What Does Ralph Waldo Emerson Say On Playing Big?


A little while ago I read Robyn Davidson’s book, Tracks. If you haven’t read it and enjoy reading about real people -about the human spirit and it’s thirst for something beyond the know and the accepted – then I encourage you to read it.  Please don’t play small and settle for watching the movie – the movie is such a shallow version of the book.

Today, I came across a passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson which is in line with the 1700 mile journey Robyn Davidson took across Australia – against all advice – just because the journey was calling her. I share this passage with you in the possibility that it will inspire you and me to play BIG (bolding mine):

“You will hear everyday the maxims of low prudence. You will hear that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. “What is the Truth you seek? What is this Beauty?” men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God has called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, “As others do, so will I. I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land, and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season;” – then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand men”

-Emerson, 1838

I thank you for your listening. And I wish you the very best – I hope you will listen and respond to that which calls forth the best, the bigness, in you.  Until the next time..

How To Show Up & Travel Powerfully


What is power? What is to live – as in show up and travel – powerfully? Is it a matter of holding unshakeable convictions?  Is it about being right and never being wrong or admitting you were wrong?  Is it about being able to dominate folks and get them to do what you want them to do?  Is about being able to bend nature/life to your will?  Is it about belonging to the biggest nation, religion, corporation, club, tribe?

Have you come to a conclusion?  Yes? Great. No? Think further and come to a conclusion. Now that you have come to a conclusion I invite you to read and grapple with the following perspective on power and living powerfully:

When all is said and done there is only one definition of power that has any authentic meaning for man. We have seen …. that man is the animal in evolution who lives a series of paradoxes on which is distinctive humanity is based. So much so that we can say that his fate is to live in the teeth of paradoxes. For an animal with such fate, what would his distinctive strength be? 

It would have to be the ability to support contradictions, ambiguities, since his own distinctive nature is based on them and is rife with them. Power for man …… is the ability to support contradictions, nothing less. 

It is amazing how we misread reality, how we see power in all the wrong places, all the wrong forms, forms which have nothing to do with our distinctive problems. We think we see power in the people with sure beliefs, unshakeable convictions, smug self-confidence. Yet these are psychological weaknesses on a planet which is fluid and full of surprises.  We think we see power in the ability to dominate and coerce others. Yet history has taught us that power inevitably makes a slave of and destroys the manipulator whether it be a man or a nation. We think we see power in numbers, in the deafening chorus of mass enthusiasms and the solid wall of shared opinions. Yet history daily teaches us that nature has no respect for even unanimous misperception of reality, and she has the coldest equanimity for the enthusiasms that carry whole populations into rapture…..

Such power for man must be, of course, an ideal, and an unattainable one – yet the whole sense of human life is a struggle in that direction.”

– Ernest Becker, The Birth and Death of Meaning

 

If you truly get what Ernest Becker is getting at then you will find a new space of freedom opening up for you.  How so? You can accept the messiness of life: the contradictions, the ambiguities, the reversals…  You can accept these in yourself, in others, in nature, in human living.

What is there left to say?  To say thanks – thanks to each and everyone that continues to subscribe to this blog. And to wish each of you the very best living – living powerfully – in 2016, and beyond.

 

 

 

Does Calling Forth Beauty Requires A Willingness To Be OK With Ugliness?


During the course of my life I have played many games and many games have played me. The game of fame no longer calls to me. The game of success / wealth no longer calls. The game of competition (beating others) no longer calls…

The game that calls me today is a two-sided game. One side of the game is for my existence to add to the beauty of this world in which I dwell. The other side of the game is to show up and travel as blessing to others. It occurs to me that when I play the game of being a blessing unto others I add to the beauty of this world. And that when I play the game of adding beauty to the world I am creating an opening for me to occur as blessing to folks.

Every game has a price.  When I played the game of going from being called a ‘Paki’ (being spat at and looked down upon..) to being somebody, the price was hard work – years of it. When I played the game of being a husband and father, the price was to put myself second always….. When I started playing the game of self-expression (like writing blogs) the price was a willingness to stand, be seen, be subject of criticism/ridicule…

So what is the price that comes along with playing the game that I have chosen to play – the game of adding to the beauty of the world and showing up as a blessing to others?  It occurs to me that the price is accepting even embracing the ugliness of the world. And not letting this ugliness to cause me to lose heart and thus give up on the game that calls to me.

What is it that I am getting at? Allow me to illustrate by sharing lived experiences.  On a recent assignment to a new place, new organisation, and new people, I found myself deliberately choosing to notice something noteworthy about folks and complimenting them on that which showed up as noteworthy for me.  For example;

  • On a cold day I came across a woman in her 40s dressed as if it was summer whilst I had suit, overcoat, scarf and gloves!  So I remarked on the difference and complimented her on her ability to deal with the cold so well. This brought a smile to her face and allowed her to share her optimistic take on life. This exchange took less than a minute or two.
  • Walking down the stairs I noticed a fellow glide down the stairs whilst I kind of hobbled. I called out to him and complimented him on his agility, his swiftness, his grace of movement. He laughed and told me that it was easier to go down swiftly (which was what he was doing) than go up swiftly (which is what I was doing). This exchange took less than a minute.
  • In the open plan office, I came across a young lady dressed well – really well. I thought I noticed a style: the French style. So I complimented her on her style. Said it reminded me of the French; told her I was married into the French. Then I asked if she had any French parents. She didn’t. But she did have a Czech mother. I wished a great day and carried on. The exchange took about a minute.
  • Watched what occurred to me as remarkable demonstration of the concept of integration/APIs/enterprise bus: the most abstract showcased in the most human / concrete of ways. I came across the guy who led that demonstration. I acknowledged the brilliance of his demonstration. He smiled. He opened up and shared something of his background like going to Cambridge University to do his PhD…
  • Came across a young man in his 20s. Noticed that he dressed differently to all the other folks in the area that we sat in. He was wearing a suit. So I acknowledged him for how good he looked in his suit. He smiled and we got talking – I learned he is Danish.. One day he came up to my desk (we sat at desks that were nearby) and asked me what I thought of his clothes. I told him that it was the most colourful shirt I had seen. That I loved it – it went well with his suit. And I’d only change one thing. The tie – I’d go for a plain blue tie rather than blue tie with colours…. We had a chat about that….

I could go on and on. I came across so many people and every time an opportunity for a genuine acknowledgement / compliment came up I took it. Why? For me there is a certain beauty that occurs in the world when the folks that I come across smile – genuinely smile. Further, it occurs to me that in England, and English culture, folks are starved of genuine compliments.

So where is the ugliness in this?  I initiated conversations which resulted in many folks smiling. I called forth conversation. I learned something about folks, they learned something about me. Some folks searched me out on LinkedIn and invited me into their network. Other folks I invited to connect up with me on LinkedIn and they accepted. A few of these folks, having worked with me, provided me with endorsements of my skills. All positive. So where is the ugliness in this?

After the assignment was over I had a post engagement review with my manager.  What was his feedback. Folks at the client were really happy with my work: clearly knew my subject area, worked hard, professional, helped them on their problems, and delivered on the scope of the Statement of Work. But one problem. One of the key people – a female manager – had made a complaint. What complaint?  A young lady had come to her and told her that I stopped her in a public area (open plan office) and made remarks about her dress style.  This made her uncomfortable.  Luckily for me, that was the extent of it. No formal complaint had been made of inappropriate behaviour.

How to take this? Allow me to be straight with you: I did not take this well. I found myself in shock. I kind of felt betrayed by my fellow wo/man. I felt like saying “I quit. F**k them. Let the English be a bunch of miserable b*****ds.”  I found myself asking myself what kind of world am I living in. How does it make sense that in an open plan office I can compliment Stefan (the young Danish) guy on his dress sense and build up a ‘buddy’ type relating. And in the same open plan office compliment a young lady (same age range as Stefan) and find myself faced with a complaint. “How the f**k does this world make sense?”

Once I stopped playing the game of victim I a few things hit me:

  • If the game that I am playing was an easy one in the English culture then most folks would be playing it and the English would not be the English.
  • That every game has a price. And the price of the game I am playing (calling forth, adding to the beauty of this world) involves being OK with the ugliness of the world – including the ugliness of folks not being able to take compliments or misinterpreting them.
  • That I have a say in the matter of how I am going to show up and travel given the way that it is and the way it is not.  I can choose to focus on the one complaint or I can focus on the tens of smiles and conversations that I generated over the course of four weeks.
  • That I can choose to ignore this complaint. Or I can learn from it and be more sharply attuned to the person I am acknowledging / complimenting – maybe some folks are simply not ready to be with that which comes with being complimented. Maybe some folks prefer compliments / acknowledgements in a private setting. That I can use that which occurred to be wiser.

I found myself ‘comforted’ by these words of wisdom:

 

stone tiger man y gasset quote

Is there anything more to say? Yes, I continue to play the game of adding to / calling forth the beauty of this world including my fellow wo/man. And I get in the process all kinds of obstacles will show up. That it is up to me as to how to face them. Further, at any time, I can choose to play this game differently. Or choose to play an entirely different game.

I thank you for your listening. I wish you great living. Live beautifully and as the French say “a la procaine”.

 

 

Looking Back Over 2015: The Highs, The Lows, The Lessons

What I have experienced. And What I have learned over 2015.


If you subscribe to this blog then you may have noticed that I have shared little or nothing for most of this year.  What’s been going on? What game have I been playing?  What demands has life been making upon me?  What opportunities have presented themselves? What insights do I have to share with you?

We Like Life To Be Neat And Tidy

It is our tendency to put stuff into neat-tidy boxes. To distinguish, to classify, to categorise, to label stuff.  Once we have given something a label we feel safer, we can go about ‘investigating’ it, and then coming up with ways of dealing with stuff.  It is also our tendency to think in contrasts: long/short, good/bad, right/wrong, blessing/curse, success/failure, rich/poor, kind/mean, playing BIG/playing small… You get the idea. Yet life has a certain fullness, boundlessness, messiness, that means it cannot be easily categorised. And any / every categorisation is incomplete.

This Year Has Been An Interesting (Full) Year

It occurs this year has been like the seasons – especially the kind of seasons we have been experiencing lately in the Southern part of England – where multiple seasons present themselves in what should be a single season.

January. Everything was great: health, family, work… The future looked bright and I had plans – plans for playing BIG in life and inspiring others to play BIG in their lives. I even turned out an incredibly well paid (six figures) consulting role with a well known large consultancy. Why? Because, I was happy doing what I was doing.

February. I found that if I sat down I could not get up. I could not get up! I found that I could not put on my shorts, trousers, socks, shoes or take them off. I found that I could not turn from one side to another when in bed. Ordinary living came to a halt. And with this lack of power (self-sufficiency) the demons came out and played: feelings of helplessness, feeling of being a burden, feelings of fear… If you have lived you know what I am talking about.

Yet in the midst of this I sought to turn lemons into lemonade. So I studied often lying down or standing up. By the end of the month I became a Salesforce certified Pardot Consultant.  Wasn’t easy but brought me both distraction and great satisfaction.

March. By the middle of March I was well enough to get back to normal living. And just as I had gotten off my knees, I found myself floored. My source of income dried up – no more work. Folks whom I considered colleagues even friends treated me in ways that left me confused, puzzled, and deeply hurt.  Illness happens, I can deal with that and in fact have been dealing with it since I was a child. The kind of stuff that I experienced by friends and colleagues – that I had not experienced. And struggled to find my ground, my footing. I was in a kind of a daze for some weeks.

April, May, June. Busy, busy, busy. Busy looking for opportunities for consulting work, for Salesforce work, for project and programme management work. Plenty of conversations with all kinds of people. Even got three verbal offers of employment. None of them worked out.

Also experienced what occurred to me as the second largest (most important) betrayal of my life. That is too personal to go into. But I can tell you it hurt – really hurt.  It brought forth genuine sorrow – of the deepest kind.  The first person who showed up as betraying me was my mother when I was a child. That had a deep impact on me – I made it a rule never to trust what people say for I had seen the dramatic difference between words and deeds. It took some being to accept and deal with this betrayal.  Yet, it was easier to deal with because this time around I was an adult able to step into the shoes of the other, rather than a child of six or seven. Time does make a difference.

At the same time, I learnt to code in HTML and CSS. I even learnt to write some Javascript.  Some wondered why a strategy guy like me was doing this deep tech stuff. I was clear: in troubled times it is necessary to give myself challenges – so that misery and self-pity has no space to show up. Further, one of the ‘dark arts’ of digital was no longer dark. And, I enjoyed the achievement of building a replica of the BBC home page. Further, it became clear that whilst I could do this work, it was not work for me. I need work that provides interaction with people.  With ideas. With helping folks effect change with a view to causing a better world in some dimension.

July and August. I was busy with various ‘projects’. Some of these projects were great in that they allowed me to do what I do well: help folks think through and grapple with challenges.  Other projects were not great: dealing with difficult folks- folks who lacked knowledge/expertise, folks who talked big but did not keep their promises. These were also months of uncertainty as the work wasn’t generating the kind of income that I needed to generate. And I was keenly aware that I was burning through the family’s safety net.

Whilst the family was holidaying in various parts of France, I was busy studying for a Salesforce certification. When I got my Salesforce Sales Cloud certification – well it is day I remember well. I had taken that same exam a year ago and failed. It was the first exam I had failed in my life. But this time around I learned from the past, did the work (over and over), and I passed!  Further, I used up some of the time to dive deeper into the whole User Experience Design thing. I found that I enjoyed learning about it. And that I already knew quite a bit – but by no means all of it or anywhere near.  Further, I learned that I enjoyed the UX design thing given that it is a useful tool for creating better digital interactions and interfaces.

Oh and I made my decision. I Gave up freelance project management type of work that I had been doing (because it was so easy to do). And accepted an offer of employment with a large consultancy / systems integrator.

September. I found myself back to the kind of lifestyle that I had chosen to leave behind five or so years ago.  Why go back?  Despite the ‘new age’ stuff my life has not always worked out the way I have wanted it to work out. It has just worked out the way it worked out.  And given my experiences between March and September – including working with folks that showed up as ‘idiots’ – I was grateful to be back to proper consulting work with folks that had showed up as pleasant, helpful, interesting during the interview process.

Yet, this month was a kind of shock to the system. New organisation, new people, new ways of doing things, regular travel, waking up at four in the morning, catching the 6:30 aeroplane to a foreign country, working away from home – from several days at a time, to the whole week. Yet, amidst that I got to re-experience Copenhagen – a city that I had lived in for three months some 10+years ago. The city still showed up as beautiful. And the Danish people seemed to be the same kind of people. Only this time, I realised how fortunate I had been 10+years ago. The last time I stayed-worked in Copenhagen I had stayed in one of the very best (most expensive, beautiful) parts of the city. Sometimes you can only appreciate what you had long after you had it.

October and November. I find myself in the hell I had experienced back in February. I felt my back go on a return flight from Copenhagen to London. This time I did not behave as foolishly as I did back in February. I learnt from that experience and started taking measures immediately – like standing up to work, like taking medicines, like going for walks….  Yet, that did not make it easy. My lower back and legs were in constant pain. I got through the days with the maximum dose of painkillers.

Just when it looked like things could not get worse they did. My neck, shoulders and left arm started playing up – might have had something to do with the fall that I took on the stairs due to being drugged up!  Despite expensive visits to the Chiropractor, the neck, shoulders, and arm did not improve. It got worse. I had constant pain in my left arm, I lost fine motor control (could not button up my shirt or insert cufflinks into my shirt sleeves), and I lost power in that arm. Due to all this I didn’t sleep much – an hour here, two hours there. Yet, despite all of this I kept working full or pretty full days.

I worked from home. I worked at a client site. One day I was walking just outside the client site in November, my right lower leg lost power, and I found myself flat on the pavement.  Luckily my hands broke the fall.  Because my left arm/hand was inoperative (could not type for example, or hold a flip-chart market), I ended up doing almost all of my writing up on flip charts.  I illustrated, I explained, I recorded decisions, next steps, strategies… on the flipchart. And then gave these charts to helpful folks at the client to write-up.

December. Finally got round to seeing the neurosurgeon. My chiropractor and the emergency doctor (that I had to see at the weekend after a very difficult Friday) brought home to me the serious of the situation toward the middle to end of November.  After that it took a while to get the necessary appointments: my predicament occurred as urgent to me, the world of insurance companies, secretaries, consultants, and hospitals was rather indifferent to the needs of one single being.  Life kind of works like that: we want so much to be given special treatment, all seven billion of us….

This week, finally got the MRI scans done. One shows that I have a pretty impressive bulging disc pressing into my spinal cord in my lower back. Hence the sore lower back, inability to sit for long, pain down my legs, loss of power in my right lower leg. The other MRI scans show I have a bulging disc in my lower neck which is also pressing against my spinal cord. Hence the loss of function in my left arm…

What to do?  Do I take the surgery knowing that there is two out of hundred people who have that surgery end up paralysed: two out of 100 for the back, two out of hundred for the neck.  Or do, I cling to the possibility that my body will heal itself (enough to live a normal life) given time and the right type of activity?  The neurosurgeon advised the latter and I find myself in agreement with him.  Surgery as a last resort.

So What Is It That I Have Taken Away From This Year And All That Has Come With It?

It occurs to me that sometimes playing BIG is simply handling life as best as one can. There have been periods in this year that I was in so much pain that when I noticed I was about to go to sleep, a part of my wished that I would never wake up. Yet, I did wake up, and with that waking up life made its demands on me.  Further, when I did wake up I felt bad that I wished the night before that I would not wake up. Why? Because of my wife and children – they count on me in so many ways.  They want me around – for a long time. To leave them just to avoid some physical pain (even a lot of physical pain) occurs as selfish.  As weak.

If I have played BIG this year then what I acknowledge myself for is modelling the way I hope that my children will deal with the demands (unexpected surprises, difficulties) that life will throw at them:

  • My children have seen/heard me cry, shout with pain, walk across the kitchen in the middle of the night – night after night, drugged out at the end of the day, fallen-helpless-bleeding at the bottom of the stairs yet unbeaten, ask for help in putting on my socks and shoes….
  • They have seen me work every day – every day as best as I can, as creatively as I can, to meet my obligations to my clients, my colleagues, my employer, and my family.
  • They have seen me accept the pain, accept the demands of life, and deal with them with stoicism. Sometimes even with laughter.
  • Most of all, I hope that I have shown my wife and children how important they are to me, and how much I love them.

And finally, the blessing amidst all the difficulties? I know that I will die. And yet the most important part of me (that which I value, how I aspire to conduct myself) lives in my children. I experienced the most amazing kindness, generosity, love, helpfulness, encouragement emerge from my children.  They have left me feeling loved in a way that is beyond words.  And I have witnessed and experienced the same from my wife.  

How extraordinarily fortunate I have been this year!  How often does one get to really experience the beauty of ordinary everyday living?  How often does one get to experience how much one matters in the lives of others? How often does one get to feel so grateful, so proud of one’s children, of one’s partner/wife?  How often does one get to experience the triumph of the human will over the difficulties and surprises that come intrinsically with life and living?  I got to experience ALL of it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Self and World: “They Could Never Be There What They Are Here”


What is your understanding of self? What is your understanding of the strength of relatedness between self and the world that the self finds itself dwelling in?  Can we easily separate self and the world – are they two distinct entities that bear little intimacy with one another?  Or is Heidegger correct in asserting that self and world are one: being-in-the-world.

What about freedom?  Is human freedom unlimited – one can make of oneself whatever one wishes irrespective of the world that one finds himself dwelling in?  Or human freedom always a finite freedom?  Which is to say a human being, any human being, every human being, is only every granted finite freedom: freedom within certain boundaries – boundaries set by the world that one finds oneself dwelling in?  Here the word ‘world’ speaks more than the physical universe.  It refers also and especially to the social world – the world created by man including the world of people (including their God / gods) and the people’s way of showing up and travelling in the world?

I invite you to read and be present to the following words:

“There are four Bescharyin here at the tea house with me, exotic figures, splendidly robed, and armed, their hair teased out and glued into strands……. The contact between us is instantaneous and overwhelming. There is a spirit in this tea, a magic solvent to wash away our differences. This is another reason why I am here: to experience (nothing less) the brotherhood of man. Imagine meeting these men in a London pub or an American Diner. Impossible. They could never be there what they are here. They would be made small by the complexities, the paraphernalia that we have added to our lives..…. I had to come here to realise the full stature of man: here outside a grass hut, on a rough wooden bench, with no noise, no crowds, no appointments, no axe to grind, no secret to conceal, all the space and time in the world, and my heart as translucent as the glass of tea in my hand.

The sense of affinity with these men is so strong that I would tear down every building in the West if I thought it would bring us together like this. I understand why the Arab idea seems so perverse, so fanatical, untrustworthy and self destructive to the Western mind. It must be because the Arab puts an ultimate value on something we no longer even know exists. Integrity, in its real sense of being at one with oneself and one’s God, whoever and wherever that God may be. Without it he feels crippled.”

– Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

I say that wo/man and world are in the most intimate of relationship. No other relationship comes close. And this is so beautifully expressed by Ted Simon when he says “They could never be there what they are here.”  Yet this most intimate of relationship (wo/man, world) is hidden from you, me, us. We are not present to it. Being not present to the intimacy of this relatedness you/i/we pay little or no attention to the world.  And thus no attention to the way that the world influences, moves, shapes us.  Put differently, an enduring  transformation of self necessitates a transformation in world.  For self and world are a unity each flowing into and shaping the other.  Even more radically, the self is not closed, it is open. When you get the level of openness that is the case you see the self for what it is: a fiction. And you see that human freedom can never be selfish – genuine freedom necessarily consideration of the world in which one dwells. The freedom to rape, plunder, pollute the world rebounds on self.

Play BIG: Every Moment Is Precious!


You and I, if we live in the western world, are so embedded-immersed in doing (in order to have ‘stuff’) that we do not pay attention to our way of being. What do I mean by being. For the purpose of this conversation, I mean the way that one shows up and travels in life. Another way of making sense of being is to think what walks into the room when you / i walk into the room? Is it a mood of lightness or seriousness, of care/concern or indifference, of being meticulous or sloppy, of generosity or meanness, of calm or stress….

There is a default way of being that is dominant. What kind of being is that? It is one of taking stuff (that include people, relationships) for granted. It is one of not really paying attention to the present or one’s experience of the present. It is one of going through the day on automatic pilot. It has a certain kind of shallowness / hollowness to it. It is a way of being where one is engaged in fixing, manipulating, controlling, surviving – getting through life through any means that work. It is a way of being devoid of reverence for people, for animals, for plants, for tools, for life itself. It is a way of being that does not marvel that there is a world rather than nothing.

What might be other more powerful ways of being: of showing up and traveling through the process of living with one another? I share with you these wise words from Mark Epstein’s book, The Trauma of Everyday Life:

Ajahn Chah met with us after we share the monastery lunch. We asked him to explain the Buddhist view. What he had learned ….. What could we bring back and share with the West?

Before saying a word, he motioned to glass by his side. “Do you see this glass?” he asked us. “I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. Yet for me, this glass is already broken. When the wind knocks it over or my elbow knocks it off the shelf and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand this glass is already broken, every minute with it is precious.” 

What was he referring to exactly? The glass, the body, this life, the self? …

Ajahn Chah was modelling a different way of relating.  We could use, appreciate, value, and respect the glass without expecting it to last. In fact, we could use it more freely, with more abandon, with more care ….

Since coming across this story, I have found myself appreciating that which is: the blessings of sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, feeling, reason, emotions, reading, writing, moving, playing chess…. The blessings include my family members; I give an ask for hugs from each family member, every day, as I am present to the glass already broken. I have stopped myself rushing on a sunny day, and found myself a place out in the sun at one of my favourite restaurants, enjoyed the food and simply watched the world go by. I have been in touch with folks that I have not been in touch with for many years.

I invite you to play BIG by keeping in awareness that the glass is already broken. And then showing up and traveling accordingly: being present to the preciousness of your life, the people in your life, the world you dwell in and is your home, the stuff that makes life workable, lovable, even joyous.

Play BIG: Focus On Gifts


You and I meet. We talk. And even before we meet and talk, we have made the most important choice that will affect our meeting and talking. More accurately, it is not you and I who have made the choice. Rather, the choice has been made by the culture which shapes the way that you and I show up and travel.

What is this choice?  The choice to talk about what does not work: what does not work about me, about my relationships, about my circumstances, about the world….  The choice that determines that when you and I meet we will talk about problems, deficiencies, dysfunctions, lack…….  A choice about what is wrong about me, about you, about us, about the world.

Is there another way to show up and travel in life?  Is there another way to show up, listen to, and talking with our fellow human beings?  Is there a way that leaves you, i, us playing BIG in life?  I invite you to listen to the speaking of Peter Block:

Focus on gifts. First and foremost …. community is built by focusing on people’s gifts rather than their deficiencies….. Citizens in community want to know what you can do, not what you can’t do.

In the professional world of service providers, whole industries have been built on people’s deficiencies…… if you go to a professional service provider and say you have no deficiencies or problems, that you want to talk about your gifts and talents, you will be shown the door…… Go to an association, or a group or neighbours, and tell them of what your capabilities are, and they get quite interested.

This insight is profound … for it eliminates most of the conversations we now have about problem diagnosis…weaknesses, and what’s wrong with me, you, and the rest of the world. It also underscores the limitation of labeling people…….the act of labelling, itself, is what diminishes the capacity of people to fulfil their potential. If we care about transformation, then we will stay focused on gifts, to such an extent that our work becomes to simply bring the gifts of those on the margin into the centre.

… if we want to make communities stronger, we should study their assets, resources, and talents. It is the attention to these things that something new can occur.

– Community, The Structure of Belonging, by Peter Block

I invite me to focus on my gifts. I invite you to focus on your gifts. I invite you and me to call forth, and bring into existence, the gifts of the folks that are in our lives. I invite you and me to label folks by their gifts. And focus our conversations on gifts and what kind of a world we can create by exercising these gifts in cooperation with one another.

Finally, I invite you to get hold of Peter Block’s book – Community, The Structure of Belonging – and read it, thoroughly.

Play BIG: Choose Being Over Having


When do you find yourself alive – truly alive as in bursting with enthusiasm, joy, vitality?  Is it when you have donned on the costume of the successful Vice President? Or the up and coming Manager? Or the good corporate employee?  Is it when you are playing the perfect wife/husband?  Are you bursting with joy when you look at all that you own: the house, the car/s, the clothes, the children, your partner…?  Is it when you are sitting on the right committees?

When do you find yourself alive – truly alive?  Is it when you are cooking, composing a musical score, climbing a mountain, dancing, give a helping hand to those less fortunate than you, learning-speaking a new language, sharing-teaching that which you are passionate about, nursing plants out in the garden, out walking, painting, writing…?

I invite you to listen to listen, really listen, to the following words of profound wisdom. They do not make for easy listening. Which is why they are particularly worth listening to with an inquisitive-open mind:

The less you are and the less you express of your life – the more you have and the greater is your alienated life.

– Karl Marx

Don’t simply accept this! Take a zen approach: look into it and test it out for yourself. How much of you – your authenticity, your self-expression – do you sacrifice-suppress to play the roles that you play in order to have that you have? Do you even remember the last time that you experienced joy? I invite you to consider that you have been asked and have consented to sacrifice you – be less you – in order to be accepted and approved of by your parents, your siblings, your friends, your school teachers, your work colleagues, your employers…

Your life, your choice: being (as your natural self-expression) or having (titles, status, money, holidays..).

 

Play BIG: Listen To / Embrace The Wisdom Of Viktor Frankl (Part 1)


If you/i are to play BIG and experience ourselves living a vital-vibrant existence then I say you/i can help ourselves by listening to, embracing-embodying the wisdom of Viktor Frankl.  In today’s conversation I share some of this wisdom with you.  I urge you to make the time to watch and truly listen to the following.

Heed The Most Fundamental and Basic Concern of Man

“What is the most fundamental and basic concern of man? Neither pleasure nor happiness. Neither power nor prestige. But, originally, and basically, his wish, his desire to find and fulfil a meaning in his life, or for that matter, in each single life situation confronting him.

And if there is a meaning to fulfil, if he is aware, if he becomes cognizant of such a meaning then he is ready to suffer, he’s ready to offer sacrifices, he’s ready to undergo tension, stress and so forth without any harm being done to his health. But if there is no meaning available, no meaning in his visual field then he takes his life.

Meaning can be found everywhere, in the smallest hut, on the other you can find people who are millionaires .. and billionaires, they have no meaning, they kill themselves….”

Bypassing The Snare Of Self Actualisation, Embracing Self Transcendence

“.. what a individual, a human being needs, is … self-transcendence. That is to say, being concerned with one’s self or one’s one prestige or one’s own happiness is self defeating.….. I deem that ‘pursuit of happiness’ is a contradiction in terms. Because happiness can never really be pursued. Happiness must ensue. Happiness is a side effect, happiness is a byproduct and must remain a byproduct of meaning fulfilment. Of your dedication to a task, a cause greater than yourself, or a person other than yourself…..

The more you give yourself, the more you forget yourself, in love or in work, for the sake of a cause to serve or a person to love, to the very extent you will become happy precisely by not caring for happiness. Precisely by overlooking and forgetting you are happy or not.

It is the same as with the boomerang ….. I had the insight that this is the very symbol of human existence, and the self transcendent quality of the human reality. Because usually … we assume that it is the job of the boomerang to fulfil is to return to the hunter. “That’s not true” the Australian’s told me. Because only that boomerang returns to the hunter, that boomerang that in the first place had failed the target .. the prey. It is the same with man. Only the type of people so intent on themselves and so eager to contemplate to observe themselves, to actualise themselves, to interpret themselves, who in the first place had missed, not a target, but a mission in their life. Who had not found a meaning outward of them. Or a human being other than themselves.

This is self-transcendence. Not being primarily concerned with oneself but something other than oneself. Or, still better, someone other than oneself. Man becomes himself, man is actualising himself, man is human, precisely to the extent man is not concerned with himself or anything to do with himself. But living out his self-transcendence.”

Play BIG: Show Up And Operate From The Stand “It Is ALL invented!”


If you wish to play BIG: live a life of freedom, a life of possibility, of creativity and self-expression then Invite you to really listen to the following words of wisdom:

“Since the birth of humanity, people have created many phantom worlds in which to live. In fact, our most powerful inventions are technological at all; they are conceptual.  Every culture needs structure and values in order to function as a cooperative effort, and commonly held beliefs and assumptions provide a central unifying force. In response to the questions of existence, such as “Who are we, and why are we here?” a staggering number of belief systems, values, religions, cosmologies, and worldviews have been invented, lived, and taken very, very, seriously. For the most part these “inventions” occurred organically or collectively over a period of time, but despite their unpremeditated beginnings, they are inventions nevertheless…..

Every subculture with a set of beliefs clamours to have the last word on the subject, claiming themselves guardians of the Truth. Many of the different factions are willing to war over their inventions, but no one is willing to confess that they simply don’t know what the truth is

Everything we invent in this way and live as if it were real or true will have repercussions.  While we might understand and accept that there are consequences to the actions we take, it’s difficult to grasp that our beliefs and assumptions also have a cost. To recognise this, one would first have to forego attachment to his or her own personal opinions and admit that the ideas at issue are beliefs rather than the truth. Acknowledging this point is scary for anyone. It opens the door to doubts, and few people can tolerate the possibility of their whole belief system unraveling before their eyes…..

We’ll shoulder all the woes of the world as long as they fit in with our way of holding reality. But what if a great deal of our suffering is based on assumptions that are false?”

– Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

I invite you to consider that if it is invented then there is nothing sacred about it, it is man made.  That which is man made, can be remade – study history and you will find that this has happened countless times.  How is this relevant to me/you/us?

  1. When you/i/we get that it is ALL invented, then the space is wide open for you/i/us to invent the kind of life/world that we wish to see, live in, live from.
  2. You/i can let go of assumptions, beliefs, values, practices, structures, standards, ideals that cause us to play small, to suffer, to live lives of quiet desperation. Yes, this involves loss – of the familiar, the comfortable. In return we grant ourselves freedom; the price of ‘growth’ is loss.

Playing BIG Involves Exercising Wo/man’s Original Virtue


It occurs to me that showing up and operating from a context of possibility requires you/i to exercise our original virtue.

I remember that when I chose not to have an arranged marriage, and did not permit my parents to force my younger sister into such a marriage, I exercised this virtue. I remember that when I made friends with folks from other faiths (than Islam) I exercised this virtue. I remember that when I told the CEO (in the presence of the European management team) that I was not willing to “lie-cheat-steal” I exercised this virtue.

What is this virtue?  Let’s listen to long dead Chinese poet:

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is though disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”

– Qu Yhan

Please note that there are many ways of exercising this original virtue. One can do so quietly or loudly. One can do violently or non-violently. One can do so impetuously or in a calm-considered-committed manner.  Irrespective, to travel the road less travelled almost always requires disobedience. I am clear that playing BIG involves travelling the road not yet travelled. And that always requires disobedience: to the prevailing assumptions, beliefs, conventions, ideas, practices….

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: Give Up Cynicism, Embrace Possibility & Greatness


For the purposes of this conversation when I speak ‘big’ I am pointing at a combination of the following: standing for a possibility and/or set of values; and how one shows up and travels in life – one’s being.

Let’s being the conversation.

What kind of a being is human-being? Wiser folk than I have pointed out that man is being-in-the-world-with-others. How is this relevant to the game of playing big in life?

It occurs to me that there is only so much that you/i can do on our own.  There is a limit to how much work I can do just by myself. There is a limit to the impact I can make if the only person that I can count on is myself.  Which is my way of saying that any game, no matter how big I say it is, is small if the only person involved in playing that game is myself.

Put differently, truly playing BIG, and in standing for possibility that in some way-form creates a ‘better world’, involves one’s fellow human beings in playing BIG.  So how I relate to and stand in relation to my fellow human being matters.

What are the choices?  Is the default, the choice that is in play – in me, in the culture I find myself in – one of cynicism?

“Cynicism is perhaps a rational response to despair, but it is one of the most corrosive of human states.….. The cynic will sigh knowingly and say “That’s just the way the world works. Humans are essentially corrupt and selfish – pretending otherwise is just naive.” In that way they justify constraints and rationalise limits.”

– Dr Jeff Sutherland, SCRUM

What is the alternative? What stance can I live from that opens up a world of possibility and unites me with my fellow human beings in playing for BIG possibilities?

“Over the last two decades I have delved deeply into the literature of what makes greatness. The surprising answer is that, fundamentally, humans want to be great. People want to do something purposeful – to make the world, even if just in a small way, a better place.”

– Dr Jeff Sutherland, SCRUM

If I choose to show up and travel in life from this stance towards my fellow human beings then what it there for me to do to call forth this greatness that typically lies dormant in many of us?

“The key is getting rid of what stands in their way, removing the impediments to their becoming who they are capable of becoming.”

– Dr Jeff Sutherland, SCRUM

Personally, I’d rewrite this. How so?  I would rewrite it as:

“The key is getting rid of what stands in their way, removing the impediments to their becoming who they already are at the core of their being.”

It occurs to me that the world gives the label ‘leader’ to s/he who calls forth the greatness of others in the service of possibilities that create-leave the world a better place for us.

Play BIG By Granting Yourself Permission To Be Fractured/Broken


My parents were great at beating me up. How so? By pointing out where I failed to match their expectations. My school teachers were great at beating me up. How so? My pointing out where I failed to meet their standards? In the business world, my managers have been great at beating me up. How so? By pointing out my deficiencies / weaknesses during the appraisal process.

It worked. Over the course of time I became a master of beating myself. Never content to be and to enjoy that which I have. Always striving to do (more, different), become (more, better, different) and look like I have it all together (for myself, for others).

One day I got it. I gave myself permission to be, including the permission to be broken, imperfect.  Someone told me that I lacked ambition. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to be not-ambitious”. Someone told me that some work project had not turned out to her satisfaction. I found myself saying “I take full responsibility”. Someone charged me being selfish. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to be selfish”.  Someone told me that which I write at The Customer & Leadership Blog has typos. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to make mistakes including typos.” The response was something like “But you will taint your personal brand!”. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to be ok with a tainted personal brand.”

I give myself permission to be. It occurs to me that giving oneself the permission to be is the access to freedom. It is liberation from the tyranny of the “should”: I should be this, not that. This is not popular with the many who seek to shape me to their image of who I should be through their “should”.  Yet, I notice that when I grant myself permission to be, I grant myself peace.

I leave you with words of wisdom:

“It’s a naked thing to show we are fractured, the we do not have it all together. Broken all the way through to the bottom. What freedom that is, to be what we are in the moment, even if it’s unacceptable…..

Think about it. We are always doing a dance – I’m good,  I’m this, I’m that. Rather than the truth – I don’t know who I am. Instead, we scurry to figure it out. We write another book, buy another blouse, exhaust ourselves. Imagine the freedom to let it be, this not-knowing. How vulnerable. This is why I love the attendant. He said who he was – a broken man …. When his teacher asked for more, the monk didn’t do a jig to win him over. There was no more. Usually, we will do anything to cover up a reality so naked.”

– Natalie Goldberg, The Best Buddhist Writing 2008

It occurs to me that when I granted myself permission to be, I did not just grant myself peace, I also granted myself power.  That is another conversation, for another day.

Bruce Lee’s Wisdom For Living Well & Playing Big


Until recently, I had known and related to Bruce Lee as a martial artist and as an actor. It turns out that he was much more. He was also someone who looked deeply into life.  Today I share with you some of his wisdom.

Truth Is Outside All Fixed Patterns

Conditioning is to limit a person within the framework of a particular system. All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns. 

The Problems Of Belief

Belief binds, belief isolates. An established set style. Chained down. In bondage. Bound. It can never comprehend the new, the fresh, the uncreated. The means destroy the freshness, the newness, the spontaneous discovery. 

Slaves To Patterns

Because one does not want to be disturbed, to be made uncertain, he establishes a pattern of conduct, of thought, a pattern of relationship to man, etc. Then he becomes a slave to the pattern and takes the pattern to be the real thing.

Tradition Enslaves

Classical methods and tradition make the mind a slave – you are no longer an individual, but merely a product. Your mind is a result of a thousand yesterdays. 

The classical man is just a bundle of routines, ideas, and expressed tradition. When he acts, he is translating every living moment in terms of the old. 

Organisations and Systems Produce Prisoners Of Concepts

I no longer am interested in systems or organisation. Organised institutes tend to produce patternized prisoners of a systematised concept, and the instructors are often fixed into a routine. Of course what is worse is that by imposing the members to fit a lifeless preformation, their natural growth is blocked.

Growth and Self Expression Lie Outside of Methods, Patterns, Styles and Systems

Man is constantly growing and when he is bound by a set pattern of ideas, or ‘Way’ of doing things, that’s when he stops growing. 

True observation begins when one is devoid of set patterns; freedom of expression occurs when one is beyond system

The Creating Individual Is More Important Than Any System

The individual is of first importance, not the system. Remember that man created method and not that method created man, and do not strain yourself twisting into someone’s preconceived pattern, which unquestionably would be appropriate for him, but not necessarily for you….Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system. 

On Liberating Oneself And Living Powerfully

Use no way as a way. When there is a ‘Way’ therein lies the limitation. And when there is a circumference it traps. And if it traps, it rots. And if it rots, it’s lifeless. 

You cannot hurt that which is formless. The softest thing cannot be snapped and emptiness cannot be defined

Source: Striking Thoughts, Bruce Lee’s Wisdom For Daily Living.

 

 

 

 

 

Each Of Us Is More Than S/he Seems


During my participation in the Landmark Forum (many years ago) I found myself deeply touched by that which was unconcealed once the social masks that are us, in our everydayness, lost their grip on me and my fellow participants.

What showed up in this unconcealment?  Allow me to introduce that through the following story:

Some years ago a young resident psychiatrist ……. who wanted to learn more about people at the edge of life was observing one of my sessions.

A former gang member whose hands were covered with tattoos was speaking of the deep love he now felt for his young wife who was dying of cancer, the ways in which this capacity to love had caught him unawares and so had healed him.

As he shared his insights about himself and his experiences of intense intimacy and tenderness with his wife, I glanced over at the young Freudian psychiatrist. He had stopped taking notes. His eyes were filled with tears.

After the patient left, I asked him if he had learned anything useful from the session. He smiled ruefully, “We are all more than we seem,” he said.

Actually, we are all more than we know. Wholeness is never lost, it is only forgotten. Integrity rarely means that we need to add something to ourselves: it is more an undoing than an doing, a freeing ourselves from beliefs we have about who we are and ways we have been persuaded to “fix” ourselves …..

Often in reclaiming the freedom to be who we are, we remember some basic human quality, an unsuspected capacity for love or compassion or some other part of our common birthright as human beings. What we find is almost always a surprise but it is also familiar; like something we have put in the back of a drawer long ago, once we see it we know it is our own.

– Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom

 

 

 

 

Play BIG: Welcome Difficulty and Cultivate Hardiness


I have been fasting for 10 days. Given that it is the summer and I live in the UK, this fasting means eating once a day.  This Sunday the family (including me) went for a country walk and picnic. For some of the day it was hot. When we stopped for lunch, after walking up a hill, my fellow family members drank and ate. I did not. Later on, upon returning to the car park, the family ordered drinks and ice cream. I did not.

Why do you do this to yourself? This is the question that has been posed to me more than once. I can see why this question is asked: I am not religious so am not obligated to fast; It is not like I am fat and so some fasting might be beneficial to me; It is not like fasting will elevate my status or earn me riches.  So why fast?  Why bring on this difficulty on myself?  Why welcome this difficulty? Why rejoice in this difficulty? The following passage provides a pointer:

Hardihood is a quality supposedly created by difficulty, and I have always felt it to be stimulating virtue. I like people who have it, and that must mean I like people who have been disciplined by hardship, which is true. I find them realistic, not easily daunted, and that make few childish claims. This also means that the hardness of life …. creates the qualities I admire.

Suddenly I wonder – is all hardness justified because we are so slow in realising that life was meant to be heroic? Greatness is required of us. That is life’s aim and justification, and we poor fools have for centuries been trying to make it convenient, manageable, pliant to our will. 

What I cling to like a tool or weapon in the hand of a man who knows how to use it, is the belief that difficulties are what makes it honourable and interesting to be alive.” 

– Florida Scott Maxwell, The Measure of My Days

My experience shows that one’s being and one’s skills grow in embracing and taking on difficulties and hardship. It occurs to e that I have been left diminished wherever I have taken the easy path.  Allow me to share two examples from my life:

1. When I was young I was a whiz at doing maths (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division) in my head. This fluency was acquired through persistent disciplined practice. Then the calculator arrived and my teachers instructed us to buy-use calculators in secondary school (age 11+). One day I realised I was no longer fluent in doing even simple maths in my head. I found myself both sad and disappointed.

2. My wife is an excellent cook and she used to do the cooking. My role and contribution was limited to setting the table and clearing up afterwards. Then I invented and lived from the possibility of being a good cook. Now my Sunday mornings, usually between 9:00 and 13:00, are spent cooking Sunday lunch. I now show up for myself and others as a capable cook. I have traded ease for a difficulty and in the process enlarged my sense of myself as a capable person who can learn new skills when he goes about it the right way. And the listening of me by my family as altered: they now listen to me as a good cook.

I invite you to play BIG by inviting-welcoming more difficulty/hardship into your life. And using this difficulty-hardship as a scaffolding that enables you to climb and in the climbing learn new skills, bring forth dormant capabilities, and elevate-enlarge your sense of sell and your experience of living.

Who Am I? Who Are You?


What Kind Of A Being Is A Human Being?

There are so many lenses through which you/i can look at this question and answer it:

– We can look at it through the Judeo-Christian lens: a human being is fashioned in the likeness of God and is here to create something like a paradise on earth.

– We can look at it through the enlightenment lens: man is the rational being who defines himself through his ability to exercise reason and act on the basis of reason as opposed to dogma/superstition.

– We can look at this question through the psychoanalytic lens: man is never ending interplay of dynamic forces arising from the ‘id’, the ‘superego’, and the ‘ego’.

– We can look at it through the sociological lens: man is a social being who always exist in a social context and whose way of showing up in the world is fashioned by the social context – particularly the culture in which he grew up.

For my part, I find myself drawn to the following way of defining a human being: Man is the being who cannot escape the question of being and as such necessarily takes a stand on his being. 

Who Am I? 

I can define-view myself in many ways. And if I look into this deeply I get there is no limit to the many ways that I can define myself. If there is a limit then it is the limit of my imagination.

Every tribe/society privileges certain definitions-categories above others. In the world in which I find myself, these definitions centre primarily on what one has-holds-occupies: wealth, social class, profession, status….

So who am I?  I am my stand. At any point in time, I am that which I am committed to. These commitments show up in the form of  possibilities that I invent, ‘projects’ that I take on and give myself to, and the way that I show up and travel in this world. 

Let’s make this concrete:

Many years ago I found myself confronted with a choice. Which choice? Career: doing that which it takes to move from Senior Manager to Director/Partner in a major consulting firm or doing that which it takes to be a good father. I chose the latter.

Some years ago I was confronted with the choice of doing that which the CEO asked-dictated and relating to myself as ‘thief-liar-cheat’ or risk losing my job. I found myself saying that I was not willing to do that which was being asked-dictated.

Every week I clean the toilets and bathrooms, voluntarily and willingly. Why? To ground myself, to experience humility, to lead by example: to do the kind of work that I ask of my family.

I do not accept presents. When Christmas or my birthday comes, I ask those who would give me presents to give me money instead. Why? So that I can give that money to those less fortunate than me.

Recently I invented the possibility of being a good cook and cooking curry for my parents as that is what they love to eat. I took on that which, by default, is hardest for me: asking for help. I asked my wife for help as she is a great cook. Now, some months later, I relate to myself as a cook. I have cooked for my parents – I did it a week ago. And, I insist on cooking Sunday lunch. This Sunday my family members told me that this was the best curry I had cooked.

I hope you get the idea.

Who are you?

I invite you to step outside of the existing categories-definitions. Instead take a good look, at who/what you give yourself to in terms of your time, your energy, your deepest self, your self-expression, your resources..

I invite you to notice the following:

– if you define yourself through the standard categories – your sex (male, female), nationality, occupation, social class etc – you find your room for manoeuvre limited.

– if you accept my invitation and define yourself through your stand, the possibilities you invent, the projects you take on, your room for manoeuvre is so much wider-bigger-spacious.

I leave you with this quote from Lynne Twist:

“Taking a stand is a way of living and being that draws on a place within yourself that is at the very heart of who you are. When you take a stand, you find your place in the universe, and you have the capacity to move the world.”