How to Have Fulfillment Without Effort

We are presumed to agree that a fulfilling life comes through strenuous effort.

What if this isn’t true? Or at least, what if having to ‘compete’ and ‘struggle’ is not the only path to fulfillment? What if there is another way? A way that is easier and more relaxed? A way in which one may, say, become a mother and have meaningful career success, without straining or fighting for any of it?

In conversation with an entrepreneur I was partnered with last year, we created a ‘rule’ for her life, which is encapsulated in the phrase:

To be joyful or not to be.

For every choice she has to make, she asks herself: ‘Will doing this bring me joy?’

If the answer is YES, she does it.
If the answer is NO, she does not do it.

By building her life with bricks of joy, the house she lives in is joyous.

Does this sound too simple? Does it sound too fantastical? Too improbable?

If you have any grounding in science and logic, I certainly hope it does.

With a background in Physics and Math it certainly did for me, for most of my life.

However, at some point I realized I was considering this through a strictly ‘Newtonian’ lens.

The moment I began looking at life as not simply a sequence of causal events, but as a collective of happenings from the chaos of which order emerges, I was able to see how making decisions based on principles, over time, could be the source of an emergent success.

I began to see, for example, how choosing joy in every moment could create a joyous life.

What if you were to choose a principle and simply live for it and from it? What if you were to do so, not because you could connect the dots of causality between now and a future that you desire, but because you allowed yourself to be raptured by the idea that through time, the seeming randomness and inconsequentiality of your principled activity made an intelligent chaos that was required for the order of your vision to unfold?

What principle would you commit to living?

How to Stop Lying to Yourself – Acknowledgement vs Ownership

I like the idea of ‘owning’ something versus being a ‘victim’ to it.

For example, let’s take the objective situation of a new entrepreneur who is offering their product or service to the market and has had little to no sales.

The victim perspective of this would be to look upon it with desperation and to state simply, ‘nobody is buying our product/service’.

The owner perspective of this would be to look upon it with a sense of possibility and to state, “I haven’t shown people the value of our product/service yet”.

The owner focuses on the aspect of the situation where they have influence. The victim focuses on the aspect of that same situation where they do not have influence.

But this is not the point of my writing or my video. My point here is a nuance that takes this a bit further.

The moment we understand the distinction between Owner & Victim, we begin seeing it everywhere. Simply this new way of seeing can be very empowering.

At the same time, if we’re clever (which all of us are at least unconsciously), we find a way to act like an owner while actually still being a victim.

The way we do this is to acknowledge how we may have been perceiving something as a victim and then instead acknowledge a perspective where we focus on the influence we have. We might say something like, “I haven’t been going to the gym because I have been going to bed too late”. We’re owning our lack of productivity. Great.

But what if we continue to not go to the gym? Are we really owning this? Or are we just ‘saying’ it so that it sounds like we are? I believe the latter.

To be a better owner thus, we must not only acknowledge a perspective where we have influence over the situation, but also take action coherent with that perspective. Otherwise we are simply ‘talking’ like an owner as opposed to actually BEING one.

Without owned action, we are a victim masquerading as an owner.

How to Co-Create with a Partner – You & I vs We

Shortly before I got married, I realised I’d have to give up all the dreams I had for my future. Holding onto them just wasn’t going to be healthy for my relationship. If I wanted to be happy, I needed to be open to living a life that was a marriage between her dreams and mine. Some kind of ‘third dream’, that would only come to be when both of us let go of our individual dreams and started dreaming afresh, together. We managed to do this successfully, and have then gone on to create those dreams. Today we’re not living either of the dreams we individually had, but we are living a ‘third dream’ that we both love. I don’t feel any sense of loss or sacrifice, because I completely let my dreams go. For me, getting married was a point to begin dreaming again, with my wife and from a blank canvas.

I’ve since brought this same approach into a number of other places in my life. The basic idea is to let go of my individual desires and to then co-create a third, greater option. I find the ‘third’ options to almost always be greater than the one I let go of. There is something inherently fulfilling in knowing that the third option not only serves me, but also serves the other person.

Taking this idea even further, I’ve at times restricted myself from even using pronouns that put the focus on anything other than the union or partnership. This works especially well in high-tension situations where there is a me vs you dynamic arising. To begin using only pronouns We, Us & Ours in place of You, Yours, I, Me & Mine immediately helps to move the focus from a game of balancing to a game of integrating and creating together.

Most of the world orients itself in a zero-sum game. We are inculcated with the idea that resources are scarce and thus we must win over others to succeed. To look through the lense of the ‘we’, however can create a lightness because it presupposes abundance instead of scarcity. Acting as if you are parts of a whole (which on some level, everyone is), dissolves attachment and creates a sense of freedom.

For a guy who has spent his entire life dreaming and creating those dreams, I never imagined that giving those dreams up would give me an ever greater sense of freedom. But it has!

Who Are YOU to Create This? – Stop Stortelling

While speaking at the Inside Out Movement in Zurich earlier this year, someone asked me, “How will ‘just me’ be able to create this? I am not as good as others are.”

I hate this question.

Not that I hate that they asked it. I’m glad they did. I hate it because I ask it myself sometimes and because the question is extremely egotistical.

In this video, I go on a bit of a rant about how if our purpose in life is simply to (pro)create (see my video ‘What is the Purpose of Life?’), then we get in the way of this primarily by imagining we are someone in particular.

What if it isn’t about finding a more empowering story to tell ourselves? What if being liberated as a Creator is as easy as giving up storytelling all together?

How to Have Better Success – Qualitative vs Quantitative

The dominant paradigm for success is that of a quantitative measure.

Inculcated with this worldview by an industrialized education system, we unconsciously measure success by ‘how much’ is achieved. We don’t consider this is only one way to measure success. Without even realising it, we take quantitative success to be success.

What if we measured success qualitatively?

What if instead of asking ‘How much…?’ we asked ‘What kind of..?’

Our focus goes immediately to our experience and the ramifications of the results, as well as the journey of producing those results.

Sure, I could make a few million doing that, but would I enjoy the work?
Sure, I could capitalize on that market, but what good would it do for the world?

Collectively, we are tunnel visioned for quantity. Many people spend day after day, obsessively striving for quantifiable results. They do it so much so that they become blind to the wider indirect impact of those results as well as their own well-being. They suffer burnout and the world faces the wrath of their care-less-ness.

The drive for success, I believe, is innately human.

If we want a world where people care more about the ramifications of what they create – and where people experience greater joy in the work that they do – then the first thing we need to do is move the balance for our measure for success from quantity to quality.

To do this, we must diversify our questions:

Quantitative Success Questions
– How much of X will feel successful to me?
– How much success will doing X bring?
– How much impact will X success have?

Qualitative Success Questions
– What kind of X will feel successful to me?
– What kind of success will doing X bring?
– What kind of impact will X success have?

How to Create Everything – Abracadabra

After a brief personal update about what I’ve been up to (and why I’m walking barefoot in the woods), in this video I share some insights I’ve been having around my absolute favorite word as of late; Abracadabra.

Sure, it’s a fun word to say. But my greatest interest is more so in the power of the word’s etymological meaning, which is ‘I create as I speak’.

What if creating is a kind of magic? What if simply speaking is how you transform an idea into something physical.

It struck me that at it’s essence, this is essentially ALL that is required to create what you envision. Sure there is other work to be done, other kinds of action, but these actions are inconsequential without also casting a spell of spoken word.

Often I share with the entrepreneurs I partner with that their ideas can be spoken into existence. Speaking is a great replacement for hope, wishing and waiting. In fact, just last week I was have a conversation with a small group of entrepreneurs who are doing a lot of free consulting and wishing they would be paid for it. What I pointed out for them was that the paid consulting clients are on the other side of them speaking a fee.

It’s that simple really. Until you speak something into the world, it exists only as an idea.

We get caught up thinking “What’s the market? Who’s going to say ‘yes’?”

When we worry about these kinds of things, we consider the outside world to be an objective separate pool that we dip our hook into with our requests or proposals. What we are missing though is that the world is not separate from us. What we are missing is that our act of speaking is not a hook dipping into a pool, it is a wind that changes the world.

Our request has influence and impact. Our speaking CREATES.

This is why I’m not interested in doing ‘market research’. It’s too passive. It’s boring. It comes from a focus of extraction, rather than creation. I’m interested in CREATING MARKETS.

When we speak, we can speak as a light breeze or a hurricane. The words we choose to use and how we use them are what make this difference.

From this single idea of ‘abracadabra’ – I create as I speak – I have drawn so much inspiration. It’s simplicity and directness is profound. When put into pragmatic use, ideas are brought into form almost like magic.

Recently I founded a non-profit for leaders using this principle. I had been carrying the vision in my mind for months, until my wife kicked me up the ass and made me put a date in the calendar. (Thus generating structure and tension – another great and simple principle of creation!) From that point, I began speaking the vision into the world. People began organising around it. Now a small movement has started.

Lately, I’ve also been helping a number of entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses with little more insight than the one contained in the word ‘abracadabra’.

It is a simple idea, but an idea often overlooked or misunderstood.

In the book ‘The Four Agreements’, author Don Miguel Ruiz wrote about the same concept, but using different words. His second agreement is ‘Be impeccable with your word.’

During an interview he did with Oprah she demonstrated her misunderstanding of this concept. Oprah fell into the same trap most people fall into when they hear it for the first time. They believe it means to ‘do what you say you will do’. They aliken it to ‘integrity’. It can mean this, but this is hardly the power of the concept.

‘Be impeccable with your word’ actually means to be impeccable in your choice of words, be them spoken aloud or spoken silently to yourself inside your mind. Don Miguel understands that our words create our world (or what he calls, ‘the dream of the second attention’).

Lastly, in this video I also recommend the James Allen classic ‘As a Man Thinketh’, which was first published in 1902. I reference it to point out that not only are we casting spells of creation in the world when we speak things aloud, but we are also casting spells upon ourselves with the words we choose to think.

I understand there is a lot of personal and spiritual growth narrative around ‘thoughts’ and ‘thinking’ being something that happens to us, rather than something we do or are. I agree that our thoughts are not who we are, but I disagree that thinking is not something done by us.

Thoughts are simultaneously happening to us AND within our agency to amplify, quiet and direct. We can stop our thoughts and we can change our thoughts – and doing so is how we cast spells of creation on ourselves.

We can literally create anything within us and within the world through our speaking.

Through reading this, you have had a spell of creation cast upon you.


The Purpose of Life – You Are Here to Create

Earlier this year, while speaking at the Inside Out Movement in Switzerland, I shared publicly for the first time the story of my wife and I losing our first child to miscarriage. It was devastating, and to be honest, it is still not easy for us to share. I am doing so anyway for two reasons.

First, miscarriage is not spoken about enough. It sneaks up on many hopeful couples as a devastating part of the journey to parenthood. You only find out how common is once it happens to you. Suddenly friends and family come out the woodwork telling you how it happened to them too.

Second, the miscarriage was an incredible growth and learning experience for us. In this video, I explain one of the insights I had that solidified my understanding and sense of purpose in life.

There has been other growth around how my wife and I relate, which I will likely share at another time. Here though, for those who follow my work on being a leader and a creator, I want to share a perspective that has helped to liberate and empower me as an entrepreneur, husband and new father.

Reconsidering Freedom of Speech

Shall we reconsider ‘free speech’?

One of the leading concepts of my life and work can be summed up in the word ‘abracadabra’, which etymologically is an Aramaic word meaning ‘I create as I speak’.

From almost two decades of experience in the use of language in sales, persuasion, hypnosis, coaching, leadership and creative writing, I know full well the power words have to literally generate form and behavior out of thin air. Through learning to spell, we learn to cast spells. It can happen suddenly and like magic – hence our present meaning of the word ‘abracadabra’.

A skilled communicator knows a brother when he meets one. Trump, likely in only this way, is absolutely a brother. In his craft, he is like Hemingway, using common language to evoke the simplest of orientations and experiences.

As a magician, I learned the best place to hide the truth is in plain sight. Trump gets this too. He is a master communicator.  For his bigotry, we doubt this, but it is a mistake. As opponents, we are confusing a man with seemingly damaged values for stupid and this is our greatest weakness. When he speaks, we are wow’d with surprise. If we saw him as smarter than Hillary and her entire campaign (which I believe he is), then I think we would be less mystified and surprised by what he says. We are experiencing him without understanding and this is how magic works.  It has its power over us until, sometimes sadly, we can see how the trick works.

But I digress…

Trump the Magician knows full well what he is doing when he speaks. He is creating a rising opposition of anger and focusing its behavior more and more on violence. He is methodical, strategic and patient – all great skills in a world leader. Except, of course, when they are holstered to the hip of a blood thirsty egomaniac on a life-long power trip.

So what are we to do? Are we to shut him up?

I agree with what J. K. Rowling says about how we must give Donald the same freedom to speak that we want for ourselves.

At the same time, in Rowling’s wizarding world of Harry Potter, it is frowned upon for wizards to use their magic on muggles. Child wizards aren’t even allowed to use magic in the presence of muggles until they are 18. The wizards recognize their wand has an inequitable power over common people. Through democratic agreement, they regulate the use of their own power.

Arianna Huffington likened Trump to a Dementor – the cloud-like dark spiritual forces in Harry Potter that suck the soul out of people. I think, though, he is more simply a wizard and that he is using his wand amongst muggles.

Most of us cannot see Donald the Wizard’s magic.  We merely look with confusion as sofas and tables float over the surface of our nation. We gasp as people we know to be good – members of our own family in fact – do not see the darkness in the power that is moving them.

If our words create, then shall we really be free to use them at will?

No matter how powerful of a wizard we are, shall we be free to wield spells in any way we deem desirable and as far reaching as we’d like?

Since I was young, I have had a mostly absolutist opinion concerning free speech. ‘Hate speech’ has sometimes been a caveat for me, but even that not always.

Not until now have I considered that freedom of speech may be best tempered with a respect for the power it has. In all my years at my own version of Hogwarts, I’ve never met such a dark wizard before.

How, though, do we limit speech for its magical power? Muggles cannot see wizards. It only works the other way around.

The world, I fear, is truly a realpolitik. Not only by money, but too – and maybe even more so – by the magical power of words.

To create a better world then, maybe instead of considering whether speech be free or not, it would serve us to learn to be wizards. The moment we see the trick, magic loses its power over us.

We can call it ‘learning to use the force’ so that ‘light can triumph over darkness’, but I think this puts it too far in the realm of the non-pragmatic.

Wizardry in this world, as it has been for thousands of years, is the crafty use of language. Through our spelling we cast spells. The matrix for us to see is the web of meanings within our own minds. Webs made of neurons of phonemes of letters of words. How they connect is the map to our understanding.

Seek people who can help you to see. Find those who can help you to spell. Learn magic and you will be free from the speech of others. Remember, please, that with great power comes great responsibility and be measured in your use of power amongst muggles.

A Meeting with the Wild

Last week I was sat in front of a tall chain link fence at a wolf sanctuary. Part of a group spending the afternoon there, we had been given time to be alone in silence with the wolves.

I was just sitting there in the dirt, enjoying my shorts becoming covered in dust and gazing softly at a giant wolf who was lying asleep. The back half of his body was in a hole he had dug, probably because the dirt was cooler down there. It was hot that day; 100F when I’d arrived.

We were told to bring the wolf a question. The one that came to mind for me was, “Why am I here?”

So I sat there, rather embarrassingly, silently asking the wolf why I was there in front of his cage.

Nothing happened.

I couldn’t even see his face and I wanted to. When was he going to look up? When was he going to walk over here and stand broad shouldered, looking down at me, and speak to me, mind to mind, in a deep breathy wolf voice, some amazing life-changing wisdom?

Impatient for magic, quietly breaking the silence rules, I curled my tongue against my teeth and pushed just a little bit of air through, making a soft, high-pitched whistle.


I tried again. Still nothing.

I knew what I needed to do.

Beginning a whistle again, barely loud enough for me to hear it, nevermind the person about 50 feet away at the next pen over, this time I pressed my tongue increasingly forward as I blew, making the pitch rise higher and higher.

(At some point during my youth my interest in the physics of sound and hearing had crossed paths with my learning how a dog whistle works. I’d figured out that if I raise the pitch of my whistle until it stops, it doesn’t mean I’ve stopped whistling. It just means I can’t hear it anymore because it’s too high-pitched. Practicing with my own dog, I had learned to make a dog whistle with my tongue.)

Sat with the wolf, I raised the pitch of my whistle until I couldn’t hear it, then with a puff, I pressed all of the air I had left in my belly through my tongue.

His two pointy ears shot up, followed by his head, which whipped around over his shoulder and faced straight towards me. It was bigger than I’d expected and his eyes were so yellow. I’d never seen eyes that yellow before.

Finding nothing interesting except another strange human sat on the dirt staring oddly expectantly at him, he promptly returned his head to the dirt and closed his eyes.

If he wasn’t going to come to me and teach me in real life, then maybe he would in my mind. I closed my eyes for a while. Listening for the light breeze gliding down into the valley. Feeling the sun heat my skin.

With some encouragement, in my mind’s eye, finally he came and stood as I’d hoped he would. He stood before me and looked at me waiting for my question.

“Why am I here?” I asked.

Unfortunately, when he spoke, his voice was not deep and breathy. It sounded just like mine.

“You come to places like this to see people like me…”

(Yes, he said people. I didn’t bother to correct him.)

“…so that you can reconnect to your wild nature.

You think you put us in cages and part of you feels bad for that, but it’s not us you are caging off.

It is the wild itself you put in a cage.

You are as much trapped as we are.

You say it is for our own good. To be out there would be too dangerous. We’d hurt someone. They’d put us down.

Maybe so. And yet that has been our destiny for many thousands of years.

More tragic though is how you do it to yourself. You protect yourself from your own wild. You don’t trust that if you were free you wouldn’t hurt someone. That you would not be put down.

But that too is your nature. To risk that is your birthright.

What are you really so afraid of?”

With that he turned and walked back to his hole, laid down and forgot about me.

I opened my eyes. Chance (that was the wolf’s name) was still lying where I’d imagined him to be.

It was not in the way I’d expected, and he’d left me with another question, but he did give me an answer.

For awhile now I’ve been aware of a calling back to the wildness that made up much of my youth – in the sense of spending time in nature, my adventurousness, being often disruptive and disapproved of – but I’ve answered this call mostly infrequently and at arms length.

Chance’s words were a slap in the face at my trite actions to rewild myself. He was right.

Taking his question rhetorically, I’ve been asking it a lot recently.

What are you really so afraid of?

Mining vs Backfilling Content

My friend James Tripp pointed out to me that a lot of public speakers speak with what he calls ‘backfilled content’.

What he means by this is that some people first get the idea that they would like to be a ‘speaker’ and they then ask themselves; ‘What shall I speak about?’.

Next they might choose a ‘market’, investigate what ideas would serve that market and then, through a mix of research and critical thinking, construct and organize ideas into a format that can be cohesively shared. At a surface level, these ideas may in-fact serve. Square pegs fit well in square holes.

More to James’ point though, when you see these speakers speak, although you might find their ideas interesting and sensible, they leave you feeling empty.

In a way, it is similar to the emptiness one feels after viewing a modern Hollywood action film. During the film, you ride an emotional roller coaster, but walking out of the theatre you are left with no sense that anything important happened. There is no narrative that lingers, no insight or meaning for you to take with you. You paid to have your heartstrings raped by something that you discover afterwards never existed.

With speakers who backfill their content, similarly and inversely, you are left intellectually pleased that the pegs fit in the holes, but your heart is left where it began. No, in fact, your heart is left more empty, because the moment they walked out on stage, for their courage, you gifted them with the opening of your heart and then bit by bit, as they spoke, while waiting to be filled, it leaked and drained itself.

In contrast, there are speakers who speak not because they want to ‘be a speaker’ or because they have some other end result that that ‘speaking’ may serve. There are speakers who speak simply because they have something to say. There are speakers who speak because they have something they have lived and that they have experienced. They have something that is so hidden to others, but which they can see so brightly, something that is so blindingly obvious to them, that they cannot help but share it.

I won’t make an objective statement that the latter approach is ‘better’ or more ‘right’ than the former. However, I will suggest that the impact of the latter is greater. When we hear from people whose spoken sharing is a birthing of their deepest knowing, we are moved and served more wholly and completely than otherwise.

As I am in the process of creating content for a new project on leadership, I find myself being pulled into wanting to ‘get it right’. I find myself trying to ‘backfill content’ to make it ‘good enough’.

Catching myself out on this (largely with the help of my wife over lunch yesterday), I decided to turn James’ concept into an exercise in NOT backfilling content.

The approach is simple. I ask myself this question:

“What do I KNOW?”

By this I mean, ‘What do I know viscerally in my body? What is most true for me right now? What do I know from where I stand in this moment?’

Settling into creating content only from what I KNOW (instead of from what I think I ‘should know’ or ‘need to know’) I have found to be very liberating. I’ve gone from being blocked in my writing to actually having to manage my superfluity.

In the coming weeks I will be sharing ideas on New World Leadership from a place of deep knowing. This action serves a number of purposes for me. It is a practice in writing from a deeper place, a risking of sharing of ideas that may be uncommon and, of course, it is a means of producing content for my work that is not backfilled.

When our content is not backfilled, what then shall we call it?

I’m not looking for another name for filling a hole. The point is to not be filling a hole of content in the first place.

What I feel I’ve got is a mountain of amorphous and unarticulated experience, perspective and insight to share.

Maybe instead of ‘backfilling’ a hole, I am ‘mining’ a mountain.

That’ll work.

Mining Content vs Backfilling Content

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