Play BIG: Befriend One Who Can Do With a Friend


What is it to befriend?  In this case you/i don’t need a dictionary as the word speaks that which it is pointing towards: be a friend unto another.

Why be/do that which it takes to befriend?  A good question given that so many of us lead busy lives – rushing (as in the experience of rushing) from one place/activity to another. If you read the media you will come across those who speak of a loneliness epidemic in the UK.  If you look to your own experience, it may be that you can access the experience of being without friends (at a certain place/time) or being befriended by another when you found yourself in a new place/situation/phase of life.

Late 2017, I get a text from my sister asking if I am willing to befriend her friend’s father who happens to have cancer, not that long to live, is lonely/depressed, and can do with company/friendship of someone like me – someone who himself has cancer including a friend that is dying of a brain tumour.  She thinks we will get along.

I sit with this.  I ask myself if I wish to give cancer a bigger role in my life than it already has – I already have one dear friend who has been told he has 6 months to live, I strive to spend every second Saturday with him.  I ask myself if I am willing to take on that which comes with befriending one who is depressed – I have experienced the helplessness in facing a loved one who is depressed.

I act.  I send my sister a text saying I am up for meeting her friend’s father and telling her to pass on my mobile phone number.

Later it hits me that I have almost certainly acted in bad faith. I have been playing the good guy on the surface – one not wanting to disappoint/displease his only sister.  And hidden from view (even from myself to some extent) is the thought/hope that this chap (her friend’s father) will not call me – he’s old school English and we, the English, are known for keeping ourselves to ourselves – not intruding upon others.

Later it hits me that I know better, am better, and most certainly can choose to be better. It occurs to me that  I must make a fundamental choice without knowing the other: am I willing to befriend this person, who is suffering, without knowing anything about him?

Then I ask myself what would be the logical course of action (for me) if I chose to Play BIG in relation to the ask of the situation.  The answer is clear: I’d show up & travel with conviction – owning the game as in leading, shaping the game, and dealing with that which shows up. I wouldn’t wait for the other to make the first move – I’d make the first move and I’d own that move – really own it.

I call my sister. I ask her for the name of this chap and I ask her for his contact details: email, and mobile phone.  She’s surprised. She hadn’t been expecting me to own this matter, to lead it, to be the one reaching out to this chap and asking him to meet up with me.  She asks for time to speak with her friend.  A couple of days later, I get a text with the contact details.

Being British ( English) I know that the least intrusive, most socially acceptable way, of making contact is to email.  So I send that email – introducing myself, and asking this chap when he’s open to meeting up with me, and what he likes to do.  In doing this I am perfectly calm – my whole being is relaxed operating out of the possibility of friendship, of contribution, of making a positive difference in the life of a fellow human being.

We text one another several times. We meet – we talk, I drive us to a pub for lunch, we eat, we talk, I drive him back home.  I text him to say my thanks for his company. He texts back. I text again during the week – to ask where he’s at. He texts back…. We meet again. We text one another…. We have co-created a friendship between us!

Now here’s the thing I wish to get across.  I often find myself starved of the kind of conversation that I look for – intelligent, broad range, human existence centred conversation.  And this is exactly what I get when I am in the company of this older man who has lived a full life.  It so happens, that he also enjoys my company, he considers me to be a worthy conversation partner.  It turns out that standing in & operating from the possibility of friendship I have gifted myself with a friend, and a meaningful/enlivening friendship.

Here’s my invitation: Play BIG – be a friend unto another who can do with a friend.  If you are wondering who can do with a friend. I say you do not have to look far – most of us are lonely, some are deeply lonely, and can do with a genuine friend. If you are still looking then I say: look for older people; look for those who happen to be in the minority; look for those who happen to be awkward, shy; look for those who are always smiling and telling jokes…

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

 

Play BIG By Listening To And Heeding The Call


After fifty or so years of existence I am clear that there is a profound difference between living in resonance with a calling. And the experience of living without a calling.

What project calls you?  What possibility calls you?  What challenge calls you? What endeavour calls you? What opportunity calls you?  What is your calling?

Which person/s call you? Which place/s call you?  Which craft calls you? Which sport calls you?  which adventure calls you? Which vocation calls you? Which projects and/or possibilities call you?

How are you called to be?  How are you called to ‘show up and travel’ in this world?

Are you attuned to that which calls you?  Are you heeding the call?  Are you living the call?

It occurs to me that if you/i are attuned to and living the call, then you/i will experience our living as meaningful – full of meaning, aliveness, fulfilment, even joy.

It occurs to me that if you/i find ourselves experiencing a hollowness, a flatness, an emptiness, in our living then you/i are either not listening – attentively, deeply enough – to that which calls us. Or we have heard the call, and have not heeded the call.

So, it occurs to me that the first step in playing BIG is listening to that which calls you; listen deeply / often enough and you/i will find that which truly calls us. The second step is to heed the call – act; our access to making a contribution / impact is through action, our access to causing that which we find ourselves called to cause is through action.

I find that my deepest calling is to: bring nobility to human existence; to bring genuine humanity to a world obsessed with elevating technology and diminishing wo/man; to remind folks that ‘it is ALL made up’ and that which is made up an be unmade-remade by you/me/us; to be of help to those who find themselves less fortunate than me; and to be here for those who count on me to be here for them (children, wife, parents, siblings…).

When I find myself living in resonance with this calling I live powerfully and I am rewarded with a life of meaning, of fulfilment, of aliveness, of joy. I also find that whilst I do not wish for death, I do find myself ready for it.

What about you: what is your deepest calling?

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 Involves Exercising Wo/man’s Original Virtue


It occurs to me that showing up and operating from a context of possibility requires you/i to exercise our original virtue.

I remember that when I chose not to have an arranged marriage, and did not permit my parents to force my younger sister into such a marriage, I exercised this virtue. I remember that when I made friends with folks from other faiths (than Islam) I exercised this virtue. I remember that when I told the CEO (in the presence of the European management team) that I was not willing to “lie-cheat-steal” I exercised this virtue.

What is this virtue?  Let’s listen to long dead Chinese poet:

Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is though disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.”

– Qu Yhan

Please note that there are many ways of exercising this original virtue. One can do so quietly or loudly. One can do violently or non-violently. One can do so impetuously or in a calm-considered-committed manner.  Irrespective, to travel the road less travelled almost always requires disobedience. I am clear that playing BIG involves travelling the road not yet travelled. And that always requires disobedience: to the prevailing assumptions, beliefs, conventions, ideas, practices….

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.

Playing BIG: Largely A Matter Of Giving Up, Not Of Self-Development


Many of us stop ourselves from playing BIG in life because we have bought into misleading stories about what it is, and what it takes, to play BIG in life.  Most of us take the stand that to play BIG (in life) one needs to develop oneself – this stand (which is at the same time a limitation) suits the personal development industry.  Is it a truth that in order to play BIG one needs to develop oneself? At best it is a half-truth; any half-truth is a misleading one.

I say that playing BIG is NOT a matter of personal-development. I say that playing BIG is almost exclusively a matter of GIVING UP. Giving up what?  Giving up that which you/i put in the way of you/i playing BIG in life.  How best to brings this to life?  Allow me to tell you a story – a real story.

Allow me to start with the context first.  Yesterday, wife and the two ‘boys’ left for France in the early hours of the morning. My teenage daughter’s plan was to spend the weekend with her cousin. As there was a fire that broke out at her cousin’s on Friday evening, my daughter found herself with me.  So on Friday evening I asked my daughter (Clea) what she wanted to do on Saturday. Her answer “Go shopping!”.  I didn’t want to go shopping – spend Saturday in shopping malls with lots of people. And if I was going to do it then I was determined to make it the least hassle possible. So Clea and I agreed that we would leave at 8:30am so that we could be at the town centre for 9:00 – hopefully when many people might still be asleep.

Saturday morning came: half past eight in the morning and daughter is still sleeping. So I got busy doing my stuff saying to myself that I had honoured my side of the bargain. At 10:15 my daughter came down. I was reading. She asked to go shopping. I was confronted with choice: to be right, to make her wrong for not keeping her promise, to refuse to take her shopping, or to accept her request.  I gave up my sense of righteousness. I gave up my desire to teach her a lesson on what happens when one does not honour one’s word. I gave up my desire to complete that which I was doing. And in giving up, I told my daughter I was ready to go shopping with her whenever she was ready.

What allowed me to give these things up and accept Clea’s request? I was committed to co-creating a wonderful day together – a day where she experienced the love of her father (me).  What kind of commitment: no matter what kind of commitment – whatever I have to put into the game I am committed to putting in the game, whatever sacrifice is necessary I am committed to making that sacrifice.

We arrived in the town centre and my daughter led me forward into her shopping trip. Normally, when I am dragged shopping, wife-daughter-‘boys’ enter the shop and I stand outside.  This time, Clea wanted me inside the shops with her, so I entered the shop and stood beside her. And importantly took an interest (got involved) in what she was doing: choosing presents for others.  To do this I found myself having to give up this thought “I am no good at choosing presents. Choosing presents is a waste of time as at least 50% of the time we get it wrong. And then the other person has to fake liking the present.”

I am looking at the sales assistants in the store – all female – as they serve customers at the counter.  One of them is alive – really alive – and she is serving Clea.  She smiles, she has a song in her voice she is warm, she is animated… When she finishes serving Clea (with a smile), I find myself saying “You are an original. Thank you for being an original. You have made my day. I wish you a great Christmas and the very best for 2015.”  She beams; it occurs to me that I might just have made her day simply by acknowledging her greatness.

What did it take for me to do that  – to speak up, to acknowledge in the midst of many people?  I gave up my fear that Clea would think I was flirting with this young lady. I gave up my fear that I would embarrass this young lady. I gave up my fear that this young lady would think I was hitting on her …. I gave up my concerns and fears.

It is the evening. Clea and I are at home and she tells me that she would like to eat pizza. She wants to sit with me, eat pizza, drink coke, and watch X Factor.  So I go onto the internet, find the phone number for Papa John’s (as she likes Papa John’s pizza) and I order two large pizzas and a bottle of coke for 8:30 when X Factor starts.  Thereafter, we spent a delightful evening in each others company: sitting on the sofa, eating pizza, drinking coke, and watching the X Factor. It showed up as one of the best evenings I have ever spent with Clea.

What was the access to the evening turning out as it turned out – great? A large part of it involved me giving stuff up. What kind of stuff? I gave up my fixed view that pizza is junk food. I gave up my view that coke rots your teeth. I gave up my insistence that one does not eat food sitting on the sofa – one eats food sitting at the dining table with no television!

Was this giving my stuff worth it?  Yesterday was the best day I have spent with my daughter for a long long time. It is day that I will cherish to the end of my days. As for Clea she hugged me and told me that it had been a wonderful day. I think she said something like “I love you daddy, I’ve really enjoyed by day with you”.

Summing up:

The access to playing BIG in life right now – today – is giving up that you/i lack anything to play BIG.  It is giving up the dominant myth that you/i have to do some personal development before we are ready to play BIG.  No! All it takes to play big is to step into future possibility with absolute commitment and give up all that stands in the way of walking the path: fixed ways of being (personality, habits), cherished beliefs, and fears.

When you step into playing BIG you will find that all the learning and development that is necessary, will simply occur.  Put differently, you do not develop-learn first then play BIG. No! You play BIG and with that playing BIG you develop and learn all that is necessary. Phil Crosby, the quality guru, in advocating a particular way of being in the organisational world used to say that if you took on that way of being in the world then “Quality is free.”  I say that if you play BIG in life then “Learning and self-development is free.”

I suggest that you play BIG in life from the stand that you are ‘whole-complete-perfect’. What do I mean? That you are – just as you are and are not – all that is necessary to play BIG in life. You are an awesome ‘learning and creating machine’ that learns and often creates all that is necessary when there is a fierce will to accomplish something worth causing: a possibility that leaves you touched-moved-inspired-elevated.

I invite you to consider that playing BIG in life is both transformation (as in one’s lived experience of oneself and life is transformed) and leadership (as in one shows the way for others to follow in one’s way of being).

 

Play BIG: Give Up Cynicism, Embrace Possibility & Greatness


For the purposes of this conversation when I speak ‘big’ I am pointing at a combination of the following: standing for a possibility and/or set of values; and how one shows up and travels in life – one’s being.

Let’s being the conversation.

What kind of a being is human-being? Wiser folk than I have pointed out that man is being-in-the-world-with-others. How is this relevant to the game of playing big in life?

It occurs to me that there is only so much that you/i can do on our own.  There is a limit to how much work I can do just by myself. There is a limit to the impact I can make if the only person that I can count on is myself.  Which is my way of saying that any game, no matter how big I say it is, is small if the only person involved in playing that game is myself.

Put differently, truly playing BIG, and in standing for possibility that in some way-form creates a ‘better world’, involves one’s fellow human beings in playing BIG.  So how I relate to and stand in relation to my fellow human being matters.

What are the choices?  Is the default, the choice that is in play – in me, in the culture I find myself in – one of cynicism?

“Cynicism is perhaps a rational response to despair, but it is one of the most corrosive of human states.….. The cynic will sigh knowingly and say “That’s just the way the world works. Humans are essentially corrupt and selfish – pretending otherwise is just naive.” In that way they justify constraints and rationalise limits.”

– Dr Jeff Sutherland, SCRUM

What is the alternative? What stance can I live from that opens up a world of possibility and unites me with my fellow human beings in playing for BIG possibilities?

“Over the last two decades I have delved deeply into the literature of what makes greatness. The surprising answer is that, fundamentally, humans want to be great. People want to do something purposeful – to make the world, even if just in a small way, a better place.”

– Dr Jeff Sutherland, SCRUM

If I choose to show up and travel in life from this stance towards my fellow human beings then what it there for me to do to call forth this greatness that typically lies dormant in many of us?

“The key is getting rid of what stands in their way, removing the impediments to their becoming who they are capable of becoming.”

– Dr Jeff Sutherland, SCRUM

Personally, I’d rewrite this. How so?  I would rewrite it as:

“The key is getting rid of what stands in their way, removing the impediments to their becoming who they already are at the core of their being.”

It occurs to me that the world gives the label ‘leader’ to s/he who calls forth the greatness of others in the service of possibilities that create-leave the world a better place for us.

Who Am I? Who Are You?


What Kind Of A Being Is A Human Being?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Am I? 

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

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

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

Let’s make this concrete:

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you get the idea.

Who are you?

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

I invite you to notice the following:

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

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

I leave you with this quote from Lynne Twist:

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

The Opening Of Possibility In The Presence Of Misfortune


“My knowledge of the self-healing qualities of misfortune with a shocking injury to my spine that left me lying helplessly…… I would never again do any sustained carpentry or turn clover under in the garden … I would never backpack ….. I would never nail another ceiling…….

The life I had lived all those years was impossible now and I had no option but to let it go. And in that yielding I saw more clearly than ever before what ceilings and walls I had been building all these years.

I saw that I had tried to construct my life as I had built this house, with some fixed and lasting sense of myself nailed securely in place.  I saw that no life so constructed could be held secure against the exigencies of time and circumstance, that I must inevitably exhaust myself in futile maintenance of such a structure.A lifetime of certainties fell about me in disrepair. I could no longer conceptualize who I was, and in that very loss the healing was found.

….. I found myself on a prominence that lay an unobstructed horizon about me on all sides. I turned slowly, 360 degrees. In all that space there was nothing, not even a trace of the very steps that had bought me there, to suggest where one might go next. I understood that I could, at that moment, walk in any of all possible directions. 

We invent ourselves that we might know who we are and what we are to be. But the consistency we seek in these inventions can’t be maintained against the fabulous inconsistency of actuality. Sensing this, we clutch at cherished constants ever more urgently. The builder of the house of ego can never rest, for he is ever at work to control outcomes and limit alternatives. His structure makes its appeal to our longing for the familiar and the safe, but in the end, he delivers only diminishment. I am weary of maintenance.”

– Lin Jensen (The Best Buddhist Writing 2006)

 

 

 

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.

 

What Lies Forgotten Behind Language, Ideology and Religion?


“Deliver us, O Allah, from the Sea of Names.”

– Ibn al-Arabi

How to be grateful for being gifted an entrance into 2014?  How to create-live the possibility of being a clearing for kindness, generosity, harmony and aliveness?  Perhaps through some passages that speak to me and get me present to that which lies forgotten behind language, behind ideology, behind my taken for granted way of living.  I share these with you – may one of them will call to you and provide you access to living a ‘richer’ life this year.

Rumi:

“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make sense any more.”

Wendell Berry:

“Thy life’s a miracle. Speak yet again

This is the line that calls Gloucester back – out of hubris, and the damage and despair that invariably follow – into the properly subordinated life of grief and joy, where change and redemption are possible……

One immediately recognises that suicide is not the only way to give up on life …….we can give up on life also by presuming to “understand” it – that is by reducing it to the terms of our understanding and treating it as predictable or mechanical. The most radical influence of reductive science has been virtually the universal adoption of the idea that the world, its creatures, and all the parts of its creatures are machines…..

This may have begun as a metaphor, but in the language as it is used (and as it affects industrial practice) it has evolved from metaphor through equation to identification. And this usage institutionalises the human wish, or sin of wishing, that life might be, or might be made to be, predictable. 

….. whenever one treats living organisms as machines they must necessarily be perceived to behave as such……. Whenever one perceives living organisms as machines they must necessarily treated as such.

…. to reduce life to the scope of our understanding (whatever “model” we use) is inevitably to enslave it, make property of it, and put it up for sale. This is to give up on life, to carry it beyond change and redemption, and to increase the proximity of despair…..”

Ibn al-Arabi: 

“Do not attach yourself to any particular creed exclusively, so that you may disbelieve all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognize the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotent, is not limited by any one creed, for he says, ‘Wheresoever ye turn, there is the face of Allah’ (Koran 2:109). Everyone praises what he believes; his god is his own creature, and in praising it he praises himself. Consequently, he blames the disbelief of others, which he would not do if he were just, but his dislike is based on ignorance.”

It occurs to me that to walk-live the path pointed out by these speakers is to live a transformed life.

Life Is A Miracle, Speak Yet Again: Bring New Light To What Life Might Be


“Thy life is a miracle. Speak yet again.”

– Edgar speaking to the Earl of Gloucester in Shakespeare’s King Lear

Looking Back On 2013

On this the last day of 2013 what is it that I am present to?  Gratitude. What is it that I am grateful for?

How wondrous it is that I can see!  I got to see blue sky, white clouds, yellow sunshine, pinkish sunset….

How magical it is that I can hear!  Today, I found myself listening to my daughter call me “Papa”; I love the sound of “Papa” and have done so ever since my first child called me “Papa”.  Music, I found myself listening and moving to, and being moved by, the music coming through on the tablet.

How wondrous that I can speak! Yes, speak – communicate with my fellow human beings, express myself, ask for help, offer help, co-ordinate my actions with all whom I find myself in a dance with.

How miraculous that I can smell! One of the joys of starting the morning is smelling the various fragrances that go with the various soaps which I use when I shower in the morning.

How wonderful it is to find that everything works – that the fingers work, the arms work, the feet work, the legs work, the back works, the lungs work, the heart works ……….! What a gift is is to find myself fully able to take care of myself such that I do not rely on nor wait for anyone to take care of me?  What a gift it is to dance.

Looking Ahead to 2014

Yes, life is a miracle.  Let’s assume that the miracle continues and I am gifted an entrance into 2014. What is there to “Speak yet again”?  It occurs to me that what there is to speak is to speak a possibility.

“Bring new light to what life might be.” 

This is why you were born; that’s why you are here. To bring some new angle to the human condition – if not to the broader world in general, then at least to your family and the people around you…….

– Hugh MacLeod, Gaping Void

As I sit with “Bring new light to what life might be.” what shows up?  Kindness-Gentleness-Aliveness-Harmony.  It occurs to me that I moved by the possibility of being an opening for kindness-gentleness-harmony to show up in the world. It occurs to me that if I am gifted life in 2014 then I am up for speaking kindness, generosity, aliveness, and harmony in my way of being (showing up) in the world.

What is it that you are moved to speak in 2014? How can you bring new light to what life might be?

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

The Myth of Scarcity: That’s Just The Way It Is


Some time ago I started sharing some of that which spoke to me and showed up as worth sharing with you from Lynne Twist’s book: The Soul of Money. As it has been a little while since I last wrote, it may be worth revisiting the first two posts in this conversation:

The Myth of Scarcity: There’s Not Enough

The Myth of Scarcity: More Is Better

Ok, let’s listen to Lynne speak-share the third toxic myth that constitutes an important underpinning for the myth of scarcity. 

Toxic Myth 3: That’s Just The Way It Is

“….. that’s just the way it is, and there’s no way out. There’s not enough to go around, more is definitely better, and the people who have more are always people other than us. It’s not fair but we’d better play the game because that’s just the way it is and it’s hopeless, helpless, unequal, unfair world where you can never get out of this trap.

That’s just the way it is is just another myth, but it’s probably the one with the most grip, because you can always make a case for it. When something has always been a certain way,  and traditions, assumptions, or habits make it resistant to change then it seems logical …. that the way it is is the way it will stay. This is when the blindness, the numbness, the trance, and, underneath it all, the resignation of scarcity sets in. Resignation makes us feel hopeless, helpless, and cynical. Resignation also keeps us in line……. Resignation keeps us from questioning how much we’ll compromise ourselves or exploit others for the money available to us in a job, or career, a personal relationship or a business opportunity. 

That’s just the way it is justifies the greed, the prejudice and inaction that scarcity fosters in our relationship with money and the rest of the human race……

We say we feel bad about these and other inequities in the world, but the problems seem so deeply rooted as to be insurmountable and we resign ourselves to that’s just the way it is, declaring ourselves helpless to change things. In that resignation, we abandon our human potential, and the possibility of contributing to a thriving, equitable, healthy world……

We have to be willing to let go of that’s just the way it is, even if just for a moment, to consider the possibility that there isn’t a way it is or a way it isn’t. There’s the way we choose to act and what we choose to make or our circumstance.”

In my next post, I will continue this conversation and share with you how the possibilities open to us are shaped and closed off by the life sentences imposed on us – by our cultural practices and by us.

And finally

Before I end this conversation, I pose a question or two for us to consider:

  • granted that it is the way it is and it’s not the way it’s not, who/what caused it be the way it is and the way it’s not? 
  • has it always been the way it is and is no right now – across time, across cultures? And if it has not been as it is and is not right now, then who/what caused the shifts in the way that it is and is not?  
  • what would show up in my living, your living, our living if I/you showed up from the stand that “I have a say in the way that it is and is not, the way it will be and not be.”?

 

With Love or Without Love?


I want to share with you two distinctions ‘with love’ and ‘without love’.  Why am I sharing these distinctions? Because distinctions shed light on what is so and at the same time open doorways to new possibilities.

Today, it occurred to me that everything that you and I do, is done either ‘with love’ or ‘without love’.  And there is a profound difference between doing something ‘with love’ or ‘without love’.

When I listen, am I listening ‘with love’ or am I listening to you ‘without love’?

When I speak, am I speaking with love or without love?

When I write, am I writing with love or without love?

When I cook, am I cooking with love or without love?

When I serve the food that I have cooked, am I serving it with love or without love?

When I eat, am I eating with love or without love?

When I clean the house, am I cleaning with love or without love?

When I turn up to collect my children from school, am I turning up with love or without love?

When I help you with something, am I helping you with love or without love?

When I walk, am I walking with love or without love?

When I sit, am I sitting with love or without love?

When I sleep, am I sleeping with love or without love?

When I work, am I working with love or am I working without love?

It occurs to me that the default is ‘without love’.  It is so much the default that I don’t see that I act ‘without love’. My acting just shows up as acting: I do that which I do as I have always done it. And I think no more of it. I do what I do mindlessly. Yet, the person on the receiving end does notice whether the action was taken with love or without love. When I act with love the other tends to feel accepted-appreciated-loved and I also experience joy. When I act without love, the other is left feeling that s/he does not matter.

I invite you to imagine what your experience of living would be like if you listened with love, spoke with love, and took action with love. What would show up if you brought love to all that you do?

Today, I am inventing the possibility of listening-speaking-acting ‘with love’. I invite you to join me.

 

 

 

Which Context is Determining How You (and I) Show Up?


I share with you a talk worth listening to again and again.  If you are a Landmark graduate then this talk may show up as  welcome reminder of some fundamentals. If you are not a Landmark graduate then you are in for a mind opening talk. Enjoy.

The Art of Asking: asking in a way that creates a wonderful world


When you and I are first given our part on the stage of life, life shows up as wondrous.  We live in possibility. More accurately, we are infinite possibility.  Nothing occurs as unreasonable, unrealistic, naive, silly.  We are not present to criticism. Nor have we suffering rejection. Slowly and surely possibility is driven out of us and its place is taken up with right/wrong, good/wrong, appropriate/not appropriate, success/failure. And our house of being is filled with shame, guilt, duty, obligation..

Today, I’d like to get each and every one of us present to possibility once more.  What is possible in the music business if you allow yourself to be vulnerable and simply ask?  That is the answer that Amanda Palmer shares in this fabulous TED talk. I challenge you not to be touched-moved-inspired-uplifted.

This talk gets me present to that which is much neglected: asking/receiving can be a source of contribution when our asking shows up as giving.  The kind of giving that generates possibility – a possibility that enables connection and mutual contribution – and enables a transformation in our experience of living.

Is it possible that the defining act of leadership is generating possibilities that call to our fellow human beings, engender connection, and create an opening for people to join together and co-create a world that works for us all, none excluded?

Am I willing, are you willing, to put in that which is required to play the game of possibility, transformation & leadership?  What am I pointing at?  The courage to connect with our deepest call, the courage to respond to this call, the courage to be vulnerable – to share that which calls us and ask for our fellow human beings to contribute.

Put differently, are you and I willing to generate the courage to ‘play BIG’ and give up ‘playing small’? To choose to be ‘extraordinary’ and risk criticism, even abuse, rather than stay comfortable (and dead) in the ordinary?

Questions that provide access to transformation


Ordinary question generate ordinary living: an ordinary way of being and showing up in life.

Extraordinary questions stop us in our tracks, bring us out of our hypnotic state of everydayness, and provide a window to possibility and transformation.  The access to possibility and transformation is always questions: questions that rock us, shake us, tremble us.

If you are up for living a transformed life here are the questions to be with – totally and wholeheartedly:

1. Who am I?

2. Who am I for myself?

3. Who would I be if I lost my memory and had no past?

4. If I had no memory, who would I chose to be?

5. What calls to me when I am silent and courageous?

6.  Who would I chose to be if I knew with absolute certainty that I am whole-complete-perfect?

 

The being / love of a mother: truly extraordinary!


The other day the four of us went to watch a movie: The Impossible.  The film makers say it the true story of a family of five that were caught up in the 2004 tsunami that hit Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and 12 other countries. And killed some 230,000 people.

I was gripped by the move from start to finish.  What gripped me in particular was the being of the mother Maria:

– Her absolute love for her son Lucas. And her willingness to do whatever it took to ensure his survival.

– Her humanity in the most dire of circumstances that save a young life, that of Daniel and which ultimately ended with Daniel being reunited with his father; and

– How she inspired her son Lucas to let go of his fear and call forth his humanity – to save Daniel, to help others in need, to be useful when so many were in pain.

I was also touched by the humanity of many others.  People who in the most desperate circumstances put their humanity in action: shared what they had to share, put themselves out to save lives.

If you have not seen it then I encourage you to go and see The Impossible.  If you do choose to go and see it then please think carefully before you take any non-adults to see this movie.  It is not for the faint-hearted.  And it is one of the very best movies I have seen.

Ultimately, it is movie of possibility, of transformation and of leadership.

 

All life is an experiment: it always turns out the way it turns out


Right now I am confronted with choice and the choice concerns work.  It is not an easy choice.  Why?  I am confronted with what is so: to live is always to live at risk.  And the machinery that goes with being human goes all out to eliminate risk.  It wants to live forever, safely.

Getting past that, I find another challenge confronts me.  To go forward as a single person – as opposed to a team – I must focus.  What is it that I can do well by myself which creates value for my fellow human beings and will enable me to earn a living?  That means giving stuff up.  And what I notice is that the human machinery that runs me does not like that one little bit.  It wants to be able to do this and that as it enjoys doing lots of things. Put differently, it does not want to sacrifice: it wants to keep all options open, to have its fingers in all the pies.

Yet, as a strategist I know that I must focus. And to focus, I must choose. And to choose is to choose one possibility and thus simultaneously given up the other possibilities that are on the table.

In the course of my struggle, I came across this quote wish has given me a helping hand.  And I wish to share it with you.

12080“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” 

― Ralph Waldo Emerson