The freak that is stopping you from having a great life!

Few people would ever reject the idea that that there is something odd, unconventional or unique about them. It is the pedestal upon which a sense of self-identity is built, and we go to great lengths to defend it, we believe in it, and we know it as our own, in all its weirdness and flaws.

But what if we have made our own pedestal too low?

Few people would ever reject the idea that that there is something odd, unconventional or unique about them. It is the pedestal upon which a sense of self-identity is built, and we go to great lengths to defend it, we believe in it, and we know it as our own, in all its weirdness and flaws.

But what if we have made our own pedestal too low?

What if we have made it just high enough so that we can indulge ourselves in our uniqueness, but low enough to prevent exposure to judgement?.

As teenagers go through their process of self discovery, for a brief time they are not afraid of making those pedestals as high as they can, but the onslaught of public -and often parental- opinion, the requirements to conform to ideals in order to allow career opportunities to flourish, media imagery and peer pressures generally mean that in most cases the level is rapidly reduced to a safe, comfortable height. It is lowered to the level at which you feel you are able to avoid any dangerous exposure, criticism and judgement.

But this comes with a huge price: we launch into life with every intention to remain ordinary.

Quite literally, we disappear into the vast ocean of average, where there is little judgement, criticism and opinion.

We hear story after story of regret from those around us who have abandoned their vision to instead live normal lives. We never hear regrets from those who dared to stand out.

Perhaps the music and entertainment industry is one place where the evidence of this is most visible, but it spans into every human endeavour.
Just imagine for a moment that in 1973 Paul, Gene, Ace and Peter stepped onto the stage without the makeup and outrageous costumes, the pyrotechnics. KISS found out very quickly in the late 90’s that the thing that made them special were their make-up, the outrageous costumes and the huge shows, not just the music. Not only do they love doing their thing 40 years on, today they are worth nearly half a billion dollars US.

Imagine Dr Spock without his unusual haircut, ears and dry logic. Imagine if Master Yoda spoke and looked like you or I, we would not buy into his mysticism, jedi wisdom and magnitude.

Imagine Ghandi without his ascetic lifestle and traditional garb. Imagine Jacques Custeau without his red beret, Sir David Attenborough without the raspy whispering narration, or Russell Brand without his irreverence.

But don’t mistake it for an appearance thing.

Its a being thing.

It’s how you are, how you do what you do.

You have a something inside you that you think of as freakish, odd, perhaps a little undesirable, and you are also completely attached to. Something that even though you have relinquished it publicly, it still defines your identity in some secret way. It is something that you will never relinquish within.

I encourage you to reclaim that inner outcast, to re-acquaint yourself with its weirdness, and to allow it once again to define you. Take that idea, possibly weakened by its time in exile, bathe it, feed it, and give it new clothes.

Allow it to speak, listen carefully to it, and side with it. Side with it in defiance of opinions, of criticism, of attacks no matter how vicious. Defend it with great self belief, not with malice or arrogance, and it will take you towards authenticity, towards integrity, towards living your life’s true purpose. Side with it as your pedestal rises above the average, and wear it with pride and dignity, it is your armour against mediocrity, it is your true self, it is you being someone’s hero.

Go on. You know you want to…!

Stop impressing your boss (do this instead!)

For the larger part of the adult population, the single biggest share of time is spent almost exclusively in the company of work colleagues, clients, and bosses. And because of this idea that our relationship with them is pivotal to our life, these are the people who we are most likely to make efforts to impress, or at least, not get unnecessarily off-side. The majority of them are people who we have never deliberately sought to share time with, they come into our life as part of a career (and usually leave with it when we change direction). In many cases they may even people who we are in direct competition with, who perhaps may even be a threat, requiring us to be even more impressive.

The relevance or lack of relevance of these relationships has a profound effect on our lives, but even more so on the lives of the next generation. When they look at you do they see substance in your purpose, in your relationships and your actions?

It is easy to jump to answer this and say “Of course!” – but the perspective from which this must be answered is not our own, it is from theirs.

That changes everything.

One very current example is this: As parents we naturally expose kids at an early age to natural icons. Rhinos, Giraffes, Elephants, Gorillas, Polar Bears, Whales. Bees. There are adventures of journeys through untouched wilderness. For most kids in primary school now, these icons are becoming increasingly likely to be extinct when they become adults. And they know that. They also know that we are somehow responsible. Perhaps not directly, but indirectly the finger points squarely at us.

This is why it changes everything:

We have inadvertently sent a very clear warning to the next generation to not follow us, to ignore our advice. We have inadvertently sent a clear message to the next generation that we don’t really care what happens to them. We have created a role-model vacuum. We have created an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, of defeat before they even begin their race. We have created a toxic environment (real and figuratively) into which they have no choice but to walk into.

But we can also change everything.

While the role-model vacuum is being filled by escapes into digital worlds where battles can still be won and where heroes still exist (for better or worse) I believe we have a moral obligation to reclaim this space. It is simpler than you think, although it requires some work – possibly difficult work because it is mostly work within ourselves.

It is simply this: Begin to shift your focus away from trying to impress your colleagues, and towards impressing your kids, whatever their age. It does not mean that you take up extreme downhill cycling, or mask up at night to become a vigilante. Here are some suggestions that won’t put you in hospital or jail.

  • Do stuff that matters. Not just to them but also to you. By spending every “free” hour entranced by a TV with a drink in hand you are declaring that you have given up yourself. Failure and defeat does not inspire, it robs others of hope, it kills possibility.
  • Show the value of life by valuing yours, and everyone else’s that you come in contact with.
  • Show respect for the natural world that they are heirs to by treating it as if it was theirs.
  • Invest ethically, into ventures that are not in conflict with their inheritance.
  • Consider who you work for. Perhaps it is time to work in an industry that is not engaged in socially or ecologically destructive practice.
  • Be kind and compassionate, not just in their presence.

There is no measure to the respect that these simple things will earn you.
There is no measure to the outlook and hope you will give them.
There is no measure to how much greater your life will become as a result.
There is no measure of how great a change is possible when many people do simple little things that matter.

And that will change everything.

Why your experience does not matter (and how to make it matter!)

I get many opportunities to meet experts.

Some are openly proclaimed experts, people who are respected by their peers, who have a long trail of recognitions and publicly recognised accomplishments.

Others are people whom I consider to be experts, people who inspire me with their contagiously great attitude and profound ability to contribute wisdom around a specific subject.

Regardless of the credentials, there is a perhaps more profound difference, one that does not necessarily correlate to the level of public recognition or generic idea of success. It is anchored around our attitude towards experience.

The words expert and experience are both founded on the same latin root which can be translated as “derived from testing/observation”.

The key word is not “testing/observation”, the most important word here is “derived”.

It implies that we have acquired something valuable through the process.

A person who has lived through a specific event has experienced it. However that is no assurance that they have learned from it, and that the lesson that they have gained from it have augmented them. In fact for most people the very opposite is true. We all accumulate experiences throughout our life, that is something we have in common with every single other person.

Experience on its own is actually a rather poor representation of a person’s depth of character.

For example, you woke up this morning. You also did that yesterday, and the day before. Perhaps you had to hit the snooze button a few times before extracting yourself from the comfort of your bed. Or perhaps you leap out of bead every day ready to get underway with your day’s activities. Either way you could consider yourself an expert in the art of getting up. Sure, this may look like completely ludicrous example, but here is the catch: Have you ever thought “I need to stop the snooze thing because it makes me late for work”, and not altered your behaviour as a result of this simple insight?

It may not be the snooze button for you, yet I bet some things are immediately coming to mind.

This experience loop goes far beyond getting up: it is how most people live.

Every moment of our lives we experience something, and for the great majority of time it is something that you have experienced before.

The entire work and career industry lives and dies by this idea of expertise. It is not to say that having done something before is not valuable, but beware of the claim that having done something 300 times makes you a master. It does not!.

The question is not how many times we have done something, but how much of what we learned the previous time were we able to apply the next time.

We must set ourselves a new yardstick for expertise. One that gauges not what we have lived through (sometimes repeatedly), but how much of what we have experienced have we used to transform ourselves into a better person.

When someone offers you advice on the basis of their expertise, ask what they have learned from it and how have they used it.

Ask yourself.

Put aside a few minutes to reflect on each day, perhaps even journal it. Every moment of our lives we experience an unfathomable wealth of wisdom.

We need only be mindful, aware, open and grateful for it. Then our experiences will truly become expertise.

The fights we do not have to fight.

Gratitude.

Its a big word, and like many big words, it has become diluted through mis-use by all kinds of motivational and spiritual experts. so perhaps it is appropriate to attempt to reclaim it’s true potency.

It is often said that the character of a person is shaped defined by the challenges he or she has faced. But that is only half the story. The other half is the things that they do not have to face.

I am reminded constantly of this, and you can too. It is simple, just pay attention to those around you.

For example the semi-trailer rig that stood near stood near a local shop this morning: it had a spoiler engraved with white calligraphy words “RIP ZAC” followed by dates. Those dates told me that Zac was 16 when he died. Perhaps this was his father’s truck.
Or a conversation I had yesterday afternoon with a good friend who some years ago was hit by a car and knocked off his bicycle, sustaining nearly fatal physical and some brain injuries. When we talk, I can sense that his world has different limits to mine, and the challenges that I take for granted are sometimes mountains for him.
Or closer to home, our hot-water unit broke, and for a few days we were inconvenienced with hot water rations until it was replaced. This may sound trivial, but we must not take for granted the privileged circumstances that we live in. I mean we as inclusive of you, reading this, and I, writing this.
Every day we wake up in a world where we are faced with challenges. But we also awake into a world where we are spared some pretty severe challenges. Here are some of them:
  • We do not walk two or more hours to collect a drum of water and then walk for two more hours to cook, or perhaps wash ourselves or our baby.
  • We do not wash our only items of clothing by hand every few days.
  • We do not go hungry simply because we have no access to enough food.
  • We do not require (at least not yet) someone to assist us to move around, or perhaps are dependent on a machine in order to stay alive.
  • We do not need to constantly flee from frequent violent attacks, and have to hide to stay safe, or keep ourselves and our families alive.
  • We may not need to mind what is in our food, least we have an allergic reaction that could kill us.
The reason I have made this list, is because I know people whom I respect and admire who have fought or are fighting some of these battles. But the point I wish to make is simple: the list of things that you do not have to deal with is far longer than the troubles that you do have to deal with. And with absolute certainty someone you know is dealing with something that if it were on your list of challenges would crush you.
What does this have to do with gratitude? It’s this: as we wake each day we face challenges that consume us, they are the essence of our day. We curse, we stress, we perhaps let them colour our mood, tarnish how we deal with ourselves, and how we deal with others. How often do we stop to consider what it is that we are being spared from?
Perhaps this is the question we should begin each day with. It is enough to change your perspective, enough to create a genuine deep sense of gratitude for the challenges that face you. It is this deep gratitude that makes it possible for us to take those challenges on with eagerness instead of reluctance, with energy instead of fatigue, with joy instead of resentment, and with courageous authority instead of fear.
Knowing this, and acting on this power is the true essence of gratitude. It is far to rare, but fortunately it is also highly contagious.

I’d like to invite you to become a carrier of true gratitude. What a different day you would have, and what a different day you would be creating for all those fortunate enough to come in contact with you.

The Burden of the “Also Ran”.

“I am not out to win any trophies, I am just happy to do well”

It seems like a fair enough statement, I have heard it and said it many times before. For most of my life I never realized how much this had actually affected -and cost me- in my outcomes.

Embedded in that statement is the self-image of a non-winner.
That is not the same as a looser, it is simply a separation from the winner that instantly implies not being one of them.

In doing so we have ruled out the possibility of winning, whatever that may mean in any given circumstance. It creates a mental club of exclusivity around winners, a club that you are not a member of. We inadvertently opted not to be a champion, and that is a two-fold problem.

The first problem is, we have a duty to be a champion.  Somewhere someone is looking to us in search of a champion, looking to us with the hope that we may be the one they are looking for. It could be your partner, your kids, someone in your family, a friend, a work colleague. Even when we don’t need the victory, it is often those around us who need them.

The second problem is that the easy goals, the low-hanging fruit, those things that are ours to loose, will elude us. We will just fall short, and because we were not aiming to win, we will not even notice that we didn’t. We were expecting not to win, so we don’t feel we are in the wrong place when we don’t win. This is an attitude that cripples us right from the start.

Pause and consider this for a moment: How many instances can you think of where an aspiration has simply never become real because you just ran for the sake of running?
…Can you estimate what that may have cost you?
…What opportunities were lost as a result?
…What other ones did you never even get a shot at?

You don’t need to win. True. But doing so on the basis of a self image that makes a possible victory impossible? That is a big price to pay.

You don’t need to win, there is absolutely no obligation. But you need to engage with every intention to win, just so that it does not cease to be a possibility. Will you win? That depends on many things, but unless you have a self-image that is capable of winning, you will miss out on a great deal of life experiences, and you deny yourself and others the power of your great accomplishments, and the inspiration that they become.

Put your sunglasses on…. and stop being normal!

People are looking at you.

They are looking you up and down, passing a brief but significant judgement, and most likely moving on to the next person. By then you have most likely been forgotten.

You know, because it is precisely how you are looking at them.

We as humans naturally have an interest in other humans. Most of it is driven by our primeval instincts to find a mate and to commune with a friendly tribe. You only need to go to any large public gathering and see people-watching in action. Yet we ignore the simple most obvious detail: we are also on show. By that I mean we are either displaying our sameness or our differentness.

But who are the people we find most intriguing and interesting? The ones that blend into the background, the extras, the rent-a-crowd? Or the odd one out, the ones on the stage, the heroes?

How often do we hear someone tell us how they just want to be “normal”. Then in the very next sentence they describe the extraordinary life that they wish for.

The problem is that “normal” is a barrier to just about anything in life for the simple reason that with a “Rockstar Lifestyle” also comes “Rockstar Exposure”. If you want to live better than average, you first need to reconcile with this simple fact:

You will have to be different!.

  • You will think differently, and people will disagree.
  • You will do things that others may consider odd, perhaps even distasteful.
  • You will use your time very, very differently, and some will feel shut out.
  • There is no way around it, you will be seen, judged, scrutinised, hated and loved.

But best of all, you will no longer live like the majority.

When you choose to be normal, you chose a lifestyle package that comes with that. It means that you will live exactly like the great majority of people in this world. When you choose to be different you swing open the door of possibility. It does not guarantee glory, that ultimately depends on how you walk.

As you kick that door of normality down, and walk into the vast gardens of possibility, put your sunglasses on (they will make opportunity visible), walk tall, smile. Be proud to be different. People are looking at you…

Give them your most wonderful reason to remember you.

 

“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. **

 

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. **