The Stranger’s House

The stranger’s request was immediately suspicious and William’s radar immediately went up. The stranger claimed he was giving William a very large budget to build the home of his choice–William’s–just as long as it could handle a family with three kids. William knew a little about what that was like because he was paying alimony and child support to a wife and three kids.

When William pulled up to the beautiful lot overlooking a park, he saw another contractor he knew parked next door. Amazingly, as it turned out, Ray had received the same call, only for the lot next door! Ray had three kids as well, so he and William assumed that had something to do with them getting the jobs.

William argued that the whole thing was just too good to be true and he warned Ray to watch out. Ray said he was happy for the work and that he was grateful for William’s concern, but that he would happily keep working right up until something actually went wrong. William was essentially just waiting for an inevitable bomb to drop, so conversely he kept a very close eye on everything as a result. He often lamented all the struggle he would experience once it did all blow up.

The first thing Ray built was a picnic table. “What’s that for?” William asked him.

“My family. They come for lunch with me each day and the kids help clean up the lot. I’m hoping it teaches them a healthy work ethic, plus I eat well and sometimes we even dance.”

“Dance? You should wolf down a burrito or something. Time is money my friend. If you stop to eat your per-hour rate drops. I’d tell my wife to stay at home.”

“I am so sorry William, I did not know you were married! We will have to have you and your wife to dinner one night.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s fine. Her and I… we’re not together anymore.”

“I see.” Ray kept his focus on William. “My friend, you are breaking your back. We’re not young men anymore. Why don’t you hire more help?”

“I’m tellin’ you William, this whole house deal is a sham. This guy has something up his sleeve and we’re gonna get stuck with the bill in the end.”

“But every invoice has been paid on time.”

“He’s just setting us up. The fact that it’s going good is all part of his plan.”

“I see,” said Ray, confused. “So… the good news is actually… bad news…?”

Now William doesn’t seem as sure either. “Uh, yeah. Basically.”

In the months that followed, Ray’s wife did come down every day and those kids did keep that lot looking a lot better than William’s, next door. Everyday Ray sang at work, and he laughed with his co-workers, and he let his kids draw funny little cartoon characters on the wood before he used it. He really enjoyed building the house out of such fine materials. He was grateful to the trees and the people that supplied them. It was going to be a beautiful house. Ray had thought out every detail to ensure it would be ideal for the stranger’s family.

For those same months, William complained a lot, which made sense because he worked much more slowly. He insisted on doing too much himself because he was always worried about costs. That left him exhausted, which left him grumpy, which only served to make him even more suspicious of the stranger. All day he tried to figure out what scam the stranger was playing. He would take breaks from work and do math on pieces of wood in his attempt to find the hidden theft.

Soon the houses we’re nearing completion. Ray takes a lot of pride in his work. He enjoys his days with his co-workers and he is very grateful for the income. That’s all reflected in the home. It’s warm and decorated and beautiful. Care and attention has been paid. Conversely, William’s house looks uninspiring, unfinished and cheap. It looks like someone who didn’t care much at all, and it’s true William didn’t care about the house. He was too busy caring about his fears.

It was therefore ironic when one day there was a knock on the nearly finished stranger’s door. William opened it with concern. Why was anyone visiting? The stranger introduced himself rather plainly, and he explained that he was there to give William the deed to the house he had just built. William was suspicious.

The stranger then explained that William’s life would always be like the house he built. If he was distracted by fear and suspicion and mistrust; if he failed to offer his talents and skills, then the result would be to miss out on creating the things in life that truly bring it value. As a result, William was welcome to live inside the physical space that his own negative thinking had wrought. Then the stranger invited William come with him to Ray’s, which he did.

At Ray’s door, announcement of who the stranger was instantly got him a big hug from Ray’s entire family. They were just about to sit down to dinner. There was always plenty. Would the stranger please stay? After all, he had contributed meaningfully to Ray’s income that year. They would like to celebrate. William could join them too.

The stranger agreed, as did William. As they sat down, the stranger offered Ray and his wife the deed to their home and property. They were equally confused. What was going on? That’s when the stranger turned to William.

“Do you see William? Ray cared. He was active in that care. He invited his wife. They ate, they laughed, they danced. He cared about his family, his employees, his suppliers, his customers, and his work. You William, were worried. And worry only breeds more worry. So if you’d like to live in a nicer, calmer space, I would suggest you do as Ray did. Consider focusing your thoughts on caring rather than worrying, because whichever you do, that is where you will ultimately live.”

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.

The Agony of Expectations

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #3

Ouch. Yeesh. I recently overheard a woman complain that her daughter’s plane was delayed because they were worried about airport workers being hit by lightning. She said her day was ruined by it and she couldn’t believe they would stop her daughter’s flight for such a trivial reason.

728 Relax and Succeed - It is what it isTrivial? It’s lightening. They’re living people surrounded by lightning rods and fuel tanks. I’ve got an idea of what would help even more than a flawless airport: some empathy. And it’s way cheaper and easier to get too. This is how people ruin their own lives. Their egos think the world is about them.

Can you see how she does what all of us do? We make every event relate to our personal identity. That storm happened to her daughter and the airport impeded her plans and her day was ruined by these other people and things. With expectation goes disappointment and then the cycle shifts to blame and then the re-setting of another silly expectation. Because it is presumed the world happens out there, not in here.

I’m talking about all of us. The vast majority of people living in the modern world do this all day long with almost every aspect of their lives. If you really want your day to improve the great news is it isn’t hard. You just have to find your attachments like expectation or time and replace them with more flexible ideas like anticipation and experience.

728 Relax and Succeed - Each of us has a responsibilityKeep your mind open. Think of others rather than yourself. It really is better for you. If the woman I overheard had done that she would have undoubtedly been in a much better mood and been much better company to her beloved daughter.

Stay conscious. Make your days great because you have silenced all of the self-creating narratives that filter the world with your me’s and I’s. Instead be open and truly aware and awake to the world around you. That is the easy, fun and beautiful route to salvation. And you don’t even need a plane, a ticket, or to be struck by lightening to get there.

Now go create an awesome day. Love you.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organisations around the world.

Embracing What Is

282 Relax and Succeed - Let us train our minds 2

Are you familiar with the Seneca quote about training our minds to desire what situations demand? I’m afraid I need translation here again. Can’t seem to wrap my brain around this one.

signed,
Needs Translation

Dear Needs,

Imagine that I was an angel that watched over your every step. You are absolutely certain that I know every detail about your past and your future.

Then imagine that when you were very young, I have explained to you that you were in for a wonderful life experience. I would explain that your route is crazy and bent and seemingly chaotic, but I would assure you that as lost or nutty as it might seem at times—you truly were on your way to great things.

Can you see how you would see difficult things differently? All of your difficult days would be framed by the idea of a great life. Because you’d be watching for a great life to show up, you’d create one.

The difference between the two lives might seem abstract, but there is salvation hiding in that subtle distinction.

Rather than facing a challenge and seeing it as a failure or a signal that we are on the wrong path, we simply see it as a phase in our journey. But the only reason we would do that would be because we had been forewarned that our would be good.

We were told it would be filled with ups and downs, so we see the downs as a part of life being good. We’re focused on how our life will be overall, not at any given moment –and on average we’ve been told in a way that made us certain that it was true, that we were, on average, going to have a good life.

How this all translates is that the people who were expecting a just a great life are constantly disappointed when real life brings challenges and delivers lessons. When they face those hills they start criticizing themselves of those around them.

For someone who’s been told that life will be grand, but that it’s greatness will include ups and downs, then the downs can be contextualized as merely an aspect of our journey upward. It’s the same life with a different story. And our stories make or break our lives. This is the lesson of the book and film, Life of Pi.

282 Relax and Succeed - Flow with whatever may happen

A while back I wrote a blog where I referenced a big business magnate from the turn of the century. (Optimism vs Pessimism) He felt the world was always conspiring in his favour, so even when a deal went bad he was happy. In fact, he immediately would shift his money toward what he would presume was an even better deal. And he ended up a billionaire.

Like an airplane, can you see how his attitude took him higher and higher, to greater perspectives that allowed him to see more and react more productively. Other people would have a negative attitude and they’d end up diving at the ground when they struggled, and then they would say they crashed because they’re unlucky, rather than truth, which is that they’re unfortunate because they think they’re unlucky.

Trust me, when you’re on your deathbed you’ll think every step of this was worth it. The trick is to do that before then. Way before then.

Start really getting conscious about your thinking. And if you can’t quiet it, at least re-direct it toward a nice, better story for you to experience. Because that is by far the biggest factor in determining whether or not you have a good or bad day.

Good luck with it. And here’s to a good year.

peace. s