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.

Daring Greatly: Moving From The Stands And Into The Arena


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Theodore Roosevelt

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

Life Isn’t Working Out As I’d Like It To Work Out


Life isn’t working out as I’d like it to work out. The question that I am left with is this one, how to be about what is so?  I have been grappling with this (including some help from Gregory Bateson) and I want to share with you what showed up for me.

Lets imagine that I am at a disco and the DJ is playing all kinds of music: pop, soul, rock, disco, R&B, ska, country, jazz…… etc.  Further, let’s imagine I am at this disco to dance – to just dance. What is my experience if I insist that I will only get up and dance to say R&B music?  Is it not likely that I will spend most of my evening dissatisfied – sat in my chair, being dissatisfied with the music being played, complaining that the DJ has not taste, getting drunk ….

Now imagine that I have two normal dice in my hands. And I roll the dice. What shows up? Any combination: two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, or twelve.  Right?  That is simply what is so given the nature of the dice and the game that I am playing.

Given the design of the game, I know that if I play this game or find myself playing this game, I will end up with one of eleven outcomes. I know this beforehand. Yet, I cannot know nor determine what I will end up getting when I roll the dice.  Nor can I know what will show up if someone else rolls the dice for me.

two-dice-one-red-and-one-black-landed-on-double-six

What happens to my experience of living if I make my self-expression, happiness, aliveness, fulfilment, conditional on getting two sixes every time I throw the dice?

Have I not limited myself to being happy-fulfilled, on average, once every 11 throws of the dice? Have I not, at the very same time, condemned myself to the experience of dissatisfaction even misery for the other ten throws?  Have I not stacked the odds against myself?

What happens if I put myself in a position (through being and doing) where I am as expressed, as happy, as alive, as fulfilled, if I get an eleven as well as a twelve?  It occurs to me that I have doubled the occasions for experiencing being alive, being self-expressed, being happy, being fulfilled.

Now imagine that I have arrived at a place where I am ok with whatever the roll of the dice generates.  What is my experience of living in this case?  Is my experience not transformed?

Knowing this, I have a choice in the matter of how I choose to show up, live and thus experience my life.  I can choose to:

  • dance with whatever shows up and in dancing I can became a better dancer;
  • act on others and the world to get them to conform to my wishes – each and every day; and/or
  • resign myself to being self-expressed, alive, happy and fulfilled when life shows up exactly as I insist that it shows up.

Awaken: It’s Never Too Soon!


Stop bullshitting!

Kathleen Taylor finishes here TEDx talk with the following exhortation:

Discover and express your amazing uniqueness in the world. Stop bullshitting

Why does Kathleen say this? Because she has learned from spending time working with-counselling the dying.

What can we learn from Kathleen?

Dying people teach us that it is never too late to shed what’s false and to become who we truly are.

Do you and I have to wait until our last days to live authentically?

But I’d like to hope that it is never too soon… So here is the challenge …. let’s don’t wait until we are at the end of our lives to find out who we really are.

Have your ever found yourself thinking about the purpose of your life? Wrong Question!

Have you every been confronted with this question: “What is my life about? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?” This question is one that I continue to grapple with. And this is what Kathleen has good news for me:

I think that is the wrong question.

I actually think the better question is “Who am I being with my life?”

What is the relationship between being and doing?

There is an intersect between doing and being. But, I’m pretty sure that being comes first.

And what you are supposed to be doing with your life will flow from who you truly are. You really can’t screw that up if you do it that way.

Why bother with living authentically? Why not just fit in and go with the flow?

Action, and creativity, and innovation that comes from true authenticity is what moves the world forward. And it has the lovely side effect …. of creating joy.

Awaken to the preciousness of time! be authentic, stop bullshitting

Living is the process of dying. Please read that again: living is the process of dying. This is what you and I are almost never present to. Yet, this is not true for those who are dying:

It ends up that some of the purpose of facing your mortality is to look back on the body of work of your life and develop a deep sense of self. And really, to finally awaken to the preciousness of time.

This brings us back to Kathleen’s exhortation:

Discover and express your amazing uniqueness in the world. Stop bullshitting

Here is Kathleen’s TEDx talk

By now you may be in a place where you actually want to see-hear-experience Kathleen’s TEDx talk. Here it is, enjoy!

Freedom and Self-Expression


“Most of us think that freedom means to keep our options open, stay loose and available, and often that strategy does give you a little space temporarily. Eventually, though, keeping your options endlessly open becomes its own prison. You can never choose…..You can never really discover you destiny because you are afraid to commit fully.

If you look back on the experience of freedom in your life chances are that it wasn’t when you were measuring the options against one another, or making sure you weren’t getting stuck with a decision. It was when you were fully expressed, playing full out. It was when you chose fully and completely, when you knew you were in the place you were meant to be in, when perhaps you felt a sense of destiny. That’s when we’re free and self-expressed, and joyful or at peace with circumstances – when we choose them. ”

Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money

Standards, possibilities, self-expression and play


A commitment to standards or possibilities? Choose wisely

“Is it possible to be committed to a set of standards that have nothing to do with being fully alive?  You’ve got standards rather than possibilities, and the standards are more important than life itself.”  Werner Erhard

You and I bottle up, hide, forget and even kill our true self-expression.  What is the impact?  You/I do not experience the joy of being alive, truly alive, instead our life occurs (when we are honest with ourselves) as going through the motions.  That is the impact on you and I.  What about the impact on others – the people who come into contact with us?

To be a human being is to be in relationship – always.  So our impact is that our lack of joy is experienced by those around us.  And us going through the motions makes, even encourages, our fellow human beings to go through the motions.  We encourage them to say to themselves “That is the way it is.  Look everyone is going through the motions.  Life is going through the motions.  So I might as well settle for going through the motions.”

Why do we suppress/hide/kill our true self-expression.  Because we have been born and raised in a set of standards, a set of practices.  As a result, we have become and are committed to a set of standards. A key part of these standards is that those of us who speak in terms of possibilities are called dreamers and looked down upon.  The dreamer is seen/spoken of as a child and childish.  In short, we are committed to a set of standards that allow us to ‘look good, avoid looking bad’ rather than being a stand for possibilities that move-touch-inspire-uplift us.

Recent conversation that brings this “theory to life”

With that context in mind, I share with you a recent email conversation that took place between myself and a fellow human being.  My fellow human being reached out to me as follows (I have deleted anything that can identify my fellow human being):

“Maz, 

I hope all is well – our paths never seem to cross…I have a question for you I hope you don’t mind me asking…

I follow your twitter and blogs, and for a new venture I am doing, I am supposed to be generating material (on IT subjects). The problem is I don’t ever start! Any tips on how to organise myself to produce material?

I’m probably not a natural marketeer, but I don’t think this is beyond me.

Best”

Here is what I wrote back.  Please note that I have put some sections in bold to highlight/illustrate the key points around standard, possibilities and self-expression:

“Hello ….

Great to hear from you and thank you for the trust you have placed in me.  

The honest answer is that both of the blogs that I write are forms of self-expression.  For the majority of the time they show up like the opportunity to play tennis – something that I love to do. And they are now a core part of who I say I am in the world and what I am about – putting something into the world and being a source of contribution.  As such they just flow.  

So the key for me is to:

  • write about something that I care about and share my honest voice;
  • write from the context of being of serviceof educating, of making a contribution to the lives of my fellow human beings; and
  • challenge the taken for granted narrative/accepted practice.  

And on top of that I have set myself a target of writing a certain number of posts a week.  As I have conditioned myself to keep my agreements over the years, this target setting encourages me to write even when it is hard going as it has been recently due to work and personal health issues. 

I have found that I cannot write when the writing occurs as work.  When I am being asked to push a point of view that is not mine, authentically.  When I am being asked to write in a style that is not mine.  Again, it comes to the fact that the writing flows. 

Finally, it helps that I am interested in the world, use my experience, have and continue to read/explore widely.  And I pay no attention to the rules of writing.  And do not care if only one person reads what I write.  The key is that I get value out of it and that at least one of my fellow human beings gets value out of that which I share through my writing. 

Put differently when writing occurs as play it flows.  When it occurs as work it does not flow, it takes ages, I don’t like what I have written! 

do hope that helps. 

If you are ok to provide honest – brutally honest – feedback on my blogging then I ask that you help me out by doing so.  Always want to know how my writing is landing for those who make the time to read it.  

I thank for your the opportunity of this conversation.  

At your service and with my love

maz”

I leave you with wise words, revolutionary words of wisdom

“Is it possible to be committed to a set of standards that have nothing to do with being fully alive?  You’ve got standards rather than possibilities, and the standards are more important than life itself.”  Werner Erhard

What really matters?


“If only” and “Someday”

What is it you tell yourself?  Isn’t it something like “If only I had the money/food/love/sex/fame/power/status…. then I’d be happy and everything would be perfect”?  Which tends to go along with “Someday when I have the money/food/love/sex/fame/power/status/perfect partner…. everything will be just great, I will be happy”.

Are you and I chasing after the right stuff?

I have a question for me, for you: “How do you know that when you get what you are after – money, fame, love, sex, power – you will be happy?”  Put differently, before you spend your life chasing something in order to be happy might it not be useful to question if you are chasing after the right stuff?  Lets take a walk with Timothy D Wilson in his book Strangers to Ourselves:

“Imagine that you are part of a grand experiment in which you are provided with everything you need.  At regular intervals you are given gifts of money, food, love, sex, fame – whatever you want.  The only catch is that you can do nothing that increases or decreases the likelihood of obtaining these rewards.  In fact, in order to receive the rewards, you have to spend eight hours a day in a room doing nothing – no career to occupy your time, no one to talk to, no books to read, no paintings to paint, no music to compose – in short, nothing to engage you.” 

How do this show up for you?   Look you are being offered everthing that you are chasing!  Not only that, you get everything that you are chasing after with no effort on your part.  That’s right, sit back and put your feet up.  Are you raring to go, to take the plunge wholeheartedly, to take up this offer?

Even though you can get any reward you want, this would be a hellish life.  Compare it to quite different existence, in which the tangible rewards are modest.  You make only enough money to meet your basic needs and have few luxuries.  But you spend every day absorbed in activities you love.”

What do you really love doing?  What do you enjoy doing simply for the doing?  What is it that so involves you that lose your self, you lose track of time, even if you end up being ‘tired’ you are not tired, you are uplifted?

“In such extreme cases few of us would choose the first life over the second.  In everyday life, however, I think people sometimes opt for lives more like the first one.  I see undergraduates striving for careers that will pay them lots of money but doom them to mind-numbing daily routines (tax law comes to mind but that might just be me). The second kind of life is that of the struggling artist, a social worker who loves to make a difference in people’s lives, or, I suppose, tax attorneys who are really turned on by the latest changes in Roth IRAs.  Daily absorption is more important than the paycheck at the end of the month, as long as the paycheck covers our basic needs.

Which brings me back to the central questions – for me, for you, for us

How do you know that when you get what you are after – money, fame, love, sex, power – you will be happy?

Are you ok with living a life of drudgery, of meaninglessness, in order to simply fit in, be comfortable, be approved of and in the hope that someday you will have all that you need to be happy?

What do you really love doing?  What do you enjoy doing simply for the doing?  What is it that so involves you that lose your self, you lose track of time, even if you end up being ‘tired’ you are not tired, you are uplifted?

Here is my experience :  I have been profoundly happy/fulfilled – singing and smiling – cleaning toilets.  And I have been profoundly unhappy staying at a five star hotel, in a ‘beautiful’ city, driven around in fancy cars and eating in fancy restaurants!  I have been profoundly bored in ‘safe places doing safe stuff’ and on the edge of my seat, fully alive, fully immersed, totally fulfilled and joyous sitting a jeep being driven along one of the worlds most scenic and dangerous routes.   This blog is just another vehicle for access to joy, to self-expression, to be the stand I have chosen to be:  I love sharing what I have learned, I love sharing my experience, I love being of service/contributing to my fellow human beings.

Here is,perhaps, the most radical question

What if happiness is something that you bring to the table, that you put into life, rather than something that you have to search for, dig for, to beg for, to build brick by brick?   Really what if you can choose to be happy right now and bring that happiness to the game of life, to your living such that wherever you are happiness shows up? If you are open to entering into this conversation then please check out this post that I wrote some time ago:  “Happiness: a master speaks and shows the way (not for the faint hearted)”