Transcending the Victimhood of Ownership

While there is great power in seeing how one may be living life as a victim of circumstance and learn to instead own their destiny, the idea that one can own anything is actually double edged.

Anyone who owns a home knows that, in another way, their home also owns them. Maintenance, mortgage, taxes…it never stops demanding of you.

The owner is also the victim.

What I see is a third stage which transcends victimhood and ownership all-together…

Meeting Life Not-Knowing – Unarmed vs Disarmed

When I was younger and travelling, I sometimes carried a knife. I carried it for defence in case I met violence.

After a while I stopped carrying it though. I had gotten a sense that by pro-actively protecting myself against potential violence, I was also carrying violence with me.

While journaling just now, I was exploring how I might meet a recurring situation that creates tension for me and I was reminded of the knife.

With my inquiry I had been looking for a dependable solution; something I could do that handled the situation in an effective way. When I remembered the knife, two insights came.

First, my lack of an effective response in the moment is actually due to my state of being. Being tense was narrowing my focus. A relaxed and loving state of being is the only place I can truly respond creatively from.

Second, although the situation appears to be recurring, it is not because every familiar situation also has a uniqueness to it.

My experience has been that being unarmed (not having my knife with me) is very different from being disarmed (choosing to leave my knife at home).

With the former, I simply felt less able to protect myself. With the latter, I carried an awareness that much more is possible – ‘more’ that I could not access with a knife in my pocket or a ‘how’ in my mind.

To live life disarmed is to meet every moment with not knowing.

And surrender to the present is the path to the infinite.

You Are NOT Only the Average of Your Five Closest Friends

Most everyone has heard the idea that you are the average of the people you spend the most time with. Most often this is applied to income in that your income will Be the average of your 5-10 closest friends.

There is interesting research that shows how it is not only the case that your friends influence you, but also your friend’s friends and your friend’s, friend’s friends. This works not just for income, but political beliefs and even your waistline.

However, it struck me recently like a ton of bricks that there is a whole other side to this. One I’ve never heard anyone talking about.

Working On Yourself Vs In Yourself

Most entrepreneurs focused on growth know the importance of working ‘on’ their business over ‘in’ their business.

The same goes for ourselves.

And if you are an entrepreneur growing a business, then working ‘on’ yourself (versus ‘in’ yourself) is even more important than working ‘on’ your business.

As a leader, your state of being is the highest point of leverage for change and success in your organization.

But what does it mean to work ‘on’ yourself versus ‘in’ yourself?

The Happiest Guy I Know

Throughout my late twenties and into my thirties, I had said often to myself and others, “I’m the happiest guy I know”.

It always just occurred to me to be the case, as I was generally quite happy with everything in life; work, family, relationships, adventure, health. I didn’t say it obnoxiously, I just shared it when relevant because it seemed to be true.

However, when I discovered the world of personal development, people said to me things like: “You are deluding yourself.” “Nobody is that happy.” “You must have some stuff that you need to uncover.”

Slowly, these remarks made me doubt the validity of my statement. Eventually, I stopped saying it, and with that, I stopped thinking it too.

Through enlightening work with my coach Steve this year, I discovered that my doubt was the actual delusion.

Over the past month, I’ve taken to using the phrase again. It feels at home and familiar for me to genuinely say, “I’m the happiest guy I know”.

Importantly, I also see now how my speaking this phrase was and is not only a description but also a creation.

Since speaking and thinking it again, I have felt the idea come back to life in me and my world.

I’m smiling at people more because that’s what the happiest guy does.

I find things bother me less because the happiest guy isn’t bothered by much.

I’m noticing it’s easier to let go because if I’m the happiest guy, I must not hold on to stuff.

I’ve even noticed people saying it to me too. The other day a guy said to me, “You’re so happy!” and just now, on the way to the airport, my Uber driver said, “You’re such a positive guy!”

Someone asked me once….

“How do you know there is nobody happier than you?”

“I don’t!”, I said. “I’m just that happiest guy that I know.”

“Yeah, but what if you meet someone happier than you?”

“Then I become as happy as them. If I see a way to be happier, I just be that. I love when this happens. Why would I want to be any less happy than I know I can be?”

“OK, but what if someone is happier than you realize? What if they are happier than you, but you don’t know it because you mistakenly think they’re less happy?”

“Well, I don’t know how happy people are FOR THEM. All I know is how happy I know (perceive) them to be. And as far as this is concerned, I am the happiest. I will take all the happy anyone I meet has to offer.”

“I get it, but still…isn’t it a bit conceited to say you are the happiest guy you know?”

“The first time I ever said it, I said it because I wanted the person I was speaking to know that being the happiest person you know is possible.

Since then, every time I have spoken it, I have done so not only to describe my experience of myself but also as an offering of a possibility.

Call this conceited if you want, but to me it feels like a gift. What I see happen to people when I share it with them is a beautiful thing. They get happier.”

How does it make YOU feel?

Anger is Love Misguided

Recently, my wife and I got into an argument. It happened in seconds, like a flash fire in a pan. Seemingly out of nowhere we were shouting at each other about something inane. And then, just as quickly as it had come, it ended. Somehow we realized how silly it was, burst into laughter and began tickling each other.

I reflected quite a bit on how and why this argument happened. Sure, we can push each other’s buttons, but the intensity and the rapidity of this ‘event’ was quite uncharacteristic. Usually when we argue, which has been less and less lately, it is a slow build. This one though seemed almost to come from the outside. As if a dark wind blew through the walls of our home, into our chests and bellies and then, within minutes, back out of us again.

I had a hunch as to where this wind had come from and upon further reflection it became clear to me what was happening.

Not long before the flash fire, my wife and I had read of the people being stabbed and having their throats cut by terrorists in London. The place where it happened, Borough Market, was our home for a number of years. Although we don’t live there now, we visit frequently and it felt very close to us. As we read the news, a visceral pang of fear had crossed our chests, knots had filled our bellies and tears had filled our widened eyes. There was mostly silence between us until the argument kicked off.

I realized the pit in my stomach for what happened in London had been what had me on edge. Why this is, I understand through something I learned earlier this year.

In January my mentor showed me, first, how all anger comes from hurt, and second, how the only reason we hurt is because we love. Furthermore, and this is the really useful part for me, when we know that anger is essentially a response to love (be it often a misguided one), then we can drop out of anger by settling down into the love at its root.

What I can see now is that my wife and I were really hurt by what happened in London and the flash fire argument we had was that intense hurt quickly becoming anger, which we sloppily aimed at each other.

This is how terror works. It moves in waves of hurt, anger and violence. Everyone is affected. Everyone hurts, lots of us get angry and some of us, in one way or another, get ‘violent’ be it towards our loved ones, a political party or leader, a race, etc. We unconsciously pick a target and on and on it goes.

When the hurt comes into me like a wind, what I see that I can best do is be present to it, open quickly and let it pass back out the other side.

Otherwise, if I carry it around with me, keep it pressed down in there, then it will grow quickly into anger. I may find an ideology to latch onto that justifies and inflates my hurt and the next thing you know I’d be running around my neighborhood with a machete chopping people’s heads off in the name of an idea that is really just a muse for my hurt.

If it ever came to that, I hope someone would find a way to remind me that I was angry because I was hurting, and that I was only hurting because I love.

Alpha Omega Leader

Our evolution is accelerating.

Technology, medicine, climate, economics, politics and religion – all changing rapidly and causing disruption. While in ways the world is coming together, an underbelly of fear is also driving greater separation.

Questions on the minds of many leaders are:

How do we grow a successful business with such an uncertain future?
How do we lead amongst so much change?
How do we inspire those filled with fear?
How do we drive our people forward without resorting to dominance or authoritarianism?

In 2013 my personal approach to leadership was the subject of a covert study at Cambridge University. Although the researchers gleaned some insight into the impact of my leadership style, they missed the deeper learning:

How does one actually CREATE a powerful way of leading today?

For the past seven years, this question has been the central focus of my work with leaders around the world. As a result, I’ve developed a nuanced approach that leaders find refreshing, intuitive to grasp and empowering to embody.

Recently in public keynotes, I’ve been sharing this integral way of leading and how it creates emergent change in organisational culture, generates results in pitching, sales and negotiating and even improves personal and intimate relationships.

Per the suggestion of a friend, I also decided to capture the essence of this approach to leadership in an audio recording so that more people could learn it.

Click here to download or listen

If you are a leader of any kind and you would like to explore the possibility of my supporting you in creating more loving power and impact in your work, please reach out to me. I’d love to speak with you and show you what we could create together.


The (In)Consequentiality of Circumstance

There is a man who lives in a van that frequents a cafe I visit once or twice a day. I go there to break up the energy of being in my studio. Mostly I drink decaf lattes. They tell me I’m the only one they keep those beans for. Me and children under 12.

I got to know this man first by his scent. There is an incredibly massive wave of body odor that follows him wherever he goes. With your back turned, you can smell him enter the room from 50 feet. Not long after the birth of our olfactory relationship (which I imagine was asynchronous, but my wife says she can smell odor on me when I still think I’m fresh as a daisy, so who knows), we got into conversation and I learned about how he had come to live in a van. Although we could relate in some ways seeing as I had spent half a year living in a van, our stories diverged at the cause. For me, I was seeking adventure. For him, it seems to be the only thing keeping him off the street.

In speaking with this young thin man with long hair, it became quickly apparent that he is an intelligent and knowledgeable individual. Not long ago he was doing well paid and interesting work in NYC. I didn’t get the full story, as I wasn’t that interested in where he’d come from. What had my attention was how and why he was where he was now, struggling with a weak wifi signal on an old laptop to apply for some kind of grant for a few hundred dollars to keep gas in his van so that he could keep moving it each night and stay out of the way of the police that seem to follow him around.

In our many short conversations, I have found myself agreeing with his fine articulations of a society that has become dysfunctional. How he speaks of the structures that keep him down and make it near impossible to climb his way out now that he is down is very enrolling. It’s logical and the evidence of it is as clear as day.

While I agree with his many claims as to circumstances being the cause for his condition, I also see him as a bleeding victim of his own depressed perspective. The trouble is that nothing he claims is untrue. He is intelligent and his arguments are valid.

I don’t mean to say simply that, ‘Life is hard, so what?’ I mean more sharply that, indeed, the closer you get to the bottom the harder it is to climb out. Furthermore, I think it true that this is not a natural order, but the oppression of an economic system based on interest and leverage and a culture sold an underlying philosophy of survival as primary.

The red tears I envision dripping from the corners of this man’s saddened eyes pulls at my heart to help him. I want valiantly for him to see his own agency in this mess. I’ve done my bit – both gently and aggressively – trying to help him see that although what he points to in the world is there, it is holding all of it inside his mind that is pressing his eyes firmly against their sockets and making them bleed.

Our conversations are not that dissimilar from those I have in my studio every day. My professional dialogue does not typically begin in such a place of desperation, but I am often in this same conversation concerning the impact of circumstance on condition. I find myself nodding in agreement with entrepreneurs’ frustrations and leaders’ sense of impossibility due to external factors.

In fact, a few weeks ago I was doing some work with the leader of a multinational organization who oversees offices in nearly 50 countries. He was telling me about the ‘inevitable’ challenge of developing of a global strategy with leaders from so many different nations and cultures. Obviously bringing together leaders from 50 countries around the world was going to include strong disagreement and clashing. When I challenged him that he was creating this entire dynamic, he looked at me in the same way the man living in the van did when I challenged his idea that it was not the ‘system’ which was keeping him down.

In neither case was I suggesting that the external circumstances did not exist. Nor was I saying that they had did not have influence. Instead I was suggesting there was a parallel truth that the entire situation was actually resulting from their perspective that the circumstance was at cause.

To be clear, I am not just saying that their ‘experience’ of the situation as challenging was being created by them. Indeed, I mean that, but I am also saying that the external condition itself results, at least in part, from their perspective.

One might argue this as untrue by suggesting that if they were to remove themselves from the situation, the ‘problem’ would still exist. What they aren’t seeing though is that removing oneself is not the only alternative.

In a keynote I do on leadership I make the assertion that in the same way by being a competitive leader, you generate more competition in your organisation, by being a collaborative leader, you generate more collaboration too.

Core to my work (and my life actually) is leveraging the idea that ‘your state of being creates your world’. I often sound like a broken record pointing people to their own agency in the creation of their circumstances.

An extreme example I use is how it rarely rains where I live. Indeed, my impact on rain in southern California would be hard to measure, but when viewed from the perspective of ‘where I live’, then I am wholly at cause. I moved my family here from London largely to escape from under the wet grey blanket of a sky there.

I don’t mean to say the answer is always so simple. I just mean to point out that there is always a place where we are at cause and when we can find that cause we are empowered to create something different.

After some gentle nudging, the leader of the multinational organisation was able to see how his perspective was encouraging an expectation that many came with. He also discovered how this perspective was wearing him out and making him less effective at leading a more cooperative conversation.

The man in the van wrote down in his notebook a question I shared with him. It’s one I told him I ask myself whenever I don’t like an experience I’m having.

“How am I creating this?”

There have been a few moments like this where he has touched the liberating edges of the inconsequentiality of circumstance. They have given me a glimmer of hope for him in climbing his way out. Enough hope for me to buy him a book and give him a photo of me in my van with one of my favorite quotes written on it – a quote with a subtle nod to the power of transcendence and paradox.

The funny thing about all of this work that I do – professionally and habitually with myself and those I meet wherever I go – is that the deep purpose behind it, what really drives me, is my very present awareness as to the consequentially of circumstance.

While I hold it deeply true that ignoring external conditions is how an individual finds the most power, I hold it equally true that we are inextricably entangled with everything and that not even a single breath or thought happens in us entirely of our own volition. I see that we are tiny whirlpools appearing for a brief moment in a gently and yet incessantly rolling eternal river. I see that everything is a dance and that circumstance is indeed entirely consequential.

I realize that these ideas, because I hold them in such extreme, seem to be mutually exclusive. I assure you though that they are not. The closer you get to them, the more you see how they fit perfectly on the backside of one another.

And there is a time for putting attention to each.

When in the voting booth, for example, I act fully from and for the rolling river.

When I meet another whirlpool though, one struggling to keep spinning and staying in existence amongst the massive currents all around – be them the oppression of an economic system or the force of clashing nationalities – I put all of my focus on the how the little whirlpool creates the giant river.

Everything that goes into something is also simultaneously coming out of it in reverse.

My personal wish is to live in a perceived world where I am the absolute creator of every circumstance so that I may be empowered to create circumstances most supportive of all those others I am inextricably entangled with.

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