Play BIG By Granting Yourself Permission To Be Fractured/Broken


My parents were great at beating me up. How so? By pointing out where I failed to match their expectations. My school teachers were great at beating me up. How so? My pointing out where I failed to meet their standards? In the business world, my managers have been great at beating me up. How so? By pointing out my deficiencies / weaknesses during the appraisal process.

It worked. Over the course of time I became a master of beating myself. Never content to be and to enjoy that which I have. Always striving to do (more, different), become (more, better, different) and look like I have it all together (for myself, for others).

One day I got it. I gave myself permission to be, including the permission to be broken, imperfect.  Someone told me that I lacked ambition. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to be not-ambitious”. Someone told me that some work project had not turned out to her satisfaction. I found myself saying “I take full responsibility”. Someone charged me being selfish. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to be selfish”.  Someone told me that which I write at The Customer & Leadership Blog has typos. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to make mistakes including typos.” The response was something like “But you will taint your personal brand!”. I found myself saying “I give myself permission to be ok with a tainted personal brand.”

I give myself permission to be. It occurs to me that giving oneself the permission to be is the access to freedom. It is liberation from the tyranny of the “should”: I should be this, not that. This is not popular with the many who seek to shape me to their image of who I should be through their “should”.  Yet, I notice that when I grant myself permission to be, I grant myself peace.

I leave you with words of wisdom:

“It’s a naked thing to show we are fractured, the we do not have it all together. Broken all the way through to the bottom. What freedom that is, to be what we are in the moment, even if it’s unacceptable…..

Think about it. We are always doing a dance – I’m good,  I’m this, I’m that. Rather than the truth – I don’t know who I am. Instead, we scurry to figure it out. We write another book, buy another blouse, exhaust ourselves. Imagine the freedom to let it be, this not-knowing. How vulnerable. This is why I love the attendant. He said who he was – a broken man …. When his teacher asked for more, the monk didn’t do a jig to win him over. There was no more. Usually, we will do anything to cover up a reality so naked.”

– Natalie Goldberg, The Best Buddhist Writing 2008

It occurs to me that when I granted myself permission to be, I did not just grant myself peace, I also granted myself power.  That is another conversation, for another day.

What Is Our Fundamental Nature? Is It All Made Up?


What is our essence, our nature, human nature?

If there is one question that truly matters and thus pervades our existence it is the question concerning human nature: what is our essence, our nature, human nature?

essence
ˈɛs(ə)ns/
noun
  1. 1.
    the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character.
    “conflict is the essence of drama”

There are no shortage of answers. It occurs to me every speaker who speaks on the essence of human nature is convinced that there is a such a thing as human nature. And that he/she has the right answer:

  • Some say that human nature is selfish and competitive. In this school of thought even altruistic acts are recast and explained as selfish.  Others say that human nature is fundamental kind, altruistic, cooperative.
  • Look underneath western management and you will find the taken for granted truth that human beings are fundamentally lazy and will do the least work they can get away with: theory X.  Then there are others who say that human beings are eager to learn, to improve their condition, to contribute and do work – as long as the works shows up as meaningful, worth doing.
  • There are those who say that essence of human beings is reason and rationality.  And others who say with equal conviction that the essence of human beings is emotion/affect.
  • Some say that our essence is to pair bond and live in monogamous relationships. Others say that the polygamous relations are more in tune with nature and the imposition of monogamous relationships has come about through the white man’s domination of the world.

Who has generated the right answer to the essence of human nature?

I don’t know and I have little interest in debating right-wrong.

What I can share with you is the insight that hit me when I was around 8 years of age. To make sense of this insight it is worth pointing out that I was born in the East into a muslim culture. And at the age of 5 I arrived in the UK with my mother and younger brother. So by the age of 8, I had been living a dual existence: one way of thinking-living at school (the English way) and other way of thinking-living at home (the Pakistani Muslim way).  What was this insight?

The insight that struck me forcefully, which blew away my confusion-bewilderment, which set me free was this: “It’s all made up!”  

Once I got this, I got that I was free to choose the practices, from each culture, that worked best for me. As a result I chose not to have an arranged marriage.  I also choose not to drink for the sake of drinking – just to show that I am a man and be one of the boys ……

What is a great place to stand in relation to the question of human nature?

Back to the question of human nature: what is our human nature?  What is natural to us, our essence?  What is not natural to us, not in line with our essence? Heidegger, the 20th century philosopher and some say one of the two most important philosophers of the 20th century, says:

“The ‘essence’ of Dasein lies in its existence.”

– Heidegger

If you do not have background in philosophy then what Heidegger is getting at may not be clear. So allow me to share, what shows up for me as, the most pithy insight into the human condition:

“Custom is our nature”

– Blaise Pascal (1632 – 1662)

Put simply, human beings don’t have a fixed nature, we do not have an essence. We are shaped by the cultural practices (customs) into which we are born. This shaping starts from the moment of our birth (possibly earlier) and happens without our consent.  By the time we are in a position to think for ourselves our nature has already been shaped-moulded towards a certain style of being-living, and away from other styles of being-living.

I say that this is a great place to stand in relation to my nature, your nature, human nature. Why? By taking this stand we liberate ourselves and our fellow human beings.  If you/i stand and operate from this stance then we get that you/i can shape our nature (no matter what we say it is today) by who we live amongst and what we do and do not do. Put differently, if i/you want to change our natures we simply have to change our customs. Furthermore, in this stand you get that a powerful access to influencing others is to effect changes in customs.

Summing Up

Please remember: Its all made up! If you stand in “It’s all made up!” then you are in a place to remake it – all of it. When you get this, really get this, then I say your experience of yourself, and of life, is transformed. 

‘Whole-Complete-Perfect’: Is This The Most Fundamental and Powerful Choice?


When you and I came forth from this world we came forth naked.  Totally naked: without any and all labels.  No name, no gender, no nationality, no religion, no politics…

So how did you and I end up with such a strong identity?  An identity that grips us.  An identity that permeates us.  More accurately, identity that is us.  It simply happened didn’t it as we travelled through the years with people, from one place to another?  Would it be correct to say that the foundations of my identity, your identity, our identity was solidly in place before you and I were in a place to choose, to discriminate, to accept or decline the garments of identity thrust upon us by our parents, family, caregivers?

I ask you to take a good look at the core of your identity?  What do you see?  Do you see ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘American’, ‘Brit’, ‘christian’, ‘muslim’, ‘atheist’, ‘painter’, ‘mom’, ‘CEO’, ‘marketer’….?  Please go and look beyond that.  What do you see?

If you look deep enough and have the courage to see, to listen, I say that you are most likely to find that the core of your identity is that of ‘being defective’.  Is that not our common humanity at the most fundamental level?  You and I see ourselves as ‘defective’, as ‘not good enough’, as ‘something is wrong about me’. Right?  I get that my version of defective may be that ‘I am not good looking’ and that ‘my body is weak’ and that ‘stupid’. Your identity might be that  you are ‘too tall’, ‘too fat’, ‘too shy’, ‘not considerate enough’, ‘poor’…  Do you notice that the details differ and the bigger game is the same between us?  I am defective: I am not whole, I am not complete, I am not perfect.

You and I were born without identity, born naked of all labels, born naked full stop. Naked! So how did you go from no identity, and the lightness and freedom that goes with that, to carrying the huge burden that goes with operating from the stance ‘I am not whole, not complete, not perfect’?  We were programmed.  Why? So that we would fit in with the existing order.  So that we would better comply with the wishes of those more powerful than us. Right?

How is it working out?  Put differently, what is the experience of my life, your life, lived from the context of ‘not whole, not complete, not perfect’?  It is that of looking for all kinds of way to be whole, be complete, be perfect.  That is what all the self-help books are about, right?  That is what all the status brands and conspicuous consumption is about, right?  That is what all the pre tense of being perfect and having a perfect life is all about, right?

I say to me, to you, to us, what fools we are!  We can simply give up the game.  We can give it up right now, just like that.  How exactly?  Notice, that we were born naked, without labels, without identity.  Notice, that identity is a choice.  You and I can choose to live from another identity, another context.  Which one?  Where I declare myself as ‘whole-complete-perfect’,  and you declare yourself as ‘whole-complete-perfect’.  Let’s not stop there.  Let’s declare all of our fellow human beings ‘whole-complete-perfect’.

Imagine how life would show up if you and I did declare ourselves as ‘whole-complete-perfect’.  Imagine how life would be if you and I declared each and every human being as ‘whole-complete-perfect’.  Not as a truth but as an identity that we give ourselves. And as a stand from which we show up and operate from this world.  When we relate to ourselves and our fellow human beings as ‘whole-complete-perfect’ a totally new dimension of conversation and action shows up for us; you, me, everyone.  We stop being small! We are free to be BIG: to give wings to our dreams, to act on the world, to co-create a world that works, a world that is wonderful for us all.

Given that we come forth naked of identity, why is it that we have not been conditioned to believe and operate from stand-identity of being at our most fundamental level ‘whole-complete-perfect’?  If we had been conditioned that way, we would operate as ‘gods’ right?  What if those that condition don’t want ‘gods’ and instead want ‘slaves’ who do not know that they are enslaved?  Then giving us the identity of being ‘defective and weak’ would make perfect sense.  So I say choose: slave or god.

Still convinced that you know yourself?  Still convinced that you are defective, small, weak, and powerless? I invite you to watch the following video: