The Friday Dose #81

We lost two giants last week. Two men with immense capacities for compassion. Most people know Dr. Oliver Sachs thanks to the film about him entitled Awakenings with Robert Deniro and in which Dr. Sachs is played by Robin Williams. Sachs was quite a character, having had an unusual life that included everything from setting weight-lifting records to being a best-selling author. The brilliant program RadioLab recently did a piece on Sachs once he knew his cancer had spread and the would soon be dying. It’s a lesson and grace that we can all learn from:

Dr. Oliver Sachs Faces His Own Death

*

Next of course is Wayne Dyer. Wayne’s a legend in the transformational community and from my personal perspective, one of the clearest writers on the subject. Marianne Williamson’s (A Course in Miracles) prayer is so beautiful and thorough that I feel no need to add anything else. I wish every life was celebrated in this way:

We will all come to pass. Our days are limited and they are filled with potential. Use up as much of your own as you are able because there is no prize at the end–it’s the living that’s the prize.

Have a wonderful weekend.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Losing Your Cool

I acted like an asshole. It happens. I took a negative situation and instead of converting into a stronger, better connection with the other person, I lost the moment and I ended up compounding the complexity of the issue with too much thinking. I regret it, but I’m okay with it–if that makes sense.

764 Relax and Succeed - Show respect even to people who don't deserve itI have a church near my home and one rather ironic congregation in particular is pretty famous in the neighbourhood for disrespecting the neighbours (and really, each other too). They’ll park blocking the road, or they’ll block the alley almost every week and they’ve even been so bold as to park on a neighbour’s driveway, trapping him in his garage for two hours. This always feels decided un-Samaritan-like.

This group experienced a lot politeness from the bolder neighbours initially, although the quieter group was calling tow trucks so maybe those two forces cancelled each other out. In the end it’s never really changed. When I got home after running errands the other morning I saw the contractor down the street having to back his trailer all the way down the alley. The more convenient exit that I was coming in through was blocked enough on my side that he wouldn’t fit.

I rolled down my window and spoke to the young couple who was now blocking the other side of the lane too. I politely let them know that a neighbour would surely call the city if they left their vehicle there. The husband indicated he would move it (as many often claim they will and then don’t). And sure enough, when I walked back he hadn’t. Now the fact that I walked back already shows I was lost.

764 Relax and Succeed - It may look as if the situationWhy did I walk back? Why did I personally feel the need to police the situation? The truth: I hadn’t had enough sleep and I was grumpy. I was out very late at a friend’s wedding and I was operating on a few hours sleep and it probably didn’t help that I hadn’t had my morning coffee. I’ll usually catch myself being a bit short and I can usually I can settle myself immediately by just dropping any internal conversation and/or any attachments. Today I chose not to lose the attachment. Today I let the conversation in my head roll.

So I walked back to see if the future I wanted to live in had come true. Remember, I tell you that wanting is an ego-pursuit because it is. My ego wanted that guy to respect that contractor. I used to be a contractor and so I connected him to me, and I imagined him as a decent hard-working guy who was respectful and yet he was being forced to do something difficult for no good reason. Those thoughts added to my negative brain chemistry, which made it more likely that I would convert even more neutral experiences into negative thoughts.

I got attached to them moving the vehicle. I thought I needed it to be happy. And so when I saw their truck unmoved I was actually happy to see the wife returning to get her wallet, which she’d forgotten. I still quite politely told her about the contractor’s trailer and tried to contextualize that it wasn’t a petty request, it really was a big hassle for the guy to have to back out.

764 Relax and Succeed - Choose and direct yourselfI’m not sure, maybe my tone sounded sharp or maybe I had bad body language or maybe she’d been up late at a wedding too and maybe she was just as grumpy as me. She’s entitled. Either way, her reaction to my explanation was, “It’s only for two hours on a Sunday. You must hate God.”

What?!?! My reaction to that statement was far too rapid. My immediate calculation was that she had deflected their personal responsibility onto us, and worse she had justified it by suggesting my very kind and decent neighbours were only asking because we hated God. That lack of personal responsibility and that debasement of God really struck me inside and a feeling came over me that leads to bad news every time.

It’s a little rise. That’s how I feel it. Up until that point I can recoil my thinking quite effectively. After that it races forward and I get a shot of adrenaline and it invariable pushes out words that will be sarcastic and condescending. That kind of arrogance inspires me to want to stab someone with words that will reduce their confidence in that arrogance. And so I said something I deeply regret.

764 Relax and Succeed - When you judge anotherMy terrible and intentionally hurtful reaction to you must hate God was “No, my family was just intelligent and didn’t raise me to absolve myself of being an asshole with my car by conveniently believing in an invisible man in the sky.” That statement suggests that I’m against people believing in God or that I don’t believe in what could be called a sense of God, when that’s not true. I have no issue with God. But I pretended to so I could stab her with some science. She scowled and was off and I instantly felt like a jerk.

With no positive course of mind to pursue I simply walked away. But I was already well aware that I’d gotten lost in my thoughts. I immediately began to introspect. My ego wanted. It wanted that vehicle moved and it didn’t like someone turning God into a lame excuse for behaviour that defied the story of the Good Samaritan. I acted superior. I really did not like the feeling and I used it to motivate me to learn from the experience.

By the time I’d walked the few hundred feet home I had settled. I went through what happened to look for where my thinking took over. I realized that I should have noticed the first unsettled sense when I was motivated to walk back. From there it was the attachment to the car being moved, and then my thoughts tying this one experience to all of the others–which of course she’s not responsible for. And finally my ego’s distaste for people using a positive symbol to justify negative behaviour did not help. I’m bad with hypocrisy.

764 Relax and Succeed - Your best teacherI deeply regret what happened but I can’t go back in time so I’ll take it as a lesson. Maybe on the nights where I know I’m going to get very little sleep I can leave myself a note for when I wake up. Something that reminds me that I might be inclined to be grumpy and to keep an eye out. I think today that would have been enough to do it because when the negative thoughts showed up I could have contextualized them relative to me rather than her.

The reason I can’t regret it too much is that this is the yin and yang of life. We need these little moments to remind us where the path is. You can’t have a path without there being a not-path. The path I’m usually on feels very warm and pleasant. This did not. It reminds me why I endeavour to stay as mindful as I can each day and so I am grateful for having had the experience.

And if the lady I spoke to just happens to be reading this: you have my wholehearted apology. That wasn’t a nice way to speak to you. I do ask that you please try to respect my neighbours more than I was able to respect you that day. It’s wonderful you’re enjoying your two hours of holiness, but not if it translates to an expensive and unnecessary late-charge on a rental for the contractor. There’s room for everyone to win if we approach it with the intention of finding something that works as much as possible for as many as possible. Thank you. And I appreciate your understanding. All the best.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Status Addictions

763 Relax and Succeed - The bias of the mainstream mediaThere’s a new disease out there. You may not have really bothered to hone in on it, but you have an awareness that it exists. You’ve seen the symptoms. Some people have already unknowingly been affected and have toppled over the edge into a new kind of insanity. You can’t blame them. There’s so many transmission points in our culture it’s difficult for kids today not to be diseased by a very young age.

By “diseased” I mean the very root of the word: dis-eased. Our natural way of being has been impacted somehow. Life has a natural ease to it. How to win is clear: move your genes forward by ensuring you can feed and provide shelter for yourself and then self-actualize. Enjoy yourself. Maslow yourself. Become. But those fundamental priorities are disappearing fast.

Back in the day of newspapers you printed as many pages as there was news. But the formula got turned around backwards when the creation of cable TV created a much busier marketplace and as people looked to fill it, the 24 hour news cycle was born. That lead to journalism being reduced to speculation the majority of the time and increasingly celebrity culture began to really dominate in a way it never had before.

763 Relax and Succeed - If a man has an apartmentSo where you used to be known for singing or dancing or science or something you created, increasingly you can be a celebrity just for its own sake. In many cases you don’t need any skill whatsoever and–to the contrary–you can even be self-destructive and poorly mannered in terms of how you treat others. It no longer matters what the person stands for as a verb, all that matters is if you’re even superficially present in the media.

The other way to fall into a status addiction is through money. This is where you continue to earn money far past the point of it making any logical sense whatsoever. I was very close with an extremely extremely wealthy man and that was mostly what he talked about once he knew he was sick. He could not figure out why he had sacrificed his life for more money than he could ever use in several lifetimes. He wanted to know his children better. He wanted to be their hero and there was no time left. That’s a crazy trade.

These addictions lead to the same crazy kinds of behaviour as any other addiction. It will lead to things like billionaires suggesting they cannot afford to pay minimum wage, to billionaires like Ken Lay losing everything and dying in shame by lying and stealing to hide the fact that he had made some big mistakes in business. In the end trying that strategy lead to him being even more embarrassed and exposed than if he would have just met it head on with character, rather than reputation.

763 Relax and Succeed - People want you to be realYou don’t need to be a part of this mass addiction. Stop and ask yourself if your social media presence is relaxed and really you, or if you curate it for effect. Do you remove unflattering photos that tell the truth about you? Do you tailor your contributions for how they will impact others view of you, or your view of your own life? Do you feel that you are allowed to be your true self and still be successful?

Do not get caught up in what others think of you. It’s an endless messy loop of differing opinions and it totally misses the fact that you are the only person who can be perfectly you, so we can’t have you wasting time being things for other people. Yes, we all have to meld and cooperate to succeed and form a beneficial society, but you don’t have to surrender your true self to do that. You just have to respect all the other true selves.

We create celebrity culture with what we do. We show children through our actions who will get the attention. Einstein and a lot of other scientists used to be in the mainstream news and it made kids want to be smart. When the space race happened kids wanted to understand technology and how it worked. Now it’s primarily appearance for the mainstream.

763 Relax and Succeed - Seek to be worth knowingLet’s not teach kids their value is in how they look. Let’s show them they are so much more than that. But we can’t if all of our attention is on ultimately meaningless and mindless activities. Life is waiting for us to live it, we don’t have to watch others live theirs. So let’s all set a great example for kids and let’s make sure our attention is on enriching and rewarding things. It’s like having a healthy diet for your mind. From there your love and basic good judgment will take care of the rest.

Have an awesome day today. And all the best to you and all those you love.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

The Law of the Jungle

How good is your life balance between work, family and your social life and friendships? It’s tricky to do, and the constant connectivity of smartphones means you never really leave work. The question is, how much work do you need for success, what kind of success should you target, and how far do you go on that road before it’s too far? When’s work billing life for too much? When are you just being asked to be dedicated and when are you being asked to be abused?

762 Relax and Succeed - Your value doesn't decreaseAmazon is famous for its brutal corporate culture. Weird eh? They brag about it. Can you imagine if we were back in the days of Kings and Queens ruling everything, where your livelihood was entirely in their hands just like it is now, and you happened to live under the King who was a selfish jerk and then bragged about how bad he treated you? That would suck.

The thing is, you probably moved into the neighbourhood intentionally. You may have very actively sought to live under that King. Many many many people–yes me included–have worked towards external goals like wealth or power, but these are really all just attempts to to feel loved and respected. We want people to be impressed by us rather than to love our own lives by feeling connected strongly to our work. (See the second video in last week’s Friday Dose.)

If you go to somewhere like Amazon because they have their oar in some water that you believe in then you can sustain that for a career. You can love creating value for others, but that must be weighed against the cost that King exacts on his kingdom.

762 Relax and Succeed - What's money A man is a successShareholder Value is a much more ethereal thing that most people realize, and no one lays on their deathbed wishing they could stick around to make more money. But a nurse might welcome caring for one more patient. Or a carpenter might love building one more home he put real care into. Or a designer might want to create one last piece of jewelry. But if you’re only at your job for money and status then you’re most certainly doomed.

At your death-bed you’ll realize that neither money nor status goes with you. But the other folks have already lived the joyous moments of a connected life. They carry with them the sense of a life of real value and purpose because it wasn’t about themselves, it was about others. Their lives will carry forward. This is key. Otherwise you will crush yourself.

There’s no way I can criticize someone for pursuing hollow dreams when the nickname some girls painted on my gym bag in Junior High was “Mr. Billion.” I had my first business while I was still in high school. I bought new cars and stupidly expensive clothes. When you look into the face of a kid starving to death due to money, and you spent most people’s monthly wage on one outfit, you just realize you could have done a lot better. You could have made the kind of difference that you would really feel good about. And so next time you do.

762 Relax and Succeed - The poorer we are inwardlyWe’ve got a pretty good brainwashing system. No one did it by design. It just kind of tumbled this way accidentally. But schools train people to compete and win with grades, and then that principle gets converted into money when we’re in the workforce. It’s a treadmill and only half the people figure out their on it before they die, and even then it’s usually because they got really sick or someone significant died to remind them that time is limited and how do you want to spend yours?

Maybe this is the group I feel most compassionate toward in our society. They are trying to impress us and that’s exhausting. They’re making really big sacrifices to get and keep their money and they will eventually realize that it doesn’t create value in our life. You can easily be super rich, in a fantastic house with fantastic cars and with a fantastic spouse–but if you have a crappy way of thinking none of that other stuff will make any difference at all.

Don’t ask yourself what you want to “do” for a living. Ask yourself what you can really get passionate about–where work won’t even feel like work–and then find or create a place where you can do that. Because if you don’t figure that out, Amazon etc. might just convince you to live in the dog-eat-dog world of their corporate and claw-filled jungle.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.