Playing BIG Necessarily Involves Becoming Masterful at Story


If you, or I, wish to play BIG then it is essential that one understands, deeply, the following:

  • Reality (that which is – void of language) v the Story (that which has been invented by humans);
  • Event (that which has occurred) v the Story one tells (to oneself, to others) about that which occurred; and
  • That the way out of Story (the default story) is through Story. (the story that one constructs thoughtfully).

Distinguishing Reality From Story

Let’s start with this passage from Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

‘It’s completely natural,’ I say, ‘to think of Europeans who believed in ghosts or Indians who believed in ghosts as ignorant people. The scientific point of view has wiped out every other view….It’s just all but completely impossible to imagine a world where ghosts can actually exist.’

‘My own view is that the intellect of modern man isn’t that superior….Modern man has his ghosts and spirits too, you know…”

‘Laws of nature are human inventions, like ghosts. Laws of logic, of mathematics, are also human inventions, like ghosts. The whole blessed thing is a human invention, including the idea that it isn’t a human invention…..It’s run by ghosts. We see what we see because these ghosts show it to us, ghosts of Moses and Christ and the Buddha, and Plato, and Descartes, and Rousseau and Jefferson and Lincoln, on and on and on…..Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past…”

What is it that we, human beings, excel at?

  • Inventing stories, telling stories, listening/being seduced by stories (Culture, Religion, Science, Politics, Business…); and
  • Forgetting that these stories are human inventions and thus mistaking Story (our inventions) for Reality (that which is void of language).

So the way out of the cage of Story (Scientific worldview, Culture, Religion, Tribe….) starts with being aware and mindful of our automatic tendency to live in/from Story.  And then doing something about this. Doing what?  Work with you through this conversation and you will find this out.

Distinguishing Event From Story

December 2018, I am on the phone with an ex-colleague, a friend, and a person whom I admire, and to whom I am grateful.  It became clear to me that he was somewhat troubled. By what?  Ex-colleagues of his (and mine) with the same abilities/experience (or less) had gone on to bigger roles in other companies.  Whilst this colleague-friend was operating pretty much at the same level he had been operating at for many years.

Let’s take a look at this matter through the Event v Story distinction. What Event/s occurred? He learned that some of his ex-colleagues were now in senior-ish roles in other companies. What is the Story that he found himself entrapped inside of?  Something like this: “I used to be the same (or more senior) as these colleagues. Now I am less than them.  Is there something wrong with me?  Am I letting myself down by not being hungry/ambitious?  Will I regret that I did not strive for me whilst I have it in me to strive for me and get more?  Am I a failure?”

Do you see the difference between Event and Story?  Event is simply that which occurred –  in this case, colleagues had gone to other companies and landed senior-ish roles. Story is that which this ex-colleague-friend had made this Event mean about himself, others, the world.  Pure invention.

The Way Out of Story is  Always Through Story!

When it comes to Story we can invent anything! We are constrained only by our imagination.  So here’s the story I invented for my ex-colleague/friend:

“Where are you working from today? Home right. And for most of the time, you get to work from home right? So you are not wasting 2 hours+ traveling to work. And so avoiding all the hassle that goes with that. Right? Whereas many people aren’t given this choice.  So you are on to a good thing. And yet, from time to time, you get to travel to interesting places – like your work/travel to the USA this year.  So you get the best of both worlds! Right?

Let’s take a look at your financial situation. You are in your 40s yet are earning more than £100k.  And, let’s be honest, this is easy money. You know and I know that the work that you do you can do almost in your sleep.  So you are earning over £100k without breaking a sweat.  Right?  What does this mean for non-work life?  Doesn’t it mean that you have plenty of time/energy/money to do that which you love to do?

Do you need more money? No, right?  You are earning. Your partner is earning. You do not have children. And you go on expensive holidays to wherever you want, as often as you want within your holiday entitlement. Right?  How many people get to do this?  How many people would die for that which you take for granted?

So, if you say/insist that success is having the title (seniority) and possibly the money and stress that goes with that then yes you are right: you are not successful.  And so I can get why it is that you are questioning your worth.

However, if, like me, you say that success is living a balanced life where you have time, energy, money, and people who matter around you then you are a success!  An unquestionable success.  And, there is so much for you to be grateful for.

So now, it’s up to you to choose the Story that you are going to embrace and live from. The Story you have shared with me. The Story that I have just shared with you.  Or a third Story – one that you will invent for yourself as a result of this conversation between us.”

So my ‘friend’ if you have stuck with me in this conversation, I ask you to invent for yourself a Story that leaves you in a position of power to be the kind of person you wish to be, and to live the kind of life you wish to live.  You do not have to settle for the Story that has been handed down to you, and within you find yourself entrapped. You can break out of this cage.

I thank you for listening and wish you the very best. Until the next time….

Play Big: Embrace The Truth of Human Existence


I have been reading the book Man for Himself by Erich Fromm.  There is one passage which resonates with me. And this is the passage I wish to share with you as it occurs to me that it gets to the heart of playing BIG in my/your living.

Man can react to historical contradictions by annulling them through his own action; but he cannot annual existential dichotomies, although he can react to them in different ways. He can appease his mind by soothing and harmonising ideologies. He can try to escape from his inner restlessness by ceaseless activity in pleasure or business. He can try to abrogate his freedom and turn himself into an instrument of powers outside of himself, submerging himself in them.  But he remains dissatisfied, anxious, and restless.

There is only one solution to his problem: to face the truth, to acknowledge is fundamental aloneness and solitude in a universe indifferent to his fate, to recognise that there is no power transcending him which can solve his problem for him.Man must accept the responsibility for himself and the fact that only by using his own powers can he give meaning to his life.  

But meaning does not imply certainty; indeed the quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning.  Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.

If he faces the truth without panic he will recognise that there is no meaning to life except the meaning  man gives his life by unfolding  of his powers, by living productively; and that only constant vigilance, activity, and effort can keep us from failing in the one task that matters – the full development of our powers within the limitations  set  by the laws of our existence.

Man will never cease to be perplexed, to wonder, to raise new questions. Only if he recognises the human situation, the dichotomies inherent in his existence and his capacity to unfold his powers, will he be able to succeed in his task: to be himself and for himself and to achieve happiness by the full realisation of those faculties which are peculiarly his – of reason, love, and productive work.

I invite you to grapple with the speaking of Erich Fromm. I invite you (and me) to take responsibility – right this moment – for our living and our lives.  It is a BIG ask which is why it is only for those up for playing BIG.

Until the next time….

How To Show Up & Travel Powerfully


What is power? What is to live – as in show up and travel – powerfully? Is it a matter of holding unshakeable convictions?  Is it about being right and never being wrong or admitting you were wrong?  Is it about being able to dominate folks and get them to do what you want them to do?  Is about being able to bend nature/life to your will?  Is it about belonging to the biggest nation, religion, corporation, club, tribe?

Have you come to a conclusion?  Yes? Great. No? Think further and come to a conclusion. Now that you have come to a conclusion I invite you to read and grapple with the following perspective on power and living powerfully:

When all is said and done there is only one definition of power that has any authentic meaning for man. We have seen …. that man is the animal in evolution who lives a series of paradoxes on which is distinctive humanity is based. So much so that we can say that his fate is to live in the teeth of paradoxes. For an animal with such fate, what would his distinctive strength be? 

It would have to be the ability to support contradictions, ambiguities, since his own distinctive nature is based on them and is rife with them. Power for man …… is the ability to support contradictions, nothing less. 

It is amazing how we misread reality, how we see power in all the wrong places, all the wrong forms, forms which have nothing to do with our distinctive problems. We think we see power in the people with sure beliefs, unshakeable convictions, smug self-confidence. Yet these are psychological weaknesses on a planet which is fluid and full of surprises.  We think we see power in the ability to dominate and coerce others. Yet history has taught us that power inevitably makes a slave of and destroys the manipulator whether it be a man or a nation. We think we see power in numbers, in the deafening chorus of mass enthusiasms and the solid wall of shared opinions. Yet history daily teaches us that nature has no respect for even unanimous misperception of reality, and she has the coldest equanimity for the enthusiasms that carry whole populations into rapture…..

Such power for man must be, of course, an ideal, and an unattainable one – yet the whole sense of human life is a struggle in that direction.”

– Ernest Becker, The Birth and Death of Meaning

 

If you truly get what Ernest Becker is getting at then you will find a new space of freedom opening up for you.  How so? You can accept the messiness of life: the contradictions, the ambiguities, the reversals…  You can accept these in yourself, in others, in nature, in human living.

What is there left to say?  To say thanks – thanks to each and everyone that continues to subscribe to this blog. And to wish each of you the very best living – living powerfully – in 2016, and beyond.

 

 

 

Bruce Lee’s Wisdom For Living Well & Playing Big


Until recently, I had known and related to Bruce Lee as a martial artist and as an actor. It turns out that he was much more. He was also someone who looked deeply into life.  Today I share with you some of his wisdom.

Truth Is Outside All Fixed Patterns

Conditioning is to limit a person within the framework of a particular system. All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns. 

The Problems Of Belief

Belief binds, belief isolates. An established set style. Chained down. In bondage. Bound. It can never comprehend the new, the fresh, the uncreated. The means destroy the freshness, the newness, the spontaneous discovery. 

Slaves To Patterns

Because one does not want to be disturbed, to be made uncertain, he establishes a pattern of conduct, of thought, a pattern of relationship to man, etc. Then he becomes a slave to the pattern and takes the pattern to be the real thing.

Tradition Enslaves

Classical methods and tradition make the mind a slave – you are no longer an individual, but merely a product. Your mind is a result of a thousand yesterdays. 

The classical man is just a bundle of routines, ideas, and expressed tradition. When he acts, he is translating every living moment in terms of the old. 

Organisations and Systems Produce Prisoners Of Concepts

I no longer am interested in systems or organisation. Organised institutes tend to produce patternized prisoners of a systematised concept, and the instructors are often fixed into a routine. Of course what is worse is that by imposing the members to fit a lifeless preformation, their natural growth is blocked.

Growth and Self Expression Lie Outside of Methods, Patterns, Styles and Systems

Man is constantly growing and when he is bound by a set pattern of ideas, or ‘Way’ of doing things, that’s when he stops growing. 

True observation begins when one is devoid of set patterns; freedom of expression occurs when one is beyond system

The Creating Individual Is More Important Than Any System

The individual is of first importance, not the system. Remember that man created method and not that method created man, and do not strain yourself twisting into someone’s preconceived pattern, which unquestionably would be appropriate for him, but not necessarily for you….Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system. 

On Liberating Oneself And Living Powerfully

Use no way as a way. When there is a ‘Way’ therein lies the limitation. And when there is a circumference it traps. And if it traps, it rots. And if it rots, it’s lifeless. 

You cannot hurt that which is formless. The softest thing cannot be snapped and emptiness cannot be defined

Source: Striking Thoughts, Bruce Lee’s Wisdom For Daily Living.

 

 

 

 

 

Who Am I? Who Are You?


What Kind Of A Being Is A Human Being?

There are so many lenses through which you/i can look at this question and answer it:

– We can look at it through the Judeo-Christian lens: a human being is fashioned in the likeness of God and is here to create something like a paradise on earth.

– We can look at it through the enlightenment lens: man is the rational being who defines himself through his ability to exercise reason and act on the basis of reason as opposed to dogma/superstition.

– We can look at this question through the psychoanalytic lens: man is never ending interplay of dynamic forces arising from the ‘id’, the ‘superego’, and the ‘ego’.

– We can look at it through the sociological lens: man is a social being who always exist in a social context and whose way of showing up in the world is fashioned by the social context – particularly the culture in which he grew up.

For my part, I find myself drawn to the following way of defining a human being: Man is the being who cannot escape the question of being and as such necessarily takes a stand on his being. 

Who Am I? 

I can define-view myself in many ways. And if I look into this deeply I get there is no limit to the many ways that I can define myself. If there is a limit then it is the limit of my imagination.

Every tribe/society privileges certain definitions-categories above others. In the world in which I find myself, these definitions centre primarily on what one has-holds-occupies: wealth, social class, profession, status….

So who am I?  I am my stand. At any point in time, I am that which I am committed to. These commitments show up in the form of  possibilities that I invent, ‘projects’ that I take on and give myself to, and the way that I show up and travel in this world. 

Let’s make this concrete:

Many years ago I found myself confronted with a choice. Which choice? Career: doing that which it takes to move from Senior Manager to Director/Partner in a major consulting firm or doing that which it takes to be a good father. I chose the latter.

Some years ago I was confronted with the choice of doing that which the CEO asked-dictated and relating to myself as ‘thief-liar-cheat’ or risk losing my job. I found myself saying that I was not willing to do that which was being asked-dictated.

Every week I clean the toilets and bathrooms, voluntarily and willingly. Why? To ground myself, to experience humility, to lead by example: to do the kind of work that I ask of my family.

I do not accept presents. When Christmas or my birthday comes, I ask those who would give me presents to give me money instead. Why? So that I can give that money to those less fortunate than me.

Recently I invented the possibility of being a good cook and cooking curry for my parents as that is what they love to eat. I took on that which, by default, is hardest for me: asking for help. I asked my wife for help as she is a great cook. Now, some months later, I relate to myself as a cook. I have cooked for my parents – I did it a week ago. And, I insist on cooking Sunday lunch. This Sunday my family members told me that this was the best curry I had cooked.

I hope you get the idea.

Who are you?

I invite you to step outside of the existing categories-definitions. Instead take a good look, at who/what you give yourself to in terms of your time, your energy, your deepest self, your self-expression, your resources..

I invite you to notice the following:

– if you define yourself through the standard categories – your sex (male, female), nationality, occupation, social class etc – you find your room for manoeuvre limited.

– if you accept my invitation and define yourself through your stand, the possibilities you invent, the projects you take on, your room for manoeuvre is so much wider-bigger-spacious.

I leave you with this quote from Lynne Twist:

“Taking a stand is a way of living and being that draws on a place within yourself that is at the very heart of who you are. When you take a stand, you find your place in the universe, and you have the capacity to move the world.”

‘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:

Who Do You Want To Be?


We are given to search for recipes, formulas, instructions, and methods. And there is a place for recipes and formulas. If I am new to baking a cake then having a recipe at hand makes a difference.  If I need to get from A to B then the GPS will provide me with the step by step instructions to get from A to B, most of the time.

When it comes to life itself recipes, formulas, instructions and methods don’t work that well.  At best they are hit and miss.  I am not you, you are not me. And neither you nor I can step into the same river twice: we are not the same, the river is not the same.  What works for me may not work for you. What occurs as being a good fit for me may not be a good fit for you.  What leaves me inspired may not leave you inspired.

When it comes to living an authentic life, or living powerfully, or living an ‘extraordinary’ life questions are the access.  With the context set, I invite you to listen to Arnold Schwarznegger.  Why?  Because, he puts forth one of the most powerful questions for inventing a life, an authentic life, a life that matters, a transformed life. This video is only 3-4 minutes and is packed with wisdom.

On possibility as an access to transformation


What is the access to transformation?  Specifically, what is the access – for you and me – to transform the quality of our living?  Put simply, it is shifting our being-in-the-world, and thus our showing up in the world, from impotent to potent.  What do I mean?  Let’s take a look at the definitions:

impotent

Adjective: unable to take effective action; helpless or powerless

Synonyms: powerless – weak – feeble – helpless – infirm

potent

Adjective: having a great power, influence or effect.

Synonyms: powerful – strong – forceful – intense

Let’s assume that you and I are up for transformation, up for shifting our being-in-the-world from impotent (the default) to potent.  What is the access to making this shift?  Willpower? No, this rarely works as many New Years resolutions show.  Is it setting goals? No, this rarely works because goals tend to rely on the exercise of willpower.  And willpower tends to fade.  So what is a suitable access?

The access to making the shift is inventing and living from one or more possibilities that move-touch-inspire us. Which begs the question “What is a possibility?” A possibility is not a wish.  Nor is it an intention.  A possibility is not a goal, an outcome, an achievement.  Nor is possibility a belief in that which is possible for a human being.

A possibility is like a context from which one shows up and gives life to one’s life.  A possibility is like a stand that one takes upon oneself.  A possibility is like a path that one chooses to walk of one’s own accord and thus gives up the multitude of other paths that are open to oneself.  A possibility is like a declaration one makes on what constitutes one’s life.  A possibility is always a choice one voluntarily takes upon oneself that gives shapes to one’s life and how one shows up in life.

Still looking for a pointer as to what constitutes a ‘possibility’?  Then let me share this quote from Nikos Kazantzakis (author of Zorba The Greek):

“By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The non-existent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.”  Nikos Kazantzakis

And when he speaks of believing he is talking about the following kind of believing:

“A belief is not merely an idea that is thought, it is an idea in which one believes. And believing is not an operation of the intellectual mechanism, but a function of the living being as such, the function of guiding his conduct, his performance of his task.”  Jose Ortega Y Gasset

A possibility gives meaning to one’s life and power to one’s being-in-the-world.  As such it does more than provide one with a reason to get up in the morning.  It provides one the access to transcend one’s psychology and push the limits of one’s biology as and when this is necessary.  It calls forth one to be unreasonable when unreasonable is what it takes.  In short, it the access to living a life that shows up as fulfilling.  A life worth living.

Why do I write this blog as opposed to put my feet up, watch a move, hang out in a bar?  Because I invented a possibility. What possibility?  The possibility of playing BIG, living an ‘extraordinary’ life, of being a source of contribution to a ‘world that works, none excluded’.  How about you?  What possibility leaves you moved-touched-inspired to be and create that which does not exist today?  What possibility are you up for inventing/living this year?

Please note, that all acts of leadership start with inventing a possibility that leaves one moved-touched-inspired to disclose and create that which does not exist today.

Death: the awareness of the possibility of death as the access to owning one’s life and living powerfully


“The life of riches, ambition, pleasure, is in reality an intolerable servitude in which one “lives for what is always out of reach,” thirsting “for survival in the future” and “incapable of living in the present.””  Thomas Merton

This week I came across TED talk, titled “Before I die I want to….”

Watching/listening to this talk I was struck by the fact that someone had written “Before I die I want to live.”

When I saw this, sadness gripped me.  It occurred to me that you and I are given a tiny window of opportunity to partake in the glorious drama called existence.   As far as I know we are on the only planet that supports/generates life as we know it.  Just compare the images of Mars to those of Earth: ours is a breath taking world!   Yet, so many of us are totally not present to this.  We do not experience this beauty.  We do not experience this gratitude. And our living does not reflect any urgency in living well.   And for the most part we do not live well.  If we are honest, brutally honest, for most of us, our lives do not show up, in experience, as lives worth living.  Why because we are chasing those riches and/or engrossed in surviving/fixing.

Is there a way out of the trap?  Yes, the possibility of death offers us the door out of the trap into a vivid experience of living.   I have experienced this vividness, this wonder, this gratitude, this week.  How/why?  Two people who I know/like/care about are close to dying.  Being told that they are dying resulted in sadness and tears showing up in my house of being.  And along with sadness, Death brought with it, into my house of being, a vivid appreciation of the wonders of being alive.

We dread death, individually and as a culture.  We dread death so much that we don’t talk about it, we don’t acknowledge it, we don’t allow people whose quality of life is so poor to get help to end their lives.  We keep death hidden behind the curtain.  Yet, is this the wisest course of action for living well?

It occurs to me, and I am not the first one that this has occurred to, that the possibility of death is like no other possibility.  Possibilities other than ‘no possibility’ (which is the all to common default way of being in the world for many/most of us) have to be invented by us.  If I want to lead a life full of life I actively need to invent possibilities that I can live from/into that lift me up, inspire me to be, to put myself fully into the world and take a hand in shaping it.  When it comes to death, you and I do not have to invent the possibility of death.

The possibility of death is there, always there, right from the moment we are being pushed out / thrust into this world.  The challenge is to create/generate the right relationship to it.  The challenge is to invite the possibility of death into our house of being so that it influences/shapes our way of being in the world.  And to keep doing: keep being present to it.  Why?  Because when we are present to, really present to and experience the possibility of death then it shapes our living, our way of being in this world.  The presence of the possibility of death pushes us to live, really live, to appreciate the beauty of this world.

What I have noticed this week is that with death being present, vividly,  I have lived vividly.  I have really tasted the tomato salad.  I have really tasted the delicious ice cream made by my wife.  I have really listed to the music and got joy out of it.  I have delighted in holding the table tennis bat and playing tennis with my children.  I have enjoyed the wind and the sun stroking/brushing against my naked body and so forth.  I have even enjoyed the sweat pouring off my face as I work the exercise bike.

The real sadness of life is not death.  It is to live in such a way that when you are presented with the question “Before I die I want to..” you answer “LIVE”.  It does not have to be that way.  Just getting present, authentically present, to the possibility of death can/does make all the difference.  Put differently, authentic presence to the possibility of death, has the potential to transform our lives.

Are you up for that?  Or do you prefer to continue chasing the horizon, living for someday?  If so you might want to remember the wise words of Thomas Merton, the words that I opened this post with:

“The life of riches, ambition, pleasure, is in reality an intolerable servitude in which one “lives for what is always out of reach,” thirsting “for survival in the future” and “incapable of living in the present.””

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.

How can you be about, deal with tiredness and hopelessness? Part I


A ‘sister’ reaches out

Recently a ‘sister’ reached out to me to share aspects of her experience of her life and to ask for my advice:

“I am feeling lost without anchors in my life. I guess I am feeling the loss of physical intimacy, someone to just be there to hold me when I’m feeling lost and alone. Work stability and security in an organisation that is chaotic with recurring re-structuring and transfers.

It is bearing me down, the uncertainty in my workplace and bearing the responsibility of taking care of 3 growing kids, with sometimes no one to talk to for parenting advice.

I guess I had reached a point where I was just very, very tired and feeling as if I don’t belong or wanted both in my work-place and in my personal space. Tired of searching for ‘the one’ to be my life companion – whilst desperately longing for one. Sometimes believing that I am flawed in some way that is preventing that from coming into being.

I tend to always fall for men that are dominant and players. It is difficult for me to be attracted to someone who is less witty and dominant, as I have a strong character. Although I know that it will always lead to hurt and abandonment, am like a moth to a flame.

People, friends have said I am strong and a survivor from what they see. I know I am a survivor, but the scars have been deep and plenty. I don’t feel very strong most of the time, struggle to overcome my feelings of insecurity and capabilities.

I always feel that there is constant turbulence in my life both at work and in my personal life.  How do I continue when I’m feeling so tired and hopeless.

Warning: I am not ‘God’ and do not have ‘solutions’ to life

Before I dive into the heart of the matter I wish to make it plain that I am not in a position to provide advice.  I am clear that I am not ‘God’ and as thus I have no solutions to life.  To take that orientation is to see life as a ‘problem’ – we search for solutions to problems.  Perhaps life is simply a gift that we are granted or it is a challenge/opportunity to help us unfold, develop and flower in our unique way in the process playing our part and contributing to the bigger play called ‘Life’.  Perhaps life is simply a mystery that can never be solved, only lived.

“How do I continue when I am feeling so tired and hopeless?”

Sister, rest assured that if you do not actively interfere with your automatic machinery (that goes with being human) then you will continue and you do not have to figure out how you will continue.  What do I mean?  I mean that by virtue of being human and being here, you have been granted a fierce will to survive and an array of capacities that enable you to survive.  Put differently, to be human  is to be a formidable survival organism – one that continues  because its design is to continue itself for as long as it can.  That is to say your ‘human  machinery’ will take care of surviving/continuing if you do not get in it’s way.

Who and what is the cause of tiredness and hopelessness?

When you ask this question (How do I continue…..?) what you are saying is that ‘the story that you are telling yourself about your future’ is leaving you feeling tired and hopeless.

In the Western world, Sunday is a day of relaxation – it is where you can take it easy, meet up with friends and family, do what you enjoy doing.  It should be the ‘happiest’ day of the week.  Yet, research shows that it is the ‘unhappiest’ day of the week for many people.  Why?  Because many of these people are looking into the future and what they are present to is being at work, slaving away at work they do not enjoy, on the Monday.  Which is the best/happiest day of the week?  Friday.  Why?  Because whilst these people are in the office (where they do not want to be) they are not really in the office.  Instead they are living into the future that is the weekend – who they will be with, where they will be, what they will be doing……..

So let’s be clear on this:  what gives you your being today, right now, is the future that you are living into.  Here is what Alan Watts says in his book (The Wisdom of Insecurity):

“Human beings appear to be happy just as long as they have a future to which they can look forward – whether is be a “good time” tomorrow or an everlasting life beyond the grave.

So what can you do about ‘tiredness and hopelessness’?

You can choose to be resolute and fierce in your living.  You can choose to relate to yourself as a ‘force of nature’ with awesome qualities – all that you need to live fully right now and into the future.

You can get present to the fact that you really do not know how the future will turn out (and thus is open to invention). You really do not know. And even if something ‘bad’ happens you do not know how that will turn out.   What shows up as ‘bad’ or a ‘catastrophe’ today, can show up later as the best thing that happened to me, just what I needed to grow, to develop, to move forward on to a new path.

You can choose not to listen to nor create a story about a future – a dismal future – that leaves you feeling tired and hopeless.  If one part of you is throwing up this story, then don’t buy into it.  And that is a whole lot easier if you embrace my next suggestion.

You can, right now, deliberately create a story about you and your future that genuinely leaves you moved-touched-inspired-uplifted.  What kind of a future, if you created it now and lived it now (as if it were real right now) would leave you genuinely moved-touched-inpsired-uplifted?

You can choose to focus on what works in your life, what you can be grateful for right now.  What if you had all the challenges that you have right now and you lost your eyesight? What would that be like?  What if one or more of your three children fell ill with a serious disease?  What would that be like?

You can choose to spend time and focus upon those who are less fortunate than you. If you do that then you will both lose sight of yourself (and your suffering) whilst you are helping others less fortunate than you.  Indirectly this helping, this intimate contact with those less fortunate than you will leave you more grateful for the blessings – sight, speech, hearing, movement etc – in your life.  Finally, you are most likely to show up for yourselves as a ‘god’ rather than a ‘beggar’.  For most of us it is impossible to ‘give of ourselves’ to the less fortunate and not to receive more back in return. 

What if you simply you cannot change your circumstances?

Lets, just assume that you face circumstances that you simply you cannot change. Then what can you do, how can you be about that?  Here is what Viktor Frankl says: “When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Let’s make this real. You are 17 years old, you are into diving and you have an accident that leaves you paralysed from the neck down.  How can you be about this circumstance, that you cannot change?  This is what this chap says and how he has lived his life:

I broke my neck but it did not break me. I am at present helpless and this handicap will remain with myself apparently forever. But I would not give up my studies.  I went because of my own helplessness to help other people.  I want to become a psychologist to help others.  My suffering will add an essential contribution to my ability to understand and help others.

Please notice that this young man has chosen to be fiercely resolute. He has invented a future that gives his life meaning and within which his unchangeable circumstances show up as an asset rather than a tragedy.  He has created a story that moves-touches-inspires-uplifts hims.  It is the story that is giving him being – a powerful desire to live to contribute to be of help to those facing helplessness – rather than his circumstances.  It is ALL story: life is ALL story.  How life show up for you is a function of the story that you are living into/from. 

You can watch an interview with this young man (Jerry Long) and Viktor Frankl:  http://youtu.be/1_lmMl4P7cQ

And finally

I will continue the conversation in the next post – there is so much to ‘grapple with’ here and it requires more than one post.


Reflections for a life of Possibility, of Transformation and of Leadership- only for the courageous! (Part I)


I say that the most philosophically profound and politically revolutionary movie that I have ever watched is The Matrix series.  Yes, you can take it as a sci-fi yarn or you can get present to the hidden, profound and revolutionary, messages.  Today, I simply wish to share some with you.  Before you read further, I warn you that these deeply uncomfortable ‘truth’s for the mass of humanity that is in a state of “fallenness” – fallenness of “victim”, of “conformity”, of “idle chatter”, of “mass culture” – and so you may want to do what you do by default, not look at anything that disturbs your sleep.  The choice is yours – it has always been thus.

Choice

Neo: “Choice.  The problem is choice.”

Yes, you have been thrown into this world – you did not get a say in the matter.  Yes, stuff happens that happens and you did not get a say in that matter – call that ‘fate’.  And you have ‘free will’.  How?  You are present to possibilities and you can project possibilities – you can envisage ‘that which is not and could be’ as well as being present to ‘that which is’.  Being present to possibilities, as yet unborn, and ready to be born you are confronted with choice.  Choosing not to choose – accepting the default (what is and is not) – is a choice.  You make it, every instant, even if you are not aware of making that choice.  There is no escaping choice.  Choice – being confronted with choice – is the sign that you are ‘free’.   With choice comes the ‘problem of choice’.

Death

Morpheus: “Then tomorrow we may all be dead, but how would that be different from any other day? This is a war, and we are soldiers. Death can come for us at any time, in any place.”

You are not going to live forever. Death is not a tragedy, it is the gift that allows us to get present to the privilege of being alive and presses us to live fully, to give fruit to our gifts, our dreams, you self-expression. And even if death shows up in your world as a ‘tragedy’ as a ‘horror’ then get present to the fact that you will never escape death. NEVER.  Death is sitting on your shoulder ready to tap you anytime. That is what is so.

The real tragedy of your life is that you are tiptoeing ever so delicately through life (in order to avoid death) only to find that you arrive safely at death!  And when you arrive there (at deaths door) you are confronted with the question: “Why did I not live fully?  Why did I not create inspiring possibilities and seize them fiercely? And your are left with the awareness and feeling that “You could have chosen otherwise.  You could have lived more courageously.  You could have put your natural self-expression into the world. You could have chased your dreams.”  At death, your are once again confronted with choice – you had say in the matter of your life, always.

The Past

Morpheus: “What happened, happened and could not have happened any other way.”

Do you get it?  Do you get that your past is past, whatever happened, happened and could not have happened any other way?   By all means ‘learn’ from the past.  But there really is no value in getting stuck in the past, of beating yourself up, or beating others up.  Get present to the profound, liberating, truth of Morpheus’ words.  If you take this vantage point on your past then all the chains that keep you stuck in the past break apart instantly and you are totally free from the past, present to the present and in the clearing to create/project possibilities (that move-touch-inspire you) into the future.

Which is the more powerful way to live?  Spend your day living in the past most likely complaining about how things turned out and/or beating yourself up?  Or is it more powerful to let the past be in the past and so be present and live fully in the present with a total commitment to inventing and living possibilities that make it a joy to be alive?  Once again you are confronted with choice.  And in making that choice remember that Death is sitting on your shoulder ready to tap you anytime: you don’t get a second go, a second life!

Knowing v Acting (Doing)

Morpheus: There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.

Look, get real!  Knowing, knowledge really does not make a difference – not a tiny jot of difference.  You can know all there is to know and if you do not act on that knowledge then what difference does it make in the real world?   What is the value of knowing if you do not act on that knowledge so as to transform the quality of your life, your living?  Get real, in the real world it is action (doing), ONLY ACTION, that impacts/influences/transforms the quality of your life and the world that is ready at hand. Let me put this differently, if you do not walk the path then of what value is ‘knowing the path’?

I know that you are hoping for miracles even if you are not aware that you are hoping for miracles.  Buying more dieting books / attending more dieting courses are not going to make you slimmer or fitter.  Being mindful, eating the right foods in the right quantity at the right times and exercising – action – that is what it will take for you to turn out slimmer and fitter.  Hoping for better relationship with your spouse?  How long have you been doing that?  How has that turned out?  What good has knowing done without the doing?  Look your relationship with your spouse will only be different when you be/act differently, consistently!

Please get that we are living in an age addicted to the most useless artifact there is:  information and knowledge.  In the real world information/knowledge/knowing makes no difference.  What makes the difference?  How you are being and what you are doing (and not doing) every day of your life.  You can continue to be the fool chasing information and knowing or you can be the ‘warrior’ that acts decisively to create/project/bring about possibilities that move-touch-inspire you – possibilities that manifest themselves as joy right now in your living.  Once again you are confronted with choice  – what choice will you make?

Enough for today.  I will continue with this theme in a later post.  Before I go, I want to leave you with a final quote, a final message, a final provocation to stir you out of your slumber of ‘fallenness’:

Morpheus: “I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.

How would you experience living if you lived from this stand? I love me!


I walked into my daughter’s room and saw this morning and upon seeing it I marvelled at and simply have to share this with you:

How would our experience of living (individually and collectively) occur / show up for us if each and every one of us operated from this stand: I love me!!!

And loving ourselves would’nt we be more generous, more accepting, more considerate, more validating of all our fellow human beings?

And loving ourselves wouldn’t we put ourselves fully into the world as our natural self-expression?

And in doing that would we not create the space for our fellow human beings to do the same: love themselves, play full-out in the game of Life, put themselves in the world as their self-expression, Be just as they are and as they are not?

If I were to make any change to what daughter has written I would say the following, this would be my manifesto:

“I love me! And I love you!  And I love him/her! And I love them! And I love us!  Let’s ‘join hands and hearts’ and co-create a ‘world that works’, none excluded, where joy is present for each and every one of us!!”

What kind of transformation would occur, in your experience of living,  if you were to join with me?

How about you?  What would be your heart’s wish, your manifesto for your life and the world that you and I live in?

You can resurrect yourself, your life, any time you choose: why not do it right now?


As it is Easter the time when Christians acknowledge and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus I simply wish to acknowledge that I / You can resurrect ourselves, our lives at any moment.  And any such resurrection is a choice (that you and I make) and that always occurs righ”t now.  With that in mind I want to share with you (and get present to) a profound truth uttered by a master who travelled the ‘low path’ and thus had a masterful insight into the human condition:

“At all times, under all circumstance, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives.”  Werner Erhard

Now that is an insight worth memorising and getting present to each and every day perhaps when you start the day by meditating.  Before we move on simply want us to notice the following aspects of the quote:

  • ALL times and under ALL circumstances – not sometimes and under special circumstances;
  • Werner is speaking about our inner experience – how we experience our living, our life, how it shows up for us.

If you are embedded in ‘ordinary living’ then you will not relate to what Werner is saying – the fundamental truth that he is pointing out.  No, you are going to think that he is deluded – he simply does not get the real world that you live in.   Well lets listen to someone who has an intimate connection with the real world.  His name is Viktor Frankl, he is a Jew, during WWII he spent a couple of years in the infamous concentration camps, he lost everyone that was near and dear to him, he saw many die in the concentration camps and he experience horrors that few of us will have every experience.  Here is what Viktor has to say on the matter:

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.

Are you still missing the connection between the truth that Werner Erhard is point at?  Then let me share and leave with you two quotes from Viktor that show what Werner is getting at:

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment – he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Before you reach for your conditions, your circumstances as an excuse to escape from the responsibility to shape / live your life as the author of your life rather than a victim, I want to remind you that it was no picnic living in a concentration camp for two years!  And living from those conditions, this is what Frankl writes / says:

“It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.”

Which brings me back, neatly, to what we started with:

“At ALL times, under ALL circumstances, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives.”

The question is are you going to choose and live your stand or are you going to get busy creating excuses and concocting reasons for continuing to ‘play small’, play ‘victim’ and hand over your freedom to conditions / circumstances?  Your life, your choice.

Want to set yourself free and live powerfully? Let go of your beliefs….


Reality and our relationship to reality

What is real?  What is our relationship to reality?  Here is what Werner Erhard had to say on this matter:

“You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. Anybody who knew their ass from a hole in the ground could stand up and tell me how they know when something’s real.” 

Let’s take a look, a closer look.  Is the Sun real?  Is the Moon real?  Is that road real?  Is that car real?  Is that tree real?  Are your hands real?  Are your eyes real?  Are your feet real?  Have you noticed that those questions are easy to answer.  Are you aware that you don’t ask yourself these questions?  Do you notice that we don’t get into heated discussions about whether the sun exists or whether you have two feet? So why does Werner make the statement that he makes?  Because you confuse beliefs (what we say is true, what we say is real) with truth/reality!

Beliefs and our relationship to our beliefs

Why do you and I need beliefs?  Think about this deeply and you will see that we do not need to believe in the Sun, the Moon that car in front of you or your arms.  Notice that what is real does not require a belief!  Go further and you inevitably come to the conclusion: beliefs are simply statements about us, about people, about the world, that cannot be proven.   Put differently when we enter the land of beliefs we are dreaming whilst being awake yet not present to the fact that we are dreaming.  Belief land is fantasy land – it is the fantasy land that we have been granted by our culture, your parents, our schoolteachers, our media, our friends and it is also a land that we shaped by constructing our own beliefs.

We give up our freedom by constructing the bars of our prison through beliefs

Look we have established that reality does not need beliefs.  We have also established that beliefs only arise when they are not supported by reality.  That is to say beliefs arise and can exist only if there there is no evidence, in the real world, that confirms that beliefs.  Lets go to the point:  beliefs are superstitions!

What happens when we construct beliefs?  We give up our zone of freedom.  Allow me to illustrate:

I believe that I my religion is the only true religion.  Consequence: I cannot be with, explore, learn from the other religions.

I believe that I am superior to you, know more, am better than you.  Consequence:  I will not enter into a real relationship with you, I will not listen to you, I will not learn from you, I will take on behaviours that are opposite of yours.

I believe that musical instruments, singing and dancing are the ‘devils work’.  Consequence:  I will not own/play a musical instrument nor sign nor dance.  And I will segregate myself from people who do engage in the ‘devils work.

You get the idea.  Every belief narrows down the zone of Possibility and of our relatedness and of our freedom to be, to participate in life, to live fully!

Now here is the really bizarre thing.  When our fellow human beings show up and ‘challenge’ our beliefs we get upset, we sulk, we withdraw, we condemn, we get angry, we shout, we maim and we kill.  That is how determined we are to keep ourselves enslaved.  If we were sane, if we had a sound relationship to reality, we would welcome people who exposed our beliefs, our prison bars, and thus allowed us to set ourselves free.

Let go of your beliefs and set yourself free

We did not come into this world with beliefs,  Once upon a time, you and I were in intimate contact with reality and simply flowed with it.  And as such everything was permissible to us.  Then little by lit we assimilated beliefs, constructed our prison bars and gave up that freedom we were born with .

You and I can reclaim our freedom right now by letting go of our beliefs.  Every time we encounter a belief we can let it go – we can point at it and shout “Superstition” Every time we do that we dismantle another prison bar and thus increase our zone of freedom.  To do that we have to be willing to stand in a very different place: a place from which we see beliefs not as truths, nor as useful tools but as a prison bar that constricts our freedom.

Struggling with this?  Please get to present to the fact that reality is reality and a belief is a belief.  When our beliefs don’t match the reality then we suffer.  Allow me to share a quote that I came across recently:

“My heart says people are inherently good, it is my experiences that speak differently.” Angela Sturm

When a wise person notices the mismatch between his beliefs and reality (what is so in terms of our experience) he gives up his belief.  If you and I let go of beliefs and be with what is so we increase the ‘workability’ of our lives and thus minimise our ‘suffering’.  This benefit is in addition to be reclaiming our freedom.  Do you wish to be that wise person or do you wish to continue to be the fool?  That is a choice for each one of us to make and live with.

How to live powerfully: replace beliefs with Stand, with Possibility

If I was Angela I would let go of the belief “People are inherently good”.  Why?  It is false – all beliefs are false!  Instead I would recognise reality “Some people exhibit behaviours I say are ‘good’.  Some people exhibit behaviours that I say are ‘bad’.  The same person can exhibit both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviours.”  Going further, I can let go of the belief and invent a Stand:

“I am Stand for recognising the good in people and calling that forth in my thinking, in my speaking, in my actions, my behaviour”.

Do you notice  the power of the Stand?   It is not a belief about me, about you, about our fellow human beings, about the world at large.  No, the Stand is me creating / inventing my role in the drama called Life.  It is a ‘call to arms’ that I give myself.  Notice, that if people were already inherently good (and behaved good) then my Stand makes no contribution.  By taking on this Stand I am calling forth / living out of the Possibility that I can impact how people show up in the world – ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Do you want a concrete example of the difference between reality, belief and Stand/Possibility?  Then watch this 4 minute YouTube clip of Viktor Frankl – Viktor explains the difference in a way that you will never forget.  Why is he worth listening to?  He wrote one of the most profound books (Man in Search of Meaning) when it comes to understanding of the human condition.  And he survived the WWII concentration camps whilst losing everyone – all his family and friends.  Yet, just listen to how he relates to people given his very real understanding of people:

A powerful access ‘extraordinary living’: whole, complete and perfect


Before I share with you a powerful access to ‘extraordinary’ living  I want to share with you what is so about ordinary living: the point of view that keeps is embedded in ordinary living and the price we pay.

Ordinary living: I am flawed, you are flawed

Dig into your experience, dive deep, and you will find that the culture tells you that you should be whole, complete, perfect.  Yes, you should!  Yet, the message that you (and I) have been getting from our parents, our school teachers, our colleagues, our media, our places of work, even our religions is that we are not whole, we are incomplete and we are imperfect.  Christianity is the dominant religion in the Western world and what does it say?  You are born a sinner and you have to seek redemption!  That is exactly what most of us buy into and do yet we fail to find that redemption because we are no a fool’s errand, we have a mistaken view of us, of life (more later in the post).

When you look at yourself, relate to yourself, experience yourself, you (and I) see ourself as something like this:

What is the price that I pay, you pay, he pays, she pays?  What is to like to know/feel/experience being not whole, not complete, imperfect when the culture around you spins the myth of perfection?  I know what that is like. You know what that is like!  He knows what it is like and she know what it is like.  We keep that shame of imperfection hidden.  We strive and strive and strive to be complete, to be perfect, to be whole.  Yet, the way that we go about is guaranteed to keep us rooted to being incomplete, broken, faulty, worthless, inferior, imperfect.  If you sense of wholeness / perfection is tied to your partner then what happens when your partner becomes unhappy with you, starts an affair, or leaves you?  If your sense of wholeness / perfection is tied to your job then what happens when you lose your job?  If it is tied to your wealth then what happens when you lose your wealth or are in danger of losing it?

The price that we pay is the cost of wearing a mask.  We can never put ourselves in the world as we are – we give up self-expression.  We can never build genuine human bonds – the cost is genuine relatedness with our fellow human beings.  We can never relax into the world – the cost is shows up as alcoholism, drug taking, stress, disease and an early death.  Right?

Access to ‘extraordinary’ living: “I am whole, complete, perfect – just as I am and I am not.  You are whole, complete, perfect – just as you are and just as you are not”

Look into Buddhism and you get a central insight into the human condition: we cause our suffering by living from/into an incorrect/false view of ourselves and the world.  The false view is that I, you, he, she, they, we are broken, incomplete, imperfect!

The correct, the right, view is that I am whole, complete and perfect, just as I am and just as I am not.  There is nothing to add and nothing to take away!  And that applies to everyone of us.  Sound philosophical to you?  It is.  Let me make it more concrete to you – take a look at the diagram below:

Do you see it?  Do you see / get the beauty of what is so?   Look at the diagram again.  If you look at each shape in isolation you can easily say that it is incomplete, imperfect, something missing – none of the shape are a square or a circle!  Now look at the picture as a whole – how the shapes connect to make a beautiful figure.   And the figure is never completed!  No matter how big it grows the design allows more and more piece to connect.  The design of the design is connection!  You only get this when you stop looking at one individual piece and start looking at the whole show.  Sound abstract?  Think about an orchestra – you can zoom into only one member of the orchestra or you can use a wide angle lens and see the whole orchestra.  Both are there!  Each individual member of the orchestra and the orchestra itself. 

Here is the truth of our design, of our situation, our existence on this planet:  we are social beings: you, me, they, we, have been designed for connection – we are perfectly designed for connection.  We have whole, complete and perfect for connecting with our fellow human beings.  Think about language and the connection it enables: I see you, you matter, you make a difference, your existence matters to me, you contribute, I love you.  Neuroscience tells us that we have mirror neurons:  I see you crying and seeing you crying, my mirror neurons enable me to feel/get your experience and thus I have the access to connect with you.

Look around you, look around you, wherever you want in the world.  What do you see?  People live with one another, people live next to one another, people work together, people trade with another.  Now think about this, you are invited to party you are told how amazing it will be – the food, the drinks, the place (say Hawaii or whatever your favourite place), the music will be just so, exactly they way you want it.  Can you imagine yourself at this party?  How delightful does it feel?  There is catch to this party.  No other human being will be present. The drinks and the food will be served by robots.  The dj taking care of the music will also be a robot.  How excited are you now?  Are you going to that party? No, right?  That is the truth of our being, our design, that we do not see and we are not encouraged to see.  Hell for us is solitary confinement: have you ever wondered why this is the harshest punishment meted out in prison?  Because the prison guards gets what is so – the truth of our design as human beings.  People matter to us. People contribute to us.  We are only human when we are connected to, contributing to, one another.

A movie recommendation: The Way

Are you up to getting present to what I am speaking about?  I recommend that you watch “The Way”: Michael Sheen plays Tom, an American doctor who comes to France to collect the remains of his dead son, killed in the Pyrenees while walking The Camino de Santiago.  Driven by profound sadness, and desire to understand his son better, Tom decides to embark on this historical pilgrimage.  Tom navigates this 800km journey and soon meets others around the world, all looking for greater meaning in their lives.   This is a moving, inspiring movie that provides a powerful access to the human condition and our greatness.

And Finally

If you are still wondering about your greatness then let me repeat:  our greatness is that we are whole, complete and perfectly designed for reaching out, connecting, uplifting, healing, completing one another and generating a beautiful pattern called life on Earth.  I leave you with this picture to ponder – it is visual metaphor for our lives:

I thank you for your listening.   The context from which I am living my life is “I matter, you matter, they matter, we matter, let’s live extraordinary lives and co-create a world that works, none excluded”.  Are you up for joining me?  You Matter, your answer matters and shapes our world that we share!  I love you. I hope you will join me.

Live a life of freedom: dismantle the prison bars by dismantling positions that limit


Live is full of experiences – some of them painful

Come take a walk with me down memory lane.  Imagine that you are around 7 years of age, it is autumn, it is cold, you have just got off the school bus and you are walking home with you school bag slung over your shoulders.  After a five-minute walk you are happy to arrive home.  You knock on the door.  To your surprise, your father opens the door instead of your mother.  You and your father don’t get along so you are already a little anxious.

There is a problem: you want to get into the house and your father doesn’t let you.  There he is, a big strong man, standing at the door and refusing to let you in.  “Why?” you ask and he says something like “This is not your home.  You are not my son.  You’re not allowed to come in, go away!”  You are only 8 years old, you are puzzled, wondering what is going on here.  So you ask “Where’s my mum?” and your father tells you she is not at home.  So you wonder what has happened to your mother – you love your mother.

Puzzled, cold, frightened you plead with your father to let you in: you tell him that you are his son, that this is your home and you plead with him to let you in.  He stands his ground insisting that this is not your home and that you not his son.  This goes on for something like 10 minutes.  Then something changes for you – tears flow down your cheeks as you turn around and walk back the way that you came.

Lets stop for a minute.  You the 8 year old child, walking away from home, what do you say to yourself?  Take a moment, given your experience, what is the conversation that you are having with yourself as you are walking away with tears running down your cheeks?

Here is the position that I took and the prison I entered into

I am that 7 year old child walking away thinking that I am all alone.  As I walk I tell myself that I will never see my mother again: maybe she is dead, maybe she has left and taken my brother with her.  I wonder where is my brother, will I ever see him again?  Then it hits me: how am I going to survive?  Who can I count on to help me, to look after me, to care for me?  My mother!  But she is not here and I don’t know where she is.

What would you say to yourself, if you were in my shoes, experiencing what I am experiencing, speaking what I am speaking to myself?

Here is what I said.  From somewhere I heard these words spoken with absolute confidence: “There is nobody that I can count on to help me.  That’s OK, I’ll count on myself.  I will survive, no matter what it takes, and I will find my mother and my brother.  I don’t need anyone, I can do this by myself!”  Repeating these words, the tears dried up, my back stiffened and fierce resolve took hold. That is the day the 7 year old child gave up his childhood and became a ‘man’.

Every position has a payoff

I didn’t just speak those words.  I became convinced that my speaking was a truth about myself, people and the world.  And from then onwards my living, my life was shaped by that position.  What do I mean?  I wouldn’t say that I did not ask anyone for anything, I would say that I never asked anyone for anything that mattered and they might say no.  No way, was I going to repeat the experience that I had experienced with my father.  No way was I going to allow people to let me down and upset me.

So from the age of 7, I stopped asking for and expecting any help from anyone. I was the hero of my life and I was going to do it all myself:  I dived into the Greek legends full of heroes and heroism – I read these legends every day.  I got totally absorbed with Alistair MacLean novels – full of heroes, villans, adventure.  I stopped showing any weakness and focussed relentlessly on doing well. And by the age of 30 I attained everything that I set out to attain: I had my own flat that I loved; I was being paid a great salary and had lots of money;  I was driving a BMW;  I had my own office; and I was managing businesses

Every position has a cost

The position I took at the age of 7 sounds marvellous doesn’t it.  Look at the fruits it delivered: money, status, power, possessions…  Don’t fool yourself and don’t be fooled, every position has a cost: imagine each position as a stick with one end being the payoff and the other end being the cost – a stick always has two ends.  So what was the cost?

The cost was that I was alone.  I stood alone, always.  I relied on no-one and I never asked anyone for anything.   I always had to be strong, I could never be weak:  if any signs of vulnerability, of weakness showed up then I despised myself and stamped upon these weaknesses.  How did that show up? I had a small circle of friends that I had made at university and loved (Tim, Jim, Dave, Andy, John, Simon) and I was distant from just about everyone else.  It would be fair to say that whilst people valued my efficacy then did not want to party with me.   I was lonely whenever I was not occupied with work and personal development.

Ah, personal development, that was my religion – relentlessly focussed on learning and developing myself.  That had come in handy and delivered the fruits and yet in the process I had become addicted:  there was always something more to learn, something to change/improve about myself…..  What did I do with my free time and money?  Spend it on personal development as I had be stronger, more capable, more resilient – after all I am on my own right and I have to face the whole world!

How to dismantle your positions and why I will never forget Karl

I, you, the self is made up of many positions, we call them beliefs.  During my participation in Landmark Education courses I got present to and let go of many of my positions (the prison bars that construct the self) and thus opened myself up to freedom and self-expression that I had never experienced before. Yet, there was one position, the one I have shared with you here, that I would not let go of.  That was until the day that I chose to step out of my position.

I was participating in the ILP course.  To get certified, to achieve the outcome, I had to do a whole bunch of stuff.  I was committed to achieving the outcome and the issue was that I was struggling with the ‘bunch of stuff’ that I had to do.  The more I insisted on doing it myself, not asking for help, the more I struggled and the more I fell behind.  Finally, out of desperation, and at the insistence of my coach I asked for help.  No help came: the first person was busy; the second person was busy; the third person I could not get hold of; the fourth person was busy…. I had left it too late – to the very last minute to ask for help and all of these coaches were busy helping others who had asked for their help.  What did I make it mean?  How stupid of me to listen to my coach and ask for help: hadn’t life taught me that I couldn’t count on anyone else!

Shortly thereafter, I was assisting at a Landmark seminar – setting up the room so that it was just so.  One of the people doing that work was a chap called Karl.  Karl and I got talking and in that talking I shared what I was doing with/at/via Landmark.   When he found out that I was on the ILP course he told me that he had gone through it.  He asked me about how I was doing. I told him the truth – I am good at being straight with myself and others.

To my shock, Karl volunteered to help me.  That’s right, he volunteered to help me, without me asking.  Karl set aside a full day – a full day – of his time to coach me and coach me he did.  Again and again and again: we started the work around 10am and we finished around about 7pm.  I expected the work to last about 2 – 3 hours.  The love oozed out of Karl – he was patient, he was demanding, he was ruthless and behind it all was love.

When I was getting ready to leave, I gave Karl a big hug and thanked him for his contribution to my life.  He had helped me to dismantle the position that had run my life to that day.  Karl had shown me that my position was false.  I can count on people to help me, I do not have to do it all on my own and I cannot do it all on my own.  And I experienced joy in doing the work with Karl – collaborating with a fellow human being.  Karl thanked me.  Yes, he thanked me for spending the day with him.  “What?  I have taken a day of your life and you are thanking me!  What is going on here?  Are you simply being polite?”  Karl told me that life had been a struggle for the last six months or so – some days he had found it hard to get out of bed.  He had lost his job, his marriage had fell apart, his wife had taken the children with her and he only got to see them at weekends…..

Then Karl told me something that opened up my world, offering me an opening to asking for help from a context that I had never considered.  What did Karl say?  Karl told me that me asking for his help, being open to his help, taking his coaching for the whole day it allowed him to experience being worthwhile.  Our interacting had impacted us both deeply.  I was not the only one who had dropped a position that curtailed my freedom and locked me into prison, Karl had done the same.  Through our interexperiencing Karl let go of his position that he was a failure, that he had nothing worthwhile to contribute.  Instead, he experienced being useful and powerful – the Karl that he used to experience himself as.

Putting in place a more powerful position

What happens when you take out all the old furniture from your living room / lounge and send it away?  You are left with an empty room, right?  What happens with this empty room?  It gets full again – either all in one go or in little steps.  Right?

The same applies to the human mind and positions.  So the trick is to replace old positions that limit you and your freedom and replace them with powerful positions that provide you with freedom and self-expression.  What did I do?  I replaced the position “I can’t count on anyone so there is no point in asking anyone for anything; I’ll do it all by myself” with:

  • “I will ask people for their help whenever I need help and sometimes when I do not need the help.  I will give people an opportunity to contribute to me and in so doing I am contributing to them: allowing them to get present to being useful, being powerful, being worthwhile, being great human beings.”

How powerful is that? For me, powerful.

Question for me, for you, for us

Am I, are you, are we willing to search for, examine, let go of the positions(beliefs, fixed points of view, decisions) that limit us, that restrict us, that are the bars of the prison we construct around ourselves?  And replace them with positions that provide the context for freedom, self-expression, joy and power: the power to create the life / the world that we are up for living in?  I know where I stand. What about you?  Are you up for a life of freedom, self-expression, joy and living powerfully?

I thank your for your listening and I love you: I know, that like me, you are a soul whose intentions are good and underneath all the muck you are a ‘god’.  Do you get that?  Really, do you get that?

It’s all Story: change the story and ‘make a dent in the universe’


I am sitting here on a chair, looking at a computer screen and punching away at the keyboard.  That is so simply what is so.  If I was to record what I am doing right now and you were to view that recording that is what you would see – nothing more and nothing less.  Yet, you and I would not leave it at that.  We simply cannot help it – we’d make a story about it.  One of you might say to yourself: “How sad that he is sat on his but staring at a screen typing away.  Hasn’t he got something better to do?”  Someone else might say: “Wow, look at the size of that computer screen! I’d like one just like that.”  And someone else might be thinking “Great, he is doing something useful with his time rather than being a couch potato.”  None of these stories is what is going on.

In the real world stuff simply is. You and I do not live in the real world we live in our stories. We can transform our lives simply by constructing empowering (inspiring) stories rather than limiting stories.  Let’s make this conversation real by sharing an example.  I write a business blog (The Customer Blog) and on Thursday I looked at how many times my latest post had been read.  I didn’t leave it at that.  I made a story that went along the following lines: “I am losing my touch.  Look at how few people have read what I wrote.  Is writing the blog worth all the effort that goes into it.  I spent hours researching and writing for what? Maybe it is time to give up….”  That story left me feeling miserable.

Then on Friday evening a reader of the blog emailed me: he told me that he enjoyed reading my latest blog post and asked my permission to take it and circulate it to his Chamber of Commerce membership. Suddenly I was delighted!  What was the story I was telling myself? “If my writing makes a difference to even a single fellow human being then it was worth writing.  Maybe I do have something to offer and contribute to the world.  It is definitely worth the effort and I should continue with the blog.”  Notice that all that changed is the story that I was telling myself.  In the real world I wrote a blog post.  I looked at dashboard which displayed the number of views of the latest blog post.  I got an email.  I replied to the email.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Nothing in my circumstances changed – absolutely nothing.

I also notice that I have been telling myself a limiting story that has limited me and my living.  Here is how the story goes “My neck hurts.  My back hurts.  Every day I am in pain.  I cannot do what I took for granted – tennis, badminton, cycling…. I am old.  Living is a struggle.  How will I get through tomorrow.  I am not contributing to my wife and children – I come home after work and just rest in my bedroom.  What use am I?  I am letting my family down.  What will happen if I can no longer work? ……..”  Is it any surprise that my experience of living has sucked and I have not been in communication with my friends?

Yet, I am back: the confident, powerful, caring Maz is back.  How?  I changed the story that I have been telling myself.  That is it.  Nothing in my circumstances has changed: my neck still hurts, my back still hurts, I still have to take care on what I do and do not do.  At the same time everything has changed: in my new story, I am a powerful person who has something to contribute including setting an example of how to live when stuff is not working out as you would like it to.  The circumstances of my life as simply constraints that test my desire to live and contribute fully.

Lesson: you and I can transform our experience of living without having to change or wait for our circumstances to change.  We can transform our experience of living simply by creating and recreating (constantly) stories that leave us relating to ourselves as powerful human beings who have something useful to contribute and who can make ‘a dent in the universe’.