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.

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

Other Perspectives #29

462 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - 97 percent of people

This is a classic case of one individual assuming that other individuals place the same value on the same things they do. They make that mistake the same way you do: because to them the sources of the value are obvious. But clearly one person can want to be the number one salesperson, while another person wants to be a good father, or someone else wants to work for a charity that prolonged a loved one’s life. These would all create different choices, priorities and paths through life. There’s lots of things to value in life, but because our cultures have such an addiction to money, many capitalists assume that because they want to be rich and in charge, that you want that too. So it’s assumed that if you didn’t become a wealthy entrepreneur that’s not because you didn’t want to, it’s because you couldn’t—because you gave up and you are therefore inferior to those who chose that particular priority. But of course many of us aren’t interested in the hassles associated with being in charge, just like many of us aren’t interested in great wealth, celebrity or prestige. We have our pursuits and others have theirs. None are more important than others. The only success there is in life is the joy of being alive. Everything else is disappears.

peace. s

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.