An ‘extra-ordinary’ life is distinct from an extraordinary life


When I speak, I speak. When you listen, you listen to me speaking.  Yet, I live in my world – a unique world.  And you live in your world – a unique world.  Given that is the case how can I be sure that I have generated the understanding, the experience, that I intend with my  speaking?  And how can you be sure that what you have heard me say is what I actually spoke?

This speaking and the listening brought to the speaking is particularly troublesome when it comes to ideas like extraordinary.  So it is likely that some of you upon hearing me speak of an ‘extra-ordinary’ life or ‘extra-ordinary’ living will have collapsed this with extraordinary life and extraordinary living.   They are not the same, they are distinct.  Allow me to bring the distinction to life through a personal story.

When I was a child, before the age of 5, my life showed up as ‘extra-ordinary’ and there was nothing extraordinary about me or my life.  I grew up in a farming community in a poor part of Pakistani controlled Kashmir.  My mother was poor and we lived in a mud house.  We had just enough to eat.  I remember pleading with my mother for some milk which she would not give me because she sold it to buy stuff that she did not grow. The outward appearance was distinctly ordinary for that part of the world: one boy among many boys; one farmer’s dwelling just like many of the other dwellings in the area.

Yet, when I travel back in time and re-experience my life, at that age and in that place, it shows up as an ‘extra-ordinary’ life. I flowed with life and life flowed through me. In this ‘extra-ordinary’ living I don’t remember ever saying to myself “I am better or worse than someone else”.  And I don’t remember saying to myself “I am good/bad”.  I don’t remember saying to myself “There is something great/defective about me.” And I don’t remember thinking “I need to improve this/that about me.” I don’t remember saying “Something is missing.”  Nor do I remember saying “This is hard work”.  And I don’t remember saying to myself “I am bored, I need to find something to do”.  I don’t remember saying “This is a good person, this is a bad person.” Nor do I remember saying to myself “I am poor or we are poor.”  I am sure that I never said to myself “There is something wrong with my life.”

I do remember that some of the baby chicks that I loved and was responsible for feeding (water and food) died. I don’t remember saying “It is my fault. I am bad.” Nor do I remember saying “It is his/her fault for not giving me the water/food I needed to feed my baby chicks!”

I do remember being absorbed in living.   I remember getting up early and being occupied for the entire day and going to sleep exhausted.  I remember liking some people and not liking others – yet just getting on with them, with living.  I remember liking being with my dog and not liking my mother chaining my dog up and not letting me play with him.  I do remember joy in playing out all day.  And I do remember great sadness when some of my baby chicks died. I remember laughter (lots of it) especially when I was playing with my dog and my friends.  And I remember a waterfall of tears when I woke up to find my dog (my best friend) missing and not finding him day after day.  I remember that one day the tears dried up and I got busy being absorbed in life and living.

I hope that you have gotten the difference between ‘extra-ordinary’ living and extraordinary living.  You and I have the power to transform our experience of living from ‘ordinary’ to ‘extra-ordinary’ whilst living an ordinary life or an extraordinary life.

It occurs to me that so many of us are chasing that extraordinary life (of being the best, of being rich, of being looked up to, of pleasure….) and in the process we sacrifice the experience of ‘extra-ordinary’ living – the kind of living that I experienced in the first five years of my life.  And I say it is never too late to transform the quality of our lives – to shift from the chase of the extraordinary life to generating the experience of ‘extra-ordinary’ living.

My life, your life: is this what it is ultimately all about?


We celebrated a birthday in our home yesterday.  It was all going fine – the five of us and my wife’s aunt (Lisa) were sat around a dining table enjoying food, drink and conversation.

The thought popped up, now is the time to play the track.  So I got up and played “Happy Birthday” by Stevie Wonder – it is a track that I play at birthdays and daughter (whose birthday we were celebrating) likes it.  Daughter started moving (sat down) and singing along to the track.  Suddenly, she was up dancing and one of her brothers joined her.  Then she grabbed me and I joined in as well.

When the track came to an end, daughter asked for “You’re a lady” sung by Tom Jones.  So I put that on and she LOVED it.  How do I know?  The way she danced.  And my son, who was dancing too, loved it too. And I loved it too – listening, dancing to it, with it.  When that came to an end, I played “Sex Bomb” and that went down well with with us.

After that my son, who was dancing, complained about the songs that I was playing.  They did not show up as modern enough, as cool enough, as sexy enough – not to his taste.  All the time, daughter was just fine, enjoying the music – dancing and taking it easy.  Struggling to find the right tracks, I got another complaint from my son.  This time, I said with some frustration “How about being grateful that you have a father that cares and does this?”

Later, in the evening as I was getting to go to bed my son searched me out.  He looked me in the eyes, give me a hug and told me that he was sorry.  I welcomed that and was ready to go to sleep.  The he spoke words and I got present to being moved-touched deeply – almost at a primal level, the level of the automatic functioning of the ‘machinery of being human’.  Let me share these words with you:

“Papa, you are special.  I will miss you when you are gone [dead].  I love you. You matter to me, you make such a big difference to my life.” 

I have been thinking and it occurs to me at the primal level of ‘the machinery of being human’, you and I, strive to:

  • be loved and love;
  • live lives that matter, that make a contribution to ourselves and those that we love;
  • know/feel and be told that you and I are special – at least to one person who matters to us.

At the deepest, most fundamental, level of the being of human being is that what matters?  Is that what human life is ultimately all about?  Being loved, living a life that matters, and showing up/feeling special at least to one other person that we are in relationship with?

Dearest Clea, my message for you on your 12th birthday


Dearest Clea

On this day, your 12th birthday, I want you to know that love is present between you and me.  I do not choose to love you; love simply flows when I am with you or when I think of you.

I want you to know that you show up in my world like sunshine: you illuminate my life, you brighten my life, you turn up and there is joy present and a spring in my footstep and in my soul.

I want you to know that you show up as simply amazing!  I am amazed at how loving, how caring, how compassionate, how wise you are.  And I have to pinch myself to get present to the fact that you are only 12 years old.   Please know that I am so proud of you.

I want you to know that you can count on me to be here as both a stand for you to show up as great and make an awesome contribution to a ‘world that works, none excluded’. And you can count on me to be your safety net as you walk the tightropes in your life.  I say that you can count on me no matter what.  I say that you can share with me whatever you have to share with me no matter what.  I say that you can count on me to love you no matter what.

Twelve years ago a surprise came into my life, the best surprise that has ever showed up in my life.  You are that surprise.  And I am so grateful that you exist and that it is my privilege to be a father unto you and have you show up as a daughter unto me.

Now please handover your iPod touch – you have been staying up late and today you did not get up on time and I had to wake you.  You broke our agreement and I insist the price be paid.  You can count on me to give it back to you after seven days.  That is the way life works – there are always consequences, and they catch up with you sooner or later.

And finally, I thank you for the kindness that you have shown me and the joy that you have brought and continue to bring to my experience of living!

Your daddy (“Cuddly Bear”)

Is love only love when it shows up as love? And other lessons from my mother and son


Me and my mother

My mother loves me.  She rings me if I do not call her.  She asks about me and gently tells me off for not calling her and letting her know my family and I are.  She asks about my work and how it is going.  She wishes me a safe journey when I travel abroad and she asks how my trip was…

If I am ill and my mother finds out then she is on the phone asking me how I am doing. And what I am doing to take care of myself.  She goes further and starts telling me what ‘medicine’ I should be taking – she is not a doctor.   She can be very insistent on what I should be doing to take care of myself!

My mother is old.  She is losing her memory. And she finds it hard to stand up, to walk, to go up/down the stairs. Yet, when I arrive at her home she gets up and starts fussing over me (if she is not out cold). She will get up to make me a tea. She will ‘run’ to the kitchen to cook me a meal. She will struggle up the stairs to make the spare bedroom so that it is just right for her eldest son

It is when I am visiting my mother that I lose it.  Why?  For two reasons.  First, I end up getting angry that I am there to help her and yet I end up creating work for her – making her life harder.  How/why?  She will not let me help.  You see I am a man and men simply should not do housework.  Second, she is constantly telling me what to do – what to wear, what to eat, how much to eat, how to live my life…..  And I end up saying “I am not a child, stop treating me like a child!”

Seeing her hurt I feel remorse and say to myself “Why can’t you keep your mouth shut!”.  Yet, a part of me does say to me “She brought this on herself. How many times have I told her not to treat me like a child.  Not to boss me around.  And she never listens.  She brought this on herself.”

What have I done?  I have invalidated my mother and justified myself!  Put differently, I am in the right (for making the effort to drive 4 hours to see her and help her out) and she is wrong (for not accepting my help and for treating me like a child).

Me and my eldest son

I have been and am being really busy: thinking-formulating-writing a strategy for a client.  The deadline for the strategy document and the presentation to the directors is fast approaching.  Despite feeling the pressure I volunteered to drive my eldest son (17 years old) to the train station for the first day of his new job.

I notice it is cold.  And I notice that he has no overcoat over his suit jacket.  I think he has got to be cold. He gets into the car and turns the heating up to the max.  I say to myself “Yes, he is cold”.  So I suggest that he goes into the house, he refuses, telling me that he will do without the overcoat.  I drive.

Whilst driving I find myself asking my son why he did not get an overcoat given that it is cold and clearly he is cold.  He tells me that he does not know if there will be anywhere suitable to store it and he does not want to make a fuss on his first day.  I assure him that employers expect employees to come in with overcoats in winter and there will be somewhere to store it.  I say this calmly and occur to myself as loving/caring/helpful.

He loses it with me.  He tells me to stop telling him what to do, how to live his life.  He tells me that he prefers taking the bus rather than have me drive him to places because when we are together I boss him around, I tell him how to live his life.

I notice that hurt is present.  I notice that anger is present.  I catch myself saying “How ungrateful!  I am simply looking out for him – making sure that he does the right things, avoids the wrong things so that his life works out.”

I have got myself caught up in justifying myself, invalidating others!

Suddenly a bolt of insight hits me.  When my mother does what I do and I am in the role of son, I justify myself as the son and make her wrong as the mother.  Yet, in my relationship with my son I invalidate my son in his role as son and I justify myself in my role as father.

Yes, it hits me that I am caught up in ‘justifying myself and invalidating others’ – my mother, my son.  And it hits me that when I get hurt I take it personally and point the finger at my son.  Yet, when I hurt my mother, I do not point the finger at myself.  No, I point the finger at my mother and make her responsible for my behaviour and the hurt that it causes her!

How inauthentic!  As the author of my life, I own how I show up in life, I own my interpretation and thus experience of my life.  My son does what he does.  He cannot cause me to do/feel/speak what I do/feel/speak – that belongs to me.  My mother does what she does.  She cannot cause me to do/feel/speak that which I do/feel/speak.

What is the insight for you and me?

Be mindful. And grant others what we expect them to grant us.

If I expect my son to listen to me, to treat me respectfully, to use kind words, to show gratitude then surely I should call myself to be that kind of son to my mother!   To do that you and I need to be present to the traps that are always there for us because they go with being human.  The traps are ‘I am right, you are wrong’ and ‘justify self, invalidate others’.

And finally, it occurs to me that it is time for me to let my son simply be.  To make his choices and live his choices.  It occurs to me that being loving does not have to mean that I have to look out for and protect my son.  It occurs to me that I can choose to manifest my love for my son as ‘trust in him’ to make his choices and handle the consequences of his choice.  Put differently, I can simply be a stand for my son as a highly capable young man who can make choices and live with their consequences.

It occurs to me that this latter way of manifesting my love set us both free – free to own our lives: choices, consequences, responses, learning, growth…

And finally, is it possible that love is only love when it shows up / is experienced as love?

Standards, possibilities, self-expression and play


A commitment to standards or possibilities? Choose wisely

“Is it possible to be committed to a set of standards that have nothing to do with being fully alive?  You’ve got standards rather than possibilities, and the standards are more important than life itself.”  Werner Erhard

You and I bottle up, hide, forget and even kill our true self-expression.  What is the impact?  You/I do not experience the joy of being alive, truly alive, instead our life occurs (when we are honest with ourselves) as going through the motions.  That is the impact on you and I.  What about the impact on others – the people who come into contact with us?

To be a human being is to be in relationship – always.  So our impact is that our lack of joy is experienced by those around us.  And us going through the motions makes, even encourages, our fellow human beings to go through the motions.  We encourage them to say to themselves “That is the way it is.  Look everyone is going through the motions.  Life is going through the motions.  So I might as well settle for going through the motions.”

Why do we suppress/hide/kill our true self-expression.  Because we have been born and raised in a set of standards, a set of practices.  As a result, we have become and are committed to a set of standards. A key part of these standards is that those of us who speak in terms of possibilities are called dreamers and looked down upon.  The dreamer is seen/spoken of as a child and childish.  In short, we are committed to a set of standards that allow us to ‘look good, avoid looking bad’ rather than being a stand for possibilities that move-touch-inspire-uplift us.

Recent conversation that brings this “theory to life”

With that context in mind, I share with you a recent email conversation that took place between myself and a fellow human being.  My fellow human being reached out to me as follows (I have deleted anything that can identify my fellow human being):

“Maz, 

I hope all is well – our paths never seem to cross…I have a question for you I hope you don’t mind me asking…

I follow your twitter and blogs, and for a new venture I am doing, I am supposed to be generating material (on IT subjects). The problem is I don’t ever start! Any tips on how to organise myself to produce material?

I’m probably not a natural marketeer, but I don’t think this is beyond me.

Best”

Here is what I wrote back.  Please note that I have put some sections in bold to highlight/illustrate the key points around standard, possibilities and self-expression:

“Hello ….

Great to hear from you and thank you for the trust you have placed in me.  

The honest answer is that both of the blogs that I write are forms of self-expression.  For the majority of the time they show up like the opportunity to play tennis – something that I love to do. And they are now a core part of who I say I am in the world and what I am about – putting something into the world and being a source of contribution.  As such they just flow.  

So the key for me is to:

  • write about something that I care about and share my honest voice;
  • write from the context of being of serviceof educating, of making a contribution to the lives of my fellow human beings; and
  • challenge the taken for granted narrative/accepted practice.  

And on top of that I have set myself a target of writing a certain number of posts a week.  As I have conditioned myself to keep my agreements over the years, this target setting encourages me to write even when it is hard going as it has been recently due to work and personal health issues. 

I have found that I cannot write when the writing occurs as work.  When I am being asked to push a point of view that is not mine, authentically.  When I am being asked to write in a style that is not mine.  Again, it comes to the fact that the writing flows. 

Finally, it helps that I am interested in the world, use my experience, have and continue to read/explore widely.  And I pay no attention to the rules of writing.  And do not care if only one person reads what I write.  The key is that I get value out of it and that at least one of my fellow human beings gets value out of that which I share through my writing. 

Put differently when writing occurs as play it flows.  When it occurs as work it does not flow, it takes ages, I don’t like what I have written! 

do hope that helps. 

If you are ok to provide honest – brutally honest – feedback on my blogging then I ask that you help me out by doing so.  Always want to know how my writing is landing for those who make the time to read it.  

I thank for your the opportunity of this conversation.  

At your service and with my love

maz”

I leave you with wise words, revolutionary words of wisdom

“Is it possible to be committed to a set of standards that have nothing to do with being fully alive?  You’ve got standards rather than possibilities, and the standards are more important than life itself.”  Werner Erhard

If you want your life to work then connect with reality as it is


“Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.” Jack Welch

This week I had a difficult conversation with a young man that is struggling.  This young man experiences little or no joy in his experience of living.  He finds his work boring/hard and his experience is that he is always behind.  It occurs to him that he is so far behind where he needs to be that his ‘ship is sunk’ and cannot be recovered.  He says he has no friends.  When he looks towards the next day he experiences sadness.  And when this man looks towards the future he sees doom – he is doomed to be at the mercy of the world, to live an unhappy/hard life, one without friends, one without joy…

That is not the way that this young man shows up for me.  That is not the way that his life, his circumstances, his future shows up for me.  I see a strong willed young man who stands up for the values he stands for.  I see a young man who is tenacious/determined to do well and who has done well by working hard.  I see a young man that can be light and bring magic/laughter/joy into the lives of others when he is not being so serious.  I see a young man who has so much potential.  And that which limits him, is himself and in particular the story that he tells himself about himself, about others, about the world, about the future and how is life will turn out.

Which brings me back to the Jack Welch quote at the beginning of this post.  Why did Jack Welch utter such an obvious statement?  Because when he took over the reins at GE he found that time after time he was presented with briefings that had no sound relationship with the ‘facts on the ground’.  Put differently, everyone seemed to think that the world ran to his view of the world, his agenda, his preferences, his wishes.

Why is it that each of us has such a poor relationship with reality as it is?   Let’s listen to someone who shows up for me as having an insightful grasp of the human condition:

“Man keeps looking for a truth that fits his reality. Given our reality, the truth doesn’t fit.” Werner Erhard

Let’s unpack the profound insight here.  What is man’s reality?  The first point is that man’s reality has no relationship to reality as it is and as it is not.  Man’s reality is always personal and unique – it is how the world (including self) shows up for him.  That is to say man authors his reality through the story that he tells himself about himself, about others, about the world at large.  Man’s story has such a grip on him that man is hostile to truth that does not fit with / disturbs his story.  Why?  Because man is his story.  And any threat to the story is a threat to man himself – his identity, his self.

Back to my conversation with this young man.  After some time the young man uttered with frustration “The reality is too painful to face!” After further discussion he asserted “It is easier to make myself believe that there is something wrong with me, the way that I am made, the way that my brain works, then to take responsibility for my life as it is.”

As we continued the conversation the really story came out. “If I accepted that I have a say in the way that my life turns out then I have to accept responsibility for the way that my life has turned out.  And the way that I am experiencing my life.  And I would have to do something about it.  Whereas it is easier to believe that I am simply made this way.  That I am unlucky and that is simply the way the world works.”

At this point I did become vocal, I thundered “YOU are the ONLY person who can change your life, to the kind of life that you want to live.  Nobody else is going to do it for you.  I know that you are secretly hoping that someone will do it for you.  And that is not going to happen.  Your future lies in your hands, in the story that you tell yourself: about yourself, about your future, about the world.  Choose: choose to live a life of joy or a life of misery.  It is your life!”

Today, I met up with this young man and he told me that he had experienced a great day.  The best day for some time.  He had found his work easy and had got a lot done.  He had been invited to play sports and liked two of the three people he had played with.  He said that he had enjoyed his day.

I say that the deepest truth of reality when it comes to me and you is this one:

“At all times, under all circumstances, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives.” Werner Erhard

Are your ready to face reality as it is, as spelled out by Werner Erhard?  Your life, your choice!

What does it take to be special?


You and I want to feel special

I want to feel special, you want to feel special and just about everyone wants to feel special.    That is just what is so.  And all would be well if we could just be with what is so: wanting to feel special.

For some or even most of the time you and I do not feel special.  That is also what is so.  And all would be well if we could be with what is also so: not feeling special.

You and I do not leave it at that.  Instead, some of us look for people in whose company we feel special.  When we are with these people then we feel special – life simply shows up as great, we laugh, we feel lighter,  our worries seem to fall away….. Others turn to roles, titles, or positions of power to feel special.  Some of us get to feel special through the triumphs in organisations we support like sports teams and political parties.

“There is something wrong!”

Sooner or later we find ourselves without the company of the people who makes us feel special.  Or without the roles, titles, or positions of power that makes us feel special.  And from time to time our sports teams lose.  Then what shows up?  We experience not feeling special!

What do you and I do with that experience of not feeling special?  Do we accept it? No!  We make it mean “Something is wrong!”  Something is wrong with me, with you, with the world….  And when we do that what shows up in our experience of living?  Misery shows up: we create misery for ourselves and these ripples of misery infect others that we come in touch with.

Masters of creating misery

Then there are some amongst us who are masters of creating misery for ourselves.  Those of us who are ‘masters of misery’ insist that we can only be happy if we have someone in our lives who makes us feel special. Or that we can only be happy if we have certain roles, certain titles, certain positions of power etc…

Notice what has happened here.  We, the masters of misery, make our happiness conditional on someone else and/or something else showing up in our lives and making us feel special. And in the process we give up our responsibility and our freedom. Instead we  enslave ourselves.  Why do I say that?  Because it is the world that then determines how we get to experience our lives.

Is there a way out of this prison?

If you/I find that we are one of these ‘masters of misery’ then you/I can let ourselves out of the prison that we have created for ourselves.  How? By giving up the demand that we feel special.  And by giving up our commitment, our addiction, to the point of view that we can only be happy if someone/something makes us feel special.

Look around you and notice that it is the ‘ordinary person’ who is at ease with who he is, what he does and the circumstances of his life, that shows up as special.  Notice, It is the person who is at ease with his ‘ordinariness’ that shows up as special.  Notice, it is the person who can be with people or be with him/herself that shows up as ‘special’.  Notice, it is the person who can be with and make the most of the sunshine and the rain that shows up in his/her life that shows up as special.

The paradox of special

Here is the paradox, when you/I give up the need to feel special and the demand that the world makes us feel special it is then that you/I become and show up as special.

It takes a special person to be totally ok, and even delight in, being ‘ordinary’.  It takes a special person to choose to show up in life happy – to put happiness into life – for no reason whatsoever except that he has chosen to live this way.