Original Thought · Self Improvement · Sharing Economy · Teamwork · Uncertainty

Fear versus Hope

I am afraid that the fear mongers are winning and yes I see the irony. After writing for weeks about hope and her great liberating, creative, and generous power I find myself slipping over to the dark side more often than I like. Even though I understand that choosing hope has a positive and infectious impact on my life and those around me, I feel like I have been inundated by media, social media, and conversations with a message of distrust, hatred, and terror. So much of what I hear and read has a bias towards suspicion, division, and polarization. Is our world tumbling out of control? Will the schism we are creating bring dire and fatal consequences for our species?

I am taking off the grey coloured glasses of despair and seeing the world in the brighter glow of hope. What I take in through my eyes and ears will be curated towards the best of our city, province, country. I am not going to naively ignore news but I will intentionally seek generative, positive stories. Afterall, the best and the worst are nothing more than fictions that we tell ourselves and if collectively more of us lean into narratives about responsible government and personal responsibility, climate care, equity, joyful relationships, then more coverage of those will be offered and more will be generated.
My position isn’t Pollyanna pie in the sky. It is a deliberate and intentional choice. I can be positive and passionate and opinionated and respectful with being inane, insane, or weak. Hope can raise the water for my little boat and can carry a flotilla of like minded travellers. Therein lies the rub. I am looking for people who are willing and courageous enough to say no to fear and yes to hope.

We can build a new movement; one that is democratic without being political. One that is passionate without being partisan. One that is confident without the vitriol of certainty. Are you interested in joining others to create something hopeful, even if it just adds joy and inspiration to those on the boats? What if the Armada’s positivity infects a few dozen, a few hundred, a few thousand new sailors? Are you seeking hope? Do you know others around you who are ready to stake their position and take a stand? If we created an online presence like a Facebook page (or other suggestions)
would you join and contribute? Hope won’t win if we just lurk around her edges. We need to wrap our arms around her and then tell others our stories of hope.

Today I had three conversations with younger people from early 20’s to early 30’s who seem immune to the rubbish that is being spewed through conventional and new mediums. Their outlook on today, tomorrow and the future were refreshingly expectant. They weren’t so much concerned with the trappings of the world but more interested in what they are and will experience and the value that they can add to their friends, family and community.

They believe they are and can make a difference in the world and they are. It is that simple and that complicated but it began with a choice to view the world in a light shining brightly.

Make Today Hopeful,

Bonce-you-choose-hope-anything-is-possible

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Serenity

The Serenity Prayer is a troubling bit of naive advice.

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

Amen.

The more well known first five verses set up the contrast between action and inertia, between courage and wisdom, between divinity and humanity. For believers in a monotheistic world, it seems to be a means to shift blame and justify inaction. For unbelievers, it points to wisdom as the inspiration for decisions rather than any god or gods. The Glori Patre formulation brings familiarity.

The second stanza becomes very Buddhist for the first three lines. Accepting the world as it is rather than as I would have it be, is easy to say and certainly harder to do. In my morning meditation, I can be accepting of my surroundings; the light, sounds, and energy around me. I have learned to accept my aches, physical, emotional, and intellectual for the moments that I rest in awareness of my body but the experience is fleeting as I return to the room, the house, the world.

The metaphoric invocation is abrupt but temporary in line eight. Almost as an aside, an incantation that harkens the magic and power from beyond. The poet becomes frenetic jumping from self to Saviour as the reason to live and the means to solve the anxiety of decisions. If I relinquish the decision and the responsibility for it, I am absolved. Even if I don’t fully and truly accept the Christian myth, I am restored for making or not making a choice to act.

The prayer ends, as all good prayers should, with the incantation; repeated and bleated by so many. In the call for agreement, we reinforce the fiction that we have created together and which is necessary to make any sense of our world, our place and the concept of prayer.

As the prayer closes, it makes the big promise that regardless of whether I have wisdom or courage or knowledge and without consideration for how my self-imposed choice impacts others, I will live forever with the one who releases me of the responsibility.

To be clear, I have prayed this prayer on many occasions and my significant action bias always won out even when I didn’t have the necessary information to make the choice wisely. For the times when I know that my choice to act caused harm and for those times that I don’t recognize the hardship I contributed to, I accept responsibility. For the times that my limited view of the world suggests that my action was neutral or helpful, I accept responsibility too. No passing the buck, no shared fiction, just me being responsible or irresponsible in the moment.

This post was precipitated by having someone say to me ” God helps those who help themselves” in what I felt was a callous response to some homeless people we had an encounter with. He didn’t appreciate me suggesting that his statement was an acknowledgement that there is no god and if he still believed there was then, from my reading of scripture, that he was missing the big point by weaving a thick veil with a whole lot of very small stuff. Not my finest moment. But I was frustrated by his words and concerned that I didn’t have a better response to the two women and a man other than the giving of alms (which readers of this post will remember, I have referred to as a status verification absolution practice. ) If charity is the best we can do, so be it. But charity shouldn’t stop us from looking for root causes. If we continue to manage social issues, social issues manage to continue.

There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction. ~ John F. Kennedy

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Success

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What constitutes success? How do you measure the value of a minute, an hour, a lifetime? Is the accumulation of material goods and zeroes a meaningful metric? How much is enough? Is there such a thing as too much?
For regular readers, you will know that I tend to believe and try to practice the belief that our lives aren’t measured by what we have but rather by what we do. Too much creates an expectation of more and a dissatisfaction with the present.
If I live my life with open hands; allowing gifts and possessions to be shared rather than accumulated, my hands never seem to be empty. When I close my fists on money, material belongings, relationships, ideas then there isn’t room for additional, new, exciting possibilities. There isn’t a motivation to seek out new people or room in the closed fist to caress a new idea.
My success is measured by the incremental changes that my curiousity and relationships bring me. I am better (more successful) on the days that I am open to the unknown, interested in mystery, and able to have impactful and challenging conversations with the people that I encounter on the adventure of my day.
We have stuff and sometimes I cling to it but mostly it gets in the way of explaining, learning, sharing because the stuff says more about me (and things I don’t aspire to have said) than my intellect, rhetoric and actions. If the bling and accessories don’t add to my essence then they are detracting from who I want to be and how I want to be remembered.

Shedding stuff is difficult, especially if we have vested personal importance in their status and allowed them to become proxies for true meaning. It may be easier to succeed in not acquiring objects that are peripheral to your life mission. If I want to live a more self-sustaining life, does a luxury SUV or the latest Keurig machine fit inside or outside the path? (does the latest anything fit?)

In a Business Insider article Arriana Huffington says “To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric,” she says, “a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”
In the same article Winston Churchill says “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”.

It seems that others have been asking the “what is success” question for decades, maybe centuries. How do you know or feel your success? Do you? What needs to change so your metrics are meaningful for you? Are you ready and willing to shift your focus and live life a new way?

B

Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Contentment

 

soloWhere does discontent come from? How can I shift the blame? the perception, the perspective? Is discontent merely a figment of an ego driven mind? I crave attention, I don’t get attention so I feel discontent. I want more, I don’t get more so I feel discontent. Can the process be reversed? I am content, I don’t get more, I don’t want more. I am content, I don’t get attention, I don’t seek attention.
That would mean that contentment, like so many other things, is a choice I get to make. I can look at the menu and choose to embrace my current circumstances without expectation, envy, or external drivers.

If chasing riches, adding Facebook friends, impressing bosses, buying stuff,
believing myths is a way to find satisfaction, why can’t we bypass the noise and get right to the music? ” I choose to be satisfied” ” I will sing my own song of happiness”.

Regardless of what the world tells us, we should desire, can’t we still seek something else? I was party to the race to fame and fortune and still find myself running alongside the sprinters but I continue to try live a life less conventional. On the best of days, I hold deeply and loosely the values and relationships that mean the most to me. I swim in the satisfaction that my ‘heart’ feels and rest on the shore as my mind’s cravings begin to still.

I certainly haven’t mastered any of this and can find myself wanting, wishing, chasing, coercing and cursing but I can choose to be satisfied in the moment and joyful in being present. I remind myself that what the world wants me to want isn’t what I want. I remember that I am satiated by music, books, love, nature and agitated by the clamouring of stuff and accumulation. I measured how long I felt satisfied after buying a new outfit. The glow was strong in the store but faded as I was heading home. I got a rebound on the occasion that I first wore the shirt and shorts but in total, I received less than 40 minutes of good feelings from the purchase. On the other hand, I can spend hours in the company of friends and family or in a great book and be filled with contentment. The return on investment from the latter outstrips the former even as the principle message I receive tells me the opposite.

Today, I spent time accomplishing small tasks; cleaning, mending, writing and enjoying reading, riding, running and resting. I had lunch on a rooftop and took in the view, did maintenance on our home and cleaned up from a storm. My day was around people that I care about and I come to the end of another rotation feeling fulfilment and happiness and I don’t have anything material to show for it. I will see if I can end on the same note tomorrow having played a similar tune and I will try not to add anything to my closets, bookshelves, or larder.

Can you acquire less tomorrow and feel joy and gratification because that is the choice you make when you get up? Are you willing to give it a try?

Make Tomorrow Remarkably Satisfying,

Bob

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

This too Shall Pass (Likely)

Why do things have a way of working themselves out? For most of us, most of the time, regardless of how much or how little planning things have a way of working themselves out. Even when a detour jumps out of the bushes or the sky seems to fall on our heads, we find our way to the end of the road. It might not be the destination we were seeking or via the route that we expected but somehow we make it out the other side. Tragedy can strike and we go on, a windfall can arrive or be lost and we continue, or boredom, stress, or health concerns weigh us down and we march on.

Most of us have had setbacks that knocked the wind out of us and left us reeling; an untimely death, an unexpected diagnosis, a broken relationship and yet we soldier on. We reflect, we ruminate, we readjust, and we remain. I don’t believe there is an exceptional characteristic that allows us to overcome. It seems to lie in the process.

There is a bit of ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again”, a bit of ” don’t let the bastards beat you down” and a lot of living in the pain and through the pain to the other side. Sometimes the ache can be erased, sometimes it can be accepted easily, but mostly it needs to be acknowledged, accepted, and absorbed. The suffering and pain leads to somewhere, somewhere better or at least different from the current state. To clarify, I am not talking about individuals who suffer from debilitating and deteriorating illness. Their condition might leave little room for relief from long-term distress. But if someone is suffering from diabetes and their illness is managed by treatment, they go through an initial depression but generally adapt to the new normal of medication and/or injections and the regimen becomes part of their day-to-day.

Unfortunately, what seems like an organic process of reflection and recovery requires intention and commitment to staying the course when our instincts scream retreat. Living in the anguish without judgement, accepting that many/most things are beyond the span of our control, and resolving to allow for the time it takes and the energy it requires to feel the depths, hold in the deeps and rise up, in a controlled, steady ascent. This is not something to be taken lightly nor without support.

The world is a much better place when we live in interdependent relationships; giving and taking support, grace, and service to each other. It is difficult for many of us to seek and accept these gifts from others, even those closest to us. We find it much easier and more pleasant to give love, provide nurturing and solve problems for others. There is a happiness glow that occurs when we use our strengths to strengthen others because our brain chemistry is triggered to release chemicals that interact with neurons that signal pleasure in our brains. When we ignore or reject assistance from those around us or stoically deny we have any issues, we are robbing our friends and family of the same pleasure we seek.

My thesis is that we overcome circumstances and adapt with the help of those in our community (community being a group of people who know and depend on each other) while we recognize, acknowledge and live through the downs and ups in our lives.

Who depends on you? Who do you depend on? How are you ‘working through’ a detour or unexpected situation in your life?

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

The Harder Way

If we embrace a bit of inconvenience, how do we benefit? Convenience is a set of stepping stones that easily and harmoniously lead to the same conclusion as yesterday and the day before. If I always accept the ‘easy’ way it becomes the only way. If I use my private vehicle as a convenient tool to avoid planning, avoid exercise, and avoid thinking I am blindly going where I always go. But if I consider my options, reflect on what I want to accomplish and make a plan, I can save time, gas, frustration and expand my mind rather than shrink it into tiny status quo blob.

adventure
We have stopped considering options. The mediocrity rut will lead to the grave without any personally generated excitement.
(Not to dwell on automobile use because the issue of defaulting into convenience is across all elements of our lives but where I live the truck is a god-given-over-my dead-body right and suggesting that there might be a different approach is worth your life and would be political suicide.)
Inconvenience wakes us up and conversely convenience keeps us inert and supposedly satisfied. Shake up your routine, walk when you could drive, mail when you could text, call instead of email, get up early, go to bed early, make a meal rather than takeout, think about a different way to use the next ten minutes and then do it.

Go out of your way to help a friend, a stranger, an enemy. Do something difficult and do something the hard way. If you are considering doing something and think ” that wouldn’t be to hard” or “that should be easy”, imagine a way to make the task more difficult, more perfect, and then take the high road.

I have discovered that the difference between good and great is a matter of inches but on far too many occasions, I am tempted and then convinced to be satisfied with good. When I go the extra inches, I feel better about myself and my performance and the interaction is remembered and appreciated.

Surprise yourself and others by going the extra inches and intentionally taking the hatd way.

B

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Peer Pressure

When faced with the decision to research a subject, ruminate on the information, reflect on the consequences and form your own opinion or blindly accepting the collective fiction of a group, which do you choose? Does it matter if the subject seems significant? trivial? If the consequences are personal and material, do you resort to the easier approach or take a harder road?

Group think works because thinking is hard work. Comprehending an appropriate question and choosing a credible source of information are skills that we have stopped practising.  My greatest strength is my ability to synthesise disparate ideas. My greatest weakness is my ability to synthesise disparate ideas. Regardless, I tend to rush to a conclusion and if the destination at the end of a straight line is familiar, I will probably go where my eyes take me.

We are kept from our goal not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal.” ~ Robert Brault

The road less travelled is bound to be more challenging, more interesting and more scenic. I am heading out to Sundre Alberta this afternoon. I have made the trip hundreds of times and often vary the route. If I wanted to arrive in 1 hour and 7 minutes, the fastest course is to stick to the freeway (QE2). Traffic clips along at 120 km ph and on a Friday is bumper to bumper. My goal in heading away from the city is relaxation and mindfulness and if I speed along with the crowd, I arrive irritated and anxious. However, if I meander on lesser highways with a slower speed and considerably less traffic, I am able to take in the majesty of my surroundings and rather than getting stressed by the trip, I am relaxed and inspired by it.

pathway

If I am distracted by the shortest path; however, I measure that – least time, least effort, most familiarity, personal preference, invalid excuses, unrealistic fear I will always miss out on the journey and will probably arrive somewhere that I have already been but without the learning, preparation, or anticipation.

Make Today Remarkable, by resisting peer pressure posturing and embracing some originality,

B

 

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Are You a Segregationist?

bending willow

Are we practising segregationists? Segregation defined as the act or practice of segregating; a setting apart or separation of people or things from others. In the not so distant past, I surrounded myself with like-minded folks who held and espoused the same views of ideas, policies, and people. While a scary practice, it becomes critical and unhealthy when the like-minded crowd out everyone else and sound walls of similarity are constructed to keep ‘them’ and ‘their nonsense’ out of sight and sound. I was comfortable defining people by how they differed from me and couldn’t/wouldn’t consider making a crack in the wall to let the freshness of something new or different in.

I watched my tribe grow organically, like a Persistent organic pollutant (POP) defying any degradation of its power with stubbornness and vitriol. I used energy; kinetic, physical and emotional to hold different opinions at bay and resisted considering possibilities, even when I could feel the glimmer of dishonesty and see the light of inconsistency in my position. I set myself apart from others who were different and surrounded myself with folks who conformed to my ideals and confirmed my ideas. We were diverse in age, race, and economic conditions but marched in lockstep to policies and positions that we hadn’t necessarily given the proper consideration to.

My observation is that segregationists exist at all places on the political spectrum; left, right, and center. Ideology around religious, environmental, economic, and social fictions are strong regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, gender, age. We all draw close to people who ‘do things the right way’. We like people who are like us. and consequently and unfortunately we don’t easily like people who aren’t like us; unless we make a concerted and committed effort.

The effort to openness is enormous. We have been shunning those who are different from us (in any/many ways) for 70,000 years. When Homo Sapiens started creating community and culture they needed to create a common narrative – a Sapien fiction that allowed and justified unearned trust. As we began to live more complex and crowded lives, we redoubled the narrative. The Sapien fiction allowed them to usurp and probably slaughter other homo species of the day. Millenia later we are still separating ourselves, within one species, into groups based on the myths we tell ourselves about ourselves and the world we live in.

What would happen if we took a slightly different approach? What if we allowed a 10-degree reorientation to take place? If I was open to 10% of what makes someone else different from me, would I be a different person? better? yes. possibly.

When I am willing to shift 10 degrees from my stubborn fiction and the person in front of me shifts the same, we have less distance between our stories and might be close enough to see where they overlap.

Imagine a centrist Democrat ( Jack) meeting a centrist Republican (Jill). Under most circumstances, they may not give each other the time of day on issues of health care, taxation, or immigration. If Jack shifts their position towards Jill’s by 10 degrees and she does the same, they may both realise that they want what is best for most people and only differ on tactics. Once the chasm narrows, there seems to be greater willingness to listen, if not appreciate to someone else’s opinion. Curiousity to understand builds bridges while asking questions in order to overpower builds walls.

How do I more consistently become an integrationist? How do I hold strong views strongly and still be willing to hear other fictions? Maybe this fable by Dorothy Colleen is a guide.
The Oak and the Willow, a fable
In a field, there was an oak at one end, and a willow-tree at the other.

Whenever a wind moved through the field, the willow swayed in the wind, while the oak remained unmoved.

When this happened, the willow said to itself, “I wish I was as strong as the Oak, instead of bending over with every breeze“ then one day a large windstorm whipped through the field.

When the storm passed, and the darkness lifted, the willow looked across the field, and was shocked to discover that the oak was laying on the ground, broken. When the Gardener came into the field, the willow said, “Oh sir, what happened to the Oak? How is it that I survived the storm, weak as I am, and the Oak fell?”

The Gardener said, “Oh little willow-tree, do you not understand what happened? When the winds blow, you bend with them, while the oak remains still. So when a really powerful wind comes along, you can bend with the wind, and survive it. But the Oak cannot bend, and so if the wind is strong enough, it will break. For the Oak had a secret, a weakness within that no one looking at the outside could see. And the Gardener went on his way, leaving the willow to ponder what he said.

Moral: Strength within and strength without are not the same, and one should cultivate strength within first. Also, when the winds of life blow, bend, and you may survive the real storms when they come. Try and resist them, and when the real storms come, you may break instead.

Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty

Dare to Fail

 

mistakesIf I am not making at least three mistakes a day, I am not trying. My greatest opportunities are waiting for me to have the courage and willingness to attempt them. The least I can do is step up to the plate and swing the bat. Sometimes I will foul off a curveball and learn to be more patient. On occasion, I will whiff on some high heat and gain some perspective regarding the challenge and some skills I need to develop. In a few instances, I will get hit or brushed back and end up on my butt looking foolish but if I get back up and step back into the box, I get another appearance at the plate. If I put my head down and slink off to the dugout, after striking out, I have missed the chance to improve, innovate and endure.
I am generally active in my world for 16 to 18 hours a day. If I take lots of swings and only whiff at a one every 5 to 6 hours, I am missing my share at the plate. Yesterday I wrote something rude and inane in an attempt at humour, I quoted the wrong James brother in an attempt to convince (and was corrected), I blurted out a thesis that I hadn’t thought through (as an extrovert, I do this many times a day) while trying to understand, in an effort to be curious I asked an impertinent question (without understanding my insensitivity). I wrote 750 words in an ongoing chapter, most of which turned out to be crap – but there is one sentence that has possibilities. I met 4 new people and all of them were generous and supportive about a ‘big idea’ that I shared with them and I was interested and present as they recounted what they are working on.
I ran in the rain, laughed with a stranger, ate with a friend, slept well and dreamed hard. The last sentence weren’t risks or mistakes but not that long ago they would have been unusual. I took steps to make them possible and now they seem familiar rather than odd.
A speaker yesterday, suggested that we need to let out crazy ideas out because they just might work. I have no shortage of absurdity wrestling for space in my head and now I have been given permission to give voice and action to more of it. If 3 out of 10 turn out to be viable and feasible, I will be thrilled with that average. If 1 in 100 is a home run, I still get to run the bases one more time than someone who is sitting in the stands watching the game being played by others. If my timing is right and my idea scores for me but also adds remarkable value to the efforts of three other crazy folks, then we are on our way to achieving another reason to celebrate our teamwork,
Even if I don’t clear the bases 99/100, the one grand slam is still exhilarating.
What risks can you take this morning? tomorrow? this week? Are you willing and maybe excited with the freedom and permission to make mistakes? Would you be willing to create a “My Mistakes” journal and record all the times that you pushed the envelope and had it tear? Would you commit to celebrating the 1/100 big success and commit to learning from the 99 stumbles?

If you have the confidence and courage to shake up your days, your week, your life and rattle some cages, leave a comment or contact me at bob@remarkablepeople.ca and we will figure out how we can connect and support each other.

Make Today Remarkable, by trying enough scary stuff so that you fail three times,
B

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”  ~ John Wooden
“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw
“I think it’s important for scientists to be a bit less arrogant, a bit more humble, recognising we are capable of making mistakes and being fallacious – which is increasingly serious in a society where our work may have unpredictable consequences.”
~ Robert Winston

“You have to change your life for yourself, and it’s about the fun of getting there – sitting in the tour van, breaking down on the side of the road, you know, having a laugh with the guys in the band, making mistakes with nobody watching.” ~ Imelda May

Original Thought · Uncertainty

Less Focus and More Attention

 

involved

My importance is only perspective. When I think that I am the center of the universe (or you do), it is only because of where our attention is focused. If I stare at a dot on a paper the surrounding white space shifts so that my concentration is on the spot.
If I focus on the negative impacts that I see from the actions of a world leader, it becomes my topic of discussion, where I spend intellectual and kinetic energy and impacts my mood. Where I place my attention nudges my ideation and action. If I am trying to find a poverty reduction strategy and it is my focus then I miss any opportunity that a prosperity creation strategy could add. If I wring my hands about the news regarding the Paris Climate Accord and the discord around the decision, I might miss the lessons that can be learned from new collaborations and strategies.
Focus is important when undertaking tasks like scuba diving, rock climbing or hang-gliding (life and death in the balance) but only seeing my nose or navel in more complex circumstances leads to missed opportunities.

Today I am going to notice the world around me; the things that rile me, the things that resonate with me and the things that rattle me but I am also going to watch for the stuff that is obscured by too much attention.

Make Today Remarkable by broadening your horizons,

B
Tomorrow; You do have a religion/philosophy even if you can’t name it