Playing BIG In 2015: Optimism, Possibility, and Self-Expression


You and I are confronted with choice. You/i can play small – the default of serving, fixing, getting ahead, making it… Or you/i can play BIG: life a live of meaning and self-expression. If you are up for the latter than this conversation is for you.

Invitation: Choose To Show Up With Unreasonable Optimism

I say that the source of and access to life of possibility is optimism. What kind of optimism? Optimism in self, in others, in the world, and ultimately in life itself.  Please note, I am not saying that this is ‘truth’. What I am saying is that this is the best ‘place’ to ‘stand’ and  ‘operate’ from. It is the way of being that is the most fruitful for playing BIG in life.  I offer you the following words of wisdom (bolding mine):

“Optimism gives a hopeful attitude to life, while with pessimism one sees darkness on one’s path. No doubt sometimes pessimism shows conscientiousness and cleverness, and it may also show experience. But conscientiousness alone will never be enough to overcome the difficulties one meets in one’s life, it is trust that solves life problems.…

The psychological effect of optimism is such that it helps to bring success, for it is by the spirit of optimism that God has created the world. Optimism comes from God, and pessimism is born from the heart of man. By what little experience of life he has, man learns, “This will not succeed, that will not do, this will not come right.” For the one who is optimistic it does not matter if it does not come right in the end, he will take his chance. For what is life? Life is an opportunity, and to the optimistic person this opportunity is a promise, while for the pessimistic person this opportunity is lost….

Man’s life depends on the object of his concentration, so if he concentrates upon misery, he must be miserable. A person who has a certain habit of which he does not approve often thinks he is helpless before is as it is his nature. But nothing is man’s nature except what he makes of himself. As the whole of nature is is made by God, so the nature of each individual is made by himself; and as the Almighty has the power to change His nature, so the individual is capable of changing his nature. Among all the creatures of this world, man has the most right to be optimistic, for man represents God on earth, God as Judge, God as Creator ….

A man with optimism will help another who is drowning in the sea of fear and disappointment; while on the contrary, if someone who is ill or downhearted comes to a pessimistic person, the pessimist will pull him down and make him sink to the depths along with himself. On the side of the one is life; on the side of the other is death……. It is no exaggeration to say that the very spirit of God comes to man’s rescue in the form of the optimistic spirit.…..

It does not matter how hard a situation in life may be: however great the difficulties, they can all be surmounted…… the greatest greatest reward there can be in life is the spirit of optimism, while the greatest punishment that can be given to man for his worst sin is pessimism. Verily, the one who is hopeful in life will succeed.

There are two attitudes that divide people into two sections. The one is an ever-complaining attitude and the other an ever-smiling attitude. Life is the same: call it good, call it bad, call it right, call it wrong, it is what it is; it cannot be otherwise…. The person with the right attitude of mind tries to make even wrong right, but the one with the wrong attitude of mind will turn even right into wrong. Besides, magnetism is the the need of every soul; the lack of it makes life burdensome. The tendency of seeing wrong in everything robs one to a great extent of that magnetism which is needed very much in life….. the world is place you cannot enter with a pass of admission, and that pass of admission is magnetism; the one who does not possess it will be refused everywhere.

The attitude of looking at everything with a smile is the sign of the saintly soul. A smile given to a friend or even to an enemy will win him over in the end; for this is the key to the heart of man. As the sunshine from without lights the whole world, so the sunshine from within, it it were raised up, would illuminate the whole life, in spite of all the seeming wrongs and in spite of all limitations…. looking at life with a hopeful attitude of mind, with an optimistic view, it is this that will give one power of turning wrong into right and bringing light into the place where all is darkness. Cheerfulness is life; sulkiness is death. Life attracts, death repulses. The sunshine that comes from the soul, rises through the heart, and manifests itself in man’s smile is indeed the light from the heavens. In that light many flowers grow and many fruits become ripe.”

– Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Art Of Being And Becoming

Invitation: Devote Yourself To A Possibility That Leaves You Deeply Moved-Touched-Uplifted / Live A Life Of Full Self-Expression

If unreasonable optimism is the ‘background’ of your life then what constitutes the ‘foreground’ of your existence? Put differently, what is the possibility, stand, or ‘project’ that will call forth and provide a suitable vehicle for your full self-expression?  What so calls you that it calls you to play full-out: to transcend your ‘small’ self and be  all that you need to be to give wings to the possibility that calls you? If you are wondering what it is that I am talking about then I offer you this story:

“There was an artist who was so devoted to her art; nothing else in the world had any attraction for her. She had a studio, and whenever she had a moment to spare her first thought was to go to that studio and work on the statue she was making. People could not understand her, for it is not everybody who is devoted to one thing like this. For a time a person interests himself in art, at other times in something else, at other times in the home, at other times in the theatre. But she did not mind; she went every day to her studio and spent most of her time in making this work of art, the only work of art that she made in her life.

The more the work progressed, the more she began to feel delighted with it, attracted by that beauty to which she was devoting her time. It began to manifest to her eyes, and she began to communicate with that beauty. It was no longer a statue for her, it was a living being. The moment that statue was finished she could not believe her eyes – that it had been made by her….. She felt exalted by the beauty of the statue.

She was so overcome by the impression that this statue made on her that she knelt down before this vision of perfect beauty, with all humility, she asked the statue to speak, forgetting entirely that it was her own work…… there came a voice from the statue: “If you love me, there is only one condition, and that is to take the bowl of this poison from my hand. If you wish me to be living, you no more will live. Is it acceptable?” “Yes,” she said, “You are beauty, you are the beloved, you are the one to whom I give all my thought, my admiration, my worship; even my life I will give to you.” ….. She took the bowl of poison, and fell dead. The statue lifted her and kissed her by giving her its own life, the life of beauty and sacredness …..”

– Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Art of Being and Becoming

I invite me/you/us to be unreasonable and unstoppable in playing full-out in 2015 to live a meaningful-joyful life: a life of possibility, of full self-expression, of unbounded optimism.  It occurs to me that this is the way to live – to show thanks for this gift of life. And where  you/i find ourselves in difficult circumstances, it occurs to me that this way of ‘showing up and travelling’ is the ultimate rebellion.

Thank You, And A Small Gift For You This Christmas


Without listening there is no value in speaking. Which is my way of saying that I am truly grateful for your listening of my speaking. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I wish you a great Christmas. And I know that my wishing will not make the same kind of impact that your actions will make. So I ask you to the source (cause of) a great Christmas experience – for yourself, for your loved ones, for all whose lives you touch this festive week or so.

What is it that I can offer you as a small gift this Christmas? What kind of a gift is in tune with what this blog is about? I offer you the following:

Yes, the whole conversation is about 7 hours long. If nothing else, I recommend that you listen to (and watch) the first 90 minutes.

I’d like to end this particular conversation with a quote from Werner Erhard. It occurs to me that it is worth listening – really listening to it – and then acting on it.  It occurs to me that acting on that which Werner is speaking, would be a great way to celebrate Christmas and being the New Year. Here is that quote (bolding mine):

People often don’t understand what is involved in forgiving. They think that if somebody does something wrong, and you forgive them, that is like saying that it was alright to do it that time – but don’t dare do it again. But life doesn’t work that way; and it’s stupid or hypocritical to forgive someone on that basis. If somebody does something, you can be sure that he or she will do it again.

“That is why I prefer to talk about ‘making space’ and ‘completion.’ To the extent that forgiveness is involved, it is more like self-forgiving and self-acceptance. When you forgive yourself for something, you have to create the space for that thing to exist. For whatever you resist, and fail to make space for, will indeed manifest itself in you.

“Self-forgiving, and self- accepting, is an essential part of being complete in relationships. If there is something about your past that you are ashamed of, or guilty about – if there is something in it that you are hanging on to – if there is something there that you are using to burden another person – that will prevent you from being complete in your relationships.

“In order to transcend having to be any particular type of person, you have to make it all right with yourself to be that type of person. The moment when you really experience that you have created yourself being whatever way you are, at the same moment you will never have to be that way again.

“This self-forgiving, self-acceptance, goes hand in hand with forgiving others, making space for others, completing your relationships with others. You cannot be complete in a relationship with any person whom you do not admire and respect as he or she is, and as he or she is not – rather than the way you think she is or would like her to be. Love for a person is is acceptance of him or her the way he is and the way he is not.

“So long as you do not know who you really are, this will be difficult. You may have to give up a lot of things to which you may be attached. You may have to give up your resentments, your anger, your upset, your annoyance, your desire to punish.”

– Werner Erhard

At your service | with my love

maz

 

 

Play BIG: Exercise Choice And Control – No Matter The Circumstances


Recently, I have experienced life as difficult and troublesome. The temptation is to feel sorry for myself, to sink into apathy, to make excuses. So this conversation as much for me as it is for you.  Let’s begin.

I have in mind a man whose accomplishments include:

  1. becoming a respected ornithologist;
  2. making important contributions to avian pathology;
  3. running a successful business;
  4. publishing a successful book (Diseases of Canaries), ten years later publishing an updated edition (Stroud’s Digest On The Diseases of Birds);
  5. gaining respect and some level of sympathy among ornithologists and farmers;
  6. writing two manuscriptsBobbie, an autobiography, and Looking Outward: A History of the U.S. Prison System from Colonial Times to the Formation of the Bureau of Prisons; and
  7. studying French near the end of his life.

Now, here is my request: please paint me a picture of this man – what kind of education did he have, where did he live, who did he live with, what were his circumstances, what was the style of his life?

Let’s listen to Ellen J. Langer, Professor of psychology (bolding mine):

Even the most apparently fixed and certain situations can become subject to control if viewed mindfully. The Birdman of Alcatraz was sentenced to life in prison with no hope of reprieve. All the world was cut off from him; one empty, grim day followed the next, as he stared at the flock of birds flying outside his window. One morning a crippled sparrow happened into his cell, and he nursed it back to health. The bird was no longer just a bird; for him it was a particular sparrow. Other prisoners, guards, visitors started giving him birds and he learned more and more about them. Soon he had a veritable aviary in his cell. He became a distinguished authority on bird diseases, noticing more and more about these creatures, and developing more and more expertise. Everything he did was self-taught and original.

Instead of living a dull, stale existence in a cell for forty odd years, the Birdman of Alcatraz found that boredom can be just another construct of the mind, no more certain than freedom. There is always something new to notice. And he turned what might have been an absolute hell into, at least, a fascinating mindful purgatory.

– Mindfulness (choice and control in every day life), Ellen J. Langer

It occurs to me that when I am feeling sorry for myself, it behoves me to get present to that which is so for every human being: existential freedom. Freedom to chose how I show up and travel in life – no matter the circumstances.  Talking about circumstances, the Birdman of Alcatraz spent the last 54 years (of 73 years) of his life in prison. And of these 54 years he spent 42 of them in solitary confinement! Compared to him, I find my life to veritable heaven – and there are no excuses for not exercising choice and control over the course of my life. Including and importantly, the attitude/stand that I take in life.

And finally, it is worth getting present to the circumstance, being, and accomplishments of Jean-Dominique Bauby.

Playing BIG: Largely A Matter Of Giving Up, Not Of Self-Development


Many of us stop ourselves from playing BIG in life because we have bought into misleading stories about what it is, and what it takes, to play BIG in life.  Most of us take the stand that to play BIG (in life) one needs to develop oneself – this stand (which is at the same time a limitation) suits the personal development industry.  Is it a truth that in order to play BIG one needs to develop oneself? At best it is a half-truth; any half-truth is a misleading one.

I say that playing BIG is NOT a matter of personal-development. I say that playing BIG is almost exclusively a matter of GIVING UP. Giving up what?  Giving up that which you/i put in the way of you/i playing BIG in life.  How best to brings this to life?  Allow me to tell you a story – a real story.

Allow me to start with the context first.  Yesterday, wife and the two ‘boys’ left for France in the early hours of the morning. My teenage daughter’s plan was to spend the weekend with her cousin. As there was a fire that broke out at her cousin’s on Friday evening, my daughter found herself with me.  So on Friday evening I asked my daughter (Clea) what she wanted to do on Saturday. Her answer “Go shopping!”.  I didn’t want to go shopping – spend Saturday in shopping malls with lots of people. And if I was going to do it then I was determined to make it the least hassle possible. So Clea and I agreed that we would leave at 8:30am so that we could be at the town centre for 9:00 – hopefully when many people might still be asleep.

Saturday morning came: half past eight in the morning and daughter is still sleeping. So I got busy doing my stuff saying to myself that I had honoured my side of the bargain. At 10:15 my daughter came down. I was reading. She asked to go shopping. I was confronted with choice: to be right, to make her wrong for not keeping her promise, to refuse to take her shopping, or to accept her request.  I gave up my sense of righteousness. I gave up my desire to teach her a lesson on what happens when one does not honour one’s word. I gave up my desire to complete that which I was doing. And in giving up, I told my daughter I was ready to go shopping with her whenever she was ready.

What allowed me to give these things up and accept Clea’s request? I was committed to co-creating a wonderful day together – a day where she experienced the love of her father (me).  What kind of commitment: no matter what kind of commitment – whatever I have to put into the game I am committed to putting in the game, whatever sacrifice is necessary I am committed to making that sacrifice.

We arrived in the town centre and my daughter led me forward into her shopping trip. Normally, when I am dragged shopping, wife-daughter-‘boys’ enter the shop and I stand outside.  This time, Clea wanted me inside the shops with her, so I entered the shop and stood beside her. And importantly took an interest (got involved) in what she was doing: choosing presents for others.  To do this I found myself having to give up this thought “I am no good at choosing presents. Choosing presents is a waste of time as at least 50% of the time we get it wrong. And then the other person has to fake liking the present.”

I am looking at the sales assistants in the store – all female – as they serve customers at the counter.  One of them is alive – really alive – and she is serving Clea.  She smiles, she has a song in her voice she is warm, she is animated… When she finishes serving Clea (with a smile), I find myself saying “You are an original. Thank you for being an original. You have made my day. I wish you a great Christmas and the very best for 2015.”  She beams; it occurs to me that I might just have made her day simply by acknowledging her greatness.

What did it take for me to do that  – to speak up, to acknowledge in the midst of many people?  I gave up my fear that Clea would think I was flirting with this young lady. I gave up my fear that I would embarrass this young lady. I gave up my fear that this young lady would think I was hitting on her …. I gave up my concerns and fears.

It is the evening. Clea and I are at home and she tells me that she would like to eat pizza. She wants to sit with me, eat pizza, drink coke, and watch X Factor.  So I go onto the internet, find the phone number for Papa John’s (as she likes Papa John’s pizza) and I order two large pizzas and a bottle of coke for 8:30 when X Factor starts.  Thereafter, we spent a delightful evening in each others company: sitting on the sofa, eating pizza, drinking coke, and watching the X Factor. It showed up as one of the best evenings I have ever spent with Clea.

What was the access to the evening turning out as it turned out – great? A large part of it involved me giving stuff up. What kind of stuff? I gave up my fixed view that pizza is junk food. I gave up my view that coke rots your teeth. I gave up my insistence that one does not eat food sitting on the sofa – one eats food sitting at the dining table with no television!

Was this giving my stuff worth it?  Yesterday was the best day I have spent with my daughter for a long long time. It is day that I will cherish to the end of my days. As for Clea she hugged me and told me that it had been a wonderful day. I think she said something like “I love you daddy, I’ve really enjoyed by day with you”.

Summing up:

The access to playing BIG in life right now – today – is giving up that you/i lack anything to play BIG.  It is giving up the dominant myth that you/i have to do some personal development before we are ready to play BIG.  No! All it takes to play big is to step into future possibility with absolute commitment and give up all that stands in the way of walking the path: fixed ways of being (personality, habits), cherished beliefs, and fears.

When you step into playing BIG you will find that all the learning and development that is necessary, will simply occur.  Put differently, you do not develop-learn first then play BIG. No! You play BIG and with that playing BIG you develop and learn all that is necessary. Phil Crosby, the quality guru, in advocating a particular way of being in the organisational world used to say that if you took on that way of being in the world then “Quality is free.”  I say that if you play BIG in life then “Learning and self-development is free.”

I suggest that you play BIG in life from the stand that you are ‘whole-complete-perfect’. What do I mean? That you are – just as you are and are not – all that is necessary to play BIG in life. You are an awesome ‘learning and creating machine’ that learns and often creates all that is necessary when there is a fierce will to accomplish something worth causing: a possibility that leaves you touched-moved-inspired-elevated.

I invite you to consider that playing BIG in life is both transformation (as in one’s lived experience of oneself and life is transformed) and leadership (as in one shows the way for others to follow in one’s way of being).

 

Play BIG: Go Beyond Wealth And Fame, Fulfil The Purpose Of Your Life


During the course of a birthday celebration party I found myself talking with a young lady: Justine. Turns out that Justine is in her final year of her degree in politics. She has spent one year of her studies in Australia. She loves to ‘party’. She loves travel. She loves nature. And wants to save the environment….

After a little time, when I say her conscious guard was down, I heard the following words: “rich and famous”. Deep down what Justine wants, what really matters, is to be rich and famous.  This got me thinking.

It occurs to me that there are myriad ways of playing small. Of these three occur to me as dominant in the time-place in which I find myself living. The first is the life of ‘das man’ – the anyone: fitting in, going along, steadily-persistently climbing the corporate ladder, and doing that which one does for the everyday life that one has.  The second, is kind of like dropping out of the so called ‘rat race’: ‘finding oneself’, travelling, volunteering, doing drugs, crime…. The third is wanting wealth and fame: rich and famous.

I get that the third one does not look like playing small in life. So why is it that I say it is playing small?  Because it occurs to me to be a small-shallow conception of what it is to be human-being.  Is there no grander vision-stand for being human, and the fullness of human living, then “rich and famous”?

I invite you to listen to the following words. Listen to these words not as a truth, or the truth. Listen to these words as a place to stand, a place to operate from, a place to live into and from. Listen to these words as opening for a grander-nobler possibility for being human and living fully. Listen:

Man is born to fulfil the purpose of his life; he is made to prove he is a human being: a person who can be relied upon, a person whose word carries authority, who uses thought and consideration, whom one can trust with one’s secret; a person who will not humiliate himself under any conditions, who will lose his life rather than humble himself, who will not deceive or cheat anybody, who will never go back on his word; a person who will carry through what he has once undertaken. All these qualities make a human being.”

– Hazrat Inayat Khan

Do you find yourself ennobled by this conception of what it is to be a human-being? Do you find yourself inspired-uplifted by this conception of wo/man?  If you still have doubts, then I leave you with the following words:

Today our condition is such that we cannot believe in one another’s word. We have to stamp on a contract. Why are we in such a condition? Because we are not evolving towards the ideal ancient people had….. Human beings live only from day to day, striving and working for a loaf of bread. that is all. But is that all there is in life, to earn a loaf of bread. In that case we are no better than the animals in the forest, and even they appear better than we. Rich and poor, all are wretched in every walk of life, whether it be business, a profession, or politics, because there is nothing but competition between individuals, nations, parties and communities. We have made our lives wretched.

What are we here for? If we were born only to meditate and to be spiritual, than we had better go into the forests and into the caves of the mountains: it would not be necessary to be in the world. If we had only to live as the animals do, we could do as the worldly person is mostly doing today …..

How strange it is that there is such a large population in this world and that there are so few personalities! Think of that greek philosopher who went about with a lighted lantern in daytime. People asked, “What are you looking for?” He said, ” For a human being.”

– Hazrat Inayat Khan