Play BIG: Let’s Show Up & Travel Like Lorenzo


Its been a little while friends. I have been busy making good use of my health and the weather: to go walking in the countryside, to cycle along the Thames… To read books that touch the heart, and some that require study rather than mere reading.

One of the books that I have read, and read again is If This Is A Man by Primo Levi. Take a moment to click on the Primo Levi link:  learn a little about Primo Levi – one of the handful of Italian Jews (from tens of thousands) who made it out of Auschwitz alive.  Ready?

Primo Levi makes it clear that their German captors were ruthless/disciplined/systematic in their drive/practices to reduce their captors from men (human beings) to mere animals/beasts. Those who stood up to this ultimate in human degradation were killed – publicly and violently.  Now lets listen to Primo (bolding is my work):

“In this world shaken every day more deeply by the omens of its nearing end, amidst new terrors and hopes, with intervals of exasperated slavery, I happened to meet Lorenzo….

In concrete terms it amounts to little: an Italian civilian worker bought me a piece of bread and the remainder of his ration every day for six months; he gave me a vest of his, full of patches; he wrote a postcard on my behalf to Italy and brought me the reply. For all this he neither asked nor accepted any reward, because he was good and simple and did not think that one did good for reward.

This should not sound little…”

Why shouldn’t this sound little?  Because of the context in which it occurred. What is noteworthy of this context? The Jews were deliberately given filthy rags to wear – not fit for the cold/hostile environment in which they were made to work outdoor, and starved – given something like a litre of soup a day such that they soon became mere skin and bones. Those who did not wish to turn out this way had to ‘hustle’ to make bargains, to barter something of worth. It was not the kind of context which called forth goodness. The reverse: each for himself.

Let’s listen to Primo again:

“However little sense there may be in trying to specify why I, rather than thousands of others, managed to survive the test, I believe that it was really due to Lorenzo that I am alive today;”

Let’s stop here.  Ask yourself what is it that Primo is pointing at when he talks of “due to Lorenzo that I am alive today”?  Is Primo talking about the bread – given that Primo was starving (a kind of starving you and I do not know)?  Is Primo talking about the vest – given that Primo like others wore only flimsy rags? Or perhaps Primo is talking about the postcard to his family?

Lets find out by listening to Primo:

“I believe that it was really due to Lorenzo that I am alive today; and not so much for his material aid, as for his having constantly reminded me by his presence, by his natural and plain manner of being good, that there still existed a just world outside of our own, something and someone still pure and whole, not corrupt, not savage, extraneous to hatred and terror; something difficult to define, a remote possibility of good, but for which it was worth surviving.

The personages in these pages are not men. Their humanity is buried, or they themselves buried it, under an offence received or inflicted on someone else….

But Lorenzo was a man; his humanity was pure and uncontaminated, he was outside this world of negation. Thanks to Lorenzo, I managed not to forget that I myself was a man.”

Just sit with this, I mean really sit with this.  What is the profound truth that Primo is pointing at?

  • Man’s deepest need may be for the Lorenzo’s of this world – those who embody in the very being / showing up the goodness/nobility of man. 
  • One person can/does make a difference! How you show up matters! How I show up matters!
  • Man is the being whose need for nourishment extends way beyond the material necessities;
  • Each of us embodies a certain vision of what it is to be human – to be a man / woman, and this necessarily impacts those with whom we interact and co-creates the kind of work that we end up living in;
  • Man to be and thrive as a man necessarily needs to be regularly nourished on a noble vision of what it is to be man. 

To get this is to get the awesome opportunity and responsibility that necessarily resides with each of us.  The question is are you, am I, willing to show up and travel like Lorenzo?  Or will we continue to play small in the myriad of ways that are open and attractive?

It is my hope that you, and I, choose right now to show up and travel like Lorenzo. I say the ultimate in playing BIG is to provide hope and inspire playing BIG in our fellow human beings. How? By being a humble/gracious exemplar of playing BIG.

I thank you for your listening and wish you the very best. Until the next time…

 

 

Play BIG: Own It!


It is the way it is and the way it is not

This is simply so no matter where one finds one’s self, and with whatever it is that one is facing and/or grappling with: It is the way it is and the way it is not.

If one can be ok with the way it is and is not then one can simply go about one’s business – living – harmoniously.  Conversation over.

Playing small with regards to the way it is and the way it is not

Rare, is the person (in the West) who can be ok with the way it is and is not.  The conversing starts here: that which is wrong with the world, wrong with this government, wrong with state of leadership, wrong with the media, wrong with the business world, wrong with capitalism/socialism/communism, wrong with the folks I work with, wrong with the folks I live with…..

When I am in this place, the place of its not ok the way it is and is not, what is it that I am doing?  I am in the stands looking at that which is occurring  over there in the arena. Not liking that which I see, I complain about him/her/them/this/that.

This showing up and operating from the stands complaining about what is and is not happening in the arena is playing small.  Playing small is ubiquitous – I do it, you do it, we all do it.  Playing small is the dominant mode of being-in-the-world.

Playing BIG with regards to the way it is and the way it is not

There is an alternative to complaining about that which is and is not. Or about becoming resigned to the way that it is and is not.  What’s the alternative?

Playing BIG as in moving from the stands into the arena, taking ownership as in owning it heart-body-soul, shaping that which is occurring, effecting change.  Realise this: the switch from playing small to playing BIG with regards to that which matters is the biggest change you can make to your experience of your existence in this world!

Allow me to share a small example and thus bring this conversation to life.  It’s Thursday morning for me, it’s Thursday afternoon for my five colleagues in India.  I ask them what they have accomplished over the last 3.5 days. Silence. I ask them who is leading them / managing the work that has to be accomplished. Silence.  I ask them if they know what they have to work on tomorrow. Silence.  What is clear is that no work has been assigned, no work has been done, and no work will be done if things continue this way.

Playing small, the default, would have been to complain: complain about the chap who is supposed to be leading this team and managing their work; complain about the onshore-offshore model of getting IT development done; complain about the situation that I find myself in; and finally to complain about myself to myself for allowing myself to be in this  position once again – different project, same old s**t!

This time I chose to play BIG: to own it!  What do I mean by that?  I mean to own the way it is and is not AND accept responsibility for shaping the way that it is and is not.  What did this involve?  It involved:

  • Asking for help from a person who has the requisite knowledge of the development work to be done by this team;
  • Working with this person to think through how long it is likely to take to configure/code the user stories, and which development skills are needed for each user story;
  • With the help of this person assigning the right work to each person – day by day for the next two weeks;
  • Spending half a day copying information from one system into an Excel spreadsheet;
  • Communicating the assignment of work along with all the information they need (Excel sheet) to do their work; and
  • Accepting that owning this would necessarily mean trespassing on the territory of the chap who is officially leading/managing this team and working with the trouble this person can be counted on to make.

I invite you to consider that the ultimate in playing BIG is owning (the state of) that which matters to you: the state of your health, the state of your relationships with family/friends, the state of your community, the state of your workplace, the state of the environment, the state of the word….

If I have not been clear then let me say this: Owning some state of affairs (as it is and is not) is to take FULL responsibility for the way it is and is not.  That necessarily includes taking FULL responsibility to shaping the game, effecting the changes that one wishes to see in this state of affairs.  If there is to any complaining then it is complaining to oneself about oneself as a form of reflection to call forth more effective ways of being-doing.

Now it is up to you to choose whether, for that which matters to you, you wish to play small – in the stands complaining and/or resigned to that which is happening or not in the arena – or BIG -in the arena, taking action, effecting change / shaping the play.y

Since I wrote this one of best friends died. Brain cancer. So I say to you and me: We are mortal, our days are limited, so if you and I are up for owning it then let’s start owning it right now!  I can assure you that it has been that much easier to deal with the loss of my friend knowing I had owned my part/contribution in his existence since I found out he had terminal cancer back in May17. He died on Monday, and I spent three hours by his bedside on Sunday – talking, helping, making him laugh.  In this time of sadness this makes a big difference – no regrets!

I thank you for your listening, and wish you the very best.  Until the next time….

Play BIG: Beyond Being, Towards Becoming


I spent Sunday afternoon with my friend Richard.

One of the qualities that I noticed about Richard is the ease with which he gets along with others.  He shows up as being comfortable with others – all kinds of others Arguably, he is his best when he is the company of others.  It is this quality of his that I find attractive. And have sought to emulate.

Imagine my surprise when Richard told us that he is innately shy: “What! You shy. I find this the most surprising thing that you have told me.  You are so affable, so outgoing, so easy to speak with. And you have an ease with which you strike up conversations with others. Lastly, you seem to be your best when you are with people – you come alive.”

Here’s Richard’s response: “I grew up on a farm in Lancashire. There were few people around, and no other children….. During the holidays my parents would send me to my uncle who lived in a town in Merseyside.”

Why did Richards parent Continue reading “Play BIG: Beyond Being, Towards Becoming”

Playing BIG: Picking Up Autumn’s Leaves


“Who am I?” occurs as an innocent/superficial question until I grapple with it.  I experience the same experience when I contemplate this question “What constitute playing BIG?”  It’s the looking into the BIG part that has led me down a difficult path from time to time – a path where I end up thinking/feeling that I am not playing BIG. Therefore, to talk BIG is to show up / travel as a hypocrite. Hence, I fall silent: no longer a source of inspiration to myself nor to others.

This Autumn my neighbour opened the cage within which I had placed myself. He disclosed to me the meaning of playing BIG as in the experiencing of playing BIG. How did he do this, and of what do I speak here?  Allow me to share story/experience with you.

On an Autumn day, my neighbour Irfan knocked on my door. After customary greetings and little catching up, he told me that he was in the process of cleaning up his garden and had used up his brown bin.  And asked if he could use my brown bin (for recycling grass, leaves and such like) if it was empty and if I was not using it.

I showed enthusiasm for what he was doing because I was genuinely enthusiastic.  I told him that my brown bin was empty and he was welcome to use it – especially as it was going to get picked up / emptied the next day. I also mentioned that I had been lazy myself – pointing to the mass of leaves lying around on the left hand side of my front drive.  And that he’d now given me the motivation to pick up the leaves on my front drive. But not today – today I didn’t feel up to it. Then I rolled the brown bin to where he was standing and gave it to him…

Not long after, I happened to be in the kitchen.  Looking out towards the front of the house. What did I see?  I saw Irfan picking up the mass of leaves on my front drive and putting them into the brown bin that I had handed to him.  I can see him, right now in my minds eye, picking up those leaves. Simply picking them up.  What was present?  Surprise. Shock. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Sense of wonder – how such a small act of kindness can make such a BIG emotional/spiritual impact.

This experience disclosed the following to me:

  • It’s not the scale nor the difficult of the task/project that makes it BIG;
  • It’s the difference/impact of that which one does in the lives of our family members, friends, neighbours, community, strangers etc; and
  • That which is given / done without it being asked for, and done without imposition or expectation, that often makes such a big impact.

There is something more.  Irfan picking up his garden leaves is Irfan picking up his garden leaves – ordinary.  Irfan popping over and picking up my garden leaves, without being asked, Irfan showing up as extraordinary – making a positive difference in the world.

I wish to end this conversation with this thought: playing BIG as simple/easy as popping over to your neighbours front drive and picking up the garden leaves, or cutting your neighbours lawn, or inviting your neighbour over for a tea and a chat.

Next time I will share with you the larger impact of Irfan’s action – the avenue that it opened up for me to make a difference in a fellow human being’s life.

Until the next time….

Playing BIG Requires A Certain Kind of Orientation to Self-Importance


Look deeply and you are likely to find that almost all of us are self-important.  The default is for me to think first and foremost of myself. To expect events-people-situations to turn out such that they meet my expectations/needs. To make myself more important than others.  Even to show up and travel as if I am the only one that is important.

At one level self-importance is necessary and vital.  Without adequate self-importance we create the space/opportunities for being overlooked, not having our interests/needs adequately considered/met, and even being treated as doormats.

However, it occurs to me that for most of us our self-importance is excessive.  Our self-importance is such that it is a formidable obstacle to playing BIG in life. How so?  Is it not our self-importance that prevents us from stepping out of that which we are comfortable with? Is it not our self-importance that fears the ridicule that comes with failing? Is it not our self-importance the hinders us from taking on challenges that disrupt our comfort – physical, emotional, social?

I invite you to listen to the following:

‘You take yourself too seriously,’ he said slowly. ‘You are too damn important in your own mind. That must be changed! You are so goddam important that you feel justified to be annoyed with everything. You’re so goddamn important that you can afford to leave if things don’t go your way. I suppose you think that shows you have character. That’s nonsense! You’re weak, and conceited.’

……….   ‘As long as you feel that you are the most important thing in the world you cannot really appreciate the world around you. You are like a horse with blinkers, all you see is yourself part from everything else.’

– Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan – The Lessons of Don Juan

Yesterday, I made a difference in the lives of a couple of human beings who were struggling. This only came about because I had loosened the grip that self-importance has on me – at least over the last couple of days.  This loosening allowed me to see-hear the suffering of my fellow human being. More: to be touched-moved by that suffering. And so offer my help in a manner that made it clear that the offer was a genuine offer. This genuine desire to help made it possible for the other person, a proud person, to accept my offer.

The result? An ordinary Saturday turned into an extra-ordinary one.  The father, the person who accepted my offer, gave me a hug and was almost in tears.  And I found myself engaged in a enlivening conversation with his daughter, a remarkably wise 21 year old.  It is even possible that we planted the seeds of friendship.  All because I put away my self-importance and made myself, and my MPV, available for a day to help these folks move home.

I thank you for your listening and invite you/me to loosen the grip of self-importance so that you/i can play BIG in this one life.

 

 

Be Free – Cultivate The Eight Freedoms


It occurs to me that the dominant model of showing up and traveling in life, at least in developed economies, is make something (important) of yourself through acquiring stuff: acquire an education, acquire a car, acquire a house, acquire titles (professor, lawyer, accountant, banker….), acquire a partner, acquire power-position-prestige, and, for women, acquire the look/trappings of youth/beauty.

That is one way to live. I say it is not a great way to live. You don’t have to believe me – look at your own experience, look at others: do you feel alive, are others you come across alive – full of zest / joy?  In the pursuit of making something of themselves / acquiring stuff we become serious – almost always abandoning that which generates joy / zest for living.

What if the essence of freedom is not more?  What if playing BIG involves less – the less that creates the space for freedom and aliveness?  Interested?  If you are then here  is sage advice culled by Stefan Zweig from The Essays by Montaigne:

1 – Be free of vanity and pride.

2 – Be free from belief, disbelief, convictions and parties.

3 – Be free from habit.

4 – Be free from ambition and greed.

5 – Be free from family and surroundings.

6 – Be free from fanaticism.

7 – Be free from fate: be the master of your life.

8 – Be free from death: life depends on the will of others, but death on our own free will.

Consider that if vanity/pride have you then you will dance like a puppet at the hands of the people/situations/contexts that activate vanity/pride. Likewise for ambition, greed and fanaticism.

Consider that habits are drugs that send you to sleep and deaden you making you a member of the walking dead. Consider that family/surroundings can have the same tranquillising / domesticating effect.

Consider that beliefs, disbeliefs, convictions and parties can never incorporate the multi-facetedness and contradictions inherent in human existence.  They strip your ability to meet each challenge / opportunity / context afresh – to think anew, to think originally, to do that which is appropriate to the person / situation / context at hand.

If acquisition hasn’t worked for you and you are up for playing BIG in life then give these eight freedoms the best you have got to give.  Yet give of this best lightly. Do not  approach these eight freedoms through your ingrained, habitual, habit of acquisition.  Tread lightly.

If you are in the process of acquiring stuff to live your dream life then it is highly likely that you will have to walk this path and experience its limitations before you can cultivate/embrace the eight freedoms.  These freedoms rarely appeal to youth and those stuck in youth.  And that is OK.

Whichever path you chose I wish you the very best. Until the next time.

 

 

 

Seize The Initiative & Create Your Own Circumstances


Today I happened across a point of view that resonates with me. It occurs to me that this is a point of view that anyone and everyone who is up for anything other than a small life should ponder / read – every day.  Here it is (bolding mine):

Everything in this world conspires to put you on the defensive. At work, your supervisors may want the glory for themselves and will discourage you from taking the initiative. People are constantly pushing and attacking you, keeping you in a react mode. You are continually reminded of your limitations and what you cannot hope to accomplish. You are made to feel guilty for this and that. Such defensiveness on your part can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Before anything, you need to liberate yourself from this feeling. By acting boldly, before others are ready, by moving to seize the initiative, you create your own circumstances rather than simply waiting for what life brings you.”

– Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

I have heard many points of view on Donald Trump success in the presidential race.  It occurs to me that Robert Greene’s point of view may be a better explanation than any I have come across.  Trump seized the initiative, he set the terms, he was willing to go where other professional politicians were not because it was not professional – not the way that the game was played, he made folks play to his strengths on his terms. The least qualified candidate won because he was not willing to be put on the defensive.

Thank you for your listening; I wish you the very best. Until the next time….