So I was talking to a coach of mine yesterday. I am really blessed to have so many of them. She works for a personal development company. We got to talking about our fathers, because that's what you do when you are assisting at a personal development company, and I asked her what is the inauthenticity for which she has not been taking responsibility in the relationship with her father — because that's the way we talk at personal development companies. She saw something for herself, and promised to be in communication with him on Friday.
I suggested that she should get together with him right away, tonight (which was last night), and share and have a beer with him. She mentioned that he lives two hours away. I told her I'd get her most of the way there, or they could meet at a midpoint, say Haifa. She mentioned work tomorrow (now today) and I suggested that she just be ready to call in drunk. Even better, she could talk to her boss and ask permission to go for a beer or a pitcher, or two, with her dad, and perhaps roll in a few hours later the next day.
Now while I wouldn't advocate this as a daily practice, it occurred to me that life occurs now; sometimes tomorrow is just too late. Sometimes we just want to share our love and a laugh with the people who are closest to us. Sometimes that occurs to us at the most wildly inappropriate times. But if we don't take a break from “life” to live our lives, then what the heck is life for?
In this case, I mean really, she works for a personal development company that promises people living transformed lives. If I were her boss, and she called in drunk saying she just had to transform her relationship with her dad, I think I'd have to give her a pass. Having relationships in her life work would certainly make her more powerful at her job. I mean that's what her job is about.
Now this isn't to say that we should not be responsible in our lives. Rather, when we find ourselves called to certain actions, we should not put them off as lightly as we are accustomed to do. Life happens now, not at some time in the future. Sometimes it's just appropriate to seize on that which presents itself.
And if you are the “boss” reading this and wondering about the loss of control and order, I'd say those things were likely illusory anyway. People call in sick and we sometimes know damned well they are just strung out or hung over. If we give our employees the space to call in drunk — in other words, actually tell the truth — they might just find the truth serves them in other parts of their jobs as well.
People will only do business with you if they want to do business with you. I am turning coaching into my business. I want a coach who is straight with me, and that starts with being straight with me in soliciting my business. I mention this because two solicitations have come to me recently that were anything but.
One, in an English teachers e-mail list inviting me to “Something for the soul - an amazing report that I want to share with you.” The link provided took me to a page promising a guide to a “more peaceful and happier life,” which would be sent to me on sharing my e-mail with the promoter. The 29 page report promised “Happier. Forever!!!” complete with the author's account of his personal journey, some exercises to raise self-awareness, and of course, an invitation to use his services to get more (“20% discount for a personal consultation meeting” “unique for readers of this report” that bring the coupon along.
The second, in my Cornell University Alumni Network on LinkedIn, a Ms. Emily Filloramo shared a post titled “I'm curious... do you ever feel like your life has reached a plateau?” The truth is she wasn't curious, because she didn't set up the comment for people to share and discuss their personal plateaus, but rather invited us to request a copy of her worksheet, a twelve page “Confidential “Get Out of Your Own Way & Unleash Your Full Potential” Worksheet 1.3,” complete of course with invitation to contact her to see if she can help me get to my “highest core loving self.” She's not even a coach, but a Success & Happiness Catalyst, whatever that means.
Perhaps I am old school, but this just didn't play for me. We're a group of alumni all at our own places in life, and this could have been set up as an opportunity to share and support instead of a not so subtle invitation to use the tools of Ms. Filloramo. And she might get some business from this approach, but she might have gotten even more if she had started and moderated a meaningful discussion, allowing people to see what she could bring to their lives. She didn't do this. She offered a quid pro quo.
After a long winded comment by Ms. Filloramo about getting to core beliefs, I added a comment regarding the on-line tools that I find useful. I figure if we're there talking about where we're stuck anyway, I might as well share what helps me get past my blocks:
This is one way of looking at it, but we don't necessarily need to come up with a big why. Rather, I would suggest that we can become present to what we have, and give our all to the work that presents itself, but not like we have to run faster on the treadmill. There is a parable about three stone cutters. A person comes up and asks each in turn what he is doing. The first says I am shaping a stone, the second I have to work to feed my family, the third says he is building a temple. They all may be doing exactly the same thing, but their experience and satisfaction at the end of the day are unlikely to be the same.
Certainly there are negative core beliefs, and they effect our actions, but they are also the most present when we are spending time gazing at our navels instead of looking at the contribution we can make or are already making in the world. If you want to get present to your internal dialogues (i.e. core beliefs) and stop giving them power over you, I'd suggest you take the Landmark Forum. Landmark is expert at this and has delivered its programs to more than two million people, with 94% of customers in independent surveys agreeing that Landmark's programs have made a profound and lasting difference in their lives.
But then get it's not necessarily about the job (though it could be; I also like Scott Dinsmore. James Altucher, on the other hand, takes a more philosophical approach, which is a bit raw but much worth the searching person's time). For a different philosopher's view, I'd also suggest Mike Rowe's A Lesson From Some of the World's Dirtiest Jobs, for another good point about happiness.
So, I have these new friends at Scott Dinsmore's Live Your Legend Creator's Guild. Every couple of days there is new and real connection. I feel particularly old in this group, but that's a conversation for another day. What drives this group of people is that they are passionate about making a difference, in their own lives and in those of others. And they are searching and vulnerable and open, and beautifully human. It could be that Ms. Filloramo is this as well, but I don't get that from her presentation.
Today's new friend is Ms. Sarah Cooper. What I love about her is she is willing to put herself out there. She came to my attention because she was asking us what she could do to get past her writer's block. I challenged her to play a game outside of her comfort zone and she jumped at the chance. The result is here. She's given us both a chance to look beyond our everyday. So we are taking on a challenge together. On her blog she asks:
Where are you in your story? Are you screaming “Don’t go down there?” Are you waiting for the action to get started or trying to make sense of it all? Is there a clear direction? Who is the villain or love interest in the piece? Most of all are you enjoying your story?
We've agreed that we're both going to engage with these questions. We'll be honest and direct and post our response before we have second thoughts about it. I salute you Ms. Cooper for asking these questions and giving us both a chance to grow. So here's my take:
My story is that I have a life of missed opportunities. Where my contemporaries have accomplished and created all sorts of great things (particularly where it comes to business and career), I am still stuck at the same place that I was ten years ago. I've got a great wife and some amazing kids, but other than that, I'm behind the eight ball. I have a few more licenses along the way, but no record of success. That's not exactly true. What I do is that whatever success I have, I chalk up to luck or circumstance, and where I have missed, I say it says something about me. So I have a lot of big ideas, that come and go, that light me up for a moment and then get gobbled up in thoughts of my inadequacy to the task at hand. I rely too much on my wife and our families to support me and have trouble seeing a powerful and independent future for myself.
Where don't I go? I don't make promises. I haven't fully put myself in the games I want to play in life. I say big things, things so big that I don't expect anyone to believe them. I may even start them, but I have a built-in excuse to fail. Where I don't go is that I don't admit I care. I care so much it hurts. I don't want to be with that. So I continue to try to make a difference, but no matter how big a difference I've made, I say I didn't really do it or it would have happened anyway, and I run away. I'm left with results I don't acknowledge and feeling weak and ineffective. Whatever I do accomplish, it's never enough.
So where I have been is waiting. I am pretty sure there is no sense in it all. I'll do what work comes, but I don't take any big initiatives.
There is a clear direction. If I look at what I have declared, there are many lifetimes of actions that could be taken in pursuit of the goals I have declared. I have said that I am about restoring freedom, that I am about creating education that works, that I am about empowering people to fulfil on those things that are important to them. I am a stand for fairness and justice, for better understanding between people, for committed, outrageous, generous and happy people, for a world where people look outside of themselves.
But there is also a clear villain and that is the little voice in my head. I too often let it run my life. It's the little voice that keeps asking me “Who are you to presume that you are the one?” It asks “What are you thinking?” It says “You missed the boat.” It's the voice that lets me avoid all responsibility in my life, and in the end takes my life.
So am I enjoying my story? Of course not. I am suffering it every moment I let it run me. But then it's a familiar suffering, and it's amazing how long we suffer the familiar just because it's not the unknown.
But I am seeing it's a story, and that I am the author, and that it's not the story I need to live out. And the truth is, I'm pretty fed up with it. It's long past time to break out of the holding pattern and embrace the unfamiliar. And I must be ever vigilant, because the villain never will go away. But I've seen that what keeps him at bay is admitting that I care, and denying myself permission to run away.
In my new story, I am human. I will screw up. That's okay. I'll probably hurt people, and might hurt myself, but that's the only way I can learn to be better. In my new story, I take responsibility for the success just as I do for the failures. In my new story I remember, as Winston Churchill so elegantly put it, “Success is the ability to stumble from failure to failure with no lack of enthusiasm.” I am scared. So what? Who isn't? The only question is who I will be in the face of that fear and what I will do anyway.
You want me, you can have me. You can have my heart and my love and my commitment to your success. You can have someone who will believe in you when you don't and remind you why you should believe in yourself. You will have someone who sees right through the façade and doesn't leave space for anything but your best. It will cost you obviously, but what price can you really put on a life of power, freedom and full-self expression. And if you want to improve your presentation and look, that is the work of my wife. She can give you an amazing smile (she's a dentist too) and then teach you to create the ensemble to go with it.
1969 is of course the year I was born, but making a difference has been who I am as far back as I can remember..
If I think about it enough, there's probably no end of things for which I ought to give thanks, and perhaps we all should, as gratitude and the daily acknowledgement of the things for which we are grateful make us happier human beings.
So, I start with being grateful that I am no longer constrained by the notion that I should not start a sentence with a conjunction. It might seem a small thing, but it's a part of flowing with what is there instead of what I think is the right thing to do, the rules, usually as written by someone else.
I am really grateful I have learned to question other people's rules and default beliefs. Thoughts like “That's the way it is and how it's always been” just don't run me any more. I am in many ways bolder than I have ever been, and feel free to challenge others - and sometimes even myself - to play bigger and bolder games in life, which always leaves me feeling better.
I am thankful for, thank and acknowledge my partner and playmate, Sharleen. She always has my back, is infinitely patient, and is all about creating worlds that work. If someone needs to be taken care of, and it's in her ability, she does it. People are better just for having been in her presence. It's pretty neat.
I am thankful for my great kids, curious people who play with, challenge and engage me. They all make unique contributions to their classrooms and worlds. I am thankful for the great family that made these kids possible.
But mostly, I want to thank my parents. They have taught me what faith is and what it means to be committed to friends and family. They have been unwavering in their commitment to and support for my happiness and success. I love you both.
It would not be Thanksgiving if I didn't thank the people who gave us this opportunity to be mindful, PresidentAbraham Lincoln, Sarah Josepha Hale, and William Henry Seward, but theirs was an exhortation to a greater power, and I join them in remembering that:
So I guess this is kind of a meta-thought process kind of post. I have sorted out my muses, and they are Ramit Sethi, Derek Halpern, Scott Dinsmore, and James Altucher. I've just started Mr. Sethi's Earn1k, but I also down-loaded some of Scott's tools this week. The one that caught me today was his weekly planner. It's drawn from Tony Robbins, and starts with the assignment “Connect and Visualize the Big Picture.” I closed my eyes, and nothing was clear. At first, all was black, but as I drifted into sleep (I really should have attempted this earlier in the day), I saw an overwhelming brown cloud. I saw myself standing in a barren landscape seemingly lit but already with the cloud arching over me coming out of the east.
I didn't know if this was an expression of a personal state, or a concern for the entire middle east or the world. I was sure that I was alone. It appears I don't want to be responsible for the big things I say I am up to. And then I have an excuse to do nothing. I haven't taken responsibility, and I won't allow myself to put my trust in others. I suppose these are the “hidden scripts” that Mr. Sethi talks about, or as I know it better from my work at Landmark, the little voice in my head. So I guess it is time to say to the little voice thank you for sharing, and live a brave life (in the words of Amy DeRosia) in my world. As I just suggested to my friend Elizabeth Breckenridge, if we are committed to people living at the edge of their own comfort zone, we ought to celebrate the challenge to put ourselves on the line in front of the world.
So what lights me up in the world is peeling away the layers of crap that “society” has put between ourselves and our humanity. People have been sold a bill of goods, and most don't even realize it. I suppose these are the not-so-hidden-scripts that too many of us take as the truth, ideas like home ownership being the “American Dream,” that to succeed one must go to college, that more choices make us happier, that when I (graduate, get my license, get a job, find the right wife, have kids, earn my first million, get divorced, retire, etc.), then I'll be happy.
For all we've got, Dr. Brené Brown reminds us we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, medicated adult cohort in American history. She also reminds us that human connection is fundamental.
But our government policies don't honor a sense of community; instead they separate. Battle lines are drawn regarding funding for the young, those hoping to be educated, those needing health care, and those past the age of work and often in need of special care. We are all fighting for a piece of a pie instead of figuring out how to bake more together. As I write this, I think of an individually tutored degree, where a young person partners with a retired person to engage in an individualized course of study and internship in his desired field. The price of school could be some token sum in addition to retirement benefits. A savings might even be had in that the intern could take the place of a paid attendant for say forty hours a week.
This is how Abe Lincoln became a lawyer. The desirability of this approach may also explain why law schools are providing more and more real-world practice to the budding lawyer.
So I've gone off the path and run onto one of my rethinking of government rants. The point is the big picture. The big picture is people living and thriving in strong communities, groups of people who care for and support each other, groups of people who provide what is basic to humans, a sense of belonging and a place to call home, which in turn will give rise to more active, engaged, successful human beings and citizens.
I haven't come up with the measure yet to determine if I am succeeding, but I certainly see openings for action. While we're coming up with measures, I invite you to share your thoughts on the programs and institutions that get in our way, and the initiatives you'd like to see to build the connection for which humans yearn.
“Dammit I'm scared” should be our signal to act.
The problem is most of us don't even recognize when we are stopped by fear. We give it nice new names and make up beautiful stories, like “I'm too shy” or “I wouldn't want to offend people” or “We shouldn't make someone else feel uncomfortable.” Our “barbaric Yawp” has been stifled by our fear of failure, our fear of not looking good, thousands of nos and shoulds and shouldn'ts, and lots of - way too much - “practical advice.”
Our fire, our passion, our desire to wake up in the morning can and will be kindled again. It will start with a relaxing of the standards and a return of the greats, of parents reading to their children without any aim but their mutual enjoyment, of teachers hauling out a tattered old book of poetry and reading without a test in mind, of children learning to imagine that the homeless person on the corner was once a child much as they are, of people recording or sharing their ideas. Indeed, it has started, in thousands of blog posts and huge communities of people sharing themselves and getting that who they are, quirks and idiosyncracies included, can be and is an amazing and unique contribution to the world.
But for every conversation for possibility, there are probably ten of resignation, lost hope, and missed dreams. It is these we are going to put back in their place. We do not come to you with platitudes of “hope and change,” hoping the next president will make things change so our lives will be better. Rather we intend to revisit Mr. Kennedy's exhortation “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” But perhaps for some of us, this is a step too far; let us start with asking what you can do for yourself.
To put this in better context, this was originally posted at Herz for President, but I realize the call to action is to our personal lives, with a hope that the personal realization of our hopes and dreams will lead to a bolder and greater future for society as a whole.