Ego Awareness

1026-relax-and-succeed-the-goal-of-meditationMost people want to make changes but they’re too busy being who they think they are. They never stop to actually figure out who their ego is and how they might more easily identify it when it shows up. It’s important to remember; an ego must be summoned. Your natural state is peace. Your thinking-in-words state is your ego. So how do we find that little trouble-maker?

One of the easiest ways to catch your ego is to simply listen to yourself. And I don’t mean the sounds. If you had to ascribe a tone to your conversations and your responses, would it be negative or positive? Do you take what someone said and polish it up to look nicer, or do you take it and make it worse?

Get to know yourself. Most people you know would know your ego more than the real you. Without you being aware of it your ego is the angle that ideas will bounce off of you and the people who know you call that your personality.

1026-relax-and-succeed-the-darkness-that-surrounds-usDon’t think these little differences in how you talk and interact are unimportant. Keep in mind that those are direct reflections of your brain’s wiring. So as trivial as it might seem, there’s almost nothing more important than, if someone says, Nice day isn’t it? Do you say something negative or positive?

Let’s look at some possible answers to that question, but first let’s keep in mind that I live in one of the world’s northernmost cities and we have had one of our warmest years ever. Last winter was very short on low temperatures, and rather than warm weather extending from May to September, this year it’s gone from March to November. That’s five extra months of warm temperatures. But that doesn’t help someone if they have a negative perspective.

In my experiment I’ve been saying Nice day, isn’t it? for a few weeks and here’s a collection of the responses I got. Many of you are likely one of these or close to one of these.

Negative Responses to the question, Nice day isn’t it?

[No answer. Sullen expression]
Yeah, I guess it’s not bad.
It’s about time.
It won’t last.
Maybe for some people.
Yeah, but whatever it gives us now it’ll take it away worse, later.
Just wait a few weeks.
Not warm enough for me.

Anyone can have a challenging day where their patience is short and some negativity shows up. Sometimes people are dealing with very overwhelming circumstances so they’ll be more inclined to the negative but, all that said, there is no more important time to watch for the best things than when things are at their worst.

Take your little stab at negativity occasionally. We all do, because if there’s a path you’re seeking then there must be a not-path too. But you don’t want to stay on that path any longer than you have to, and the only way off that path is through raising your awareness and leading yourself out with a more optimistic perspective. The people above are experiencing one of the warmest years ever and yet they can still find ways for that to not be good enough. This is why expectations and comparisons kill happiness.

Pay more attention. See conversations as balls lobbed over a net toward you; every statement is a new ball. The question is, do you predominantly shoot those back toward the other person’s backhand, or their forehand? Do you make it easy to play, or do you make it harder? Do you take responsibility for your interpretation of reality or do try to pawn it off on others as though it’s their fault, or that somehow they were luckier than you, rather than they were more positive than you?

Positive approaches generate lots of support and assistance. Negative approaches attract anger and blame. Gee, I wonder which one leads to a better life?

Get conscious. Wake up. Don’t answer people out of habit and don’t initiate contact out of habit. Be aware. Choose your words carefully for they are the brushstrokes that form your painting of the world. If a person is always the victim of something, then that is what they are using this lifetime to become: a victim.

A person can do that their whole life if they choose to. Many more people have wasted lives than lived them. You’re the one who lives with those choices. But those can go both ways, because after anyone responds to me negatively, I still usually meet the next person with a positive attitude and it’s amazing what wonderful people are brought into your life though that simple act.

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.

Newton’s Family

985-relax-and-succeed-be-thankful-for-all-the-difficult-peopleNewton is happy. It took him a surprisingly long time considering the fact that he’d always wanted to be happy. Newton came from a very sad family. He spent many years believing his constant, longing anxiety was genetic. After all, the entire family had it with the exception of Newton’s little sister April. He always wondered how she had escaped the family curse.

Newton wasn’t lazy about his pursuit of happiness. He read a lot of things that other sad people had written about happy people. He could move through a shopping mall and spot everyone happier than he’d ever been, and Newton would feel the weight of his family upon him. He would often ask himself why he couldn’t have been born as April.

April didn’t really know how to be happy, that seemed to come naturally. She did however know how not to be sad. To her the differences between she and her family was not in their happiness levels, it was in what they focused on.

985-relax-and-succeed-see-miracles-in-everyday-lifeThe very first thing in the morning April would wake up to a brand new day and she would be filled with wonder about it. Would she meet a new friend? Discover a career? Hear her new favourite song for the first time? Maybe she would start one of the best books she’d ever read! Who knew? The mystery of it was always very exciting to April and her eyes were always open to catch life’s glories.

Newton’s father woke up worrying about the bills and his mother woke up angry about the mess that was left in the kitchen on the weekend. Newton’s sister June woke up knowing that today would be as disappointing as yesterday and his sister May woke up and was fine until she looked in a mirror and started hating her own body. Newton woke up very nervous about not yet being a happy person, and his brother Albert woke up okay, but within five minutes something or other would offend him and that would ruin the rest of his day.

One day Newton was walking his dog Atom and they ran into Scott in a ravine. Atom never liked people but Atom liked Scott. Newton found that curious and the fact started a conversation. Newton wouldn’t have necessarily called Scott happy but he was a strange kind of content that Newton found very appealing. What followed was one of the strangest conversations that Newton had ever had. He asked if there was any way he could continue to have them and Scott explained they could meet each week if he liked.

985-relax-and-succeed-now-and-then-its-good-to-pauseNewton almost immediately forgot he was actually trying to learn about happiness. The conversations were so free-ranging and enjoyable. They never seemed to be about actual happiness, they were always about strange tribes or movies or famous people or science. And yet Newton could feel himself getting happier.

Scott explained that, with the exception of April, Newton’s family wanted. Newton’s father wanted more money, his mother wanted the past to be different. June wanted a better life, May wanted a better body, Albert wanted everyone to cater to him and Newton wanted to be happy. Scott explained that you can’t want to be happy because then you’re wanting instead of being happy.

Scott explained that Newton already was who he’d always wanted to be. Newton had just never put that person in motion. Now Newton’s in motion. He doesn’t want to be happy. He’s like April. He wakes up each day filled with anticipation about all of the wonderful, rewarding experiences he might have and all day long he watches for them. And just like his mom and dad and sister and brother continue to see their wants loud and clear, Newton and April see amazing potential in each moment and how could a person not be happy about that?

Now that Newton doesn’t want to be happy any more Newton is now free to be happy. Be like Newton. Be free.

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.

Foul Moods

945 Relax and Succeed - Was it a bad dayYou can use whatever theories or concepts or excuses you like but in the end the feelings you experience do not come from external things. You are not some victim of your day. You’re not a victim at all. You can tell yourself you are but what you really are is a participant. And in this game anything can happen, including crappy stuff to you and me.

The problem is that people want to be happy when it’s healthier to be pointed toward happiness. First off, happiness is only a tiny portion of life to focus on so it’s a bit boring; plus it’s difficult to enjoy one’s life based on happiness when all worthwhile successes are necessarily preceded by challenges and the failure naturally associated with learning. Such is the Yin and Yang of life.

If the route to happiness is necessarily through pain and struggle then we’re doomed before we start. But what if we didn’t want to be happy? What if instead we were just oriented toward happiness? Then even when we are at our darkest, happiness is still in view and therefore possible. And moving toward it feels good because we’re continually feeling better than we previously did. After all, good feelings can only exist as a contrast to not-good ones.

945 Relax and Succeed - A mood isn't weather

Your day does not enter your life like a storm and stay. Days are days. The issue is you start making yourself the star of the day. When the photocopier breaks that’s not a part of all of your co-worker’s days, it’s yet another hassle for you to live through. Our ego puts itself in the middle and then thinks the world was supposed to go the way it thought it would. The unpleasant feelings we get come from comparing what we got to what we wanted.

If you don’t feel good it’s because you are entertaining thoughts that lead you to suffer. Yes there might really be unfortunate things happening but it’s impossible to make those go away by fantasising about other ways things could have been. Once something has passed it cannot be changed and can only be accepted.

What you think of as a bad day is really just a day where you’re placing a particularly negative lens over everything you see. Stop calling that a mood and using it as an excuse to punish others and yourself. Free yourself from that thought prison and understand that you can at any time begin watching the world around you for positive things. The more you do it the better you get at it until you eventually–and often easily–find yourself with a completely different and wonderful life.

Have yourselves a great day.

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.

Converting Identities

849 Relax and Succeed - Every thought is a seedStarting today and continuing for the rest of the week, we’re going to expand this week’s meditation on judgment. We’re going to demonstrate that the identities you’ve built for everyone you know, are actually judgments you’ve made about how you’re going to interpret and value the behaviour around you. You don’t see people you see your judgments about them.

Let’s use someone close enough to you that you know them but not so close that there still aren’t things you don’t know. Co-workers can be good for this, and in this case I would like you to choose one you don’t particularly get along with. Someone who you have negative judgments about. Maybe it’s some lazy person who creates more work for you, maybe it’s someone with a loud or brash personality–it doesn’t matter why you don’t like them as long as you have some issue with them.

849 Relax and Succeed - A lot of problems in the worldFirst, take some time you used to use to think about yourself and invest it instead in imagining their life. Not in your habitual way. Think new thoughts about them. Make new guesses as to who they are. So if they have two kids at home are you sure both are healthy? Maybe one is sick, or struggling in school. Or maybe the kid is getting bullied every day and they’re worried about suicide. Take some things it would be easy to feel compassionate about if it was you and your friends and then apply those to the person you don’t like.

If at all possible start up a conversation with them. Ask them about their history. Tell a story about your parents and then ask them about theirs. Maybe you guys grew up in a very similar manner. Or maybe they were so badly abused that you very quickly develop compassion for them. Who do they admire? Who broke their heart? Just keep going until you learn something that expands your view and decreases your distance. Look for the things that erase the thought barriers you thought you had.

Notice how you’ll begin to feel differently about the person. Not only are you actively asking new questions about them, but moreover in doing so you’re also avoiding a narrative about yourself. A narrative that otherwise might latch onto the cold, or the time or how tired you feel or how much you don’t like this other person…. But instead there is no you created because your thinking is pointed outward; toward the collection and appreciation of the world rather than the judgment of yourself and your day.

849 Relax and Succeed - Do not judge by appearancesThink differently about the person to the point where you find yourself genuinely feeling differently about them. Learn about their background. Find something that connects you to them. We’re all people. We all feel the same kinds of pains. Don’t let that close you off. Let it open you up with even greater empathy.

Pay attention to how flexible that other person is within your imagination. They never were any way. You saw them through a particular lens and that’s what made them appear to you as they did. They do the same with you. Always remember that illusion. Always remember that your views of anyone are subject to change, and indeed our personal freedom is achieved by realizing that the same holds true for ourselves. Others opinions of us are nothing more than that–a collection of thoughts and judgments that have no life outside of their own consciousness. You have nothing to fear.

Rethink the world folks. The Buddha wasn’t kidding when he told you that with your thoughts you make the world. You do. So make yourself a beautiful place to live. Have a wonderful week. Because if you seriously try on this exercise you’ll realize that your reality is much more flexible than you’ve previously imagined. Enjoy that fact! And use it to create a truly great day. All the best.

peace. s

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

Rewiring Your Self

846 Relax and Succeed - When you discover that all happinessI know I said there would be no Thursday blogs this year while I worked on the edit of a new book, but since we took Monday to establish the plan for this year this week will be an exception.

Some of you started this exercise already pretty good at appreciating. Some of you are pretty terrible at it. A lot of people basically bitch all day. Every other driver, shopper, boss, co-worker, friend and family member draws out a judgement. Too many of you want too many things to be the way you want them to be rather than loving them the way they are. That’s why you suffer and why the world is robbed of the contribution of your genius.

Your brain makes adjustments every moment and it’s flexibility is stunning. There are functional people walking around with very large and complete components of their brain that are completely missing. A woman in the States has no frontal cortex and yet she functions quite normally. These weekly exercises are there to help you more consciously and intentionally do that rewiring so that it’s easier to make better choices.

846 Relax and Succeed - Stop focusing on how stressed you areIf you get up and do the gratitude exercise first thing in the morning–while your brain is still waking itself up–you are establishing a pattern within yourself. Just like if you go to the gym and build muscle by using that part of your body, if you make appreciation a daily habit your brain will get better and better at it. Then your body starts to listen too.

If you think a lot of stressful thoughts your body will produce all of the necessary chemistry to create the sensations you experience as stress. Everything from a furrowed brow to a tight stomach to altering your cell receptors. If you always give your body a consistent chemical it will get good at handling that chemical–because that’s what it believes you want. You ask for it you get it.

Start choosing your thoughts instead of having them be just unconscious habits. Your morning exercise absolutely will change your brain. Change your brain change your chemistry, change you chemistry change your life. My body’s brilliant at being happy. My cells can do sad, but it’s not very good at it. Happiness flows through me and I feel elated. Sadness won’t stick. Many of you are the opposite. No problem. Just change that morning habit and over time it’ll change itself. Make gratitude the habit.

846 Relax and Succeed - Each day is a new beginningIt’s just a little 20 minute exercise each morning and it’s easy. What could be more important? Why work twice as hard to make more money to get more things to create a temporary sense of satisfaction when you could have your current life and just change how you feel about it?

Do the exercise. If you won’t even do that then you can go ahead and keep saying you want to be happy. Because wanting it is what keeps it at bay. Wanting is always away from you. Appreciation happens within you. Take control over what you do control and you’ll see you don’t need to control the rest.

For my own part in appreciation: thank you for taking the time to read my work. I sincerely hope you’re enjoying the process. I know you will if you do it. So enjoy your day. Intentionally. 😉

peace. s

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

Our True Selves

If you pay careful attention to the simplicity of what I’m saying you will absolutely see significant changes in your life. Some of these changes will be visible to others, others will leave you feeling differently about your past, present and future. But the important thing is the simplicity.802 Relax and Succeed - If you want to go somewhere

Ready?

If you read this blog then you know I explain some very straightforward things, the first of which is: experiences happen within your consciousness not in an outside world. Things you think and things you do are the same to the real you. It’s why you feel real emotions when you’re dreaming at night. So take a moment to really consider that. And I don’t mean, yeah I got it, I mean assume you don’t get it and look at it closely. Think of examples in your own life.

Next, remember that the experiences you reconsider most often will shape who you believe you are. They do this by becoming the most-repeated thought patterns you think. Your thoughts are like roads. The more you use them the wider and faster the road gets until you’re always taking the easy route–otherwise known as your personality. Always think fearful thoughts and you will become a fearful person.

Critical is remembering that your thoughts are always subject to change. Changing your thoughts is changing your Self. You are literally widening a different road. The nice thing is, when you stop using the old road it deteriorates and eventually it’s a donkey path you barely if-ever use. After about a month of thinking in some new pattern your brain has physically rewired you into a new identity that includes the ability you’ve been practicing, whether that’s juggling or not losing your temper.

802 Relax and Succeed - The best way to predict the futureNow remember that first point: to our true selves psychological experiences are equal to what we perceive as material experiences. That means it is possible for us to live out an experience in our imaginations and our brains will wire us up accordingly, as though we’ve actually already done the thing and done it as well as we’ve imagined. That’s why the kids in that famous study who thought about free-throws ended up improving more than the kids who spent an equal amount of time in the gym actually shooting free throws.

Explaining the above; if we do think something through regularly it allows us to feel more comfortable when we’re going through an actual experience. Whether it’s the feeling of being loved, the death of a loved one, or even going to an audition, if you’ve thought of yourself successfully being in that situation than you will literally have wired your brain up as though it’s already actually been there. It’s done that and it can relax. Because if you’ve been thinking about it, then as far as your true self goes you’ve literally been there before and you survived.

802 Relax and Succeed - This age thing is all up to youDo you see how this means you don’t heal from a broken heart, or from grief, or other suffering? There is no healing. There is only being the healthier version of ourselves. It’s not that we heal in suffering and then suddenly walk away in health. Mental health is when we make healthier use of our minds. If we haven’t practiced that then we have no new wiring to use. No, you don’t wait to get healthy and then start your life. You see yourself as already healthy and then you act that way.

Kids don’t fight illness when they’re little because they don’t know what that is yet. Instead of hoping to be healthy they are excited to live. And they do that until they start to get defeated by the thoughts we teach them. A head cold will last seven days. In relationship breakups it takes three months to recover for every year you’ve dated. This cancer will kill you. We get told all kinds of things in life and yet there’s no shortage of people who didn’t follow those recommendations.

You can’t be and act like a sick person and then just wish and want for health. Nope. You’re in charge. Sorry. No one to hand it off to. But that’s okay. You were given this little spaceship to drive through the universe because the universe knows what it’s doing. Just stop thinking about all the things you can’t do, struggle with, and are worried about, and instead think of your strengths, your victories and what you’re excited about in your future.

802 Relax and Succeed - Be the changeDo not say, I’ll go back to playing basketball when I quit smoking. Say instead: I’m going to start playing basketball so that I have something fun that helps me remember I’m not really a smoker. The only step after that miraculous one is when you realize that you don’t need words and language to feel strong like that.

Please, there’s no need to sit still and heal unless your injuries have you in traction at the hospital and even then you can use your thoughts to help mend you. Enact as much health as you can. When you see some 100 year old lady dancing at her birthday party, her legs might really hurt if she thought about it. But she’s not. She’s excitedly thinking about how fortunate it is that she can dance at her 100th birthday party. Because it’s probably something she had been thinking of doing for most of her life. 😉

If you had any idea of how huge and powerful this ability was you would laugh at how silly many of your problems appear in comparison. You actually are that capability, so it’s time to stop telling yourself that you’re a much more limited being than you really are. Instead go create a great day being the giant capable self that lives within you.

peace. s

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

Confident Humility

If we lack confidence we cannot be humble. Humility requires us to own both what we can do and what we cannot do. This is the fulcrum that lies between the extremes of over-confident egotism and crippling insecurity—between bold pride and shameful hiding. So the world was 657 Relax and Succeed - By being yourselfnever asking you to be perfect. But it does want you to contribute and you have much more to contribute than you currently imagine.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a street person tortured by an addiction, a worker in a company where you feel tortured by the meaninglessness of your work, if you’re an artist tortured by a creative block or an athlete who is in a torturous slump because you can’t find your groove—each of these states emerges because we have impaired ourselves. As we encounter normal hurdles and challenges and statistically anomalies it is easy to forget that absolutely everyone encounters these times in their life.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in jail, the Dalai Lama had to flee his own country and behind every business and sports success there are countless failures that those people pushed their way through to get to where you chose to notice them. But do not doubt that they too have had their hard times. Times where they felt they could not go on. And during those times we will all be inclined to start using limiting, self-defining language that talks more about what we can’t do that what we can do. And the problem with that is you will be limited by the size of your self-image instead of growing into your much larger natural self. This is a moment by moment action, so it is time you learned to quell the language that 657 Relax and Succeed - One side will make you largershrinks you and live in a way that expands you in a rewarding way. Because the world needs you. You have much to offer. And the world wants it now.

Yes good marriages and space launches and rock concerts and cool jobs seem awesome and worthwhile, but in the end those people’s lives are more like yours than you can imagine. The people who are deemed “successes” in life aren’t smarter than you. At most they’ll prevent self-limiting internal conversations that would undermine their confidence. But they’ll still have their doubts their failures and their giant regrets. Accept those as some of the stones you must step on to cross the river of life. Because to not step on them is to not live at all.

Be kinder to yourself. Invest more time thinking about the daily impact you have. Because on your death bed you won’t be thinking about Michael Jackson or your favourite car or your smartest purchase. You’ll be thinking about the millions of little graces that people showed to you in your life. And it’s often when we’re down and out that those moments happen, so we should always be ready for positive input regardless of our circumstances.

657 Relax and Succeed - You are the finestBe certain: you are a good and meaningful person and the harder parts of your life have only served to increase your sensitivities. Our challenging experiences provide us with a greater ability to respond to situations proactively and with genuine and meaningful empathy. You have strengths that others do not have. And your limiting thinking is exactly that—just thinking. So why is the real you being held back by ropes made of thinking that only exist inside the head of the real you? That’s you. Don’t you get it? Don’t do that to yourself. And don’t stop beating yourself up because it’s bad for you. Stop doing it because it prevents the greatness in you from emerging and the rest of us could really make good use of that greatness. So no more trying not-to-be-bad. Be great instead.

Remember: humility isn’t shyness or hiding your skills. It includes offering yourself, your labour, your mind and your resources toward life—toward moving life forward. Not just yours. But life in general, because the barriers between things only exist in our minds. And so by serving others we serve ourselves. We need only get in touch with the fact that we all have so much to give.

peace. s

Winning in Life

Who would have ever thought that compassion would be the key to a winning formula in an ultra-masculine sport? You would think something like car racing wouldn’t even be a team sport, but it very much is. And when I listened to former Formula One World Champion Peter Windsor discuss what was required to win at that level, I wasn’t surprised to learn that he used the same techniques that any smart business leader will use with any team working in any business.

639 Relax and Succeed - Peter Windsor
Peter Windsor, F1 World Champion

When asked how and why Nigel Mansell was able to win a World Championship in Formula One racing, his Team Manager Peter Windsor (now head of Formula One‘s web presence) pointed out that you ultimately needed two things: an intensely passionate team who had found ways to truly love what they did, and those people had to be as passionate about each other as they were for winning. And so Peter Windsor, a journalist with no real business experience, was able to assemble a winning team in the toughest, richest sport in the world. So why is a guy with no business experience beating people with tons? Because you can go to work and spend 15 years learning, or you can do like a lot of people I know and you can do the same year 15 times and not learn a thing. Peter Windsor learns.

There are two kinds of managers: militaristic and humanistic. The former believes you should listen because of your title and the manager’s title and it’s simply a top-down pyramid where the crap flows downhill. The humanistic manager is much more humble and open. He’s more like oil and his team members are like engine parts. His job is to keep them flowing smoothly. He can’t 639 Relax and Succeed - There is nothing noble in being superiorpresume to know how to manage the group because the group dictates that, not the manager. What a ridiculous idea that the same management systems would apply to a different group of people! So a bunch of lazy introverts requires the same techniques as a bunch of A-type overachievers? Hardly. And anyone who thinks so is absolutely going to be a blind manager. Blind to what? Blind to what needs actual management.

Engineers are very often very technical and almost Asperger-ish in their disinterest in human emotion. This is precisely because they see the emotions as being extraneous to the process—which it’s hard to argue—but nevertheless, as the rest of know, those very emotions are often at the core of our efforts. So some of the engineers can be passionately focused on winning by ignoring emotion whereas others on the team will be just as passionate about the teammates themselves. So part of Windsor’s job was to either run interference between these two groups, or to ensure that they are the right sorts of people to be able to communicate effectively without his help. Because you can have the smartest people in the world working together and it will be useless as long as they can’t communicate and share their abilities. And that told me that Windsor would have succeeded in any business he went in to. Because he understands that ultimately what makes a team successful is how well it shares.

Lewis Hamilton is a brilliant, intuitive driver. He’s just come off a winning season but Windsor’s concerned about his next season. They’ve changed engineers from one that was very human and engaged with Lewis as an intuitive. He would listen carefully to Lewis’s intuitive feedback 639 Relax and Succeed - There is a sense in whichand he would translate it into the numbers on his computer screen. This year they’ve gone with a different engineer and Windsor rightfully picks up that this may be fatal for Lewis’s season. If the person responsible for the car can’t communicate well with the person driving it, then I think you can see that F1 truly is a team sport, because the car will end up being worked on hard and built to some strange standard that lives in the unshared world of two people who aren’t truly communicating. Windsor would know to either go translate, or get a different engineer. That is the smartest kind of management—to see a team as an organic, living being that must be treated like a living thing and not a list of jobs that pull on each other like levers.

If you’re in business and you’re looking to maximize the impact of your team, the most important thing you can do is clearly identify the goal, and then ensure that every team member is genuinely invested in helping his teammates achieve their aspect of that larger goal. So in essence, everyone is helping everyone, which removes what I term friction in a business.

639 Relax and Succeed - Creativity is intelligence having funFriction slows a race car down and friction slows a business down. If you have two or more people infighting over something, then the life force that those people arrive at work with each day will not be expended on getting the car to go faster or the business to do better, it will be expended battling against each other. Now that friction can be healthy when used for development of ideas when it’s done in the most positive ways. But it cannot be allowed to drift into personal friction, where people are now battling each other. Once we start yelling we’ve stopped arguing for a point and now we’re arguing for ourselves.

There was a lot of business people at the event this past weekend. It took place at one of my clients, Modern Auto Body, a super-high end auto body shop that more reconstructs high end cars than fixes them. And the audience was filled with financially successful business people. But financial success doesn’t mean those businesses didn’t have even more head room. Because anyone in there that wasn’t running their team with the respect for friction that Windsor has—that business person has left a lot on the table. Because a stronger manager would draw more value from those same people by treating them, not as pegs filling job slots but, as human beings who spend half of their waking life at work. If you can make that work inspiring and have the team feel like a family, then you will have created the hardest, most conscientious workers there are.

I loved the event and I loved spending some quality time with a man who I not only respect for his achievements, but also for his humanity. I think it was summed up nicely when I asked a female non-race fan if she had enjoyed his talk, and she told me that she had loved it, and that it was very impressive to her how much Windsor genuinely cared about his team. She noted that he always knew such beautiful personal details about the lives of his team members, and 639 Relax and Succeed - Success is not the key to happinessthat he always spoke with such reverence about everyone from the driver and engineer all the way on down to the 160th member of the team. I had the same reaction. It’s the same one I have whenever I’m around the people who’ve lead the most holistically successful lives. Because if you just win races but hate every minute of it, then you haven’t won anything at all. So ultimately it wasn’t the World Championship that made Peter Windsor—it was the love for his co-workers that made him the great man and leader that he still is to this day.

Now go be a good team member on whatever team you’re on, be it at home or work. And always remember to drive safe out there. All the best. 😉

peace. s

The March Kindness Challenge

I know there’s normally an Other Perspectives on Monday but it’s the start of a month and while I kicked this off on the weekend, I wanted to give it an official start on the 631 Relax and Succeed - Yesterday I was cleverfirst workday of the month. Welcome to Relax and Succeed‘s March Kindness Challenge.

The readers that turn my work into verbs always do best. They’re not philosophically bantering ideas around, they’re looking for routes through the confusion. And so they very practically do what I suggest and then they write to me about the wonderful benefits that accrue when we make happiness a priority, and when we really do try to see that life is lived inside out, not outside in.

So what’s our verb for March? We have to stop trying to Succeed and we have to start Relaxing. We have to see the victory not as winning the game, but playing it at all. We must learn that our internal experience is the only life we’ll ever know, and so we’re far better off to be tuning that. And by tuning into kindness we guarantee ourselves a day filled with joy.

So: I know it’s a habit that will be hard to break at first. But that’s why we’re doing it. To make that barrier lower and lower until it’s not there at all. So 31 days (and if you start today, only 29!). 31 measly days. No negative comments about your appearance, your schedule, your children or parents, your spouse or lack of one, your job, boss or co-workers, your social life, your friends, other drivers, the weather, your health, your 631 Relax and Succeed - Sorry for the inconveniencehabits, your past…. none of it. No using words in your imagination to tell yourself a story about how disappointing any of those things are.

Yes, you’ll screw up. Yes your habits will—especially at the start—wreak havoc on your plans for positivism. You’ll catch yourself half an hour into a rant. But that does not mean you have failed that means you have succeeded. Because you noticed. This is not something you’ve historically paid attention to—and that’s entirely my point. Because if you did pay attention to it your life would instantly and easily be much better. Because what a surprise—when you actually prioritize happiness it turns out it’s not that hard to get.

So to make it easier to not slip back into bad habits,  instead you should be invested in paying more attention than ever to the good things in life. Focus on what’s in your consciousness. You want fewer criticisms, judgments, or complaints. Those are just crappy ways of asking for something when it would be better to just ask. Criticisms, judgments and complaints suck for you to think. They’re not nice-feeling thoughts for the thinker. But being openly aware feels good right away. And if you direct it with the 631 Relax and Succeed - People from a planet without flowersintention of noticing all that is beautiful about the world you will quickly come to see that a lot of this great big world is absolutely awesome and if you don’t believe me then you haven’t been paying enough attention.

Start noticing the daily kindnesses in this world. Start paying a lot of attention to how good people are to each other. Why would we have built a world where there’s a saying to good to be true but not one that’s too bad to be true? I’m happier than all of you and I’m likely dumber and poorer and more isolated, and for the last several weeks I’ve been in intense pain, but still I’m happier than virtually all of you. Why? Because I love being in pain and I love being over-booked because my friends need me? No, because that reminds me that I’m hardly ever in pain and that I have a lot of great friends that inspire me to help them with their goodness. The choice is mine how I see that. But I have to get serious about changing the way that I make that choice. It has to become conscious if I want it to work. I can’t go into a restaurant and blindly pick any meal/experience off the menu and expect to like it. I at least have to advocate enough for my own life that I’ll show enough involvement to actually look at the menu of thought choices and choose something that I think I at least have a hope of enjoying.

631 Relax and Succeed - The March Kindness ChallengeOkay, send this to your friends and get them on board too. Print off the March Kindness Challenge photo and put it up at work, or on your fridge or at your school. And do this seriously. Make your happiness something you actually prioritize. So if you hear a friend running someone else or their life or themselves down—stop them. Remind them that you think they’re amazing and that’s why you’re their friend, and that when they insult themselves they’re also insulting your good taste. Stop gossiping and start talking about how great everyone is. Start talking about the best thing you’ve seen someone do instead of the dumbest thing.

This isn’t rocket science. Think a nice thought, get a nice feeling. But that doesn’t happen by accident. And it doesn’t happen by coming here and reading this blog or taking my classes or meeting with me. I don’t change people they change themselves. Can I guide them? Yes I can and have and it works. But so will the March Kindness Challenge. Just do it.

No more critical, angry, sad, worried or judgmental thoughts about your life or the people and things in it. Instead, for March you’re going to sincerely dedicate yourself to being even kinder, more generous, and more patient and compassionate than you have been. Less time judging what you don’t like and more time noticing what you do like. Share your appreciations. Tell people you think they handled a situation well. Tell them you think they look great or that you’ve always liked their voice. Tell them. You love when you hear it so say it too. Say nice things to everyone.

631 Relax and Succeed - People tend to think thatThis really can make a huge difference. In a blog called Mission: Better World #1 I figured out that if just North Americans alone gave one more compliment per day than they do, that we would increase the total number of world compliments by 131 billion every year. And that’s just one small place. Imagine if the whole world was kind most of the day!?

Make a difference first to yourself and then to those around you. But get on board. Put up Post-It notes to remind you. Get your friends on board. Copy the March Kindness Challenge photo or go to the Relax and Succeed facebook page and share the challenge out of the Social Change photo album. Get as many people on board as you can. But stay on it yourself and you will change yourself. And, as Gandhi said, by changing yourself you will have changed the world as well.

I look forward to seeing your smile out there in the great big beautiful world. Until then, you have yourself the very best March ever. I love you.

peace. s

PS Don’t forget to share this!

Life Lessons

If you read me regularly you know I often point out that an enjoyable life comes from the simple act of appreciation, and yet so few people ever bother to really turn that into a daily verb. They’ll say they want a better life and that they want to be more spiritual, but then they’ll promptly use all their free time to compare themselves with people they perceive as even more fortunate, but they won’t do it with the many billions more who are less fortunate. Why pursue wanting thoughts instead of appreciative thoughts when the former hurt and the 628 Relax and Succeed - The more I understand the mindlatter feel wonderful? That’s a question you really should be asking yourself.

I live in Alberta. This is a place that, for the time being, a nineteen year old kid can make $120,000 a year as a welder and he’ll still complain about it. And because everyone knows so many people like that, people where I live don’t realize that they are among the richest people on Earth. When I recently asked several locals how much they thought you needed to earn to be in the top 1% of global earners, I got guesses like 20 million and low guesses were about 2 million. The real answer (on that day) was $56,400. Most of the people I talked to were double that number and you could see their minds try to adjust their place in the world to this sliver of people at the top. Suddenly they realized that what they thought the world was—that was just the top 1%. They thought they were struggling and so they imagined themselves at somewhere in the bottom half of worldwide earners. They thought they were in the bottom half when they were actually in the top 1%. Do you see how your thinking can steal your joy?

I want you to take a moment to actually appreciate where you really are. It’s my hero’s birthday today (the day I’m writing this). My Dad already had grey hair when I was born, so we have a fascinating spread between us. He was born before the Great Depression on a rural farm in Scotland. He was the youngest of eight children and he was born before the 628 Relax and Succeed - No we don't always get what we wantavailability of antibiotics so he was lucky to have survived Scarlet Fever as a kid. He’s a clever guy but he only had the chance to go to grade eight, and by seventeen years old he was lying about his age so that he could follow his brothers and sisters into service in World War II.

Before the war Dad was pushing a plow behind a horse, and then he helped to cut the wheat with a scythe and they stacked it by pitch fork. Eight kids starts to make sense doesn’t it? Had I been a farmer in my era, I would do all of that “work” with one machine, in my sleep, while a movie was on in the cab of my self-driving GPS-controlled combine. To say life is easier doesn’t even get close to capturing the level of difference. And that’s my Dad and I’m right on the Gen X border. That’s one generation to me. Just a bit ahead of him and there’s no cars, electricity or even running water.

Take a moment to think about that. What my Dad would take a day of super hard work to do I could probably do quite casually in under 10 seconds. I worked alongside my Dad for a long time. My dad could work hard. And he might have only had grade eight but give him two thimbles, some twine and a fish hook and he’ll build you a part that will get your car to the next town for the real repairs. My friends and I couldn’t build a house, fix a car, repair an electrical motor, hunt an animal, clean a fish, do enough math and bookkeeping—by hand—to run a small business, and we certainly couldn’t deliver a baby cow. Our dads were either in the war or they lost their dad in the war—whether that father came home or not. No vaccines, 628 Relax and Succeed - Some people feel the rainpenicillin was barely invented, they all lost siblings to bombs and bullets and various diseases that we no longer fear. That was normal.

Parents expected to lose a kid along the way. Just think about that. Today that would be headline news and possibly cause the parent to stop living their life. Back then it would have been seen as unfortunate but it couldn’t stop you. You still had another seven or more kids to look after back when a washing machine looked like a single piece of corrugated metal. Can you imagine having today’s attitudes about housework when washing clothes meant grinding eight kids clothes against a rough surface for several hours in water that was heated in a kettle hung over a wood stove that you cut the wood for? Think about that next time you spin the dial for an extra rinse. I do and I still appreciate my washing machine every single time I use it.

It was just through proximity not wisdom that I knew how tough our parents were. The first white person to climb Mount Everest only died in 2008 and he did that climb in leather and wool. Life got much easier during my lifetime and it’s no younger person’s fault that they 628 Relax and Succeed - Life is a series of thousandsdon’t immediately consider how challenging something might have been even shortly before they were born. People had higher levels of acceptance and appreciation because it was easy to see how much tougher it had recently been.

There were no homes for older people so a lot of families had grandparents living with them so you heard stories. And people still visited farms where you went back in time a bit. You’d see outhouses and kerosene lamps still being used every day. But now I know tons of young people whose grandparents are in a special home they visit for an hour every few months. They have never been to a farm and their parents both have desk jobs on computers and so to them their parents life doesn’t look a lot different than theirs. Not very many kids today get to see what I did when I looked at my Dad. By 17 my Dad was in WWII, and both my parents families lost members in the war and to the war. What an insult it would have been to say to my dad that my safe, easy car-riding life was too hard.

People squander their own happiness. They use their ability to think to want—to compare themselves to others even more fortunate. So the 1%er ends up spending half their day using their thoughts to envy someone in the .0001%??? Does that sound wise to you? Or could all the suffering you’re complaining about be coming from that?

628 Relax and Succeed - Gratitude changes everythingMeditation is consideration. Siddhartha sat under a tree asking himself where suffering comes from and 49 days later he’s the first Buddha. You can do likewise, but instead of using your thinking to negatively compare yourself, instead use it to appreciate how fortune you are. Because if I’m having trouble completely quieting my thinking for whatever reason, I’ll just shift to leading my thoughts toward considering what my day would have looked like for my parents, or even more extremely, for my grandmother. Hitching a horse, riding to town, blah blah. But one minute in I realize my “bad, slow day” is actually accomplishing more in a half hour than my grandmother could have even hoped to do all day, and I would have been safer, warmer, and far more comfortable. And that awareness makes me grateful, and if you’re feeling grateful then you’re okay. It’s as easy as that.

You have a lot to be grateful for. So go create yourself a great day by investing your consciousness in things that are easy to appreciate. Trust me. They’re always there.

peace. s