Alberto Cairo: what shows up when you are OPEN to Possibility

The default human condition: dead to Possibility

The default condition of human existence is dead to Possibility. Are there any exceptions? Yes, young children – their world is Possibility and then we set about draining that out of them so that they can be like us, dead to Possibility. What do I mean when I say “dead to Possibility”? I got present to one instance of this just today. It was a beautiful day – sunshine, blue skies, calm – and I wanted to go for a walk just after lunch. I fell asleep. When I woke up it was around 4pm and it looked like that sun was about to go to sleep. Automatically, I was dead to the Possibility of going out for a walk and enjoying that walk. Why because I was dead to the Possibility that I could go out, walk and enjoy the experience of walking at that time. Nonetheless, I went out for that walk and walked for 90 minutes and thoroughly enjoyed that walk. And the sun did not go to sleep, it stayed and I even got to experience some of its magic on my face.

How else does ‘dead to Possibility’ show up in our lives? When I say this is how I am and am not – a nail in the coffin of Possibility. When I say this is how you are – another nail in the coffin of Possibility. When I say this is how they are – another nail. When I say this is the way that world is and is not – another nail. And especially when I say this is simply not reasonable, acceptable, practical, possible – that is a whole set of nails into the coffin of Possibility.

How do we live when we are living from the context of ‘dead to Possibility’? We do not take risks – especially not risks to our life, our financial security and our reputation. We do not break the rules – especially those that threaten our freedom, our standing, our financial security. And we ignore everything that is not a priority. The last one is a beauty. Why? Because the priority is simply surviving, fixing and striving to look good and avoid looking bad. Generating new realms of Possibility is a luxury, it is not a priority, and so we spend our lives surviving and fixing and then one day we die. That someday when everything is perfect and we can focus on what really matters to us, never arrives.

What shows up when one is open to Possibility?

Everything that is shows up in our world as new is because someone was open to Possibility. If I open to the Possibility of a new relationship with my wife then I set the context for that new relationship to arise. If I open to the Possibility of doing fulfilling work then I set the context for me to create that outcome and/or for that Possibility to show up in my life. And so forth.

I have a question for you. What is possible for this man in Afghanistan whilst the war is raging, no government is really in place, there is no law and order or social security, and where people are busy doing their best to survive:

  • He has no legs;
  • He has only one arm;
  • He is illiterate; and
  • He has no skills

I assume, if you are like me, that you would say not much. You’d say he is condemned to begging and that is exactly what Mahmood was doing. Wheeled about by his young son Rafi, he spent is days begging.

Enter Alberto Cairo and his right hand man Najmuddin. The first is a humane man, the second is an unreasonable man. Most of us get what a humane person is – s/he is a person that is willing to take risks to exercise care for his fellow human being. He is the one that even when the bombs and bullets are flying around (in Afghanistan) gets out of his car to help a man (Mahmood) and his young son (Rafi). Why? He can see that Mahmood is stranded in his wheelchair and Rafi is not strong enough to push the wheelchair (and Mahmood) to safety. He is the man that offers to give/make artificial limbs to Mahmood.

Perhaps it is more interesting to ask the question, “What is so about an unreasonable man?” An unreasonable man is simply one that is not ‘dead to Possibility’. He is man who stands in the space of Possibility – he can see what can be, he is willing to try out new stuff, to give it a go.

What is possible when you take people like Mahmood and put them in relationship with both Alberto and Najmuddin? Watch this touching-inspiring TED talk by Alberto where he shares a story that moved me deeply:

I want to leave you with a few quotes that really speak to me:

Alberto Cairo: “It’s not a priority!”

Najmuddin: “Listen, now we are here, at least we can start repairing the prosthesis, the broken prosthesis of the people. And maybe try to do something for people like Mahmood”

Mahmood: “You have taught me to walk, thank you very much. Now help me not to be a beggar anymore. My children are growing and I am ashamed. I do not want them to be teased at school by the other students.”

Mahmood: “I ask for a job. I am a scrap of a man but if you help me I am ready to do anything even if I have to crawl on the ground!”

Alberto: “Legless, only one arm, illiterate, unskilled. What job for him?”

Najmuddin: “There is vacancy in the carpentry shop!”

Alberto: “That’s insane. It is cruel to offer him this job knowing he will fail!”

Alberto: “I could not believe it….Mahmood was the fastest on the production line…The production was up 20%!”

Najmuddin: ” Mahmood has something to prove.”

Aberto: “Mahmood stood taller. What made him stand taller? Dignity. He regained his dignity thanks to the job.”

Final Word

Alberto, Najmuddin and Mahmood became open to and created a new Possibility: employing as many disabled people as possible on the production line, within the UN centre, and further.

If you have not watched the TED video (above) then I urge you to watch it. It is only 19 minutes long and that time will fly by – his talk is moving and inspiring.

Invent a Possiblity, live from that Possibility, fulfill your potential

Mr Soper helps an old lady out

Today my son came and shared a story that changed a life and which left me touched, move and inspired.  In this post I’ll share that story with you as that is what this blog is about.

At the age of 50 Mr Soper  took and old lady to hospital as she was ill.

This old lady had no other family or friends to care for her – she was all alone.

What was the relationship between Mr Soper and this old lady?  She is his godmother and was one of his mothers friends.  And she had nominated Mr Soper as the executor of her will – she had entrusted him to execute her will.

What happened in the hospital?  It turned out that this old lady was seriously ill.  Mr Soper stayed with his godmother, by her side, until she passed away.

A note that changes a life

After her death Mr Soper was rummaging around in her handbag-  to find the keys to her home so that he could do what he had been entrusted to do.  That is when he found a piece of folded paper.  He opened it up and this is what was written on it:

Never fulfilled my potential

NEVER fulfilled my potential

That note made quite an impact on Mr Soper.  He felt so sad for his godmother – she had got to her 80s and died thinking-feeling-knowing that she had never fulfilled her potential.  He wondered what it might have been like for her to live that way.  The more he thought about it, the sadder that he felt.

Then something else happened.  That note, those words, opened up an new world for Mr Soper.  More accurately, that note got Mr Soper present to something important – he did not want to die like his godmother thinking, perhaps on his deathbed, that he had never fulfilled his potential.  And looking truth in the mirror Mr Soper saw that he once had a dream which had been persuaded out of pursuing.  When he was 15 years old he loved music and wanted to be a musician.  He was persuaded out of it by people, near and dear to him, who looked at the world pragmatically and could not see how their son would survive being a musician.

What did Mr Soper do with this insight?  He got present to what fulfilling his potential meant to him.  He invented the Possibility of being a musician.  Then he got busy taking the action that goes with the Possbility he created and which inspired him.  He started playing music and developed a plan for becoming a professional musician.  Is he there yet?  No.  Is he a lot further down the road then he was 8 years ago.  Absolutely.  How does he relate to himself?  As a person who knows that matters to him, that inspire him, and he is living a life that is aligned with that.  And as such he has given his life meaning and he gets joy out of it.

What will it take for me, for you, for us to live so brightly that we light up our lives and the lives of your fellow human beings?

If we are true to ourselves then the default condition of our existence is to live and then go to our death with the following thought-feeling:

Never fulfilled my potential;

NEVER fulfilled my potential.

Yet, I, you, we can create a Possibility that touches our hearts, inspires us to be bold and moves us to act decisively upon ourselves and the world.  And thus we can live and go to our death knowing that we played full out in our lives and leave a note saying:

Played full-out to live a life that matters (to me) and my life mattered. 

Burned brightly – lit up many lives. 

Fulfilled my potential and then some!

No regrets. 

Am I up for ‘Playing BIG’?  Are you up for ‘Playing BIG’?

So that is what ‘Playing BIG’ involves.  Creating a Possibility that touches, inspires and moves us to live a life that matters.  Where we fulfill all our potential so that there really is no potential left untapped.  So that by the time the referee blows the whistle to call the end to the game called ‘our life’ we are all used up have played full-out.

The question is, am I up for playing that game?  Are you up for playing that game?  Are we up for ‘Playing BIG’?

How exactly did an ‘ordinary’ meal show up as an ‘extra-ordinary’ experience?

The Experience

The other day I woke up, got ready, drove my youngest to school and set about working.  Being totally engrossed in my work I arrived at 13:30 – all that I was committed to doing was done.  That is when I noticed how hungry I was – really hungry – and so I made my way down to the kitchen.  Around about two o’clock I experienced eating a DELICIOUS meal.  What was extraordinary about this particular meal?

The food? No – it was simply white pasta with green pesto, leaves of lettuce and cherry tomatoes mingling with French vinaigrette.  This is a dish that I had eaten earlier in the week and not even noticed it.

The setting? No – I was sit in my kitchen on the usual stool, in the usual position, at the usual height, looking at the usual stuff.

The ambience?  No – I was alone, there was no television or music or anything else happening.  In that sense it was a meal like countless others I have taken part in.

So what made the experience of this meal such a special experience?   Hunger was present in a BIG way – it showed up in my world as being ‘starving’ and ‘lacking energy’.  Coming from this context I experienced each mouthful – I actually was present to and tasted each mouthful of food.  I tasted the pasta, the green pesto, the salad leaves, the cherry tomatoes and the vinaigrette.  Every mouthful showed up as perfect.

What I am Taking Away From This / Committed to Keeping in Existence

So often I, you, we are looking for stuff on the outside.  How often have I looked for the right restaurant, the right food, the right date to create an extraordinary dining experience – one that I would enjoy, one that I would remember?  Countless times.

Yet the access to the experience of ‘extra-ordinary’ living is on the inside – my, your, our inner state of being.  Notice:  when real hunger is present the most ordinary of foods (in our usual way of perceiving stuff) shows up as extraordinary!

Final Thought

When I mention to people that I am committed to ‘Playing BIG’ and living an ‘extra-ordinary life’ many automatically assume that I am going to do extraordinary stuff like perhaps climb Mountain Everest.  That is not what I am pointing at when I use the term ‘extra-ordinary’.  When I use the term ‘extra-ordinary’ I am pointing at the internal dimension that allows for the ‘ordinary’ to show up as ‘extraordinary’ in lived experience.  Or as Dan Millman writes in The Way of the Peaceful Warrior: “there are no ordinary moments”.  That is the game I am playing: living in a way that all moments show up as ‘extra-ordinary’ moments in my living.  How will I fare in this game?


Where is the LOVE?

I tell myself I am doing a good job taking care of that which needs to be taken care of

My wife went into hospital for an operation on Friday.  I drove her there for midday and since that time I was focussed on doing all that needed to be done: collecting the children from school, shopping, cooking, driving them to their after school clubs, visiting my wife, bringing her home……

By Saturday morning my wife was home.  She was lying on the sofa bed with all her stuff so that she could sleep, take her medicine, read, watch French tv – our daughter took care of all that.  I knew I would not be sleeping on Saturday night (as I was committed to being awake at 3am to take my son to the airport) so I took the opportunity to have an afternoon nap.  I got up and got busy figuring out what to cook and then cooking.  Once that was done I served the food, ate and then cleared up.  At this point I was feeling rather good about myself.  I had done all the things that needed to be done: drive my wife to the hospital, find missing details needed for her operation, collect the children from their schools, cook, visit my wife in the evening, pick her up the next day, ensure she had what she needed, let her be as she was in pain and tired, ask her if she wanted tea/coffee etc, cook…..

My wife asks “Where is the love?”

So imagine my surprise when my wife told me (about 10pm on Saturday night) that she did not feel loved by me.  When she explained I got it: I had been so wrapped up in planning for and taking care of the stuff that needed to be done that I had not been loving towards her.  As she said, she’d have preferred it if I had gone over and stroked her hair / touched her face with kindness instead of fretting over cooking the right meal and taking care of the details.

Am I too busy ‘fixing, surviving, getting ahead’ to put love into the game of life?

The penny dropped.  I am busy taking care of the stuff that occurs as ‘essential to surviving’.  You are busy taking care of the stuff that occurs to you as ‘essential for living’.  We are busy taking care of the ‘essentials for survival’.  And being wrapped up in that we are not present to, mindful of the fact that LOVE (being loving, feeling loved) is also essential for survival.  How would life show up if I knew, you knew, we knew that for the rest of our lives no love would show up in our living?  Would we want to live that kind of life?  Yet here are many of us doing exactly that: so busy going through the motions of living and not really present to the quality of being that puts a smile on our face, a song in our speaking and joy in our living.

Does Rebecca Ferguson sees the truth of the human situation?

Rebecca Ferguson in her first album Heaven starts off the album singing a beautiful song called ‘Nothing’s real but love.  It occurs to me that she understands the truth of the human situation at the deepest level.  Here are some of the lyrics:

“Nothing’s real but love

No money, no house and no car can beat love….

Nothing’s real but love

No house, no car and no job can beat love……

It won’t fill you up

No money, no house, no car is like love……


No money, no house and no car is like love

It don’t fill you up,

It won’t build you up, it won’t fill you up,

It’s not love

And nothing’s real without love,

No money, no house and no car is like love,

Nothing’s real but love

No money, no house, no car, is like love “