with that

I had not intended to have this conversation with my brother nonetheless I found myself right in the middle of it.  “Your word and a piece of shit are equal – they have the same value!”  Too late to pull back – there it is, these words have been waiting to be born for a long time and now they are born.  They took my brother by surprise – they may have even shocked him.  So I reminded him that I was coming from the context of love and of being a source of powerful conversations that call people to ‘Play BIG’ and give up ‘Playing small’ – people includes me.

Then I reminded by brother that he had agreed – several months (three to five) ago – to give me his Apple iPhone 3GS when he bought the 4S.  That I had offered to buy it off him at market price and that he had declined to take the money.  Instead he simply said that he would give it to me for free.  So how is it that the Apple 3GS belongs to my sister now?  I shared the fact that I had promised my son that phone and that as result of his lack of Integrity I was out of Integrity.  He got that – probably for the first time.  Why?  Because he has the same relationship to his words that most of us have to shit.  Harsh?  Maybe.  True – absolutely from where I stand.

Then I went on to share with him that he had asked to borrow money from me – £3000 here, £2000 there, £1000 here etc – and I had lent him the money but always on the condition that he would pay it back. And most importantly we had agreed a specific date.  Right now, I told him, you owe me over £20,000.  The latest being £2,000 you borrowed back in February and promised to pay it back within the month.  Yet we had agreed on three months because I did not believe he would keep his word.  Then I got him present to the fact that he had not paid me by the due date so I had asked him face to face to look at his finances and let me know when and how he was going to pay me back.  That was over six months ago and he had not come back to me.  I believe that hit home – he got his lack of Integrity, his lack of any relationship to his word. Finally I declared that I love him unconditionally – he is my brother and a player in the unceasing dynamic pattern I call Self.  And I told him that I was a stand for him ‘Playing BIG’ and I requested that he be a stand for ‘Playing BIG’.   Later he left to go home to his family – did he leave on good terms?  Great if he did. Yet it does not matter as wanting to be liked is key component of ‘Playing small’.  Wanting to be liked by my brother and knowing full well that I was immersed in ‘Playing small’ I had never my brother on his lack of Integrity and his ‘Playing small’.  If I had done so then he would have accused me of the same  – and he would have been bang on.  i ‘Play small’, you ‘Pay small’ and we collude in keeping each other ‘Playing small’ whilst pretending that we are ‘Playing BIG’ – that is what is so, it automatically comes into play due to the world that we are embedded in.

Onwards.  I am clear i was ‘Playing small’ for 10 years and as such I had wasted 10 years and had an enormously negative impact on myself and those close to me.  Now my younger brother was clear.  How about my nephew (Mohammed) who is convinced he is big man – someone special? Convinced that Mohammed is ‘Playing small’ full out (he is master at this) I made the choice to have a powerful conversation with him in the context of love and being a stand for Mohammed ‘Playing BIG’.

Heck this 20 year old man came up with the idea for an anti-smoking advert.  The idea was so good that his idea got chosen and then he worked with a professional director and production team to shoot the advert – to bring it to life. That  advert has been played in British cinemas and he had been invited to come up with another advert.  This young man has shaken hands with the rich and famous due to his work; he has met the Hollyoaks cast – many men would die for that opportunity.  Yet here he is pissing his life away living in the land of delusion: in this land it is everyone else’s fault, he is cool, he is special, he is someone BIG.  Towards the end of the conversation Mohammed got present to one overriding emotion: shame. On a scale of 1 – 10 he chose 8 – he is that ashamed of himself.  So I asked Mohammed what his life would look like for him to score 10 – to be that ashamed of himself.  He give me four conditions and I got him present to the fact that three of those are already there – he is living them in reality but deluding himself that he is not.  He got that.  Invited to rescore he said when it comes to being ashamed of himself it is 10 out of 10.  Never leave a person on a low – that is not good fellowship.  So I took the time to get Mohammed present to how I relate to him: a young man with extraordinary potential and a young man I love and for whom I am stand for ‘Playing BIG’.  I invited him to be a stand for me – to call me on ‘Playing small’ if he ever thinks/feels that I am ‘Playing small’.

Reflections on the day

This was on ordinary day – just like any other day. If i had been in charge it would have been another ordinary day in the sea of ordinary days.  As it is I was present and fully immersed in ‘Playing BIG’ and as such this day has occurred an an extraordinary day!  Yesterday I had just over three hours of sleep.  I have been going full out now for 20 hours and I am not tired.  How amazing is that!  Tiredness shows up in my life when I ‘Play small’.  Why?  Because ‘Playing small’ does not inspire me, energize me – the opposite it kills me on the inside even if I do a good job of donning the mask of ‘Everything is great with me and my life’.

On the other side there is some way to get my Integrity back in.  First, I left for Preston around 9:10 not 9:00.  Second, I failed to keep to the speed limit.  Third, I told my parents that I would arrive at their home at 13:00, I arrived at 13:20.  Yes, there is some way to go.  I get that and I am not making a story about.

A request: you can do to help me ‘Play BIG’

Talking about ‘Playing BIG’ I am committing myself (actually have already done it with my nephew Mohammed) to designing and educational course around ‘Playing BIG’, advertising locally and offering that course to people like my Nephew – teenagers who are struggling in life, who are ‘Playing small’ and are not present to ‘Playing small’.  By when?  By end of June 2012.  Why I am I letting  you know?  So that I do not backslide, so that you call me on any backsliding, to create an existence structure that calls me to bring this commitment, this Possibility, into being.

I thank you for reading.  I hope that this long blog gets you present to where you are ‘Playing small’ and I hope that you find a seed here to get you started on ‘Playing BIG’.

Conversation and fellowship: I am starving how about you?

Dear Simon, Fred, Derek, June, Enzo, Saffron, Zara, Emma, Stefanie, Rohan, Simon, Leigh and James

The last two days of my life I have experienced as wonderful and you have all helped to fill me with joy.  Please know that I consider it a privilege that our loves have touched and that we are family.  Each of you is wonderful and collectively we are awesome.  In can honestly say that this has been the BEST Christmas that I have participated in and experienced in my whole life.  What showed up this Christmas that was special?

The food and drink was great.  Yet that is not what made the difference even though I thoroughly enjoyed the food and totally get/got the love that went into the food and the cooking.  Thank you Simon and Fred for the food, drink and the hospitality.  I felt loved by you before arriving, I felt loved during my stay at your home and I felt loved in departing from your home.

So what was present (as viewed through my experience) that has not been present in previous Christmases?  Conversation and fellowship.  I was throughly immersed in conversation with one or more of you during the two days.  And that communication occurred in the context of GREAT fellowship.  What do I mean?  I mean that we all respected each other and as such treated each other with dignity and respect.  LOVE was present: the human connection was present and that makes a difference to me.  During my time with you we talked about our childhoods, our parents, our friends, our hobbies, our travels… And we shared, explored, discussed but never debated views on morality, justice, economics, politics……  Be being in conversation with me in the spirit of great fellowship you enriched my life – I will remember this Christmas to the end of my days.  Thank you for the privilege of being a part of your life and for sharing your life and yourselves with me.

You have got me present to the fact that I have been starving (for a long time).  What am I starving from?  It is certainly not food or drink.  It is the kind of conversation that we co-created (in the spirit of great fellowship) that I have been starving from!  Conversation – sharing, listening, exploring, learning, connecting through conversation makes a huge difference to the experience and quality of my living.  What is so is that this kind of conversation is totally absent in my day to day living.  Derek and June I know why I love being in your company – it is the great conversation which arises as a result of us having diverse experiences and diverse views within the context of respect and love of each other.  I love you and thank you for the privilege of your company, your fellowship.

Now that I know that I have been starving myself of good conversation and great fellowship (TED is a great and yet a poor substitute) what am I going to do about it.  First and foremost I am creating (right now) the Possibility of great conversation and fellowship.  Second, I declare that I am a STAND and CLEARING  for great conversation and fellowship.  What is left to do is to take UNREASONABLE action in support of this Possibility and Stand.

What do I want from you – my friends and family?  I request that you act as an existence structure (a powerful conscience) that continually reminds me of this Possibility and Stand and moves me to act in alignment with this Possibility and Stand.

I love you.  And that goes for family and friends in the USA (Dan, Lora, Kevin, Dawood, Ray….), New Zealand (Jon, Natalie, the boys), Germany (Frank, Petra, Ida, Paul, Anton, Stefanie), Switzerland (Stefanie), France (Hugues, Suzanne, Aldine, Marco, Clea, Ralf, Christelle, Will, Meme, Lisa, Roald, Beatrice, Michel, Jacqueline, ………….),  Belgium (Tim + family, Karl), Spain (Gloria, Andrew), Thailand (James), UK (Gisella, James, Ansar, Lois, Shamim, Anjam, Amjad, Saima,………), Israel (Arie), Italy (Luciano)…..  I wish you the very best for 2012 and look forward to the day we meet face to face and I have the privilege of your company.



Playing BIG (practice 2) – lose the significance and play

Taking yourself so goddamn seriously is a key piece in the game called ‘Playing small’.

Our automatic (always on) way of being is taking oneself SERIOUSLY because we are thrown into the game called ‘playing small and fitting in’.  Mastery of this game is not beyond me in anyway.  I could say that I became a grandmaster by the age of 10.  The cost of taking oneself so damn seriously is the loss of self-expression: the unwillingness to say and do anything that makes you and I look stupid in the eyes of others.  One side effect of taking oneself so seriously is the quickness to anger when someone does something to ‘diminish’ our sense of ourselves.   Sound abstract?  Let me make it concrete by sharing an example of my life.

I love driving, I particularly love driving fast and without cars getting in my way and slowing me down.  I think of myself as a considerate driver – checking who is behind me, checking that there is enough space for me to overtake into, indicating before overtaking…. you get the idea.  So what happens when someone overtakes me and doesn’t follow my rules?  Usually it is some form of “You moron!” accompanied by either disgust and/or anger.  Why is that moron overtaking me?  How dare he move from his lane into my lane without indicating and into a space that is not ‘long enough’ and so force me to brake to avoid hitting the “idiot”.  As you can imagine people do what they do and so in the course of a normal journey on a motorway I end up disturbing my own piece several times.  Nonetheless I get to be right and righteous – how great I am and how inconsiderate and idiotic some drivers are!

Since I took on the game of ‘Playing BIG’ I have taken on the practice of NOT taking myself so goddamn seriously.  Here are the results I have seen over the last two days:

I have been singing. Yes, I have been singing and in public!  Why is that a big thing?  Because when I took myself so damn seriously I rarely sang and when I did so it was only because my family ‘pressured’ me into singing.  For the last two days I have been singing at my sisters and outside on the high street (whilst shopping).

On the way  to my sisters (90 minute drive) two/three cars just moved from their lane into mine without notice.  We did not have a collision because I was paying attention and so braked.  What did I say?  “You’re welcome!”.  How was I feeling?  Completely calm – in fact once I even laughed when I got present to what I was doing.

Today, coming back from my sisters (after a great Christmas) there was enough traffic to slow down progress on a dual carriageway.  The inside lane was full and I was on the outside lane travelling at around 60mph – the legal limit.  I couldn’t go any faster because there were four or so cars ahead of me and tightly bunched: too close for the speed we were travelling at.  I looked into the mirror and say a car right up my backside.  He sat there for several minutes and then started flashing me suggesting that he wanted to overtake and I should move into the inside lane.  Normally, I would have said something offensive like “cretin!” and made sure that I stayed in the lane and in fact reduced my speed to slow him down even more – to annoy him.

This time I got that all he wanted was to overtake and by flashing his lights and sitting right on my backside he was showing that he was impatient to get somewhere fast.  So I looked for an opening on the inside (slower) lane, indicated and moved into it.  All the time I was smiling knowing that he would overtake me and then find himself in the same position I was in – blocked by a row of cars travelling at 60 mph.   Once he overtook me, I moved back into his lane and sat behind him.  Now I had a choice: to do what he had been doing to me (sitting on my back and making me nervous), simply to be in that lane and leave lots of space between me and him, and/or leave lots of space and have some fun with him without making him nervous or endangering him.  I choose the latter – I simply wanted to play without putting anyone’s life at risk.

For the rest of the journey 30 minute or so he would speed ahead and then pull into the inside lane.  I would overtake him and then pull in ahead of him.  He then would overtake me, I would overtake him.  Never once did I get angry or competitive – I was simply playing a game, coming from the context of fun.  The 30 minutes flew by and by the time I had to take the slip road and exit from the motorway I was grateful that I had the Mini driver to play that game with.  I thanked him.  And I can honestly say I felt sad that the game we had playing came to and end.

Lesson: we can choose to be light and dance/play in life rather than be SIGNIFICANT and take ourselves so SERIOUSLY.   If I choose to be significant and be damn serious then I am automatically embedded in and playing the game of ‘Playing small’.  So being mindful I can choose again and again to ‘Play BIG’ and that means shedding significance and seriousness (they go together) again and again in all domains of life.

Playing BIG (practice 1) – let people BE, let the world BE

I have been immersed in reflection (as well as doing) on what it takes to play BIG.  It strikes me that a core component of playing BIG is simply letting people be – just as they are and just as they are not.  Simply letting people be – particularly those people who matter to us – is a BIG ask.  Most of the time I am immersed in “shoulding”:  he/she/they should be this way and not that way;  the situation should be this way and not that way;  society should be this way and not that way; education system should be this way and not that way; business should be this way and not that way; the world should be this way and not that way.

So I am playing BIG starting with operating from a context that EVERYTHING is fine just as it is and as it is not.  That includes you, me, us and them.  My intention is to let people be; to flow as water flows.  Those of you who are interacting with me on a daily basis can give me feedback on how I am getting along.  Those of you who are further way, I will let you know how I am getting along.  Yesterday I operated out of that context and I floated through the day shopping, reading, listening to music, dancing, watching a movie, playing table-tennis, running errand…. When Rohan went to sleep he said “Papa I love you.  I had a great day, its been the best day so far.”

“Son, I love you.  I had a great day and yes it did occur as the best day so far.  I loved playing pool with you.  I loved watching a movie with you.  I loved playing table tennis with you and Nathan.  I loved listening to music and dancing full out.  I loved being light and letting you be – just the way that you are and the way that you are not.  I loved letting stuff (circumstance, events) be just as it was and just as it was not.  Son, you are beautiful all it takes is for me to be open to seeing your beauty.  I love you and I am proud of you.  You are awesome just as you are and as you are not. ”


I listened to music, danced and played table-tennis: joy!

When I qualified as a Chartered Accountant the treat that I gave myself was a hi-fi system – a ‘proper one’!  That is how much music used to mean to me.  Today, I listened – really listened – to music.  Joy!

I used to dance.  Some even told me that I was good at it.  What matters is that I thoroughly enjoyed dancing for dancing. Today my son put on dance music and I danced.  I simply moved with the music.  Joy!

I used to play table tennis.  I became great at it.  Playing table-tennis I lost ‘myself’ as I was immersed in it.  Today I played table-tennis with my son and his friend.  Joy!

Today, I am light: tiredness is not present – it simply dissolved.  Joy!

Today, my son said “I love you!” before he went to sleep. Joy!

I love you!

The real poverty in life is playing small and I have been playing small for quite some time, no longer

I spent most of yesterday doing what used to come naturally – taking time out from the doingness of living to reflecting on the human condition.  Then I spent most of the night thinking about my life.  Here is what I got:

There are many kinds of poverty

Material poverty – not having the resources (money, food, water, shelter…..) to take care of the basics of life.   It is the kind of poverty when your mother cannot give you milk (even though you ask for it again and again) because she sells the milk to put food on the table.  It is the kind of poverty where your parents cannot afford clothes and you wear hand downs from other people: you turn up in your new school everyone (EVERYONE) is wearing the school uniform (black blazer, black trousers) except you – you are wearing a green blazer and black trousers.  It is the kind of poverty where you have toilet or shower inside and you take a shower outside using a bucket of hot water.  You get the idea.

Mental (intellectual, cultural) poverty.  This is the kind of poverty where you born into and live into one culture without exploring any other cultures.  It is the kind of poverty where you are born into a religion and you totally accept that without exploring other religions.  It is the kind of poverty where you are embedded into a certain worldview (given to you by your parents, teachers, the society you were born in) and you do not even know that other worldviews exists.  It is the kind of poverty where access to knowledge is widely available except to you because you cannot read.

Emotional poverty.  This is the kind of poverty particularly prevalent in Anglo-Saxon culture.  It is where you suppress your emotions and practice the ‘stiff upper lip’.  You do your best to be a rational human being – standing apart from life.  You do not show emotion until you are simply not present to emotion and to others who come from a warmer, emotionally expressive culture, you come across as cold.  Their experience of you is that you are simply machinery; you on the other hand do not even know that you are poor and even if you do know it you hide it.

Self-expression.  This is the kind of poverty where you self-expression is restricted so that only the desired, acceptable, behaviour is tolerated.  It is the kind of poverty where you see your friends playing outside and want to join them yet you are locked up and forced to study.  It is the kind of poverty where you get a thrashing for not doing as you are told.

Playing small.  This is the kind of poverty which stops you from dreaming your dreams.  It is the kind of poverty that leads to resignation and cynicism – the world is the way that the world is and you simply have to fit in, you cannot make an impact on it.   This kind of poverty leads you simply to go through the motions of life – to survive.  Yet, the price that you pay is that you joy, vitality, self-expression are simply not present in your experience of yourself and your living.

Whilst I escaped many times of poverty I did not escape the one that really matters

I escaped the poverty of material goods and that of self-expression by getting to university and leaving my parents and their world behind.   I had a flat, I was driving a BMW, I went out and spent £2,000 on clothes in one afternoon, when I went for a meal with friends/family almost always I picked up the full tab, people worked for me and called me ‘Sir’.  One day I came into work and got I had achieved all that I had set out to achieve and I was only 28!  Whilst that might sound great it did not occur as great to me.  What the heck do I do now?  My whole life script had been around achieving: money, independence, freedom of self-expression, status and power.  Now that I had achieved it my life script did not work – I no longer had the drive to work hard to achieve.  For the first time I started something and did not follow it to completion.

For some years I drifted aimlessly.  Then at the age of 30 I assumed the mantle of father and provider for the three of us.  Since that time I focussed on making money to take care of the three of us, then four and finally five of us.  I not only had to make the money (according to the story that I told myself) I also had to bring my children up differently so that they did not ‘suffer’ as they suffered.  Get this I would let my first child hit me when he was 2 -5 years old because I did not want to dampen his self-expression!  I would let him destroy my CDs (my treasure at that time) because I did not want to dampen his self-expression and so forth.

The profound insight that I had yesterday is that since the age of 30 I have been immersed in the poverty of playing small.  I gave up my on hopes, my dreams, my spiritual and self-development practices including isolating myself during Christmas to be, to reflect, to get ready for the next year….  In the process I died: I doubt anyone who knew me before would recognise who I have been playing since then.  In the midst of this sleep there were moments of light.  For example, I came into being when I assumed the role of Client Director of Blast Radius and I got to play in the theatre that is natural to me: people, relationships, performance, integrity, ethics – creating a situation/environment where all the people can work effectively to produce a result that works for all.  I loved my work so much – it simply did not occur as work.  I had another glimpse when I was at Urban Science and ended up creating and then delivering a brand new course and the participants loved it – some said it was the best course in the company and all the other courses should be redesigned along the lines of the course I had developed.  I also got present to my ‘gift’ of opening people’s eyes to new possibilities and coaching them to improve their performance and the quality of their lives.

When I participated in the series of Landmark Courses (which I throughly recommend) I became alive again.  I related to myself powerfully and took on a project to repair my relationships with my cousins and to raise money for the poor.  The project was a success: I stood for the possiblity of the project, I enrolled people into that possiblity, I built a team of core people, I coached the people and took on the tasks that no-one wanted to do and together the team pulled off a great project and realised the possibility.  As a result of my participation in Landmark I was the cause in the change in some people’s lives.  So I started another Landmark Course and then I crashed the whole thing.  How?  One evening I was leaving to progress the Landmark project I was working on.  As I headed to the door to leave one of my sons said “You do not love us anymore.  You do not spend anytime with us.  It is all Landmark isn’t it?”  Whilst I did go out the enthusiasm died inside of me.  I quit once more and assumed the mantle of father and husband and fell back into playing small. By playing small I gave up vitality, self-expression, power and joy.  I took on Duty and Duty is heavy burden to carry – it crushed the life out of me.  Is it any surprise that in recent years I have been plagued by various medical illnesses; Health (in the broadest sense) is function of full participation in playing BIG!

Joy, vitality, power are present only when I choose to play BIG

I come into being only when I play BIG!  I come into being only when I am working with people to co-create a world that works for ALL of us – none excluded.  I come into being (and am never tired) when I take on the role of educator, teacher, facilitator, coach, leader.   Here is the thing I love people and the possibility that inspires me is a world where we work together in harmony, are compassionate and love one another, work to co-create a world that works for ALL of us.  This is why I am moved to tears by movies like Schindler’s List, Dead Poets Society, Awakenings, The Blind Side, Rain Main, The Green Mile.

During the course of my participation in Landmark I saw this.  I was most attracted to and inspired by the possibility of living an extraordinary life and making an extraordinary contribution to a world that works for all of us.  Then I started to have concerns that this was all EGO.  So I tried to live an ordinary life so as to deal with my ego.  Here is what I got: my ego is always present and it is particularly powerful when I playing small and living an ordinary life.

Given all of this I am choosing right now to play BIG.

Why I am communicating this?

Where in your life are you playing small?  What is the price that you are paying and the people you love (and the world at large) pay for you playing small?  Are you up for playing BIG?  Are you up for being a stand (and support) for me playing BIG?

For my part please know that I am a stand for you playing BIG?  What can I do to support you in playing BIG?



It’s all Story: change the story and ‘make a dent in the universe’

I am sitting here on a chair, looking at a computer screen and punching away at the keyboard.  That is so simply what is so.  If I was to record what I am doing right now and you were to view that recording that is what you would see – nothing more and nothing less.  Yet, you and I would not leave it at that.  We simply cannot help it – we’d make a story about it.  One of you might say to yourself: “How sad that he is sat on his but staring at a screen typing away.  Hasn’t he got something better to do?”  Someone else might say: “Wow, look at the size of that computer screen! I’d like one just like that.”  And someone else might be thinking “Great, he is doing something useful with his time rather than being a couch potato.”  None of these stories is what is going on.

In the real world stuff simply is. You and I do not live in the real world we live in our stories. We can transform our lives simply by constructing empowering (inspiring) stories rather than limiting stories.  Let’s make this conversation real by sharing an example.  I write a business blog (The Customer Blog) and on Thursday I looked at how many times my latest post had been read.  I didn’t leave it at that.  I made a story that went along the following lines: “I am losing my touch.  Look at how few people have read what I wrote.  Is writing the blog worth all the effort that goes into it.  I spent hours researching and writing for what? Maybe it is time to give up….”  That story left me feeling miserable.

Then on Friday evening a reader of the blog emailed me: he told me that he enjoyed reading my latest blog post and asked my permission to take it and circulate it to his Chamber of Commerce membership. Suddenly I was delighted!  What was the story I was telling myself? “If my writing makes a difference to even a single fellow human being then it was worth writing.  Maybe I do have something to offer and contribute to the world.  It is definitely worth the effort and I should continue with the blog.”  Notice that all that changed is the story that I was telling myself.  In the real world I wrote a blog post.  I looked at dashboard which displayed the number of views of the latest blog post.  I got an email.  I replied to the email.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Nothing in my circumstances changed – absolutely nothing.

I also notice that I have been telling myself a limiting story that has limited me and my living.  Here is how the story goes “My neck hurts.  My back hurts.  Every day I am in pain.  I cannot do what I took for granted – tennis, badminton, cycling…. I am old.  Living is a struggle.  How will I get through tomorrow.  I am not contributing to my wife and children – I come home after work and just rest in my bedroom.  What use am I?  I am letting my family down.  What will happen if I can no longer work? ……..”  Is it any surprise that my experience of living has sucked and I have not been in communication with my friends?

Yet, I am back: the confident, powerful, caring Maz is back.  How?  I changed the story that I have been telling myself.  That is it.  Nothing in my circumstances has changed: my neck still hurts, my back still hurts, I still have to take care on what I do and do not do.  At the same time everything has changed: in my new story, I am a powerful person who has something to contribute including setting an example of how to live when stuff is not working out as you would like it to.  The circumstances of my life as simply constraints that test my desire to live and contribute fully.

Lesson: you and I can transform our experience of living without having to change or wait for our circumstances to change.  We can transform our experience of living simply by creating and recreating (constantly) stories that leave us relating to ourselves as powerful human beings who have something useful to contribute and who can make ‘a dent in the universe’.