Hurt: An Existential Meditation


I dedicate this conversation, as it is deeply important one, to Teresa Zelmanovits. She is a person of deep humanity and considerable insight into the human condition. And, the source of this conversation.

“Don’t Fuck Up!”

Stephen Margarito, a friend, is fond of saying “DON’T fuck up!!” Is such a stand – way of showing up and travelling in the journey of life – possible? Let’s say for the sake of argument you (or I) are perfect – we never ever fuck up. Does this mean that you (or I) will lead a perfect life – a life without hurt, a life with only happiness?

I say “No!” Get real, you (and I) are going to get hurt. Hurt is a certainty for every human that has walked, does walk, ever will walk on this Earth. Why? Because, you (and I, and every other person) is a being-in-the-world-with-others.

As a being-in-the-world-with-others my existence is intricately tied to that of this world, and to that of others. Take others, if one’s life partner fucks up then one is impacted. If those who act as teachers to one’s children fuck up then one is affected. If one’s employer fucks up then there are likely to be redundancies and one is affected. Now, let’s take the World. Covid-19 broke out and how many have been affected?

The Existentialist Perspective: Fucking Up and Hurt Are Intrinsic to Human Existence, There is No Escape

One (you, I, the other) will fuck up. There will be consequences for the one that fucked up and others. And where there are fuck-ups there is likely to be hurt – not always, but likely. Hurt, you know as in “I hurt!” When I say “hurt” I am not pointing at pain. When I sliced my thumb open, there was blood everywhere, and pain was present. Even today, some 3 weeks later pain in my thumb is present.

By “hurt” I point at emotional hurt as in when one feels hurt. Example, your loved one leaves you, or dies. Beyond the emotional there is a deeper hurt. Of what do I speak? Of the hurt in one’s soul – in one’s very being. Example, you really really wanted to be say a dancer yet you became a lawyer because that is what your father or mother did. Or you did not seize the moment to pursue the only that truly mattered to you – the one that lit up your very soul and left it dancing joyously.

What Matters Is How One Deals With Hurt

Hurt is an existential fact: everyone of us will experience hurt. It’s what we do with this hurt that matters. Put differently and more powerfully: it’s how we choose to use hurt that makes all the difference.

What are the standard (playing small) options in relation to hurt?

1-One can withdraw from life – into one’s shell so that one does not allow the other, or the world, to inflict more hurt. Some go one better, they withdraw, comfortable in that withdrawal, they stay there for a lifetime.

2-One can play victim – feel sorry for oneself, look/demand sympathy from others, one can go further and expect others to drop what they are doing and looking after me, the victim of life. By playing victim one can inflict one’s hurt onto others – almost always on those who are closest to us, those who love us. Why? Because they are the only ones willing to accept the injury and almost always the domination; the victim gets to dominate by playing weak and demanding loved one look after him/her. Failure to play this game leads the victim to ambush loved ones with guilt as in “If you loved me…..” Often the victim does not even need to do this, cultural upbringing already conditions one to feel guilty if one does not do their all for loved ones who are down.

3-One can burn with resentment, anger, even rage. These will lead to the corresponding actions For example, where one resents another, distance, blame, and critiscism of the other/s follows. I call this “inflicting death by a thousand cuts.” Anger can lead to lashing out at the other/s. Whether that is the abusive tongue or the abusive hands.

What Are The Playing BIG, useful, Options in relation to hurt?

1-One uses hurt to connect with one’s fellow human beings – recognising our mutuality, our shared human existence and condition. By connecting thus one opens the gate to compassion – for the other/s who are just like me hurting in some manner.

2-One goes into the hurt to enquire, to learn – about oneself, about the other/s, about the world. Example, one seeks to understand why it is that one’s spouse is emotionally distant or cutting. What is going on here? What burdens/scars does the spouse carry that lead to his/her behaviour? How am I being, and/or what is it that I am doing, that contributes and perhaps is even the source of my spouse being distant or cutting? At the end of the learning process one is almost always in a much more powerful place in relation to the hurt. And often the hurt is gone, at the very minimum it is diminished. Example, I see how my recent way of showing up and travelling in life (say being impatient and critical or just plain indifferent to him/her) has awakened the spouse’s scars and fears. And led to the spouse’s emotional distance or cutting remarks. S/he hurts me because I, unknowingly, hurt him/her.

3-One uses hurt constructively on the journey of becoming. As the Existential philosophers point out a human being is, alway and forever, a being and a becoming: for one always has the freedom to choose to become other than what one is today. So, having approached the hurt through the mode of enquiry / learning (option 2) one can act: to change oneself; to influence others; and/or to make a change in the world. Taking the example of the distant cutting spouse, I go up to my spouse and apologise – really apologise for my behaviour and the impact of my behaviour on him/her. And in this very act a new possibility, a new future, is created: one of connection, harmony, intimacy.

Summing Up

No human being, who lives a normal human life, can escape fucking-up and that which often comes with it: hurt. Playing BIG, involves choosing the path less travelled: expecting hurt, accepting hurt, looking into hurt to enquire and learn about myself, about others, about the world. And, then using this learning to take action – action that heals me, heals the other, and ideally heals the world.

If you have gotten this far then I thank you for your listening for I know that my speaking is not easy to hear. And, I wish you the very best. Until the next time…..

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 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….

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…

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.

Nelson Mandela: A Master of Being?


I am not in a position to say anything about Nelson Mandela. Why? I didn’t know him at all, I simply know of him. What I notice is that a big deal is being made of his death. Why?

It occurs to me that Nelson Mandela embodied a certain way of being. A way of being that is uncommon in our age. What kind of being am I pointing at?   Being a stand for a possibility that speaks to many of us, a possibility that moves-touches-inspires many of us at the very deepest level:

“I think his main legacy will be instilling confidence among all people in South Africa, instilling the knowledge that people are equal, all people regardless of colour; that people can live in peace and harmony and love.”

-Fellow ANC political prisoner Ahmed Kathrada

Looking through is ‘work’ I find myself deeply touched by some of his saying. These I share with you for they may also call to you, touch you, and open up new possibilities and avenues. It occurs to me that if you and I are to generate value from these quotes then we have to live them not just read them.

There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy.”

“There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

“It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we led.

“There is a universal respect and even admiration for those who are humble and simple by nature, and who have absolute confidence in all human beings irrespective of their social status.”

One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.

“There are few misfortunes in this world that you cannot turn into a personal triumph if you have the iron will and the necessary skill.”

A winner is a dreamer who never gives up

Powerful Sorcery Over Ourselves?


“You don’t need to be a sorcerer to cast a spell over yourself by saying, ‘This is how I am. I can do nothing about it.'”

– Alain, French philosopher

It occurs to me that Alain did not go far enough. The way to truly play small in life is to go one step further:

“You don’t need to be a sorcerer to cast a spell over yourself by saying, “This is how I am. This is how the world is. I can do nothing about it – myself and the world.'”

– Maz Iqbal

‘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:

Christmas: a time to be of service and make a difference?


AldinePhotoChristmas2012

I dedicate this post to my wife, Aldine. For me, my wife is the embodiment of that which I want to share with you in this post.

Christmas can be just a ritual we go through or it can be a time to get present.  Present to  what?  Present to being of service and making difference.  Who to?  How about starting with the people who you/I are spending Christmas with.  And then allowing ourselves to ripple out from there to touch all the people whose lives touch our lives, however briefly and lightly.

What does it take to make a difference?

What does it take to make a difference in our lives, in the lives of our fellow human beings, in the world within which we dwell?  It takes courage. What kind of courage?  Let’s listen to a master of the human condition:

“All it takes to make a difference is the courage to stop proving I was right in being unable to make a difference… to stop assigning cause for my inability to the circumstances outside of myself …… and to see that the fear of being a failure is a lot less important than the unique opportunity I have to make a difference.” Werner Erhard

What does it take to make a difference to the people whose lives we touch?

Our ordinary, default, way of showing up in the world does not lend itself to generating great relationships and making a difference.  Why?  Because, if you are like me then you are great with people when they are being great. And not at all great with people when they are not being great.  Put differently and simply, if you are like me then you struggle to put up with people’s garbage – even at Christmas.  What am I pointing at?  I am pointing at the kind of stuff that people say and/or do that drives me up the wall.

Is there another way of showing up in the world that does allow us to be great with people, to generate great relationships, to make a difference.  There is. Here is how Werner Erhard puts it:

“My notion about service is that service is actually that kind of relationship in which you have a commitment to the person. What I mean, in fact, is that for me what service is about is being committed to the other being. To who the other person is.

To the degree that you are, in fact, committed to the other person, you are only as valuable as you can deal with the other person’s stuff, their evidence, their manifestation, and that’s what’s service is about. Service is about knowing who the other person is and being able to tolerate giving space to their garbage. What most people do is to give space to people’s quality and deal with their garbage. Actually, you should do it the other way around. Deal with who they are and give space to their garbage.

Keep interacting with them as if they were God. And every time you get garbage from them, give space to garbage and go back and interact with them as if they were God.”  

It occurs to me that over the last 20 years I have given my wife plenty of my garbage to deal with.  And the only reason that we are still together is that she has a commitment to me (as a ‘soul whose intentions are good’), to our marriage, and to our family.  Out of this commitment she gives space to my garbage and keeps reminding me of who I am.  And for that I am truly grateful!

And finally

I wish each and every one of you a great Christmas and the very best for the New Year. And I am clear that my wishes make no difference at all!  Who makes the difference?  You do!

How do you make the difference?  By getting present to being the authors of your lives.  By getting present to the fact that you matter in how you show up in the world.  By generating the courage to stop proving that you are small and unable to make a difference.  By being of service – the kind of service that Werner Erhard is pointing at.

Leadership always starts with leading oneself from the place of ‘victim’ to ‘author of one’s life’.  From showing up as unable to make a difference to being committed to making a difference.  From playing small to playing BIG!

You are the cause of your suffering / are you running a ‘racket’? (Part III)


This post continues the conversation that commenced earlier and which you can find below:

How can you be about/deal with ‘tiredness’ and ‘hopelessness’? (part I)

You are neither the thoughts nor the feelings that show up (part II)

Let’s get present to where your are at (or were at)

“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.

This is one aspect of your life that you shared with me. You also shared the following with me:

  • “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.”
  • “Tired of searching for ‘the one’ to be my life companion – whilst desperately longing for one.”

You are the cause of your suffering and you can give it up this instant

There is what you want to be so. There is what is so. There is a difference between what you ‘want to be so’ and ‘what is so’. This difference shows up as ‘painful’ – an issue to be dealt with / a problem to be solved. And you are probably telling yourself that once you have solved this one, met the ‘one’ your life will work out and you will live happily ever after.

Do you notice something interesting? There is no ‘issue’ no ‘problem’ in the world as it is. You are generating this ‘issue’, this ‘problem’, this ‘upset’ and the suffering that goes with it. Let me be plain: YOU are the cause of your own suffering! And you can choose to not suffer – you can do that right now. Let’s take a look at this in more detail:

You have bought into and are living out of a myth. Here is how it goes: I can only be happy if/when I find the ‘one’; the ‘one’ is out there; once I find the ‘one’ or he finds me then all will be great and I will live happily ever after. I know many people who have found the ‘one’ and then found out, later, that life has not worked out and bliss is not ever present. I know of people who have found the ‘one’ only to lose the ‘one’ through death – and they are left grappling with that. I know of people who have found the ‘one’ and then the ‘one’ has cheated and/or left them for another – and these people are left grappling with that. What if you let go of this myth? What if you let go of putting conditions on happiness? What if you choose to be with the fact that right now the ‘one’ is not in your life and you choose to put happiness into your life? Notice that when you put these conditions onto life you are constructing your own prison.

“I know that it will always lead to hurt and abandonment”. Is this so? Let’s take a look at hurt, specifically how you (and I) create hurt. Notice that hurt arises in relation to people and pets. How does it come about? We create and live out of expectations around people – especially those who we are close to / those close to us. We may or may not share these expectations with them. They may or may not agree to our expectations. When the expectations are not met what shows up? Hurt. The bigger the gap between the demands we place on people (whether communicated or not) and what we get/do not get from these people the bigger the hurt. If you and I genuinely want to be free from hurt then we can do that right now: give up any and all expectations of people. You can even go further and ‘expect’ that every single person will act to get what he/she wants out of life – to act ‘selfishly’. Don’t you do the same? So what is the big deal when others do the same as you, same as me? If you practice this you will notice that there is no space for ‘abandonment’ in your life. ‘Abandonment’ is a function of making demands on people, on life, that life does not fulfil. Put differently, it is label for a specific kind of hurt.

Are your running a “racket”?

During my participation in Landmark Education I was exposed to the distinction “racket”. What is a racket? I say a racket is made of the following:

  • Fixed way of being e.g. being demanding, being critical, being helpful, being miserable…
  • Fixed set of behaviour – doing the same things over and over again
  • Recurrent complaint – about someone, something, about yourself
  • Payoff – usually hidden, not acknowledged – what you get out of being/doing what you are being/doing

Let’s get clear on this: you find a certain type of man attractive; you go for this type; you get what you get and you take it; at some point the ‘hurt’ and ‘abandonment’ shows up in your life’; you ‘beat yourself up’ in some way or form; you do the same again and again; and then you plead that you are simply a ‘moth to a flame’.

Well you are not a ‘moth’! You are human being who can envisage future, see possibilities, be other than that which you are being, pursue possibilities/paths other than what you are on today, do stuf that you are not doing today, stop doing stuff that you are doing…. you can even choose to give up your life. To be a human being is to be ‘the one that is always the chooser, always, not that which is chosen nor that which shows up or is imposed’. You can play at being ‘small’, ‘helpless’ even ‘pathetic’, that might work with you friends/family – it does not work with me. I relate to you as a ‘force of nature’ who can at any and all times invent and live into futures that leave your experience of living transformed. You are ‘BIG’, you really are. The question is, when will you choose to ‘play BIG’?

So now that we have distinguished the upper most level of racket – playing ‘small’ and asking for ‘leniency’ or ‘help’ let’s move on to the second level of your racket as I see it. Notice, I am not making truth claims. I am simply sharing my perspective with you, you might not like it and I say that is fine, try it out and see if it works. If it works then keep it, if it does not then you can drop it – I am not attached to it, you won’t hurt my feelings. Back to racket.

I say that you ‘ok’ with what is so including the ‘hurt’ and ‘abandonment’. Why? Because whatever it is that you are getting is of more value to you then the cost that you are paying. Put differently, the ‘payoff’ exceeds the ‘cost’ and so you continue doing what you are doing. Do you want to create the space in which you can choose to give up this game? Then look ruthlessly at the payoff – this will taking brutal honesty with yourself and we, human beings, are poor at that. What might that ‘payoff’ be?

  • You get to be right about men – they cannot be trusted, they are selfish;
  • You get to be right about yourself – you are small, helpless, cannot help yourself, cannot control yourself, you are passionate-different-trusting…..
  • You get sympathy – you can tell the story of how life is not working out and get attention, get sympathy………..
  • You get out of demands that you or others would otherwise place on you – after all if you are ‘hurt’ and ‘abandoned’ then you can give yourself a ‘get out of jail for free’ card and others typically do the same for you
  • By playing this ‘game’ you keep yourself occupied rather than being bored – it is better than ‘nothing’
  • Your belief in the myth of the ‘one’ continues intact and your dreams are not shattered……

The list is endless yet the buckets are not. What do I mean? Some wise folks have pointed out that human behaviour is driven by:

  • Looking good avoiding looking bad – which is why walk around with masks and are almost never truly ourselves
  • Being right and making others wrong – even if that means going to war and millions get killed
  • Dominating others and avoiding being dominated – in a family there is no-one as dominant as the one that gets the others to believe that he/she is helpless, ‘small’ and needs to be given special exemptions and be looked after!
  • Validating yourself (everything including your beliefs and points of view) and invalidating others – I experienced a great example of this morning when Matthew, Jehovah’s witness came to my door to show me the error of my ways and convert me.

Breaking free from your “racket”

‘Sister’ be ruthless with yourself and get clear on the ‘payoff’ and the ‘cost’ of playing this game. When it comes to ‘cost’ look at both the cost that you pay now, that you are paying longer term, and the cost that the people in your life pay. When you have written that out then get present to it – step into it, experience it. Once you have done that – are clear on the ‘payoff’ and ‘cost’ as experienced – then choose. Choose to play this game of falling for/going for the dominant men, the players, and if you do this then you give up complaining. Or choose to give this game up. If you choose to give it up then you create space to invent a more inspiring-moving-touching-uplifting game.

Finally, remember what I said earlier – you are creating your own suffering and you can give that up right now. How? Be with life as it is and as it is not. I wish you well and it will not make a difference. You, only you, are the difference that can make a difference to your experience of your living. Your destiny lies in you.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All it takes to make a difference is the courage to stop proving I was right in being unable to make a difference….. to stop assigning cause for my inability to the circumstances outside of myself….. And to see that the fear of being a failure is a lot less important than the unique opportunity I have to make a difference.”  Werner Erhard

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

Summing it up

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

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


Son, is this who I am? Let me be truthful with myself and with you


A birthday card that makes me cry!

This month we celebrated my birthday and as usual the question was “What do you want for your birthday?”.  As usual my answer was “I am blessed, I don’t need anything.  Really, I don’t need anything.  What I’d like is heartfelt, handmade card from you to me.”  And that is what I got.  The one that really captured my heart is this one:

When I read this card for the first time I was deeply touched and moved to tears.  Every time I read this card I am deeply touched – the tears just flow down my cheeks.  Great, this card makes me feel good.  The deeper, more interesting, question, for me, is this one: “Is it true?  Is this an accurate description of me?”

Who am i?

I am clear that “i” does not live up to the picture that my son paints.  What do I mean by “i”?  What / who am I pointing at/towards?  When I use the term “i” I am pointing at the automatic machinery of human beings.  The machinery that is always there, always running, and which runs me.  What are the characteristics of this machinery, this “i”?  In my case I associate the following with my “i”: selfish, critical, safety seeking, negative, impatient, intolerant, aggressive, unhelpful, manipulative, looking for approval, seeking admiration, lying, pretense, cowardly, focussed on me, me, me and my survival.  Not a flattering picture is it?  Yet, if I am to accept the picture painted by my son it occurs to me that I must also be present to and mindful of this aspect of me.

Who am I?

I am clear that who I am is not “i”.  That is to say that I am clear that I am not my automatic machinery – the “i”.   I am clear that I am the conscious, self-determining being, who declares that I am the author of my life.  I am the person who totally gets “At all times, under all circumstances, I have the power to transform my life”.   I am clear that I am the person who has invented and entered myself into ‘playing BIG’ of living an ‘extraordinary’ life, of being of service, of being a source of contribution, of co-creating a ‘world that works’ none excluded.

What does that mean for me, my living, my life?

To show up as the kind of person that my son writes about, is proud of, and loves it takes something.  First, I have to be constantly mindful that the default condition of human existence is “i” and the game that goes with that ‘playing small’.  Second, I have to create myself as the “I” that is committed to be ‘playing BIG‘; living an ‘extraordinary’ life; being of service / contribution to my fellow human beings; putting something into life; being a stand for a ‘world that works’ none excluded.   Third, I have to keep “I” and the game that I is playing in existence.  And a fundamental part of keep “I” and the game I is playing in existence is telling the truth.

So here is my truth for you my son.  If I was as great as you say I am then your card would not mean anything to me.  My truth is that often and frequently I am not being the person that you describe and that you are proud of.  Yet, I am clear that my stand is to be the kind of person that you describe, that you are proud of, that you love.  And living from that context I am deeply touched by your card and the the small contribution I have made to your life.  Your act of kindness towards the beggar moves-touches me deeply and inspires me to be my Stand and play full out to be a source of contribution to you, our fellow human beings and Life itself.  And within that context, falling short of the mark encourages me redouble my Being and my effort.  I love you. 


Own your story, own your experience and tell the truth, ruthlessly, to yourself and others


Yesterday the family (five us) spent some time just being together and sharing what we were happy to share about our lives.  I found myself laughing when my younger son was sharing his encounters and experiences at school: it was not the content that ticked me, it was the way he was being and how he was expressing himself.  At one point all of us were laughing and I could see that my younger son was enjoying the relationship – our laughing had him laughing.   Then the laughter died – at least inside of me.  How?  Why?

My son mentioned that he was going to the taking the foundation course in English.   There is nothing to that statement – it is just words.  Yet, that is not what the mind (I hesitate to call it my mind as I do not own it and I do not control it, it controls me and in that respect i belong to it) made it mean.  Straight away my experience was that of disappointment and anger.  Given that was the case, what do you think I said?  I found myself listening to the following: “I don’t care, do whatever you want, it’s your life!”

Reflecting on that experience I am present to the fact that I lied.  I made that statement to persuade / convince myself that “I do not care, do whatever you want, its your life!”.  Why did I need to convince myself?  Some part of me cared deeply about what my son studies and how well he does.  And that part was disappointed that my son had not stayed with the original course: it listened to the foundation course as a lesser course and listened to my son as someone who does not have high standard.  Once I got what had occurred and that I was the source of my experience all of my disappointment and anger just flew away (instantly) and I was left  with “What a jerk I am when I am playing small!”

If I was ‘Playing BIG’ I would have owned my experience and been truthful.  I’d have said: when you said “I am doing the foundation course in English” I noticed that disappointment and anger were present in my world and I noticed that my stomach tightened up as if I was going to be sick.  That tells me that I have a point of view on what course you should be taking in English.  It also tells me that I have a stake in what you are doing and how well you are doing.

If I had been ‘Playing BIG’ I would have owned by story and been truthful.  I’d have said: “I know that you have extremely high standards.  In fact sometimes I think your standards are too high – unreasonable.  It just does not strike me that you have to play to get A* in all of your subjects.  I know that you are on track to do well.  I also know that you struggle to do well in English and realistically you expect to get a B.  Will the foundation course allow you to get a B?”  Most likely he would have said (which he later did say) “My teacher and I are aiming for a B and the foundation course will allow me to get that without all the stress I am putting myself under trying to get an A/A*”.  And I would have said “I wonder what it is about me that I am or was disappointed and angry when you mentioned that you are going to switch to the foundation course?”

It strikes me that a core part of ‘Playing small’ (which is what I have been doing for the last 10 years) is lying to myself and others.  It also strikes me that another core part of ‘Playing small’ is not taking responsibility for ‘my story’ (what I tell myself about how I should be, people should be, the world should be) – noticing it and owning it.  Not using it to beat up others even if the beating up is indirect through statements like “I don’t care, it’s your life, do what you want!”

So if you are up for entering into the game of ‘Playing BIG’ full out then you also need to adopt these practices:  own your story, own your experience and be ruthlessly honest with yourself and with people you are in relationship with.

Playing BIG full out: Tuesday 27th Dec 2011 – an ordinary day, an extraordinary experience


The automatic machinery of ‘Playing small’ kick into action yet fails

I went to sleep at 3:15 am and I awoke and got out of bed at 6:35.  Was I tired?  Clearly not because there was no-one in the house and no noise to wake me up and yet I did awake.  Upon waking the automatic machinery of ‘Playing small’ kicked into action and i was telling myself “i am tired, i should go back to sleep.”  What saved me?  I kicked into action and reminded me that I am ‘Playing BIG’ and I had given my Word (to my parents) that I’d spend today with them. I choose to leave for Preston (220 miles away) by 9am – that is the objective I set myself.

Dressing in accordance with ‘Playing BIG’

After showering, taking my medicine and breakfast I went up to my bedroom to get dressed.  When I had been wrapped up in playing small I would have automatically picked up and worn second class clothes – clothes that had seen better days.  Today, mindful of the fact that I chose and committed to the game called ‘Playing BIG” I took out a brand new pair of Chinos, a blue shirt and my blue blazer (with the gold buttons).  Once I had finished dressing I was aware that I was still not dressed in accordance with playing big.  What was letting me down?  The wallet and the worn out shoelaces.  I made a commitment to deal with these issues when I got to Preston.

‘Playing BIG’ rests on the foundation of honouring my word as myself

The previous day I had promised my son that before leaving the house (he was sleeping over at a friends) I would leave him £60 and that I would take the spare keys put them in a plastic bag and hide them in the rather large garden just in case he needed them in an emergency.  I was also mindful that I had committed to put the rubbish bin outside ready to be collected tomorrow morning.

I packed and then I put all of my luggage in the car. Then I put the rubbish bin out where it needs to be if it is to be emptied tomorrow.  What is missing?  Music – but not old music. So I headed back into house and remembered where the right music was sitting – I had once played the game of ‘Playing BIG’.  I took the music cassettes to the car – yes it is that long since I last played the game called ‘Playing BIG’.

Getting into the car to go to the bank I noticed that the car need refuelling.  So I headed to petrol station that had a cashpoint and took care of both the petrol and the cash.  I drove back home, took out £100 put them in a clear plastic money bag and left a note for my son.  It reads “I love you son.  I have complete confidence in you which is why I am happy to leave you to fend for yourself.”  Then I took care of the keys.  Commitments fulfilled I headed for Preston to see my parents.  I did notice that I had failed to keep one of my commitments – I was leaving around 9:10 and not 9:00 am: I am already out of Integrity and it is only 9:10am.  Whilst I noticed this lack of Integrity I did not castigate myself – I was simply mindful that there is plenty of work to do to be in accordance with ‘Playing BIG’.

On the motorway I have a blast of a time even though I got caught up in a traffic jam

Once I headed towards Preston I played the right tape – one that would help me to be in the right state – the state that correlates with ‘Playing BIG’.  I chose to play the game of sticking to the speed limit – sometimes a big ask as i love to drive fast and so am not mindful (enough) of the speed limit. Heading north on the  motorway the music and I co-created the right state – I was singing and ‘dancing’ to the music.  Now that might not seem like a big deal and yet it is.  i does not sing – not even in the car.  And i absolutely does not ‘dance’ in the car – “Heavens, other poeple are looking and they will think I am an idiot! So don’t do anything to attract attention to yourself.”  So it was a huge achievement to simply drop this and sing and ‘dance’ to the music – full out.

i hates, loathes, traffic jams.  i relates to itself as SPECIAL and as such expects EVERYTHING to work. i being SPECIAL does not like to be inconvenienced and detests having to wait in line. i gets FRUSTRATED and ANGRY when traffic jam occurs.  i curses this third world country where the roads are lanes are closed off because of repairs and this creates traffic jam.  i thinks that anyone that is involved in a accident is a MORON – why can’t these people drive properly?  How can some people be so inconsiderate as to take part in an accident and thus inconvenience competent folks like i?

North of Birmingham there was a traffic jam – a big one. i immediately kicked into action – it started castigating me for being stupid enough to take 20 minutes out the service station to ring my parents and do my stretching exercises.  Incidentally, I did stretching exercise in public by giving my being SIGNIFICANT – initially i did not like this as people were looking at i and giving funny looks.  All the time I was doing the exercises i kept complaining and urging I to stop this madness and the associated embarrassment.  Back to the traffic jam.  i was about to complain about the station and I came into being saying “The Self is providing me with an opportunity to practice patience so lets practice patience.  Let’s go further and be fun whilst practising patience.”  That is exactly what I did – I stepped up the level of expression in its singing and dancing.  Furthermore, I opened the windows so that others could hear – to deal with the issue of i being SIGNIFICANT.  i did not like this and closed the window several times.  Each time I came back into being and dealt with the situation. In the end I was driving with the car windows open whilst singing and ‘dancing’.  We (I and i) got some looks especially from the car drivers in the cars coming in the opposite direction. Around 13:20 I arrived at my parents home.

Lack of Integrity: i gets the better of I in two domains

Whilst this may sound splendid and it is.  It is also true that i bested I in at least domain: I failed to keep its promise of sticking to the speed limit.  Now and then i got the better of I and put the foot down and broke the speed limit.  So upon arriving at my parents I noticed at least two areas in which I had failed to honor the commitments associated with ‘Playing BIG”: breaking the speed limit and arriving at 13:20 rather than 13:00 – the time I had promised to my parents.

An extraordinary shopping experience

My niece who is ten years old and rather shy was at my parents.  My parents are old and so she (Zara) was sitting at the table coloring.  After eating lunch, mindful that I had committed to sorting out the out of Integrity dress issues and coming from a stand of ‘good fellowship’ I asked Zara if she would like to go shopping with me.  She said “Yes” and by that time my eldest nephew (Mohammed) came into the house and I asked him if he wanted to come along as well.  He also said “Yes” so I told them both that I would be leaving at 2:45 and so they need to be ready to leave by then.  Zara was ready.  Mohammed was not ready.  I was not ready.  By the time I got ready and left the house with them both it was closer to 3:00.  I noticed this lack of Integrity – failing to play full out to honor my word.

Whilst the three of us left the house only Zara and I walked to Preston town centre.  Mohammed did not want to walk, took the car and told me that he would meet us in the town centre.  Heading to the centre I took Zara’s hand and started to talking with her.  I noticed that I can barely hear her – she is so shy that she speaks so softly and that makes it difficult to hear her.  That works fine by her because that is what she wants – not to be heard, not to be noticed.  So I chose to offer myself as a model of self-expression in order to get her to get that it is OK to express oneself and that one can have fun with it as well.

I am no poet yet I came with rhymes and I sang them out loud. People noticed and the world did not end.  After a little while I asked Zara to join in and at first she was hesitant.  She was laughing at my singing and yet refused to sing.  Later I invited her to sing she agreed and so we sang a rhyme that I created on the spot that Zara could connect to and which she finds funny: “I love my daddy, he is a fatty, yet he is my daddy, I love my daddy!”  What I got that I am no poet laureate I can make up rhymes – and on the spot.  This was something new to me – i had always thought of itself as being useless at this kind of stuff, i does not take to poetry, i finds it a turn-off.

Mohammed joined us at the outskirts of the town centre and then wished he hadn’t.  Why?  Because I was singing out loud – loud enough for people to hear me and look at us.  He did not like that one little bit and kept telling me to stop pleading that it is his town and that he has to live here.  I simply ignored him and continued singing especially as Zara found this amusing and from time to time joined in.

In the centre which is the first shop that I noticed?  The one that tends to stock clothes that I like and which fit me: Moss.  So the three of us headed into the shop and I started looking at the shirts. Why?  Because I got that I am not happy with the quality of some of my shirts. Why?  Because they are an expression of ‘Playing small’.  Steve, on the shop assistants, came over to ask if I needed help. “Yes, please!” is what I said. Steve started showing me some shirts, I was not impressed.  I said “I don’t want anything cheap. I want the best quality shirts – the shirts that feel good against the skin for 10 hours a day and which do not crease easily.”  Steve recommended some shirts.  I asked to try it on to experience the feel.  And that is what I did.  I found that whilst Steve had measured my neck and given me a size 15.5 shirt I found it to be too small.  So I asked Steve to find me a size 16 white shirt.  I tried it on and it felt good against the skin: it proved that the shirt I was wearing was cheap.  So I kept wearing the shirt and asked Steve to get me another 4 shirts.  He was caught by surprise and told me that they were unlikely to have four size 16 white shirts in stock.  I confidently requested that he go and look – “give it your best shot” or something close to that is what I said.

Steve came back with four white shirts.  Excellent.  I told Steve that I wanted to leave the shop with 10 of those shirts. So we set about finding the other five shirts.  We found four but not the fourth.  Steve suggested other brand shirts, I refused.  Why?  Because I had chosen to buy the best quality shirts and this brand was not the best quality brand.  Taking a lesser brand would have polluted the other nine shirts that I had bought.

Being a good salesman Steve asked me if I needed anything else. “Yes, I do,  I am looking for belts”.  Steve showed me various belts and I tried them choosing several. Then I noticed a higher quality belt and tried it on – it fitted perfectly.  So I told Steve that wanted four of those belts.  We left the shop having bought 9 shirts and 4 belts.  But that was not all.  I had sang in the shop and embarrassed Mohammed so much that he locked himself away in one of the dressing rooms.  It was worth it though because Zara was finding this funny and by now at least one step outside of her narrow zone of no self expression. I had also got Steve a little bit and I believe he got my sincere thanks for being so helpful and helping me to achieve my objective.

Then Zara and I found ourselves in the high street (the main street) full of people many of them out shopping and looking for bargains. Mohammed had felt so embarrassed that he quit and left for home – that worked out great as he took my shopping back to his car and back to my parents.  Walking down the high street, holding Zara’s hand I sang and Zara joined me now and then.  I saw HMV and headed there knowing that Zara was bored at my parents and likes to watch movies.  There we bought the DVD’s that caught our attention – both of us left the shop happy.  Then we sang ourselves to Debenhams as I still needed a wallet and was up for finding more Chinos.  Whilst it did not look promising we persisted and found the wallet and two pairs of Chinos – both of these trousers fitted perfectly.  We queued, we paid, we left and headed back to my parents.

The delight of Krispy Kreme doughnuts!

Not wanting to go back the same way we had come – it occurred as being boring and ‘Playing small’ – we chose a different route.  And what did I see?  Advertising for Costa Coffee and in particular Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  i would frown on eating this kind of junk.  Yet, I thought about Zara.  I asked her if she liked Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a big smile came across her face and she said “Yes!”.  So we headed to Costa Coffee and queued yet I was disturbed that I could not see any of the KK doughnuts.  i noticed that the Costa Coffee staff were inefficient – not at all on the ball.  i does not like this at all – everyone should be performing efficiently.  i particularly does not like having to wait as a result of lazy, incompetent unprofessional staff!

I noticed the automatic machinery of i whirring into action and I stopped as just as it got started.  So I queued for several minutes and then out of the corner of my eyes I saw the Krispy Kreme shop. So we headed straight for it and bought the assortment of 12 doughnuts for £9:45.  Zara was delighted: she had refused my offer to carry any of the shopping bags, she did not refuse the invitation to carry the KK doughnuts.  She was beaming and I felt great seeing her happy.  When we got home we gathered my niece (Sophia), Mohammed and my parents around the dining table.  Everyone helped themselves to a selection of the doughnuts French style – taking a quarter of so of each doughnut.  Yes, there is an advantage of being married into the French – they know how to eat right: a little bit of everything so that you can taste the different ‘flavours and tastes’.  At the end of this sharing we had six happy people.  Great – I had made a contribution to my parents which was the major reason for coming up to see my parents.

Honoring the dress code commitments

By now it was the evening and set about the task of replacing the tatty shoe laces with the new ones that I had bought from Clarks.  At first it just did not happen – the shoelaces would not go through the holes.  i was saying “Wrong shoelaces, she gave the wrong shoelaces the idiot. i’ll just have to go back and change them.” Once again I, who is enrolled in the game of ‘Playing BIG’ stepped up the plate and dealt with the situation at hand.  I figured out that the shoelaces should go through the holes.  I found pliers and used these to thread the shoelaces  – job done, commitment kept, Integrity in!  Excellent.  Then I set about polishing my shoes: easy to do and resulted in a big smile on the inside and outside.  Job done – all dress code commitments kept.

Sorting out the car

I think it is accurate to say that about now just about everyone my younger brother, my nieces, my nephew, my parents had noticed that I was no longer i:  they commented that I looked different (dress), that I looked younger.  When my younger brother commented on the change and that he was delighted I shared with him that I had been immersed in the game of ‘Playing small’ and been living in darkness for some 10 years.  He got that, he agreed and he liked the new me – I suspect he experienced me the way that he used to experience me when I made stuff happen.

Having established a bond I asked my brother to clean my Honda Accord – inside and out – so that it is reflection of me – the I ‘Playing BIG’.  He agreed to have my car ready by 10am tomorrow morning.  Then I asked him what was happening with regards to my Mercedes Benz.  He told me that he had figured out the problem.  So I asked him if it had been sorted out, he told me that it had not.  What will it take to get it sorted out?  He told me that it would take a day.  So I asked him if he was up for sorting it out by the end of Thursday.  He agreed.  Excellent – another loose end and lack of Integrity addressed.  By this time my brother and I were getting on great.

Powerful conversations: calling it as I see it and it lands where it lands, I am ok with that

I had not intended to have this conversation with my brother nonetheless I found myself right in the middle of it.  “Your word and a piece of shit are equal – they have the same value!”  Too late to pull back – there it is, these words have been waiting to be born for a long time and now they are born.  They took my brother by surprise – they may have even shocked him.  So I reminded him that I was coming from the context of love and of being a source of powerful conversations that call people to ‘Play BIG’ and give up ‘Playing small’ – people includes me.

Then I reminded by brother that he had agreed – several months (three to five) ago – to give me his Apple iPhone 3GS when he bought the 4S.  That I had offered to buy it off him at market price and that he had declined to take the money.  Instead he simply said that he would give it to me for free.  So how is it that the Apple 3GS belongs to my sister now?  I shared the fact that I had promised my son that phone and that as result of his lack of Integrity I was out of Integrity.  He got that – probably for the first time.  Why?  Because he has the same relationship to his words that most of us have to shit.  Harsh?  Maybe.  True – absolutely from where I stand.

Then I went on to share with him that he had asked to borrow money from me – £3000 here, £2000 there, £1000 here etc – and I had lent him the money but always on the condition that he would pay it back. And most importantly we had agreed a specific date.  Right now, I told him, you owe me over £20,000.  The latest being £2,000 you borrowed back in February and promised to pay it back within the month.  Yet we had agreed on three months because I did not believe he would keep his word.  Then I got him present to the fact that he had not paid me by the due date so I had asked him face to face to look at his finances and let me know when and how he was going to pay me back.  That was over six months ago and he had not come back to me.  I believe that hit home – he got his lack of Integrity, his lack of any relationship to his word. Finally I declared that I love him unconditionally – he is my brother and a player in the unceasing dynamic pattern I call Self.  And I told him that I was a stand for him ‘Playing BIG’ and I requested that he be a stand for ‘Playing BIG’.   Later he left to go home to his family – did he leave on good terms?  Great if he did. Yet it does not matter as wanting to be liked is key component of ‘Playing small’.  Wanting to be liked by my brother and knowing full well that I was immersed in ‘Playing small’ I had never my brother on his lack of Integrity and his ‘Playing small’.  If I had done so then he would have accused me of the same  – and he would have been bang on.  i ‘Play small’, you ‘Pay small’ and we collude in keeping each other ‘Playing small’ whilst pretending that we are ‘Playing BIG’ – that is what is so, it automatically comes into play due to the world that we are embedded in.

Onwards.  I am clear i was ‘Playing small’ for 10 years and as such I had wasted 10 years and had an enormously negative impact on myself and those close to me.  Now my younger brother was clear.  How about my nephew (Mohammed) who is convinced he is big man – someone special? Convinced that Mohammed is ‘Playing small’ full out (he is master at this) I made the choice to have a powerful conversation with him in the context of love and being a stand for Mohammed ‘Playing BIG’.

Heck this 20 year old man came up with the idea for an anti-smoking advert.  The idea was so good that his idea got chosen and then he worked with a professional director and production team to shoot the advert – to bring it to life. That  advert has been played in British cinemas and he had been invited to come up with another advert.  This young man has shaken hands with the rich and famous due to his work; he has met the Hollyoaks cast – many men would die for that opportunity.  Yet here he is pissing his life away living in the land of delusion: in this land it is everyone else’s fault, he is cool, he is special, he is someone BIG.  Towards the end of the conversation Mohammed got present to one overriding emotion: shame. On a scale of 1 – 10 he chose 8 – he is that ashamed of himself.  So I asked Mohammed what his life would look like for him to score 10 – to be that ashamed of himself.  He give me four conditions and I got him present to the fact that three of those are already there – he is living them in reality but deluding himself that he is not.  He got that.  Invited to rescore he said when it comes to being ashamed of himself it is 10 out of 10.  Never leave a person on a low – that is not good fellowship.  So I took the time to get Mohammed present to how I relate to him: a young man with extraordinary potential and a young man I love and for whom I am stand for ‘Playing BIG’.  I invited him to be a stand for me – to call me on ‘Playing small’ if he ever thinks/feels that I am ‘Playing small’.

Reflections on the day

This was on ordinary day – just like any other day. If i had been in charge it would have been another ordinary day in the sea of ordinary days.  As it is I was present and fully immersed in ‘Playing BIG’ and as such this day has occurred an an extraordinary day!  Yesterday I had just over three hours of sleep.  I have been going full out now for 20 hours and I am not tired.  How amazing is that!  Tiredness shows up in my life when I ‘Play small’.  Why?  Because ‘Playing small’ does not inspire me, energize me – the opposite it kills me on the inside even if I do a good job of donning the mask of ‘Everything is great with me and my life’.

On the other side there is some way to get my Integrity back in.  First, I left for Preston around 9:10 not 9:00.  Second, I failed to keep to the speed limit.  Third, I told my parents that I would arrive at their home at 13:00, I arrived at 13:20.  Yes, there is some way to go.  I get that and I am not making a story about.

A request: you can do to help me ‘Play BIG’

Talking about ‘Playing BIG’ I am committing myself (actually have already done it with my nephew Mohammed) to designing and educational course around ‘Playing BIG’, advertising locally and offering that course to people like my Nephew – teenagers who are struggling in life, who are ‘Playing small’ and are not present to ‘Playing small’.  By when?  By end of June 2012.  Why I am I letting  you know?  So that I do not backslide, so that you call me on any backsliding, to create an existence structure that calls me to bring this commitment, this Possibility, into being.

I thank you for reading.  I hope that this long blog gets you present to where you are ‘Playing small’ and I hope that you find a seed here to get you started on ‘Playing BIG’.

Playing BIG (practice 2) – lose the significance and play


Taking yourself so goddamn seriously is a key piece in the game called ‘Playing small’.

Our automatic (always on) way of being is taking oneself SERIOUSLY because we are thrown into the game called ‘playing small and fitting in’.  Mastery of this game is not beyond me in anyway.  I could say that I became a grandmaster by the age of 10.  The cost of taking oneself so damn seriously is the loss of self-expression: the unwillingness to say and do anything that makes you and I look stupid in the eyes of others.  One side effect of taking oneself so seriously is the quickness to anger when someone does something to ‘diminish’ our sense of ourselves.   Sound abstract?  Let me make it concrete by sharing an example of my life.

I love driving, I particularly love driving fast and without cars getting in my way and slowing me down.  I think of myself as a considerate driver – checking who is behind me, checking that there is enough space for me to overtake into, indicating before overtaking…. you get the idea.  So what happens when someone overtakes me and doesn’t follow my rules?  Usually it is some form of “You moron!” accompanied by either disgust and/or anger.  Why is that moron overtaking me?  How dare he move from his lane into my lane without indicating and into a space that is not ‘long enough’ and so force me to brake to avoid hitting the “idiot”.  As you can imagine people do what they do and so in the course of a normal journey on a motorway I end up disturbing my own piece several times.  Nonetheless I get to be right and righteous – how great I am and how inconsiderate and idiotic some drivers are!

Since I took on the game of ‘Playing BIG’ I have taken on the practice of NOT taking myself so goddamn seriously.  Here are the results I have seen over the last two days:

I have been singing. Yes, I have been singing and in public!  Why is that a big thing?  Because when I took myself so damn seriously I rarely sang and when I did so it was only because my family ‘pressured’ me into singing.  For the last two days I have been singing at my sisters and outside on the high street (whilst shopping).

On the way  to my sisters (90 minute drive) two/three cars just moved from their lane into mine without notice.  We did not have a collision because I was paying attention and so braked.  What did I say?  “You’re welcome!”.  How was I feeling?  Completely calm – in fact once I even laughed when I got present to what I was doing.

Today, coming back from my sisters (after a great Christmas) there was enough traffic to slow down progress on a dual carriageway.  The inside lane was full and I was on the outside lane travelling at around 60mph – the legal limit.  I couldn’t go any faster because there were four or so cars ahead of me and tightly bunched: too close for the speed we were travelling at.  I looked into the mirror and say a car right up my backside.  He sat there for several minutes and then started flashing me suggesting that he wanted to overtake and I should move into the inside lane.  Normally, I would have said something offensive like “cretin!” and made sure that I stayed in the lane and in fact reduced my speed to slow him down even more – to annoy him.

This time I got that all he wanted was to overtake and by flashing his lights and sitting right on my backside he was showing that he was impatient to get somewhere fast.  So I looked for an opening on the inside (slower) lane, indicated and moved into it.  All the time I was smiling knowing that he would overtake me and then find himself in the same position I was in – blocked by a row of cars travelling at 60 mph.   Once he overtook me, I moved back into his lane and sat behind him.  Now I had a choice: to do what he had been doing to me (sitting on my back and making me nervous), simply to be in that lane and leave lots of space between me and him, and/or leave lots of space and have some fun with him without making him nervous or endangering him.  I choose the latter – I simply wanted to play without putting anyone’s life at risk.

For the rest of the journey 30 minute or so he would speed ahead and then pull into the inside lane.  I would overtake him and then pull in ahead of him.  He then would overtake me, I would overtake him.  Never once did I get angry or competitive – I was simply playing a game, coming from the context of fun.  The 30 minutes flew by and by the time I had to take the slip road and exit from the motorway I was grateful that I had the Mini driver to play that game with.  I thanked him.  And I can honestly say I felt sad that the game we had playing came to and end.

Lesson: we can choose to be light and dance/play in life rather than be SIGNIFICANT and take ourselves so SERIOUSLY.   If I choose to be significant and be damn serious then I am automatically embedded in and playing the game of ‘Playing small’.  So being mindful I can choose again and again to ‘Play BIG’ and that means shedding significance and seriousness (they go together) again and again in all domains of life.