If you want your life to work then connect with reality as it is


“Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.” Jack Welch

This week I had a difficult conversation with a young man that is struggling.  This young man experiences little or no joy in his experience of living.  He finds his work boring/hard and his experience is that he is always behind.  It occurs to him that he is so far behind where he needs to be that his ‘ship is sunk’ and cannot be recovered.  He says he has no friends.  When he looks towards the next day he experiences sadness.  And when this man looks towards the future he sees doom – he is doomed to be at the mercy of the world, to live an unhappy/hard life, one without friends, one without joy…

That is not the way that this young man shows up for me.  That is not the way that his life, his circumstances, his future shows up for me.  I see a strong willed young man who stands up for the values he stands for.  I see a young man who is tenacious/determined to do well and who has done well by working hard.  I see a young man that can be light and bring magic/laughter/joy into the lives of others when he is not being so serious.  I see a young man who has so much potential.  And that which limits him, is himself and in particular the story that he tells himself about himself, about others, about the world, about the future and how is life will turn out.

Which brings me back to the Jack Welch quote at the beginning of this post.  Why did Jack Welch utter such an obvious statement?  Because when he took over the reins at GE he found that time after time he was presented with briefings that had no sound relationship with the ‘facts on the ground’.  Put differently, everyone seemed to think that the world ran to his view of the world, his agenda, his preferences, his wishes.

Why is it that each of us has such a poor relationship with reality as it is?   Let’s listen to someone who shows up for me as having an insightful grasp of the human condition:

“Man keeps looking for a truth that fits his reality. Given our reality, the truth doesn’t fit.” Werner Erhard

Let’s unpack the profound insight here.  What is man’s reality?  The first point is that man’s reality has no relationship to reality as it is and as it is not.  Man’s reality is always personal and unique – it is how the world (including self) shows up for him.  That is to say man authors his reality through the story that he tells himself about himself, about others, about the world at large.  Man’s story has such a grip on him that man is hostile to truth that does not fit with / disturbs his story.  Why?  Because man is his story.  And any threat to the story is a threat to man himself – his identity, his self.

Back to my conversation with this young man.  After some time the young man uttered with frustration “The reality is too painful to face!” After further discussion he asserted “It is easier to make myself believe that there is something wrong with me, the way that I am made, the way that my brain works, then to take responsibility for my life as it is.”

As we continued the conversation the really story came out. “If I accepted that I have a say in the way that my life turns out then I have to accept responsibility for the way that my life has turned out.  And the way that I am experiencing my life.  And I would have to do something about it.  Whereas it is easier to believe that I am simply made this way.  That I am unlucky and that is simply the way the world works.”

At this point I did become vocal, I thundered “YOU are the ONLY person who can change your life, to the kind of life that you want to live.  Nobody else is going to do it for you.  I know that you are secretly hoping that someone will do it for you.  And that is not going to happen.  Your future lies in your hands, in the story that you tell yourself: about yourself, about your future, about the world.  Choose: choose to live a life of joy or a life of misery.  It is your life!”

Today, I met up with this young man and he told me that he had experienced a great day.  The best day for some time.  He had found his work easy and had got a lot done.  He had been invited to play sports and liked two of the three people he had played with.  He said that he had enjoyed his day.

I say that the deepest truth of reality when it comes to me and you is this one:

“At all times, under all circumstances, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives.” Werner Erhard

Are your ready to face reality as it is, as spelled out by Werner Erhard?  Your life, your choice!

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.