vulnerable - a picture of a boy in the rain

‘Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of Courage’ – Brene’ Brown

 

 

It’s been awhile since I last wrote, and the topic of the time was courage.  Over the weekend I watched an incredible Ted Talk from Brene Brown.  She explores the characteristics of shame and vulnerability (from one of her previous talks).  I have been on a journey recently that has helped me to be vulnerable and discover the time to let go.

In the wake of the passing of my mother earlier this year I was most definitely out at sea.  The world didn’t make a lot of sense and while I felt cocooned with love and support from friends and family, I was very vulnerable.

My natural reaction as such times is to run away, to drop what’s in front of me and take a journey.  I did the same this time, but the journey was already planned – a trip to an entrepreneurial conference in Mexico.  I was excited to meet the many people I’d talked with during the past year, and yet I remember the day I left for the bus to the airport I felt a deep anxiety.  I still feel the moment I stepped out the door, as I turned looked back and forced myself to close the door.  My wife left by herself with the night’s darkness.  I felt alone in the world, and still I took those first steps.

I had been looking forward to this event for over a year and arrived with high expectations of a lot of fun and excitement, challenging situations and exponential learning.  Three quarters of the way through the event, an incredible anxiety came across me.  I didn’t feel as strongly connected as I thought I would, I was concerned people might judge me, and that I didn’t have a strong story like a lot of people.  I felt weary.  I felt like retiring to be away from the crowds.   It was overwhelming.  I kept my barriers up, the anxiety built, and quietly I couldn’t wait for the end.

Have you ever hugged a stranger?  Like in a situation where just somebody has been there at the right time.  In that moment we have to open up and let go and become vulnerable.  As social creatures we welcome connection, but in this complicated world we have been presented with storylines that enhance fear, uncertainty, lack of trust, caution and protection.  The social conditioning enforces that we are to keep up our guard, to hide behind a barrier and treat people as an enemy first – not to be trusted.

I’ve hugged a lot of strangers.  I enjoy it.  If there is something that will make me smile inside for the day, it will be that I gave and received (a hug).  Some people come forward with a willingness, others with trepidation.  While attending ‘The Foundation live event’ in Mexico, I must have hugged over 50 people.  That’s a good way to learn how to let go and to be vulnerable.  Some friends were kind enough to quietly listen to my sensitive story – I would be travelling with that story during my entire journey.

The time I spent travelling post the event allowed me to breathe and take stock.  Something was holding me back, yet I couldn’t be sure because emotion and negative mindset had infused so deeply that I couldn’t experience it.  Fortunately I’d come across a transformative event to be held around the same time in the USA.

Years ago I swore I would never travel through Los Angeles Airport again.  The last journey was simply humiliating and there are enough good airlines, that I could in all earnest just avoid the experience.  Here I was on a Delta flight headed from Mexico to San Francisco and you guessed it, I had to go via bloody LAX again.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I was vulnerable.  I gave up my fingerprints (I thought that was reserved for criminals), my mugshot, answered 50 million stupid questions and legged it to the connecting flight.  My journey was to Santa Cruz on a different mission – to discover more about my background and personality at the Enneagram workshop.  I’d been convinced that Ben Saltzman’s event would be life changing (and challenging).

The next day I was faced with a direct assault.   Not from the LAX customs guys, but from a group of strangers.  I felt an incredible tenseness, like being on the edge of a cliff without anything to hold on to for support.  Here I was letting out some personal secrets to strangers, internal challenges and closely kept thoughts.  A storyline began to emerge.

Months earlier my Mum passed away.  It wasn’t a sudden thing and it was expected sometime soon – I just didn’t think it would have been this year.  I made a connection with my grief, my deep emotions, my raw self and with support of these strangers learned to start the process of letting go.  I could recognise in an instant how my holding the grief back was affecting every decision I made.

It was the reason I felt disconnected in a crowd of people, why I felt the need to take a journey to Central and North America, the reason why I felt a strong need for support and why my voice had gone quiet.  I simply couldn’t think clearly.  I had become anxious, alone, and disconnected (in my head), even though many good people were around me.

In that moment of letting go the tears came.  I managed to get my story out; the feelings flowed, the story was told, the support came.  Many people with generous spirit connected and offered kind words.  This is for me and this is for them, for all of the people who remembered my Mum.

Bye Mum.

photo credit: Tjook on flickr

Image of an Attention Chameleon

‘You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.’

– Paulo Coelho

 

What do you see in front of you?  Do you really see what is there?  Are you present and paying focused attention to it?

Maybe you have three things you must get done today.  Each of them jumbles your head and competes for attention, and you allow it.  You’re good at multi-tasking (you think) and are oblivious to the noise going on around you.  You probably missed the opportunity to get your work done more efficiently.  Maybe you could have got some assistance from that person walking by.

The fact is that multitasking provides less efficiency.  You are better off working out your primary task, forgetting the others and getting down to effectively tackling the work in front of you.  Sometimes I find it hard to settle so I go straight to my music.  At times I’ll use an app called focusatwill.  It uses music to boost concentration and even better it’s based on scientific research.

If we follow the same old routine each day the familiar becomes stale and things seem the same.  Well often they are but that doesn’t mean that you should pay them less attention.  Learn to see the things that you should appreciate.  Practice being more observant.  This is a worthwhile skill to build.  You can train your brain to focus and to pay more ‘on demand’ attention.

Take three days in a row.  Make a specific effort to spend a 30 minute period of your day being more observant, whether it be at lunch people watching, or on the way to work, or while out for a walk in the forest.

Comment below and let me know what you’ve noticed while paying attention to your day.

Photo Credit: John Goode

St Clair Beach - Dunedin

Tears are the silent language of grief.

-Voltaire

Just two months ago my Mother passed away… strange because it feels like six months change has occurred in that short time.  I’ve changed.  I’ve also learned a lot about myself.

Have you ever had to organise a funeral?  This was my first, with my brother we discovered stories and talked to people, found time to reconnect and explored the raw edge of grief.  I felt pain, relief, deep sadness, fond memories and loss.  I also crawled out of my shell, and with help organised the best send off we could muster for our Mother.  It’s incredible what you can manage in a short time.

So, I stood there at the lecturn (there must be a better word for the thing you stand at to talk at a funeral), fought for composure and place my speech on the wooden platform.  I began with a story of a journey on a linerfrom New Zealand to South America, before I was born.

About to arrive in Punta Arenas in the Magellan Straits Mum reflects on seeing Albatross gracefully flying at sea and wonders at the experience, having only otherwise seen them at the end of the Otago Peninsula. She likes the – quote – glorious view of rollers smashing against the windows.  Now the liquid levels on the tables slant a bit, and crockery slides around without the spectacle.  So disappointing.’  

Standing there in front of those people she knew my lip wobbles, I stammer out a few more lines and the tears drip on my cheeks.  I’m a grown man standing there in front of a crowd of people, crying, releasing the grief and loss.  Saying goodbye.

Through the challenges of life that she face confronting bipolar disease she managed to bring up two kind-of-balanced boys who loved her dearly.  We still do.

I learned over those days, although having been away from home so long, that I have a strong and supportive family.  And that through the fog I can manage with a clarity of purpose to make it just right.

I’m sure, as she always liked, my Mother is walking the beach, somewhere.

Bye Mum, I love you.

 

Golden Beach Karpaz Peninsula

There is more to life than increasing its speed.

~Mohandas K. Gandhi

 

I just made the most of a long weekend.  Early morning on Friday, I took off to get away from the routine of home and find a great place to leave the week behind.  This journey was a little different though – normally I would take a little work with me, something to do in those spare moments after I’d had my first day to chill out.  I’d left it all behind, the phone, the laptop, the business magazine review and the newspaper.

Total log off.

The first few hours travelling gave time to let go of the daily churn of work thoughts, find an acceptable radio station and just listen and drive.

I arrived at destination relaxo.  Rudimentary beach huts, full scale beach, limited punters and only time to lay around, read, eat and relax.

I’ve been on these trips away many times before, but always looked for the next great thing to do and explore.  This time was set for the total opposite of lift-off.  My time for logging out.  So I slept.

I slept in my beach hut

I slept on the lounger,

I slept on the beach towel,

I slept in the chair,

I slept.

Wow was that good.  To take the real time out and just let go.  Leave the work to the workdays and power up in the sunshine.

Next time you head away try it out – log off, leave the tech at home and take time to relax.

 

surprise

 

“The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with secrecy.”

– Carl von Clausewitz

 

Surprise.  A sudden feeling of wonder and excitement comes over us.

Taken literally it should make time pause for a moment.  Highlight that we are exactly present to the moment.  It’s good to practice presence – to pay attention to exactly the time not in front of you, but right there, right then.  Surprise is the best example of knowing we are absolutely present.

The other day I was at the airport.  Again the same old routine, check in online and go to drop off the large bag I was taking on the journey.  Approached by one of the staff I was asked what was in my bag.  My first thought was it’s none of her business, but I responded.  Then came the surprise…

Back in the hey day of flying staff were polite to their customers, welcomed them on their journey and sought to make them feel relaxed and comfortable, after all flying can be stressful for some people.  The standard procedure had changed, this flight attendant was determined that the carry on bag I was travelling with should only contain a laptop.  Of course I’d packed a couple of books, my camera, shoved in a few other loose items, a bottle of water and my toothbrush.

Repacking time.  Stressful.  Unnecessary.  Shifting your weight for the sake of it.

There is nothing special about this surprise.  Just that as a business model it only works through forcing compliance.  These big businesses seem to forget that a happy customer, one that receives a good surprise might return one day and fly with them again.

Well this time the surprise is on them.  I’ll just be choosing to fly with a better airline next time.  One that takes the hassle out of the journey.

successful-or-not,

 

We will be more successful in all our endeavours if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-centre ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living. 

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Everyone is chasing success.  I don’t know why.

Imagine the journey to become the best you can be.  To do so requires years and years of input, doing the same thing over and over (and over).  It’s fine to experiment and trial a few things but you will have to be super-focused on the minutiae and detail.  Some people spend over 40 years doing the same thing.  Same job, different day.  Yawn.

You can become the master at anything in just 10,000 hours.  That’s not 40 years.

How about working out the minimum possible effort you need to take to become fantastically brilliant at something.  Practice makes perfect, but as Tim Ferriss says…

‘By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too.’

Stop doing the busy work and the box-ticking stuff.  Ferriss also says…

‘Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most people to accept, because our culture [American] tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.’

For years I chased the standard model and put in the pain, sweat and tears – the personal sacrifice to work for the big machine, a series of corporate high consultancies.  I did my more than my 10,000 hours and didn’t become the master.

So, I failed…

Well not quite.  I decided to escape the 40 years trot towards standard old retirement.  Golf on Thursday’s, bowls on Saturdays and playing bridge on Monday’s.

I escaped.  That’s success.

Now I can do what I choose.  I’m unchained, unencumbered by the 9 to 5 race.  For me though success comes when I have made the DEAL – to have put in place the constructs that lead to living a life of freedom.

To have freedom from doing the things that I just do not like doing.   And the freedom and courage to pursue my dreams without doing work for work’s sake.

When I’ve managed that I can say that I am successful.

 

Dingo Beach

Be yourself; Everyone Else is Already Taken

Oscar Wilde

 

For years I would look around look at what other people would do and simply copy them.  I lacked courage and conviction to simply be myself and lived every day with a strong negative inner voice.  I walked with a little buzz of anxiety, wherever I went.

Concerned about the ‘What will everyone else think?’ question, I would often hide, or not do things because I was afraid of being singled out.  For not being normal.  For being different.

Well, I do just happen to be different.  I can be myself.  I can explore with confidence.  I can say No.  I can choose to take off and travel.  I can share my time, or just find a quiet patch on the beach to watch and think and just be me.

 

 

Without resistance there is acceptance

 Without Resistance there is Acceptance

I was going through my standard morning meditation ritual this

morning and heard some worthy and relaxing words.

Are you feeling resistance?

I have.

I did.

Today, There is no resistance.  Only Acceptance.

Today is a good day.