‘Finding’ And Generating The Extraordinary In The Ordinary


When I speak extraordinary you already know what it means.  It means stuff that is not everyday (ordinary) kind of stuff.  So an extraordinary life is one full of extraordinary events, extraordinary achievements, extraordinary possessions…. Right?

I invite you (and me) to park this way of thinking: to take of the clothes of fantasy (just for the duration of this conversation) and look at the way life is and is not.

Ponder, ask yourself, what is your living made up of?  Is it made up of extraordinary (wow!) moments?  Take a deep look at someone who is living an extraordinary life: an actor, a celebrity, a singer, a politician, a business superstar. What makes up the bulk of his/her life?

I say that even one who is deemed to live an extraordinary life finds that his life is filled with ordinary moments: waking up, taking a shower, brushing one’s teeth, dressing, eating breakfast, ‘travelling to the office’, working (even celebrities work!), talking with people, lunch, walking, reading, sex, loving, hating ……..

It occurs to me that one way of Playing BIG, really playing big, is getting present to the fact that life is made up, for the large part, of ordinary moments. And using this insight to live in a transformed way. How? By being present to, finding and/or generating the extraordinary in the ordinary.

What is it that I am pointing at when I speak of ‘finding-generating the extraordinary in the ordinary’?  Allow me to make that real for you and me, by sharing recent lived experiences:

1. I was out in the garden enjoying the sunshine and admiring the plants. A red robin appeared and perched on the branches of a red robin shrub!  I found myself delighted: just gazing with wonder at the beautiful creature. Suddenly the red robin took off and danced so beautifully in the air.  This graceful movement took my breath away.

2. We had a box of fresh vegetables (direct from local farm) delivered.  I washed the cherry tomatoes and bit into one. DELICIOUS!  Even now, as I am present to that experience, I notice that my mouth is salivating.

3. Lying outside in the garden with the sun on my the skin of self.  I notice that the sun is hot and getting hotter. Then the wind blows through the garden, the chimes sing, and I notice the kiss of the breeze on my skin. Wonderful – so soothing. And a little ticklish.  What a perfect world! That is the thought that hits me.

4. It is towards the end of the afternoon and the back garden is now in the shade. I get out the lawn mower and mow the lawn. It is hard work, I find myself sweating. I take off my t-shirt and continue mowing the lawn. Thirty minutes later I finish.  I find myself so pleased with myself. Why? The garden looks beautiful and this sense of order, of beauty, leaves me feeling peaceful and provokes joy.

5. I find myself listening-watching a course on Coursera. I find myself thinking what an amazing world: all this knowledge available on my phone, my tablet, my laptop. And it is totally free!

6. Reading Philip Gould’s book When I Die, I find myself deeply touched about that which he shares about his battle-experience of cancer.  I find myself laughing, I find myself crying. I find myself grateful that this man used his dying days to share his experience of cancer and provide hope for those of us battling cancer or other ‘diseases’.

7. I join the family in the kitchen. I am listening to my niece speaking about interviews and interviewing. Whilst listening I am doing my stretch exercises (‘bad’ back). Suddenly, I cannot stop myself laughing all the way from my stomach; Marco (son) is just made an insightful-witty remark as to what it would be like for someone to be in an interview with me. I am laughing so much that I have to stop my stretching exercise…..

It occurs to me that you/I can play BIG right now simply by being present the ordinary moment. And in so doing finding and/or generating the extraordinary within the ordinary.

I get that the voice in your head may be doubtful. Asking how it is that one finds-creates the extraordinary in the most ordinary of moments. This evening, I cleaned the sinks and toilets in my home. I experienced joy-delight. How so? I listened to beautiful music whilst cleaning. I danced whilst cleaning. And all the time I was present to this: I was in the process of bringing beauty into the world – for me and my family; and I was keeping my word to myself and my family which left me relating to myself as a person whose word counts.

I thank you for your listening. Live well. Experiment with being present to, finding and/or creating the extraordinary in the ordinary. I say you a life (a transformed living) to gain. And nothing to lose.

 

I leave you with this quote from Dan Millman’s The Peaceful Warrior:

There are no ordinary moments!

 

The Edge That Comes With Embracing Extraordinary ‘Projects’


What comes with stepping into and operating from an extraordinary context and/or taking on an extraordinary ‘project’ or possibility?

Two thoughts occurred to me above all others: first, how fortunate I was to be able to make myself so comfortable in an emergency…… And second, how little interest people showed in my bike compared with 1973. Back the everyone was curious; today a heavily laden motorcycle is commonplace, and I received little attention …..

Not that I craved the attention for its own sake but I remembered how it had helped me in the past to feel that I was doing something extraordinary, and how that feeling had given me an edge which made everything seem more significant. 

Ted Simon, Dreaming of Jupiter

An ‘extra-ordinary’ life is distinct from an extraordinary life


When I speak, I speak. When you listen, you listen to me speaking.  Yet, I live in my world – a unique world.  And you live in your world – a unique world.  Given that is the case how can I be sure that I have generated the understanding, the experience, that I intend with my  speaking?  And how can you be sure that what you have heard me say is what I actually spoke?

This speaking and the listening brought to the speaking is particularly troublesome when it comes to ideas like extraordinary.  So it is likely that some of you upon hearing me speak of an ‘extra-ordinary’ life or ‘extra-ordinary’ living will have collapsed this with extraordinary life and extraordinary living.   They are not the same, they are distinct.  Allow me to bring the distinction to life through a personal story.

When I was a child, before the age of 5, my life showed up as ‘extra-ordinary’ and there was nothing extraordinary about me or my life.  I grew up in a farming community in a poor part of Pakistani controlled Kashmir.  My mother was poor and we lived in a mud house.  We had just enough to eat.  I remember pleading with my mother for some milk which she would not give me because she sold it to buy stuff that she did not grow. The outward appearance was distinctly ordinary for that part of the world: one boy among many boys; one farmer’s dwelling just like many of the other dwellings in the area.

Yet, when I travel back in time and re-experience my life, at that age and in that place, it shows up as an ‘extra-ordinary’ life. I flowed with life and life flowed through me. In this ‘extra-ordinary’ living I don’t remember ever saying to myself “I am better or worse than someone else”.  And I don’t remember saying to myself “I am good/bad”.  I don’t remember saying to myself “There is something great/defective about me.” And I don’t remember thinking “I need to improve this/that about me.” I don’t remember saying “Something is missing.”  Nor do I remember saying “This is hard work”.  And I don’t remember saying to myself “I am bored, I need to find something to do”.  I don’t remember saying “This is a good person, this is a bad person.” Nor do I remember saying to myself “I am poor or we are poor.”  I am sure that I never said to myself “There is something wrong with my life.”

I do remember that some of the baby chicks that I loved and was responsible for feeding (water and food) died. I don’t remember saying “It is my fault. I am bad.” Nor do I remember saying “It is his/her fault for not giving me the water/food I needed to feed my baby chicks!”

I do remember being absorbed in living.   I remember getting up early and being occupied for the entire day and going to sleep exhausted.  I remember liking some people and not liking others – yet just getting on with them, with living.  I remember liking being with my dog and not liking my mother chaining my dog up and not letting me play with him.  I do remember joy in playing out all day.  And I do remember great sadness when some of my baby chicks died. I remember laughter (lots of it) especially when I was playing with my dog and my friends.  And I remember a waterfall of tears when I woke up to find my dog (my best friend) missing and not finding him day after day.  I remember that one day the tears dried up and I got busy being absorbed in life and living.

I hope that you have gotten the difference between ‘extra-ordinary’ living and extraordinary living.  You and I have the power to transform our experience of living from ‘ordinary’ to ‘extra-ordinary’ whilst living an ordinary life or an extraordinary life.

It occurs to me that so many of us are chasing that extraordinary life (of being the best, of being rich, of being looked up to, of pleasure….) and in the process we sacrifice the experience of ‘extra-ordinary’ living – the kind of living that I experienced in the first five years of my life.  And I say it is never too late to transform the quality of our lives – to shift from the chase of the extraordinary life to generating the experience of ‘extra-ordinary’ living.

Getting present to the ‘awe/wonder’of Existence


“Existence is infinite, not to be defined: and though it seem a bit of wood in your hand, to carve as you please, it is not to be lightly played with and laid down.”  Lao Tzu

I say that if you and I dive into this, really dive into it, our experience of our living is transformed.  To be present to the awe and the wonder of Existence is to move from ‘ordinary living’ to ‘extraordinary living’. Sometimes, when I am present to that which exists between my daughter and I, I am profoundly shaken.  She is my world. And she exists only because my wife had a miscarriage.  It could so easily have been otherwise.

In the West, Existence is no big thing.  Existence slipped into the background centuries ago and most of us are never present to the ‘awe’ of existence.   That the mountains are.  That oceans and rivers are.  That waterfalls are.  That rain is. That snows is.  That the wind is. That trees are.  That grass is.  That deserts are. That lions are.  That birds are.  That fish are……….That I am.  That you are.  That we are together as beings-in-the-world.  That feelings are.  That love is. That sadness is.  That laughter is.  That language is…….

How magnificent Existence is!

“Existence is infinite, not to be defined: and though it seem a bit of wood in your hand, to carve as you please, it is not to be lightly played with and laid down.”  Lao Tzu

If you need some help in getting present to the awe/wonder of Existence I recommend reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Conversation with a ‘condemned’ man: life is precious gift


On holiday in the l’isle de Re I came across many people.  Only one, Jean, grabbed my attention with the way of his being in the world.   It occurred to me that Jean was simply in the world making the most of being in the world.  He showed up as being ‘natural’ – just flowing like water flows without any need to make a statement nor to seek any approval/admiration from himself or others.  He occurred to me as  a person at peace with himself and the world.   Jean is retired/elderly (those are the facts) and yet he did not show up that way for me.  He showed up as being physically fit and youthful: his physique, his clothes, the way he carried himself, the car he drove…

What is Jean’s secret?

Was Jean always this way?  No.  He tells me that he was like everyone else going through the motions of living without being alive. He did not focus on what mattered, what called to him, what generated joy within him.  He would procrastinate.  He would let opportunities slip by.  He would let days idly slip by…..  He was immersed in ‘ordinary’ living and not even aware of it.

Then one day 20+ years ago he found he had cancer and that he was a condemned man – the cancer was going to kill him.  It was this death sentenced that freed him from his ‘ordinary’ life and opened the gate to his ‘extraordinary’ living.  This death sentence transformed his view of himself, of his relationships, of his life and his living.

What makes Jean show up as ‘extraordinary’?

Jean does not take life for granted like many/most of us do.  Jean does not complain/whine about life like many/most of us do.  To Jean, being alive is a privilege: life and living show up as precious gift that is not to be squandered. He is clear about who he is and who he is not. He is clear about what matters and what does not matter. He is clear what he likes to do/spend his time.  And being clear he acts on this clarity.  Jean is committed to living fully into and making the most of each day.  Today he thinks through how he wishes to spend tomorrow and when tomorrow comes he throws himself fully into it. Jean does not waste time on ‘surviving and fixing’, ‘making it’, ‘looking good, avoiding looking bad’………… He is too busy living an authentic life and thus has no time, no space, for the rubbish that goes with everyday, ordinary, inauthentic living. 

You and I cannot escape death; we are all condemned to die from the moment that we are born.  You and I can continue to ‘forget’ this inconvenient fact and go about ‘ordinary living’ with our addictions to ‘surviving and fixing’, ‘making it’ and ‘looking good avoiding looking bad’. Or we can live the way that Jean live where every day is a gift and what matters is to simply be one’s authentic self and put oneself fully into the game of life.

How about inventing and living from/living into the possibility of living ‘a life worth living’? 

What kind of a life shows up for you as being a ‘life worth living’ for you? Given that death is sitting on our shoulders ready to tap us and take us away, how long are you and I going to wait to live a ‘life worth living’?

An extraordinary understanding of and orientation towards responsibility: “I am cause in the matter of …”


The ordinary understanding / orientation of responsibility

What is my ordinary, taken for granted, understanding of and orientation towards responsibility?  I say that it is pretty much captured by the following definition:

  1. The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something.
  2. The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.

Is this a powerful place to stand? No. Who wants to be beholden to duty?  Doesn’t duty show up in my world as a burden?  A burden that is imposed on me by someone else?  Isn’t some element of the burden present even if I say I have a duty to do X and not Y? Looking into this further duty is given/imposed upon me by some outside authority including religion and culture.

Then there is the territorial orientation towards responsibility.  I particularly notice this at work where marking out territory and defending it can be and often is important.  Often the orientation is something like “This is my responsibility!” where the hidden message is I own this, it is my business and I don’t want you involved.  Or the orientation is that of “It’s not my responsibility!”  Either way the orientation is territorial.  And we use territory to assert ownership and exclude each other.

Who wants to leave himself open to blame, to criticism?  I don’t, I really don’t, I absolutely do not look forward to being criticised and even when I criticise myself I do not feel good.    Is it any surprise that many of us avoid responsibility and accountability as we wish to avoid being criticised, being blamed?  Isn’t my first response, your first response, something like “It’s not my responsibility.  It’s not my fault, I am not to be blame.  So leave me alone, let me be.”

Werner Erhard makes a great point. Blaming does not work.  Look there is spilt milk all over the floor.  How is blaming myself, or blaming you help with the situation?  No amount of blaming, responsibility pinning, is going to deal with the spilt milk.  The appropriate course of action is to mop up the milk!

Self-help orientation towards responsibility

If you read enough self-help literature you are going to come across the notion of ‘responsibility as response-ability’. That is the notion that between the stimulus (that which triggers your response) and your response (to that stimulus) you have a window of opportunity to choose your response.  That is you have the ability to choose your response.

Look into this deeply enough and you might just find that the phenomenon of stimulus-response is more complicated than that.  It is mood dependant.  When you and I are in the mood of being calm/relaxed then the window of opportunity is large enough to choose our response.  On the other hand if you and I are stressed, pre-occupied, grappling with our stuff, then the response to the stimulus is automatic.  Yes, we can unlearn this behaviour and it is likely that it takes many many hours of practice.

Werner Erhard: an extraordinary understanding / orientation towards responsibility

There is a radically different way of understanding and orienting oneself towards responsibility.  An understanding and orientation that leaves one in a powerful position.  Werner Erhard came up with and articulated this understanding.

The first point to make is that Werner Erhard’s definition/orientation is not a description of what is so. No, his orientation is generative.  What does it generate?  Possibility.  And a powerful place to stand when it comes to how your lives have turned out and how they can turn out in the future.   So what is Werner’s definition/orientation toward responsibility?

For any situation in our lives, in the world, I can freely take the stance: “I am responsible for……” as in “I am cause in the matter of…..”.   And in taking this stand I move from showing up as victim of the situation, or simply a bystander looking on the situation, to being someone who declares himself to be a causal agent, someone who has a say in the situation at hand and how it turns out

Let’s make this real. I have been experiencing disappointment, frustration, anger, bewilderment towards one my sons and how he behaves.  And we had a relationship that goes along with that: mainly one of ignoring one another.  I was clear that he is responsible for his behaviour, I am not responsible for it.  It is he who talks disrespectfully.   It is he who leaves stuff lying around the house.  It is he who walks into and all over the house with dirty shoes making a mess.  It is he who picks on his brother and sister simply because he is bored.  Standing in this ordinary orientation towards responsibility I was left feeling powerless, a victim of my son’s behaviour.  And I was wondering how it was that a child that I lavished love and attention upon turned out this way.

My wife provided the opening for me to get present to and take Werner Erhard’s orientation toward responsibility as regards my relationship with my son. She simply told me that my ‘bad behaviour’ shows up in the absence of relationship.  This got be present to taking the stance, freely/voluntarily, that “I am cause in the matter of my relationship with my son.  I have contributed to what is so.  And I have the power to influence how our relationship turns out.”  With this shift in orientation, I led, I became the causal agent.

I asked myself the question, what is missing the presence of which will make a difference here in my relationship to my son?  The answer was simple, spend 1 to 1 time with him doing what we both enjoy doing.  And give up blaming my son. Since then I have been playing pool with my son several times a week, we have gone to the cinema, we have played badminton and we have cooked together.  Interestingly, I notice that mutual affection and respect is present.  Two days ago my son said “You know Papa you don’t have to do so much for me, I know that you love me”.

Summing up

Coming to grips with and living from Werner’s articulation of responsibility, as in the sense “I am cause in the matter of…”, is fundamental pillar of living an extraordinary life. This understanding, this orientation, allows me/you/us to move from a position of resignation (I can do nothing, I have to put up with life) to one of authorship/leadership (I have a say in how the situation is and how it turns out).  And this shift from resignation to authorship/leadership/causal agent makes all the difference to my experience of living and your experience of living in this world that we co-create and inhabit together.

Want to live an ‘extraordinary’ life and show up as leader? Then get to grips with and live from the following distinctions and insights


Ordinary living: we play ‘victim’, we avoid responsibility for what is so and what is not so, we are left complaining

Engaged in a conversation on leadership, my partner in this conversation asked something like “What is the cause of poor leadership and how is it that poor leaders stay in power?”  I replied something like “Us”, he looked puzzled so I continued “I am the cause, you are the cause, we are the cause!”  This response took him by surprise.  So I continued “By following ‘poor leaders’ we tell these leaders that they are ok, their leadership style is ok. And as such we encourage them to continue being who they are being and doing what they are doing.  We are the cause of poor leaders and poor leadership”

He got it instantly and dropped the conversation – the ‘complaint’ around/about poor leaders stopped instantly.  I saw that my partner got access to the ‘truth’ and that this ‘truth’ opened his eyes and set him free – free from his ‘complaint’.   This got me thinking that it is time for me to share, with you, some powerful distinctions and insights which are the pillars of this blog.

‘Extraordinary’ living: what is the access to living powerfully, living a transformed life?

The access to ‘playing BIG’, living powerfully, living an ‘extraordinary’ life and generating a transformation in the quality of  living requires that one creates a map of the territory (of our lives, the situations we find ourselves in, the world at large) that is both ‘accurate’ and which leaves one being an ‘author’ rather than a character (or characters) in the play of Life.

Let’s listen, profoundly, to a master of living – Werner Erhard. Why?  Because you want to have your life work.  Right?  Because you understand that you only get one go at living and you want that living to count.  Right?  Because you don’t simply want to live you want to feel ALIVE. Right?  If that does not resonate with you then stop reading and go do something else.  If it does then stop everything, be silent, be present and soak in the mind-blowing insight / wisdom that Werner Erhard unconceals for us.  Why?  Because you and I are locked inside the prison of ordinary living and Werner is giving us the keys to our freedom, to living an ‘extraordinary’ life.

Responsibility: is the access to being powerful and living an ‘extraordinary’ life?

“Responsibility is not burden, fault, praise, blame, credit, shame or guilt.  All of these include judgments of good and bad, right and wrong, or better and worse.  They are not responsibility.

Responsibility starts with the willingness to experience your Self as cause in the matter……  Responsibility starts with the willingness to deal with the situation from the point of view, whether in the moment realised or not, that you are the source of who you are, what you do and what you have.  This point of view extends to include even what is done to you and ultimately what another does to another.  Ultimately, responsibility is a context – a context of Self as source – for the content, i.e., for what is.”   Werner Erhard

Wow!  Do you get that?  Responsibility is a choice.  It is a choice that only you can make.  It is gift that only you can give yourself.  Why is it a gift?  Because choosing to view yourself and operate from the context ‘I matter, I have a say in how I am being, how I live, how the world works, how the world turns out’ transforms your being, your experience of yourself and your living.  It moves you from being a ‘victim’ and ‘complaining’ to a creator of possibilities, the Director of the play called ‘My Life, My World’ and this leaves you being powerful (powerful as opposed to forceful)  in the world.  It is really important that you get the distinctions ‘context’ and ‘content’.

Accountability: the access to joy, fearlessness, energy and satisfaction?

“Accountability is the opportunity to live at choice rather than accidentally.  Accountability is the opportunity to carve out a future rather than sit back and have it happen to you.  Accountability held as stand ‘as one’s word’ is the ground from which one’s own transformation is created ongoingly.   Transfomation lives in accountability.  Without accountability, without committed speaking, without promises and declarations, there is no transformation…..

A promise has real power.  A promise made from the stand that ‘who you are is your word’, engages you as a participantYou cease to be a spectator, and your words become actions that impact the world.  With a promise you create a condition that supports your commitment rather than your moods.  When motivational dialog comes up about your preferences versus your commitments, and you disregard the dialog in favour of doing what you said you would do solely because you said so, you distinguish yourself from your psychology.  In that moment you are your word as an action, rather than only an idea you have.  In that moment, the promise becomes who you are rather than something you said and your relationship to the world shifts.  You find yourself producing results that seem discontinuous and unpredictable from the point of the view of the spectator.   The experience is one of joy, fearlessness, irrepressible energy and satisfaction. ”  Werner Erhard

If you get this, really get this then you, your living, how you show up in the world, your experience of living will never be as it was before you read this.  If you didn’t get it that way then go back and read it again – read it out aloud to yourself, read it slowly savouring the words.  Let the words sink in.  If after that you are still left untouched then move on:  the master will appear when the student is ready – always.

Integrity:  why it matters and the price we pay when we give it up

“You and I go through life and you would be surprised how much of the time, in life, the question, ‘How can I live and have integrity at the same time?‘ is present.  It’s very difficult for people to live with integrity.  Usually, there seems to be a conflict between integrity and living.  The fact is that you give up your life when you compromise integrity.”  Werner Erhard

Be careful how you read this because when Werner speaks ‘Integrity’ he is not speaking what you are most likely to be thinking he is speaking.  When Werner speaks ‘Integrity’ he is not referring to morals and virtues – being a ‘good person’ or a ‘upstanding citizen’.  No.  Werner is pointing out / speaking on the subject of wholeness; the match between your word, your being and your actions; the fit between who you hold yourself out to be for yourself and the world and how you show up in terms of your being, doing and having If I say “I am going to drive over to your home and smash your car tomorrow!” and then tomorrow I drive over and smash you car then in a sense I am in Integrity.  Yet, it is not as simple as that.  If I declare myself to be “kind, calm, considerate and law abiding citizen” then I am out of Integrity when I say “I am going to drive over to our home and smash your car tomorrow!”

Making a difference: what does it take to make a difference?

“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

There it is!  If you and I are serious, as in moved-touched-inspired, about making a difference in the world then Werner has left us nowhere to hide.  Werner is telling us that we have the capacity to make a difference and to make a difference we simply have to quit ‘playing small’ – quit making excuses, quite playing ‘victim’, quite being small in life.

Summing it up

You and I want our lives to work.  You and I want the ‘world to work’.  What does it take, what is the access having a a life that works and a world that works?  The access, according to Werner Erhard as I understand Werner Erhard, is Responsibility, Accountability and being in Integrity – as explained in this post not as commonly understood and spoken about in our day-to-day living.

Incidentally, when you live into and from these distinctions, and the context that is intimately associated with these distinctions, then you will show up as a leader.  Showing up as a leader in the world is simply a side effect of living from/out of Responsibility, Accountability and Integrity.