Opinion & Philosophy Articles

What is your THEME for 2018?

As we cross the New Years threshold, I like to choose a theme for the year ahead. Deciding what the year will be ‘about’ for me gives me a sense of direction and purpose.

My theme functions as the bedrock to everything that year; be it coaching a client, working out, going for a walk, making love with my wife, changing my son’s diaper…whatever. It also serves as the primary means through which I create that year.

Here are some of my previous year’s themes:

2013 Year of Money
2014 Year of Body
2015 Year of World
2016 Year of Giving
2017 Year of Miracles

If interested, you can read about the above themes in my Facebook post last year.

For 2018, my theme is something that has been a part of my orientation for a long time, but which I’m now being called to embrace more deeply.

For 2018, my theme is something that has been a part of my orientation for a long time, but which I’m now being called to embrace more deeply.

2018 is the YEAR OF SURRENDER

On Saturday, after a workout with a friend we went for breakfast and I shared this with him.

“What does surrender mean for you?”, he asked.

“Good question,” I said. “I can tell you what it means for me now, but I also know it will mean a lot more by the end of the year.”

Mostly I choose my theme because I have a sense that it’s what I need. Its full purpose reveals itself to me as I reflect on it throughout the year.

“Right now,” I continued, “it is mostly about surrendering to the ‘flow of life’ both within me AND outside of me.”

I explained that while I already look to my intuition for guidance on what to do, I have typically related to outside circumstances as inert. In recent years, I have treated the events of the world as mostly a meaningless soup which, with the wisdom of my intuitive compass, I was to navigate through and create with. My ability to see this, I believe, is due to its contrast with how I lived while I was backpacking throughout Europe and Asia in my twenties.

During that time, I not only followed my intuition, but I also followed the path that life was presenting me within the form of things happening around me. I said ‘yes’ to invitations and opportunities and allowed these to take me in new directions. I didn’t say ‘yes’ to everything, but I did allow everything in as a possibility and was more likely to move in that direction if it felt true.

Surrender, for me, means allowing myself to be taken not only by the current of life flowing through me in the form of intuitive knowings, but also around me in the form of external happenings.

As someone on a lifelong journey of relinquishing control, I am leaning into my edge this year by choosing to see things happening around me as not just meaningless autonomous events, but as purposeful invitations for me specifically to contribute.

This is not so much about ‘destiny’ or the ‘hand of God’, but more so choosing to see life as a dance where each event (both inwardly and outwardly) is a beat that I am beckoned to join in rhythm with. To surrender is to respond to each moment of life in the way I respond to my son when music comes on and he grabs my index finger and pulls on it so that I will stand and dance with him. It is to respond how I always do; to dance.

Speaking of dancing, in 2013, during my wedding after party on the beach, I wandered away from everyone for a bit and walked down to the water. From there I turned and looked back at the dance floor where my wife, family and friends were celebrating. The music was softer now with my distance and I could hear the whitewater of the rolling surf and the warm breeze on my ears. The event – my wedding – felt so massive at that moment. I remember being unable to fathom the enormity of everything in my life that had lead me to that point. My arms lifted themselves toward the sky as if to say, “Take me! I’m all in!”

Unbeknownst to me, our photographer (my good friend KT) had followed me out there and captured this image.

This is me in the full embrace of Total Surrender. This is my theme for 2018.

What is YOUR theme for 2018?

Resolvere

New Year’s resolutions aren’t for me. But it’s not because they don’t work.

Imagine someone saying, “Promises don’t work. Everytime I make them, I just end up breaking them.”

The problem isn’t promises. It’s the person making them.

Very few people actually make commitments in the true meaning of the word. They relate to ‘commitments’ (i.e. resolutions and promises) more so as ‘intentions’.

I think people either avoid making commitments – or say they are making them when really just expressing a desire or intention – because it scares the shit out of them to commit.

There is the fear of FAILURE of course. Ironically though, avoiding commitment guarantees failure anyway. I figure that if my default future without action is failure, I may as well make a concerted effort NOT to fail.

The other fear is the loss of FREEDOM. I can relate to this because there was a time when I feared commitment for exactly this reason.

After spending three years living nomadically and buying only one-way tickets, committing to anything felt impossibly scary to me. I remember my hand shaking when winding down my travels, I was signing a six month lease in London. I lifted the pen from the page and put it back down a few times before finally inking my name.

I don’t fear commitment anymore though. These days I actually experience the exact opposite; the more committed I am, the more freedom I have.

Some insight into how and why this is can actually be found by looking at the root of the word ‘resolution’.

‘Resolution’, as in “a firm decision to do something”, comes from the word ‘resolve’, meaning “determination, firmness or fixedness of purpose”. The noun ‘resolve’ comes from the verb form of the word, which itself is an evolution of the Latin word ‘resolvere’.

In Latin, ‘resolvere’ literally means “to loosen, relax, set free”.

In the 1500’s, the idea of breaking something into parts by loosening, relaxing and setting free was considered a way to arrive at the truth of the thing and thus make a final determination. In this way, by resolving we come to a purpose we can be fixed on.

This is exactly my experience.

Before a commitment my mind is busy with considerations and hanging tightly on to ALL possibilities. Once I make a commitment though – once I have resolve – I find that my mind loosens it’s grip on everything else and relaxes into it’s fixed purpose.

The silence and stillness in the wake of an absolute commitment is pure freedom.

My clients will recognize this in the idea we often work with around how to use time: “Structure creates freedom.”

This is the same principle. By creating structure (commitment, resolution, etc) around how you use your time, you actually create more FREE time. (Nobody usually believes it until they experience it though!)

My reason for NOT making New Years Resolutions is not because they don’t work. It is because I make them all of the time, continuously throughout the year.

A resolution is a commitment and a true commitment – where one has absolute resolve – is one of the most powerful tools for self-liberation that I’ve ever found.

If you were to set yourself free through making a resolution, what would you resolve to do?

Still Presence

For most of my life, I’ve been that guy whose leg bounces up and down beneath the table and vibrates the silverware.

It’s not that I’m always anxious. Well, at least not in a fearful way. It’s that my mind has habitually run on hyperdrive; always calculating, imagining and planning the future.

This kind of mental activity takes awareness away from what’s happening in the present moment.

There are two places in which I’ve strengthened my capacity to be present; sitting meditation and coaching. As I practice in these places, I find I develop a resource that I’m able to access elsewhere (with my wife and son for example).

Presence is obviously not about having a still body. For me, this works as a cue because my moving body is often a sign of a moving mind.

By stilling my body, I find I am able to open a gateway to stilling my mind. When my mind is still, the future fades away and I’m left with my awareness of Now.

It works kind of like an internet connection. If someone is downloading a video while you’re on a video conference, your connection to what’s being said is low quality. But when you are the only one online and your connection is ultra high speed, the clarity of connection is much higher.

With a still mind, the present moment is sensory rich and has more depth and breadth to it.

When my mind is still, I don’t need to put effort into looking for things because they appear more easily.

The less I move – as in the less I ‘think’ – the more I see.

Guided by Intuition

“I believe in intuition and inspiration.”

– Albert Einstein

The years I spent living nomadically, buying only one-way tickets and not making any commitments, served me greatly in developing my ability to act intuitively.

Without plans, I was left to the present moment for direction. Through this, I developed a distinction between what I would call ‘impulse’ and ‘intuition’.

Many thoughts and feelings zip through our body and mind, however there is a subset of these which is more persistent and has a quality that suggests it emerges from a deeper and more coherent place.

For those familiar with the experience of faith, whether you name it intuition, God, spirit or otherwise, the needle points in this direction.

For the explorer with no destination, to choose to act from intuition poses no more risk than any other. This is why going on a hero’s journey can be such an important part of one’s life. The unadulterated adventure – being in the unknown with no map and only an inner compass to guide – allows us to meet ourselves more deeply.

The real power though is in holding onto this way of being after the time abroad.

My first practice in this is to come back to the present moment so that I can access the small but wise intutiive voice.

My second practice is to hold on to my faith in its power. Often I allow my mind to wander back to the cobblestones in Europe and to the scent of burning garbage in India as a way of reconnecting with that faith.

The more I believe in and act from intuition, the more I discover that allowing myself to be guided in this way is not only a means of discovering who I am within, but also means of creating at my highest capacity and finding out who I am capable of being on the outside too.

Risk Relationship

Ten years ago, my friend Jake and I were doing some arnis (stick fighting) drills for a photo shoot for his self defense school and he accidentally hit me in the face, splitting my eye open.

The moment I saw the blood pouring into my hands, I said to my friend Kevin the photographer, “Quick, take a picture!” as I knew someday it would come in handy.

That day is today!

Jake is someone I look up to for his boldness and his willingness to spill blood, both literally and metaphorically. In business and life he has ruffled his fair share of feathers and, in my opinion, this has been fundamental to his impressive success.

I know that my own worry of upsetting or disappointing people has been something that has held me back from fulfilling my own potential and so now, as I expand beyond my comfort in this area, I am looking to people like Jake for inspiration.

“What if I were willing to spill blood?” I have wondered.

As I contemplate and explore this I find two striking insights.

First, in most cases, blood actually never gets spilled. The risk is much lower than we think.

Second, and most strikingly, spilling blood doesn’t necessarily end a relationship.

In fact, the moment Jake split my eye open he dropped his sticks and lunged forward with avid concern for my wellbeing. I remember his response even more than getting hit and although we don’t see each other much these days, when I think of Jake, this moment of his concern is the one that represents what our friendship is. He was always there for me. He cared.

What if risking breaking a relationship was exactly the thing that was most likely to make it stronger?

To ‘risk relationship’ then takes on a powerful double meaning.

How can you risk relationship with someone today?

How to Find Your Passion

This may be the best talk I’ve ever given.

It’s had over 150,000 views on YouTube, which is significant for a 30 minute video. People at Cambridge University came across it and asked me if they could do research on my speaking style. Hundreds have contacted me because of it and this has lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue. I have no idea how many people it has helped, but I still hear from people often thanking me and telling me how it has impacted them.

For the first time since I published it almost seven years ago, I watched it in full today.

What stood out for me is the planning I had put into this. I had specific points I wanted to make. I had specific phrases I wanted to speak. I knew all of the stories I was going to tell. I had spent so much time planning it that I did not need a script. It was all in me in at the front of my mind. And in hindsight, it was the perfect blend of preparation and improvisation. Since then, I have leaned more and more into speaking improvisationally because I love the state of being I am able to transmit when I speak without a plan and from spirit. Watching this talk though reminds me that it is the integration of both planning and improvisation that creates a masterpiece.

The funny thing is, I had no plans to give a talk like this. At the time I was working in the relationship field, helping single men and women in London to connect and create love.

One day in 2011 Matt Kendall, founder of the new meetup group Interesting Talks London, asked me if I’d speak on living a passionate life. Despite it not really fitting with what I was already working on, I surrendered to his confidence that I had something to say about it and agreed.

In hindsight, this was a massive turning point in my life. The willingness to follow the call, despite my plans, took me in directions and to heights I had hadn’t even dreamed of yet.

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What is the world asking of you? What call to adventure have you been ignoring?

https://youtu.be/-K046uTeu6k

What’s Standing in Your Way?

What stands in the way becomes the way.

– Marcus Aurelius

I used to consider it inevitable that when I went away on holiday, I would eat less healthy and not have time for focused exercise. I had sort of resigned myself to time away being time off from fitness and having to make up for it when I returned.

I then realized that I was creating this world by equating a break in routine with not being able to get healthier and stronger. Since then, I’ve made it a point to come back from vacations even healthier and stronger than when I left.

How to achieve this can obviously be challenging, but I find the answers unfold from the decision for it to be this way. Now having a baby and being without our nanny, this presents even more of a challenge.

However, one of my favorite principles, which I read in ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius, I’ve learned to quickly apply when I encounter challenges. That thing which I *think* is an obstacle is not only a path (as in a direction) but it is almost always actually the means to accelerate me towards the end result.

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