How to cross the chasm (and live to tell the tale)

The other side…

The world that we imagine, wish for, fantasize. If we could escape, that’s where we’d go.

  • It may be the sound of the sea, the splashing of the surf, a fluttering sail, the whirr of a fishing line.
  • It may be the smell of grass, the whack of the club on the ball and following its arc high across to the eighteenth hole.
  • It may be the crunch of snow beneath your skis.
  • It may be the voices and laughter of family and kids at a playground.
  • It may be the boarding call to your next destination.
  • It may be the completion of a humanitarian project.

You know there is “the other side”. You can see it from here. Others actually are there. You even know some of these “others”. The problem is you are not one of the “others”.

You are YOU.

The moment that we draw a comparison between ourselves and those who we believe to be on the other side, we assign a side to ourselves.

And inevitably it is the side we are on, not the other side. Its the side with the challenges, the side with the limitations, the side with the cash-flow problem, the side with the 9-to-5.

Drawing that comparison opens up a huge chasm.

This chasm is so wide, crossing it requires resources we do not have. And that is absolutely true!

This chasm is so deep, we can barely discern the fog down there that conceals unimaginable threats in its shadows (should we survive a fall).

This chasm is so overwhelming, that crossing it is lethal, a venture reserved exclusively for hero-like bravado, for the luckiest ones, the others.

This chasm is in your imagination.

You created it when you created “the others”.

The others on the other side did not see a chasm, they did not have a chasm, they simply walked. They did not consider themselves to be the others, they are who they are.

Closing that chasm requires a zen-like thinking: the dissolution of duality.

In order to dissolve it me must first recognise it.

When you acknowledge that you consider yourself as separate, you can deliberately cease to categorise yourself as separate. Of course you are special. But what differentiates all of us from another is our starting point. We all have this in common: From wherever it is that you are right now, whatever the circumstances, your resources, your time, you can go anywhere else. But in order to do that, you must close the chasm.
    Use the force, Luke.
        Un-imagine it.
            Whatever it takes. 

When there is no duality, there is no chasm. When there is no chasm, there is no fear. When there is no fear we can walk freely to wherever it is we wanted to go. And when you go wherever it is you want to go while being yourself, some will see you as the others. And from wherever it is you are looking, you will laugh and think “It’s just me, and if could do it, so can you”.

Of course this is easier said than done, but ultimately it is fear, not capability that keeps the chasm open. Only you can close it, and only you know if that what is on the other side is worth your effort.

** If you have enjoyed reading this you may also like some of my other posts, and register to join the conversation. Someone you know will be grateful to you for sharing this with them on your favourite social network. *

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Timecounting 101: The True Price of Waiting.

15,000 Days.

That is the number of days most people spend in “working life” till retirement (assuming that you start a career in your early 20’s and retire in your early 60’s). Yes, that is not a typo: fifteen-thousand days. That’s it.

If you are not are reading this on your mobile device, go pick it up now, open the calculator app and type in your age. Multiply by 365. Read the result out aloud.
That’s roughly how many days you have already lived. 

When I did this a few years ago I found this exercise very unsettling.

  • The average life budget is somewhere around 27,000 days. Compare that to your number.
  • If you make it to 30,00 you are in very a small minority.
  • If you make it beyond that it won’t be by far, and you are an exception.

The problem with life is that we are not given a budget at birth. So, with a credit-card mentality, we spend liberally the most precious thing we have, as if there was time to do the meaningful stuff “later”. For a great part of the world’s people the precious available “now” is spent on totally worthless consumables: TV and “pulp” entertainment. Life is spent watching other people’s stories. Or it is spent in careers that fulfil other people’s expectations, not our own.

The problem is that “later” has a frightening price-tag. If your life right now is not the way you had intended, then the absolute worst thing you can do is stay on that track for another second!. It is quite simply put, your most expensive option, by far.

Why?

  1. It costs your time: You have one wallet, with an undisclosed limited amount of time in it. It is always less than you think. You must spend it, and can only spend it once.
  2. It costs you opportunities: while you wait to decide, someone else is taking the chance that you may have wished for.
  3. It costs you health: discontent and frustration deteriorate your health. The worse it gets the harder it is to recover and repair. Bad health also charges a hefty interest to your days credit, reducing the time you get.
  4. It costs you relationships: unhappy people propagate unhappiness, and the social cost of this is staggering. Time spent with bad company and mindless activities reduces the time available to spend with the people you care about most.
  5. It costs you money: For most, every dollar you earn is generated by “spending” your minutes. But while you can always multiply the dollars, you can NEVER multiply your minutes. It is a “spend once” commodity. There is no re-draw facility, no ATM where you can withdraw another 1000 days, no bank that can extend your limit. Real fulfilling success can not happen in this space.

I excel at procrastinating.

Most of us do, we are masters at it.

From small insignificant activities to big changes, we postpone with refined skill. We excuse ourselves with great eloquence: “just need to get a few things sorted, and then I will…”, or “now is not a good time…”.

But we know that later is always a WORSE time, as it is already reserved for a future activity, and we know those things will never get sorted UNTIL we make that change. It is easy to mask our lack of courage with justifications, but it does not stop the clock!.

Fortunately, we do not have to excuse ourselves, because we don’t have to embark on that daunting journey alone.  Most paths in life have been walked by someone before you, they are always willing to help, and have the tools you need.

Fortunately, no matter how many days you have used up, you can live amazingly, irrespective of how much is left in your time-wallet.

The important thing is not to postpone the decision to do so. Anyone can avoid paying the five great expenses of waiting.

One day – sooner than you think – you will draw your last time-penny out of your time wallet. Will you gasp with a knot in your throat and say “Wait…now is not the right time!” or will you look back, smile and say “Wow – what an awesome life I’ve had!”?

Today will be charged to your time credit. Spend it on “wait!” and it is wasted, spend it on “Awesome!” and you create a memorable legacy!.

[I enjoyed reading a book published early this year “20,00 Days and counting” by Robert D. Smith, which explores this subject in depth and is worthwhile and inspiring reading. I am however in no way affiliated with the author, there are many other books on this subject.] 

** If you have enjoyed reading this you may also like some of my other posts, and register to join the conversation. Someone you know will be grateful to you for sharing this with them on your favourite social network. **

“Stop, Look, Listen…” – for adults.

Last week we briefly explored how our brain prioritses through the reticular activating system, the importance of repetition, affirmation and the whole “Rah-rah”.

But that is only half the story, we need to know how to re-program it on the fly so that we can get a deliberate results instead of an accidental one.

What is your obsession?

Pause for a moment and think about this. What theme dominates your thinking?

  • Are you worried about not meeting a deadline?
  • Are you revisiting a proposal because perhaps it is not enough to secure the next client?
  • Are you anxiously expecting a bad phone call because your teenager is prone to cause trouble?
  • Do you anticipate a frosty arrival at home because you have been getting home so late your partner is already asleep – two months in a row?

This is where the fine line between success and default is drawn. Your reticular activator is scanning the environment for cues that provide validation to your process.

So then, what does “favourable” programming sound like?

Here are some examples of how to shortcut the process, and re-align our obsession:

  • You decide you will make that deadline – and begin pruning priorities in order to achieve that. Get the low hanging fruit into the basket fast.
  • You stop and evaluate your proposal from the clients perspective, and word it differently. Nothing else needs to change but the focus is on their real benefit.
  • You call your teenager, or leave a kind word on their snapchat feed without asking anything in return. Show you care, and mean it.
  • Think about your partner, and focus on the gratitude for the dinner waiting on the table needing no more than 2 minutes in the microwave. Leave a thank you note for the morning. Never take others for granted.

The circumstances in these situations have not changed. But our focus has, and it makes all the difference. It is easy to see how these absurdly simple shifts in our focus will have a very significant impact on our life.

We teach our kids: Stop, look and listen. And as adults we forget to do this ourselves!

Stop where we are going, just for a moment. Motion is there to take us towards our goal. If it does not, then stop.

Look at how you are perceiving the situation. Look for possible advantages you can tap into.

Listen to the validations that you are receiving. Are they helping you achieve your goal or are they signposts on the way to a disaster?

This simple mind process is often referred to as The Law of Attraction, only that we are not actually attracting anything. It should be called the Law of Focus, because we build our context based on the things that we deem important to our cause.  The “stuff” was always there. If that focus is on avoiding falling off a cliff, we are likely to forever hover along the edge. If however we are focused on getting to the top of the mountain, then at the very least we will end up on higher ground.
 

You go where your obsessions take you, so obsess about where you want to be taken.

** If you have enjoyed reading this you may also like some of my other posts, and register to join the conversation. Someone you know will be grateful to you for sharing this with them on your favourite social network. **

The answer is found two deep.

How often do we find ourselves looking at a problem that resembles the iron curtain rather than a garden fence, a confronting and virtually un-surmountable show-stopper that defies all logic?

It could be a product we can’t seem to get to market, a potential client we can’t get in front of, or a family member that we are being challenged with. The point is, it bugs us, and sometimes it can cripple our business, a relationship or our life. 

Invariably the barrier is our way of thinking.

When a farming entrepreneur was looking to establish a farm in an area where the only water was oceanic saltwater, they had to look beyond the logical solutions. What was immediately available was clearly not going to work. What was available however had the potential of becoming a resource for something that would work.

I call this “two deep” interaction: looking not just at what we are directly engaged with, but Instead we look at the relationships of the things that we engage with directly.
Big picture thinking is like climbing a tree to look over the fence, going two deep is jumping over the fence and looking for solutions from the the other side. 

Next time you are confronted with a problem that completely leaves you stuck, take a step back and “zoom out”. The important thing is not to see the bigger picture with your agenda, but with the agenda of each of the second and possibly third level interactions that you are exploring. Most of these are likely to be invisible or not relevant to you directly. You may need to get a second pair of eyes to help you with the process. You may need to look at your problem perhaps from your customer’s point of view. It may be caused by a character trait of your kid’s teacher. It may be legislation that is affecting your supplier. The solutions that will create uniqueness and competitive edge are always found two deep.

The farm gets its fresh water from a solar-powered desalination system, and the result is a farming model of unprecedented energy and water efficiency. Nobody would have looked at the arid paddock and expected a crop to grow. This is a great example how we can solve problems by looking beyond our conventional interactions, by going two deep.

The solution to that irritating, elusive and absurd problem is waiting for you two deep. Now you know where to look.

** If you have enjoyed reading this you may also like some of my other posts, and register to join the conversation. Someone you know will be grateful to you for sharing this with them on your favourite social network. **

 

The power of a meaningful friend.

I recently caught up with a very dear friend whom I had not seen for a long time, we worked out it had been at least six years!.

It prompted me to think about how we often allow ourselves to be immersed in business or work relationships, and as our time is increasingly consumed more vicariously by these activities (largely a byproduct of mobile technology) we can easily drift into maintaining relationships mostly for professional gain.

Our work colleagues are rarely the people whose influence, mentorship and life guidance in life we value the most. In fact, in most cases these are the people who stand in direct conflict with our true selves, and somewhere on the fringes are the people who matter.

These special people on the fringe are our compass, they point us to our true north.

They are the people we respect deeply, we look up to them. Sometimes we idolise them.

They inspire us, they are role models in some form.

They are often appear in our imagination, and participate in our inner conversations.

When we can, we ask for their opinions on the really profound stuff. When we hear it from them, we know it will be the truth no matter how beautiful, ugly or inconvenient.

These are not necessarily our closest friends. Sadly these are often our most neglected friendships. They take a greater effort to nurture because they also expect more of us. They challenge us. They are the relationships that grow us the most.

Who are the two, three, perhaps even five people who have made a significant difference in your life (besides your family)? When was the last time you made contact? Write down their names, then next to it write one word that describes why they matter. Do not let the sun set on this day without having made an arrangement to connect with them, and to thank them. Avoid email. Do it in person if you can, the phone or a handwritten card if they are cities away.

I am deeply grateful for this friend, and a handful of friends like her, even if I rarely see them. She reminded me that there are people we spend time with, and people we invest time in.

We need to do less of the first, and a lot more of the latter.

 

Are You Under The Control Of…?

As a creative professional I frequently found myself almost repeating solutions (much to my discontent), even when the problem was different. I could not avoid it. Did this happen to other professionals? How was it that other creative genies were coming up with different answers, and why could I not have come up whit THAT idea?

The good news is that it happens to all of us, the bad news is we can not escape it. So let me show you one of two very powerful things we can do with it.

First, here is why it happens: our life experiences generate in us a set of master rules, I like to call them “Super-algorithms”. These are not our values, instead they are the trigger points at which we call up our values. Think of it as a flowchart, where the yes/no decision represents our values, and the actual points in the diagram we where we make a choice is the super-algorithm. They are different for each of us. Confusing? Don’t worry, understanding this is not nearly as important as knowing that it exists. Its neither good or bad in nature, but it influences how and when we make decisions. And that is why precisely we should care.

When we look at any famous work, from Leonardo DaVinci to Frank Gehry, from Mozart to U2, Shakespeare to J. K. Rowling, we intuitively recognise them by the “feel” of their work. Our super-algorithm creates our “feel”. To keep our creative edge sharp, we need to get to know our super-algorithm, and allow it to be our guide. The better we become at doing this, the more unique and authentic our work becomes, and we are more likely to create work that matters and of being that creative genius!

 

** If you have enjoyed reading this you may also like some of my other posts, and register to join the conversation. Someone you know will be grateful to you for sharing this with them on your favourite social network. **

 

 

Practice makes you… Worse?!

Shakuhachi and Japanese Sheet Music
Shakuhachi and Japanese Sheet Music

We have all heard it – “practice makes perfect”. But does it?

A few years ago I decided to start playing a wonderful musical instrument called Shakuhachi – often also called Japanese Bamboo or Zen Flute. I found a teacher and started an amazing journey of learning far beyond what I had imagined. Since then I have learned so much more than just playing this beautiful instrument, I have learned about non-western composition, reading music in a completely foreign language and format, improved my pitch recognition, learned more about Zen, and refined my practice skills.

The most important factor enabling me to progress quickly was rigurous practice guided by a master. You are probably thinking that I stood barefoot in the snow for an hour every day for six years practicing just one single note, but I can not claim anything remotely this epic. By rigurous practice I mean that in spite of my clumsiness, my teacher always made sure that I was conscious of practicing the technique correctly. This was, is, and will always be challenging.

For everything we do there is a way of doing it that is easier, or comes more natural. We automatically tend to do this. So if we are not attentive, informed and willing to do it the right instead of the obvious way, we will simply become masters at doing things wrong.

So it is with everything that we do, the way we practice our life and business. We are all blessed with some of the worlds greatest instructors: from spiritual scriptures to more recent books from the likes of Emmerson, Napoleon Hill (one of my personal favourites), Lao-Tsu and Eckhart Tolle. The list is almost endless, but the lessons are remarkably consistent and simple. And it is not surprising that the people who put such advice to practice consistently out-succeed those who don’t.

Unless you can truthfully look yourself in the eyes (tip – use a mirror!) and can claim that without a shadow of doubt you have attained all the success that you have always aspired and imagined, then you must instead ask yourself what are you practicing? Have you become very good at doing the in-effective, the average or the easy? Have you refined skills of techniques that are known to yield poor results? Who is guiding you?

For the majority of the time, our practice makes us worse, and we all have been busy perfecting our mistakes. On top of this, history shows us that without some form of external accountability buddy, mentor or coach, we will continue to do so!.

To prevent this from happening, do these two things right now:

  • Review your practice of all activities that are not yielding the results you expected. Get ruthlessly honest with yourself. You can start this in your head – nobody else needs to know! But I recommend that you write a reminder note somewhere that you will see again.
  • Have the courage to ask for guidance. Find a trustworthy and credible teacher or master. Make a commitment to them so that they can help you.

Only the right practice can ever make you “perfect”.


** If you have enjoyed reading this you may also like some of my other posts, and register to join the conversation. Someone you know will be grateful to you for sharing this with them on your favourite social network. **

Practice makes you… Worse?!

We have all heard it – “practice makes perfect”. But does it?

A few years ago I decided to start playing a wonderful musical instrument called Shakuhachi – often also called Japanese Bamboo or Zen Flute. I found a teacher and started an amazing journey of learning far beyond what I had imagined. Since then I have learned so much more than just playing this beautiful instrument, I have learned about non-western composition, reading music in a completely foreign language and format, improved my pitch recognition, learned more about Zen, and refined my practice skills.

The most important factor enabling me to progress quickly was rigurous practice guided by a master. You are probably thinking that I stood barefoot in the snow for an hour every day for six years practicing just one single note, but I can not claim anything remotely this epic. By rigurous practice I mean that in spite of my clumsiness, my teacher always made sure that I was conscious of practicing the technique correctly. This was, is, and will always be challenging.

For everything we do there is a way of doing it that is easier, or comes more natural. We automatically tend to do this. So if we are not attentive, informed and willing to do it the right instead of the obvious way, we will simply become masters at doing things wrong.

So it is with everything that we do, the way we practice our life and business. We are all blessed with some of the worlds greatest instructors: from spiritual scriptures to more recent books from the likes of Emmerson, Napoleon Hill (one of my personal favourites), Lao-Tsu and Eckhart Tolle. The list is almost endless, but the lessons are remarkably consistent and simple. And it is not surprising that the people who put such advice to practice consistently out-succeed those who don’t.

Unless you can truthfully look yourself in the eyes (tip – use a mirror!) and can claim that without a shadow of doubt you have attained all the success that you have always aspired and imagined, then you must instead ask yourself what are you practicing? Have you become very good at doing the in-effective, the average or the easy? Have you refined skills of techniques that are known to yield poor results? Who is guiding you?

For the majority of the time, our practice makes us worse, and we all have been busy perfecting our mistakes. On top of this, history shows us that without some form of external accountability buddy, mentor or coach, we will continue to do so!.

To prevent this from happening, do these two things right now:

  • Review your practice of all activities that are not yielding the results you expected. Get ruthlessly honest with yourself. You can start this in your head – nobody else needs to know! But I recommend that you write a reminder note somewhere that you will see again.
  • Have the courage to ask for guidance. Find a trustworthy and credible teacher or master. Make a commitment to them so that they can help you.

Only the right practice can ever make you “perfect”.

** If you have enjoyed reading this you may also like some of my other posts, and register to join the conversation. Someone you know will be grateful to you for sharing this with them on your favourite social network. **

Who are you influencing?

What are you doing?

I mean that seriously, what are you doing? What is your influence, your cause?

So what is my point?  – First, some context:

The “forces” that are the most powerful influences on the future of our planetary ecological integrity are driven not by corporations, but by people. People who have forged a capacity to make and influence such decisions. They may deliver those decisions through corporate or political channels. But ultimately a person or group of people, driven by a conviction, and agenda and a value system, make a decision.

This authority to influence was established in the course of their lives.

The point is, we all have this capacity. We can move the same magnitude of ideas and of values in the direction of our conviction, of our agenda. And we have been given the same uncertain lifespan to do so. We influence daily. The  question is, are we nurturing the influences that we desire, or are we allowing ourselves to be swept along to another current, unwittingly donating our small part towards its strength and power? We find ourselves contemplating a very real possibility of a horrific future for us, but even more so for our children, heralded by the announcement of 400ppm of atmospheric CO2 this week.  The number may be academic, but its meaning is far from it.  The plain truth is that we have chosen to support the influence of people whose views we may never have agreed with in the first place.  We do so when we purchase products that come branded with an indelible stamp of collateral damage, in a faraway country.  We do so when we fail to build the visions that are in line with what we believe in in quiet moments alone. We do so when we consent to propositions because challenging them may cause us inconvenience, or cost us a friendship, or possibly a job.

 
We have the permission, in fact we have an obligation, to excercise this influence.
Now that you know, it is in your awareness, you can not afford to ignore your capacity, nor give it away with a clean conscience. The price is too high. This is your problem too.
Align yourself with people who believe what you believe.
Buy from them, work for them or with them, make them your clients, your customers, your allies.
Your voice, your influence will be multiplied.And one day, ten or so years from now, when your children ask what you did, you can proudly tell them that you did everything you could. 

And it made all the difference.

In memory of Bob Brozman.

Absolutely shattered to find out that the amazing Bob Brozman is no longer with us. I had the great fortune to meet the great master on two occasions, to learn from him and converse about all things mind and music, and also to see him perform live. He had a wealth of knowledge that he shared with generosity and humility.

Bob opened my ears to musical subtleties and genres that I would otherwise never have discovered, and that have since become inspirational and influential in my compositions. He was the reason I begun playing on resonator guitars.

Bob, you leave an incredible legacy of music and musical education to future generations, I guess the sleep that you once talked about is now here… “There’s so much music out there…I guess I’ll get some sleep in the next life!”

Bob Brozman, you will be missed dearly by guitarists and musos all over the world. Thank you from the depths of my heart and my muse for the amazing work that you have devoted your life to, and the joy and inspiration that you have given me through it.

_/_ May your soul find peace. _/_

* About the video:
This was more recent performance of “Down the road” – the first BB song I ever heard. In my mind it captures the virtuosity and fun that was so much a trademark of his playing. Enjoy and share.