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.

 

 

Play BIG by Showing Up & Travelling Regally


When I talk of playing BIG in life the tendency is to think that I am talk about  doing-achieving.  You know the kind of doing-achieving of say Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.  Put differently, playing BIG can be, often is, interpreted in terms of achievement.  Why?  Simply because this what matters in the Anglo-Saxon world.

There is an alternative way to think about playing BIG. What alternative?  Being-doing. What am I pointing at here?  I mean the way you/i show up and travel in life.  Is this still vague?  Sure it is as we are not used to thinking this way.  So I invite you to listen to the following:

To each, the dignity that befits him. Not everyone is a king, but your deeds should be worthy of one, within the limits of your class and condition. A regal way of doing things. Sublimity of action, a lofty mind. You should resemble a king in merit, if not in reality, for true sovereignty lies in integrity. You won’t envy greatness if you yourself can be a norm of greatness. Especially those who are near the throne should acquire something of true superiority. They should share the moral gifts of majesty rather than pomp, and aspire to things lofty and substantial rather than imperfect vanity.

— The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracián

I dedicate this conversation to my friend Richard Hornby.  For me he is and continues to be living example of human dignity embodied and in action.

I thank you for listening to my speaking. And invite you to play BIG in how you show up and travel in this life: resemble a king in merit, aspire to things lofty and substantial, be a norm of greatness in you way of being…

Be Free – Cultivate The Eight Freedoms


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

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

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

1 – Be free of vanity and pride.

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

3 – Be free from habit.

4 – Be free from ambition and greed.

5 – Be free from family and surroundings.

6 – Be free from fanaticism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Why We Love You


 

I did not grow up with the experience of feeling loved.  Valued for the opportunity I represented for my parents, yes. Loved for my human being ness (as it was and was not), definitely not.

It is hard to shake off this baggage.  I am now a middle aged man and I still experience great difficulty in accepting-feeling loved.  Which is why the following gift from family touched the deepest part of me and I found myself with tears raining down my cheeks:

why-we-love-you

I got plenty of presents bought from the shops. Some of them even turned out to be useful.  Yet, these words are the present that cannot be bought and show up as priceless.

Play BIG. I invite you to play BIG by doing something similar.  Search inside for the words that express why you love those you love. I find that the simplest words are the best.  Write these words down, so that your words leave footprints in the sand, and hand them over to your loved ones.

Go further, make it a daily practice to reach out and touch a life by sending an SMS that expresses your appreciation for a fellow human being that is part of your life. Words cost so little yet make such an enormous impact. Why? I am not alone, I suspect most of us are just like me – feeling unappreciated, feeling unloved, or finding it hard to love ourselves.

I thank you for your listening, and I ask you to play BIG in your daily living.  Until the next time….

 

Seize The Initiative & Create Your Own Circumstances


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

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

– Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

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

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