Full Steam Ahead: Why You Have Everything You Need.

The new project. Today’s to-do list. Launching a new business. Finding a soul-mate. Changing careers. Whatever it is you wish to start, accomplish, create, finish or do, you have all you need. Right now. There is absolutely nothing in the way for you be in motion, wether this is to get started, to advance it, to finish it, to ship it.

I must admit, this was a hard lesson for me to grasp.

We must never confuse aspiration with necessity.

Yet we do.

Aspiration tells us where we want to go. Evidently we are not there, so in order to get there, we must first begin the journey. And any journey begins at the point where the decision to undertake it is made.

Necessity is the absolute minimum that we need to commence that journey. If you are reading this, there are very few things for which you do not have that absolute minimum, and everything else is within reach.

Provided that you do one important thing: take one next step.

Invest even just one minute writing down a list of things that you need to do in order to proceed with your project. Inevitably there will be things on that list that are not immediately possible or viable. And then there are other things that are absolutely doable, sometimes right at that very moment. That is your next step. Take it. It is not more complicated than that.

We complicate it by overlaying the aspirational circumstances over the present moment, and label it necessity.

                       And then……. we are stuck!

Throughout life we accumulate a magnificent toolkit of expertise, experience, wisdom and skills. Yet we rarely look into that toolkit. In fact I bet you are not even sure what tools are in yours, and you may not even be sure as to what some of those mysterious items can do. But in that toolkit is something that makes the next step possible.

Write that little list. Discover what is in your toolkit. Use it. In it is everything you need to take the next step. And with every new step you take, new things will appear in your toolkit.

You will need them……..

Later.

                        The ones you need now you already have.

The hardest thing that most never have the courage to do.

Justice.

It seems that this is one of the pivots of civilisation.

The scales that balance everything, impartially.

It moderates activites, it ensures appropriate behaviour, it provides a framework where righteousness bestows impunity, and wrongdoing elicits punishment. It is  the foundation of what we generally consider to be fair.

Of course it has some limitations and weaknesses that are most evident around big-picture economic and political matters, where conflicts of interests propagate into all sorts of absurd and outright inhumane propositions that are nevertheless are still strictly compliant. But in general terms we accept this principle as a given, and in most stable countries we are able to enjoy its benefits. It becomes an embedded part of our culture and our behavior and we apply it broadly and liberally to our lives. We like to be fair. We like others to be fair to us.

It is a profound expectation. And just as we expect fairness, we also expect that unfairness in whatever from should bring with it consequences. It is the foundation for all things from the business of remuneration for our knowledge, work or wares, all the way to religion. 

It makes life, and human transactions easy. Clear-cut. Even. Fair.

I am good to you, I expect you to be good to me, and as long as we all abide by this I can continue being good to you (and everybody will – or at least should be happy). We beat our chests with pride when we uphold this idea.

Natural law however does not work on fairness. Things are not even. We are not all equally happy.

We defend a small idea on the basis of righteousness against an unfair or unjust opponent, even as we laying waste to all that surrounds us, and yet we feel courageous because we have remained just and fair, stood the proverbial higher ground.

But there is something that takes a far greater courage, and it pays in ways that fairness can never pay. It creates wealth and happiness, it creates sanctuary, it revives, it renews, it is above the higher ground, – and oddly enough, it costs nothing!.

Compassion.

You may sigh tediously as you read this heavy word. But the simple fact is, you are probably not brave enough to truly practice it.
You see, in order to give it, you need to repeal all ideas of fairness. You have to reject justice. You have to forfeit your advantage. You have to silence all judgement. You have to smash the scales. You have to become partial. Partial to the “other”, the recipient of your compassion. You have to listen instead of speaking.

And compassion creates things that fairness can not.

It creates real trust.
      With trust comes sanctuary.
           With sanctuary comes healing.
                 With health comes inspiration.
                      With inspiration all things become possible.

Just pause for a moment an imagine what richness is possible when people are good to one another for no other reason than the belief that it is the right thing to do. I hope that with that thought you will find the courage to be compassionate where you could have been just, or fair, or right.

Our world is broken. Broken by too much fairness and justice. It can only be repaired with compassion.

Someone you meet today will need your compassion above all else, and will be grateful to you for it in ways that you can not imagine. Give it.

How to catch the monster that stops you!

I had a conversation with a young man at the pool this morning. He was seeking some advice on how to swim longer distances, and shared that the best he has ever done 500 metres, but that he was not sure he could do it again.

That fear stops us from achieving what we are truly capable of is well documented. Less often however do we talk about the signs, the behaviours, the evidence that it is in fact such fear that is getting in the way. That is because fear is most frequently disguised as a harmless and often quite logical reason.

  • I am not cut out for this.
  • I don’t have the bone structure to run like that.
  • Every time I try it goes wrong.

Beneath phrases like these are apprehensions far scarier than the most ghoulish Halloween disguise. And beneath that disguise is a simple monster, one that is common to most people: OUR fear of other people’s opinion.

It comes wrapped in more complex fears, like public speaking, or fear of failure. But ultimately it comes down how we want to be seen, and since all of us live with some inconsistencies and slip-ups of integrity, we are very weary of anything that will give away our weakness.

Most of us believe that it takes courage to be exposed for who we truly are. The reality is actually the opposite: most of our closer friends have a pretty good idea of who we truly are, and they also know the lengths we go to in order to hide some of our perceived weaknesses.

What takes courage is not exposing your true self to others, but to expose it to yourself. 

You have things that somewhere deep inside you wish you could do, but it sits wrapped up in the conviction that it is not possible for you.

Here are three reasons why it is virtually certainly possible for you, three thoughts that you can summon to expose, catch or chase away the monster that stops you:

  • Its been done successfully before  – by people who you think less of!
  • It will not kill you, infect you or cause you to break out in an incurable rash.
  • You live in a world of great fortune and privileges (because you can read this!), and therefore you have not reached your risk limits yet. In fact you are nowhere near them.

You and I know these are absolutely true for you. So go ahead and do the thing that scares you the most first. You now its is safe to do so.

I left my new friend at the pool with some ideas how he could break 600 metres within a few sessions. I will find out soon if he succeeds, I do hope he does, because I know he can swim 1000. Only he knows if he has the courage to endure some fatigue.

 

Multiply your effectiveness with potency.

A few mornings ago, as I was starting my warm-up laps in the swimming pool, I felt I could have done with a few extra hours of sleep.

My arms were turning, my legs were kicking, my gaze was absently following the blue line on the pool floor. A few hundred metres into it and the thought that I had a solid three-quarters of an hour still ahead of me was well and truly deflating me. I was not “present”.

When you are submerged, you hear nothing but your own thoughts, and the repetitive muffled gurgling sounds of your body moving through the water. It is meditative in a way, and because of this I soon had dismantled my lethargic thoughts with the mental exploration of effectiveness versus potency.

The word Potency is defined as the capacity to influence, and it is most often used in heard in relation to medicine, biology and physics.

Often we are time-locked in our activities, we can not opt-out sooner, we can not avoid a particular process. When we are in this situation the only variable we can adjust is the intensity, the presence, the potency. A small increase in potency often can create a significant increase in results.

The time will pass..

You will arrive at the other end as you drift through the activity, the time will still pass.

You will arrive at the other end as you move through the activity with intention, the time will still pass.

When the time has passed, will you simply arrive, or will you arrive with a payload?. 

What is the best that you can get out of a given activity? In my case I promptly decided to “engage” with my training session, to be fully “present”. I did not do a personal best that day, but a simple almost insignificant shift in thinking, a marginal increase in effort turned an hour of uncommitted motion into a worthwhile training session.

Effectiveness means something works. Potency determines how great a result you will get from that work. When we are faced with an activity that perhaps is not avoidable, we can always increase our potency.

Either way you will pass the same point in time, but you will be heading in very different directions.

 

Punch if you just want to fight, punch through if you want to win.

Martial arts, whether in practice or in philosophy, have been a fundamental part of my beliefs since I was a kid.

One principle Sensei would always emphasize when we were practising our punches or kicks against pads was that we should aim to kick not at the pad, but right through the person holding it.

This may sound extreme, but the experience was remarkable. If you were the person holding the pad, you would certainly feel the difference. It didn’t matter if the opponent delivering the punch was half my size, a through punch or kick would always be felt and was enough to displace me while holding the pad by a foot or two and often throw me off my spot. Whereas a punch or kick at the pad could always be resisted and the impact force easily absorbed by your arms.

When we set a goal, we naturally tend to work to the goal, not through the goal. In doing so we often loose the momentum that we have acquired leading up to it. How often do we hear of people tracking fabulously and then giving up or running out of drive so close to their goal!. They had their eyes on the finish line, not at the ground beyond it.

Punching through is different to a stretch goal.

A stretch goal is an ambitious target beyond the goal.

Punching through means not winding down to finish at the goal, to continue at full speed until the target has been passed.

Even a marginal pass is ok, the key is that you are applying the brakes only after you have reached it.

What tends to happen in reality is that this seemingly unimportant extra effort is precisely that what got you there. That little extra effort is what separates the finishers from everyone else.

Whatever it is you are seeking to achieve, whether you can see your goal or not, don’t slow down until you have passed it.

When you set a goal, know what it means to pass it:

   Is it a sales target?

      Is it a chapter completed?

        Is it an eating habit change or exercise program?

When you know what the turf looks like just beyond the finish line, you will know to keep going until you are standing on it.

Sensei always used to joke “Punching at someone will only get you into a fight, but punching through will overpower your opponent.”

Don’t spend your life fighting, live life winning.

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. **

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.

 

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. **

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.