The Softest One

“They should just drop a bomb on the country and blow them all the fuck up,” he said.

I watched his face after he’d finished. His chin was stubbled. I hadn’t noticed before, but now the roughness and the hardness of it was all I could see

The rest of me was back on the beach in Barcelona. Her soft voice was telling me about how she hated going back because of the way things had changed, especially for the women, but of course she went back because her Mum and Dad were there, and her Mum’s cooking was worth it even if everytime her father gave her hell for going to University and making herself ‘too smart for a man’.

Her accent was beautiful. The words I remember most were those she spoke as, under the dim moonlight, I peeled her naked on the sand.

“As you wish, Jack. As you wish.”

I found it sexy how she submitted, but the culture behind it played on my mind. Was I adopting the role of ‘master’ or, like those who covered her face when she went home on holidays, was I actually being one?

Nevermind that, I thought. I was glad to be leaving the next day, because I was already starting to love her and it’d only been a sun rise and set since we’d met on that bench on La Rambla.

When she had asked to sit beside me, I was reading Hemingway. I smiled and once I could smell her perfume, I turned back to my book which had become a place to hold my gaze while I gathered my words. I knew I’d have to say something, or at least turn the page, so I said hello and that’s how it started.

Over dinner that night we spoke about all the ways of being human that we’d stumbled across in our travels. Of course we didn’t call it that, but we spoke of language, of beliefs, of customs. The more food they brought to our little table, the kind where your knees can’t help but touch, and the more we struggled through different ways of saying the same things, the more I saw how much the same we were. Not just as two people, but as humans being.

This is why, the next night, as I listened to her soft voice and touched what was the softest skin I swear I’d ever touched until that day and any day since, I had to keep my mind very focused not to fall in love. Falling in love was something I was very good at and it got me in too much trouble to be doing it while on the road. I couldn’t risk getting stuck somewhere. I’d already left that behind at home and that was hard enough. To get stuck there too would have been a disaster. It would have thrown the whole thing into ruins. So I stayed with what we were doing. She was so soft. The softest I’d ever known.

I didn’t respond to him because I couldn’t. My mouth wouldn’t work while I was thinking of all of that, so I just sat there looking at him and thinking of her until I was done.

“I know a girl from there,” I said. “We met in Barcelona. Her Mum and Dad still live there.”

I didn’t tell him about her voice or her skin, but I imagined her burning and the sounds she would make if her parents were on fire too.

He just looked at me. His jaw was rigid. There was nothing he could say to that. I still loved him, but a part of me that day found out how much he wasn’t me and could never be me because of where he’d been and where I’d been.

‘American Sniper’ Shot me in the Heart and Gut

Last night we went to see the new Bradley Cooper film ‘American Sniper’. As we crunched our way across the quiet, icy parking lot towards the cinema I was mildly aware of an ambient discomfort with going to see a film depicting real-life, present day war. By halfway through the opening scene, my wife was in tears and I was feeling an overwhelming sense of ignorance. The chomping sound of my popcorn stood out for me as a pitiful marker of disassociation from reality. I questioned my decision to be ‘entertained’ by a dramatisation of still unfolding, real world tragedy.

This new form of entertainment – action movie depictions of current, violent political events – is not something I enjoy. There is no ‘joy’ in watching people suffer and die. And yet, I am drawn to these films.

It is as if my curiosity for ‘what’s happening out there’ can be indulged, while keeping the rest of me at a safe distance. I get to quench my thirst for engagement in the world without risking anything, save maybe $20 and a night out.

In some sense, my interest in the recent youth rebellion/dystopian films (Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, etc) comes from the same place. A desire to feel part of the revolution without having to actually DO anything (except chomp popcorn). With these kinds of films, my inaction is not so confronting though. They are fiction and so easy to write off as ‘entertainment’.

With films like American Sniper and Zero Dark Thirty, this is not as easy to do.

My lack of strength and vulnerability around this does not escape me. In fact, it actually leaves me feeling a bit hollow inside. But there it is.

As we sat watching the film, I knew that for my British born wife, the extreme American nationalism behind each bullet that exploded from Cooper’s character Chris Kyle’s rifle, was even more unsettling for her than it was for me. As the ‘kill count’ tallied like in a video game, I watched with embarrassing disdain the screenwriters meek attempt to balance this with Kyle’s supposed focus on ‘lives saved’. They could have just as easily left it out and not shifted the perspective of the film.

What blew my mind is how strongly the film depicted the ‘enemy’ as evil and the US military as ‘good’. It was a modern day Cowboys and Indians (in fact, Chris Kyle WAS literally a cowboy before he became Navy Seal). In the closing scene of the film, you see Kyle leave home with a man holding a sombre look on his face. The screen fades to black and in one line reads the text ‘Chris Kyle was killed by a veteran he was trying to help.’

From there, through the closing credits, you watch footage from the actual Chris Kyle’s military funeral procession through Texas. Thousands of patriots line the streets with flags and signs praising ‘The Legend’ and his 160 confirmed kills, the most in US military history.

Not for a moment does the film visit the irony that The Legend was himself taken by a bullet.

Not for a moment does the film visit the irony that The Legend was killed by a U.S. solider.

Not for a moment does the film visit the irony that despite spending years overseas taking the lives of men, women and children, The Legend was taken from his own wife and children in his home state.

Instead, the final image is of the actual Chris Kyle stood like Rambo, draped in two sachets of bullets, and smiling with pride.

Do I doubt that Chris Kyle’s sharp-shooting was instrumental in saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of US soldiers? Not at all.
Do I doubt that Chris Kyle’s kills directly thwarted terrorist attacks by the people he destroyed? Not at all.
Do I have the balls to even face these questions on the ground in a war zone as opposed to pontification? Absolutely not.
Does this make my consideration relatively irrelevant? I’m not so sure.
In most obvious light, my choice to visit the true tragedies of the world through dissociative ‘entertainment’ may represent a lack of courage and an absence of impact. My fear of personal loss is certainly a contributing factor.
In less obvious light though, I wonder if my choice to stand on the sideline and watch armed with opinions instead of being on the field carrying explosives is a statement in itself.
In 1999 I withdrew my place in the USAF ROTC program at the last minute. I couldn’t stomach the idea that one day I may have had to kill people over what was essentially a misunderstanding. I couldn’t justify murder, even under the powerful spell of nationalism.
I do not believe going to see films like American Sniper means that I ‘support’ their ideology. These films emotionally engage me in the current and active story of the world. Maybe this engagement is what I need to stop standing there armed with opinions and to start speaking them.
Speaking is not something I, or anyone, did after the film. The theatre emptied in the same awkward silence that I remember during the closing credits of Zero Dark Thirty.
The crunch of the ice in the parking lot was even louder on the way back to the car. The discomfort was no longer ambient. It was in my hands and on the steering wheel now. I just watched it though, knowing this is what Kyle must have felt while holding the trigger of his rifle. And for a moment at least, despite wishing his killing legacy had not such an echo of unquestioned justification, I loved Chris Kyle for being human.

How to Find Speaker Opportunities – Coaching Jude

I like the idea that a vision is not a place to get TO, but a place to come FROM.
In this short clip of a coaching conversation I had with Jude, she tells me how she wants to be doing more public talks. Certainly one could explore all the different strategies to creating such an outcome. What I typically find though is that ‘strategy’ and ‘how to’ are typically NOT the thing people are missing. What people are missing is a willingness to simply DO THE THING in their vision right now. With Jude, that meant that if she wanted to be doing more public talks, the thing to do was TALK…right now.
What to talk about?
Talk about doing talks.
Speak about speaking.
This seems obvious, but most people spend their time trying to do everything BUT the thing in their vision in order to get to their vision. To come FROM a vision, fill your days with that vision – fill every day with that vision.
If you want to be a speaker, then speak every day. Speak about speaking. Do it enough and you will end up on stages speaking to more and more people.
If you want to be a massage therapist, massage people.
If you want to be a coach, coach people.
If you want to run a business, then figure out what the thing you want to do in that business is and start doing it…right now.
Watch me create this insight with Jude here:

 

 

And then ask yourself: If my vision were a place I came FROM, what would I be doing?

 

Steve Hardison – The Window Cleaner

When Steve Hardison ( www.theultimatecoach.com ) first saw me in London this weekend, he hugged me and then grabbed me by the shoulders and stared into my eyes.

If his energy didn’t feel so loving and authentic, I would have probably been weirded out. Instead I felt comfortable and curious.

Through his faintly tinted sunglasses, amongst other things, Steve said to me, “I create you everywhere I go.” 

It was intense and cryptic and I have been sitting uwith the phrase for a few days now.

“I create you everywhere I go.” 

What was Steve really saying to me?

After some silent consideration, along with reflecting on Steve’s 90 minute talk (of which he spent 60 minutes acknowledging people), is that as a coach, wherever he goes, he inspires authentic, self-expression in everyone he meets – that he opens people’s hearts so they can live freely and love can flow through them uninhibited.

I got that Steve’s whole message of ‘being who you are’ was NOT about becoming authentic to a deeper, undiscovered, intrinsic, pre-existing self.

Instead, ‘being who you are’ is about becoming translucent to the ‘one self’ that is continuously trying to unfold through each of us in its own unique way.

The modern interpretation of a ‘guru’ is someone who is held to have high intrinsic value. But the ancient guru was someone with no value at all. Instead they were a servant of spirit. They were a window through which God’s light would shine.

For me Steve Hardison is an ancient guru. He is a simple and tall man who, through willing and committed practice, has become a clear window for God – a highly conductive conduit for the unimpeded unfolding of creative potential.

It is NOT about Steve. Steve is a only a servant. He is an adept servant of love.

But if it’s not about Steve, then why my applause? Why my immense gratitude for him? Why my deep respect and acknowledgement?

My applause this weekend were also NOT for the love that came from Steve. This love was not his. He never created it. He never owned it. He just allowed it to come through him.

My applause are for the work Steve has done to clear away that which gets in the way of love. 

My immense gratitude is for Steve becoming a child again.

My deep respect and acknowledgement is for the work Steve has done to become an ancient guru.

He has cleaned his window so that spirit can shine through him.

It was powerful for me to see how Steve Hardison’s professional significance – the significance that has people lining up to pay him $150,000 for coaching – arises from a self-inflicted and love-inspired insignificance – that it is only by forgetting himself completely in the service of love that he can be who he is – and that it is by being this that he ascends to the highest power and creates the greatest impact.

When love travels through a human being and hits you unimpeded, it lights you up.

And when that light comes through bright enough – when it comes through a window that has been cleaned well over years of practice – that light can burn the soot and dust from your window too.

Light free to shine this brightly can dissolve fears.

Thank you for cleaning my window, Steve.

Love,

John P Morgan

How to Present Yourself Well

Do you want to present yourself well?

Have you been considering how to present yourself well at your next job interview, sales meeting, first date, funding pitch or networking or social event?

I won’t suggest that being concerned with how we present ourselves is all bad.

At the same time, because of the general insecure nature of human beings today, our focus on how we present ourselves is more often an obstacle to achieving our outcomes than it is an aid.

When I am concerned with how I am presenting myself, I may think…

How do I look on video today?
Do I sound smart?
Was I talking too fast?

When I hear myself thinking things like this, I notice it as a feeling of concern with how I am ‘presenting’ myself.

I have taught myself that this feeling is a flag – a reminder – of a distinction I would like to share with you:

Presenting vs Present

These are choices I can make.

I can either be concerned with how I am ‘presenting’ myself.

Or I can be concerned with how ‘present’ I am being with others.

And I cannot do either of these at my best at the same time.

Going back to my Physics roots, in 1927 Werner Heisenberg stated that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa.

In this same way, in any particular moment, the more one focuses on ‘presenting’ their self, the less ‘present’ one can be with others, and vice versa.

When I notice the flag – when I catch that I am unconsciously focused on presenting myself – I have created a choice.

When I create this choice, I always choose being present over presenting myself.

This is because I value presence with others over how I present myself to others.

I am not saying you should value the same, but I do want you to have the choice.

COACHING QUESTIONS:

  • Where in your life are you concerned with how you are presenting yourself?
  • How is that concern stopping you from being as present with others as you could be?
  • Will you choose to instead focus your energy and intention on being fully present with others?

How to Connect With Potential Clients

The challenge of ‘connecting with potential clients’ reminds me of when my friend James once said to me:

“John: Your solution is the problem.”

I don’t remember what it was about when he said it, but the concept stuck with me and I see it often now.

In this situation though…

The desire is to grow your business.
The challenge is that you need more clients.
The solution is to connect with potential clients.
The problem is that you find it difficult or don’t know how.

What I am suggesting is that the problem of you finding it difficult or not knowing how to connect with people arises because your solution is, specifically, to connect with ‘potential clients’.

You are putting your desire to have more clients and your desire to grow your business inside the act of connecting with people.

Having self-interest as part of your intention while connecting with human beings makes connecting more difficult.

In other words…

Your ability to connect with human beings is inversely proportional to your desire to acquire from them. 

When you are trying to ‘connect with potential clients’, you are inadvertently carrying a desire to acquire and thus making it difficult for yourself.

You may post rationalise this difficulty as ‘not knowing how to do it’ or ‘having fear’, but really this is BS.

You already know how to connect with people and you do it well when there is nothing you want from them.

A metaphor I like that has me completely disconnect from any desire to acquire when connecting is to think of it as untangling and repairing an old box of Christmas lights (fairy lights).

When I think about who I want to reach out to, I like to think of it as looking for the next knot to untangle in the fairy lights. I’m just exploring. Just looking for the easiest NEXT place to loosen things up.

When I connect or re-connect with someone, I like to think of it as pulling out an old bulb and replacing it with a new one.

I keep doing this until every knot has come loose and every person on the string is lit up – until every relationship is glowing.

The light of these now active connections provides me with a whole new perspective. Just like a string of lights does, having that many relationships active in my life at one time also gives me a magical feeling.

Being connected creates a deep sense of wholeness.

Finally, with all that new light, I am better able to see where and how I can serve.

COACHING QUESTIONS:

  • Where are you making it difficult to connect with people because you are doing it with a specific intention in mind?
  • Are you willing to just plug bulbs in – are you willing to connect just for the sake of connection?

How to Coach Without Listening

Yesterday somebody gave me ‘feedback’ during a coaching session.

“You aren’t listening to me,” they said.

They were right!

Patience and listening is considered a virtue in coaching.

I can be patient. And I can listen. I can listen to you more deeply than most people will ever even come close to listening to you.

And yet sometimes…I throw listening completely out the window.

Sometimes I will decidedly STOP listening to a person who I am coaching. In fact, I often interrupt my clients so I can stop listening to them.

Why?

I have no patience for stories about why things are difficult. I will not waste your time listening to you explain why something cannot be done.

Your reasons why something is difficult or impossible may very well be TRUE! (They often are.)

And yet, as far as our work together is concerned, those reasons only matter when they are what you focus on.

For me, coaching is about creating a new reality to focus on.

I love you too much to let you go on and on and on continuing to create a reality that does not serve you.

When I interrupt you, I want you to STOP looking at the blindingly obvious. I want you to STOP looking at the brightest light.

Instead I want you to walk with me into the darkness…into the unlikely and the impossible

In that place, I want you to find the tiny specks of light in the darkness. The white twinkling dots.

I want you to focus on those and I want you to discover that you can navigate your entire life and create everything you want by those stars.

That is why sometimes I coach you by NOT listening to you.

COACHING QUESTIONS:

  • What is the story that you have been telling yourself about why it is challenging to do what you want to do?
  • What might be another story that is also true, but which is about succeeding at what you want to do?

How to Create an Elevator Pitch

If you had one minute in an elevator with someone, why would you want to spend it talking about yourself and your idea?

Why not spend it focused on the other person, being curious about them, connecting with them?

In a world where everyone is focused on themselves and their thing and their idea and getting everyone to love them – you will stand out much more by being interested in a person than by trying to get them to be interested in you.

In fact, you are much more likely to create the opportunity to spend MORE than one minute with a person if instead of trying to ‘wow’ them with your song and dance, you connect with them on a human level.

Deep human connection will serve the creation of your vision more than an elevator pitch ever will.

What the world needs is not another pitch. What the world needs is people willing to listen.

If you have been working on your elevator pitch, please stop.

And ask your friends to do the same.

How to Inspire People

The other day my yoga instructor, an inspiring vegetarian, ironman triathlete and yogi named Jessica, said something funny that triggered a new insight for me.

(I know I’ve been mentioning ‘yoga’ often recently. What can I say – I’m hooked! Going almost everyday now.)

After saying ‘inhale’, instead of saying ‘exhale’, Jessica said a made up word: ‘out-hale’.

Upon hearing that, my mind wandered to the explanation of ‘inspire’ that I like – that inspiration is the inhalation of spirit – in-spirit. In other words, when you feel inspired, it is because you have breathed in spirit that resonates with you deep inside.

(To hear more about this, check out my video You Are What You Admire)

If that was what in-spire is…then would what out-spire be?

It struck me quite quickly that out-spire – the breathing out of spirit – is exactly what I do and what I help my clients who are coaches and leaders to do.

I was reminded of how a mission to ‘inspire people’, which I often hear people proclaim, always strikes me as a bit misguided and even controlling.

How could I possibly have any control over whether or not a person is inspired? I can’t force spirit down into their hearts. I can’t ensure the spirit I have access to will resonate with their heart.

For example, try as you may, you will likely find it very difficult to inspire me with your demonstration of skills at bird watching (people have tried and I’ve fallen asleep).

What I can do instead of trying to inspire people is focus on ‘out-spiring’. I can focus on breathing out the spirit that resonates with me. I can focus on speaking and doing the things that give me the strongest feeling of inspiration.

And maybe this is all we are supposed to do.

Referring to trees again (another great teacher for me recently), trees ‘breathe in’ carbon dioxide and they ‘breathe out’ oxygen. They don’t try to ensure that YOU breathe in their oxygen.

Imagine a tree saying, “I want to give people MY oxygen.” 

That would be nuts! (Besides the fact that a tree would be talking.)

Trees don’t give a shit who breathes their oxygen. They are just doing what they do. Breathing in and breathing out. And during that process, through their uniqueness, the air is transformed a little bit.

When you breathe in spirit and it connects with you, it transforms a little bit too. It gets a piece of you with it.

Your job – your only job – is to ‘out-spire’.

Breathe it out. Do your part. Speak your truth. Do what you love.

That is how you inspire people.

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