Play BIG: What Difference Can One Person Make?


There was time, not that long ago, when I did not look forward to Monday mornings and that which comes with it: 3.5 hour drive to my current place of work. Now, I look forward to Monday mornings, and that drive.

There was a time, not that long ago, when I did not look forward to the work week evenings and that which came with them: making my way to a restaurant only to find myself eating alone. Now, I look forward to many of these evenings.

There was time, not that long ago, when I found myself alone and lonely in a new country. Now, I am certainly alone, for I choose to live alone, yet I do not find myself lonely.

Who or what is the cause of this shift?

This is the time to introduce Justine. I can describe her in many ways: authentic, humble/grounded, linguist, spontaneous, adventurous, intelligent, beautiful.. Yet none of that captures who she is for me.

For me, Justine is the person who brings sunshine into my existence. She does that when we commute together to/from work. She does that when she shows up for breakfast (almost always at the last moment). She does that on the work week evenings that we dine together. She does that when we ‘chat’ via WhatsApp. I refer to Justine simply as “my buddy” – for that is who she is for/to me.

Now here is the thing that I want to bring your attention to. If I had played small, just gone along with ‘my’ thoughts and feelings, then Justine would still be sunshine (for that is who she is)- just not sunshine in my existence. How so?

Month or so back I got an email from a colleague whom I barely knew. This colleague asked for a lift. Saying yes to this request meant saying yes to being in a car together for some 3 to 4 hours. And, it extended my driving time by an hour – turning a 3.5 hour drive potentially into a 4.5 hour drive.

The default setting for my machinery (thoughts, feelings, disposition) is playing small. So guess what arose? Concerns about whether this colleague and I would get along. Concerns about what we would have to talk about over 3 hours. Concerns about the extra hour in travel time for me. At this point in time it would have been so easy to find reasons for not giving this colleague a lift.

Fortunately I was saved from myself. How so? That little bit of practice I have in playing BIG. How so? A voice inside my head asked this question: “Is turning down this colleague playing Big or playing small?” The same voice responded “It’s playing small!” So, I chose to do that which is in line with playing BIG – to go outside of my comfort zone, to accept/embrace uncertainty, and to get-up an hour earlier and drive that extra hour.

Now here is the second thing I want to share with you. Once I had made and communicated that decision I found myself at peace. Why? Because the choice I had made was in line with the kind of person I am committed to being. Interestingly, in this space of peace I found a solution that works well for my colleague and which only adds 10 to 20 minutes extra time to my drive.

I wish to conclude by saying that as/when my children visit me, here in Switzerland, I look forward to introducing them to my buddy Justine – the person who brings sunshine into my existence!

Until the next time….

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….

Playing Big Starts With Exercising Our Agency


Let’s begin this conversation with a definition of agency so that you and I are clear about that which I am speaking:

In social science, agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. By contrast, structure is those factors of influence (such as social class, religion, gender, ethnicity, ability, customs, etc.) that determine or limit an agent and their decisions.

What’s the default? Playing small.  How does one play small?  I say it goes something like this:

  • Poor me what a difficult/helpless situation I find myself in;
  • It’s his/her/their fault that I am in this situation;
  • What I can I do? Nothing – there nothing I can do as I am insignificant/small compared to that which i am up against;
  • If only this/that, he/she, we/they, were to change;
  • I’ve just got to accept the situation and live with it as best as I can.

Notice, this way of showing up / operating in the world is to put all the power (agency) in the structure (gender, upbringing, social class, culture….) and exercise zero agency.  This is a sound way of showing up / operating if you/I are content with playing the victim: feeling sorry for oneself, and complaining about that which is so, and seeking to elicit sympathy for those willing to grant sympathy. If this is working for you as in giving you the kind of existence that you truly wish for then so be it. You can stop here.

If you truly want to play BIG then I say this: start this new year by exercising agency in whatever situation/circumstance you find yourself in.  What do I mean by exercising agency?  It’s this:

  1. Here I am in a situation that does not work for me as it is not in tune with who I say I am, and the kind of life I wish to live;
  2. If this situation is going to change for the better then I have to act – do something that will cause the change that I desire;
  3. What is it that I can do right now, no matter how small, that introduces a change (no matter how small) in the situation I find myself in?
  4. I do that which I can do, and I do this right now; and
  5. I go back to (1) above – taking a good look at the situation as it is after I have done that which I could do the last time around.

When one of my best friends found that he had terminal brain cancer he played BIG. Over the course of the 10 months, he went from being an able adult to a one that is helpless (at the mercy of others) lying in hospice bed awaiting death.  I’d catch up with him every week – by phone, and face to face on Saturdays.  No matter where he was on this journey of decline/death he focussed on the agency that was still left to him. He focussed on what he could do to effect/shape the situation he found himself in.

Does this mean that he was blind to his loss? No!  He was aware of his loss – the loss that he had already incurred, and the loss that was awaiting him.  Sure, he grieved for his losses like losing his independence – he could no longer drive, nor ride a bicycle, nor even go shopping as his left visual field had been knocked out so he simply did not see things.  No, he did not wallow in his helplessness.  He grieved – even cried now and then.  Then he got back to showing up and operating as the author of his life – exercising whatever agency remained to him in the here and now.

As always the choice lies with you and me.  Does one play small (play victim as in “Poor me…”) or does one choose to show up and operate as the author of one’s life – to exercise agency, to do something about that which matters?  Remember this:  you and I can have either the results that we desire, or settle for excuses and complaints.

I thank you for your listening and wish you the very best for this new year. Until the next time….

Play BIG: Let’s Show Up & Travel Like Lorenzo


Its been a little while friends. I have been busy making good use of my health and the weather: to go walking in the countryside, to cycle along the Thames… To read books that touch the heart, and some that require study rather than mere reading.

One of the books that I have read, and read again is If This Is A Man by Primo Levi. Take a moment to click on the Primo Levi link:  learn a little about Primo Levi – one of the handful of Italian Jews (from tens of thousands) who made it out of Auschwitz alive.  Ready?

Primo Levi makes it clear that their German captors were ruthless/disciplined/systematic in their drive/practices to reduce their captors from men (human beings) to mere animals/beasts. Those who stood up to this ultimate in human degradation were killed – publicly and violently.  Now lets listen to Primo (bolding is my work):

“In this world shaken every day more deeply by the omens of its nearing end, amidst new terrors and hopes, with intervals of exasperated slavery, I happened to meet Lorenzo….

In concrete terms it amounts to little: an Italian civilian worker bought me a piece of bread and the remainder of his ration every day for six months; he gave me a vest of his, full of patches; he wrote a postcard on my behalf to Italy and brought me the reply. For all this he neither asked nor accepted any reward, because he was good and simple and did not think that one did good for reward.

This should not sound little…”

Why shouldn’t this sound little?  Because of the context in which it occurred. What is noteworthy of this context? The Jews were deliberately given filthy rags to wear – not fit for the cold/hostile environment in which they were made to work outdoor, and starved – given something like a litre of soup a day such that they soon became mere skin and bones. Those who did not wish to turn out this way had to ‘hustle’ to make bargains, to barter something of worth. It was not the kind of context which called forth goodness. The reverse: each for himself.

Let’s listen to Primo again:

“However little sense there may be in trying to specify why I, rather than thousands of others, managed to survive the test, I believe that it was really due to Lorenzo that I am alive today;”

Let’s stop here.  Ask yourself what is it that Primo is pointing at when he talks of “due to Lorenzo that I am alive today”?  Is Primo talking about the bread – given that Primo was starving (a kind of starving you and I do not know)?  Is Primo talking about the vest – given that Primo like others wore only flimsy rags? Or perhaps Primo is talking about the postcard to his family?

Lets find out by listening to Primo:

“I believe that it was really due to Lorenzo that I am alive today; and not so much for his material aid, as for his having constantly reminded me by his presence, by his natural and plain manner of being good, that there still existed a just world outside of our own, something and someone still pure and whole, not corrupt, not savage, extraneous to hatred and terror; something difficult to define, a remote possibility of good, but for which it was worth surviving.

The personages in these pages are not men. Their humanity is buried, or they themselves buried it, under an offence received or inflicted on someone else….

But Lorenzo was a man; his humanity was pure and uncontaminated, he was outside this world of negation. Thanks to Lorenzo, I managed not to forget that I myself was a man.”

Just sit with this, I mean really sit with this.  What is the profound truth that Primo is pointing at?

  • Man’s deepest need may be for the Lorenzo’s of this world – those who embody in the very being / showing up the goodness/nobility of man. 
  • One person can/does make a difference! How you show up matters! How I show up matters!
  • Man is the being whose need for nourishment extends way beyond the material necessities;
  • Each of us embodies a certain vision of what it is to be human – to be a man / woman, and this necessarily impacts those with whom we interact and co-creates the kind of work that we end up living in;
  • Man to be and thrive as a man necessarily needs to be regularly nourished on a noble vision of what it is to be man. 

To get this is to get the awesome opportunity and responsibility that necessarily resides with each of us.  The question is are you, am I, willing to show up and travel like Lorenzo?  Or will we continue to play small in the myriad of ways that are open and attractive?

It is my hope that you, and I, choose right now to show up and travel like Lorenzo. I say the ultimate in playing BIG is to provide hope and inspire playing BIG in our fellow human beings. How? By being a humble/gracious exemplar of playing BIG.

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

 

 

Playing BIG In The Presence of Death – Death of a Good Friend


Richard HornbyI last saw my friend Richard Hornby on Sunday 4th March 18 when we shared three hours of our lives with one another. He was in bed, in a room by himself, in a hospice for the terminally ill. I woke him up with “Hello Richard!” He was pleased to see me, and I was pleased to see him. We talked. We brought to life shared memories of times gone by. We laughed with one another.

And I helped him with the little things that had become huge things: getting fresh/cold water and helping him to drink it; helping him eat his fruit salad  – the only thing he wanted to eat from his lunch; intervening on his behalf with the doctor to get his pain addressed; and getting the nurses to give him the morphine that the doctor prescribed.

After taking his morphine and as he was about to go to sleep I took my leave with “I’ll be coming over to see you next weekend.”  I did not get to keep that promise. The next day, in the evening, I was told that my friend had died: He had died peacefully – spared physical pain, and the indignity of being at the mercy of others.

Even today, two weeks later, tears flow when I allow myself to be present to that which is so: my friend is no longer – there will never be another occasion when we walk together, eat together, talk together, laugh together.  I get that he died at the right time – and I am delighted by that. This, intellectual view of the matter, does not do away with the grief/sadness that is present in me right now.

What has helped me to work with the death of my friend and the loss of our friendship is me asking myself this question: “What does playing BIG look like in the presence of loss – the loss of dear friend?” Being with this inquiry I found an abode of peace. And this inquiry helped turn my attention toward Richard himself: what is it that I so admired/liked about him?

What is it that my friend Richard embodied?  What way of being-in-the-world showed up when Richard showed up?  A certain humbleness / lightness that tends to be present in those who do not see themselves as more important than others. A disposition towards looking at life in the manner of the glass is half-full.  His being there for me whenever I needed and asked for his help. And, his unflappability:

What does playing BIG look like in the face of Richard’s death? My answer  for myself is manifold:

  • To accept the sadness and allow the tears to flow down my cheeks without embarrassment;
  • To allow myself to feel the full strength of grief as in the kind of grief where one cries from the stomach with the whole of one’s being;
  • To remember our times together and the contribution he made to my existence – the times that I needed his help and he was there for me; and
  • To keep in existence, as in embody, that which I value/admire about Richard – his humility, his genuineness, his helpfulness, and his unflappability.

I realise that what has allowed me to Play BIG with his death is that I played BIG before he died. When he told me 10 months ago he had terminal brain cancer I cried. And then I  made and lived this commitment – to walk by his side, to make a positive difference to his existence in the face of his impending death.

How am I doing in keeping in existence that which Richard embodied? Badly as in failing more than succeeding. Is that bringing me down? No. Why not? This is a conversation about Playing BIG and that necessarily involves stretching – taking on that which lies to some extent beyond that which one is today.  If I already embodied all the qualities of Richard that I admire/value then I probably would not have valued/admired Richard as much as I do.  Put differently, sometimes Playing BIG is a marathon rather than a dash for the finishing line.

I dedicate this conversation to Richard Hornby. A human being that called forth both affection and respect from many if not all.

 

Playing BIG: Picking Up Autumn’s Leaves


“Who am I?” occurs as an innocent/superficial question until I grapple with it.  I experience the same experience when I contemplate this question “What constitute playing BIG?”  It’s the looking into the BIG part that has led me down a difficult path from time to time – a path where I end up thinking/feeling that I am not playing BIG. Therefore, to talk BIG is to show up / travel as a hypocrite. Hence, I fall silent: no longer a source of inspiration to myself nor to others.

This Autumn my neighbour opened the cage within which I had placed myself. He disclosed to me the meaning of playing BIG as in the experiencing of playing BIG. How did he do this, and of what do I speak here?  Allow me to share story/experience with you.

On an Autumn day, my neighbour Irfan knocked on my door. After customary greetings and little catching up, he told me that he was in the process of cleaning up his garden and had used up his brown bin.  And asked if he could use my brown bin (for recycling grass, leaves and such like) if it was empty and if I was not using it.

I showed enthusiasm for what he was doing because I was genuinely enthusiastic.  I told him that my brown bin was empty and he was welcome to use it – especially as it was going to get picked up / emptied the next day. I also mentioned that I had been lazy myself – pointing to the mass of leaves lying around on the left hand side of my front drive.  And that he’d now given me the motivation to pick up the leaves on my front drive. But not today – today I didn’t feel up to it. Then I rolled the brown bin to where he was standing and gave it to him…

Not long after, I happened to be in the kitchen.  Looking out towards the front of the house. What did I see?  I saw Irfan picking up the mass of leaves on my front drive and putting them into the brown bin that I had handed to him.  I can see him, right now in my minds eye, picking up those leaves. Simply picking them up.  What was present?  Surprise. Shock. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude. Sense of wonder – how such a small act of kindness can make such a BIG emotional/spiritual impact.

This experience disclosed the following to me:

  • It’s not the scale nor the difficult of the task/project that makes it BIG;
  • It’s the difference/impact of that which one does in the lives of our family members, friends, neighbours, community, strangers etc; and
  • That which is given / done without it being asked for, and done without imposition or expectation, that often makes such a big impact.

There is something more.  Irfan picking up his garden leaves is Irfan picking up his garden leaves – ordinary.  Irfan popping over and picking up my garden leaves, without being asked, Irfan showing up as extraordinary – making a positive difference in the world.

I wish to end this conversation with this thought: playing BIG as simple/easy as popping over to your neighbours front drive and picking up the garden leaves, or cutting your neighbours lawn, or inviting your neighbour over for a tea and a chat.

Next time I will share with you the larger impact of Irfan’s action – the avenue that it opened up for me to make a difference in a fellow human being’s life.

Until the next time….

Wisdom for Good Times and Challenging Times


It occurs to me that we in the West are living in the midst of interesting times. Some see opportunity, others are enveloped in fear.  If you and I are up to playing BIG then what kind of stance to take?  How to show up and travel in the midst of such times?

These were the questions that I was dealing with and my eyes happened to land on book that I read a long time ago: Love by Leo Buscaglia.  I opened it and found myself to the following words of wisdom from Joseph Zinker in his paper called On Public Knowledge and Personal Revelation (bolding is mine):

If a man in the street were to pursue his self, what kind of guiding thoughts would he come up with about changing his existence?   He would perhaps discover that his brain is not yet dead, that his body is not dried up, and that no matter where he is right now, he is still the creator of his destiny. 

He can change this destiny by taking his one decision to change seriously, by fighting his petty resistance against change and fear, by learning more about his mind, by trying out behavior which fills his real need, by carrying out concrete acts rather than conceptualizing about them, by practicing to see and hear and touch and feel as he has never before used these senses, by creating something with his own hands without demanding perfection, by thinking out ways in which he behaves in a self-defeating manner, by listening to the words that he utters to his wife, his kids, and his friends, by listening to himself, by listening to the words and looking into the eyes of those who speak to him, by learning to respect the process of his own creative encounters and by having faith that they will get him somewhere soon. 

We must remind ourselves, however, that no change takes place without working hard and without getting your hands dirty.  There are no formulae and no books to memorize on becoming.  I only know this:  I exist.  I am.  I am here.  I am becoming.  I make my life and no one else makes it for me.  I must face my own shortcomings, mistakes, and transgressions.  No one can suffer my non-being as I do, but tomorrow is another day, and I must decide to leave by bed and live again.  And if I fail, I don’t have the comfort of blaming you or life or God.

Yes, we live in interesting times. Brexit has happened. Trump has happened. Hate has been unleashed and hating the other is now clothed in patriotism.  Yet, the future is NOT determined.  Destiny has not already been set in stone. You, I, we can shape the future by the stance we take: our attitude, our way of showing up and travelling in the world.

You and I are like strands in a rope.  The rope does that which no strand can do by itself, on its own.  By coming together, working together, the strands bring into being the power of the rope.

Coming together means more than coming together with the folks we like – those who are just like us.  Playing BIG necessarily involves showing up and travelling from a specific context: a world that works for all, none excluded.  Which necessarily means involving oneself with the other with compassion. Consider that if we, individually and collectively, had not excluded and then ignored those who are excluded there would have been no Brexit, no election of Trump as president of the USA.

I thank you for listening, wish you the very best, and invite you to play BIG in these challenging times.

 

 

 

Playing Big Involves A Certain Kind of Relationship Towards Wrongdoing


A stone has a certain kind of being. What kind?  The being of a stone is stillness. A stone just sit there – it’s way of being has no capacity for acting in/on the world. It is indifferent to what is so and it cannot be otherwise for a stone.

The being of human being is very different.  The way of being of human beings is involvement in the world. And choice in the matter of what shape this involvement takes. Further, this involvement necessarily involves doing – taking action.

Yes, man can be indifferent to that which is but this indifference can never be the indifference of the stone.    The indifference of a human being is an active – chosen – indifference.  Man is implicated in his indifference and thus subject to moral judgement, the stone is not.

 

By nature of the being of human beings you and I are implicated in all that which is and which is not. If the world is not as you and I wish it to be then you and I are confronted with choice – how to be (including the actions we take or do not take) in the face of that which is and is not.  You and I can choose to resign ourselves to that which is, point the finger at others and leave it at that, or take responsibility for shaping the world to be more in line with which we wish it to be.

What has brought up this conversation today?  My confrontation with wrongdoing.

When faced with wrongdoing what do I do?  Do I pretend that it is not happening?  Do I join in with those doing wrong? Do I help those who are the subject of the wrongdoing?  Do I accept that wrongdoing is occurring and say it is not any of my business?  Do I merely go through the pretence of doing something whilst staying in the good books of the wrongdoer?  You get the idea.

When it comes to the matter of wrongdoing Martha C. Nussbaum has something to say:

… where the perpetrators are like General Dyer, human, the consequence of recognising wrongdoing … is clear: the witness must oppose such evil at great cost and denounce it to others...

In our contemporary world, in which it is a good assumption that most of the starvation and much of the other misery we witness is the result of culpable negligence by the powerful, metaphysical resignation would, again, be relatively good news, letting the powerful of the hook.

But the truthful new of Greek tragedy, for us, as for the Athenians, is far worse than that: for the bad news is that we are culpable as Zeus in the Trachiniai, and the Greek generals in The Trojan Women, and Odysseus in Philoctetes, and many other gods and mortals at many times and places – unless we throw off our laziness and selfish ambition and obtuseness and ask ourselves how the harms we witness might have been prevented.  

As Philoctetes knew, pity means action: intervention on behalf of the suffering, even if it is difficult and repellent. If you leave out the action, you are an ignoble coward, perhaps also a hypocrite and a liar. If you help you have done something fine. 

– Martha C. Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness

If you and I turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing then let’s be clear we are playing small.  Playing BIG necessarily involves doing that which Martha says: taking action, opposing evil, helping those subjected to wrongdoing/evil.

Further, I invite you and me to consider that where we are being obtuse, lazy, and selfishly ambitious it is most likely that we are playing small.  Given this recognition you and I have the choice to stop this and play BIG.

I thank you for your listening. Until the next time…

“I did do something… I made you.”


Refugees fleeing the Middle East. Risking not only their lives but also the lives of their loved ones to make it to Europe. There, these fellow human beings, come face to face with the kind of violence that is most difficult for a human being to bear: being looked down upon, being treated with indifference, being rejected…. Unwanted by our fellow human beings.

UK. Spike in hate crimes. Racism out in the opening post vote for Brexit. The foreigner (black, brown, white..) is not welcome: “Go back to your f***ing country!”.  So, no surprise, that folks who look and/or sound foreign find themselves fearful.

USA. The legacy of slavery is out in the open. White folks shoot black folks without impunity. Some black folks have had enough of this….Dallas.

Centre of Brussels. I walk and find myself face to face with many folks sitting on the pavements begging. How can this be?  Brussels, the heart of Europe. Europe a continent of wealth. Seeing some folks begging, just about everybody walking by, this does violence to my soul.

What is my instant / natural response to all this? What is my gut level reaction to a world that doesn’t work?  What is yours?  Isn’t it that which is vividly illustrated by the story below:

Past the seeker, as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the holy one went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”

For many of us God is dead so we replace God with Government: Why doesn’t the government do something about this?   The government should do something!  Aren’t the folks in government just like us: looking for others, including us, to do something?  This is a weak stance is it not?  It is the stance of child is it not?  This is playing small is it not?

The spiritual tradition is clear on what it takes to make the world work:

Past the seeker, as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them, the holy one went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”

And out of the long silence, God said: “I did do something about them. I made you.”

Looking for a source of inspiration? An ordinary fellow human being who showed up and travelled in this manner? Today, I cannot think of a better example than Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Central Brussels. Each day I ensure that I have enough cash in my pocket. As I come across a fellow human being begging, I look that person in the eye, and place some money in his/her hands. I continue to do this until there is no more cash in my pocket. I have not changed the world. Yet, I made a difference to at least two people every day: the person/s begging and myself.  I have moved from being one who looks on from the stands and despairs to an agent who acts.

I thank you for your listening. Wherever you are I hope you will play BIG.

Abdul Sattar Edhi: An Inspiration For Those Who Are Up For Playing Big


You and I want our lives to matter. We want our lives to make a real difference — to be of genuine consequence in the world. We know that there is no satisfaction in merely going through the motions in life, even if those motions make us successful or even if we have arranged to make those motions pleasant. We want to know we have had some impact on the world. In fact, you and I want to contribute to the quality of life. We want to make the world work

-Werner Erhard

Yesterday I learnt that Abdul Sattar Edhi is no longer. You’ve probably not heard of him. Yet, in my eyes, he sit there alongside Gandhi as one of the world greatest examples of humanity: a peaceful warrior for the poor, the downtrodden, the outcasts…. A living example of what is possible when one makes one’s life a stand for something noble – something that calls to the deeply human in us, no matter how deeply it is buried.

Sadness. Tears, Sadness. Tears, Sadness. Tears….. A profound sense of loss. Yet, I have never met the man, merely donated money to the organisation he founded. So from where does this deep sense of grief arise?

What is it that i find my deepest self (that which is beyond my conscious control) mourns for?  The loss of a saint, the humanity he embodied, and the humanity he called forth in many people. I suspect that he left heft many of us feeling better about ourselves and the world that we find ourselves.

For as long as there is one Edhi there is hope. More, an Edhi is an opening, a clearing, for our humanity to show up and make difference: to contribute to the quality of life – for all.

 

People have become educated, but have yet to become human.

-Abdul Sattar Edhi

So this is my invitation to you, to me, to us: Let’s play BIG, starting right now, by putting our humanity, the kind of humanity that Abdul Sattar Edhi,  into action.

I thank you for you listening. And I ask that you show up and travel in manner that makes a positive difference to the quality of your life, our life, life itself.

Play Big: Embrace A Stranger The Nicula Way


I’ve been working in Belgium this year. Typically I take flight out to Brussels every Sunday night or Monday morning. And take the flight back to London late afternoon every Friday.

I work with a great bunch of people: Jeroen, Martijn, Patrick, Rupert, Arun, Prashanth, Alexandra……. They show up and travel in a manner that leaves me feeling welcome, respected, part of the team.

There is something special about Alexandra. She kind of ’embraced’ me without ever having met me. How by ringing me whilst I was recovering from back surgery.

Upon my return to work/Brussels Alexandra made me feel welcome by seeking me out and taking me out to lunch.  Not just once but several times. Now and then when she takes a break and goes out for a cigarette she invites me along. Sometimes I take up her invitation.

This week Alexandra invited me to her home. I found myself both surprised and delighted. Why surprised? “She hardly knows me!”  Why delighted? She trusts me enough to invite me to her home; and she finds me sufficiently interesting to invite me to her home.

The result? I spent a lovely evening at her place. I met her son: a beautiful young fellow, alive, curious, playful and intelligent; he enjoys chocolates; and loves his mother. I got to learn a little about her partner.  Alexandra also shared some of her life with me. Being English I tend to be somewhat reserved yet I found myself telling Alexandra about some aspects of my life.

What is there between myself and Alexandra? Gratitude! Gratitude for what? For being the first and only Belgian person who has invited me into her home, her family, her life.  For  puncturing my sense of being a stranger in this land.

I invite you and I to play big by embracing a stranger the Nicula way!  Who can you invite into your life and by so doing touch his/her life for one lunchtime, for one evening, or for a lifetime?

And finally, I dedicate this conversation to Alexandra Nicula – a remarkable woman. And someone who now shows up for me as a friend.  Thank you Alexandra for your kindness, your generosity, and your way of being – which I find refreshing and inspiring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Does Ralph Waldo Emerson Say On Playing Big?


A little while ago I read Robyn Davidson’s book, Tracks. If you haven’t read it and enjoy reading about real people -about the human spirit and it’s thirst for something beyond the know and the accepted – then I encourage you to read it.  Please don’t play small and settle for watching the movie – the movie is such a shallow version of the book.

Today, I came across a passage from Ralph Waldo Emerson which is in line with the 1700 mile journey Robyn Davidson took across Australia – against all advice – just because the journey was calling her. I share this passage with you in the possibility that it will inspire you and me to play BIG (bolding mine):

“You will hear everyday the maxims of low prudence. You will hear that the first duty is to get land and money, place and name. “What is the Truth you seek? What is this Beauty?” men will ask, with derision. If, nevertheless, God has called any of you to explore truth and beauty, be bold, be firm, be true. When you shall say, “As others do, so will I. I renounce, I am sorry for it, my early visions; I must eat the good of the land, and let learning and romantic expectations go, until a more convenient season;” – then dies the man in you; then once more perish the buds of art, and poetry, and science, as they have died already in a thousand men”

-Emerson, 1838

I thank you for your listening. And I wish you the very best – I hope you will listen and respond to that which calls forth the best, the bigness, in you.  Until the next time..

Play BIG: Show Up And Operate From The Stand “It Is ALL invented!”


If you wish to play BIG: live a life of freedom, a life of possibility, of creativity and self-expression then Invite you to really listen to the following words of wisdom:

“Since the birth of humanity, people have created many phantom worlds in which to live. In fact, our most powerful inventions are technological at all; they are conceptual.  Every culture needs structure and values in order to function as a cooperative effort, and commonly held beliefs and assumptions provide a central unifying force. In response to the questions of existence, such as “Who are we, and why are we here?” a staggering number of belief systems, values, religions, cosmologies, and worldviews have been invented, lived, and taken very, very, seriously. For the most part these “inventions” occurred organically or collectively over a period of time, but despite their unpremeditated beginnings, they are inventions nevertheless…..

Every subculture with a set of beliefs clamours to have the last word on the subject, claiming themselves guardians of the Truth. Many of the different factions are willing to war over their inventions, but no one is willing to confess that they simply don’t know what the truth is

Everything we invent in this way and live as if it were real or true will have repercussions.  While we might understand and accept that there are consequences to the actions we take, it’s difficult to grasp that our beliefs and assumptions also have a cost. To recognise this, one would first have to forego attachment to his or her own personal opinions and admit that the ideas at issue are beliefs rather than the truth. Acknowledging this point is scary for anyone. It opens the door to doubts, and few people can tolerate the possibility of their whole belief system unraveling before their eyes…..

We’ll shoulder all the woes of the world as long as they fit in with our way of holding reality. But what if a great deal of our suffering is based on assumptions that are false?”

– Peter Ralston, The Book of Not Knowing

I invite you to consider that if it is invented then there is nothing sacred about it, it is man made.  That which is man made, can be remade – study history and you will find that this has happened countless times.  How is this relevant to me/you/us?

  1. When you/i/we get that it is ALL invented, then the space is wide open for you/i/us to invent the kind of life/world that we wish to see, live in, live from.
  2. You/i can let go of assumptions, beliefs, values, practices, structures, standards, ideals that cause us to play small, to suffer, to live lives of quiet desperation. Yes, this involves loss – of the familiar, the comfortable. In return we grant ourselves freedom; the price of ‘growth’ is loss.

Playing BIG In 2015: Optimism, Possibility, and Self-Expression


You and I are confronted with choice. You/i can play small – the default of serving, fixing, getting ahead, making it… Or you/i can play BIG: life a live of meaning and self-expression. If you are up for the latter than this conversation is for you.

Invitation: Choose To Show Up With Unreasonable Optimism

I say that the source of and access to life of possibility is optimism. What kind of optimism? Optimism in self, in others, in the world, and ultimately in life itself.  Please note, I am not saying that this is ‘truth’. What I am saying is that this is the best ‘place’ to ‘stand’ and  ‘operate’ from. It is the way of being that is the most fruitful for playing BIG in life.  I offer you the following words of wisdom (bolding mine):

“Optimism gives a hopeful attitude to life, while with pessimism one sees darkness on one’s path. No doubt sometimes pessimism shows conscientiousness and cleverness, and it may also show experience. But conscientiousness alone will never be enough to overcome the difficulties one meets in one’s life, it is trust that solves life problems.…

The psychological effect of optimism is such that it helps to bring success, for it is by the spirit of optimism that God has created the world. Optimism comes from God, and pessimism is born from the heart of man. By what little experience of life he has, man learns, “This will not succeed, that will not do, this will not come right.” For the one who is optimistic it does not matter if it does not come right in the end, he will take his chance. For what is life? Life is an opportunity, and to the optimistic person this opportunity is a promise, while for the pessimistic person this opportunity is lost….

Man’s life depends on the object of his concentration, so if he concentrates upon misery, he must be miserable. A person who has a certain habit of which he does not approve often thinks he is helpless before is as it is his nature. But nothing is man’s nature except what he makes of himself. As the whole of nature is is made by God, so the nature of each individual is made by himself; and as the Almighty has the power to change His nature, so the individual is capable of changing his nature. Among all the creatures of this world, man has the most right to be optimistic, for man represents God on earth, God as Judge, God as Creator ….

A man with optimism will help another who is drowning in the sea of fear and disappointment; while on the contrary, if someone who is ill or downhearted comes to a pessimistic person, the pessimist will pull him down and make him sink to the depths along with himself. On the side of the one is life; on the side of the other is death……. It is no exaggeration to say that the very spirit of God comes to man’s rescue in the form of the optimistic spirit.…..

It does not matter how hard a situation in life may be: however great the difficulties, they can all be surmounted…… the greatest greatest reward there can be in life is the spirit of optimism, while the greatest punishment that can be given to man for his worst sin is pessimism. Verily, the one who is hopeful in life will succeed.

There are two attitudes that divide people into two sections. The one is an ever-complaining attitude and the other an ever-smiling attitude. Life is the same: call it good, call it bad, call it right, call it wrong, it is what it is; it cannot be otherwise…. The person with the right attitude of mind tries to make even wrong right, but the one with the wrong attitude of mind will turn even right into wrong. Besides, magnetism is the the need of every soul; the lack of it makes life burdensome. The tendency of seeing wrong in everything robs one to a great extent of that magnetism which is needed very much in life….. the world is place you cannot enter with a pass of admission, and that pass of admission is magnetism; the one who does not possess it will be refused everywhere.

The attitude of looking at everything with a smile is the sign of the saintly soul. A smile given to a friend or even to an enemy will win him over in the end; for this is the key to the heart of man. As the sunshine from without lights the whole world, so the sunshine from within, it it were raised up, would illuminate the whole life, in spite of all the seeming wrongs and in spite of all limitations…. looking at life with a hopeful attitude of mind, with an optimistic view, it is this that will give one power of turning wrong into right and bringing light into the place where all is darkness. Cheerfulness is life; sulkiness is death. Life attracts, death repulses. The sunshine that comes from the soul, rises through the heart, and manifests itself in man’s smile is indeed the light from the heavens. In that light many flowers grow and many fruits become ripe.”

– Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Art Of Being And Becoming

Invitation: Devote Yourself To A Possibility That Leaves You Deeply Moved-Touched-Uplifted / Live A Life Of Full Self-Expression

If unreasonable optimism is the ‘background’ of your life then what constitutes the ‘foreground’ of your existence? Put differently, what is the possibility, stand, or ‘project’ that will call forth and provide a suitable vehicle for your full self-expression?  What so calls you that it calls you to play full-out: to transcend your ‘small’ self and be  all that you need to be to give wings to the possibility that calls you? If you are wondering what it is that I am talking about then I offer you this story:

“There was an artist who was so devoted to her art; nothing else in the world had any attraction for her. She had a studio, and whenever she had a moment to spare her first thought was to go to that studio and work on the statue she was making. People could not understand her, for it is not everybody who is devoted to one thing like this. For a time a person interests himself in art, at other times in something else, at other times in the home, at other times in the theatre. But she did not mind; she went every day to her studio and spent most of her time in making this work of art, the only work of art that she made in her life.

The more the work progressed, the more she began to feel delighted with it, attracted by that beauty to which she was devoting her time. It began to manifest to her eyes, and she began to communicate with that beauty. It was no longer a statue for her, it was a living being. The moment that statue was finished she could not believe her eyes – that it had been made by her….. She felt exalted by the beauty of the statue.

She was so overcome by the impression that this statue made on her that she knelt down before this vision of perfect beauty, with all humility, she asked the statue to speak, forgetting entirely that it was her own work…… there came a voice from the statue: “If you love me, there is only one condition, and that is to take the bowl of this poison from my hand. If you wish me to be living, you no more will live. Is it acceptable?” “Yes,” she said, “You are beauty, you are the beloved, you are the one to whom I give all my thought, my admiration, my worship; even my life I will give to you.” ….. She took the bowl of poison, and fell dead. The statue lifted her and kissed her by giving her its own life, the life of beauty and sacredness …..”

– Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Art of Being and Becoming

I invite me/you/us to be unreasonable and unstoppable in playing full-out in 2015 to live a meaningful-joyful life: a life of possibility, of full self-expression, of unbounded optimism.  It occurs to me that this is the way to live – to show thanks for this gift of life. And where  you/i find ourselves in difficult circumstances, it occurs to me that this way of ‘showing up and travelling’ is the ultimate rebellion.

Play BIG By Appreciating & Enhancing The Beauty Of This World


At one level the world works. It is beautiful, wondrous, and inspires awe.  This I experienced this morning. Awake at sunrise I found myself present to the blueness of the blue sky. I found myself in awe of the vastness of the sky. The decorating (of the sky) being performed by the white clouds.  I found this body, this skin, delighted at the warming touch.  How soothing-refreshing the gentle breeze. How fragrant-delicious the smell of the strawberries ripening in the garden. How beautiful the flowers are: red roses, white roses… How soothing the sound of the chimes and chirping of the birds. How beautiful the world is!

At another level the world does not work and in particular it does not work for all.  I see this on my travels into London where I see people sleeping out in the open, begging for pennies.  I see this in the way that the UK government is making the poorest members of this nation pay for the mistakes-excesses of the richest. I see it in the way that interacting with the smartphone is more rewarding for folks than the person across the dining table.  I see it in the way that our obsession with a never ending stream of cheap clothes is delivered through the slavery-oppression of many in the ‘third world’. I see it in the way that animals that end up on our plates and in our stomachs are housed-reared-treated-killed.  It is endless and when I am present to it, I find tears running down my cheeks.

How to be about this? It occurs to me that you and I can play small. We can simply go along with the default which is combination of closing our eyes to what is so, pleading innocence, pointing at the ‘guilty’ parties, complaining and/or resisting.

What does playing BIG look like in this regard, this way of looking at the world?  It occurs to me that to play BIG is to:

a) Slow down and be present to the wonder-beauty-awesomeness of this world that is our home and of which we are an intrinsic part like the thread is to the tapestry; and

b) See the ‘non-workability of the world’ as a great opportunity, a personal invitation, to show up and make a difference. To bring our (you, me, us) fullest creative self expression into play. Perhaps even see it as a challenge to see how much difference you can make. Not by complaining or criticising or rebelling. But by taking a stand to exercise our creative abilities in the context of possibility and transformation.

So I invite you and me to play BIG by choosing to appreciate and enhance the beauty of this world; it occurs to me that enhancing beauty means enhancing the workability of the world so that it works for all, none excluded.

What can you do today to live this possibility, to walk this path? What difference are you up for making? How fully are you up for living this day? This week? This month? This year? This life however long or short it is?

If You Wish To Play Big Then Show Up And Travel In This Manner


It occurs to me that almost all of us, for almost all the time, live as slaves and/or victims.  What are we slaves of? Of reward and punishment. Of praise and blame.

We are slaves of  appreciation, of validation, of praise, of inclusion, of reward.  These leave us feeling good (and BIG) about ourselves and our place-role the world.  They can and often do elevate us from the ‘hell to heaven’.

We are also slaves of blame, criticism, ridicule, exclusion and punishment. These leaves us feeling bad (and SMALL) about ourselves and our place-role in the world. They can and usually do ‘snatch us from heaven and leave us in hell’ sometimes for long periods of time.

As I said you/i/we live as victims. Victims of whom/what? Victims of the people who around us whose opinions matter. Victims of the prevailing conventions and standards around what constitutes a normal-good-successful person.  Let me be clear, the ‘gate-less gate’ (to use a Buddhist expression) will never open for you/i if you/i continue to choose to live like slaves and victims.

It occurs to me that those of who choose to play BIG in life are asked to show up and travel in life in a particular manner. What kind of manner?  I leave you with a quote that points at that which I speak of:

I remember days of difficult labour in a spiritual school where we were encouraged to keep a balanced attention through all kinds of situations. I was given the task of grooming a horse.

From mane to tail, from hooves right up, I worked for hours.

Then the teacher came and after a brief inspection said, “Very poor job, superficial and sloppy.” He and I watched as my heart sank.

But then something rebounded: I knew I had done my best; I knew that I could not be a slave to reward or blame. In that moment, I saw the twinkle in his eye as he turned and left. 

– Kabir Edmund Helminski, Living Presence: A Sufi Way to Mindfulness & The Essential Self

I say that you/i grant ourselves the space to play BIG in life as soon as (and for as long as) you/i show up and travel in this world in a manner that calls to us, walk on the paths that calls us, travel towards destinations/outcomes that call us. And irrespective of what others say and how they treat us, we ask ourselves the following question: “Am I showing up and travelling in life in a manner where in my being-doing I am giving it my all? “

If the honest answer is “Yes!” then I say you/i can be at peace with whatever shows up: reward, punishment, praise, blame, inclusion, exclusion..

If the honest answer is “No” then I say this answer is an opportunity to look into what is missing the presence of which would allow you/i to say “Yes!”.  Is it that the path no longer calls you/me?  Is it that you/i are simply in need of some rest, some time out, to energise?  Is it that you/i need to get creative about generating a different way of travelling the path?

I ask you to play BIG!  I ask you to show and travel in a manner that calls to you. I ask you to be OK with doing your best. I ask the same of myself.

It occurs to me that there is more to say. So I invite you to consider the following as a place to show up and operate from:

  • Only the imperfect demand perfection of themselves in order to feel perfect; and
  • The access to perfection is being OK with your imperfection AND giving your living all the you have to give AND being OK with knowing that you did and are doing your best.

Am I A Success?


How do I go about determining the answer to this question?

It occurs to me that a starting point is to list that which is commonly associated with success: wealth (money), fame, power, status…..

Wealth. Without hesitation I can say that I am not wealthy. Therefore, I am not a success in this dimension.

Fame. I am perfectly safe walking amongst a throng of humanity: none of my fellow humans would single me out of the crowd.  I am one of seven billion. So I am not a success in this dimension either.

Power. I do not possess the power to act on others, shape their behaviour and direct the course of the future. More precisely, I have no more power than the ordinary man. And we all know that the ordinary man is ordinary precisely because he lacks power.   Clearly, I am not a success in the domain of power.

Status. What goes with being ordinary? Lack of status.  There is nothing about me that calls forth status. Neither do I hold a rank of fill a role that carries status.  I am clear that I am not a success in this domain either.

Given that which I share do you consider me to be a success?  I am clear that by the standards of the society I am not a success. Some in my social circle see me as a person who has not lived up to his potential, others see me as a failure.

How Is It That I Experience Myself As A Success? 

Unannounced and uninvited I find myself seized by the conviction of success. Put differently, in my lived experience I show up for myself as a success.  What is going on here?

What has hit me with considerable force is that the existential projects in which I have invested in myself have turned out along the lines that I worked for them to turn out.  What am I talking about? Let’s look at each.

Wife

My wife and I have been together since 1992 and married since 1995.  She is white and French. I am not white and not French. Despite the misgivings of our parents (and some friends) we are still together. It has not been easy going, we have faced many challenges. I am particularly proud of the way I stood for and helped make happen that which was my wife’s dream and is, today, her passion:

You have always been the king of my heart, even with all that has gone on between us at times……  I also want to thank you for supporting me with my counselling, while this can be a demanding job at times. I cannot wish for any other job … While I don’t always take the time to say, I know who does the washing up, empty the dishwasher ……. when I am not here or just too tired…..

Eldest Son

I have been concerned with the wellbeing of my eldest son since he was about eight years old. Why? That is when it became clear that he was dyslexic. Whilst being smart he struggled in the classroom and this dented his confidence and wellbeing.

I put a lot of myself into my son’s wellbeing including taking the fight all the way (jumping over several hurdles over the course of year or so) to get him the specialist tuition he needed. Today, at the age of nineteen he is well known-liked in the community. Has managed a retail shop for over a year. And has earned-saved enough money to pay for his driving lessons, buy a car and insure it with his earned-saved money.  This is what he writes:

Thank you so much for all the time you have put into looking for a car and to help me drive. I do really appreciate it. I thank you for supporting me through changing jobs. I love you lots even though we have our differences.

The Younger Son

I had great hopes for my younger son when he was around eight years old.  He was so full of life. And where his older brother struggled to put a sentence together, the younger would confidently walk on to the stage and hold everyone’s attention and make us laugh.

Things changed when he moved passed the age of eleven and moved into a new school. It has taken a lot to be with all his struggles especially when he has been in considerable pain and I have found myself experiencing myself totally helpless to fix things.  Sometimes, all I have been able to give is a hug. Here is what he wrote for my birthday:

I love you more than words can describe and thank you for making my days feel happier, easier and more relaxing. I ……… take this opportunity to let you know  how much your calming hugs & massages make a positive contribution in making me feel happier, more at ease with myself, and more positive about life……. No one can make me feel like that through their affection… I couldn’t imagine my life without you.

 Daughter

With the boys I was comfortable looking after them right from birth. That was not the case for my daughter. Why? Because she is female!  With the help-guidance I overcame my fears and was comfortable doing all that needs to be done with a baby.

Somewhere along the way my daughter and I developed an especially strong relationship.  I am into wisdom and tales of wisdom. Most people find them boring. My daughter didn’t, she could not get enough. She loved to hear a different tale every night – just before she went to sleep.

The Buddhists say that life flows, change is what is so, nothing lasts. And it is our attachment/clinging that ultimately generates our sense of dissatisfaction with life.  I didn’t pay enough attention: as my daughter moved towards her teenage years we drifted apart. For a while I was left with a great sense of loss. And I worried for her and wondered what it was that I had done wrong.

Where had I failed as a father?  This is what my daughter told me recently:

To start off I want to thank you for everything that you do for me and everything you have taught me. I want you to know that I LOVE YOU LOTS! You mean the world to me! I wouldn’t be able to live without you!

I want you to know that I will never stop loving you even if we don’t talk as mud or spend time together like we used to. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU!

Niece

I had a decision to make about a year ago. My niece wanted to come and look for a job in London and wanted somewhere to stay for six weeks.  The question that I asked myself was a deeper one: “Am I willing to have my niece stay with us and treat her as my daughter? To treat her with the same consideration-love that I show for my daughter?”

My niece has now been living with us, and as an integral member of the family, for about a year.  This is what she told me recently:

I want to thank you for everything. I am a very lucky girl to have an uncle like you. I am also very proud of you for everything that you have achieved this year, all the challenges and setbacks and you still pulled through. I love your very much!

Why Have I Shared This With You?

I have shared this with you in order to communicate the following:

1. Whether you show up for yourself as a success or a failure depends on how you look at your life and at the point in time that you do the looking. If you are up for a deeper appreciation of that which I am pointing at then read the following post: I Have Failed, Am I A Failure?

2. The staring point of playing BIG is not being ensnared by that which society deems to be success. And choosing your existential projects – that which truly matters to you, authentically! And then putting your all into these projects.

3. Playing BIG can be as simple and as difficult as making a meaningful contribution in the lives of our fellow human beings starting with those nearest-dearest to us.

4. No amount of success is likely to be experienced as success until and unless you/i  invite love into our living: loving other/s and inviting/receiving the love of other/s.

Why Heed The Call & Live The Unlived Life?


The English word ‘devil’ is very beautiful. If you read it backwards it becomes ‘lived’. That which is lived becomes divine, and that which is not lived becomes the devil. 

Only the lived is transformed into godliness; the unlived turns poisonous.

And today you postpone, and whatever remains unlived in you will hang around you like a weight. If you had lived it you would have been free of it. It would not have haunted you, it would not have tortured you.

– Osho

Explanation: The Access To Generating Breakthroughs?


PHENOMENON

Definition:

1. An event or situation that can be seen to happen or exist.

2. A fact, occurrence, or circumstance, observed or observable.

Etymology:

1570s, “fact, occurrence,” from Late Latin phænomenon, from Greek phainomenon “that which appears or is seen,” noun use of neuter present participle of phainesthai “to appear”…

What Is So

There is the phenomenon e.g. widespread flooding in the southern England (UK)

There is the interpretation-explanation (‘story’) about the phenomenon e.g.” it is due to government neglect through cost-cutting.” 

Notice: the phenomenon is always distinct from the ‘story’.

Notice: we can invent an array of stories for the phenomenon at hand: “serves people right for building homes in flood prone areas; it serves the middles classes right for voting in this government; it is due to climate change; it is God showing his displeasure; this government is uncaring and incompetent etc….”

The automaticity of the ‘human machinery’ is such that I am almost never present to the distinction between phenomenon and story: the story shines so brightly in my speaking that I cannot see (am not present) to the phenomenon that lies in the background.

Exception = breakdowns.

Breakdowns occurs when the novel-unusual occurs: I find myself faced with the phenomenon as there is no ready made ‘story’ to understand-explain and thus slot the phenomenon into my ‘already always listening-interpreting-explaining’ of phenomena.

Even when breakdowns occur I will do my best to concoct a story that enables me to make sense of these breakdowns and fit them into the ‘story that I already am’ with the minimum disturbance to my way of being / showing up in the world.

What drives this entire play? The ‘story that I already am’. The story that gives my way of being / showing up in the world. My ‘already always listening’: of self, of you, of others, of us, of the world’. Behind my ‘story’ lies the ‘Story’: the story given by the culture that I find myself enmeshed in and of which I am an embodiment.

The Access To Breakthroughs Lie In The Domain Of ‘Story’

Notice, that the phenomenon does not dictate the course of action we will take. For example, the fact that there is flooding in southern England is simply what is so.  What is so does not in any way dictate-determine what is done about what is so.

What determines our course of action regarding the phenomenon?  Our interpretation, our explanation, the ‘story’ that we make about the phenomenon: the dominant ‘story’ determines the course of action taken.

Notice: For as long as the existing ‘story’ explains-dominates the phenomenon we will continue to do some variation on what we have done before in relation to the phenomenon.  Put differently, the course of action that is taken in relation to phenomenon is always given-dictated by the dominant ‘story’ used to interpret-explain the phenomenon.

Which means that if the actions that you are taking, in relation to a specific phenomenon, are not generating the kind of results that you are wanting then you may want to stop. Stop!

Stop and be with the phenomenon just as it is and as it is not. Listen to, observe, touch-feel, live with, be with the phenomenon.  What is it that is unveiled?  Something is always unveiled for it is simply so that one cannot ever see the whole apple: some aspect of the apple is always hidden.

Now, with a fuller-richer-more rounded grasp of the phenomenon, you are in a position to invent-choose an alternative ‘story’: an alternative interpretation-explanation. The trick is to choose a ‘story’ that is in accordance with the phenomenon and generates actionable insight: insight that leaves open the space to take fruitful action.

All of which is to say that the access to generating breakthroughs – in our relationships, in our families, in our workplaces, in this world – lies in the explanation: the ‘story’ that we create around our relationships, our families, our workplaces, our world.

Want a breakthrough in a realm of your life?  Want to generate a transformation in your experience of your life? Then let go of the ‘story that you are and which gives you your way of being and showing up in the world’ and invent-nurture-cultivate-grow a different ‘story’. One of the most important shifts is to move from ‘not enough’ to ‘enough’; from ‘victim’ to author of one’s life; from spectator in the game of life to being on the court playing full-out.

Ultimately, to play BIG is to let go of the dominant story about what it is to be human. And what it is to be successful. And what constitutes a good life.  What does that open up: a space, a big space. And what can we do with such a space. Invent and actualise new possibilities.

 

Daring Greatly: Moving From The Stands And Into The Arena


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Theodore Roosevelt

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