Sailing Through Life

The little boy settled onto the blanket, next to his father. They were on a steep rocky headland and they had a beautiful view of the entire ocean before them. The wind flicked a blond wisp into the boy’s eyes and he pushed it away. “Do you see her?”

“Not yet Simon. She’s still off over the horizon.”

“What’s a ‘horizon?'”

His father points out over the water. “You see it on the sea, and you can see it out in the country too when it’s really flat, or you’re really high up; and you can see it in life too.” He points out toward the ocean. “Auntie started sailing from another continent–another giant island like the one we live on–but we can’t see it because the world is curved. And if you were on one side of a giant ball you wouldn’t be able to see the other side would you Simon?”

“If I had a see-through ball I could.”

His father smiles. “That’s very clever. Yes. If it was see-through you could. But otherwise you couldn’t. And the Earth isn’t see-through, it’s covered in rock and water; so the line where we can’t see anymore, that line is the horizon and we can’t see your auntie until she comes over that line.”

Simon seems confused. “Then how does she know where to go?”

“Well, that’s a good question. She has a good boat, she’s well trained, she has courage and determination, and after that all she needs is a direction and her knowledge. That’s all life is. We’re never really sure where we’ll end up or how exactly we’ll get there. It’s just ability and effort. The rest is like the ocean. So put the best equipment you can put together, the best training you can find, and then add courage and a real desire to do it, and then apply yourself. That’s a good way to approach every part of life.”

This sounds like good news to Simon. He looks up at his father expectantly. “If she has that will she win?”

“Oh, that’s difficult to say. She’s the best sailor of all of us. She’s been winning regattas since we were kids but, like I said, sailing’s a bit like life Simon. You can be the best sailor in the world and still get wrecked on the rocks, and you can be terrible and end up fumbling your way through in record time.”

Simon’s brow furrows. “That’s not fair.”

“Yes. That would make sense. Fair’s an idea we get in our heads, but the ocean doesn’t have a head, so it can’t think fairness into existence. So my sister–your aunt–has to use her head to outsmart the sea. And maybe if she’s smart and lucky with the wind and the waves, maybe she’ll win. But we’ll be proud of her no matter what. It’s no easy thing crossing an ocean alone.”

“But you said someone terrible could win.”

“Well, that’s true, but it’s less likely. Especially in this race. But the world isn’t fair, it’s just made up of a bunch of systems. The way water and wind work, have systems. So if auntie can be smarter and use those systems to her advantage, she increases her chances of success. But if she’s lazy and unprepared and she runs into lots of things she has to guess about, then she’s less likely to be right about her answer and she’s less likely to win. So you can’t guarantee anything. But the reason your Mom and I want you to be a good student of life is because that makes you more capable, like auntie, and that increases your odds of winning races and being free. You just have to always remember that any of us can get smashed on the rocks too, so don’t be hard on yourself if that happens too. That happens to everyone.”

Simon backs away from the cliff a bit. “I don’t want to hit the rocks.”

His father looks at him but steps toward the cliff and points out at the ocean. “Oh, no one wants to hit rocks Simon. But people are tiny and look how big the sea is. Sometimes a person’s best still isn’t enough. But that’s okay too. That way we know how much we can survive. Once, your auntie wrecked in blue water and she had to sit on the hull for a day before she was rescued.”

“Was she scared?”

“Maybe sometimes. But she’s smart too, so she would have used her brain for figuring out smart things. I don’t think she would have wanted to give much time to fear. She survived that, and that helped her feel stronger, and that’s why she took on this race five years ago. She felt like she could handle it, and her first year she was in the top ten boats.”

Simon seems proud of his own connection to her. “Maybe auntie will take me sailing.”

“Well Simon, people tend to like it when you’re interested in the things they’re interested in. So I suspect she’ll take you. Maybe I could even come and help.”

“Okay. But you have to listen carefully. Because we live not on the ocean so you drive mostly. Auntie has trophies and stuff for boats. So we will be safer if you listen to her careful, okay?”

“Sure Simon. I promise I’ll be careful so that we can relax and have fun.”

“I can’t wait to sail!” he literally shakes with excitement.

“Good. That’s the feelings that gets you through the storms and that’s the same one that makes any day a good day.”

Simon smiles.

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.

Let More Be

1189 Relax and Succeed - One person's craziness

Every year it seems, people are increasingly focused on their differences and very little heed is being paid to our overwhelming similarities. What’s curious about those differences is that they’re all theoretical. If you look beyond your personal beliefs to the greater truth that forms all realities they’re all equally uncertain.

Like everyone else, you’ve changed your mind about a subject or two in your life. Maybe you’ll even admit to executing a few of life’s inevitable flip-flops too. Maybe you thought Person A was your friend, then you thought they weren’t, and then they were again. It’s not like Person A was flip-flopping who they were. You were just changing the opinion you colour them with.

The fact is Raj or Sirah or Dennis or Clare or Sydney or Dylan sound like a group of friends when really that’s just a collection of words. Because who are those people? Not only will they each change at their own rates and for their own reasons throughout their lives, but likewise, so will their opinions of each other. So who is what, when?

1189 Relax and Succeed - Reality is negotiable“Society” is nothing more than the averaging of everyone’s assembled–yet still individual–views. We draw a Venn Diagram with seven billion circles and we find the layers of overlap and we call that “normal.” Whether it’s about people or things or ideas, we all come to accept ideas at different times.

Some people believe things as soon as they like them. Others need tons of proof. Others need high quality scientific proof. Others will only believe people they like, and they’ll never believe anything coming from someone they don’t like. Others doubt everything. We’re all on this spectrum somewhere.

This means the rules and ideas and concepts that shape and guide our society are like a collective amoeba, organically working its way along as we all pursue things that are in alignment with our current capabilities and our individual natures. This is the subtle person by person way that a society’s fundamental perspective can appear to suddenly shift, when really all that happened is that the slow ebb eventually tipped your personal scale.So collectively, first we believed there were Kings and Queens who killed you if they didn’t approve of you. Then only wealthy land-owning men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. Then only men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. And then women could vote, and thankfully there’s no one left for them to prove their strength to because at least all of us humans all equal.

The strange thing about “differences” is that you could still find people today who still believe only landowners should be allowed to vote. There’s people that still think only men should. And some think children and eventually animals should be able to. We are all alive on the same planet at the same time. So all of these views co-exist. Is that really something to get upset about? Doesn’t that just make sense? How else could it be?

So, if we’re all changeable, and none of us knows what we might believe in the future, then surely some of the views that we’re hearing today are actually correct and we will eventually change our mind. Maybe it’s about a musician or maybe it’s about a spouse, but that means big argument or small, you may just be arguing for a view you won’t have later.

Just think back. I’m sure you can find some painful examples of where you held a belief you no longer do. Everyone has loads of those. When I was a kid my neighbour used to want to be a fire truck. I doubt he does now. More recently, for a while, another neighbour thought they wanted to be married. But like I suspect the fire truck kid did, she ended up changing her mind about that. (I sure hope she also remembered to change her “divorce is failure” belief while she was at it.)

Who knows what you’ll believe a year from now? Why not just breathe out? Why not just let other views co-exist with yours like books in a library? You don’t have to read them, but if the cover ever does catch your interest, you can thank the people around you for placing that book in your library of potential beliefs. And if you never pick that book up. That’s fine too. You’ll leave plenty lying around that other people won’t read either.

The world appreciates the efforts of your good heart but there’s no need to suffer to save it. Yes, there are things for you to care about. But mistaking caring for worrying is like mistaking the efforts of love for the efforts of resistance. As Mother Teresa said, skip the anti-war rallies. Go to the ones for peace. So it is with life. Don’t resist it so much. Let more go. Be more fluid and flexible. Let things be. And in so doing, be free.

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.

A Life Unlived

When my father got sick we almost lost the house. I was just getting out of high school and I had never seen my parents to stressed. They’d never fought, now they were fighting all the time. I was too young to understand the tension of a mortgage back then, but with my brothers and sisters already moved out and living in different cities, it was up to me to help.

Unfortunately the only thing I knew that could make me money fast was to work with my brother’s friends. They dealt drugs and wasted it all on fancy cars and stupid stuff. I paid my Dad’s medical bills and my parents kept their house. Still, the money solved my problem but that’s not who my parents raised me to be and I always worried about the people buying the stuff, so to get away from that stress I took night school and eventually I got an engineering degree.

My eventual engineering job replaced the money I was making and we got my parent’s house paid off. Now I was free, but I didn’t know what to do. I’d been trained to be afraid that there’d never be enough money, or there’d always be too much work and that was was bad training for what would come next. That’s when I started talking to Scot and he pointed out that I’d always been responsible–in a whatever way that made sense at the time. That made me feel a bit better.

I had this invention. No big thing, but it was a good idea that could easily replace a good wage. I’d been laid off, so I had the time to develop it, but being laid off had a weird effect. My parent’s situation had taught me to be paranoid about money, so despite having a lot of savings I still worried about money all the time because no more was coming in. It wasn’t a healthy mental situation. And it was ironically keeping me from developing the idea.

Scott had been explaining to me how I’d been accidentally taught to process the world. I saw it as a place that was lacking, that was short, that my life needed work to come from others before it could be secure. I learned to over-process my fears and under-process my dreams. I spent far more time thinking about what could go wrong than what could go right.

Keep in mind during all of this that Scott kept pointing out that I’d done very well in school, and that even my ability to save for meaningful things was businesslike, and that the idea I’d developed was not only good, but the tons of research I’d done on it was not only excellent and thorough, but it represented more proof than most good ideas had to support them when they proceeded. He kept asking me what it was that was holding me back.

For a long time I listed what I thought was holding me back. What if it didn’t work? What if I made some fatal judgment error and ruined a good idea? What if there was a hidden pitfall I couldn’t predict? And what about all of the mistakes in life I’d already made? I had a huge list of fears but Scott just kept reminding me that they were all made of my own thinking. I thought he got what I meant until one day I had a huge revelation.

I was out walking. Okay, I was out procrastinating. If I wasn’t walking then I’d have to work on my idea, and if I did that then I was getting closer to a thing that scared me, so it did make a kind of sense that I was avoiding it. But avoiding it to do what? And that’s when it hit me.

It was so subtle I hope it even comes across now but, I realised that I was avoiding the pursuit of the idea so that I could instead think the fears that might possibly relate to the idea. For the first time I saw my thinking as an action–as what I was doing with my life. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was using my fears about being responsible to keep me from my responsibility to live.

My idea was good. The world would benefit from it. So who was I to keep it from the world because I was busy thinking thoughts that were irrelevant to everyone else? And why would I use the energy from my life to think those destructive thoughts when I could be using the same life energy to build that business?

The fact is, all of this worrying has been me failing. Even if I built the business and it bombed, I would have been done by now and I would have had the advantage of the experience and I would have felt like I accomplished more. Suddenly thinking appeared to me as the opposite of living.

Don’t be like me. Don’t avoid life. Because now that I can see through my thinking, I realise that like the walk, it’s a form of procrastination too. And it requires me to see myself as weak and ineffectual, as though I can’t pull this off. There’s no evidence I can’t do it. Just my fears. And those are no where but my consciousness. So now I hear myself think them and I get why they’re there, but they don’t stop me anymore.

I’ve come alive. I’ve stopped thinking about a timid life and I’ve started living a bold one and it turns out that boldness feels a lot calmer and more peaceful than all that worrying ever did. Listen to Scott. Trade your thinking for living. It makes all the difference in the world.

Sincerely, C

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 Spirit of Possibility

Whether it’s their own idea or someone else’s, people scoff when they hear dreams that seem too big. But too big for who, and when? Is it possible that the limitations of the world are merely made up by the limitations of our imagination? Is it possible that everything mankind has wrought started with a thought?

Every single thing you see before you; every cup, every phone, every car, everything you watch on a screen, everything that was ever created–including the blog you’re reading now–began with an idea. So why do you act like ideas are nothing? Why is your reaction to a big idea to note why it wouldn’t work, rather than getting excited by finding out how?

Did a pyramid seem possible to early man? Did the rule of law and democratic government seem possible to the subject of a king or queen? Did cars seem possible to cowboys? Did going into space seem possible to people who’d grown up without electricity or running water? And did the internet or smartphone seem possible even a few short years before their inception? Probably not. But they seemed possible to some collection of people. That’s the only reason you have any of the things that exist.

There’s an interview with David Lynch and Patti Smith where she asks him where his ideas come from and he gives an answer that will feel good to every truly creative person. He talks about how there’s a completed puzzle somewhere off in the universe, and he finds the fragment of it somewhere in the universe and he falls in love with it. And that love attracts other fragments, and the more fragments that get attracted the bigger the bait for more fragments. And that’s how every single amazing thing ever happened.

Darwin felt a tug and he followed the passion right out of his beloved church and right into discovering evolution, which in a way was him trying in his own way to describe what God or the forces of nature had created. But people adopt these ideas at their own pace. There are still people coming to accept that idea, and yet so much of the modern science and medicine the nonbelievers use will have been built directly as an extension of that initial creative truth.

Darwin won one friend over, then another, then a publisher, then a society or two, and eventually the public and the school systems. But it all started with one guy falling in love with his personal fragment, and you yourself are like a spiritual fragment-finding creation. That’s how you found all of your friends, and if you have a family it was literally born from the initial thought to bring those two first fragments together. And you felt it as a simple sense of recognition that felt something like, “Oh, he’s attractive.”

Watch yourself today. See people’s statements to you as offerings, and ask yourself what you do with them as offerings. Do you reflect back a previous belief regardless of what they’ve said, or do you attempt to prove it wrong using what you believe versus what they believe? Or, do you take it in and ask questions and really ask yourself what’s being said? Because Einstein told people about gravitational waves 100 years ago, but few believed him then.

Fortunately Einstein’s initial thought was enough bait to attract 100 years worth of clinging fragments, and recently some of the fragments who are scientists actually turned enough of their own thoughts into machines and processes that they were actually able to prove that Einstein’s had formed a truth.

Too often children and adults alike are told that ideas are crazy or too big. Too often we tell ourselves that, but we must shake that collective tendency. It’s ego-related and it’s all about your fears. Forget those. Find your fragment–the thing that will be worth you moving past your fears for. Maybe you’ll be right, maybe you’ll be wrong about what’s on the other side. Maybe you’ll create the thing and maybe you won’t. But that doesn’t matter. Because the power isn’t in the creation, the power is in creating. Even your so-called failures add value to the universe.

Don’t sell your dreams short. The route to them might be entirely unexpected, but if you boldly go forth you are sure to accomplish something meaningful. Start today.

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.

Egos and Salespeople

Richard and Alice didn’t even want to be there, but they had been in an accident and they needed to replace their car. They tried being stealthy but the salesman’s training took care of that. He was ready. Everything about his training taught him how to take full advantage of whatever kind of personality was in front of him.

Alice was just as shy as Richard but, for little more than sexist reasons, she pushed–and Richard accepted–the lead shy person’s position and so he’s the one that talked to Sammy. Richard immediately tried to play his cards close to his chest, but all that he and Alice talked about were safety features, so Sammy figured out that scaring them into buying it was the fastest, surest way to sell them a new van that was more expensive than the one they came in for.

Sammy talked about features, but he was sneaky about always adding in little references to how his van had this or that feature that kept them safer than other vans. Half the time Sammy was making the name of the feature up, and he had no idea what the competitors vans had for safety or features, but he knew if he said his was safest and the customers trusted him, then they’d never check. Besides, Mac was the kind of salesman that told the truth about that sort of thing and he was always in trouble with their managers for reading research instead of selling. Sammy didn’t need that hassle. He wanted to be a good employee.

In a short time Sammy had them scared into dealing with him only, and he had scared them into his van specifically, and then he scared them into a price. Of course his manager started them far higher than the monthly payment number they gave him, but that’s how Sammy’s boss contributed to the psychological assault. And that way Richard and Alice are so off balance that they never even noticed that the monthly payments added up to a lot more than the van plus the interest.

For their part, Richard and Alice are legitimately scared. They can’t deal with those other lying, thieving salesmen. Good thing Sammy warned them about them. And it has to be the D-Lux model, not for all of those expensive features, but rather because that’s how they get the best safety equipment. Besides, Sammy had got them such a great deal. (Sammy also made sure they felt in line to have several more accidents during their driving history.) So they felt they had no option except to nearly double their original monthly payment budget.

Once they’d agreed to that, Sammy handed them over to Polly. She’s the dainty, cute girl that works in the finance office. She was going to take care of the “paperwork” with Richard and Alice, and Sammy had told her about his good friends Richard and Alice, so innocent-looking little Polly also knew to tell a bunch of really frightening stories as she recommended various insurance or protection options. Totally scared of theft, accidents, death and every projectile imaginable, Richard and Alice doubled the price of the van again.

Finally they get word back from the bank but now they’re scared again! After all of this work and planning, the bank won’t approve the loan. Oh no! They can’t let the van go now! It’s the last one like it! Of course none of this is true, but with Sammy, Polly and their manager saying it, Richard and Alice panic. Yes, of course they’ll pay more!

Boom. Polly got her bonus–because had they not been willing to pay more, then the interest rate problem would have suddenly been solved by Polly’s genius instead or Richard’s wallet. So in the end, Richard and Alice got the van that will destroy their future finances and they’re even relieved to have it. They’re so grateful to Sammy for focusing on their safety and not their wallets that they’re planning on sending him business.

On a sidenote, when they picked up their van, Richard and Alice were so excited and happy that they didn’t even notice Mac, the honest salesman, being escorted out of the building with his belongings. Which was too bad for Mac, because the next day he ended up missing out on the free cake to celebrate Sammy’s win as Employee of the Month.

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.