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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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Saturday, 25 October 2014

TRUE CONFESSIONS OF A RELUCTANT TRAVELLER

Hi!   I'm Andrew and I feel anxious when I travel.  

There, now I've shared it and already I feel better.  (Actually, not really.)   However, the sorry truth is that, every time I travel, I still feel irrationally anxious about passing through immigration, security and Customs unhindered, my baggage being overweight, missing my flight, joining the wrong passport queue, finding my way to or from the airport, going to the wrong terminal, losing my luggage, not having enough money (or the right money), having something wrong with my visa or passport (or worse - losing it) and a myriad of other dumb things.

Perhaps the problem is that I haven't travelled enough yet.  I have, after all, only visited about 50 countries so far and done a paltry 1,000 flights or so.  Maybe it gets better the more you do it, but so far I don't have much evidence of that.  The even more ridiculous thing is that, of all those flights, I can count on the fingers of one (maybe both) hands the number of nasty things have actually happened to me.  And, despite them having happened, I am still around to tell the tale.  Funnily enough, plunging into the sea or the ground from 12,000 meters doesn't particularly bother me.  The other stuff however leaves me with a low grade of anxiety most of the time, which is why I'm something of a reluctant traveller.

The real annoying thing is that, no matter what risk mitigation measures I take - and this is where I can get quite obsessive - like checking 10 times if my passport is where I put it in my luggage, or arriving an hour ahead of time at the airport, or checking my luggage weight and so on, my mind always finds a new irrational anxiety to latch onto.  What to do?

One of my mantras in past postings has been about transcending fear.  Warriors are not fearless.  They still feel fear, but their courage has them transcend the fear so that they may engage in battle.  Fear is a natural feeling, it gives us the edge to survive by prompting us to mitigate some risk, but ultimately we will not be fearless: something will press our fear buttons.

The fear is driven by the irrational catastrophe scenarios which play out in our minds, so part of the challenge is to still the wild mind, that part which will have its way with us.  We cannot, however, mitigate against every risk.  Inasmuch as we live in a world full of possibility, we also live in a world of unpredictability.  We cannot always know what Life has lined up for us, so sometimes we need simply to crawl, creep or run past the fear, trusting that even if it sees us, it won't grab us by the throat, and just do it anyway.

Oftentimes when we give power and energy to the fear, it brings about the very result we feared in the first place.  When we hold back on affection for someone, lest it be not returned in full, it generally will not be returned in full because of the holding back.  When I ride my mountain bike tentatively on rocky ground because I am scared of falling, I generally do fall because of the tentativeness rather than the boldness which is required.

So that is how we transcend the fear.  We mitigate what is sensible to mitigate, we still the mind as far as we are able and then we do it anyway, engaging in the battle to get past the fear.

For the meantime, I will just keep on travelling, hoping like crazy I don't get a taxi driver in Bangkok who speaks no English and can't find my hotel, and that I won't have to sit next to someone with who farts a lot next time I fly to London.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

LIVING IN A PLASTIC WORLD

As I write I am on a flight from Singapore to Bangkok, musing over life in the former.   My musings started over dinner a couple of days ago with an old school friend who is now living in Singapore, Patrick Heywood.  Part of our discussion concerned what the Singaporean government spends its money on.

Patrick mentioned that they are not especially interested in researching things like alternative power sources, because quite frankly if people want to drive fossil fueled cars, the authorities will just continue to tax them out of existence because they don't really want a lot of cars on their roads.

No, they would rather fund research on how to grow food underground, because there isn't any space above ground to grow food, but their own food source would make them less dependent on other countries.  Never mind that we all know that veges weren't designed to grow underground, other than some fungi.  So if they find a way to do it you can be sure that they won't be the veges that Grandma used to cook.

I then found out that a large part of what is stored in Singapore is underground.  Huge holes and tunnels are dug in which markets, transport systems and whatever else are housed and stored.  The sand from the holes in the ground is then used to fill in tracts of sea and reclaim land.  And then huge skyscrapers are built on the reclaimed land so that more and more people can live and work high above the ground.  I was amazed earlier today to see several square kilometers of new land and buildings where previously there had only been sea when I first visited Singapore about 15 years ago.

Walking into a particular company's foyer I saw a beautiful half life-sized ornately painted elephant which had a porcelain look about it.  On closer examination I found it was made of plastic, which somehow disappointed me, but that kind of epitomized Singapore for me.  Other perhaps than the historical Singapore cricket club, dating back to the English colonial years, there is not much that feels particularly authentic about the place, and even the cricket club is out of place in a country created largely from Chinese and Malaysian migrants who probably had no interest in cricket before the Brits arrived.

Anyway, the point of my musings is that I can't help wondering how, in a country made up of plastic, skyscrapers, branded shops, iPhone 6's, expatriates, underground storage and land which has no right to be where it is, one remains authentic as an individual.

It is so easy to be seduced by technological, commercial and economic advancement that the potential for forgetting how to connect with Life, self and others is enormous.  Singapore is an extreme example, but most countries are advancing at a pace which requires people to keep up if they don't want to be left behind in the race for more money, bigger houses, flashier cars and smarter phones.

And by engaging in that race, we can easily streak past and forget about old-fashioned values like self- and mutual respect, connecting meaningfully with other human beings at a heart-to-heart rather than at a wallet-to-wallet level, acknowledging ourselves as precious beings in the Universe and simply being real rather than being people whom we believe others would like more so that they will do business with us.  My sense of it is that, when we live in a make-believe world we start living in a way which aligns with the make-believe, pretending that we are something that we are not.

I am often asked what it means to be authentic.  There is a school of thought that maintains that whatever you do is the real and authentic you.  For instance, if you behave brashly or in a self-opinionated way, that is the authentic you.  I personally don't buy that.  That sort of behaviour is often a dramatic way of trying to earn attention or respect, and it does just that when others give it energy and power.  However, whilst one is behaving that way, where is the space for the inherent traits and capacity which we all have: loving and capable of being loved, connecting at a truly heart level, sharing feelings and thoughts, fears and aspirations in a real and connecting manner?

The plastic world takes us away from the grass beneath our bare feet, sand between our toes, away from the non-GMO foods, from streams and mountains and bush, from wholesome conversations and loving relationships.

Which is not to say that you shouldn't engage with the plastic world, but just to suggest that you don't lose your true self in it whilst you engage.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

HOW WILL YOU SAY GOODBYE?

I was jolted into real time yesterday on a flight from Cape Town to Durban.  Twenty minutes out from destination the pilot said that we had a problem with one of the hydraulic systems.  He said there was nothing to worry about, but as a precaution there would be emergency vehicles on the runway when we landed and we, as passengers, shouldn't be alarmed to see them there.

Hmmm...If there's nothing to worry about, how come are they bothering to deploy emergency vehicles?  Instantly my mind went wild with the situation, but with one overwhelming thought: If the pilot is wrong and this turns out to be THE moment, how can I say goodbye to my precious Kazalette, Jeśka and Stefan?  More importantly, how WILL I say goodbye?  What is it I want them to know.  90% of me trusted what the pilot had said, but the wild mind part thought how much I would, in the moment of realisation that my life on earth was over, regret not having taken some action.

So, having ditched several ideas of trying to phone or send an email or text, I pulled out a pen and piece of paper and wrote a short note, marked with my seat number and name and addressed to the most precious people in my world.  It was an extraordinary moment, with my eyes, senses and feelings welling up with the emotion of the moment, expressing and truly feeling my love and pride for my family and letting them know that.  And when it was done, I sat back, unafraid and just trusting that Life knew what it was doing.

In the event, we had a bumpy landing with high winds (which of course got the mind going again), a great view of fire engines along the runway with lights flashing and eventually cruised safely to a stop at the terminal building.

It did get me to thinking, however, that oftentimes there are things unsaid which need saying.  We do not always know when we will check out.  If things have been left unsaid by the time we do so, there is a sense of unfinished business, especially for those left behind.  How often do you hear about the survivors feeling angry or bewildered by the departed having died without saying goodbye or completing properly?

We do not always have time to say goodbye, especially when death comes unexpectedly.  Is there not a way, therefore, that we can say goodbye ahead of time?  There are all sorts of creative ways of doing that, and the invitation is for you to figure out how you will do so.

More importantly, what is it that you want your loved ones to know before you go?  And what is preventing you from saying it to them right now?

Saturday, 11 October 2014

NO MORE EXCUSES!

It's too hard!  I don't have the time! I'm not smart enough!  I was treated badly as a child (so now I'm allowed to behave however I like)!  It was someone else's fault!  I feel too depressed/ sad/helpless!  I'm unmotivated!  I don't have any help!  He/she doesn't understand me!  I was drunk! I couldn't resist!  I don't have the money!  It's all too overwhelming!  I was angry at the time!  I was duped.  I'm in a hurry!  I feel scared!  I might fail!  I'm too young/old!  I'm too overweight.  It's racism / reverse-racism / sexism / look-ism!  No one ever listens to me!  I'm not important enough!  I don't know how to do it (or say it)!  The dog ate it!

The time for excuses is over.  The time for whining and complaining and being scared is over.  If you want to do something, or not do something, or change something, then just do it, no matter what it takes.  If you want a result, you are the only one who can bring it about, so you can hang onto your excuses and not get what you want, or you can transcend them and have what you want.  There is nothing in between and you get to choose.

How many times have we heard that results are 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration?  Well the perspiration is about not allowing excuses to get in the way.  It's about doing whatever it takes, whether that means scoring more points, raising the money, being better than your competition, rolling up your sleeves, changing your priorities, making the time, making sacrifices, letting go of your self-pity and generally taking full responsibility for yourself, your state of mind, your actions and your mission.

One of my teachers, the late K Bradford Brown, came up with the following Touchstone in one of his books:  "I would like to change conditions in the world, but I have to put out the cat."  In other words, we can always find an excuse, or something more pressing to do.

We can find or invent as many reasons or excuses as we like, but as long as we hang onto them, they will get in the way of creating the different results we want in our lives.

So, if you are wanting change in your life, but it's not happening, if you look hard enough you will find that somewhere or other there will be an excuse which got in the way.  If you justify behaving out of integrity by reference to something over which you claim to have no power, or by blaming someone else, you might not think it's your excuse: it may look like someone else's fault, but you have the power and creativity to circumvent ANYTHING that gets in the way.

What might be missing is the will and determination.

What's your excuse?

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

EVERYTHING LEADS TO THIS MOMENT

Our firm recently merged with another in what can only be described as a momentous undertaking.  With a couple of strokes of a pen, we committed ourselves from a mid-size niche firm of 10 professionals to a multi-disciplinary firm of almost 400 professionals.  The idea itself was daunting and it took almost two years of countless scenario checks, assessments and re-assessments finally to take the deep breath necessary to to say "We do".

The process of integration and alignment has been intricate and involved, but we are finally starting to fire on all cylinders.  The plan is coming together, the whole is fast proving to be greater than the sum of its parts (which was the intention) and I am finally starting to sit back, acknowledge my partners and myself for what we have achieved and enjoy the ride.

In my reflections, it has become crystal clear to me that every step I have taken in my life, especially in the past 14 or so years, has been leading me to this point, whether I knew it or not.  Every good and foolish decision taken, every bit of learning and knowledge acquired, all my experience, trials and errors have finally allowed me to place myself in this position.  And I feel grateful for what I have.

The point is, however, if I look back in time to any moment in my life, everything I have done up to THAT moment has led me to that point, even if I haven't especially liked the point I have reached.

That is the way it is with all of our lives.  Nothing we do is a mistake.  Every choice we make leads to a result which leads to a new choice, which leads to a new result.  What we do delivers us to a destination, always.

If we make reactive choices, the chances are that we won't know what the destination is much of the time, and by luck or happen-stance we might get to a place we like.  If we can simply determine a purpose for ourselves, however broad it may be, the chances are that the choices we make will be made within a context, and so eventually lead us to a destination that nourishes us.

If you do nothing else, try to figure out, at least in general terms, the direction in which you want your life to go.  Then make choices which align with that direction.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

"BE TEACHERS...BE TRUTH SEEKERS"

The #Script exhorts you in its iconic song, #Hall_of_Fame, to "Be teachers...Be leaders...Be truth seekers".  I want to suggest that that's EXACTLY what we are called to do.  Each of us to be each of those.

Whether you like it or not, you are a teacher for others.  Your kids will learn from you: whatever you put out, they will choose to follow you, or perhaps they will choose never to be like you.  If you treat people badly, you will teach them how to treat others equally badly.  If you are generous, you will teach generosity.  If you are loving, you will teach others to love.  Meanness will beget meanness, and so on.  

In one sense, we are all teachers for each other.  We learn from others how to be, how not to be, how to behave in order to protect ourselves, and how to connect.  

So, if we are teaching others already at an unconscious level, how about consciously teaching?  You don't need to find a school: your pupils are all around you.  You have the opportunity to teach and inspire others by the way you live, the way you connect and by sharing what you know.  So many people hold back on sharing what they know, either because they think it's unimportant or that their voice doesn't count.  However, I've discovered that those who are the quietest are often the people who see others, who have insights and who will share incredible information or wisdom when asked to do so.  

We all have something valuable to teach others, so there is no need to keep it hidden until it is dragged out.  Teaching is the one thing we can all do to make a real difference around us.  No experience is needed and whatever your life's learnings have been make up your database of things to teach.  So whether it is formal information you are sharing, or just your natural ebullience and way of treating others with love, honour and respect, teach that to your children, relatives, colleagues and friends.

In teaching you become a leader, and when you teach the truth you become a truth seeker, for we teach what we most often need to learn.

So as you go about your life, teach, lead and seek the truth.  You'll be so glad you did.