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 Myth of Scarcity: More Is Better

Today, I am continuing on from the last post where I started this conversation on scarcity and shared Lynne Twist speaking as spoken in The Soul Money.

“Toxic Myth 2: More Is Better

The second toxic myth is that more is better. More of anything is better than what we have. It’s the logical response if you fear that there is not enough, but more is better drives a competitive culture of accumulation, acquisition and greed that only heightens fear and quickens the pace of the race……..

In truth, the rush for more distances us from experiencing the deeper value of what we acquire or already have.”

Let’s just consider food. When was the last time you and I actually were present with the food that we were eating? Did you an I really notice-appreciate the texture-taste of the food and the movement of the mouth and teeth? I have fasted for the last month. And I can say that during this month I appreciated ALL that I ate and drank. And that was so totally  different to my experience when I was eating and drinking whatever I wanted when I wanted it.

Let’s continue to listen to Lynne as she talks about the toxic myth of more is better:

“More is better distracts us from living more mindfully and richly with what we have.

More is better is a chase with no end and a race without winners…… no matter how far you go, or how fast, or how many other people you pass up, you can’t win. In the mindset of scarcity even too much is not enough……Some of the people with fortunes enough to last three lifetimes spend their days and nights worrying about losing money on the stock market, about being ripped off or conned or not having enough for their retirement.

The chase of more is better ……. saps our energy, erodes our opportunities for fulfilment. When we buy into the promise that more is better, we can never arrive. Wherever we are, it is never enough because more is always better. People who follow that credo…….which is all of us to some degree, are doomed to life that is never fulfilled.

More is better misguides us in a deeper way. It leads us to define ourselves by our financial success and external achievements. We judge others based on what they have and how much they have, and miss the immeasurable inner gifts they bring to life……….In the pursuit of more we overlook the fullness and completeness that are already within us waiting to be discovered. 

The belief that we need to possess, and possess more than the other person or company or nation, is the driving force for much of the violence and war, corruption and exploitation on Earth.

The unquestioned, unchecked drive for more fuels an unsustainable economy, culture, and way of being that has failed us by blocking access to the deeper, more meaningful aspects of our lives and ourselves.”

In the next post, I will share with you Lynne’s third and final toxic myth. She says that this third myth is the one with most grip and it occurs to me that she is correct. Until then be great.

I took the road less travelled and it really did make a difference.

The story

Sitting in the car travelling east on the M61 to meet a friend that I have not seen for some time.  Eager to honour my word – to arrive at 6pm – leave from parents home with a fifteen minute margin.  Grateful to my brother for fantastic job he’s done on servicing/valeting the car – it sparkles, it drives well.  Looking forward to spending time with friend – has been many years since we last talked openly and shared a meal together.

Signpost says there are long delays on M62 junctions 20 and 24 due to accident.  Wondering “Does it impact me?” as it could on the western route or the eastern route.  Hit the M62 traffic flows and then hits me that accident, that delay is on route and will impact me.  Frustration, annoyance shows up – why me, why today?   Temptation to stay on M62 is strong: have travelled this route many times and don’t know how else to get there!  Nonetheless, turn off at the first exit before the blockage – part of me gets that is the wisest choice.

Driving along the slip road and a roundabout shows up. Many exits, which exit to take?  Take one, find place to stop, get SatNav out, enter in destination, wait, route is calculated.  Remaining 30 miles will take hour and half instead of 30 minutes – will be late.  Annoyed.  Make call to friend and leave message so she knows what is so and how it is likely to turn out. Put myself in the hands of the SatNav.

The road is dirt track, no other cars travelling on it, pot holes everywhere, drive slowly.  “Am I on the right road?  Is this a dead end?  Has SatNav got it wrong?”  Uncertainty and vulnerability is generating fearful thoughts.  Plough in – trust that it will all work out, can be with whatever shows up.  Soon driving on a proper road.  Relief.  All is well for 10 minutes or so then end up on built up areas of local town.  So different from my world – town is dirty, poor, signs of neglect everywhere, was really something during Industrial Revolution and now looks like Detroit.

Frustration, annoyance and anger are all present:  built up areas, 30mph speed limit, traffic lights everywhere, traffic, stop, start, not getting anywhere.  “It’s not fair, why me, why trapped here in hell?” Towns, cities, built up areas don’t speak to me.  Nonetheless an angel is present and speaks “Be with what is and what is not.  Be patient.  Accept world just as it is and just as it is not.  That is freedom:  being with what is and what is not is the access to authentic freedom!”  Now relaxed, no hurry, simply taking in the scenery, listening to the music on the radio.

Suddenly, road leaves town centre behind and starts to wind and climb up.  One bend after another, climbing, car struggles, change down a gear. Arrive at top of big hill, look down and this thought shows up “Wow, how beautiful!”  Countryside everywhere: rolling hills, country road, no traffic, clear roads, now travelling at 50mph.  “”Wow, how beautiful to be so high up, here in God’s country!  What luck.  If it had not been for the accident, the traffic jam, this world would never have been disclosed to me!”

Joy is present, wonder/awe is present, peace is present whilst driving on the ideal road for me – one that snakes around from side to side and up and down. Water!  Lake?  Reservoir?  Stop car by side of road.  Get out and just look – really look at the sunshine hitting the water and the wind caressing the water – water is rippling.  How beautiful!

What fun, what joy, what beauty, how wonderful the experience of driving is.  Have not traveled on this kind of road for a long time.  Then another ‘lake/reservoir” shows up.  “Wow.  This is the body of water that has shown up many times on my travels on the M62.  Each time wanting to get off M62 to take a closer look.  This time, today, that closer look is taking place.

Travelling along the Pennines, time no longer matters, just joy of driving and being here right now.   Suddenly it ends just as abruptly as it began – now travelling in the suburbs of a city.  Joy and gratitude are still present.  Drive slowly, calmly and fifteen minutes or so later the car sits on my friends drive.

What is the meaning of this story?

Life is simply more fun on the road less travelled.  And the price is the willingness to be with fear, uncertainty, doubt, vulnerability, fear, frustration, annoyance, resentment and even anger.   A glitch in the matrix of everyday life showed up in my life and awoke me from the slumber of the everyday.  Having awoken, taking responsibility, handling fear, chose the road less traveled.  And that made all the difference – an experience that will be with me always.  An experience that shows me that the ‘unexpected’ can be gift, an access to see that which is hidden, to experience that which has not been experienced, to grow. 

On the road less travelled it helps to have the right tools: what would have showed up, what would the experience be like if the SatNav had not been present to take care of working out the route?

Insights into self: self and built areas simply do not go together naturally/effortlessly; self, countryside, rolling hills, mountains, lakes, rivers, ocean go together perfectly.  Home, for me, is the natural world, the natural landscapes.  Leave towns, cities, shopping malls, built up areas to fellow human beings who find joy in them.

Final thought

Isn’t the essence of possibility, leadership and transformation the willingness, the determination, the commitment to envision, communicate and travel the road less travelled?  Sometimes one creates the opening and sometimes the opening shows up and one simply has to step into it.