Playing BIG With-Towards Imperfection


Imperfection, imperfection, imperfection!

I disappoint myself. Not always but certainly from time to time. I particularly disappoint myself when my relating with others is not working out as I want it to work out.  I am so imperfect!  It really takes something to be with this. Mostly, I am not being with it as I am so busy lashing at myself.

What happens when you disappoint me?  Your imperfections, where you fall short, are lit up and I see them – all of them.  How do I treat you? I lash out at  you – sometimes the lashing makes a sound, other times it is silent.

Thats the way to be if one is committed or merely resigned to playing small.  My default setting is to play small when it comes to imperfection. It may be yours.

What’s the starting point for playing BIG in relation to imperfection?

Lets start with an insight – perhaps the insight when it comes to human beings and human worlds:

…..We are all imperfect. 

Such a vision not only invites but requires Tolerance: active appreciation of the richness and variety of human beings on this earth, along with the understanding that we all struggle with the same demons, we all share the same fears and sorrows, we all do the best we can with what we have.

The Spirituality of Imperfection

Please get that imperfection is not a bug it is a feature.  Imperfection is a feature of human existence. Wherever you find a human being or human beings you will find yourself, sooner or later, face to face with imperfection. There is no escape from imperfection – it is intrinsic to human existence and pervasive.

Given this insight what is it to play BIG in relation to this feature of human existence?

The following story provides a great answer to this question:

A man who took great pride in his lawn found himself with large and recurring crops of dandelions. Although he tried every method he knew to get rid of them, they continued to plague him. Finally, in desperation, he wrote the Extension Service of the Agriculture Department of the State University, enumerating all the things he had tried and concluding with the question: “What shall I do now?”

After a somewhat prolonged time even for such correspondence, the reply finally came: “We suggest you learn to love them.”

The Spirituality of Imperfection

Damn! I have been ‘on it ‘with several members of my family: My mother, brother, and uncle for selling my father’s land despite his express request to not sell the land; My wife; and my eldest son.  Playing BIG necessitates getting ‘off-it’. Am I ready to do that?  I suspect this conversation provides a pointer.

Now what is the stance I take toward myself?  Do I start lashing out at myself for getting ‘on-it’ and staying ‘on-it’ for most of this week?  That would be falling into the same trap – lashing out at myself for not being OK, for being imperfect.  So what is it to play BIG here with regards to myself and my inherent imperfection?

If you could really accept that you weren’t ok you could stop proving you were ok.

If you could stop proving that you were ok you could get that it was ok not to be ok.

If you could get that it was ok not to be ok you could get that you were ok the way you are.

You’re ok, get it?

-Werner Erhard

Yes, it’s ok to accept my imperfection – all the areas in which I fall short. Yes, it’s ok for you to accept your imperfection.

It would be too simple, too Western, to leave this conversation here. So let’s introduce paradox (through Zen) for life is paradoxical through and through:

Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.
―Shunryu Suzuki

Nothing we see or hear is perfect. But right there in the imperfection is perfect reality.
―Shunryu Suzuki

I thank you for your listening. And I ask you to play BIG even if you find that like me you are finding your playing BIG imperfect.

Abdul Sattar Edhi: An Inspiration For Those Who Are Up For Playing Big


You and I want our lives to matter. We want our lives to make a real difference — to be of genuine consequence in the world. We know that there is no satisfaction in merely going through the motions in life, even if those motions make us successful or even if we have arranged to make those motions pleasant. We want to know we have had some impact on the world. In fact, you and I want to contribute to the quality of life. We want to make the world work

-Werner Erhard

Yesterday I learnt that Abdul Sattar Edhi is no longer. You’ve probably not heard of him. Yet, in my eyes, he sit there alongside Gandhi as one of the world greatest examples of humanity: a peaceful warrior for the poor, the downtrodden, the outcasts…. A living example of what is possible when one makes one’s life a stand for something noble – something that calls to the deeply human in us, no matter how deeply it is buried.

Sadness. Tears, Sadness. Tears, Sadness. Tears….. A profound sense of loss. Yet, I have never met the man, merely donated money to the organisation he founded. So from where does this deep sense of grief arise?

What is it that i find my deepest self (that which is beyond my conscious control) mourns for?  The loss of a saint, the humanity he embodied, and the humanity he called forth in many people. I suspect that he left heft many of us feeling better about ourselves and the world that we find ourselves.

For as long as there is one Edhi there is hope. More, an Edhi is an opening, a clearing, for our humanity to show up and make difference: to contribute to the quality of life – for all.

 

People have become educated, but have yet to become human.

-Abdul Sattar Edhi

So this is my invitation to you, to me, to us: Let’s play BIG, starting right now, by putting our humanity, the kind of humanity that Abdul Sattar Edhi,  into action.

I thank you for you listening. And I ask that you show up and travel in manner that makes a positive difference to the quality of your life, our life, life itself.

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

 

 

Generating Workability, Unclenching The Grip of Illusion


I create the ‘unworkability’ that is present in my living. I create the misery that is present in my experience of living. I say that you do the same. And it occurs to me that collectively we create the unworkability-misery in our lives, our relationships, our families, our organisations, our communities, our tribes, our societies, our worlds…..

How do i-you-we create this ‘unworkability’?  It occurs me to me that we do so because we confuse-collapse ‘what is’ with what we ‘think it is’ and what we ‘want it to be’.  The real ‘wickedness’ is that you-i-we are not even present to collapsing-confusing ‘what is’ with ‘what we think it is’ and ‘what-how we want it to be’.

Allow me to illustrate our default condition of being-in-the-world by posing a simple question.  I ask you to be with, consider, and answer the following question: what is the sound of silence?

What is the sound of silence? Did you grapple with this question? Did you try out this question? Did you live the question?  Or did you simple find that a judgement-answer showed up for you automatically? Did you find yourself thinking “What a stupid question! Silence is silence, there is no sound!”

You and I are conditioned to approach this question and almost every other question through the avenues of  ‘what everyone knows’, ‘theory’, and/or ‘logic’.  What is the sound of silence?  Approached through the avenue of logic, the answer is there is no sound because logic defines silence as the complete absence of sound.  And common sense, ‘what everyone knows’, takes this for granted – it does not question.

What shows up if you question the taken for granted answer to this question?  What shows up if you live the question? What shows up if you actually put yourself in place where there is silence and listen?

If you live this question, experience it for yourself, you will find that there is a sound to the silence. If you live this long enough, several times, you might just find that the sound of silence can be different in different moments.

It occurs to me that now would be a great time-place to sit with this question: where else have I confused-collapsed ‘what is so’ with ‘what i-we think is so’ and/or ‘what i want to be so’?  It occurs to me that if i-you-we live this question then our lives would open up to new possibilities.  And we would get access to increasing the workability of our lives, our relationships, our organisations, our communities, our world.

Finally, remember that what truly counts (in human life) has to be experienced-created-lived first hand in order for i-you to know it as it truly is.  I want to share with you this quote with you:

“There are certain things you can only know by creating them for yourself.”

– Werner Erhard

What If We Lived From This Context: This Is IT & Every Moment Matters?


“The mind is inherently stubborn about change, and seems to snap back to its original position like an elastic band.

But there is catch: when we truly comprehend in our guts the finality and truth that THIS is IT, right now, no matter how our life is, then we grasp  what Werner Erhard was always screaming about:

that no magic pill or workshop or experience of any sort is ever going to come along and finally “fix” you or me or make us permanently happy, and in that very moment of giving up the search for transformation, a transformation paradoxically does in fact occur.

One recognises that one was never broken in the first place, and suddenly all the energy previously devoted to seeking a way out of or through the problem of the unfulfilled self is freed up to power one’s mission and vision, which is a gesture of giving and contribution rather than one of searching, waiting, and hoping.

And that is a good thing, if a bit sobering, because it means we are asked to step up to the plate in life with what and who we already are. We have been given our piece in the game, and it only remains to play wholeheartedly.”

Eliezer Sobel, The 99th Monkey

Life Works If You Work With It


The story: what do you do when workability is compromised?

I was at my parents home – in the kitchen, cooking.  Just as I had finished cooking one of my brothers came into the kitchen to get some ice cream for his daughter. He opened up the freezer and struggled to take out the tray in which the ice cream rested. After pulling at it, this way and that, he managed to pull the tray out. That is when I noticed that something was ‘wrong’.  The tray was full of water that had turned to ice.  The ice was in the tray, on the sides of the tray, and underneath the tray.

After serving ice cream to his daughter, brother started to put the tray back into the freezer. I protested that the tray needed to be emptied of the ice. So I took out the frozen stuff, washed the tray with water thus unfreezing the ice, cleaned and dried the tray. Then I refilled it with the frozen food and gave it back to my brother.

He struggled to insert the tray back into the freezer. That was not surprising as the freezer compartment was all iced up.  Clearly a defrosting process had occurred in the freezer, water had formed, and then the water had turned to ice.  And this was jamming up all of the trays.  I noticed that one of the freezer trays was broken at the front, near the handle. I assumed that this had happened when someone had tried to get the tray out, was not able to (because of the ice), and had forced the tray out.

Standing there looking at the situation, it was clear to me that the integrity and workability of the freezer had been compromised. And what needed to be done was to defrost the freezer and thus restore the integrity-workability of the freezer.

What did my brother do?  He did what we human beings do when faced with a situation that requires work-effort and we are not up for putting in that work-effort. He found an instrument and start scraping off the softer ice from the freezer so that he could slide the tray back into the freezer.  Once he had done enough to slide the tray back into the freezer he stopped.

What is the lesson, the learning here?

It occurs to me that for many of us there is at least one significant aspect of our living that does not work well. That aspect of our living is stuck-jammed-unworkable in some important manner.  Just at the freezer is at my parents house.

Given that this is the case.  You and I can choose to do what it required to restore workability to that part of our living. The equivalent of defrosting the freezer, throwing away the food that defrosted and got frozen again, clean up the mess, and restoring the integrity and thus the workability of the freezer.

Or we can do what my brother did, do the minimum: deal with the symptoms and ignore the cause – the unworkability that gives rise to the symptoms. It occurs to me that if you and I choose to take the latter course, the short cut, and shirk that which needs to be done to restore workability to our lives then we can expect continued struggle in our lives.

It occurs to me that my life works when I work with it – when I work with the grain of life. It occurs to me that where I continue to struggle with life, it is highly likely that I am creating my struggle (my suffering) by working against the grain of life.

“It is so because you consider it to be so”


Here in the UK, what we collectively agree as constituting “summer” has passed away. And what we agree upon and call “autumn” has arrived and is present. That is simply what is so. And this what is so can be measured in a number of way: the time of sunrise and sunset, the temperature, the amount of rain, the leaves on some trees turning from green to a yellow-red colour ….

The more interesting question, for me, is this one: what does autumn mean? Let me put the same question differently: how should I show up in relation to the arrival of autumn and the passing away of summer? Is it an occasion for rejoicing-dancing or is it an occasion for sadness and a longing for what has been lost?  Put more simply, is it good or bad, an opportunity or a setback, a blessing or a curse?

“It is so because you consider it to be so”

– Werner Erhard

I am clear that what is so is that autumn is present – nothing more and nothing less. Everything in relation to autumn being present it open to consideration – my consideration, your consideration.  Put more simply:

  • autumn is a time of opportunity and an occasion for rejoicing if I consider it to be so;
  • autumn is the time of loss and an occasion for lamenting all that has been lost with the passing away of summer if I consider this to be so;
  • autumn is ‘no big deal’ if that is what I consider it to be so.

How do I consider autumn to be ‘this and not that’?  I make autumn ‘this and not that’ by the story that I tell myself, and tell others. I can tell the story to myself in many ways. I can tell it through the thoughts I focus on, through the words that I speak to myself, and through what I do or do not do.

Let’s leave aside autumn and ask, what is it that I am pointing at here?  I am pointing out the following:

  • My life is as it is (great, wonderful, good, ok, awful) because I consider it to be so (great, wonderful, good, ok, awful);
  • The work that I do is as it is (good, an opportunity, bad, a dead end) because I consider to be so (good, bad, opportunity, dead end);
  • My wife is as she is (kind, beautiful, intelligent, selfish, ugly, stupid) because i consider her to be so (kind, selfish, beautiful, mean, intelligent, stupid);
  • Life is that which it is (an opportunity to take the road less travelled, or follow the path travelled by my kind) because I consider it to be so;
  • The Earth is that which it is (beautiful, to be taken care of, lived in harmony with, dominated, harvested, plundered, exploited) because I consider it to be so;
  • I am who I am because I consider myself to be ‘this who I am’.

When I get this, when I really get this, I get that I am the magician. With my consideration I get to shape my world. And at any moment I can reshape by world simply be reconsidering it.  How do I reconsider it? By choosing the stories I tell myself and others.  This telling (to be truly powerful) has to be in the living of my life.

Improving the workability of our lives, our relationships, our world


Laurence Platt over at Conversations For Transformation (Inspired by the Ideas of Werner Erhard) has written a fabulous piece: The Illusion of I.  Here I simply wish to share with you the two paragraphs which occur as being particularly enlightening about life:

Try this on for size: the world doesn’t work when run as a “you or me” world. It’s not designed to be run that way. And if we unknowingly try to run it as a “you or me” world when it clearly doesn’t work as a “you or me” world, there’s no use claiming we didn’t know it doesn’t work as a “you or me” world. That doesn’t fix it. That doesn’t make it work any better. For the world to work, a shift is required in what we don’t know  about making it work.

At the heart of what we don’t know about making the world work, is an error akin to unknowingly trying to run a diesel powered Mercedes-Benz with gasoline. Running the “you and  me” world unknowingly as if it’s a “you or me” world, is this error. This error is based on an illusion. Yes an illusion. It’s the illusion of I. I is an illusion. And it’s the illusion of I which leads to individual territoriality instead of individual co-operation – which leads to political parties’ territoriality instead of political parties’ co-operation, which leads to nations’ territoriality instead of nations’ co-operation.

This is what I make Laurence’s essay mean:

We are given birth, embedded in, and living in a ‘you AND me’ world.  A world where relationship-interdependence-unity is built into the very fabric/structure/working of the world.  In such a world cooperation and collaboration is the way.

Yet our language, our training, our way of being-doing in the world is to operate from a ‘you OR me’ context.  We divide the world into you and me. And spend the rest of our lives competing with each other –  ‘you OR me’ – and feeling disconnected from one another, and sometimes life itself.

The major issues that show up in our world – personal life, family, work, community, the world – arise from operating from a ‘you OR me’ context when we live in ‘you AND me’ world.

Shifting from the ‘you OR me’ way of being-in-the-world to a ‘you AND me’ way of being-in-the-world gives us access for transforming the quality of life, for all, on this planet that gives us life. And making this shift  personally and inspring-empowering others to do so is the ultimate act of leadership.

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


AldinePhotoChristmas2012

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

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

What does it take to make a difference?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally

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

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

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

Get real!


Mitt Romney‘s wealth is estimated to be between US$190-250m. He was the CEO of Bain & Co (renowned management consultancy).  He co-founded Bain Capital one of the largest private equity firms in the USA.  He was the the Governor of Massachusetts from 2002 to 2006.  He then got busy on his ambition to become president of the USA.   Just keep this in mind, I will come back to Mitt Romney later in this post.

I notice that a lot of people are hurting.  I notice that some of the people that are hurting, are hurting so badly that they are on their knees.  Thankfully, I am not one of these people.  You might be one of them. What am I talking about?   I am talking about the tough economic times in the western world (Greece, Spain, UK, USA..) where many people have lost their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods.  This is new for us – not new for many others that live in this world that peoples us and is our home.

In many parts of the world life is difficult and has been difficult for a long time.  It is not only difficult it is oftentimes harsh/brutal/unforgiving.  Because this applies to just about everyone (except the elite) people in these parts of the world do not say “I am in this position because of me.  If I am in this position then that means there is something wrong with me.  I have failed.  I am defective….”  Nor do they go about saying that about others.

This is not a luxury that is available to those of us who live in protestant countries especially the UK and the USA.  Why?  Because the dominant narrative and thus listening that one person has for another is as follows: how your life turns out depends on you; look everyone, EVERYONE, can make it; if you have not made it then you must be responsible; you are at fault – you are the source of the hardship that you are experiencing.  With this narrative comes a lack of compassion, kindness and generosity towards one another.

What is astounding is that so many people in the USA/UK have bought into this myth that they are hard on themselves.  That is to say that you/I find ourselves on our knees and we  blame ourselves.  We are ashamed of ourselves.  We berate ourselves.  We think that we have failed and that there is something wrong with us.  “Look, I live in a country where ANYONE can make it.  I have not made it so there must be something wrong with me!”  Put differently, we lack compassion towards ourselves because we have a FAULTY map of the world.

I say get real.  I say get that you/I are not Gods – we are mortals and as mortals our circumstances and our destiny is to some extent ‘shaped by the Gods’.  The Greeks got this beautifully.  The Greeks got that at the end of the day man is subject to the ‘whim of the Gods’ and the best that s/he can do is to ‘fight the good fight’.  This is what makes the human situation a tragic one; we are not like the stone, the plant nor the tiger – we can do so much; and yet we are mere mortals, not Gods.  This might not be concrete enough for you so allow me to make it real by going back to Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney lost!  He spent six years of his life and a spent something in the region of US$750m and he lost.  The richest person to run for the presidency lost.  One of the most influential people in the USA did not get to realise his ambition.  Many thought he was going to win.  He, himself, thought he was going to win and so had a massive celebration including fireworks planned.  And how did it work out?  He lost!  All his wealth, his fame, his track record, his influence, the $750m he spent .. did not get him the presidency.  In Greek terms ‘the Gods’ were not on his side, they favoured Obama.

I say get real!  I say be compassionate towards those who are hurting right now – whether that is your fellow man or yourself.  We are not masters of our fate.  Whilst we can do a lot, we cannot shape, entirely, how our lives turn out or how the world turns out.  

Werner Erhard, found this out in 1991.  Many thousands of people flocked to take part in his seminars (est, and later the forum).  Werner created ‘transformation’ and he touched many lives – indirectly he has touched mine through my  participation in the courses delivered by Landmark Education.   Werner preached ‘responsibility’.  He urged the est participants to take responsibility for their lives – just they are and are not – rather than play ‘victim’ and blame others.   Werner was soaring at the heights – both in terms of the impact he was making and his fame/fortune.  Then in early 1991 he found out that CBS News were going to show a programme that was going to ruin his reputation.  Despite his best, including his offer of taking a lie detector test, he could not persuade CBS News not to run the programme.  And he left the USA and found himself in exile – reputation ruined.  Many years later the allegations in the CBS News were retracted. And the impact on his life had been made – there was no ‘going back’.

Finally, I say that if you/I find ourselves on the receiving end of the ‘whims of the Gods’ like Werner did then we can put ourselves in a powerful position to be with and deal with what is so.  First we can be compassionate towards ourselves. Second, we can in the context of this compassion take responsibility for our lives – including getting ourselves off the floor.  Werner Erhard did just that.  He left the USA and he invented a new life for himself outside of the USA and he has been making an impact all over the world.

And finally, if you find one of our fellow human beings hurting and/or on the floor (emotionally, financially, physically) then I ask you to give that person a helping hand.  If you are finding that difficult because you are under the myth of ‘man as God’ that is so dominant in the USA (and to some extent in the UK) then I remind you of Mitt Romney, six years, $750m spent, and no presidency!

 

 

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

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!

Putting the past in the past opens up the future and the experience of freedom


One of the most important insights that I got out of my participation in the courses offered by Landmark Education is this one: the default mode of being-in-the-world is one where you/i walk into a future that is already given, already bound, already constrained.  And as such the domain of freedom, the freedom to invent a future that moves-touches-inspires-uplifts us, is small and sometimes non-existent. Therefore, if you/i want to increase our zone of freedom / open up our future we have to put the past in the past.  Put simply, putting the past in the past is the access to opening up new realms of freedom, of possibility.  How to make this real/concrete?  Let me tell you a story.

I notice that I am fearful about going to the USA

One of the roles I have chosen to play in life is that of management consultant – it requires a willingness to travel.  Towards the end of September it became obvious that I had to travel to Texas, USA.  I noticed that something was up, I did not want to travel.  Why?  I had it that it was going to be an ordeal and fear/worry was present.  Why?

It was July 2008 and I was on my way to Detroit to meet my new boss.   On the way through security I was singled out and made to wait for some 45 minutes.  Why?  To be given the approval to fly to the USA by the US authorities.  I got it and boarded the aeroplane.  After a long journey, I was delighted to get off the aeroplane and looking forward to making my way through passport control and onwards to the hotel.  It didn’t work out that way.

I was asked the same questions (as I had been in London, UK) and I provided the same answers.  The ‘immigration officer’ asked me to follow him and lead me to large rectangular room.  It was full of people who did not look white Anglo-Saxons, all waiting, all looking at the ‘immigration officers’ who sat on an elevated platform to make them look bigger/stronger/more powerful than the rest of us.

The rational part of me told me that it was all a game and I had nothing to worry about as I was no threat to anyone and never had been.  Yet, another part of me did worry and was fearful wondering if I would be shipped off to Guantanamo.  So it took something for me to be calm and read a book for two hours or so.  Eventually, I was called up, asked questions, answered the questions, which they verified with my boss and let through.

What did I do with that experience? 

What did I say to myself as I made my way out of the airport and to the taxi stand?  I told myself that I could so easily have ended up in Guantanamo.  And that if I had ended up there I would not have survived (not having anything in common with the inmates or the guards) and as such would have let my wife and children down. Did I stop there?  No.

I made the decision that I would avoid travelling to the USA.  I told myself it was unwise and selfish to travel to a country whose default position is to assume that people like me are terrorists and have to be locked up without evidence, without trial.  And I acted in accordance with that decision including turning down invitations to visit friends in the USA.

I draw your attention to what happened and what I did.  I experienced what I experience and what happened happened at Detroit airport.  Yet, I did not leave it there.  I took that experience and made a decision out of it.  And where did I put the decision?  In the future: going forward, in the future, I am going to / I have to avoid travelling to the USA!

What was the impact of that decision?  It closed down the zone of freedom, of possibility, in the future.  Put bluntly, in my future a visit to the USA was out of the question.  So even when I got invites to visit the US, from friends or business organisations, I turned them down.

How did I put the past into the past and open up my future

First, it is worth pointing out that circumstances played their part. I had to go.  There was nobody who could go and do what I do.  And I was not prepared to let my client and colleagues down.  It occurs to me that sometimes unwelcome circumstances are exactly what we need to get us present to and out of the rut that we have fallen into.

Second, I put the past in the past.  How?  I examined the Detroit incident by looking at what actually happened and gave it a liberating interpretation.  After some questioning, the US immigration handed me my documents and sent me on my way.  Throughout the encounter he was professional – neither kind nor mean.  And I left my drivers licence with him, by mistake, and he forwarded it to my boss! The new interpretation that I gave this experience is this one: the immigration officer did his job and everything worked out just fine.  All that really happened is that I was delayed by two hours which could easily have happened on the flight itself and if it had happened it would not have put me off travelling on an aeroplane!

Third, I found out that to get into the USA you have to go and apply online.  Which I did and within a few minutes I got a written confirmation that I was authorised to enter the USA. This strengthened my confidence, my resolve, my interpretation that it was ok/safe to travel to the USA.

Fourth, I remembered the ‘kindness of strangers’ the last time I had travelled through Texas and so I invented a future that was full of the possibility of kindness/generosity and a great experience.

How did I turn out?

It turned out delightfully.  Texas was warm and the people that I encountered were warm.  And during my time there I was bathed in fellowship. I got to experience the ‘big heartedness’ of the folks that I encountered.  And when the time came to come back I was a sad to leave and looking forward to my next visit to the USA.

What can you/I take away from this?

You/I might think/act as if our past is in the past.  And that is not the way it is for us human beings because we put the past into the future.  We do that by making decisions on/about the future.  This in turn constrains our options around being/doing and thus limits our freedom, our self-expression, the possibilities that we can invent and live from/into.  And it does not have to be this way!

You and I can chose, as a deliberate act, to take the past that is sitting in the future and put it in the past.  And we can incorporate this practice into our way of being-in-the-world: on the look out for the past that has got misfiled in the future and keep putting it in the past.  Thus we end up with future that is wide open to invention and we experience a freedom to be/do that we may have not experienced for a long time.

And finally

You could sum up the work of Werner Erhard and the work of Landmark Education (“Transformation”) as being exactly this: enabling the human being to take his/her past out of his/her future and put it into the past thus leaving absolutely nothing in the future – a future wide open to being invented unconstrained by the past.

An extraordinary understanding of and orientation towards responsibility: “I am cause in the matter of …”


The ordinary understanding / orientation of responsibility

What is my ordinary, taken for granted, understanding of and orientation towards responsibility?  I say that it is pretty much captured by the following definition:

  1. The state or fact of having a duty to deal with something.
  2. The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.

Is this a powerful place to stand? No. Who wants to be beholden to duty?  Doesn’t duty show up in my world as a burden?  A burden that is imposed on me by someone else?  Isn’t some element of the burden present even if I say I have a duty to do X and not Y? Looking into this further duty is given/imposed upon me by some outside authority including religion and culture.

Then there is the territorial orientation towards responsibility.  I particularly notice this at work where marking out territory and defending it can be and often is important.  Often the orientation is something like “This is my responsibility!” where the hidden message is I own this, it is my business and I don’t want you involved.  Or the orientation is that of “It’s not my responsibility!”  Either way the orientation is territorial.  And we use territory to assert ownership and exclude each other.

Who wants to leave himself open to blame, to criticism?  I don’t, I really don’t, I absolutely do not look forward to being criticised and even when I criticise myself I do not feel good.    Is it any surprise that many of us avoid responsibility and accountability as we wish to avoid being criticised, being blamed?  Isn’t my first response, your first response, something like “It’s not my responsibility.  It’s not my fault, I am not to be blame.  So leave me alone, let me be.”

Werner Erhard makes a great point. Blaming does not work.  Look there is spilt milk all over the floor.  How is blaming myself, or blaming you help with the situation?  No amount of blaming, responsibility pinning, is going to deal with the spilt milk.  The appropriate course of action is to mop up the milk!

Self-help orientation towards responsibility

If you read enough self-help literature you are going to come across the notion of ‘responsibility as response-ability’. That is the notion that between the stimulus (that which triggers your response) and your response (to that stimulus) you have a window of opportunity to choose your response.  That is you have the ability to choose your response.

Look into this deeply enough and you might just find that the phenomenon of stimulus-response is more complicated than that.  It is mood dependant.  When you and I are in the mood of being calm/relaxed then the window of opportunity is large enough to choose our response.  On the other hand if you and I are stressed, pre-occupied, grappling with our stuff, then the response to the stimulus is automatic.  Yes, we can unlearn this behaviour and it is likely that it takes many many hours of practice.

Werner Erhard: an extraordinary understanding / orientation towards responsibility

There is a radically different way of understanding and orienting oneself towards responsibility.  An understanding and orientation that leaves one in a powerful position.  Werner Erhard came up with and articulated this understanding.

The first point to make is that Werner Erhard’s definition/orientation is not a description of what is so. No, his orientation is generative.  What does it generate?  Possibility.  And a powerful place to stand when it comes to how your lives have turned out and how they can turn out in the future.   So what is Werner’s definition/orientation toward responsibility?

For any situation in our lives, in the world, I can freely take the stance: “I am responsible for……” as in “I am cause in the matter of…..”.   And in taking this stand I move from showing up as victim of the situation, or simply a bystander looking on the situation, to being someone who declares himself to be a causal agent, someone who has a say in the situation at hand and how it turns out

Let’s make this real. I have been experiencing disappointment, frustration, anger, bewilderment towards one my sons and how he behaves.  And we had a relationship that goes along with that: mainly one of ignoring one another.  I was clear that he is responsible for his behaviour, I am not responsible for it.  It is he who talks disrespectfully.   It is he who leaves stuff lying around the house.  It is he who walks into and all over the house with dirty shoes making a mess.  It is he who picks on his brother and sister simply because he is bored.  Standing in this ordinary orientation towards responsibility I was left feeling powerless, a victim of my son’s behaviour.  And I was wondering how it was that a child that I lavished love and attention upon turned out this way.

My wife provided the opening for me to get present to and take Werner Erhard’s orientation toward responsibility as regards my relationship with my son. She simply told me that my ‘bad behaviour’ shows up in the absence of relationship.  This got be present to taking the stance, freely/voluntarily, that “I am cause in the matter of my relationship with my son.  I have contributed to what is so.  And I have the power to influence how our relationship turns out.”  With this shift in orientation, I led, I became the causal agent.

I asked myself the question, what is missing the presence of which will make a difference here in my relationship to my son?  The answer was simple, spend 1 to 1 time with him doing what we both enjoy doing.  And give up blaming my son. Since then I have been playing pool with my son several times a week, we have gone to the cinema, we have played badminton and we have cooked together.  Interestingly, I notice that mutual affection and respect is present.  Two days ago my son said “You know Papa you don’t have to do so much for me, I know that you love me”.

Summing up

Coming to grips with and living from Werner’s articulation of responsibility, as in the sense “I am cause in the matter of…”, is fundamental pillar of living an extraordinary life. This understanding, this orientation, allows me/you/us to move from a position of resignation (I can do nothing, I have to put up with life) to one of authorship/leadership (I have a say in how the situation is and how it turns out).  And this shift from resignation to authorship/leadership/causal agent makes all the difference to my experience of living and your experience of living in this world that we co-create and inhabit together.

I have failed, am I failure? (part II): Werner is right, I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground, do you?


This post is a follow up to the last post I wrote:  I have failed, am I a failure?   The source of this post is a friend that reached out to me after my last post.  Before I speak/share that with you allow me to prepare the ground by sharing some of Werner Erhard’s sayings on our relationship to Reality.

What does Werner say about our relationship to Reality?

“You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. Anybody who knew their ass from a hole in the ground could stand up and tell me how they know when something’s real.”

“There is no necessary relationship between the way you feel, the way you think, the way you are, the way you’ve figured it out and the way it really is.”

“This lady lives her life as if when she feels a bear there’s really a bear…… I want you to get that this is the way you live your life: as if reality is what is real to you?”

Werner is right: I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground

In my reality (as opposed to Reality) it does occur to me that I have failed in so many ways. And I shared that with you in this post:  I have failed, am I failure? 

The question is what is the relationship between my reality (how things show up for me, my thoughts, my feelings, my beliefs) and Reality (what is really so)?  If you read my post you will notice that it occurs to me that I have failed at being the kind of friend that I imagined I would be and was up for being.   I’ll let you judge – one of my friends read my post and sent this email:

I read your post and wanted to say that I think you are a wonderful friend. There are very few people who have been there consistently for me over the last 20yrs in the way that you have been – especially given my overall crapiness in keeping in touch and given that I know it is not something I have returned.  I read a poem a few years ago and at the time I read it I thought of the way in which you have been there for me so I’m sending it to you. I know you don’t do the whole feelings are important thing but please take it in the spirit in which it’s intended.

If there was ever one

Whom when you were sleeping

Would wipe your tears

When in dreams you were weeping;

Who would offer you time

When others demand;

Whose love lay more infinite

Than grains of sand.

 

If there was ever one

To whom you could cry;

Who would gather each tear

And blow it dry;

Who would offer help

On the mountains of time;

Who would stop to let each sunset

Soothe the jaded mind.

 

If there was ever one

To whom when you run

Will push back the clouds

So you are bathed in sun;

Who would open arms

If you would fall;

Who would show you everything

If you lost it all.

 

If there was ever one

Who when you achieve

Was there before the dream

And even then believed;

Who would clear the air

When it’s full of loss;

Who would count love

Before the cost.

 

If there was ever one

Who when you are cold

Will summon warm air

For your hands to hold;

Who would make peace

In pouring pain,

Make laughter fall

In falling rain.

 

If there was ever one

Who can offer you this and more;

Who in keyless rooms

Can open doors;

Who in open doors

Can see open fields

And in open fields

See harvests yield.

 

Then see only my face

In the reflection of these tides

Through the clear water

Beyond the river side.

All I can send is love

In all that this is

A poem and a necklace

Of invisible kisses.”

This email, this reaching out by my friend gets me present to the this fact: at least in the domain of friendships and as regards this friend in particular I do not know my ass from the hole in the ground.  No I have assumed.  The Reality is that my thoughts/feelings about myself as a friend do not tie up with what is really so.  Which makes me wonder, am I making the same ‘error’ (mistaking my reality for Reality) in other domains of life?

Is Werner right about you?  That you too do not know your ass from a hole in the ground?

Are you as convinced, today, as I was yesterday that your thoughts/feelings are an accurate representation of Reality?  If so it is highly likely, I say certain, that Werner is right about you as well: you do not know your ass from a hole in the ground!  Just in case you haven’t figured it out let me state it bluntly: you don’t have to be stuck with your reality you can let it go. If your are up for that, if you want to have your life work then I invite you to read the following post: Want to set yourself free and live powerfully? Let go of your beliefs….

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summing it up

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

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


You can resurrect yourself, your life, any time you choose: why not do it right now?


As it is Easter the time when Christians acknowledge and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus I simply wish to acknowledge that I / You can resurrect ourselves, our lives at any moment.  And any such resurrection is a choice (that you and I make) and that always occurs righ”t now.  With that in mind I want to share with you (and get present to) a profound truth uttered by a master who travelled the ‘low path’ and thus had a masterful insight into the human condition:

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

Now that is an insight worth memorising and getting present to each and every day perhaps when you start the day by meditating.  Before we move on simply want us to notice the following aspects of the quote:

  • ALL times and under ALL circumstances – not sometimes and under special circumstances;
  • Werner is speaking about our inner experience – how we experience our living, our life, how it shows up for us.

If you are embedded in ‘ordinary living’ then you will not relate to what Werner is saying – the fundamental truth that he is pointing out.  No, you are going to think that he is deluded – he simply does not get the real world that you live in.   Well lets listen to someone who has an intimate connection with the real world.  His name is Viktor Frankl, he is a Jew, during WWII he spent a couple of years in the infamous concentration camps, he lost everyone that was near and dear to him, he saw many die in the concentration camps and he experience horrors that few of us will have every experience.  Here is what Viktor has to say on the matter:

“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.

Are you still missing the connection between the truth that Werner Erhard is point at?  Then let me share and leave with you two quotes from Viktor that show what Werner is getting at:

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment – he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.

We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Before you reach for your conditions, your circumstances as an excuse to escape from the responsibility to shape / live your life as the author of your life rather than a victim, I want to remind you that it was no picnic living in a concentration camp for two years!  And living from those conditions, this is what Frankl writes / says:

“It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.”

Which brings me back, neatly, to what we started with:

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

The question is are you going to choose and live your stand or are you going to get busy creating excuses and concocting reasons for continuing to ‘play small’, play ‘victim’ and hand over your freedom to conditions / circumstances?  Your life, your choice.

Want to set yourself free and live powerfully? Let go of your beliefs….


Reality and our relationship to reality

What is real?  What is our relationship to reality?  Here is what Werner Erhard had to say on this matter:

“You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. Anybody who knew their ass from a hole in the ground could stand up and tell me how they know when something’s real.” 

Let’s take a look, a closer look.  Is the Sun real?  Is the Moon real?  Is that road real?  Is that car real?  Is that tree real?  Are your hands real?  Are your eyes real?  Are your feet real?  Have you noticed that those questions are easy to answer.  Are you aware that you don’t ask yourself these questions?  Do you notice that we don’t get into heated discussions about whether the sun exists or whether you have two feet? So why does Werner make the statement that he makes?  Because you confuse beliefs (what we say is true, what we say is real) with truth/reality!

Beliefs and our relationship to our beliefs

Why do you and I need beliefs?  Think about this deeply and you will see that we do not need to believe in the Sun, the Moon that car in front of you or your arms.  Notice that what is real does not require a belief!  Go further and you inevitably come to the conclusion: beliefs are simply statements about us, about people, about the world, that cannot be proven.   Put differently when we enter the land of beliefs we are dreaming whilst being awake yet not present to the fact that we are dreaming.  Belief land is fantasy land – it is the fantasy land that we have been granted by our culture, your parents, our schoolteachers, our media, our friends and it is also a land that we shaped by constructing our own beliefs.

We give up our freedom by constructing the bars of our prison through beliefs

Look we have established that reality does not need beliefs.  We have also established that beliefs only arise when they are not supported by reality.  That is to say beliefs arise and can exist only if there there is no evidence, in the real world, that confirms that beliefs.  Lets go to the point:  beliefs are superstitions!

What happens when we construct beliefs?  We give up our zone of freedom.  Allow me to illustrate:

I believe that I my religion is the only true religion.  Consequence: I cannot be with, explore, learn from the other religions.

I believe that I am superior to you, know more, am better than you.  Consequence:  I will not enter into a real relationship with you, I will not listen to you, I will not learn from you, I will take on behaviours that are opposite of yours.

I believe that musical instruments, singing and dancing are the ‘devils work’.  Consequence:  I will not own/play a musical instrument nor sign nor dance.  And I will segregate myself from people who do engage in the ‘devils work.

You get the idea.  Every belief narrows down the zone of Possibility and of our relatedness and of our freedom to be, to participate in life, to live fully!

Now here is the really bizarre thing.  When our fellow human beings show up and ‘challenge’ our beliefs we get upset, we sulk, we withdraw, we condemn, we get angry, we shout, we maim and we kill.  That is how determined we are to keep ourselves enslaved.  If we were sane, if we had a sound relationship to reality, we would welcome people who exposed our beliefs, our prison bars, and thus allowed us to set ourselves free.

Let go of your beliefs and set yourself free

We did not come into this world with beliefs,  Once upon a time, you and I were in intimate contact with reality and simply flowed with it.  And as such everything was permissible to us.  Then little by lit we assimilated beliefs, constructed our prison bars and gave up that freedom we were born with .

You and I can reclaim our freedom right now by letting go of our beliefs.  Every time we encounter a belief we can let it go – we can point at it and shout “Superstition” Every time we do that we dismantle another prison bar and thus increase our zone of freedom.  To do that we have to be willing to stand in a very different place: a place from which we see beliefs not as truths, nor as useful tools but as a prison bar that constricts our freedom.

Struggling with this?  Please get to present to the fact that reality is reality and a belief is a belief.  When our beliefs don’t match the reality then we suffer.  Allow me to share a quote that I came across recently:

“My heart says people are inherently good, it is my experiences that speak differently.” Angela Sturm

When a wise person notices the mismatch between his beliefs and reality (what is so in terms of our experience) he gives up his belief.  If you and I let go of beliefs and be with what is so we increase the ‘workability’ of our lives and thus minimise our ‘suffering’.  This benefit is in addition to be reclaiming our freedom.  Do you wish to be that wise person or do you wish to continue to be the fool?  That is a choice for each one of us to make and live with.

How to live powerfully: replace beliefs with Stand, with Possibility

If I was Angela I would let go of the belief “People are inherently good”.  Why?  It is false – all beliefs are false!  Instead I would recognise reality “Some people exhibit behaviours I say are ‘good’.  Some people exhibit behaviours that I say are ‘bad’.  The same person can exhibit both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviours.”  Going further, I can let go of the belief and invent a Stand:

“I am Stand for recognising the good in people and calling that forth in my thinking, in my speaking, in my actions, my behaviour”.

Do you notice  the power of the Stand?   It is not a belief about me, about you, about our fellow human beings, about the world at large.  No, the Stand is me creating / inventing my role in the drama called Life.  It is a ‘call to arms’ that I give myself.  Notice, that if people were already inherently good (and behaved good) then my Stand makes no contribution.  By taking on this Stand I am calling forth / living out of the Possibility that I can impact how people show up in the world – ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Do you want a concrete example of the difference between reality, belief and Stand/Possibility?  Then watch this 4 minute YouTube clip of Viktor Frankl – Viktor explains the difference in a way that you will never forget.  Why is he worth listening to?  He wrote one of the most profound books (Man in Search of Meaning) when it comes to understanding of the human condition.  And he survived the WWII concentration camps whilst losing everyone – all his family and friends.  Yet, just listen to how he relates to people given his very real understanding of people:

What will be inscribed on your headstone? “something was left” or “used up!”


A funny story my physics professor told me

In the final year of my physics degree I told the professor that I was thinking of going into business upon graduation.  On hearing this he told me this story:

“A wounded soldier is flown back to the USA.  Due to the miracles of medicine the medics heal all kinds of wound and after some time the soldier is once again walking around.  There is only one problem his brain is damaged and needs to be replaced.  Luckily for this soldier the USA has pioneered the process of brain transpanting.  The day comes when the soldier has to choose a brain.

The soldier is greeted by the surgeon.  The surgeon tells him “We’ll do the transplant but you need to pay for the brain.”  And then proceeds to show the soldier some brains (in vats).  The soldier asks “How much is this brain?” The surgeon says “$500”.  Then the soldier asks “How much is that brain?”  The surgeon replies “$500,000!”.

Shocked at such a big difference in price for two brains that look identical, the solder asks “Why such a big difference in price?”  The surgeon replies “The first brain belonged to a physicist and it has been heavily used.  The second brain, well that belongs to a businessman – its never been used!””

Lets move from the brain to life – and death.

What will be inscribed on your headstone? 

When you die and end up in grave what will be inscribed on your headstone:

Will your headstone read “Something left over” or will it read “All used up!”?  Let’s listen to what Werner Erhard has to say on this.  Here are his words:

We’re willing to give up, to sacrifice, our own self expression.  You see on your tombstone, what they are going to put on your tombstone, when you die?  Something was left.  And we don’t know what it is or was. See, they ain’t going to put on your tombstone: used up.  Cause you ain’t going to get used up. Uh-uh!  You’re going to save it, till prince Charming comes, then you’re going to give it.  But not now, not here, not for this, not for what you got.

Most people are going to go to their grave with the sense that there was something in them that never got expressed.  That there was something there, something of real value, something that could make a difference, something that could have been a contribution that just never got expressed.  And most of us are going to our grave like that.  Because we are willing to sacrifice our own full self expression for the avoidance of responsibility. To avoid the domination of taking on life like an opportunity……”

“Playing BIG” requires you, me, us to let go of the default

Let’s be clear the default setting is such that our headstone will read “something left over – had something of value to express, to contribute, and never expressed it, never put it into the game of life”.  That is simply what is so.  How does that sound to you?  Is that how you want to live your life?  Is that the legacy you want to leave behind?

How about gettting off our metaphorical backsides and being cause in the matter of our lives.  How about a ‘Playing BIG’? How about being ALL used up by the time you arrive in your grave?  Wondering what that looks like?  Here is a wonderful quote from George Bernard Shaw:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”

‘Playing BIG’, living an ‘extraordinary’ life is a choice that I, you, we, have to make and keep in existence knowing full well that we will meet all kinds of obstacles – they simply go along with choosing this path.  They are essential to this path – they test our commitment, they are the fire that forges us from “the small man”, the “common man” to the “superman”.

Remember: not choosing this path (again and again and again) is choosing the default a life of ‘smallness’ and a tombstones that reads “something was left – something of value was never expressed!”

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.