Banished From The Tribe

1102-relax-and-succeed-you-not-wanting-meLike apes or wolves or ants, humans are cooperative creatures. Living and working alone are challenging things that can few can do throughout their lives, and if they do they’ll generally pay a big price. Even people who say they live without others needed others to even exist.

You can’t (currently) be born without parents (and even without those you’d need scientists). If all some guy in the bush has is a log cabin and an axe, he needed both the inventor of the axe and he would have needed to have seen someone else’s cabin to imagine one so he could build it. And even he will likely hit the local store when he needs some salt or tools. We’re all living on the backs of all of the other generations before us.

Our desire to be part of the safe and well-fed is ancient and natural. Anything else threaten death, hence the power of potential banishment and shunning that was noted in yesterday’s meditation. People naturally focus on being valuable enough and well-liked enough to maintain the security of the tribe. It’s like your brain’s primary directive, which is why you find being rejected so painful. It’s like someone saying, “We don’t think your genes needs to go any further than this.”

1102-relax-and-succeed-maslows-pyramidWe can all easily think of the times it hurt to be rejected, but what about the times we did the hurting? What about group criticisms people joined in on on social media? What about a group of schoolgirls actually cooperating to cut another person out? What about having your support for one group lead you to even verbally attack the member of another group? What about you rejecting someone because someone more established in your group stopped dating them? Or what about even how you would have handled someone leaving the company you worked for?

Socially it’s a very common, modern experience to exclude someone if they get laid off or fired. Being fired can feel to others like it’s different because it’s “deserved,” but then we all have to ask ourselves how perfect we actually are. Getting fired for a genuine mistake is like being fired for being human. Certainly some things are blatant and need action, but sometimes it’s just that a decent manager and a good employee clash. And in the case of the layoff, generally the immediate boss and the person being laid off would rather not have participated at all.

1102-relax-and-succeed-a-team-is-not-a-groupEven though it’s in an office and everyone’s dressed nice, to your brain–which evolved for that other tribal, cooperative world–these are all examples of being shunned. We all have our family group, our friend group, and our work group. These are tribes we travel between and they often overlap.

Being removed from any of these groups will be among the most painful experiences of a person’s life. If you were aware, you’d know that from your own experience. Any time it happened to you it was a very particular kind of pain and you literally need to go through Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). It’s extremely painful. A company I once worked for laid someone off and that lead very quickly to a particularly ugly suicide and no one in the company was the same afterward.

In today’s meditation, find an example of where your personal awkwardness about how to behave lead you to passively shun someone. Own it. Don’t make excuses, just make the connection between your choice and their pain. Connect the two in a direct fashion. This won’t be a pleasant meditation, but it will increase your empathy and natural self-centeredness.

1102-relax-and-succeed-sometimes-painful-things-can-teach-usIf you do this meditation successfully–if you feel that pain and own that responsibility for your part in it–then it will be one of the fastest results you’ll ever get from a meditation. Because if you do it right, then your brain will understand that idea so well that you are very unlikely to go through the next similar experience without very naturally experiencing lower levels of ego and much greater levels of empathy, which will in turn drive you to more active compassion.

This is the kind of thing that would turn you into that one person that won’t be awkward with the former employee. You may not be able to get them back into your group, but your actions alone could change how hurt that person feels and how much they trust the world going forward. This is no small meditation. In small steps, it is these ones about our common human relations, that are the most valuable meditations you can do. For you and for them.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Being Liked

1052-relax-and-succeed-open-your-handsLikes on social media are no different than likes in person. They’re given out rather casually and they’re taken away with little notice. This is because no one is responsible for the fair dispersal of likes, they just tumble out of whatever conditions naturally form them, with the landscape being made up of moment to moment opinions.

It isn’t frivolous to seek likes to some degree. We need them to survive. Even covering the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid of needs is difficult when we’re alone, and achieving procreation and the other higher stages is effectively impossible. So partnerships and group pursuits are key to our survival both physically and emotionally.

That said, we also don’t want to live entirely for others. Our cooperation must in a way be selfish. Each individual must live and look out for themselves. At the same time if an individual who is struggling to contribute, or in cases where they’ve done something wrong and they require forgiveness, if they’re liked enough then popularity can act like a get out of jail free card.

1052-relax-and-succeed-none-of-us-is-as-smart-as-all-of-usThe idea of stored value in the form of good feelings can’t be sought for their own sake or that is a shallow, ego-driven life lived for others. But if they are done as part of an actual, active awareness and understanding that we really do need these other people, then even if a person is a child or elderly and therefore less useful in obtaining food etc., they are still safe.

So why can’t an office be like that? The problem in the office is that if the company’s goals cannot incorporate normal human pursuits then everyone is working for pay and not as a way of pushing the group forward, and that sort of shallow motivation simply will not last.

If we’re not interesting in being liked then the company society deteriorates. People start having wants that are out of sync with their contributions. Because bosses are seen as hierarchical over employees, we learn the very unnatural lesson that someone’s likes have bizarrely been made more valuable than other people’s likes. Now someone can just have one key person in a company like them and that can be enough for them to advance even though that would make zero sense to all of us other apes.

1052-relax-and-succeed-without-the-taoUltimate we must be balance being free with our natural desire for likes, because there is no point in having more likes than you need. In that case you would be seen as greedy and that would then result in less likes. Rich people the world over are seeing this now too whether they were generous or not. Overall we’ve now reached the point where the average world citizen has seen their internal scale tipped and they now see the group’s sharing of value is out of balance. Entire groups are now jostling to reorganise to see the sharing of resources be more equitable.

Why don’t we always act this way in homes and schools and companies and societies? Because now we no longer have the Tao holding us together. We’ve substituted our natural comprehension of our need of others and we’ve attempted to codify that into laws and rules and guidelines, but these are inhuman concepts that will often not match the actual temperament or feelings of various people.

In some cases there are revolts. Apes are killed, spouses leave, company employees start sabotaging the group, governments are removed, people are arrested or shamed. And this hardens divisions, and yet divisions themselves are fine. Sales shouldn’t really love accounting, they’re two different roles in the group that require different kinds of brains. But you need each one. If I didn’t get any wild pig today then I really need your berries and likewise. But when I convince myself your berries are worth less than my pig because I worked harder to get mine rather than me noticing they’re equal amounts of food, then that is the start of trouble: disrespect in the group.

Sometimes disrespect is what teaches an out of line group member the value of being in line. But this isn’t some rigid law-based line. The natural line has more flexibility. It has more understanding. It would look less to the rules and more to the moment. Hopes and expectations of others would be altered according to the situation whereas where laws always apply and there is only leniency in sentencing.

How are you in your groups? It’s fine for people in different groups to dislike you, or even for some people in your group to dislike you. But being cared about and for is a key part of enjoying life so we want to nurture that. We just don’t want to go so far that we surrender our core values and beliefs for ideas or groups that we do not truly believe in.

Find a group that encourages your participation and input by respecting you, and that respect should include compassion and the assumption that the relationship will be managed according to the Tao. That’s why even monkey’s recognise this elemental value in life. Selfishness for ourselves is essential in that our best behaviours are naturally driven by wanting to help provide for a generous and caring group.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Releasing Motivation

1039-relax-and-succeed-you-have-been-criticisingThe reason artists are often called “crazy” is that the two states of creativity and insanity are really degrees of the same thing; few people talk to themselves more than artists need to, and more talking to yourself than that starts to get dangerously close to being lost in thought, otherwise known as “crazy.”

Most people have a boss with deadlines and job descriptions they have to fulfil so they can’t see how much that format is making them work, because even entrepreneurs know it’s much harder when there’s no external deadline imposed. But at least an entrepreneur has a client they’re servicing, but the reason they find marketing the hardest part is the same reason art’s difficult; there’s not only no boss, there’s no customer and the job is pure open space. As an artist you can’t even go to work until you decide how big your canvass should be.

Athletes might bemoan their hours spent training, but most artists would trade them that feeling for the agony of finding it difficult to create. I get a lot of mock hate-comments from artist friends who can’t figure out how I can do other writing and these pages every day by 7am. When your thoughts hold you back creating is very very hard indeed. I remember that sense well.

1039-relax-and-succeed-dont-think-about-making-artIt’s terrifying to start a piece of art because you have a lot of notable things to think about. You have big, public ways to fail. If you’re an author you’re probably comparing yourself to literally the very best people in the world. If you’re a painter you’re worried about $2,500 in paint and canvass you have to invest before you can even try to sell it. If you dance you’re worried about injuries and being a musician on the road has all sorts of potential pitfalls. It can easily make you crazy if you do too much thinking and too little creating.

We’re all such harsh critics. We could still have our opinions and yet talk to people with the approach we’d use with them a kid, where we’d have fewer expectations and where we’d want to be more encouraging. But as adults we make it painful to show personal things. We offer our negative opinion; our corrections. And even if they’ve paid us for that opinion, it still hurts them to hear voices of nonacceptance. And so creating art is hard. The climb is high and the fall feels long.

What’s important for the artist or any other person to remember is that these distances we’ve climbed and these heights we fall from all exist only within our imaginations. You’re not linear. You didn’t advance and then fall back; you expanded and then expanded again. The courage to create work is hard enough; the courage to show it publicly is even more precarious. These are victories not failures. These are what every great artist experiences. It is simply the act of moving past our fears and into an act of creation.

1039-relax-and-succeed-act-without-doingWe tend to think that when things are painful we must be doing something wrong but we only feel that way because there’s a cult of feeling good when in truth you wouldn’t even be able to sense feeling good without feeling bad to compare it to. So we must embrace feeling unsettled and wounded too, lest the art of our lives be shallow and hollow.

Artists spend very little time actually physically creating their art. What they do is spend time doing is observing life and then capturing poignant, worthwhile moments of it in art so that we too can benefit from their keen observations. Maybe they see something funny, maybe it’s what lead them to no longer be racist, it doesn’t matter; their only job is to place it in the world for us to find in the format we personally understand things in, whether that’s dance or painting or any other form.

Artists would benefit if they treated their art more like work, but before they can do that they must have enough respect for themselves that they actually feel genuinely motivated to live up to their own deadlines. If an artist is excited about what’s next then it makes sense that they’ll be excited to complete the project they’re working on, and that’s what gets the deadlines met; not a boss, not a date on a calendar–a genuine desire to finish so that more can be created. That’s a lesson the rest of the work-world can learn from successful artists.

Find what matters about your work even if that ends up being your co-workers having better days so they go home to their kids happier. As long as you feel genuinely motivated to create that positivity by doing what you’re doing, then the doing of it won’t feel much like work because it won’t be. It’ll be your life. It’s time you started actively living more of it. I’ll be better for everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Compassionate Management

There’s been a lot of studies done on what makes businesses succeed and–what a surprise–it’s the same thing that allows any group of people to succeed. And note I said allows and not causes. People will naturally surprise us with their capability, the only question is; just how skilled is a leader at finding those opportunities?

1024-relax-and-succeed-a-bad-manager-can-take-a-good-staffEvidence of this can easily be seen when a new manager takes over an old group. The very same group of people that the previous manager felt were useless can suddenly become superstars–why? Very often it’s because they stopped being managed like they were in the military and they started being managed like they’re human beings rather than human doings.

Bad leaders think people do things for them, good leaders know that in a good team all of the people are working together toward a common, meaningful goal. In one scenario the staff work for the leader and in the other all of them work for each other. In one case their job title is ordered to perform a business function and in the other some human beings cooperate to get something done that’s of mutual benefit.

Many times management will be so off target that they won’t even have considered the texture and feel of their employee’s day. All the manager sees is their own to-do list and they imagine that all of these people have been gathered under them to help them get their manager’s list taken care of. Ordering something get done is not management, it’s just orders, and those you can get from a machine.

1024-relax-and-succeed-if-people-are-goodWeaker managers will often be baffled about what else they would even do other than get their own lists done. They just see work; you do this, he does that, she does the other thing. There is no philosophy driving the work or how it’s done, it’s just a daily list.

Meanwhile, a stronger manager realises that the work day is generally at least 1/3rd of their co-workers lives, which is close to the number of waking hours people will spend with a spouse. Ordering consistently unmotivated work to be done in an unmotivated fashion is the same thing as covering the windshield and then telling the staff where you want them to drive. They can understand the directions and maybe even find it on their GPS, but that doesn’t help them negotiate the daily traffic of their lives. The problem for the weaker manager is that they’re only managing their own life and not the lives of everyone that works for them.

As an example, let’s say a mom returning from maternity leave has returned to work. She’s capable, hard-working and liked by her co-workers, but she starts coming in late. A bad boss draws her attention to her lateness and then possibly sets some kind of penalty. She tries to explain the challenges created by where her daycare moved to, but the manager doesn’t really listen to how the woman’s windshield is covered. Maybe she’s a woman too and she raised kids and worked, so she doesn’t see the problem. So she tells the woman to get to work despite the covered windshield, as though there’s no limits to managing around a kid.

Around a kid. A manager should hear that come out of their mouth and know immediately that’s gotta be wrong. The manager is asking a parent to value their work more than their child. Now the bad manager would say that’s not what they’re doing, but that’ll just be their beliefs about themselves. There’ll be a but… in there for the manager. Yeah, I know she’s gotta a new kid and that’s challenging, but she still has to get her work done…. So the manager basically says; your problem, not work’s. And technically that’s true, especially in countries that don’t even have mandatory support for maternity leave.

A manager is best to try to help solve their employee’s challenge because something being technically correct isn’t actually very useful to a manager. Technical correctness is a term for things that look like they should work but they’re missing some humanity. A poor manager sees the staff like buckets of skills that you fill with work. The staff see work as a major part of their life and they absolutely will respond positively to any co-worker/manager who finds a way to make that daily experience more enriching.

If you’re on a staff somewhere, figure out if your manager is trying to build a team and if you’re cooperating with that effort or putting yourself first. Because you may very well end up further behind by putting yourself first. And if you’re a manager somewhere, make sure that you also are not putting yourself first. You will be rewarded well for any efforts you make toward ensuring that the people you work with have an environment that is generally understanding, constructive, pleasant, supportive, and rewarding. And fortunately, creating even one of those things often leads to the others developing quite naturally.

Now go get on a team. It feels good to surrender your wants for almost any goal achieved in cooperation with others. And a good manager knows that.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Big Lie

What’s the big lie? It’s that nice car where the payment is killing you but it leads your friends to think you’re not in the struggling group. And your ego is happy to have it concealed. Maybe you have nice clothes and makeup and hair, but also a back-breaking credit card bill, or exotic holidays that are added to your line of credit. All of that looks great on social media but it’s also what keeps you running on that treadmill. Still, that’s probably better than the rest, who aren’t into cars or fashion or travel but they are running because of cancer, a divorce, a disease or a lawsuit.

Since the housing crisis almost a decade ago, around the world many people are struggling with the downturn. A lot of good people worked very hard for years and now they’re exhausted, broke, they’re losing everything and they can’t even figure out where to turn in their white flag to surrender. They literally wonder where their life went. Certainly having a positive, abundant attitude will help a great deal in finding solutions, but we must look for our solutions in spiritually sound ways.

I heard a guy who wrote a book on happiness on the radio yesterday and he stated that everyone has a dream inside them and that everyone can make their living doing something worthwhile and fulfilling if they just approach finding it the right way. This has become a very popular idea and the implication is this choice would carry you safely and happy into your later years. I’ll agree that we should lead inspired lives, but that’s where I depart from most other people on what’s real. In fact, I would argue that selling that idea is part of what’s causing the suffering we’re seeing today.

1012-relax-and-succeed-tibetan-proverbYes, you could write a book that sells a million, but there was a reason that novelist was listed as one of the most over-rated jobs by Forbes. That’s just one book. There’s very few writers who string several together. You might write a great app–that happens all the time. It also doesn’t happen the vast majority of the time and that’s okay because you’ll likely find more happy people at simple jobs than at impressive or powerful ones.

As Paul McCartney said about what he’d do if he wasn’t a musician; “I’d be a gardener or a carpenter.” That’s wise. Those people do their time, don’t think about it too much and then go home with a clear head and no one texting them from work at 11pm. They sleep well and they have the energy to put into dreams that have nothing to do with money.

My Dad just shingled roofs most of your life. It’s hard work but it’s honest and it keeps you in shape. He was happy to provide for his kids. He took actual active pride in that. He didn’t feel badly for what we didn’t have, he was pleased that he gave us a stable home with no violence–which is something he didn’t have.

1012-relax-and-succeed-the-real-giftIn this world there are bad stone-cutters, there’s true craftsmen and there’s Michelangelo. Dad was a craftsmen. The first two aren’t failed attempts at the third. The first is either inexperienced or in the wrong job, the second’s day is made up of their focus, which is why they can be admired by other stonecutters. It’s only Michelangelo’s fame that makes us feel like he’s a pinnacle, but we have to remember he was forced to build a church he didn’t want to build for a Pope he didn’t like. It’s not like that fame bought him more time with his stone angels, rather it took him away from them.

Rather than look for a lofty dream or something big or profound or impressive, try making everything you do profound with your presence. I watched my Dad often at work, and unlike a lot of workers you never saw him muttering to himself about anything; how he wished the past had gone, how he hoped the future would go, or how he felt the present moment was treating him personally. He just nailed shingles.

Maybe that doesn’t seem like much, but that quiet mind and focus added up to peaceful days, a happy man and a wonderful father, and those are extremely fulfilling things that will please you far more than fame or wealth on the day you die. So don’t feel lesser if your work isn’t shiny and impressive. What matters is that you’re fully focused on the doing of it, because when my Dad shingled he wasn’t excited or inspired, he was truly Zen. He simply chopped wood and carried water and he didn’t think too much about it. And as it turns out, that is actually what real success looks like.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Fear of Work

There’s an idea afoot that there is some kind of disconnect between spirituality and hard work. It makes sense that younger people are seeking a way to work less and/or more meaningfully than their parent’s generation, but the fact remains that there are people of all ages that are avoiding the struggles that create expansion, increased strength and resiliency.

975 Relax and Succeed - As you work to spiritual advanceIt’s one thing for a person not to have kids because they don’t find themselves with common desires for children, but it’s another altogether for them to not want them because they’ll cramp their style, or be painful to give birth to, or because they require a lot of work. The idea that profound self-actualisation only happens when you focus on yourself is a myth created by misinterpretations of spiritual ideas. In fact the very desire for enlightenment has now become just another selfish personal goal.

I’ve said it many times: enlightenment is not a state it is an action. It is a verb, a motion, a way of being. What it doesn’t involve is self-reflection because in that state there is no self. You are simply doing/acting/being. So an enlightened person is not sitting idle in the lotus position having someone else attend to their daily needs, the truly enlightened person will be that happy, self-less person who generally needs very little and gets great satisfaction from bringing happiness, peace and comfort to others.

It is an entirely market-created ego-based idea that you get up at 10:00am, have a leisurely gourmet coffee before going to morning Yoga, then an organic lunch of tofu and beansprouts, and then finally sitting at your home-office desk at 1:00pm before checking social media for an hour, and then be distracted by notifications and texts and other interruptions “all day” before leaving at 4:00pm for a jog, the gym and a healthy dinner with red wine and cool friends at a jazz bar before pottery class that night. That’s an ad for coffee or Yoga or the gym, not enlightenment.

975 Relax and Succeed - Suffering is due entirely to clingingThere’s some who have wealthy enough external resources that they can live that life of leisure noted above but those are my addicted, lost and suicidal clients. The ones that have those resources and aren’t in trouble are the ones that act more like the group in service. They’re working hard, expanding themselves and they’re finding ways to contribute to those around them.

Then there’s many many many more who absolutely cannot afford to live that life of leisure but they try for too long and just end up buried in stressful debt because there’s little reason to think anyone was saved by some stroke of genius. Einstein read a lot about mathematics and he sat in that chair for a very very long time before he came up with E=MC2. You can’t look at a YouTube millionaire today and have that as a plan to support your spiritual growth because that success on YouTube will almost always demand that you appeal to ego a huge percentage of the time.

The real question is, how selfless were you today? Did you go through your day expanding your mind and body through work of some meaningful kind? Did you work hard and accomplish something? Did you gain a new skill? Did you help your fellow man? Do you act for charities, do you contribute, or are you just a protester?

975 Relax and Succeed - The art of being happyThere is nothing unspiritual or anti-enlightenment about getting up at 6:00am to work as a garbage man, or social worker or a lawyer or anything else. There is nothing unspiritual about raising kids and dealing with their mayhem and complications. It’s no coincidence that people who voluntarily choose a more difficult path end up with more capabilities, confidence and calm.

If you’re investing yourself in what has been sold as the spiritual life then it’s you that has sold out. The real enlightened people are working in refugee camps, they’re stay-at-home moms and tradesmen doing a hard day. If they write they write every day like it’s work. What you put in is what you get out. There’s nothing unspiritual about that and there is no path without suffering. So if you’re hiding from life you can stop and go live. Because it’s not a peaceful path that creates more peace, it’s a selfless path that creates connection and connection creates peace.

Look at your life. How much of it is aspirational dreaming and how much of it is motion forward? Because there’s a lot of stressful sitting still going on today and knowing the lotus position won’t help that. Enlightenment is a verb. Find your verb today. You can still wear your tights and you can still be a vegetarian, you just won’t get the reward without the sacrifice. So rather than avoiding hard work try running towards it, because it’s along the way that you’ll stumble into the peace that you’re currently searching so hard for.

peace. s

PS This was the least-read blog ever and bizarrely so. That fact prompted a popular response the next day. If you did agree to read this one then you probably stand to benefit less from the following one, but regardless they do work well as a pair.

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Ikigai

960 Relax and Succeed - Ikigai The reason to get up in the morningEven though they may not know the concept abstractly, when you listen to people discuss their work complaints they will always focus on where they can feel that their Ikigai has lost balance. The term is composed by compounding two ideas: iki which is to be alive; and kai, which is the worthwhile result of your being, otherwise stated as your reason for being, your motivation, or the meaning to your existence. Your raison d’etre. I’m sure you can feel the pull of that sensation just reading about it.

One way to help define Ikigai in your life is that it will not change in good times or in bad. Someone who loves firefighting will love it as much in the firehall as they will at a fire. A true writer will enjoy the research for their new book as much as they enjoy the writing of it. And almost everyone who works in a refugee camp will face daily tragedy and yet they continue with an enthusiasm and energy rarely seen in the corporate world.

Bruce Lee did it with martial arts, Prince did it with music, Kurosawa did it with film. My father did it with a roofing company. If that last one doesn’t seem to fit as well, that might point to your misunderstandings about its nature.

960 Relax and Succeed - IkigaiTo move around the concept; my father enjoyed earning his pay by doing the same level of work he would do on his own home. In doing so he would create value by making someone else’s home and property more secure and by providing for his own family. He also loved the feeling of great satisfaction that he took from his customer’s satisfaction, and in all the years he ran the company I can recall my father being taken advantage of twice, but I have no recollection at all of an unhappy customer. I also have no recollection of my father ever complaining about his job, he only preferred when it wasn’t raining so he could do it.

There is no shortage of unfulfilled office workers who derive no personal joy or meaning from their work. There is also no shortage of chronically poverty-stricken artists who have trouble finding or transmitting the value in what they do. Even among the “successful,” there are doctors who care and doctors who like expensive cars.

It is important to note, however, that the existence of a Porsche doesn’t translate to an absence of ikigai. Sometimes–but not always–great personal gain can come from the pursuit of our ikigai. But to the individual the gains will be irrelevant. If they were fantastically wealthy they would still pursue their ikigai; if they were not paid at all they would still do it with equal zeal. Wayne Dyer didn’t need money to motivated him, nor does Yo-Yo Ma. Once you are fed and sheltered nothing you can buy can offer more life satisfaction than your ikigai.

960 Relax and Succeed - These are free rangeLook at your life. Where is it out of balance? Because if you look at the stresses in this world they can easily be attributed to the fact that so many people are not balanced in this way. To do unfulfilling work with unappreciative people in a largely meaningless way is to court a type of death. It is one thing to make a beautiful cake that will be consumed only hours later in joy, and another thing altogether to make a cheap plastic toy that won’t survive the birthday party.

Today’s youth can sense the lack of ikigai in their parent’s lives. They feel the tension, the anger, the frustration and the lack of satisfaction. How many children in the world hear their parents discuss their life’s work with passion? What did you hear as a child, and if you have children what do they hear you communicate about your work? What emotional state would they most closely associate with your work?

You have not failed if you have not found your place yet. The journey itself is a honing process. But it is important to keep this concept in mind. Many people would never have taken promotions or jobs or would have never left the children in a day-home, etc. etc. etc. if they had paid more attention to the notion of ikigai.

Be still. Spend some real time meditating on this. You are not finding a mystery, you are realising your true self. You cannot get this wrong any more than you can get your favourite colour wrong. The only thing you can do is to never ask the question, which in a way is like never actually starting to live at all. It’s in you. Find it and release it. We’re waiting for you.

With love, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Struggle of Millennial Entrepreneurs

The brain is built by what it does. People accept this when it comes to skills and knowledge but for some strange reason they arbitrarily stop at personality when that too grows directly from your experience. So what differences exist that can help explain the consistent struggle I now see with so many Millennials?

When I was a kid nothing came to you. You had to walk to the library to do school work, there wasn’t half the work-saving machines around the house, you had to run for the phone when it rang, we had crank windows on cars, no power steering or brakes, we walked almost everywhere we went, and on summer days our parents barely told us what to do. That meant our entire day was self-created and unknowingly to most that built a brain with the wiring for initiative.

Now consider the challenge the next generation had: everyone thought it was good that there were so many labour saving devices but that slowly put people out of shape. Hamburgers got delivered to their cars. They were driven many places. Unless they were in a small town, much more of the schedule of a Millennial was being subtly booked and controlled by parents. You now had study nights and more tutors. It became mandatory to play a sport or pursue something creative like dance or a musical instrument. Grades became more important and then school became a pressure-cooker for university entrance. It was never about who you were, everything became about setting up who you could be in some future.

956 Relax and Succeed - To live a creative lifeMost damaging to the brain was the fact that everything and everyone sort of guided you or told you what to do. Lego, Meccano and Light Bright were open source. You opened the box and there was just a bunch of pieces. No one gave you a blueprint, the boxes weren’t little worlds, they were just plain pieces loaded with potential to be formed by whoever’s initiative faced it.

Then suddenly there were Gobots and Transformers and Lego sets. Some Toy Executive in London or New York would limit and channel a kids thoughts into what they wanted them to build (usually for advertising). But what if you’re now an entrepreneur and there’s no one telling you to start, or what to do?

I have lots of Millennials who come to me because their life really needs them to take action and they just can’t. They can think about what to do, plan what to do, even get excited by it, but they cannot actually turn it into a daily verb. They cannot just sit down and do undirected work for long periods of time and then act. They’re champion procrastinators.

956 Relax and Succeed - Fear is a liarAre you one of those Millennials who gets next to nothing done all day? I know, there’s a lot of you. There’s no point in using your thoughts to create guilt. You didn’t even know this was happening to you. But it did happen and there’s only one thing you can do about it. It’ll feel really scary, but it’s actually much more gratifying and enthusiasm-generating than the fear you’re currently experiencing.

You can sit and calculate the downsides forever. You can worry about how it will go wrong and do nothing and then it will go wrong by not going at all. There is no other choice I’m sorry. No other answer will be delivered.

Take heart though. Look around you and see who’s happy and feeling fulfilled. It’s the people who are busy. They have lots of responsibility and pressure and yet they’re thriving. They get a ton done and it seems to happen by magic. But it’s just taking some initiative and taking the next step. Yes, that step might be wrong, but better to retrace than to never step at all.

956 Relax and Succeed - Most people fail in lifeYour brain needs to have initiative built into it or you’ll have this challenge until you die. That will mean you literally didn’t live your life. I see far too many brilliant talented people who have done almost nothing by the same age that me and many of my peers already had numerous significant achievements. This isn’t because that generation was stronger or better or more creative. But it did have loads and loads of accidentally developed initiative. In the end we were lucky. If you have this problem you will have to make your own luck, but don’t worry. I promise it’s not only doable; once you pull it off you won’t believe how much living you’ll do.

Find someone else to work for. Don’t think about your life, think about what you can contribute to the world, your community, your household. Feel responsible; work for the betterment of others and you won’t meet that same resistance that comes from doing things just for you. In the end it’s about a month of concentrated effort and from there the muscle will be built and it’ll only be a matter of continuing to build it up.

I feel for you. I really do. I hear all the time about the hiding, the excuses, the ineffectiveness, the financial challenges, the guilt. It’s no way to live. Trust me, those things are far harder for you to do than to take the leap into action. Even if it’s wrong it won’t be as painful as nothing at all. So go for it. I know you can do it. Even if you are scared. Act anyway.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friend Test

930 Relax and Succeed - You are the average of the five peopleIf you’re looking for a litmus test to see how well you’re doing at life one of the best ones you have available would be to look at who you spend your time with. And I don’t mean their title, like your boyfriend, or your sister or your coach, I mean what they’re like in the world.

Do they cheat, manipulate for advantage, withhold important information, intentionally mislead others, do a lot of drugs, commit crimes, be violent, or be generally unkind or selfish? Then that is who they are. We are what we do. And so the meeting point between the characters of your closest companions will shape your new normal. Stay there long enough and that’s who you’ll become.

For this reason one of the healthiest things we can do is nurture our relationships with positive, healthy people. You still always want to feel like you could be happy on your own if that was the case, but in general the people you see the most often should be influencing your life toward growth, expansion and discovery.

930 Relax and Succeed - The people we surround ourselves withLife is this series of choices that feel like they’re about one thing when we make them. Later we often find out we were choosing more than we thought. You thought you chose your friends but in fact they were largely your friends because that’s who you went to school with. Proximity did most of it. Families move and kids make new friends. School ends, work starts and before you know it you mostly have a new set of friends. They’re far more incidental than we usually realize. Those few that travel with us throughout our life are the ones that are our deepest and truest friends.

So the deep and true friends are indicators of who you fundamentally are. The qualities that they have that attract you are indicators of your most defining values. Your more incidental friends are the indicators of how you’re behaving, not who you are. So if everyone leaves work to do drugs or go get drunk then that will create a different life than people who go to the gym or take classes.

Expansion is natural. Growth is inevitable. To even slow it down is so painful that people will usually need substances to numb the pain created by their resistance to be creative in the world. Unhealthy people are always hidden away, either wounded or doing things they’d prefer others didn’t see. Healthy people smile, they’re lives are full and they’re active. A lived life looks like it’s being lived.

930 Relax and Succeed - Make your lifeA lot of people slip onto a treadmill and their life becomes a steady uninspiring pattern. No one they know does much and they don’t either. There’s little new and rarely something to get genuinely excited about. Life does not have to be that way. There are people living it with zest and zeal. Not every minute of every day, but a lot of the time. They are moving toward life. They are taking chances, accepting challenges and pursuing their dreams. Where they end up doesn’t matter because it’s the going that matters, not where we go.

Look around your life. Ask yourself what it says about how you’re living. Ask if that’s how you want to be living and if it’s not, begin looking for things to change that will shift you more off balance; something that will require you to act to succeed. That is expansion: solving problems, creating things and friendships and experiencing moments of genuine joy. These things don’t happen by accident, they happen by intention. Take today, assess and then act with intention. Life has much to offer.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Generations

Something bad happened and almost no one noticed. Now something really good has happened and again, no one has noticed. I get it. My broken brain is weird. So it sees these shifts in general patterns in how we’re wiring kids with the things we tell them, how we educate them, what we do, and the experiences they’ve had. And that leads to societal impacts.

906 Relax and Succeed - One of the best ways I knowThe first trend I saw wasn’t long after I left school when I was aware of how new approaches to education would lead to future issues in large segments of the population. In the 60’s people were even taught by doctors and parenting experts that love was dangerous and it would undermine a child’s skill-building. They pendulum was then swinging in the direction of, no pain no gain.

By the 80’s pop psychology was big and this was the beginning of both a positive and an unsettling trend. At least it laid the groundwork for something better to follow. Those differences are at the heart of the debate of why those under 35ish often feel so different than those over 40ish.

The differences are real. They had to be. They childhoods were entirely different. In the 60’s everyone was forced to grasp the concepts of cause and effect and that unfortunately got perverted into earning one’s keep.

906 Relax and Succeed - We've bought into the ideaPart of this trend was from the idea of original sin, and so everyone was starting off in a hole and needed to work to get out. If you were still in the hole after a while that was perceived to be because you weren’t using your spiritual strength to climb out, as opposed to you were injured or in a much deeper hole.

Then we decided love was important to child-rearing (go figure), and the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction–toward individualism and love. People were lied to and told they could do it all on their own, and the idea was that all you needed was love, but then love was presented by advertising as: the acceptance of your peers. (Please “like” this post. 😉 )

So a group that was unloved thinks the only way to create value in yourself is to work hard to earn it. This is great in that it created a lot of the world’s greatest things, but it also leaves little room for the joy of living. The group that was untested is often left largely incapable in classical senses, but maybe that’s not a bad thing if what you’re building is subconsciously something quite different.

906 Relax and Succeed - Calvin and HobbesIncreasingly there’s more people who can do both. Yes, many have taken the worst of it by becoming strict promoters of hard-work and individualism as shallow routes to ego-success. But increasingly more and more people are choosing loving generosity, where they’re so good at love and compassion that they have learned to care more about others than themselves in many ways. This is very healthy.

Where this creates a conflict is that adults are pushing kids towards classic responsibilities of which 80% will still apply. But they can’t see the other 20% that involves imagining a world so different from the older group that they often have trouble seeing it at all. So the Burning Man Festival looks crazy rather than beautiful.

Meanwhile the more modern kids are left psychologically frail, where too much of their self esteem depends on external praise, but at the same time they’re less interested in ownership and control and they’re more motivated toward connection and creating happiness. If we combine these two generation’s strengths we’re really accomplishing something.

906 Relax and Succeed - How to change the worldThis is why I stay happy. You can see that people over 40 are slaves to the man, and you can see it that kids are lazy and lack motivation, or you can say that that the over 40 crowd really does have useful strengths all while the under 30’s are leading us toward a brighter, more egalitarian future.

People can now imagine a future without borders and race, where we work together to fulfil the largest number of needs rather than make crazy sacrifices towards the achieving the largest number of wants for a tiny selection of people. It’s a massive shift. And people should take heart.

We’re going in a very positive direction. Pretty much like we continually have. And that seems like something we can take pleasure in enjoying. So have yourself a fantastic Monday and instead of looking for what you don’t like about the world, try meditating on what good things emerge from those same things. You’ll surprise yourself and you’ll get better at seeing the best in life more often. And that is the biggest way you can make the most useful contribution to the best in all of this. I wish you every good fortune. Have an awesome week!

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.