Daring Greatly: Moving From The Stands And Into The Arena


Having stepped out of, perhaps only a little, the dungeon of fear I find that I am that much more sensitive to the fear that grips so many of us.  For example, this week I came face to face with the fear of speaking truth: of saying what there was to be said, of accurately describing the situation.

Why was the fear present?  I do not know for sure as I was not the one experiencing the fear. My educated guess is that those advocating the politically correct course of action were gripped by the fear of looking foolish, being criticised/ridiculed, of being ‘punished’.  And I notice that I am not immune: in writing this I notice that the fear of offending is present and so it is taking something to write these words.

If there is purpose behind this blog it is this: to inspire me and you to play BIG. What does that mean?

– It means giving up playing small and in so doing relinquishing the roles that we are most comfortable with and which we occupy naturally and by default. What roles? The roles of victim and spectator; and

– Live a life of self-expression, express that which calls to be expressed.  This requires moving from the safety and smallness of the stands (can you be any smaller than being one in a crowd of thousands of spectators) onto the arena and thus the spotlight.

Why should I bother? Why should you bother?  Why should we put ourselves into the game of life, play full out, express that which lies in us calling to be expressed?  Why should we face the hard work, the struggle, the pain that goes with being in the arena?  Because, aliveness (true aliveness) is only present when I am in the arena! And I am human like you, so it occurs to me that the same is true for you: you are truly alive when you are in the arena playing from and for a possibility that truly matters to you, calls you, touches-moves-inspires-uplifts you. 

Perhaps my answer is not satisfying, not eloquent, maybe not that clear.  So allow me to share with you a passage from a speech that is eloquent and which states all that needs to be stated:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

– Theodore Roosevelt

If you find that this quote speaks to you then I invite you to watch the recent (Dec 2013) talk by Brene Brown – she is the knack of conveying what it takes to give up the comfort-anonymity-smallness of the stands and moving into the sometimes harsh glare of the arena:

On Kindness And The Transformative Power Of Praise


“Adults are starved for a kind word. “

– Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

Kindness. The possibility of kindness and being both a source of and an opening for kindness speaks to me, calls me, moves-touches-uplifts me.  Standing in and living from this possibility I notice that you/i/we are kind at a deeper level.  And at the deeper level we long to express this kindness to put into the world and to receive it.  So why is it that kindness has yet to blossom?

It occurs to me that fear is the biggest obstacle to the blossoming of kindness. What fear?  To get this fear it is essential to get that you and I are ‘thrown’ into this world and in this world one does not show kindness. There is no agreement for kindness to show up.  It takes something to allow kindness to come forth and flower. What does it take? Courage.  Not being ‘naturally courageous’ I find that I must generate this courage.

I find the following ‘story’ a source of courage and a call to stand firm in the possibility of being an opening for kindness to show up in this world. And as such I share it with you.

“One young lady …… was so frightened that she literally couldn’t form words. In the cool, air conditioned room, beads of sweat ran from her forehead down to her chin and dropped on the carpet….. A few words came out, just barely, she returned to her seat defeated, humiliated, broken.

Then an interesting thing happened. I rank it as one of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed. The instructor went to the front of the class and looked at the broken student. The room was dead silent. I’ll always remember his words. He said, “Wow. That was brave.”

My brain spun in my head. Twenty-some students had been thinking this woman had just crashed and burned in the most dramatically humiliating way. She had clearly thought the same thing. In four words, the instructor had completely reinterpreted the situation. Every one of us knew the instructor was right. We had just witnessed an extraordinary act of personal bravery, the likes of which one rarely sees.

I looked at the student’s face as she reacted to the instructors comment. She had been alone in her misery, fighting a losing fight. But somehow the instructor understood what has happening inside her and he respected it. I swear I saw a light come on in her eyes. She looked up from the floor….  The next week she volunteered to speak again…

There are several things to learn from the story. The most important is the transformative power of praise versus the corrosive impact of criticism. I’ve had a number of occasions since then to test the power of praise, and I find it an amazing force, especially for adults……. adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and at home. Adults are starved for a kind word. When you understand the power of honest praise (as opposed to bullshitting, flattery and sucking up), you realise withholding it border on the immoral….”

“Wow. That was brave,” is the best and cleanest example I’ve seen in which looking at something in a different way changes everything. ….”

– Scott Adams, How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big

It occurs to me that if you-i-we reframe how we look at kindness then it changes everything.  We can choose to see kindness as an opportunity to turn on the light inside ourselves and our fellow human beings, to bring joy into our daily existence,  and contribute to creating a world that works for all, none excluded.

As I write the closing words, I find myself totally present to the kindness that has shown up in my existence this week. The kindness of my wife, the kindness of my daughter, the kindness of my sons, the kinds of my niece, the kindness of my colleagues, the kindness of those of you who have reached out to me to let me know that my speaking here on this blog makes a contribution.  Thank you.  I am truly grateful that you existence and deeply moved by the contribution to make my existence.

The Art of Asking: asking in a way that creates a wonderful world


When you and I are first given our part on the stage of life, life shows up as wondrous.  We live in possibility. More accurately, we are infinite possibility.  Nothing occurs as unreasonable, unrealistic, naive, silly.  We are not present to criticism. Nor have we suffering rejection. Slowly and surely possibility is driven out of us and its place is taken up with right/wrong, good/wrong, appropriate/not appropriate, success/failure. And our house of being is filled with shame, guilt, duty, obligation..

Today, I’d like to get each and every one of us present to possibility once more.  What is possible in the music business if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and simply ask?  That is the answer that Amanda Palmer shares in this fabulous TED talk. I challenge you not to be touched-moved-inspired-uplifted.

This talk gets me present to that which is much neglected: asking/receiving can be a source of contribution when our asking shows up as giving.  The kind of giving that generates possibility – a possibility that enables connection and mutual contribution – and enables a transformation in our experience of living.

Is it possible that the defining act of leadership is generating possibilities that call to our fellow human beings, engender connection, and create an opening for people to join together and co-create a world that works for us all, none excluded?

Am I willing, are you willing, to put in that which is required to play the game of possibility, transformation & leadership?  What am I pointing at?  The courage to connect with our deepest call, the courage to respond to this call, the courage to be vulnerable – to share that which calls us and ask for our fellow human beings to contribute.

Put differently, are you and I willing to generate the courage to ‘play BIG’ and give up ‘playing small’? To choose to be ‘extraordinary’ and risk criticism, even abuse, rather than stay comfortable (and dead) in the ordinary?

Christmas: a time to be of service and make a difference?


AldinePhotoChristmas2012

I dedicate this post to my wife, Aldine. For me, my wife is the embodiment of that which I want to share with you in this post.

Christmas can be just a ritual we go through or it can be a time to get present.  Present to  what?  Present to being of service and making difference.  Who to?  How about starting with the people who you/I are spending Christmas with.  And then allowing ourselves to ripple out from there to touch all the people whose lives touch our lives, however briefly and lightly.

What does it take to make a difference?

What does it take to make a difference in our lives, in the lives of our fellow human beings, in the world within which we dwell?  It takes courage. What kind of courage?  Let’s listen to a master of the human condition:

“All it takes to make a difference is the courage to stop proving I was right in being unable to make a difference… to stop assigning cause for my inability to the circumstances outside of myself …… and to see that the fear of being a failure is a lot less important than the unique opportunity I have to make a difference.” Werner Erhard

What does it take to make a difference to the people whose lives we touch?

Our ordinary, default, way of showing up in the world does not lend itself to generating great relationships and making a difference.  Why?  Because, if you are like me then you are great with people when they are being great. And not at all great with people when they are not being great.  Put differently and simply, if you are like me then you struggle to put up with people’s garbage – even at Christmas.  What am I pointing at?  I am pointing at the kind of stuff that people say and/or do that drives me up the wall.

Is there another way of showing up in the world that does allow us to be great with people, to generate great relationships, to make a difference.  There is. Here is how Werner Erhard puts it:

“My notion about service is that service is actually that kind of relationship in which you have a commitment to the person. What I mean, in fact, is that for me what service is about is being committed to the other being. To who the other person is.

To the degree that you are, in fact, committed to the other person, you are only as valuable as you can deal with the other person’s stuff, their evidence, their manifestation, and that’s what’s service is about. Service is about knowing who the other person is and being able to tolerate giving space to their garbage. What most people do is to give space to people’s quality and deal with their garbage. Actually, you should do it the other way around. Deal with who they are and give space to their garbage.

Keep interacting with them as if they were God. And every time you get garbage from them, give space to garbage and go back and interact with them as if they were God.”  

It occurs to me that over the last 20 years I have given my wife plenty of my garbage to deal with.  And the only reason that we are still together is that she has a commitment to me (as a ‘soul whose intentions are good’), to our marriage, and to our family.  Out of this commitment she gives space to my garbage and keeps reminding me of who I am.  And for that I am truly grateful!

And finally

I wish each and every one of you a great Christmas and the very best for the New Year. And I am clear that my wishes make no difference at all!  Who makes the difference?  You do!

How do you make the difference?  By getting present to being the authors of your lives.  By getting present to the fact that you matter in how you show up in the world.  By generating the courage to stop proving that you are small and unable to make a difference.  By being of service – the kind of service that Werner Erhard is pointing at.

Leadership always starts with leading oneself from the place of ‘victim’ to ‘author of one’s life’.  From showing up as unable to make a difference to being committed to making a difference.  From playing small to playing BIG!

Heroes


Getting access to your authentic self

Have you ever tried to find and connect with your deeper self, your ‘authentic’ self?  Have you ever wondered what kind of values that you should embody?  Have you ever wondered what really matters to you? Have you ever wondered what kind of life you should lead, what kind of ‘projects’ you should engage in and pursue?

I have.  And in the process I read a lot of self-help books with all the exercises including reflecting and finding experiences where I felt most alive, happy, joyous….  Yet, none of that really worked for me.  Are you in the same boat?

If you want to bypass that and connect with your deeper self and get access to what really matters to you then I have a useful shortcut for you.  Answer these two easy questions:

a) which people – real or fictional – are your heroes?

b) what is it, specifically, about each of these persons that makes them heroes for you?

My heroes include the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Up to this week my heroes included: Gandhi, Jinnah, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Maria Montessori, Joan of Arc, Albert Schweitzer, Oscar Schindler, The Prophet ‘Mohammed’, George Adamson, Tony Fitzjohn, and Monty Roberts.

AN13475677Victoria-Soto-27-

This week, I have been deeply touched by the following people, who show up as heroes for me:

– Victoria Soto;

– Dawn Hochsprung;

– Mary Sherlach;

– Maryrose Kristopik;

– Kaitlin Roig;

– Abbey Clements;

– Yvonne Cech; and

– The Sandy Hook school janitor.

In a tragedy these people make me feel proud to be a member of the human race!  These fellow human beings disclose for me the best of what we, human beings, have to offer as a species.  What is that?  They disclose that human being is not simply being-for-onself: the default view pushed by capitalism and modern society.  No, they disclose that what is truly noble about human being is being-for-others: the willingness to put one’s life at risk for fellow human beings.

Out of this tragedy these men and women have disclosed the possibility of love, selflessness, courage and heroism.  These values speak to me – they bring tears to my cheeks.

How to end this?  I acknowledge the courage of each and everyone of the teachers and staff at the Sandy Hook school.  I offer my condolences to each and every person who has lost a loved one.  My heart and my eyes flow with tears – tears or sorrow for all those who have lost loved ones.  And tears of gratitude for all those who put their lives at risk and saved lives.

I am proud to be a member of the human race. And with people such as Victoria Soto, Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach the human race if worth believing in and standing for.

In the context of relatedness/affinity it really takes something to say “No”


An insight into the machinery of being human

There is a certain joy that is present when I encounter someone who occurs as being a “fruit of the same tree”. There are only a handful of people that I know who show up that way in my world. As you can imagine these people occur as special and so the inclination (off the automatic machinery of being human) is to say yes to the invitations and their requests. Put bluntly, the automatic machinery (of being human) does not wish to put the relatedness/affinity at stake by saying “no”.

A person whom I like/admire/respect makes a request of me

This week such a person, a person who I like/admire/respect, reached out to me and requested an endorsement. Upon receiving this request I noticed surprise and delight: “Wow, this person considers me worthy of endorsing him.” As as I grappled with this request I found myself in a bind.

I felt torn between competing values and commitments. How do I honour the distinction “endorsement” (not devalue it) and at the same time take on the request made of me by friend? The issue was not an issue of the competence of my friend: I am confident that he is competent, highly competent. Rather, the issue is that I have never worked with my friend and as such I am not in a position to provide an endorsement without devaluing the endorsements that i have already given to people with whom I have worked.

The bigger issue underlying this issue was the fact that I did not wish to say “no” to the request and thus hurt the feelings of my friend. And I did not want to put our relationship at risk. I noticed the temptation to pretend that I had not received this request for an endorsement. So I did nothing for a couple of days.

Eventually, I chose to be authentic, to act in accordance with my stand. So I wrote back to my friend thanking him for his invitation to endorse him. I explained how I found myself in a difficult position. And I told him that I was choosing not to accept his invitation/request. Once I hit the send button I was at peace knowing that it will work out the way that it will work out. And, that both of us are big enough to be with what there is to be with.

Is there an insight here?

It takes courage to be true to our stand especially when it occurs to us that we are at risk in some way. And it is very deep caring and commitment to our stand which provides the courage to be and to do that which is in authentic alignment with our stand when our automatic machinery is yelling/screaming at us to take the short cut, to give in, to please, to not put self at risk.
I notice that self-respect and a sense of being powerful shows up when I am being in accordance with my stand. The opposite is also true for me: when I fail to be my stand then I notice a loss of power (in my being / showing up in the world) and self-esteem.

Is it possible that when I stand for that which I have chosen to stand for, and do that in a manner that honors the dignity of my fellow human beings, I am creating an opening, an invitation, for my fellow human beings to express their voice and stand for that which matters to them?

Alberto Casillas: an ordinary man takes an extrarodinary stand and becomes a national hero


 

 

“There were excessive police forces. I am for compliance with the law, but above the law, there is humanity. I did what I had to do, that’s all.”  Alberto Casillas

Occasionally, I read about, see and hear that which leaves me moved-touched-inspired. This week I came across the Alberto Casillas, an ordinary barman in Madrid, who took an extraordinary stand during the recent anti-austerity protests that took place in Spain.

Why did Alberto put himself at stake?  Why did he put himself between the riot police (not known for gentleness) and the anti-austerity demonstrators & customers that were in the restaurant/bar?  According to Alberto: to protect, to save lives.

The question that calls to me this one: what does it take to take the kind of stand that Alberto took?  It occurs to me it takes compassion-care-courage. And it is interesting to note that Alberto is being celebrated as a national hero.  You can read about it here.   I recommend watching the following short video:

I could leave it here and that would be fine.  Yet, it occurs to me that there is a deeper question here.  And for me, this question is: what does this disclose about the being of human beings?

It occurs to me that how people have responded to the being/doing of Alberto discloses that the being of human beings values and thus honors care-compassion-courage.  Does it unconceal anything more?  I say that it unconceals something about how we would like to be: compassionate-caring-courageous.

What else does it unconceal?  It is what you put into the world that contributes to the well being our fellow human being that counts.  Put differently, the people who will mourn you are the people whose lives you have touched through compassion-care-courage.