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KNOWING vs. BELIEVING

A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Friday, 28 June 2013

LOOKING GOOD FOR YOU

So how often has it happened to you that your home has started to resemble the municipal landfill site when, out of the blue, you hear that a friend will be dropping in unexpectedly?  And at the same time you happen to be wearing your favorite 20 year old T-shirt with a hole under the armpit and a ketchup stain over the belly button?

In a panic you run around stuffing things into already-bulging cupboards, pulling up the bed covers, throwing dirty dishes into the microwave and used underwear into the wash basket.  The T-shirt is exchanged for something smoother that has actually seen an iron recently and ostensibly everything is suddenly looking good for your unexpected guest.

The question is: why wasn't it looking good for you in the first place?  Why is it sometimes OK for us to live our lives less than impeccably, but we then frantically re-arrange our lives for others to give a different impression?  Who are we really kidding?  If you're not living your life impeccably, there is always one person who will know.  The same person who knows about you cheating on your diet, cheating on your partner, living in a mess, not having your affairs in order.  If that's OK for you, why isn't it OK that others should know about it as well?

The truth seems to be that if you fear the judgment of others, then you are already judging yourself.  And if that is so, then what is the judgment about?

Most importantly, if the judgment is about you not being or doing your personal best, isn't it about time that you started being that for yourself: looking good for you?  It might make it just that little bit easier to look yourself in the eye in the mirror each morning.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

GETTING THE WAKE-UP CALLS

Our lives present themselves as a series of wake-up calls. Every moment that Life delivers to us is another invitation to wake up to what is on offer.  For most of us, we will keep on pushing the Snooze button and rolling back into unconsciousness until the calls get too loud to ignore any longer.
The loud calls tend to be brutal: health challenges, environmental abuses, deaths of those close to one.  Eventually the loudest wake-up calls can no longer be ignored.  What is always on offer is another way of being, or perhaps another way of doing.

The invitation therefore is to respond to the gentler wake-ups before they become brutal.  To get the small health wake-ups before they turn into heart and cancer issues, to heal the minor relationship issues before they turn into divorce, to be complete with unfinished business with others before they die, to start recycling before climate change is irreversible.

Getting the wake-ups is not just about avoiding disaster.  It is also about waking up to your purposes and to all that Life has on offer for you.  A brutal wake-up can be the message you need to get onto the correct track.

So what wake-ups have you been getting? And when did you last hit the Snooze button?

Thursday, 20 June 2013

FEAR AND THE ART OF CHOKING

Edgbaston, Cricket World Cup 1999 semi-final.  South Africa need 1 run off the last two balls to beat their arch-rivals, the mighty Australians, for a place in the final.  In disorgansied panic, Allan Donald and Lance Klusener lose their heads, contrive to get run out and the Ozzies march into the CWC final.  Fast-forward to June 2013 and the whole South Africa team, bar one or two exceptions, lose their heads and bow out of the Champions Trophy semi-final in similar fashion.  In fact, look back 20 years and there is only one piece of silverware that they have brought home from any meaningful tournament, despite on each occasion having a team which, on its day, could have won each tournament.  South African cricketers carry the choker's tag and can't seem to shake it off.  Why?  In fact, why do any if us choke under pressure?

When the pressure mounts and the stakes get high, it is easy to become fearful of failure. The mind gets caught in a tyranny of "have to's" and "or else's": I have to do well; I have to succeed; I have to be careful; I have to...take no risks...not fail...look good...be careful...win OR ELSE I'll lose...look stupid...be no good...let everyone down...be not good enough...be unreliable...be a failure.

The problem is that the fear of failing has you doing things differently, the way you wouldn't normally do them, in order to avoid failing or losing.  And when you do things differently, you get different results.  Your natural game in a cricket match may be attacking and aggressive.  Now you get scared that that approach might cause you to lose your wicket, so you play a conservative and cautious game - unnatural for you - and bring about the very result you most fear.

 The challenge is to break the cycle of "have to's" and "or else's" And see them cor the illusions that they are.  As long as those are present, you are living in a state of survival and there's nowhere to hide. 

It requires plenty of breath and a step through the fear into a place of anticipatory excitement.  As long as you're breathing, you're not choking.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

"THE ROAD TO HELL IS PAVED WITH..."

The old saying goes that "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."  One of my teachers, the late K Bradford Brown, mused that the road to hell is rather paved with distractions from good intentions.

The "good intentions" are the purposes and objectives in our lives.  Without those, we flounder.  So, nothing wrong with having good intentions.  The real issue is when we don't give effect to the good intentions.  Having a purpose, or even a simple objective, without a plan for actualizing it and without then giving effect to that plan, amounts simply to a daydream.

Set the good intentions, by all means.  Give effect to them by putting in place and setting in motion the actions around them.  

But watch for the sucker which comes along in the guise of a better intention.  It is so easy to sacrifice the effort to get on track with a particular result at the altar of a more seductive result, which may in the end not serve your greater purpose and will almost certainly lead to you not completing the first objective.  That is the path on which the true road to hell lies: in the distractions from achieving what you really and truly want. 

Monday, 17 June 2013

ORDINARY PEOPLE DOING EXTRAORDINARY THINGS

Last week I went to Lewis Pugh's book-launch, "21 Yaks and a Speedo".  Lewis is a maritime lawyer by profession, but has found his true calling, which is to do long distance and cold (actually freezing) water swims to draw attention to the plight of our oceans.  Lewis' feats are legend - swimming over 1km at the Poles, swimming 1km near base camp at Mt Everest, swimming 140km across the Maldives archipelago, English Channel, Robben Island, and, and.... 

Lewis is an inspirational speaker and conveys with wonderful passion and humour what it is that he does and the lessons he has learned in overcoming the challenges he takes on.  By any standards, what Lewis does is extraordinary.

What is it that he particularly has that drives him through these challenges that the rest of us don't have?  Nothing, really, in my humble opinion.  What it takes to dive into zero degree water is immense courage, tenacity, passion for his cause, purpose, confidence, willingness, reliable support, intense preparation and above all unrelenting commitment.

There is no one of us incapable of delving in and drawing out those qualities, if we so choose.  But will we?  Some of us do so, in other contexts.  There are many heroes around, all of whom exhibit similar qualities.  Oftentimes it is the seemingly ordinary folk who can rise to challenges and do extraordinary things.

At some level, we are all just ordinary people, but also capable of doing extraordinary things.  That is the lesson that Lewis offers.  Whilst we may not necessarily be drawn to freezing water (I know I'm not!), we can choose to do extraordinary things anytime we manifest passion, courage and the rest.  

So, thank you, Lewis, for that lesson, and for all you are doing for our planet.  What you do is extradordinary.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

OF HACKERS AND FLOW-ERS

My good friend, Hamilton Wende, posted on F/B the other day:

"Friday morning... watching the men redoing our driveway hacking at the earth all week with pics and shovels... its good to be reminded that sometimes one just has to hack away at things ...."


Some of his friends commented:

Friend A: "I love hacking away at things; particularly at that little voice in my head that keeps interjecting with 'do you really know what you are doing?'"
Friend B: "Hacking away seems like an apt description of life really."
Hamilton: "Sometime it is and sometimes it flows but when it's not flowing you gotta hack."
Friend A: "And when it flows it becomes the meaning of life.  Bliss!"
Friend B: "Have to say I feel I have been hacking for so many years that a liitle flowing would be good now."


My tuppence-worth: So the first question is: Do you hack at Life or does it flow?  The second question: If you are principally a hacker, what are you going to do to get Life to flow?

The difference between hacking at Life and letting it flow seems to me to be around the question of having a purpose and opening the purpose up to Life's possibilities.  A purpose is the channel through which Life flows.  


Having said that, if we have a purpose with an agenda, the moment we try to force our agenda on Life, the chances are we start hacking.  The agenda is like saying to Life, or God:  "I'll manage this piece on my own.  I don't need any help."  Life doesn't always respond well to that approach.  As the late K Bradford Brown used to say: "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."

When we simply set a purpose and then open up to possibility, recognise it as it presents itself and then say "Yes" to what Life has presented, Life starts to flow.  The moment we insist on "my will" rather than yielding to "Thy will", chances are we are going to start hacking.  Let's rather be flow-ers (or budding flowers?).


With thanks to Hamilton and friends for the insight.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

DOING YOUR BIT - MAKING A DIFFERENCE - BEING HEARD

Do you ever think that you aren't important, big, wealthy or influential enough to make a difference?  Think again. Whoever you are, you have a voice and ARE big enough to make a difference.  Perhaps think especially in the context of stopping GMO foods and taking a stand against the Monsanto's of this world.

In the book "Connected: The surprising power of our social networks", we learn that we are only 6 degrees (connections) away from anyone else in the world and that we have 3 degrees of significant influence.  What this means firstly is that by making 6 jumps via my friends, and my friends' friends, and my friends' friends' friends and so on, i can get a message for instance to the President of the United States.  The second and more important point is that I have a measure of influence over each of my friends (1st degree), who each can share my influence with each of their friends (2nd degree), who in turn can share my influence with their friends' friends (3rd degree) before my influence fades.  If I have 200 friends (most of us know at least 200 people fairly well) it means that I have direct or indirect influence on 8,000,000 people (200 x 200 x 200).  That's enough to make a difference, especially if each of those 800,000 starts his or her own similar campaign, because then your original campaign will potentially reach 320,000,000,000 people, which is many times more than the world's population.  Even if you can't count on all 200 of your friends to share your concerns, you should have the general idea about the power of social networks.

Now, back to Monsanto and GM foods.  What's the problem?  Well, there's plenty of internet research available to say that neither is helping our planet much.  Try this one, for instance, which says inter alia: "Seralini said the effects of the GM crops were similar to that of pesticides, including inflammation disorders, and problems with livers and kidneys, two major organs involved with detoxification."

The pro-GM and Monsanto lobbies of course insist that the GM foods and Monsanto pesticides are harmless to humans.  Which makes me wonder why no less than six EU countries have now banned them....Sadly, the US obviously thinks the Europeans are a bit daft, because the US still insists that there is no danger to its citizens, or it simply has its head in the sand, going even further to legislate the so-called "Monsanto Protection Act".

It's not for me to persuade you about whether GM foods and Monsanto are good for you or not.  There's enough info around for you to make up your own mind about whether you want GM foods in your life and whether it's OK for Monsanto to carry on poisoning the planet.  I've made up my mind.  I won't buy Monsanto or GM foods.

More importantly, I'm starting my own campaign of support for the anti-Monsanto and GM food movement by posting this blog and inviting you to take a stand for your health and that of the planet.  Stay off GM foods, insist that they be labelled and stay away from Monsanto products.  If you're with me, please SHARE with all your friends (you don't have to LIKE this post - liking doesn't make a difference) and have them share with theirs.  (That's pretty much how Avaaz works, and they make a massive difference around the world.)

If you're OK with GM foods, then no need to share.  However, remember in any event that you always have an opinion and a voice, so use it whenever you want to make a difference, because your voice matters.

Monday, 3 June 2013

HOW DO I ASK FOR MONEY? or VALUING MY SELF, Part 5


My last few blogs have been about distinguishing market worth from self worth.  Today, in this final part, we will look at how we measure self worth.

For market worth purposes, we set a value and offer our services and widgets against that.  Even if a client thinks (and says) that he hasn't got value from you, his only basis for that judgment is measured against similar services in the market.  However, whether he is wrong or right, that doesn't make you unworthy as a human being.  It is only the fear of what others might think of us that allows us to pre-judge the issue and determine ourselves unworthy.  And when we are in that fear space, we mark ourselves down, concluding that we deserve less than what we are actually and objectively worth.

Perhaps the danger lies in trying to place a monetary value on our worth.  Am I worth 10c an hour, or $1,000 an hour, or something in between?  If that market rate is hooked up to our self-worth, the chances are that it will be set lower than our true market rate if we are not truly honoring and respecting our own self worth as human beings.  If our sense of self-worth is free-standing and derived purely from the recognition of who we are as human beings, we can comfortably ask for any amount of money and not fear the possible resistance we might get to the invoice.  


The simple fact is that none of us can put any price on our worthiness.  How do you measure the value of your ability to love and your loveability? What price on connecting with someone authentic and real? How do you buy another's humanity, or empathy or any other true essence of that person?  The answer is that you cannot, because those are all priceless.  

As there is no one of us who does not have those qualities and the capacity to exhibit and live them, it is incumbent on each of us truly to honour and respect the inestimable value of our worthiness.  The only challenge is to recognise it.  Once you do, you cannot possibly thereafter obfuscate your need to earn money with the realization of who you truly are and what you bring to the Universe.

So the secret of asking others for money is to honour yourself first and foremost.  Then transcend the fear of what they might think of you: it doesn't really matter in the end.  The only thing that matters is that YOU honour and respect yourself (objectively) for who you truly are. If that piece is handled, the rest is a piece of cake.


Saturday, 1 June 2013

HOW DO I ASK FOR MONEY? or VALUING MY SELF, Part 4


In my last blog I broached the subject of assessing your value in the market.  We will carry on exploring that today.

If you are Julia Roberts the money you can request for your acting services would be in the same sort of ballpark as say Meryl Streep's average movie fee.   That does not necessarily mean however that you can also ask for as much money as Michael Buble, or that he can ask for as much as Tiger Woods or that Tiger's payday will be the same as Roger Federer's.  Like must be compared with like, services with services, widgets with widgets.  Which is why Stephen Hawking probably can't be paid as much as Julia Roberts.  With no disrespect intended for Julia, although Prof H is not as pretty as Ms R, he is almost certainly a whole lot smarter than her, but my guess is he doesn't get paid the way she does.  On the other hand, I am not as pretty as her nor as smart as him (quite a long way off the pace on both counts), and so need to benchmark myself against lawyers and coaches who have similar qualifications, skills and experience.  Tragically (and I shall never understand this), society values in monetary terms singers, actors and sportsmen far more highly than it does teachers, doctors, lawyers, policemen, coaches, writers, healers and even genii, despite the fact that people in those professions (excluding the genii) are generally delivering a more valuable and enduring (in my humble opinion) service to mankind than the entertainers.  That's just the way that it is.  It doesn't mean that any one of them is less worthy as a human being: they just get paid less than the entertainers.  Thankfully, not everyone wants to be an entertainer.

What are you worth in the market?  I don't know (unless you happen to be a lawyer or a coach, in which case I could hazard a reasonable guess), but you can easily find out with a little effort and research in your area of expertise.  The really important thing to remember when you make that assessment is that the number is unrelated to who you are as a human being - it only relates to what you can objectively deliver to the world.

And be very careful if you determine your number to be lower than the market rate.  It might be your strategy to undercut your opposition, but it can also backfire if your customers have a mindset that if they aren't paying enough they aren't getting the quality service or product for which they are looking.

NEXT TIME: PLACING VALUE ON YOUR SELF