There are two types of stress. One is brought on by a set of conditions and the other is brought on by a set of thoughts. One is obligatory, one is voluntary. The first is quite natural but the second is a construct. In fact the second version didn’t even exist until language had progressed far enough to develop abstract terms like and time and achieve and complete. As much as it might seem like it, those are not things they are ideas. And when the Buddha refers to the illusion it’s those ideas he was referring to.
Thanks to some lottery-win kind of incredible luck (coupled with a lot of really hard work) my entire life will drastically change this week. For a large chunk of time I have been under a great deal of time stress. The demands of my life mean I simply haven’t been able to afford more than four hours sleep each day, virtually every meal has been rushed, and if those two things were happening you can easily guess that I also haven’t been getting regenerative time with friends or family either. Laughing and relaxing are worth a lot. These things all constitute what we’ll call external physical stresses and they can carry quite an accumulative impact.
What I wasn’t doing was adding psychological stress on to my physical stress. That is to say, I accepted my workload and schedule as a fait accompli. It was simply going to happen. so I didn’t carry out my long day having any kind of argument with myself about the fairness, reasonableness or danger of it. I could have, but I just took the step in front of me. Sometimes that step was to plan for 50 steps ahead, but after the plan was created I was back to the step I was on.
Of course I would stray off that path relatively regularly, especially when I was particularly tired or hungry. But my emotions—the bad ones, the ones I don’t like—would occur and I would immediately check in as to their source. Of course the chemistry I feel is the chemistry I’ve asked for with my thinking. If I’m sitting thinking worried or anxious or angry or sad thoughts about my situation then I am dumping the chemistry out for different flavours of stress. So if I’ve asked for them I shouldn’t be surprised that I got them.
The sensation—the emotions I didn’t like—was what signalled me to go quiet and accept my physical stress. Psychological Stress is always self-created and voluntary. That’s not to say it isn’t useful to experience at times, but overall it’s quiet debilitating to people and it’s generally best to avoid it.
Believe in yourself. Don’t argue with your hills. Look forward to how your greatness will conquer them. Sense your own victory as though it has already happened and then just carry out the motions. Any suffering is only thinking.
It’s no irony to me that this young man can see the value of life far better than most. It is no surprise to me that he would learn Zen Master mind control. He had no choice. He needed it just to survive. And if you have the courage to watch this, keep in mind that if Jonathan Pitre can find this many ways to be grateful and positive, then the only thing that’s stopping you from doing likewise is you. This is one of the most courageous people I’ve ever encountered:
That’s pretty powerful, huh? I know. I cried, and then I sat there afterwards, almost embarrassed at how bad I am at being grateful. I needed this just to get me centred again. Fortunately it worked perfectly. I’ve always loved Alan Watts:
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.
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 presume 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 and 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.
Friction 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 that 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. 😉
The Other Perspectives series is about challenging existing beliefs, so this one might seem easy to dismantle as spiritually illogical when my message is always that you’re not responsible for what others choose to think, nor are other people responsible for your thoughts. But at the same time we must take into account that we are surrounded by people who are still asleep. And so they do take opinions (other people’s and their own), far too seriously—which is a psychological and spiritual mistake—but that being the case, it would be wise to pay attention to where their realities come from. People learn better when they feel safe and happy and their minds are open. So while you don’t want to go sacrificing too much, at the same time there’s no need to share harsh words or criticisms in 95% of cases. I know people who were given minor insults forty years ago and still most of their life is spent trying to avoid fulfilling that childhood definition. People are overly sensitive, and yes we’re—and they’re—going to say things we don’t mean when we’re angry or upset, but nevertheless we need to have a faith in the inherent goodness of people. What they say to us quite literally has far more to do with how they’re feeling about their life than about any one person in the present moment. And regardless, one waver on anyone’s part is not a death knell. So since all that correcting isn’t working anyway, why don’t we commit and go for it? What if we said: don’t bother speaking unless you have something nice to say. Because that’s good for both you and everyone else. It will bring out the best in everyone. Yes, like anything in life from jetlag to a new baby, changes take time to get used to. But if you truly make it a priority in your day it will soon become a healthy habit. And by changing yourself you will have made the whole of the world better too. Congratulations.
Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.
Before I took more control over my thoughts I had a bit of a temper. It wasn’t bad by temper standards, but there’s people you’d never say had a temper and I wanted to be one of them because it seemed to me that it was a damaging state of mind to be in. Now I can still get angry if I’m tired or hungry—even really angry every few years if those conditions are extreme—but it’s been decades since I’ve had anything you’d call a temper. It’s not a common place I go to. I’ve got it down to fairly minor levels of irritation with occasional moments of sharp frustration and thankfully whatever negative state of mind I get into I can also get out of pretty quickly.
I don’t totally want to dispel my negative emotions because I need them for contrast so that I know which feelings I truly want to actualize in my life. They are like guidance systems—like the rumble strips on the side of the highway. They quite clearly tell me I’m headed in the wrong direction. Sometimes our battle is with our ego—where we’re just talking to and undermining ourselves. But if we follow our sense of something—if we’re working hard at it and it still feels unpleasant despite the fact our mind is quiet and uncomplaining, then that is the universe’s communication to you that it’s time for the next part of your adventure. This is not a problem. This is notification of an opportunity.
All emotions are reactions to calculations in our consciousness. If we see a tiger and our brain processes what it knows about the humans and tigers and the reaction is fear, that in turn doses you with adrenaline and a variety of other biological agents. So if you’re focused on irritating and frustrating things all day long—as a great many people voluntarily do—that leaves you primed to have an angry reaction. Most of the chemistry is already present and you just need to add a trigger and you’ll jump up to the next level of chemistry, which takes your intense frustration and adds the last dose to create full-on anger. And yet, if that same trigger had hit been injected into the day of a person who hadn’t spent their day in that part of their brain, then the impact would have been far less pronounced.
Getting angry is something everyone does. It’s human, so there’s no reason to make it go completely away. But do we want that flush of chemistry to lead us to make poor decisions for our future? Obviously not. So it’s in our own best, selfish interests to try not to go there any more than we have to. And you don’t fix that just before you explode in anger. You fix it by not priming yourself all day to get angry. Because if you do that you’ll start spending so much time angry that instead of being frustrated you actually will have a temper.
You don’t want your emotional set-point to be an angry, tight emotion. Go there when it’s appropriate, but in a huge number of cases you’ll never even need to start feeling that way. Because if you’re not watching the world all day for stuff that bothers you, then that frees up time for you notice how great people and the world really are. And that is like armour for whenever you do have to deal with things you don’t enjoy.
Stop letting your thoughts run wild or they’ll convince you you’re the issue rather than that your thinking is unconscious. Use your emotions as guides to help you pay better attention to where your thoughts are at, and if you don’t feel good just shift your attention to something better. Stop yourself at irritation or frustration–before you reach anger. Divert your thinking and divert the chemistry. The more you do it the more you get better at it. Do that enough and you will have built yourself an amazing untempered life. 🙂