(Frey Freyday is simply a bunch of inspirational, motivational and other quotes meant to make you think, reflect, smile, even laugh a bit. Hopefully helpful, useful stuff….)
Control – [kuh n-trohl] – to exercise restraint or direction over; dominate;
Connect – [kuh–nekt] – to associate mentally or emotionally
You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Maya Angelou
The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you. Tony Robbins
I’m very happy with my life. I am what I am. I don’t worry about anything that I can’t control. That’s a really good lesson in life. Tom Watson
The world is so unpredictable. Things happen suddenly, unexpectedly. We want to feel we are in control of our own existence. In some ways we are, in some ways we’re not. We are ruled by the forces of chance and coincidence. Paul Auster
Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success. Paul J. Meyer
The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection. Robin S. Sharma
Live-tweeting your bikini wax is not vulnerability. Nor is posting a blow-by-blow of your divorce . That’s an attempt to hot-wire connection. But you can’t cheat real connection. It’s built up slowly. It’s about trust and time. Brene Brown
People are so fearful about opening themselves up. All you want to do is to be able to connect with other people. When you connect with other people, you connect with something in yourself. It makes you feel happy. And yet it’s so scary – it makes people feel vulnerable and unsafe. Toni Collette
I think any new technology that helps connect and create social cohesion is great. But at the end of the day, you and I are analog creatures. We have to take ‘oohs and aahs’ and convert them to 0s and 1s and then convert them back to ‘oohs and aahs.’ Narratives that work in social networks are the exchange of stories that are told well. Peter Guber
A great attitude does much more than turn on the lights in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities and people that were somehow absent before the change. Earl Nightingale
I like to control everything, and you cannot control everything. You have to at some point say, ‘I let go and I’m going to let the cards fall where they fall… For a control freak, it’s hard. Naomi Campbell
WORDS TO LIVE BY:
CONTROL and CONNECT
We humans like to control things – our ego believes that we can and should control anything. When we are fearful or when we come from a place of scarcity, we like to control. Control gives us a false sense of security.
Connection is what humans are really about when we’re in our best state of mind. We connect to others, we connect to nature, we connect to our creative self. We can connect with work, happiness, grief, struggle, triumph and loss. For those that believe, we can be inspired and connected to God, the Universe or the Source. We connect better when we come from a place of certainty, calm, and abundance. (In this case abundance isn’t referring to monetary or materialistic abundance – here abundance means an abundance of love, creativity, family, friends, and the connection to all of these.)
Often parents take the role of controlling their children or their child’s life. At first, when they are you, this is often needed. But as they get older, all parties might do better if the parent tried to connect more with the child and control less. A worried parent will try to control their child or the situation, which can stifle the child, hamper the opportunity to grow, and even hinder the parent/child relationship. By taking time to connect with a child (at any age) instead of trying to control, more intimacy is built, more insight, trust, and understanding comes about.
Men and women both have male and female archetypes. For instance, when a father is nurturing to his child, he may be coming more from the female archetype, more from connection. When a mother tries to control the child or the child’s situation, she is coming more from the male archetype and less from connection.
Control in any relationship; parent/child, husband/wife, etc. typically leads to less intimacy and the relationship growth slows.One human shouldn’t and really can’t control another in a healthy relationship. There may be situations where a mother is being more controlling and she isn’t connecting enough. This is typically a male archetype which can also make her less attractive to the opposite sex. Her attempt to control can push others away. Likewise, a male without any control can have the same result. There has to be a balance of sorts for each sex, there has to be the appropriate amount of control and connection.
As I stated before, our egos give us a sense that we can control life. We rarely do. Planning certainly helps and planning can feed creativity and opportunity, but control cannot. Planning a life or a situation or planning together for a strong relationship is wise but ultimately after the planning is done, we must let go and have faith.
Similarly, planning and giving gentle guidance to a child is helpful and nurturing yet we also must trust in our child and trust in the world and we must let go. Knees will get skinned. Bones may even break. Hearts will break. Mistakes will happen. Yet our guidance along the way will kick in and the child will learn and succeed.
Similarly, in our own lives, we may skin our proverbial knees and make mistakes – and we should all realize by now that we really can’t control much. The ego is wrong. Judgement is wrong. Let’s let go of the fear and have faith. Let’s connect with our world, our loved ones and ourselves and let good things come our way.
Frey Freyday was actually born out of something I created called “Words To Live By” (WTLB). Going forward, I will now not only share the quotes, as you may be used to receiving, but also a related (WTLB). In 1999, when we had our first daughter, I was contemplating how I would raise my new beautiful child, and I was thinking about how I can best educate her and my other children about values, morals, and other key thoughts about life. School offers education. Religion offers some values and morals. Parents offer most of it, sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally.
So I created a (WTLB) book, like a dictionary, which lists things like honesty, love, persistence, etc. with a definition that I created, with my wife’s input. I then turned it into a workbook with one word per page and space below for notes. For years we would discuss with my two daughters and they would draw pictures and make notes in the blank space. I may share some of those images with you. As they got older, they were less inclined to draw and more open to quotes and references from adults, hence where Frey Freyday came from….
(Simple Stuff are a bunch of inspirational, motivational and other quotes meant to make you think, reflect, smile, even laugh a bit. Hopefully helpful, useful stuff….)
As far as I can tell, Jim, worrying about anything at all is a pretty good indicator that one has begun thinking that their joy and prosperity will somehow hinge on pending physical events, other people, or angry green Martians. Can you imagine?! Phone home, The Universe (Mike Dooley)
Quick Relationship Tip: Remember: you are repeatedly training your nervous systems (and your partner’s nervous system) about how you feel about each other, no matter what you do. If you keep looking at each other in stress, you will start to associate each other with stress. If you look and act with each other in anger you will associate each other with anger. So be playful, loving and forgiving with each other – then you will associate love and happiness with the relationship 🙂 – Tony Robbins
6 questions successful, high-performing individuals ask themselves. http://youtu.be/02Bzjj1eeeo Summary: 1. Presence: What level am I in this moment in terms of my emotional and physical vibrancy and presence? 2. Psychology: Am I living my truth – am I being who I know I can be and interacting with others as my best self? 3. Physiology: Am I rested, fit and hydrated? 4. Productivity: What is my mission today – what must I accomplish today to progress my life? 5. Persuasion: Am I demonstrating bold enthusiasm when I seek to influence others? 6. Purpose: How can I serve greatly?
From Brendon Burchard
“A man arrested for shooting at the White House says he was upset over U.S. marijuana laws. Man, if only there was some way to mellow that guy out.” — Stephen Colbert
Everyone is lucky, few are prepared.– Michael Dooley
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” ~ John Quincy Adams
…Fast forward a few years…..After our firm lost 90% of our income from the one factory going direct nationwide, I struggled a few years finding what the next step was and despite the fact that I was working full time I didn’t take any salary the first year after we lost the big chunk of income. I was working and acting on faith. I had saved and invested for the past few years and I’m glad that I did because I was able to live off that while I rebuilt the business. My father had retired and I was running the business full time.
I had to search and find companies and products that I could represent and sell that would start to replace that income. It was a scary and exciting time. It was easier perhaps, because I had few responsibilities. There were some ups and downs in the business and in the economy but life was good for a single guy.
I had a great group of friends from college with which I still hung out. We called ourselves the Dudes. Now, after college, life and work sometimes got in the way. However, we still found time for roadtrips, parties, and other fun things. I have lots of good memories of laughs, practical jokes, talking, hanging out, traveling.
So one summer, our next fun thing was the Jimmy Buffett concert. I didn’t even like Jimmy Buffett but it was a chance to hang out with my friends and to have some fun in the sun……in a parking lot somewhere outside of Pittsburgh. So we packed into my white mini-van and drove. We sat in the parking lot and tail-gated. Frankly I don’t think that I even went in to watch the concert……
So we were partying, having fun…. Just as you do when you tailgate, we were walking around, mingling, and others were coming around to our spot. There I saw Jill again. (Jill was a friend from college who was always nice to talk with … I knew some of the people she dated and she knew some of the people I dated during college)..For the past 2 years, Jill was away at graduate school in North Carolina. Now back in town, she was with her sisters at the concert.
The concert came and went. A few weeks later my buddy from Maryland asked the Dudes to a hotel in Pennsylvania while they were in town for a wedding. For whatever reason, I faxed Jill to let her know we were going there and she was welcome to meet us. (before texting and email, faxing was an easy way to communicate-AOL was still in the early stages) At that point I still thought of Jill as a friend and I wanted to include her with my other close friends.
Jill came and we all had a good time. The next day everyone went their separate ways. Jill and I decided to go have lunch at Wendy’s. I don’t know what was in the Frosty that day but we laughed and had a good time. I made dumb jokes and she laughed. Something had clicked from the evening before. Somewhere in there we decided that we were fond of each and we began to date.
It was a different feeling, it was an attraction, sure, but it was also a head and heart sort of thing. I recall saying to myself, “She’s pretty, smart, funny. We’re good friends, I respect her, I have a great time with her, we can talk about things, we have great families.” I hadn’t seen it before that moment but we were a great fit. We liked spending time with each other and trusted one another. We could talk about anything. There were feelings there. From what started as an immature relationship as friends in college grew to that of young adults taking on life together.
I never looked back after that point. In my younger years I had been fickle and immature with some relationships. But when I thought about dating Jill, I thought, “Yes, this works, this makes sense, this feels right.” The relationship hit all cylinders; my mind, heart and body. I no longer considered dating others and no longer became distracted.
I continued to work in the business and tried to find the right fit for a company to represent. I found another company with a great product but it turned out the owner was taking all the profits and buying boats, etc. and didn’t bother to pay the bills. It’s tough for a manufacturing company to run when you don’t pay for the machinery. That company closed and I again had to start over. I found another company with really good people but their product line was limited and they started having quality issues. Soon because of customer feedback and quality issues, I split with them. It all started to work away at my credibility, since I was switching product lines.
I learned a lot about people, perserverance and life during that time. Many people stuck with me because of my dad, some because of me, some because of the product and / or service. Others took off in a heartbeat after years of working together and after giving them lots of free consulting and help.
I confess that I took some of these things personally, and my ego was bigger then, so it was tough. Plus I suddenly was earning much less despite working long hours, traveling many miles, and driving a white minivan. (A mini-van wasn’t great for a single guy in his mid-twenties!)
Cool, neat, little things happened to us when we were together….for instance one time we got bumped from a flight while we were flying to Florida. We got free first class tickets to anywhere in the continental U.S. So we picked the farthest point that sounded great – San Diego. We traveled to San Diego and experienced lots of great things – with trips to L.A. and Mexico. We again had cool experiences together there. San Diego grew on us.
Jill and I dated for a while but we didn’t want to wait too long to be married. We also didn’t really want all the big ‘fuss’ for our wedding. You see, the year we decided to get married, there were 15 other weddings…..we were invited to all 15. Jill and I were in about 7 of them, including her two sisters. It was crazy! Just think, we spent at least $50 (usually more) for a wedding, plus hotel and travel. That was an expensive year! Most of those weddings were crammed into September-December.
At first we were going to elope to the Outer Banks and come home married. But we decided not to do so, our families might have had hurt feelings, etc. So we decided to have a much smaller and elegant wedding. We wanted to pay for it all ourselves. I got a second job selling alarm systems. One large project paid for some of the reception, another paid for most of the honeymoon. Jill worked a second job and saved money for the wedding and other things. Our parents still wanted to help, so my parents helped by adding and upgrading the food. Jill’s parents helped with the wedding dress and photography.
Still, it felt good to pay for most of it ourselves. I was self-employed and I had decided to start attending the evening MBA program at Pitt. I enjoyed it but the classes after work were a bit tough, as were the payments. I did take out a loan for some of it and I tried to pay for some as I went.
After about a year, my new wife and I saved some money, used a small gift from my parents, and built a small Cape Cod. It was nice and simple. The upstairs and basement were left unfinished to save on dough. We were happy.
The thing about all of it was this- we were tight financially for some time. I actually had to ‘lean’ on my wife for 1-2 years as I rebuild the business, she often made more during the volatile time for me. Then I kept growing it.. She believed in me and I in her. Jill and her sisters were running a large child care center that eventually would have 80+kids.
(At this point I began to think about something that I’d see observe and feel for the rest of my life – it seemed that I was reaching out for a job, an opportunity, something that I was definitely capable of doing well – but I was pushed back. I think in some way I was being pushed or pulled back to where I was supposed to go. Maybe something inside of me or part of me was guiding me. Maybe it was God or something else. But so many times we all experience it – ‘that job would be great and I can do it ‘ then you apply and get smacked back royally. Maybe there’s a reason….almost like we’re being guided back onto the right path….)
I found some stability with my own business and really started to enjoy the MBA program. Many cool things were happening in our lives. Small things like the fact we got upgraded to a Penthouse suite with 3 bathrooms, a dining room with 10 chairs, full kitchen, den, living room, and skyline veranda in Toronto…..Big things like getting pregnant – we were expecting our first child!
Then I had a chance to move onto a totally different career. I got a job as an intelligence analyst. I felt like Jack Ryan from Tom Clancy’s series. I started working for the U.S. Department of Justice and I liked it for a while.
Leaving a cushy job – a good idea or bad idea?……..
….so that fall I returned to college a new person….really I felt like a man for the first time ever. As I mentioned, people treated me differently. I had a new confidence and self-respect. I can tell you that my relationships, grades, and life were affected.
I went to the fitness center 4 or 5 times a week. I ate better. I worked in the office and carried a 90% load of schoolwork. My grades improved greatly. My professors noticed my change. I began to think differently.
My parents now went to Florida from January to April. They bought a small place there and had a great time – they deserved it. My dad played volleyball 4 or 5 days a week and softball once or twice a week. My mother and father rode there bikes around the park most of the day and they socialized. They looked and acted years younger.
Besides some basic challenges, the year went on well. My father had a minor set back the next year but recovered quickly. I continued to run the business mostly on my own, using my dad as a valuable consultant. I would bounce ideas and situations off of him and we’d work together. My father and I did travel together to some larger clients, some tradeshows and other business. I got to spend time with him as a boss, partner and for the first time friend. It was a great time and I am forever grateful for that time. As time went on, I began to inject more of my own ideas and personality into the business. I had much to learn.
The next year of college came and I continued to maintain the balance of work, school, and social life. I began to enjoy the bit of extra money that I started to gather. Life was good.
I began to really taste independence. When I say that, I mean it in a few ways….I tasted what it was like to earn money, to save money, and to invest it. I saw my money grow in my investments, so I understood the passive nature of investing.
By the nature of our business, we set up dealers, home centers, and distributors. They sold our products. We earned commission. That was pretty cool. We earned money whether we were golfing, driving, sleeping or whatever. Sure we had to offer support, service and coordinate deliveries….and yes set up new dealers, but it was cool when I understood that there was a recurring revenue of sorts happening there.
The other part of independence was that we were living one about 30 acres – about 10 acres of fields in front of the home and office, and the balance behind us in beautiful woods. There was a small hillside on the on side of the property so that we were in a nice little valley. Not far in the woods, we had a creek. You could sit in the office in mid-summer and open the windows to a great cool breeze. You could hear birds sing, hear the bubbling creek, and look out and see deer.
If you wanted to take a walk, go fishing, it was all possible. There was an independence so that we were not tied to a city building, hampered by a commute and traffic. We weren’t tied to one employer. We had the freedom of recurring income. The independence that all people experience when they first reach a certain level of income was there. Life was good.
Later in my life I got away from many of these things. I worked in the city and had a very long commute. I worked for controlling employers. I would spend years longing to get back to that independence – the feeling that I controlled my own life. I lost the recurring revenue and the almost passive nature of the income. For many years, sometimes on purpose, sometimes because of circumstances around me, I lost independence. I can tell you this, it is much better, in so many ways, to be as independent as possible. I’ve had it and in some ways, I lost it.
As with any life event, I learned lessons. Among others, I learned the WORDS TO LIVE BY: Independence. Being free to act on your own, free to live where you want. I encourage you, define what independence means to you and what types of it are important to you.
I really grew over a few years. I learned a lot. I took some risks. I made some mistakes. I had successes.
One of the companies was about 90% of our income. We were independent but when you looked at the finances of our business, we were very dependent on one company. It wasn’t by design but because that company had such a diverse nature of products and because of how the territory simply developed, we were tied to them.
One spring we got news that this company hired a new set of sales managers. We got the call that one was coming to our area and we had to set up some visits. We approached it with a great attitude but he was pretty tough to deal with. Even though he knew nothing of the industry, he came across as egotistical, typically interrupted people, and was not a pleasant guy to spend the guy with…..
….he came into town a few times that summer and he’d typically tick off clients wherever he visited. We’d ask for help solving problems but he never solved one of them. He often was late for appointments and was disrespectful to me and my father. Then one day he asked us to meet him somewhere far. So we got up at 5am, drove to see this guy and we got fired.
That year, that company let go of any and every representative like us across the country and they went with some in-house salaried people. (Within 12 months that company also let go that sales manager!) Things change. You must adapt!.
So we drove all the way home on that beautiful summer day. I could tell that my dad was very upset that suddenly the business had lost 90% of its cashflow and the legacy he wanted to leave was not going to be the same. We tried to enjoy the day and we discussed the exit strategy….we also began to think about what the next step would be………
(This is one of a part of a series of WORDS TO LIVE BY. This series grew out of a workbook I first made for my young daughters and discussed at the dinner table. These Words include values, good ideas, and Words to aspire to….and learn from….enjoy!)
Clarity is something I think, as a whole, society, us, most of us, lack.
What do I mean?
Are you really clear about what you want in life?
Are you clear about your desires, dreams, goals?
For instance – I know many people, including myself, often talk about earning more and having a home business or something independent. We know we want more money, more independence. We know we want some sort of money set aside for a nice retirement, but then we stop there.
Clarity provides an idea, goal, understanding, transparency that we need.
If you can sit down and clearly write out your goal/plan/intention/idea, if you are clear what you want, all parties benefit.
How many times have you felt uncertain, uneasy about something? You just don’t feel right about it – often because you’re unclear about it, undecided, on the fence, etc.
I’ve had situations where I was in a bad financial jamb. I was cooked for the forseeable future.
For a long time I just tried to ignore or avoid the problem.
I felt uneasy, upset, stressed, confused, etc.
Then one day I told myself I’d sit down for 5 minutes and review all my statements and paperwork. Just 5 minutes.
Even though my situation didn’t improve, reviewing the problem – becoming clear what the situation was, did help.
Then I took a piece of notebook paper and wrote a very simple plan to move ahead.
I assure you that the plan was not complicated, high-tech, creative, or brilliant.
But I was now clear on the problem, and clear on action steps that I could take.
I felt a lot better. A simple step helped!
I confess that my wife told me I seemed happier. I saw a friend that day and he said I seemed more relieved (He knew my situation).
My wife and I have had challenges in life and we approach them differently for all sorts of reasons. Like any relationship, we had to communicate our expectations and come to some sort of agreement.
Many times, relationships are stressed because people don’t communicate, they don’t share expectations, and they aren’t clear with each other.
Now my wife and I sit down and spend just a few minutes on our budget, expectations for the week, for the next few months, for our common goals – we work together to get clear on our life.
It is a simple step that we didn’t take before and it added to our financial problems.
When you’re working, going to school, doing anything worthwhile (even not-worthwhile), being clear about what you want makes such a big difference.
How many people do you want to reach today with your message?
How do you want to contribute to the world/society/family/life?
How much income do you want to earn this year/5 years/10 years?
What kind of work do you want to do? How many pages do you want to write?
What things do you want to improve upon in _______?
WHat does freedom/independence/the ideal life really mean to you? What is the ideal day life for you?
What do you want people to ‘feel’ when you talk to them?
What is important to you – GET CLEAR!
We so often go through the motions, get lost in the noise, listen to society.
Our inner voice is so much better, so much more powerful.
You may believe in something else, but I believe in some sort of Creator.
I believe that the power or Source or whatever you want to call it is not just “out there” but it is IN US.
We are part of this Source/Creator/God.
If we get quiet, listen to ourselves, and get clear on what WE want, and let our inner voice guide us, rather than someone else, I believe that we can act with guidance from the Source/Creator/God – it is almost divine guidance.
It doesn’t need to take long either. Just take a few minutes and get clear on one thing….right now.
Below are some more thoughts on Clarity……
Think about the recently famous Felix Baumgartner’s Supersonic Jump from the Stratoshpere (on October 14th, 2012). Have you seen it or heard about it? If not – it’s OK – I wrote a post about it here on this site.
The reason why thoughts of that jump filled my mind is because Felix Baumgartner accomplished a very clear goal he set for himself about 5 years ago… it took him that long to train for it… but his intentions were crystal clear even though that goal 5 years ago might have seemed a little unrealistic.
I know it took him 5 years to accomplish it but you’d be surprised what you can accomplish in 30 days.
Just as an example, when I got laser focused on my blogging almost 60 days ago now, my blog traffic went from daily visitors in the teens and twenties to hundreds .
I sometimes listen, watch, and read stuff from a marketing guy named David Wood. David Wood spends close to 2 hours on the subject of clarity in this one podcast (and much much more) and how to set goals in such a way that they become so crystal clear that you can actually feel them as being accomplished.
Also, here is a video by Tony Robbins where he emphasizes how important clarity is to accomplishing goals.
What Tony Robbins says in that video is right on the money…
“Life Will pay whatever price you ask of it.”
Without clarity, you cannot accomplish any goal that you set for yourself.
You too, can have clarity, implement these methods in your business and start making the income that you deserve.
Do you ever get so busy with the details of your life and the countless things you need to complete, that you end up feeling exhausted and disconnected?
The result: Your mind becomes clouded and unable to focus and you start to make poor decisions regarding your priorities. You end up working hard instead of working smart.
What do you do when this happens? Do you take the time to step out of the situation to regroup? Or do you continue with what you’re doing, all the while feeling that you’re running out of time, besides you still have a massive list of tasks to complete. In the past, my natural inclination was to do the latter and, in the end, I would be left feeling burnt out with my spirits down.
Lately I’ve been running around preparing for several major changes in my life. I’ve felt my mind becoming consumed by the problems revolving around these changes. My eating schedule became irregular and my decisions felt clouded. When my clarity started to fizzle, I found myself making decisions and judgments based on emotions rather than on logic or intuition arising out of clarity.
The following is a simple technique I’ve used to reconnect myself to what’s most important: my inner self. In doing so, Clarity came.
I’ve always been attracted to the idea of a Spiritual Day or a Clarity Day, in which you spend the whole day disconnected from the information world and the many distractions of modern life, and start to connect within yourself.
If this sounds too mystical, don’t get caught up with the words, they are just linguistic symbols to communicate ideas. When you really get into such a day, it can become a source of great bliss and understanding of one’s self. During these times, we can experience tremendous personal growth, peace, and satisfaction.
This is also the perfect chance to clear out the noise and mental clutter that collects in our inner space from the hectic demands of our life. Through better understanding of ourselves and our surroundings, we gain more than clarity, we gain self confidence.
Similar to Self Dates or Alone Time, on a Clarity Day your goal is to spend an enjoyable day on your own and away from everyday distractions. Aim for minimal planning, so that you spend the day following your heart and enjoying the spontaneous expressions of the present moment.
Here’s an example of how I spent this past Saturday, when I deeply needed clarity and to connect with myself:
Basics – From 8am to 8pm. I was doing everything on my own, without friends or family. All distractions such as cell phones, home phones, computers, and TVs, were turned off.
Salon – I’ve always enjoyed getting my hair done. My favorite salon straightens my hair at each appointment. I sat there with my eyes closed and enjoyed being there. The girls kept asking me if I needed a magazine, and I would say “No thanks. I’m happy just sitting here.”
Walk – I walked out of the downtown Salon and drifted randomly uphill to the Capital Hill neighborhood. The day was so beautiful. I enjoyed looking up at the sky and passing by families of tourists and Saturday shoppers.
Café – I found a comfortable corner seat by the large windows at a local café. I pulled out my book and my journal. Periodically, I would sit back with my book in my lap and enjoy watching people. People are so interesting, and if you try, you can sense what people are feeling. I had a fantastic seat for people watching and deeply enjoyed the experience.
Meet a Stanger – I started talking with an interesting new friend who sat next to me. We talked about happiness, art, and creativity. It was very simulating and felt good to connect with another human being; they add meaning and dimension to your life.
Read – I read Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle. A short but enlightening read. It is full of bite sized wisdom to help find the stillness within you.
Meditation – 35 minute guided meditation. When I opened my eyes after the meditation, I felt like I was seeing the world with new eyes. I felt calm and happy. I followed this up by lying down on my yoga mat and visualizing all of the things I am grateful for. I got up feeling incredibly centered and present.
Journaling – with my new found clarity, I wrote out my thoughts and feelings. In doing this, it gave me a chance to organize my thoughts (which were the source of my problems), along with options for dealing with them. I’ve learned that recording emotional events and personal realizations in a journal can be a fulfilling experience. Especially when you read the entries several years later.
I stepped out of the day in a peaceful state and had regained my clarity. I felt like my spirit had been recharged. It also became clear that my problems are only as big as I perceive them to be, in my mind.
Henry David Thoreau famously wrote that most people (‘the mass of men’) live lives of quiet desperation. Most of us probably wouldn’t describe our daily experience as ‘desperation,’ but there may be an uncomfortable feeling that we are drifting along, not having a clear aim, not having achieved what we dreamed about in the past and yet not knowing quite why.
Usually, this feeling is not painful enough to drive us into making any real changes, so the danger is that we can drift along like this indefinitely. Many people who have made significant advances in life have had periods of intense discomfort which have forced them to go inside, reflect and become more aware.
For most of us, there are things we can do to become clearer about where we are, what we want and how to get there. These practices may be less radical that sudden upheavals and painful experiences, but they can be uncomfortable – learning new things usually is – and a gentle persistence will be an important attitude to adopt if you attempt them seriously.
The kind of meditation the Buddha is said to have taught is most closely reflected in Vippassana or ‘insight’ meditation. The technique is extremely simple: no special apparatus or prior knowledge is needed, just a quiet place and a period of time. All you have to do it sit comfortably with a straight back and observe your breath. Nothing more. In time, the practice is intended to bring about clarity and insight into the nature of the self, and that of reality.
Some years ago, I attended one of S. N. Goenka’s famous ten day Vippassana retreats. The Goenka organization is a worldwide group dedicated to teaching the practice of insight meditation. The retreats are tough – many hours of meditation, only two small meals per day, basic communal facilities such as dorms, and a strict code of silence. Attendees are not allowed phones, books, journals or any other form of intellectual stimulation.
The Goenka courses are excellent in the sense that they force you to meditate – there are quite literally no distractions, and one is forced to face up to the many obvious – and subtle – ways in which we try to avoid a practice which is so alien to our restless mind and which forces us to face some uncomfortable realities. But for those not quite ready to take the plunge, there are plenty of online courses available, such as those offered by Wildmind. It is also usually possible to find a local meditation centre offering guided evening sessions.
Meditation is a way of focusing on the present moment in a very intense kind of way; the practice of mindfulness is a way of being present throughout the day. It just means watching yourself, being a silent witness to your own feelings, thoughts and reactions, in order to gain clarity about everything you do, feel or think. We usually move through life in a fairly unconscious state, responding to circumstances in a conditioned way, unconscious repetition of learned behaviors.
Becoming more mindful is not easy – it requires a great deal of practice but will, in time, lead to a great deal of clarity and insight into what drives us. With this knowledge, we can make better choices and exert more control over how we respond to situations and hence what we experience.
Two books I particularly recommended are Awareness by Anthony de Mello and Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. De Mello’s book is full of anecdotes and stories which underline the importance and the (sometimes surprising) consequences of being more ‘awake .’
Our connection with the natural world
Although we might sometimes be tempted to see ‘nature’ as ‘something out there,’ separate from our experience, we are, of course, very much a part of the environment, and we naturally feel more centered and clear when we are close to our natural environment. We haven’t been living in houses and apartments for very long, and city living is a particularly new innovation which can be very stressful.
It is helpful to find time regularly to spend time in a more natural environment. This doesn’t have to mean trekking through the jungle – even walking through a park or a garden can bring great benefits. In Hong Kong, where I have lived for many years, it can be extremely difficult to find the time and the opportunity to get out into nature, but it is possible, and making a conscious effort to do so enables me to maintain more balance and perspective. If I can do it here in Hong Kong, I think almost anyone can!
Ok, I’m just kidding. I was going to call it the Wreath of Divorce, but then opted for the Wreath of Death – it sounded more like a Bruce Lee movie or James Bond franchise work, plus somehow the ‘eath’ in both words had a zen-like appeal. Why the title? Bear with me, I’ll explain.
So today me and the family woke up and we decided to attend church. Before church I was a little crabby and perhaps we all weren’t 100% our cheery selves, so we, …mostly me, were focusing on things that didn’t work, instead of things that did work. Never a good way to start a day.
I believe that I was pointing out things my wife was doing that I found erroneous, and I was annoyed by a few things my daughters were doing. None of the things were important or significant.
Then in church, as I was mumbling to myself about something I found annoying with my daughter, I suddenly saw a friend of ours wisk his child out of the church into the narthex, while nodding to a person in the crowd he knew as a nurse. The nurse and several people joined him outside the church. We all know that the child has had some medical challenges in his young life. We all got tense, you could see a few people tear up, and the priest made a comment as well. We knew something was wrong, but no one knew how serious nor to what extent.
My wife had the better frame of mind to join the other child in the pew who was now alone and concerned. She also later checked on the child and father. I wasn’t thinking well enough.
I had many emotions and thoughts during those tense moments….I think that I felt bad for the child and father, of course – everyone did – but I felt extra bad because I was ‘upset’ as so many silly, irrelevant and unimportant things that morning. Here I was, in some nice clothes, in a nice church, with a full stomach, with a job, with an income, with a healthy, happy family, surrounded by friends, complaining and grumbling about things I can’t really even recall now.
Things for the child turned out OK. Soon we found out that the child’s issue was over and that it wasn’t serious. The father later carried in the child and we spoke to him and found that things were better. They were checked out by an EMT and things were fine. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
Later at home, I apologized to my wife and we hugged. We both agreed that the incident gave us a nice slap in the face and a better perspective on things. I felt guilty, silly, and embarrassed for my earlier irritated mood.
So the Wreath? Every year we put up this huge wreath. When we moved into this house, a “friend” gave us this wreath. I use quotes because after I put up the wreath in the first year, I considered not calling them friends anymore. (just kidding)
The wreath is heavy, awkward and not fun to put up. The first year we put it up using a tall ladder in high winds. It must have looked pretty funny…a guy up on a ladder struggling with a large wreath, a woman below, and the two of them yelling back and forth in high winds…. The next year we tried something different. The following year, something different, again. We always improve a little.
However, putting up this awkward wreath on a small hook about 30 feet up is very much like a task one would find on AMAZING RACE. In fact I’m pretty sure they considered this as an event and a focus group told them it generated too much negative energy. I think the producers were concerned advertisers would pull their spots.
You see, my wife and I don’t always work like a well-oiled machine while hanging the wreath. In fact, after we complete the task each year, we often breathe a sigh of relief and know that our marriage is now stronger having survived “The Wreath”. The Wreath is a true test whether we should consider divorce, as it can strain the best of relationships, I think. But every year, we do well and we’re stronger for it.
Well this year, just before putting up the Wreath of Death and Divorce on the beautiful Sunday afternoon, we had the aforementioned incident a church. Suddenly hanging a decorative wreath our own beautiful home, which is warm, has electric and utilities, and considering those affected by SANDY, it seemed a whole lot better.
Any struggles on or about The Wreath were quckly dismissed as I continuously recalled my roller coaster of feelings in church, being concerned, sad, then relieved – and grateful for my own family’s good health.
Often times we get caught up in the little things, silly things don’t we? Hopefully we don’t need a slap in the face to help us remember how good we have it. I think that next time – and everytime, I look at the Wreath, I’ll recall the lesson from church and look at things a little different. Maybe my story can help you too.
I highly recommend that you take time to read it and watch the video(s)…….
It starts here…..
Have you ever been in an argument with someone where you realize, “Wow. This might be the end of our relationship!” It could be a tough conversation with a friend about hurt feelings that could end the friendship and make you enemies. It might be a business negotiation where instead becoming partners you become competitors. It could be a conversation with your spouse that could lead to a decision that you regret forever. These are dangerous minutes, right? Well, conversations like this we call “high stakes conversations.” If you win, you win it all. If you lose, you lose it all. The stakes are high. So how do you turn it around?
Today let’s explore one simple strategy called the Outcome Strategy.
You see, the problem with high stakes conversations is that two speakers tend to get stuck in an emotional opposition to each other. In other words: the more you take your position, the more I disagree with you and take the opposite position, and vica versa. When you get opposed to each other like this, you start reacting to me and the emotional dynamics of our conversation rather than the actual outcome you want. Instead of being proactive – and thinking creatively about what’s best for everyone, the conversation plays out as if only one of you can win this game. Now, what’s wrong with getting stuck in an opposition is that any two people having a high-stakes conversation are likely to have a lot in common: a relationship, a history, and shared objectives. When you get stuck in an opposition, you stop reacting to what’s good and only react to what you see as bad – the other person’s disagreements, opposition, disrespect. That’s what’s so dangerous – you’re likely to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The Outcome Strategy is there to stop that pattern, see past the opposition, align with each other, and find creative solutions for your outcomes. The strategy has three basic parts:
1. ASK TO UNDERSTAND. Simply tell the person, “I really want to understand you, your experience, and what you want. Please tell me what is most important to you right now.” In other words, you’re asking to understand their outcome. Most conflicts are triggered by a specific emotion -when the other person doesn’t feel you will look after their interests. When you become a great listener, this changes fast. The thing they’re upset about could be a policy decision, it could be that they want to feel respected, it could mean they sick of deadlines not being met. At bottom, what is upsetting them is the feeling that you are not willing to help them. Listen, listen, listen. Align with them so that you’re helping them get what they need.
2. ASK HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN – AND OFFER HELP. Pretty common-sense, right? When we rally for something, when we push for something to happen, we usually have a vision – an expectation, an idea, a preconception, a bias – on how it should happen or will happen. You need to understand the other person’s vision in very concrete terms. So just say, “What’s important to you is important to me, and I want you (and us) to have this outcome. How are you thinking it’s going to take place? What has to happen? What do you need? What’s the sequence of steps we need to take?” Don’t ask this in a challenging way. Instead, think of yourself as rolling up your sleeves, going side-by-side with the other person, saying, “OK, where do we start?” If you can, take notes and get the sequence of action steps to get to the outcome. Remember: if this is a high-stakes conversation, the upset was caused by the feeling that you’re not looking after your friend… so counter that by committing now to some steps and turn that around. Write your commitments down on paper. This sends a strong signal that you are cooperating and that the argument is over. Once the person understands that you are on their side and that you will help, you also have an opportunity to offer solutions that get you to the outcome more quickly.
3. RAISE THE COMMON INTENT. Now, once the person feels you understand their outcome and how they want to get it, once they feel you are no longer opposed to them, raise the intent. Here’s how this works. When we get into a high stakes argument, it usually devolves to you vs. me. Now that’s a restricted kind of “survival mode” thinking that kicks in when we get into a personal conflict. Now that you’ve aligned with the other person, share a broader intention – of helping you, helping me, of helping those around us, and helping in the long term. When you raise the common intent and widening the circle of people who will get benefits, you have the opportunity also to introduce action steps that may help more people or bring the outcome on more quickly and effectively.
SOUND SIMPLE? The Outcome Strategy sounds simple because it makes a lot of sense intellectually. It’s actually a fundamental skill of problem solving that is useful in just about every high-stakes conversation you’ll encounter. So let’s take a real-world example. The day is September 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks in New York. Tony Robbins had been giving a workshop in Hawaii for 2,000 people from over 30 countries, 50 of whom had just lost friends, family, or businesses in the World Trade Center attacks. The group was incredibly upset, and there had already been outbreaks of arguments and fights. Tony stepped onstage and was guiding the group through a process of emotional mastery to deal with the fact of the event… when a young Pakistani man stood up to exclaim that he felt sympathy with the terrorists. So there you have it: a high-stakes conversation. One man with a minority point of view in the group, speaking in a highly charged, raw way about something that has upset everyone, while others in the room were having to be restrained from attacking him. How does Tony deal with this intelligently? The Outcome Conversation. It’s only 15 minutes long – but it transformed everything.
How did the Outcome Conversation work with Asad? Let’s review.
1. Tony asked Asad to share how he feels and why, so that Tony can grasp is point of view. Understanding Asad is Tony’s path to mastering the situation. He listens non-judgmentally, thanks Asad for explaining himself, and acknowledges his point of view completely. He also says over and over: “I haven’t had your experience, so I have zero judgment. This is just my opinion. If you want to tell me I’m full of it, I’m totally OK with that, because I’m not you.” This tells Asad that he’s justified in his emotions and that he has been heard and understood.
2. Tony asks Asad “How do you expect this will happen?” In this case, how is the terrorist attack supposed to further the Muslim cause? At this point, the conversation shifted. Asad realized that his position doesn’t make sense… violence would not lead the west to understand, it would just lead to more violence in the cycle. Tony gives Asad a non-judgmental space to figure this out himself. Once Asad realizes that it doesn’t make sense, he’s open to help.
3. Tony raises Asad’s intent. Asad is thinking big – he’s thinking about the Muslim cause and the plight of Iraqis torn by the war, so Tony meets him there and raises his intent even higher: how can we impact the people Asad loves in the most effective way? By condoning violence, or by making violence unacceptable? When Asad accepts this higher intent, he also accepts the responsibilities of being a leader – of seeing how his behavior will impact hundreds and/or thousands.
As a result, a conversation that could have been dangerous or disappointing ended up bringing everyone in the room to a higher level of intent, understanding, compassion, and intelligent action. Asad clarified his outcome and achieved it on that day – and as a result, he became a crusader for tolerance and greater understanding.
After this conversation, Tony invited Asad onstage, along with Bernie, a Jewish man from New York who had stood up to challenge Asad. Tony guided the two through a process of Indirect Negotiation. By the end of the evening, the two men had each had breakthroughs, embraced, and started an organization for religious tolerance. Today Asad continues to work as a crusader for peace. Here is his talk at a TED conference in Karachi, Pakistan.