Memories of a strange moment

I have a memory of a school athletics day. I would have been about 16, in year 11, at the time. I was in a 400m race, and winning as we were coming into the home straight. Winning was not uncommon for me. I was a good runner, and had won many races in my life.

With about 50 metres to go I looked across and saw a friend of mine running second to me. He was about 10 metres behind me, and in the same house as I was.

For some reason I decided to let him win the race. The thoughts I remember going through my head were, "He hasn't won a race like this, and I have won plenty. I should let him win. It would be the nice thing to do".

So I did. I slowed down and encouraged him to run past me. He finished first, and I finished second.

This memory has stayed with me to this day, vividly. There was something significant about it that I can't quite put my finger on. Something that potentially shapes how I live to this day.

While it was probably a nice thing to let somebody else win, there was also something diminishing about it. I was intentionally making myself smaller. I was not pushing myself as hard as I could. I was not doing my best. It would have been a hollow victory for my friend.

Today I am going through a process of reflecting on the ways I hold myself back and keep myself smaller than I need be. As I do, this memory keeps coming back to me.

I am yet to full unpack its significance, but have a feeling it is hiding a treasure for me.

Learning from GOT

I have just finished watching the seventh season of Game of Thrones. At the same time I have been listening to the Dr Jordan B. Peterson podcast.

In his podcast Dr Peterson talks about the psychological significance of the Biblical stories. For me this has been a redemptive process. I grew up reading the Bible and learning all about these stories, but in recent times I have not been able to go near them; unable to get past them as inaccurate representations of our scientific history.

In drawing out the psychological truths in these stories, Dr Peterson breaths life into stories that have been dead to me. I feel that all that time learning about those stories has not been wasted. That I can apply these truths to my life in a meaningful and useful way.

Some of these themes that come out in this podcast include:

  • being truthful no matter what I think the consequences may be
  • confronting the dragon - the thing that I am most scared of and want to avoid
  • imagining the very best thing I could do with my life, and aiming for it
  • being humble and open to making small corrections in my chosen direction along the way
  • bringing order to chaos, but not so much order that it is tyrannical

In watching GOT it has given me another way of seeing these themes in action. 

Jon Snow, like his Father before him, is honest to the point of self-harm. He sees that in difficult times, knowing that we can trust what the other is saying is of utmost importance and benefit to us all. He sees the highest good - confront the chaos of the dead - and aims for it rather than shirks away from it.

Every direction that Tyrion Lannister recommends for his party seems to talk them to the most evil place they can go. But it is in confronting this evil that they are able to master it and take away some gold.

I am enjoying watching this show, and other Hero myth based stories, because of their entertainment value and also because of how they inspire me to live well in my day to day. To be honest. To act as nobly as I can. To confront evil when I see it. To move towards the thing I fear.

Too much going on

There are too many things in my life right now. Podcast. Job. Start-up. Kids. Speaking gigs. 

The problem is I enjoy them all, and think they are all important things for me to be doing right now. It is the season for all of them.

There are consequences though. The first is my social life - I do not have the space or energy to invest in relationships like I want to. The second is creative energy - once again, I don't have the space and energy to reflect and draw my creativity out. The third is presence - as I am putting more into each day, my base level of stress seems to rise and I check my phone more, rush more from place to place.

What to do? Is this just a season in my life? Can I make the space and energy I need? I want to connect and create and be present.

As a start, here are some things to do that will create some more space and energy in my life:

1) Outsource: the editing of my podcast sucks out my energy and time. I can outsource this

2) Reduce living costs: I have some regular expenses in my life that I can reduce, which would also reduce my stress

3) Say no: there are somethings, some catchups that are not quite right for me. In saying no to them I say yes to space and energy for creativity, friendships, and presence.

Alignment and flow

I have been wondering for a few months about where to live. There were a few things I wanted: outdoor space for my kids; low rent; and close to school and work.

I have found a place to live that meets the first two criteria, but not the last two. I am going to move there in a little while as it feels like the right time and place. It feels like moving their is going with the flow and is aligned with what I want to do.

I am curious to see what happens with the other two criteria, being close to school and work. Will I end up moving again soon? Will the school and work move closer to where I live? Will I no longer care about being close to work and school?

One move at a time. The next move will take care of itself.

The essentials

I can always tell when I have had a particularly tough week as I tend not to write on this blog.

Last week was tougher for a number of reasons; I think this time of year may be difficult for me for a number of years to come.

At times like this I remind myself to get back to basics: eat well, go to bed early, continue to exercise, be with people that are uplifting, and cancel any non-essential meetings. 

My Mantra

I have come up with a mantra that I tell myself each morning. It goes like this:

I am here to explore the mystery and wonder of existence.

I do this through connection and conversation.

I do this through consciousness and wellbeing.

I do this through creation, contribution, and curation.

Ready, aim, hold...

The time to hold and the time to fold...or fire.

Sometimes I know the decision that needs to be made, or the action that needs to be taken, but the timing is not right. I get a sense of it in my stomach.

Holding my nerve can be one of the hardest things to do when my head is assessing all the evidence and telling me one thing, but my intuition and gut another.

As I experience this more I trust it more, so that I do not prematurely act. 

If I had no clock...

The strange thing about checking the time is that it slows me down. The very act of checking the time takes time. Knowing that I am running late makes me stressed and less effective in doing what I need to do. Knowing that I am running early tends to relax me and slow me down.

However, there is that thing about deadlines and how they tend to make me get stuff done. 

So then, would it be useful to not check my clock at certain times? Like in the morning when we are all rushing to get out the door. Would it be more useful to simply focus on the necessities of what what needs to be done, and let time take care of itself?

An experiment for the next week as I go back to work, and my mornings get doubly crazy.

Time away from work

There seems to be a myth that tells us if we spend a significant amount time away from work, away from a regular employed job, it will have long-term damaging consequences for our career.

I am here to say that I think the opposite is true. That this is a myth that serves the short-term interests of employers and keeps employees feeling trapped.

I have two experiences in taking career breaks. The first was when I walked away from my IT career for 4 years to pursue the creation of three small businesses. Not only did I have some of the best working experiences of my life during these 4 years, but when I came back to IT at the end of it I ended up being paid more than twice what I was paid before I left.

The second experience is right now, where I have taken 18 months of any type of paid work while I start some of my own ventures. I am about to go back to paid employment next week, and although I am not going to be earning the same kind of wage I was before I took this time off, I come to the job with a totally different perspective to work and know that the value I can offer is more than triple what I could have previously.

You are not stuck. You have options. They do not always seem obvious. They are not always easy. But in the end following your curiosity will be better for you and those you serve than staying where you are and following the rules.

Bias

I watched football with a friend last night. His team was playing. His team has been so good lately that I find myself on the side of whatever team they are playing against.

What was fascinating to observe was the bias he had for his team against the other team. This is not doubt not surprising, but funnily I am actually surprised when I see it played out so starkly. My smart, aware friend had a strong bias, a bias he seems to have chosen and enjoy.

My hypothesis is that this happens in other areas of our lives as well. That we choose to be biased towards or against something, or as Julius Caesar said 'Men (people) willingly believe what they wish'.

If this is true, I think we are doing something that is against our own interest. It will make us feel good for a period of time, like we are right and others are wrong. Like we are on the right track. But reality will eventually take hold.

Better to look at things with eyes open, without bias, trying to perceive reality as it is, no matter what discomfort it brings. Because as we do this we can make decisions based on the way things are, not the way we want them to be.

Sharing the amazing idea you have

I have this idea about writing a book. I think I can do it. It would be about using the crisis moments in life as platforms for dramatic personal growth and change. Specifically it would be about sharing my story of relationship breakdown and how that has been a moment of rebirth.

I write about this because I notice that when I start talking about things, I am more likely to start doing them. I find the opposite is true when it comes to conventional wisdom about ideas. If you choose to protect your idea because you think others my steal it, then it is less likely to become an actual think. Talking with people about it, especially people you trust and who will encourage you, will give your idea life and help it become a reality.

So there it is. A book. The first time I have told anybody. Let's see how long it takes to become a reality.

A new baseline

I remember in the past achieving a certain level of health or fitness, and then falling away from that, and then achieving it again.

It was like I had a limit that I was aiming for, a reference to a time in my youth where I was at my peak.

What I am finding is that I have learnt so much recently about what is possible for humans, for myself, that I have a new baseline.

There is no looking back any more, referencing what I used to be or how I used to feel. I feel so much better than that now. I am learning how to look after myself and to explore the wonders of existence.

And the more I learn and experience the more I see that there is so much more to explore and learn. There is no more looking back, only taking where I am now as a new baseline and platform for exploring all that I can be.

Begin with the end in mind

In this moment of in-between, I feel there is an opportunity. Some kind of calling. Its like I need to move into uncertainty and murkiness all over again. 

I have created a podcast. I have a breath mint business launching in 3 months. I have pushed myself to get them going, and now they have momentum. I will keep working on them, but they don't need as much from me.

I am wrestling with ideas about speaking, writing a book, consulting to small businesses, coaching, and even going back to full-time work.

I am reminded of Stephen Covey's 2nd of 7 habits: Begin with the end in mind.

What is the end I envisage? When I imagine myself in 10 years time, as a 48 year-old, what do I see?

I see a healthy man, working out of city building. He has a few businesses of his own, and he is actively involved in helping and investing to develop three businesses owned by people. He talks occasionally, writes regularly, and never seems rushed.

With this end in mind, the following make sense:

- a slow build with the podcast where I write a detailed blog post

- focusing on the breath mint business to find a way to earn a livelihood from it

- finding a way to consult to small businesses

- learning about public speaking and coaching

- continue to challenge myself in personal development

Something is still not ringing true as I type this. Something to ponder today.

All of me

I was at a book launch last night for Mykel Dixon's Do 50somthing.

Myke promised that it would be more than a book launch, and it was. I don't quite know how to describe it - it was part cocktail party, part open mic, and part a poking at our collective creative calling.

One of the things he said last night really rang true - it was that the world needs all of me. And that is true for everyone of us - the world needs each of us to bring all that we have, even those bits we kinda think are awkward and shameful. To show up as we are, expressing and revealing.

I was so challenged by his words that I found myself taking to the stage when he left the mic open for people to say what they wanted. With my heart pounding and with no plan of what I was going to talk about, I found myself in front of 100 people and a couple of spot lights. 

But somehow, being out of my head and connected to the emotion and feeling of what I wanted to share, the words eloquently came out, and a story flowed. I loved being up there. I loved the theatre of it. I loved revealing myself.

I am now challenged to follow-up on what I think I need to do. Myke's book is about doing something, making something every day for 50 days. He wrote his book in 50 days, and through it is encouraging all of us to create and put things out there for the world to revel in.

I think I need to speak. In public. Every day for the next 50 days. In my head this is showing up on street corners and soap boxes, expressing what ever it is inside me that needs to be expressed. I am petrified by this idea. I may just have to do it.

Deciding with mind or body

I am picking up my son from kinder. He is playing with four different wooden trucks. I walk up to him and lay down beside him.

He asks me of the four trucks, 'Which one is your favourite, Dad?'

I look at each of the trucks in turn. When I look at one of them it seems to leave me with a nicer feeling than the others. I struggle to understand why this is the case. There is nothing too different about it. I grasp for reasons. But all I am left with is an intuition that for whatever reason, this one is my favourite.

I have coffee with a friend I used to work with at a big 4 consulting firm. I am sounding him out about work opportunities. He starts describing the areas he is now working in, and most of it is around decision making and how to provide the right data for managers to make decisions, and how to understand how customers are making decisions. So much of what he talked about was about making decisions using rationality: sifting through data, weighing up pros and cons, looking at numbers.

As he talks I remember the four trucks, and  wonder if it could ever be taught in corporate circles to listen to your body when making decision.

It seems that over the past 18 months one of the big changes for me is in understanding the different ways I can make decisions. How my whole body seems to be some kind of brain, able to interpret and process information, and provide me with an answer that I don't often have words to justify.

There are times when it is best to use our rational minds for making decisions, and times when it is best to use our whole bodies, our feelings or our intuition. Trusting my body, having faith in what it is telling me even when it doesn't seem to make rational sense, is leading me in an exciting direction.

The uncertainty of now

One of the hardest things for me to write about is the uncertainty of looking for a job, which is what I am experiencing right now.

It is hard because in the back of my mind I am wondering 'what if one of those people who I am looking to work with reads this post?'. This then changes what I write about.

So what I am writing is slightly moderated; safe for work as they say.

The matter is pretty simple: I want to earn some income. I don't know the manner in which I am going to do this. It is causing me angst. I am doing all kinds of things to distract myself from the discomfort.

What I want to do is to be able to sit with the discomfort. And that is what writing about this reminds me to do: sit; be; feel; observe. See where it leads. Observe where it has come from.

The truth is anything can happen. Things change quickly. I have faith.

I'll show them...

When I feel aggrieved, when I have been let down by somebody, when somebody doubts my ability, I find myself thinking, 'I'll show them. One day they will be envious, wish they had never doubted me. I'm going to do something amazing.'

Three thoughts come to my mind soon after this:

1) By the time I do get to wherever I am going, they are probably not going to care or even know who I am

2) By the time I get to where I am going, I am not going to care or know who they are

3) If I start doing things just to prove people wrong, I am in all likelihood going to start working on things that are not quite right for me

So I let those who doubt me, give up on me, move on from me do so as their decision. It has no bearing on me and what I am doing. What I am doing comes from a place within, and I do it to meet a deep desire from that place; to bring into the world that thing which only I can bring; to experience that moment of bliss that only comes when I know I have followed my path.

If I had no bin...

I have been conducting a thought experiment recently about what would change in my life if I did not have a bin. I love my bin. I love the design of it. I love the feeling I get when I put something in there, expunging it from my life.

The catalyst for thinking about this was spending a weekend at a permaculture farm where they do not have a bin. Everything that comes onto the property stays on the property, and needs to be re-used as an input into another process in some way. All of a sudden I was conscious of everything that I was using that had a byproduct that would not help this farm.

In thinking about it though, it seems that many of my actions, many of the things I buy, many of my decisions, come about because the bin exists. Because every week a truck comes along and takes away the things I no longer want in my life.

Nature does not quite work like this. In reality the things that get taken away do not disappear. They are buried in a big pit and covered with dirt, not being of any use to anybody. In nature, everything that is an output becomes and input for another being, organism, process. The bin is putting my out of sync with nature.

I don't think I am ready to get rid of my bin yet. I am ready to start living more in line as if it did not exist. Here are some thoughts/questions this has raised for me:

- I would be very mindful of purchasing anything made of plastic, metal (ie anything made of stuff dug deep out of the ground), as once I had finished with it it would be hard to know what to do with it

- I would have to have a garden and a composting system

- This would mean I would probably grow more of my own food

- Overall I think I would spend less money on material stuff

- I would think carefully about giving things away for which I no longer had a use

- I would spend more money on experiences, books and relationships than things

- I would make more things from scratch, especially food

- I would spend more time outdoors

Perhaps I am overplaying it; the only way to know would be to get rid of the bin and see what happened. Part II in this series is how my life would be different if I did not have a smart phone.

People I fear meeting on the street

There is a small list of people that, when I think of bumping into them on the street, I feel a sense of dread.

This is usually based on some kind of unresolved conflict; some break in the relationship that was left unresolved for a number of years.

Recently this list decreased by two. Last year I reached out to a former business partner with whom I had fallen out (yes, over our business). It was something that happened over three years prior, and every time I thought of seeing him my body would tighten up. 

Last year I realised that I could get on the front foot and evaporate the tension between us, simply by giving him a call. I felt afraid, but when we spoke all was good and time had helped make our difference irrelevant.

This year an old friend reached out to me. We had not spoken to each other for about 6 years after a moment of tension was too much for either of us to handle. He messaged me via Facebook, we caught up, and once again it was good. We had both changed and experienced a lot in those 6 years, more than enough to put our previous tensions to rest.

There remain a couple of people with whom I still have this sense of dread, and I think the time may be too soon to rectify and reconcile them. I will not leave them too long, because I know how good it feels to not have any concerns about who I meet when I walk down the street.