Play BIG: What Difference Can One Person Make?


There was time, not that long ago, when I did not look forward to Monday mornings and that which comes with it: 3.5 hour drive to my current place of work. Now, I look forward to Monday mornings, and that drive.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I did not look forward to the work week evenings and that which came with them: making my way to a restaurant only to find myself eating alone. Now, I look forward to many of these evenings.

There was time, not that long ago, when I found myself alone and lonely in a new country. Now, I am certainly alone, for I choose to live alone, yet I do not find myself lonely.

Who or what is the cause of this shift?

This is the time to introduce Justine. I can describe her in many ways: authentic, humble/grounded, linguist, spontaneous, adventurous, intelligent, beautiful.. Yet none of that captures who she is for me.

For me, Justine is the person who brings sunshine into my existence. She does that when we commute together to/from work. She does that when she shows up for breakfast (almost always at the last moment). She does that on the work week evenings that we dine together. She does that when we ‘chat’ via WhatsApp. I refer to Justine simply as “my buddy” – for that is who she is for/to me.

Now here is the thing that I want to bring your attention to. If I had played small, just gone along with ‘my’ thoughts and feelings, then Justine would still be sunshine (for that is who she is)- just not sunshine in my existence. How so?

Month or so back I got an email from a colleague whom I barely knew. This colleague asked for a lift. Saying yes to this request meant saying yes to being in a car together for some 3 to 4 hours. And, it extended my driving time by an hour – turning a 3.5 hour drive potentially into a 4.5 hour drive.

The default setting for my machinery (thoughts, feelings, disposition) is playing small. So guess what arose? Concerns about whether this colleague and I would get along. Concerns about what we would have to talk about over 3 hours. Concerns about the extra hour in travel time for me. At this point in time it would have been so easy to find reasons for not giving this colleague a lift.

Fortunately I was saved from myself. How so? That little bit of practice I have in playing BIG. How so? A voice inside my head asked this question: “Is turning down this colleague playing Big or playing small?” The same voice responded “It’s playing small!” So, I chose to do that which is in line with playing BIG – to go outside of my comfort zone, to accept/embrace uncertainty, and to get-up an hour earlier and drive that extra hour.

Now here is the second thing I want to share with you. Once I had made and communicated that decision I found myself at peace. Why? Because the choice I had made was in line with the kind of person I am committed to being. Interestingly, in this space of peace I found a solution that works well for my colleague and which only adds 10 to 20 minutes extra time to my drive.

I wish to conclude by saying that as/when my children visit me, here in Switzerland, I look forward to introducing them to my buddy Justine – the person who brings sunshine into my existence!

Until the next time….

Play BIG: Show Up As Your Best, Operate At Your Best, Build Wisely!


Its been a while since I had something which occurred as worth sharing.  Today, is different. Today I came across something that occurs as well worth sharing.  I hope this story touches you as it has touched me:

An elderly carpenter was ready to retire.

He told his employer of his decision to leave the house-building business: to live a more leisurely life with his wife and enjoy his extended family. He would miss the paycheck. And he was committed to retiring. They would get by.

The contractor was sorry to see his good worker go. He asked the carpenter to build just one more house as a personal favor. The carpenter agreed. Over time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work: he resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career.

When the carpenter finished his work, his employer came and inspected the house. Then he handed the front-door key to the carpenter saying, “This is your house… my gift to you.”

The carpenter was shocked! What a shame! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.

So it is with us.

We build our lives, a day at a time, often putting less than our best into the building. Then, with a shock, we realize we have to live in the house we have built. If we could do it over, we would do it much differently.

But, you cannot go back.

You are the carpenter, and every day you hammer a nail, place a board, or erect a wall. Someone once said, “Life is a do-it-yourself project.” Your attitude, and the choices you make today, help build the “house” you will live in tomorrow.

Therefore, Build wisely!

I thank you for your listening. I hope that you will build wisely.  Until the next time…

 

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…

 

 

Playing BIG In The Presence of Death – Death of a Good Friend


Richard HornbyI last saw my friend Richard Hornby on Sunday 4th March 18 when we shared three hours of our lives with one another. He was in bed, in a room by himself, in a hospice for the terminally ill. I woke him up with “Hello Richard!” He was pleased to see me, and I was pleased to see him. We talked. We brought to life shared memories of times gone by. We laughed with one another.

And I helped him with the little things that had become huge things: getting fresh/cold water and helping him to drink it; helping him eat his fruit salad  – the only thing he wanted to eat from his lunch; intervening on his behalf with the doctor to get his pain addressed; and getting the nurses to give him the morphine that the doctor prescribed.

After taking his morphine and as he was about to go to sleep I took my leave with “I’ll be coming over to see you next weekend.”  I did not get to keep that promise. The next day, in the evening, I was told that my friend had died: He had died peacefully – spared physical pain, and the indignity of being at the mercy of others.

Even today, two weeks later, tears flow when I allow myself to be present to that which is so: my friend is no longer – there will never be another occasion when we walk together, eat together, talk together, laugh together.  I get that he died at the right time – and I am delighted by that. This, intellectual view of the matter, does not do away with the grief/sadness that is present in me right now.

What has helped me to work with the death of my friend and the loss of our friendship is me asking myself this question: “What does playing BIG look like in the presence of loss – the loss of dear friend?” Being with this inquiry I found an abode of peace. And this inquiry helped turn my attention toward Richard himself: what is it that I so admired/liked about him?

What is it that my friend Richard embodied?  What way of being-in-the-world showed up when Richard showed up?  A certain humbleness / lightness that tends to be present in those who do not see themselves as more important than others. A disposition towards looking at life in the manner of the glass is half-full.  His being there for me whenever I needed and asked for his help. And, his unflappability:

What does playing BIG look like in the face of Richard’s death? My answer  for myself is manifold:

  • To accept the sadness and allow the tears to flow down my cheeks without embarrassment;
  • To allow myself to feel the full strength of grief as in the kind of grief where one cries from the stomach with the whole of one’s being;
  • To remember our times together and the contribution he made to my existence – the times that I needed his help and he was there for me; and
  • To keep in existence, as in embody, that which I value/admire about Richard – his humility, his genuineness, his helpfulness, and his unflappability.

I realise that what has allowed me to Play BIG with his death is that I played BIG before he died. When he told me 10 months ago he had terminal brain cancer I cried. And then I  made and lived this commitment – to walk by his side, to make a positive difference to his existence in the face of his impending death.

How am I doing in keeping in existence that which Richard embodied? Badly as in failing more than succeeding. Is that bringing me down? No. Why not? This is a conversation about Playing BIG and that necessarily involves stretching – taking on that which lies to some extent beyond that which one is today.  If I already embodied all the qualities of Richard that I admire/value then I probably would not have valued/admired Richard as much as I do.  Put differently, sometimes Playing BIG is a marathon rather than a dash for the finishing line.

I dedicate this conversation to Richard Hornby. A human being that called forth both affection and respect from many if not all.

 

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”

Play BIG: Invite a ‘Stranger’ to Lunch


stone tiger man y gasset quote

The story

Four weeks ago we were strangers – he representing the client and I leading the vendors consulting team. Since then our communicating/relating has been strictly professional. There has even been tension on several occasions due to difference on what is and isn’t in the scope of the work. And on the timing of when certain pieces of work will occur.

Two weeks ago, he told me that he was leaving that week. Without hesitation, I ask if he wishes to go out for lunch with me on his last day – as long as he is not busy, of course!  He accepts my invitation.

A week or so ago, it’s raining and I am holding his umbrella so that both of us can shelter under it. We are looking for a restaurant.  It’s his last day of work at this company and I have invited him to share a meal with me before he departs.

We’re sitting in a Pizza Express. I ask him how is wife is doing. He tells me that his wife is better now that she is back at work, with her colleagues, working.  This going back to work has helped take her mind off her miscarriage.  I listen. I empathise. I open up and say a little about what it was like for my wife, and me, when she miscarried.

We continue the dancing of communing with one another. He tells me of how it that he ended up coming over to the UK, working here, and ultimately becoming a UK citizen.  I disclose how it is that I ended up in the UK at the age of 5.  We move onto other matters like how we met our wives. And how we see our futures unfolding.

He is clearly a religious person as in tune with the philosophy of his religion, and importantly in the faith he has in the Godhead – whatever that may be.  He tells me that he has been working as freelance project manager for many years and has never been without a contract for more than a week.  And he absolutely trust that things will work out again this time. If they don’t then they don’t – the Godhead gives blessings or burdens and his job is to be grateful for and work with whatever comes his way.

It’s time to end lunch as I have a meeting to get to.  I can tell that we both enjoyed each other’s company. And that some barrier has been crossed.  We are no longer strangers to one another. We may not be friends and there is no doubt that the first (essential) step towards cultivating friendship has been taken. I do not leave things to chance. I say that I wish create a friendship between us and ask if it is ok to keep in touch. He gives me his phone number, and links up with on LinkedIn.

This week, I texted him. And to my surprise, he texted me to wish me well – he remembered that I was going into hospital for cancer treatment/scan!

The Story About This Story

What did it take from me to leave this chap with a good memory of his last day?  Not much. Not much at all. Simply a willingness to step beyond my narrow self-concern, and treat him as I would like to be treated.  If it was my last day, I’d like at least one of my colleagues to take me out to lunch – to leave me with the feeling/experience that I am seen / accepted / valued.

What did I have to step over to make this happen?  Give me the concerns that were present. Which concerns?  We don’t know one another.  Our relating to date has been patchy.  Will we have anything to talk about for an hour?

What helped me to get over these concerns?  Simple,  I asked myself  two questions: First, what course of action constitutes playing BIG in this situation?  Second, what is the right thing to do – as in how would I like to be treated if our situation were reversed?

I am so glad that I played BIG. Why?

When it came for him to leave he went to say goodbye to the folks he had been working with – his boss, his colleagues.  It was clear to anyone with any human sensitivity that the folks were going through the parting ritual without any enthusiasm. The words were there. The feeling (of care, of respect) that is essential to human relating wasn’t there.

When it came to my turn I gave him a hug. Thanked him for lunch. Wished him the best. And told him that I would be in touch.  Further, I kept that promise – I texted him the following week.

I invite you to play BIG: Which of your colleagues are strangers? Step over your concerns: invite one of these colleagues to lunch.  Like all invitations you are free to accept or decline.  If you accept you create the opportunity to open up / expand your existence.  If you decline – you get to stay closed in.  Your choice.

I thank you for your listening. It is your listening – especially those of you who either like these conversations, or comment- that keeps me speaking.  Until the next time….

 

 

Play BIG: Befriend One Who Can Do With a Friend


What is it to befriend?  In this case you/i don’t need a dictionary as the word speaks that which it is pointing towards: be a friend unto another.

Why be/do that which it takes to befriend?  A good question given that so many of us lead busy lives – rushing (as in the experience of rushing) from one place/activity to another. If you read the media you will come across those who speak of a loneliness epidemic in the UK.  If you look to your own experience, it may be that you can access the experience of being without friends (at a certain place/time) or being befriended by another when you found yourself in a new place/situation/phase of life.

Late 2017, I get a text from my sister asking if I am willing to befriend her friend’s father who happens to have cancer, not that long to live, is lonely/depressed, and can do with company/friendship of someone like me – someone who himself has cancer including a friend that is dying of a brain tumour.  She thinks we will get along.

I sit with this.  I ask myself if I wish to give cancer a bigger role in my life than it already has – I already have one dear friend who has been told he has 6 months to live, I strive to spend every second Saturday with him.  I ask myself if I am willing to take on that which comes with befriending one who is depressed – I have experienced the helplessness in facing a loved one who is depressed.

I act.  I send my sister a text saying I am up for meeting her friend’s father and telling her to pass on my mobile phone number.

Later it hits me that I have almost certainly acted in bad faith. I have been playing the good guy on the surface – one not wanting to disappoint/displease his only sister.  And hidden from view (even from myself to some extent) is the thought/hope that this chap (her friend’s father) will not call me – he’s old school English and we, the English, are known for keeping ourselves to ourselves – not intruding upon others.

Later it hits me that I know better, am better, and most certainly can choose to be better. It occurs to me that  I must make a fundamental choice without knowing the other: am I willing to befriend this person, who is suffering, without knowing anything about him?

Then I ask myself what would be the logical course of action (for me) if I chose to Play BIG in relation to the ask of the situation.  The answer is clear: I’d show up & travel with conviction – owning the game as in leading, shaping the game, and dealing with that which shows up. I wouldn’t wait for the other to make the first move – I’d make the first move and I’d own that move – really own it.

I call my sister. I ask her for the name of this chap and I ask her for his contact details: email, and mobile phone.  She’s surprised. She hadn’t been expecting me to own this matter, to lead it, to be the one reaching out to this chap and asking him to meet up with me.  She asks for time to speak with her friend.  A couple of days later, I get a text with the contact details.

Being British ( English) I know that the least intrusive, most socially acceptable way, of making contact is to email.  So I send that email – introducing myself, and asking this chap when he’s open to meeting up with me, and what he likes to do.  In doing this I am perfectly calm – my whole being is relaxed operating out of the possibility of friendship, of contribution, of making a positive difference in the life of a fellow human being.

We text one another several times. We meet – we talk, I drive us to a pub for lunch, we eat, we talk, I drive him back home.  I text him to say my thanks for his company. He texts back. I text again during the week – to ask where he’s at. He texts back…. We meet again. We text one another…. We have co-created a friendship between us!

Now here’s the thing I wish to get across.  I often find myself starved of the kind of conversation that I look for – intelligent, broad range, human existence centred conversation.  And this is exactly what I get when I am in the company of this older man who has lived a full life.  It so happens, that he also enjoys my company, he considers me to be a worthy conversation partner.  It turns out that standing in & operating from the possibility of friendship I have gifted myself with a friend, and a meaningful/enlivening friendship.

Here’s my invitation: Play BIG – be a friend unto another who can do with a friend.  If you are wondering who can do with a friend. I say you do not have to look far – most of us are lonely, some are deeply lonely, and can do with a genuine friend. If you are still looking then I say: look for older people; look for those who happen to be in the minority; look for those who happen to be awkward, shy; look for those who are always smiling and telling jokes…

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

 

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 Can Be As Simple As Making A Telephone Call


Making-Phone-CallHello! I’ve been absent for much of 2016 and 2017. It’s possible that some of you have noticed. If you are interested in learning more about this absence then I invite you to read the second half (“My Story Told As Briefly As I Can Tell It”) of a conversation I posted on The Customer & Leadership Blog.

I say it feels great to be back in communication with you. Being away has allowed me to realise that I created a trap for myself and for you. What trap?  THE trap. The trap of calling this series of conversations: Playing BIG.  The issue. You and I find ourselves arising from and living amidst a specific time/place.  Where I live, we take playing BIG to point out at things like:  becoming a captain of industry, writing a best-selling novel, becoming a superstar/celebrity, making millions, ending world hunger …… You get the idea.

You may be saying to yourself “What’s the problem with that?”.  There is no problem with that if that is what playing BIG means to you and right now you are in action acting in/on the world to cause that to happen. Whilst there is no problem, there is a trap. The trap is that almost all of us feel inadequate, and/or show up for ourselves as small/insignificant is such complex world. For almost all of us playing BIG (as I have described above) is wishful thinking at best.  For others it likely occurs as the latest claptrap.

Today, I am committed to cutting through that. I say that when I step outside of my self-centred concerns, put aside my fears, and act – help others – I am playing BIG.  Allow me to share with you the actions that I have taken that show up for me as playing BIG in the way I show up & travel:

  • I make it my business to call my friend Richard once a week to say “Hello! How are things?  How are you doing? How’s your wife doing?  When/what are the latest results of your chemo treatment?” And I listen – really listen.
  • I make it my business to go see my friend Richard. We go for a walk. I walk by his left hand side so that he can bump into me not the lamppost etc,  the brain tumour has knocked out his left vision in both eyes. We have lunch together. We talk about our history working together at Peppers & Rogers, we talk about what we are dealing with today, we talk about the future that cancer holds for us.  Last week, we happened to talk about our childhoods and I learned that we are both Lancastrians – he grew up in Ormskirk and I grew up in Preston. Small world!
  • The other week, I got a call from my neighbour (Charles) whilst I was in the midst of doing business work whilst working from home.  He urgently needed a lift to get somewhere important. I dropped what I was doing even though the business-ey part of me objected as that work had a deadline. Instead I said “Give me five minutes”. Then I drove him to where he needed to go, waited in my car, then drove him back.
  • Yesterday, my oldest son (22 years old) was telling me off for not taking up shirts that my wife had ironed and left hanging on the chairs in the dining room. I said “Please don’t tell me how to live in my home. I pay for it, you are a guest!” He expressed his frustration (not so politely) with me. So I took the shirts and hung them up in my bedroom. A little later in the kitchen I mentioned how he and I used to watch the Lion King together when he was young. His response was something to experience: angry, telling me off, swearing, walking away in a huff.  What I noticed was hurt – deep hurt arising in me. Then I noticed the anger/rage rising up. Noticing it, I decided to play BIG and let it go.  He’s still a kid, and maybe (just maybe) he’s having a bad day.  Or maybe he got hurt earlier, got angry with me…. Like I was in the process of doing with him.
  • At work, I called it as I saw it.  I knew that calling it as I say it would upset some powerful people. And that I would pay a price. Fully aware of the consequences I chose to play BIG – calling it as I saw it despite the pressure (from the powerful) to be a ‘team player’, to not ‘rock the boat’… Whilst some of the powerful did not appreciate me ‘rocking the boat’ several members of the client did value the course of action I took as it is the one that puts the interests / wellbeing of the client at the centre.
  • This one took the most from me. I allowed my wife to accompany me to the visits to cancer specialists. This may not be a big deal for you, it is a huge deal for me. I grew up under a tyrannical father. And I made it through my childhood by not disclosing weakness – any weakness, and doing that which needed to be done on my own without counting on others. So to arrive at a place where I could be ok with my wife accompanying me really took something. Ask my wife!

I hope you get that which I am pointing at.  None of these actions have made a dent in the universe – the universe is oblivious to my existence.  Having said this, I am clear that the way I showed up & travelled has made some kind of dent in the lives of my friend, my neighbour, my son, members of my client.  That’s good enough for me.

Lets part company today with this question:  “What are the little actions that you/i can take now/today that make a difference in the lives of others – your family members, your neighbours, your friends, the folks you work with at work?

I invite you/me/us to play BIG. It’s not the only way to live and I do not claim that it is the best way to live.  I do say that it is a GREAT way to live – I talk from my own experience.

Thank you for your listening.

As my French family say: A la prochaine!

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.

 

 

Playing BIG With-Towards Imperfection


Imperfection, imperfection, imperfection!

I disappoint myself. Not always but certainly from time to time. I particularly disappoint myself when my relating with others is not working out as I want it to work out.  I am so imperfect!  It really takes something to be with this. Mostly, I am not being with it as I am so busy lashing at myself.

What happens when you disappoint me?  Your imperfections, where you fall short, are lit up and I see them – all of them.  How do I treat you? I lash out at  you – sometimes the lashing makes a sound, other times it is silent.

Thats the way to be if one is committed or merely resigned to playing small.  My default setting is to play small when it comes to imperfection. It may be yours.

What’s the starting point for playing BIG in relation to imperfection?

Lets start with an insight – perhaps the insight when it comes to human beings and human worlds:

…..We are all imperfect. 

Such a vision not only invites but requires Tolerance: active appreciation of the richness and variety of human beings on this earth, along with the understanding that we all struggle with the same demons, we all share the same fears and sorrows, we all do the best we can with what we have.

The Spirituality of Imperfection

Please get that imperfection is not a bug it is a feature.  Imperfection is a feature of human existence. Wherever you find a human being or human beings you will find yourself, sooner or later, face to face with imperfection. There is no escape from imperfection – it is intrinsic to human existence and pervasive.

Given this insight what is it to play BIG in relation to this feature of human existence?

The following story provides a great answer to this question:

A man who took great pride in his lawn found himself with large and recurring crops of dandelions. Although he tried every method he knew to get rid of them, they continued to plague him. Finally, in desperation, he wrote the Extension Service of the Agriculture Department of the State University, enumerating all the things he had tried and concluding with the question: “What shall I do now?”

After a somewhat prolonged time even for such correspondence, the reply finally came: “We suggest you learn to love them.”

The Spirituality of Imperfection

Damn! I have been ‘on it ‘with several members of my family: My mother, brother, and uncle for selling my father’s land despite his express request to not sell the land; My wife; and my eldest son.  Playing BIG necessitates getting ‘off-it’. Am I ready to do that?  I suspect this conversation provides a pointer.

Now what is the stance I take toward myself?  Do I start lashing out at myself for getting ‘on-it’ and staying ‘on-it’ for most of this week?  That would be falling into the same trap – lashing out at myself for not being OK, for being imperfect.  So what is it to play BIG here with regards to myself and my inherent imperfection?

If you could really accept that you weren’t ok you could stop proving you were ok.

If you could stop proving that you were ok you could get that it was ok not to be ok.

If you could get that it was ok not to be ok you could get that you were ok the way you are.

You’re ok, get it?

-Werner Erhard

Yes, it’s ok to accept my imperfection – all the areas in which I fall short. Yes, it’s ok for you to accept your imperfection.

It would be too simple, too Western, to leave this conversation here. So let’s introduce paradox (through Zen) for life is paradoxical through and through:

Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.
―Shunryu Suzuki

Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality.
―Shunryu Suzuki

I thank you for your listening. And I ask you to play BIG even if you find that like me you are finding your playing BIG imperfect.

“I did do something… I made you.”


Refugees fleeing the Middle East. Risking not only their lives but also the lives of their loved ones to make it to Europe. There, these fellow human beings, come face to face with the kind of violence that is most difficult for a human being to bear: being looked down upon, being treated with indifference, being rejected…. Unwanted by our fellow human beings.

UK. Spike in hate crimes. Racism out in the opening post vote for Brexit. The foreigner (black, brown, white..) is not welcome: “Go back to your f***ing country!”.  So, no surprise, that folks who look and/or sound foreign find themselves fearful.

USA. The legacy of slavery is out in the open. White folks shoot black folks without impunity. Some black folks have had enough of this….Dallas.

Centre of Brussels. I walk and find myself face to face with many folks sitting on the pavements begging. How can this be?  Brussels, the heart of Europe. Europe a continent of wealth. Seeing some folks begging, just about everybody walking by, this does violence to my soul.

What is my instant / natural response to all this? What is my gut level reaction to a world that doesn’t work?  What is yours?  Isn’t it that which is vividly illustrated by the story below:

Past the seeker, as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the holy one went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”

For many of us God is dead so we replace God with Government: Why doesn’t the government do something about this?   The government should do something!  Aren’t the folks in government just like us: looking for others, including us, to do something?  This is a weak stance is it not?  It is the stance of child is it not?  This is playing small is it not?

The spiritual tradition is clear on what it takes to make the world work:

Past the seeker, as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the holy one went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”

And out of the long silence, God said: “I did do something about them. I made you.”

Looking for a source of inspiration? An ordinary fellow human being who showed up and travelled in this manner? Today, I cannot think of a better example than Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Central Brussels. Each day I ensure that I have enough cash in my pocket. As I come across a fellow human being begging, I look that person in the eye, and place some money in his/her hands. I continue to do this until there is no more cash in my pocket. I have not changed the world. Yet, I made a difference to at least two people every day: the person/s begging and myself.  I have moved from being one who looks on from the stands and despairs to an agent who acts.

I thank you for your listening. Wherever you are I hope you will play BIG.

Abdul Sattar Edhi: An Inspiration For Those Who Are Up For Playing Big


You and I want our lives to matter. We want our lives to make a real difference — to be of genuine consequence in the world. We know that there is no satisfaction in merely going through the motions in life, even if those motions make us successful or even if we have arranged to make those motions pleasant. We want to know we have had some impact on the world. In fact, you and I want to contribute to the quality of life. We want to make the world work

-Werner Erhard

Yesterday I learnt that Abdul Sattar Edhi is no longer. You’ve probably not heard of him. Yet, in my eyes, he sit there alongside Gandhi as one of the world greatest examples of humanity: a peaceful warrior for the poor, the downtrodden, the outcasts…. A living example of what is possible when one makes one’s life a stand for something noble – something that calls to the deeply human in us, no matter how deeply it is buried.

Sadness. Tears, Sadness. Tears, Sadness. Tears….. A profound sense of loss. Yet, I have never met the man, merely donated money to the organisation he founded. So from where does this deep sense of grief arise?

What is it that i find my deepest self (that which is beyond my conscious control) mourns for?  The loss of a saint, the humanity he embodied, and the humanity he called forth in many people. I suspect that he left heft many of us feeling better about ourselves and the world that we find ourselves.

For as long as there is one Edhi there is hope. More, an Edhi is an opening, a clearing, for our humanity to show up and make difference: to contribute to the quality of life – for all.

 

People have become educated, but have yet to become human.

-Abdul Sattar Edhi

So this is my invitation to you, to me, to us: Let’s play BIG, starting right now, by putting our humanity, the kind of humanity that Abdul Sattar Edhi,  into action.

I thank you for you listening. And I ask that you show up and travel in manner that makes a positive difference to the quality of your life, our life, life itself.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growth Involves Dealing With Monsters


Playing BIG (and one’s growth as a being-in-the-world) necessarily involves boldly going where one has not gone before. To go where one has not gone before always involves coming across and dealing with monsters that appear. It is this dealing with monsters that is the access to and source of one’s growth as a human being.  Interestingly enough once you have dealt with a monster the monster no longer looks as scary as it did when you first came across it. Further, the dealing with the first monster on your path often leaves you in a stronger position to deal with the next monster that comes along.

Allow me to bring this to life for you and me by sharing the following story:

“Gondar is the target, the point where i rejoin the main highway system……. All of my thoughts are still dominated by the physical battering that I and the machine are taking on this road. Before leaving today I have to clean up a terrible mess in one of the boxes…..

The fourth day of the ride from Kassala begins. The road here is like a cart track on a mountainside, not bad on the level sections, but treacherous on the inclines…. What new monster must I wrestle with today?

Here it comes. A river I stop to look at it, and my heart sinks to my boots. How can I ever get across it? There is a ford about thirty feet wide. The water is not deep, a foot or two at most, though fast running, but the river bed looks impossible for two wheels. It is littered with black boulders the size of football fields. How can I possibly expect the bike to stay upright, even if the tyres can grip the stone, which looks slippery.

I am very frightened of what will happen, almost certain of disaster. Only the thought of those thousands of miles behind me forces me to confront the problem. I have never forded a river before. For five or ten minutes I walk up and down, looking for a better way, trying to stifle the panic in my breast and find some calm and resolution. It comes. The fear is somehow anaesthetised. I know that if I am going to do it, it must be now. 

‘There is a first and last time for everything,’ I tell myself and launch into it, trying to guess the right speed. There is nothing for me to do but hold on tight and pray. The bike leaps about like a mad thing. To my complete astonishment, I find myself riding up the other side. I stop quivering with relief. All the strength has left me and my leg will hardly hold up the bike while I fiddle with the stand.

What a wonderful place this world is.  It really does look as though I am meant to get through.

My boots are full of water, and I go back to the stream and wash my feet, wring out my socks and take a drink. The ford looks more manageable now that I’ve crossed it, but there will be others. For sure.

There are four more that day, and the last one is the most monstrous of all. The bike stalls just before the other side, but I am able to keep it upright in the water. This ford is doubly unlike the others though because there a people here. Some men come to help me drag the bike out of the river….”

– Ted Simon, Jupiter’s Travels

Play BIG: Distinguishing Between Having Money & Being Rich


The ‘gods’ are smiling upon me once more. I find that my back is almost back to normal. Once again, I can sit for more than five minutes without pain. Rich!  After sitting I can get up on my own without searing pain. Rich! Laying on the bed, I can turn from one side to another without any pain nor effort. Rich! In the mornings, I can get up from the bed without having to slide gently on to the floor, use my palms to lift myself up a little, then the bookcase to raise myself to a standing position. Rich!

Most of use confuse making/having money / wealth as in assets that can be sold-turned into money and being rich.  This confusion leaves us livings as ‘beggars’ rather than ‘gods’.  Even the wealthiest man shows up as a ‘beggar’ in his being if he yearns to make more money. The poorest man is rich in his being if he is satisfied with the money he makes, the money/wealth he has.  Wondering what it is that I am talking about / getting at?

I invite you to allow your eyes/heart/soul to be opened-touched by watching this short video – please watch it to the very end:

I invite you to consider that those of us who show up as ‘rich in our being’ are a source of inspiration to our fellow human beings. Through the richness of our being we leave our fellow human beings deeply touched such that they are moved to ask “A hug brother?”.  What is it that they wish to hug?  The very best of us – each of us – our common humanity:  our universal brother/sisterhood with our fellow human beings, with life itself’.  This is beautifully expressed in the words of the samosa seller in this video:

“Sir, I don’t need Rs1000. What I make with my efforts is enough for me. Give this [Rs1000] to someone more needy than me.”

I ask that you/i play BIG. I ask that you/i choose to refashion our being to be as rich as the being of this samosa seller. As with everything, this is an invitation you/i can choose to take up or not.

At your service | with my love

maz

Play BIG: Give Your Life Meaning By Inventing And Struggling For Your Ithaca


Have you read Homer’s The Odyssey? If you have you will know that the hero, Odysseus, undergoes ten years of struggle/hardship to return to Ithaca – his kingdom, his home, where his family awaits him.  His ten years are not years of ease, pleasure and happiness. The ten years are full of everything that life offers. Even in his darkest hours, Odysseus does not give up hope. Why?  He lives to return to Ithaca: to his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus.

In an age where most people, when they allow themselves to get present to it, find that their living (and the society they live in) lacks meaning, it occurs to me that it is up to you/i to create our own Ithaca.  And strive for it.  In the process turning a meaningless existence into one that is meaningful.  Does it matter what this Ithaca is?  No. You/i can choose and indeed have to choose.  Yes, it is great if it is an Ithaca that really calls to you/me. And yet, one invented for the sake of invention, can also provide meaning. What do I mean by that?  Allow me to give you an example – a real example from my own life.

For more than three weeks my back has been playing up. And I have been in pretty much constant pain. At the start I could not sit at my desk at all. Somewhere along week 2 I could sit for some 15 minutes. Now I can sit for as much as 30 minutes.  There were nights where I was in so much pain that I could not sleep.  Amidst this pain, I chose to create-invent an Ithaca: learn more about marketing automation and take/pass the exam to become a Certified Pardot Consultant.  So I found myself lying on back, MacBook open, watching videos. I found myself sitting at my desk for 15 minutes at a time, making notes. I found myself printing stuff off so that I could walk around read stuff. learn it, memorise it.  I found myself with a sense of mission, engaged, and in the process the bad back was merely an obstacle.  The first time I took the exam, I failed. Did I lose heart? No!

The mission was still intact – in fact stronger than before.  Now, I found myself wiser: I knew what I had not learned. So that very day, the day I failed the exam, I started studying again. A week later, still in pain, I drove to the test centre (despite my wife’s concern-protests) in pain, and sat the exam again: I passed, I attained my Ithaca.  Is it a big deal that I passed the exam and find myself a Certified Pardot Consultant. No, not really: it has not transformed my life. Yet, the journey over the three weeks did give me meaning. And allowed me to show up as an author of my life rather than the victim: the poor victim of incapacitating back pain. That is what matters to me – the experience of living whilst walking the path.

Why did I share that with you? To provide the context that will allow you to make sense of and hopefully resonate with the following poem:

Ithaca

As you set out on the way to Ithaca
hope that the road is a long one,
filled with adventures, filled with understanding.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
Poseidon in his anger: do not fear them,
you’ll never come across them on your way
as long as your mind stays aloft, and a choice
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
savage Poseidon; you’ll not encounter them
unless you carry them within your soul,
unless your soul sets them up before you.

Hope that the road is a long one.
Many may the summer mornings be
when—with what pleasure, with what joy—
you first put in to harbors new to your eyes;
may you stop at Phoenician trading posts
and there acquire fine goods:
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and heady perfumes of every kind:
as many heady perfumes as you can.
To many Egyptian cities may you go
so you may learn, and go on learning, from their sages.

Always keep Ithaca in your mind;
to reach her is your destiny.
But do not rush your journey in the least.
Better that it last for many years;
that you drop anchor at the island an old man,
rich with all you’ve gotten on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave to you the beautiful journey;
without her you’d not have set upon the road.
But she has nothing left to give you any more.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca did not deceive you.
As wise as you’ll have become, with so much experience,
you’ll have understood, by then, what these Ithacas mean.

– C.P. Cavafy

Finally, I wish to acknowledge and thank my dear “old” friend: James Harvey.  James, I thank you for reaching out to me after my last conversation here. I have been working with my Chiropractor (Sandra) to get my back fit for a normal life. As Sandra and I have been working together for 5+years, she was able to make a big difference quickly. And I will treasure the care/love that I experienced as a result of you reaching out to me. I want you to know that I am truly grateful that you exist; i find this world to be a richer place as a result of your existence.

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).

 

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