Playing BIG Can Be As Simple As Making A Telephone Call


Making-Phone-CallHello! I’ve been absent for much of 2016 and 2017. It’s possible that some of you have noticed. If you are interested in learning more about this absence then I invite you to read the second half (“My Story Told As Briefly As I Can Tell It”) of a conversation I posted on The Customer & Leadership Blog.

I say it feels great to be back in communication with you. Being away has allowed me to realise that I created a trap for myself and for you. What trap?  THE trap. The trap of calling this series of conversations: Playing BIG.  The issue. You and I find ourselves arising from and living amidst a specific time/place.  Where I live, we take playing BIG to point out at things like:  becoming a captain of industry, writing a best-selling novel, becoming a superstar/celebrity, making millions, ending world hunger …… You get the idea.

You may be saying to yourself “What’s the problem with that?”.  There is no problem with that if that is what playing BIG means to you and right now you are in action acting in/on the world to cause that to happen. Whilst there is no problem, there is a trap. The trap is that almost all of us feel inadequate, and/or show up for ourselves as small/insignificant is such complex world. For almost all of us playing BIG (as I have described above) is wishful thinking at best.  For others it likely occurs as the latest claptrap.

Today, I am committed to cutting through that. I say that when I step outside of my self-centred concerns, put aside my fears, and act – help others – I am playing BIG.  Allow me to share with you the actions that I have taken that show up for me as playing BIG in the way I show up & travel:

  • I make it my business to call my friend Richard once a week to say “Hello! How are things?  How are you doing? How’s your wife doing?  When/what are the latest results of your chemo treatment?” And I listen – really listen.
  • I make it my business to go see my friend Richard. We go for a walk. I walk by his left hand side so that he can bump into me not the lamppost etc,  the brain tumour has knocked out his left vision in both eyes. We have lunch together. We talk about our history working together at Peppers & Rogers, we talk about what we are dealing with today, we talk about the future that cancer holds for us.  Last week, we happened to talk about our childhoods and I learned that we are both Lancastrians – he grew up in Ormskirk and I grew up in Preston. Small world!
  • The other week, I got a call from my neighbour (Charles) whilst I was in the midst of doing business work whilst working from home.  He urgently needed a lift to get somewhere important. I dropped what I was doing even though the business-ey part of me objected as that work had a deadline. Instead I said “Give me five minutes”. Then I drove him to where he needed to go, waited in my car, then drove him back.
  • Yesterday, my oldest son (22 years old) was telling me off for not taking up shirts that my wife had ironed and left hanging on the chairs in the dining room. I said “Please don’t tell me how to live in my home. I pay for it, you are a guest!” He expressed his frustration (not so politely) with me. So I took the shirts and hung them up in my bedroom. A little later in the kitchen I mentioned how he and I used to watch the Lion King together when he was young. His response was something to experience: angry, telling me off, swearing, walking away in a huff.  What I noticed was hurt – deep hurt arising in me. Then I noticed the anger/rage rising up. Noticing it, I decided to play BIG and let it go.  He’s still a kid, and maybe (just maybe) he’s having a bad day.  Or maybe he got hurt earlier, got angry with me…. Like I was in the process of doing with him.
  • At work, I called it as I saw it.  I knew that calling it as I say it would upset some powerful people. And that I would pay a price. Fully aware of the consequences I chose to play BIG – calling it as I saw it despite the pressure (from the powerful) to be a ‘team player’, to not ‘rock the boat’… Whilst some of the powerful did not appreciate me ‘rocking the boat’ several members of the client did value the course of action I took as it is the one that puts the interests / wellbeing of the client at the centre.
  • This one took the most from me. I allowed my wife to accompany me to the visits to cancer specialists. This may not be a big deal for you, it is a huge deal for me. I grew up under a tyrannical father. And I made it through my childhood by not disclosing weakness – any weakness, and doing that which needed to be done on my own without counting on others. So to arrive at a place where I could be ok with my wife accompanying me really took something. Ask my wife!

I hope you get that which I am pointing at.  None of these actions have made a dent in the universe – the universe is oblivious to my existence.  Having said this, I am clear that the way I showed up & travelled has made some kind of dent in the lives of my friend, my neighbour, my son, members of my client.  That’s good enough for me.

Lets part company today with this question:  “What are the little actions that you/i can take now/today that make a difference in the lives of others – your family members, your neighbours, your friends, the folks you work with at work?

I invite you/me/us to play BIG. It’s not the only way to live and I do not claim that it is the best way to live.  I do say that it is a GREAT way to live – I talk from my own experience.

Thank you for your listening.

As my French family say: A la prochaine!

How To Play Big In Our Dealings With Our Fellows


Our automatic/default way of being with regards to our dealing with our fellows is one of being controlling is it not?  I have a view on who you are / what you are / how you should show up and travel and given my attachment to this view I seek/strive to control you: control you as my child, my spouse, my sibling, my colleague, my friend… Right?

What shows up when we relate to our fellows in this habitual way?  If we succeed in our efforts we do so by cutting limbs of the other to fit the Procrustean bed we have created for them.  If we do not succeed then we blame / criticise them. Either way there is something amiss in this way of relating to others.

Is there another way of relating to our fellows?  Is there a way of being-in-the-world that frees our fellows to be  – to simply be – without having to fit into a particular mould we have created for them?

I invite you and me to listen to these wise words:

Last summer I noticed a strange plant in our pasture. I did not know what it was, I had no picture in my mind of what flower or fruit it would bear, but I freed it. That is, I dug around it and opened the soil that the rain might fall on its roots, I cleared out the thistles with which it was entangled so that it might have room to spread, I cut down the undergrowth of small maples near so that it could get the sun. In other words, I simply freed it.  Every friendship which is not treated in this way will surely suffer; no human relation should serve an anticipatory purpose. Every relation should be a freeing relation with the ‘purpose’ evolving.”

– Mary Parker Follett, Creative Experience (1924)

This may be a BIG ask for you.  It is a HUGE ask for me.  Which is why it is game fit only for those of us committed to playing BIG in our dealings with others.

Finally, I invite you/me to play BIG in our dealings with ourselves. I’m inviting you and me to free ourselves in the way that Mary Parker Follett describes.

Now, I get what the folks at Landmark were saying when they counselled us to “Listen coming from nothing”- listen / relate to others without any preconceptions.  In the space of nothing, anything has the ‘space’ to show up.

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

Thank You, And A Small Gift For You This Christmas


Without listening there is no value in speaking. Which is my way of saying that I am truly grateful for your listening of my speaking. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I wish you a great Christmas. And I know that my wishing will not make the same kind of impact that your actions will make. So I ask you to the source (cause of) a great Christmas experience – for yourself, for your loved ones, for all whose lives you touch this festive week or so.

What is it that I can offer you as a small gift this Christmas? What kind of a gift is in tune with what this blog is about? I offer you the following:

Yes, the whole conversation is about 7 hours long. If nothing else, I recommend that you listen to (and watch) the first 90 minutes.

I’d like to end this particular conversation with a quote from Werner Erhard. It occurs to me that it is worth listening – really listening to it – and then acting on it.  It occurs to me that acting on that which Werner is speaking, would be a great way to celebrate Christmas and being the New Year. Here is that quote (bolding mine):

People often don’t understand what is involved in forgiving. They think that if somebody does something wrong, and you forgive them, that is like saying that it was alright to do it that time – but don’t dare do it again. But life doesn’t work that way; and it’s stupid or hypocritical to forgive someone on that basis. If somebody does something, you can be sure that he or she will do it again.

“That is why I prefer to talk about ‘making space’ and ‘completion.’ To the extent that forgiveness is involved, it is more like self-forgiving and self-acceptance. When you forgive yourself for something, you have to create the space for that thing to exist. For whatever you resist, and fail to make space for, will indeed manifest itself in you.

“Self-forgiving, and self- accepting, is an essential part of being complete in relationships. If there is something about your past that you are ashamed of, or guilty about – if there is something in it that you are hanging on to – if there is something there that you are using to burden another person – that will prevent you from being complete in your relationships.

“In order to transcend having to be any particular type of person, you have to make it all right with yourself to be that type of person. The moment when you really experience that you have created yourself being whatever way you are, at the same moment you will never have to be that way again.

“This self-forgiving, self-acceptance, goes hand in hand with forgiving others, making space for others, completing your relationships with others. You cannot be complete in a relationship with any person whom you do not admire and respect as he or she is, and as he or she is not – rather than the way you think she is or would like her to be. Love for a person is is acceptance of him or her the way he is and the way he is not.

“So long as you do not know who you really are, this will be difficult. You may have to give up a lot of things to which you may be attached. You may have to give up your resentments, your anger, your upset, your annoyance, your desire to punish.”

– Werner Erhard

At your service | with my love

maz

 

 

Am I A Success?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Is It That I Experience Myself As A Success? 

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

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

Wife

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

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

Eldest Son

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

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

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

The Younger Son

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

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

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

 Daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niece

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

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

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

Why Have I Shared This With You?

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

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

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

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

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

I Am Always The Source of My Experience


“How dare she talk to me this way?”

It was evening, I was sitting in my comfortable chair working on my laptop. I heard my wife’s voice and she said something like “Maz, the French TV is not working! Clea says you played around with it yesterday!”  I felt the frustration and anger in her voice.

I didn’t take it well at all. I found myself telling myself “I cannot be the cause of the French TV not working. If you push the standby button, like I did, you do not break it!”  And there was a mood/tone underlying all this.  What was this tone?  “How dare she talk to me this way!”

People are only ever saying “Please” or “Thank You”

There and then I was in a place of no power. None at all. I was in my head telling myself that my wife was wrong, that I was not the cause of her problems, and that she was wrong for making me wrong.  I noticed that one minute I was kind of feeling sorry for myself. And the other minute I was feeling angry with my wife.

Then the word of Marshall Rosenberg came back to me.  These word went something like “Be yourself, be true to yourself, be true to your values. Don’t let people throw you off your centre.  And remember that underneath it all people are only ever saying “Please” or “Thank You””.

I got it. Underneath her anger lay frustration. She was clearly frustrated that she could not watch her French TV whilst she was on her exercise bike. Watching French TV was the way she exercised.  She had tried to put the French TV on and had not made it happen. So she was reaching out to me and saying “Please help me get the French TV working!”

Instantly, I was in different reality and my experience was totally different. I was calm. And the question that arose was a simply one: “Do I accept the request?”

I accept the request and help out

After consideration, I chose to come downstairs into the living room and figure out what was the matter.  I did the usual stuff like pressing the power-on button, checking the connection between the French satellite decoder and the smart TV…  I got the same results that my wife had gotten.

Then I went back to the source – the two power sockets in the wall that were feeding all the electronics – to see if the issue was at the source of with the French satellite decoder.  By switching the power plugs from one socket to another I got the French satellite decoder working. And after some help from my wife I had the decoder working with the TV.  I left the lounge and headed upstairs, back to my comfortable chair. What state was I in?  Happiness was present.

What are the insights here?

It occurs to me that there are two helpful insights here. Insights which have the potential to help us transform our relationships and our experience of living.

First, as Marshall Rosenberg says people are only ever communicating “Please” or “Thank You” irrespective of how they go about communicating this.  If I, get this, really get this, and show up for this perspective then I can be with whatever anyone says and how s/he says it. How? Because, I am only ever listening for the “Please” or “Thank You” that lies hidden in their communication.

Second, I am ALWAYS the source of my experience. As this experience illustrates I have choice in the matter of how I listen to others and how I interpret the circumstances.  When I listened to my wife as blaming me unjustly I got angry. When I listened to my wife as making a request “Please get the French TV working for me.” I became calm and helpful.

What Is The Cost of Being Right About Being Right?


I like to be right about being right

I say:

I like to be right,

I like to be right about being right,

I like to be right about being right about being right….

Am I addicted to being right about being right?

It occurs to me that I have just told a lie, so let me put it more accurately.

I am addicted to being right,

I am addicted to being right about being right,

I am addicted to being right about being right about being right …

Are we addicted to being right about being right?

I say that you are addicted to being right. Why am I confident that what shows up as being true for me is also true for you?  Because you and are both human beings; the same human machinery runs us.  Standing in this place it occurs to me that I still haven’t told the ‘truth’. So let me see if I can get nearer to the truth. I say:

It is in the nature of the human machinery that runs us,

to be addicted to being right,

And being right about being right,

And being right about being right about being right ….

What is the cost of being right about being right?

Yet, you and I are not merely human machinery.  We have the capacity to transcend the human machinery.  How? By seeing the human machinery. By being present, at the level of feeling, with the cost of the human machinery.  Right now I am present to the cost of being right about being right …..

What is the cost?  The cost is the lack of affinity between myself and me wife.  The cost is a certain melancholy that is present right now in my house of being.  The cost is a wasted evening yesterday. And a day without intimacy-friendship-laughter-joy today.

The choice facing me, facing you

I have a question for me, for you, for us.  What is the cost each of us have paid for being right?  What is the cost each of us have paid for being right about being right?  How many relationships have we sacrificed?  How much affinity have we given up?  How much joy have we given up?

And what is the cost am I, are you, are we, paying right now for being right about being right?

All of which reminds me of something I heard in Landmark Education some 10 years ago:

You can be right, 

Or you can be in relationship,

Choose. 

The power of shifting the conversation from who is wrong to what went wrong


I dedicate this post to my wife who is the source of this insight, this conversation.

The default: one party is good/right, the other party is bad/wrong

When conversations, actions, events and relationships don’t work out as we want or expect them to work out what happens?  Look carefully and you will find that the default is that we look to figure out who is wrong.  And from there we go and label some person/group as bad/wrong and another person/group as good/right.  If we are one of the parties to the upset/conflict then we end up declaring ourselves as good/right and the other person as bad/wrong.

Even as an observer, if you listen to one of the parties to the conflict sharing his story, his take on the situation, the temptation and the default way of being is to want to work out who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad. Even as an observer we get drawn into and cannot resist taking sides.  And in taking sides we validate one person and invalidate the other – usually without even hearing the others side of the story.

How does this default way of being/showing up in the world tend to work out?  My experience is that it does not tend to work out.  Taking sides  – labelling one person ‘good’ / ‘right’ and the other ‘bad’ / ‘wrong’ just perpetuates the myth: some people are ‘good’ and some people are ‘bad’. And it keeps us stuck in the existing context which says that ‘bad’ results are the result of ‘bad ‘people.

Creating an ‘extraordinary’ context for dealing with that which shows up and which does not please us

Leaving aside evil people and I am clear there are evil people – they tend to be labelled psychopaths – is there value in operating from a context of whole-complete-perfect?  What do I mean?  What would become available if we acted as if each person is whole-complete-perfect?  Put differently, what would become available if you/I operated from a context that each person is doing what shows up for him/her as reasonable, as good, as right?

What my wife and I have noticed is that if we operate from this context then we have a powerful way to deal with the upsets and conflicts that show up in our lives as we go about in the world.  How exactly?

Operating from a context of each person is being rational/reasonable given how the world show up for him/her we can ask the question that is almost never asked:  how is it that two (or more) reasonable people ended up creating this undesirable situation/outcome?  Put differently, we focus on the question of what went wrong and not who is wrong.

What we have found is that when we relate to people as whole-complete-perfect and focus on what went wrong we get powerful insights that enable us to:

  • deal effectively with what went wrong;
  • figure out how exactly (step by step) it ended up working out the way that it worked out;
  • generate insight and affinity with the people who are involved in the events unfolding as they have unfolded; and
  • prevent the reoccurrence of that which occurred and left all parties unhappy, resentful, frustrated, angry and even violent.

Summing up

If you want to be powerful in the way that you show up in the world for yourself and for the people with/around you then:

  • shift the context from ‘good’ people and ‘bad’ people to everyone is ‘whole-complete-perfect’; AND
  • shift the conversation from who is wrong to what went wrong – how is it that events turned out this way given the good intentions of all parties.

Dearest Clea, my message for you on your 12th birthday


Dearest Clea

On this day, your 12th birthday, I want you to know that love is present between you and me.  I do not choose to love you; love simply flows when I am with you or when I think of you.

I want you to know that you show up in my world like sunshine: you illuminate my life, you brighten my life, you turn up and there is joy present and a spring in my footstep and in my soul.

I want you to know that you show up as simply amazing!  I am amazed at how loving, how caring, how compassionate, how wise you are.  And I have to pinch myself to get present to the fact that you are only 12 years old.   Please know that I am so proud of you.

I want you to know that you can count on me to be here as both a stand for you to show up as great and make an awesome contribution to a ‘world that works, none excluded’. And you can count on me to be your safety net as you walk the tightropes in your life.  I say that you can count on me no matter what.  I say that you can share with me whatever you have to share with me no matter what.  I say that you can count on me to love you no matter what.

Twelve years ago a surprise came into my life, the best surprise that has ever showed up in my life.  You are that surprise.  And I am so grateful that you exist and that it is my privilege to be a father unto you and have you show up as a daughter unto me.

Now please handover your iPod touch – you have been staying up late and today you did not get up on time and I had to wake you.  You broke our agreement and I insist the price be paid.  You can count on me to give it back to you after seven days.  That is the way life works – there are always consequences, and they catch up with you sooner or later.

And finally, I thank you for the kindness that you have shown me and the joy that you have brought and continue to bring to my experience of living!

Your daddy (“Cuddly Bear”)

What does it take to be special?


You and I want to feel special

I want to feel special, you want to feel special and just about everyone wants to feel special.    That is just what is so.  And all would be well if we could just be with what is so: wanting to feel special.

For some or even most of the time you and I do not feel special.  That is also what is so.  And all would be well if we could be with what is also so: not feeling special.

You and I do not leave it at that.  Instead, some of us look for people in whose company we feel special.  When we are with these people then we feel special – life simply shows up as great, we laugh, we feel lighter,  our worries seem to fall away….. Others turn to roles, titles, or positions of power to feel special.  Some of us get to feel special through the triumphs in organisations we support like sports teams and political parties.

“There is something wrong!”

Sooner or later we find ourselves without the company of the people who makes us feel special.  Or without the roles, titles, or positions of power that makes us feel special.  And from time to time our sports teams lose.  Then what shows up?  We experience not feeling special!

What do you and I do with that experience of not feeling special?  Do we accept it? No!  We make it mean “Something is wrong!”  Something is wrong with me, with you, with the world….  And when we do that what shows up in our experience of living?  Misery shows up: we create misery for ourselves and these ripples of misery infect others that we come in touch with.

Masters of creating misery

Then there are some amongst us who are masters of creating misery for ourselves.  Those of us who are ‘masters of misery’ insist that we can only be happy if we have someone in our lives who makes us feel special. Or that we can only be happy if we have certain roles, certain titles, certain positions of power etc…

Notice what has happened here.  We, the masters of misery, make our happiness conditional on someone else and/or something else showing up in our lives and making us feel special. And in the process we give up our responsibility and our freedom. Instead we  enslave ourselves.  Why do I say that?  Because it is the world that then determines how we get to experience our lives.

Is there a way out of this prison?

If you/I find that we are one of these ‘masters of misery’ then you/I can let ourselves out of the prison that we have created for ourselves.  How? By giving up the demand that we feel special.  And by giving up our commitment, our addiction, to the point of view that we can only be happy if someone/something makes us feel special.

Look around you and notice that it is the ‘ordinary person’ who is at ease with who he is, what he does and the circumstances of his life, that shows up as special.  Notice, It is the person who is at ease with his ‘ordinariness’ that shows up as special.  Notice, it is the person who can be with people or be with him/herself that shows up as ‘special’.  Notice, it is the person who can be with and make the most of the sunshine and the rain that shows up in his/her life that shows up as special.

The paradox of special

Here is the paradox, when you/I give up the need to feel special and the demand that the world makes us feel special it is then that you/I become and show up as special.

It takes a special person to be totally ok, and even delight in, being ‘ordinary’.  It takes a special person to choose to show up in life happy – to put happiness into life – for no reason whatsoever except that he has chosen to live this way.

“You are a fraud!” Thank you, I am totally ok with that


“You are a fraud!”

One of the people who knows me well asserted: “You are fraud!”.  What is the context that gives rise to this statement, this assertion?  Simply the disconnect this person experiences between how I show up for her and how my speaking/writing shows up for her.  There is a big gap and therefore the assertion: “You are a fraud”.

How to deal with that?  Do I attack?  Do I dispute?  Do I assert that she doesn’t see the full picture?  Do I find reasons/excuses for the difference between my speaking and my being/doing that shows up for her?  Do I turn the tables and point out her defects?

I accepted and continue to accept her assertion: “You are a fraud!”.  I totally get and am ok with this.  That is how it is!  For her, I show up as a fraud – that is simply what is so.  Going further I accept that I am a fraud!   What do I mean?

Being human is to be in the fallen state of ‘inauthenticity’: to say one thing and be doing another and not even be present to the difference.  It takes a certain state of being/consciousness – the state of being aware and mindful – to be aware of this inauthenticity.  I wish that I were able to live in that state all the time.  And the reality is that awareness/mindfulness is something that shows up infrequently and sporadically.

I am also a fraud in the sense that a person starting out and committed to being a tennis champion is a fraud.  What do I mean?  Let’s say that I am committed to being a tennis champion, I pick up my racket and head to the tennis court.  I play.  To an objective observer there will a gap between my being/playing and the being/playing of a tennis champion.  And that gap can be used to assert: “You are a fraud!”  I am up for ‘playing BIG’, ‘committed to playing BIG’.  That does not mean that I am ‘BIG’.  So the gap between my speaking of ‘playing BIG’, my ‘playing BIG’ and how I show up can be used to assert “You are a fraud!”

This assertion, “You are a fraud!” does not hurt.  I totally get that when I speak that I am up for and committed to ‘playing BIG’ some people will look at how I show up for them and they will laugh and ridicule me.  That is what is so – when you stick you head above the crowd then some people will take a shot at you.  Sticking my head above the crowd and getting shot at going together like the two sides of a coin.

This is what shows up as real pain: having lived as a fraud for the last 15 years or so

During the week of Christmas 2011 I got present to how I had been living my life.  The honest way would be to say that I had nothing to do with it.  I took time out simply to be and this getting present simply showed up and rocked my world.  Tears rolled from my soul – again and again for a week.  Why?

I got present to the fact that I had been living as a fraud.  I had been trying desperately to be someone else – to fit in, to please, to be a ‘nice person’, to not be a maverick, to not speak my mind, to not stand up for what I believe in genuinely.  And I got present to the fact that it had not worked!  Giving myself up to be ‘acceptable’ had not result in joy, fulfillment, satisfaction, peace being present in my living.  Neither had the ‘workability’ and ‘performance’ of my life increased.  I got present to the fact that I had lost – in every single way that I could imagine including the most wounding one:  I had lost my self-esteem and my self-confidence.  You could say that I showed up for myself as both a ‘fraud’, a ‘wimp’ and a ‘loser’!

Back to today

I am grateful that today I show up simply as a fraud!  I am grateful that I do not show up for myself as ‘lost’, ‘wimp’, ‘loser’.  I am grateful that I show up for myself as a person who has self-esteem – a person who has his own self-respect.  I person who is genuinely proud of what he is up for, the game that his playing and the results that are showing up.

It is amazing how little things make such a big difference.  I was set and internalised high standards and so no-one else berated me as much as I berated myself.  Anything less than perfection was an opportunity for the mother/father housed inside of to whip me to pieces.  And what happens shortly after my wakening up in December?  I am driving my car and I hear a song ( “Don’t let me be misunderstood”) on the radio by the Animals that totally captures my attention.  How?  Here is the chorus line:

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good.  Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

Yes, I’m just a soul whose intentions are good.  Oh Lord, please don’t le me be misunderstood.”

Those lines, that song has had such  profound impact on me.  I got that I am simply a soul whose intentions are good and that is good enough for me.  I do not have to get everything right, I do not have to be perfect – for everyone in my life.

I am a fraud and I am at peace with that and in my life.  I am even at peace with the person who asserts that I am a fraud.  How blessed am I?  Now, that is something to be truly grateful for!

What shows up in our lives when we stand in the clearing called Possibility?


Possibility (or the lack of it) is what gives us being in the present

Possibility (the future we are living into) is what gives us Being (how we are being right now, what we are doing or not) in the present.  What do I mean?  Let’s take a look at Spring.

Spring has arrived in Berkshire and I notice that the people all around me – my family, my neighbours, the folks in the village – are smiling, their faces have lit up, they have a spring in their footstep.  Why this dramatic change?  What is is about Spring that has brought this on?  Isn’t it the Possibility that we associate with Spring?  The possibility of: being outdoors in a T-shirt’; of the sun kissing your face; of flowers blooming…..?  Notice, how the Possibility associated with Spring is radically different to the Possibility associated with Winter.

What is possible?

I am not asking you a theortical question.  I am asking you a personal question: what do you think is possible for you, for us, for life on this planet?  Go deeper and ask yourself: “what is my relationship to Possibility?”  Are you one of those who has an optimistic outlook on life (open to Possibility) or are you a pessimist (‘dead to Possibility’)?  Now I ask you which game, if entered into fully, is more fun to play – ‘open to Possibility’ or ‘dead to Possibility’?

Do you want to reorient your relationship to Possibility?  Then watch the following video (1 minute long) and see for yourself what was once considered impossible and today is simply taken for granted:

The music of Possibility:  a moving, touching, inspiring example of Possibility

What is the Possibility for a baby born to ‘ordinary’ parents?  Now, lets go further.  What is the Possibility if you are that baby and I tell you that you are born without eyes?  That narrows done that zone of Possibility somewhat, right?  Lets, go further because the ‘bad news’ doesn’t stop there.  What if I tell you that you are born such that you have a tightening of your limbs and joints that prevents them from every straightening?  What Possibility is present for you?  What is the future you are living into?   Not much!  Isn’t that what pretty much all of us would say without having to think.  That is my point when it comes to Possibility most of us are wrong most of the time and yet we do not see it.

Allow me to share with you the Possibility that Patrick Henry Hughes and his father co-created, lived from and having been living into, and the results that have showed up for them, for their community and for us.  Please watch this 5 minute video – I am confident that this will open up your world (your mind as to what is possible) and touch your heart:

My question for you?

What would show up in your life if you lived from Possibility rather than Impossibility?    What would show up in your life if like Patrick Henry Hughes you did not accept the labels others put on you (and you have been putting on yourself)?   What would show up if you moved from “disabilities”to “abilities”?   What would show up if you gave up playing “victim” and became totally responsible for you life and played “god the creator”?

I invite you to get present to your living right now?  Is joy present?  Is self-expression present?  Is vitality present?  Is relatedness, connection, belonging present?  Are they all present?  If not then are you willing to be 100% responsible for what is so and is not so in your life?   OK.  Are you present to the cost of not living a life from the context of Possibility?  Great then you are in the right place to to let go of your prejudices, your doubts, you fears to step into the clearing of Possibility and invent possibilities that move-touch-inspire you?

Remember

It is the future that you are living into that is giving you your being in the present (right now)!   You can change your being by inventing a future that moves-touches-inspires you.  All leadership starts with your self and the Possibilities that you envisage, commit to and play full out to bring them to fruition.  The paradox is that it is the path that matters more than the outcome!  Being on the path, wholeheartedly, is transformation.  Enough for today.

9 practices for ‘playing BIG’ and living an ‘extraordinary life’


Please click on the following image to enlarge it so that you can read it more easily:

 

Our lives work to the extent we give up our stories (and the people/structures which keep them in existence)


“Hey kid, you’re stuck in bad stories. But they’re only stories…” Werner Erhard

Yesterday my wife was spinning her usual story (or the story was spinning her) about going out. I listened to her at the level of story, I did not enter into her story, I did not collude, nor validate her story. Nor did I make her wrong for her story. I simply said nothing until I was asked to say something. Then I pointed out that it was all a story. She did not like that one little bit. Why? The whole point of her telling me her story was to entice me to enter into her story, validate her story, provide sympathy and make her feel good.

To me occurred that she would be free of the need to have someone make her feel good if she simply gave up her story and listened to herself as a highly capable person who is up to that which is at hand. Or if she simply got present to the fact that she will be fine irrespective of how she handles the situation: her life will not come to an end – she will not even catch the common cold! This got me thinking about how many of us are simply stuck in bad stories and yet do not get that they are only stories.

We have a choice – live in/be with reality or live in/from our ‘story’:

We can live in ‘reality’ in so far as it is accessible to us through our senses (see, hear, smell, taste, touch….). Living in ‘reality’ can be described as living in ‘suchness’. The world of suchness is simply what is so. It is a world in which when seeing occurs one can describe what one sees. And words like beautiful and ugly do not exist in this world – beautiful/ugly is a distinction/story we impose on what is there. It is a world in which taste occurs and can be described as sweet, sour, bitter but not as good or bad. I hope you get the idea.

Or we can live in the world of stories. Most of us, for most of the time live in the world of stories. What is remarkable about our existence is that we live in and our living arises out of our stories and we are not present that this is the case. ‘Our’ stories own us and run us and we are not present to it.

It takes something to keep these stories alive. We play a big part in keeping our stories alive – we give them life through our thoughts and our feelings. And importantly through our thoughts and feelings about our thoughts and feelings. It can be even more complicated than that: through our thoughts and feelings about our thoughts and feeling about our thoughts and feelings …… So one access to having our lives work is to give up our stories. Yet, it is not as simple as that for most of us.

We live in relationship – always! Amongst other things it means that we exist in relationship with fellow human beings: our parents, our siblings, our friends, our school teachers, fellow students, our work colleagues, our customers, the church congregation, the media we listen to and watch…….. The interesting thing is that our stories (that own and run us) are kept in existence as much by the people that we are in relationship with as by ourselves. So a powerful access to stepping out of our stories is to ‘move home’. Became a part of a community that has no listening for, no agreement with the stories that run us. Imagine going from a major city and living with the Amish in their communities. Do you doubt that our stories would lost their stranglehold over us? That we would start to see our stories and by seeing them have access to stepping out of them.

You might think that the people who are most likely to help us step outside of our limiting stories into stories that inspire us, give us more freedom, gives us more vitality, more self-expression, more joy would be the people who are the closest to us. My experience is that this is rarely the case. The people who are closest to us are the ones who both shape and help keep our existing stories in existence. This is great if the story creates a life that works for you (joy, self-expression, vitality…) and is not so great if the story bring the opposite into being, into your life.

All of which brings me to the key point: if we want our lives to work then we have to be willing to give up our stories. To give up our stories we have to be willing, prepared and committed to giving me all up all that brings our stories into being, colludes with our stories, keep our stories in existence. In practice that means not only our media, our culture, our religion, our ideologies (e.g. capitalism, socialism….) but also the people who are closest to us. That is a hard ask and that is why most people who even when they know that they are ‘plugged into the matrix’ and their ‘lives our a delusion’ are not willing to ‘unplug themselves from the matrix’. Occasionally, events come along and do that to us – at first we kick and scream, later some of us get that it was a blessing and create new, empowering, inspiring stories.

Finally the access to Possibility and Transformation is letting go of all of your stories forever. When you are standing naked of all Story then there is Nothing and in the space of Nothing you and I can create anything. Put differently in the space of Nothing there is only Possibility – a domain of unlimited possibilities and of freedom.

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.

The beauty of business (for me) is the opportunity to connect with & contribute to fellow human beings


I started off in business back in 1986, some 24 years ago.  During that time I have had the opportunity to do work in a number of countries: the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Canada and the USA.  And I have done so many different types of work in many different industries.  Yet, today, when I think of my life in business all I care to remember is the personal: the times, the conversations, the encounters with my fellow human beings.

I remember the staff working in the Dixon motor dealership in Morecambe back in the early 90s.  The Dixon Motor Group had gone into receivership so one morning I turned up unannounced and told them something to the effect “as from now you work for the receiver and that means me”.  I had never done this before and was feeling nervous, yet, the people were gracious, warm and worked with me to run their dealership.  When the time came to go on to my next assignment I felt that I was leaving my family behind.  I cannot remember their names, I do remember their faces and their personalities.

I remember the variety of people who I worked with at the London Arena when it went into receivership.  I remember the security guards, the sports centre staff, the cleaners, the admin folks and the sales and marketing professionals.  As I sit here I think of the time when I persuaded some of them to join me and my friends to go paragliding.  It was a fantastic day spent laughing and playing together.  I remember the team spirit – when we all pitched in to stage events such as Smash Hits.

Then there was the Fine English Hotels.  On a cold, snowy day I made my way over to Kent to take over the day-to-day management of this chain of hotels as they had fallen into receivership.  What a bunch of characters I found there – both from the PW team (my colleagues) and from Fine English Hotels.  It was whilst the three of us from PW were working very hard that we got a visit from one of the senior partners.  I remember him today because instead of waiting for us to serve him, he actually served us.  Noticing that the three of us were totally occupied with matters that had to be dealt with there and then – as we had a business to run – he made tea and coffee and served us.  He was leadership in action – rather than talk!

Two events stand out whilst I was at IDV.  The first is stopping and saying hello to the folks that had been recruited to fill the posts that I had helped to create. And in the process making a friend and then two friends.  This friend is Christoph (a German) and through him I made friends with his girlfriend at the time, Peggy.  What led to this friendship was the simple recognition that it cannot be that easy to move from your country to another country.  And so I invited Christoph to have a meal with me and my girlfriend.  Many years later when I was looking for work as an independent consultant, Christoph, who at that time had an influential role in HR, helped me win an important piece of work for the next two years.  He has gone back to Germany and yet I remember him as it was yesterday.

The second event that stands out, is one that lifts me up every time I think of it.  I had the good fortune of having an influential role at IDV and being able to use it to do good.  During the course of my work I came across a 40+ year old man (Peter) who had come in as a contractor to do some treasury work in the finance function.  I struck up a conversation with him and learned that he had family – wife and several young children – and had experienced a difficult six months as a result of having is role made redundant at a former employer.  So when I recognised the time was right I told my boss the Finance Director that it would be a smart decision to employ Peter full-time as he knew his stuff.  And as Peter did know his stuff, he got the job.  To this day, this is one of the acts that makes me proud of myself: I remember the look of gratitude in his face – not to have the worry of asking yourself “how am I going to take care of my family?”.  Wherever, you are Peter I wish you and your family the very best.

I remember fondly my time consulting with Remy Cointreau when I worked for some 18 months with an international team.  I remember Gaeton, the Marketing Director; I remember Stuart the Dutch Finance Director;  I remember Jean-Claude the European Supply Chain Director; I remember Linda, Nicola and so forth.  What a great time we had holed up in Hammersmith designing and then implementing a European shared services centre.  It was an engagement where the business and the personal blended into one.  I remember having a meal at the flat of one of the Italian team members.  Most of us were there and we all cooked and ate together.  Wherever you are friends, I wish you the very best.  I thank you for special memories.

Then there are the folks that I worked with at Sage Publications and Virgin.  I value each of them and consider it my good fortune that some of them are now my friends – at least I am their friend!

I could go on and on – so many people, so many conversations, so many fond memories of the human encounter.  The joy of conversation.  The joy of laughter.  The joy of eating a meal with work colleagues who no longer occurred simply as work colleagues.

So why I am writing about this today.  Well in the late 1990’s when I was co-building the Siebel Consulting practice in the UK, I interviewed many people and had the privilege of offering some of them employment.   As we were struggling to recruit skilled IT consultants within the timeframes and the salaries that were acceptable I came up with and got agreement to recruit suitably skilled graduates – straight from university.  One of the people who I interviewed and then recruited is wonderful chap by who goes by the name of David.  Last week, some 11 years after I recruited him and gave him the “toughest interview of his life” (his words) I had the joy and honour of helping him and his wife to celebrate the arrival of their daughter into this world.  What a privilege to meet Dave and Sarah’s family and friends – to get to know some of them.  I thoroughly enjoyed my day today: thank you Dave and Sarah for a wonderful day.

I have never agreed with the thought that business is business it is not personal.  For me all of life is personal.  What I value most in business is the opportunity to create relationships – even friendships – with my colleagues, with my clients, with partners in the game of business.

Sartre was not on the ball when he said “Hell is other people”.  Yes that can be.  And it is also true that “Heaven is also my fellow human beings”.