The Law of the Jungle

How good is your life balance between work, family and your social life and friendships? It’s tricky to do, and the constant connectivity of smartphones means you never really leave work. The question is, how much work do you need for success, what kind of success should you target, and how far do you go on that road before it’s too far? When’s work billing life for too much? When are you just being asked to be dedicated and when are you being asked to be abused?

762 Relax and Succeed - Your value doesn't decreaseAmazon is famous for its brutal corporate culture. Weird eh? They brag about it. Can you imagine if we were back in the days of Kings and Queens ruling everything, where your livelihood was entirely in their hands just like it is now, and you happened to live under the King who was a selfish jerk and then bragged about how bad he treated you? That would suck.

The thing is, you probably moved into the neighbourhood intentionally. You may have very actively sought to live under that King. Many many many people–yes me included–have worked towards external goals like wealth or power, but these are really all just attempts to to feel loved and respected. We want people to be impressed by us rather than to love our own lives by feeling connected strongly to our work. (See the second video in last week’s Friday Dose.)

If you go to somewhere like Amazon because they have their oar in some water that you believe in then you can sustain that for a career. You can love creating value for others, but that must be weighed against the cost that King exacts on his kingdom.

762 Relax and Succeed - What's money A man is a successShareholder Value is a much more ethereal thing that most people realize, and no one lays on their deathbed wishing they could stick around to make more money. But a nurse might welcome caring for one more patient. Or a carpenter might love building one more home he put real care into. Or a designer might want to create one last piece of jewelry. But if you’re only at your job for money and status then you’re most certainly doomed.

At your death-bed you’ll realize that neither money nor status goes with you. But the other folks have already lived the joyous moments of a connected life. They carry with them the sense of a life of real value and purpose because it wasn’t about themselves, it was about others. Their lives will carry forward. This is key. Otherwise you will crush yourself.

There’s no way I can criticize someone for pursuing hollow dreams when the nickname some girls painted on my gym bag in Junior High was “Mr. Billion.” I had my first business while I was still in high school. I bought new cars and stupidly expensive clothes. When you look into the face of a kid starving to death due to money, and you spent most people’s monthly wage on one outfit, you just realize you could have done a lot better. You could have made the kind of difference that you would really feel good about. And so next time you do.

762 Relax and Succeed - The poorer we are inwardlyWe’ve got a pretty good brainwashing system. No one did it by design. It just kind of tumbled this way accidentally. But schools train people to compete and win with grades, and then that principle gets converted into money when we’re in the workforce. It’s a treadmill and only half the people figure out their on it before they die, and even then it’s usually because they got really sick or someone significant died to remind them that time is limited and how do you want to spend yours?

Maybe this is the group I feel most compassionate toward in our society. They are trying to impress us and that’s exhausting. They’re making really big sacrifices to get and keep their money and they will eventually realize that it doesn’t create value in our life. You can easily be super rich, in a fantastic house with fantastic cars and with a fantastic spouse–but if you have a crappy way of thinking none of that other stuff will make any difference at all.

Don’t ask yourself what you want to “do” for a living. Ask yourself what you can really get passionate about–where work won’t even feel like work–and then find or create a place where you can do that. Because if you don’t figure that out, Amazon etc. might just convince you to live in the dog-eat-dog world of their corporate and claw-filled jungle.

peace. s

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

Easy on Yourself

When people ask me to define the psychological/spiritual advantage my accident gave me in just a sentence, I’ll often say that I saw things for what they were and that I didn’t mistake words for things. This is entirely accurate, but to be truly helpful it’s time I gave that statement a bit more detail.

647 Relax and Succeed - The most dangerous risk of allWhen you’re like me and you can see through words here’s the kinds of strange things you notice: people will tell you that they love progress and new things but you’ll note that they’ve just been brainwashed because in many cases the new thing is much, much worse for the person than the old thing was. The two best examples we have are so huge, and we spent so much money on them, that they clearly demonstrate our willingness to actually trade more for less if we’re told it’s an improvement.

Rolling Stone magazine did an entire issue surrounding the quality of MP3 recordings. Producers don’t like MP3’s because they hold less information than CD’s which limits their creative freedom in way it previous wasn’t, so music marketers sold the idea that this recording wouldn’t skip when you jogged or in your car, even though too few people jog and there were even fewer at the time, and I never remember anyone listing CD skipping as a major car issue. Besides, music is about listening to art. Why would we care more about convenience than the art itself? That’s like we’re doing with our food, where we’re starting to care less about it being tasty and nutritious in favour of it being fast and mobile, practically given to us in toothpaste tubes that we can quickly inject into ourselves as we rush from our 647 Relax and Succeed - Normal is getting dressedfirst job to our second or third. (You may notice that’s why the wrap is replacing the sandwich.)

Next, people used to press between seven and ten buttons on a phone to be in a position to actually hear the other person. We could hear their tone, their mood, and I never remember a couple coming to me because they were looking at ending their marriage over a phone call that went bad. But texting? I cannot tell you the number of times that the couple in front of me is there because of a 140 character facebook status, tweet or especially a text. So now we hit hundreds of keys and young kids are getting repetitive stress injuries all so that we can communicate in a slower, far less effective way. Sure, texts can be useful. But most people have replaced basic conversations with them and way more often than not the communication was either meaningless or it could have been done more quickly with a call and some voices.

Another major area I saw this related to my age. Just as I was growing up the fitness craze started. When I was a kid the only adults that went to gyms were professional body builders and boxers. No one else. But then automation started to take over, more people were driving, fewer were walking, food was beginning to be processed, so it was loaded with fat and sugar and people started to suddenly put on a lot of weight. So what my brain noticed was that all 647 Relax and Succeed - We buy shit we don't needof these people had worked to pay for conveniences that that in the end only incurred more time and more expense because now they had to get a gym membership. This weird insanity continued to the point where I saw a fitness club in my city where you could sit in the lobby and literally watch people ride up the escalator to the gym where they would go in, change and then pay money to climb fake stairs!

Our bodies were built over a long time to do specific things just like any animal. And if you start changing those things you will change the animal. So people are sold iNDEPENDENCE and in turn they get loneliness where they sit alone in front a screen looking at life rather than what they used to do, which is take the energy they used to have for joy and they would go out with their friends. But by 30-35 years old most people aren’t seeing their friends that much, but they’ll be likely to be working very long hours to pay for all of their conveniences.

This is all insanity. Your life isn’t better because your phone is better, or because your car is faster, or because your TV is bigger. You don’t enjoy the championship game 30% more 647 Relax and Succeed - Slavery has many different formsbecause your screen is 30% bigger. Sorry, the guy listening to the game on a radio is maxing out his excitement so there’s no beating 100%.

We’ve all been sold a bill of goods. We’ve been convinced to do things that, if we look at them closely, we realize have no real benefit to us. We’re working for weeks to get enough after-tax dollars to be able to buy the car model with Navigation because we have FOMO, even though we barely ever drive to anywhere we haven’t been before and even if we are, someone else can tell us how to get there just like before. So we work all of these extra hours to get this shiny bauble when in fact we would have drew more joy from some free time talking with a good friend.

We have to start doing far better accounting of our joy. Because we will quickly learn that the reason people go camping to quiet, remote, undeveloped places on their weekends is because it’s slower and it doesn’t include all of those conveniences. We want simplicity, quiet, and companionship. The healthiest people you know are the ones who eat like 100 years ago, who work their bodies like 100 years ago, and who have positive social relations not tons of likes.

647 Relax and Succeed - Imagine there is a bank accountYour life won’t improve if you just put your head down and watch the ads and do as you’re told. It really is crazy for you to spend your life stressed because you bought some expensive thing to impress people and now you own it, but it owns your joy. You have to start being slower and more judicious with your money. Because you give up a lot of life for that power to spend, so spend it wisely. Spend it on things that bring joy and goodness to your life, rather than things that—if you really stopped to think about it—really don’t make much sense. So stop hiring another kid to cut your lawn or shovel your walks when you’re in your basement working out. Because if you can’t see that’s crazy, then you’re very deep inside the illusion that the Buddha was warning you about.

Be free. Spend less on things and more on creating time. Ask yourself, does this create more time or less time? Because it might save an hour, but if you had to work an extra two to buy it, you’re actually an hour down. Remember: use after-tax dollars, not pre-tax dollars when figuring out what something costs your life. Because that’s the real measure, and it almost instantly makes many more things look much more expensive because that’s what they really are.

Here’s to your freedom. Here’s to more joy, more time with people you care about, and a more fulfilling life. Because no one was on their death bed asking someone to collect all of their stuff. No one is saying, just one last tweet, just one last selfie. No, they want to hold hands and look into the eyes of the people they loved. If they had more time it would be for that, not another social media post. So remember that while you’re walking around every day. Because if your attention is one place, it’s not some place else. And right now other people decide where your attention is more than you do and it’s time you changed that. Here’s to freedom and time. That’s real wealth.

Have yourself an awesome day!

peace. s

Save Yourself

Most of us get too much of our food from unhealthy sources. Almost every one of us wants the animals we eat to be cared for better. Most of us are rushed and harried. Our lives are too busy to be as rewarding as life feels like it should be. And it’s true. In North America we’ve gone downhill in the total quality-of-life scale since about the very early 1950’s. We need two 484 Relax and Succeed - A savage is the one who livesincomes now to care for fewer kids because each kid and both parents have so darned much stuff. Just their car alone has about 14,000 parts in it. We’re busy people and so we consume a lot. A lot of what? A lot of everything.

So what’s this mean? It means our gross consumerism is doing two things: it’s disrupting the social structures that our relationships were formerly based on, and it’s eating up the world and spitting out toxic garbage. What’s toxic mean? It means it’ll kill the planet. And what do we want all that stuff for anyway? We just lose it all when we die. By now, 80% of 40 year olds and older will be working very hard to deal with whatever unexpected financial event happened in their life. Maybe they got cancer and were only getting a percentage of their wage on disability, maybe they had an expensive divorce or got defrauded or maybe an illness lead to an early retirement. Bottom line, people have never worked harder to be more stressed and the planet itself is in a declining state.

These two things are linked. We need to consume because our lives are hollow because our relations are shallow and short and fickle and thin. Not as long ago as it seems, people lived in groups. They slept in groups, hunted in groups, gathered in groups. And now we invent houses and encase ourselves. We talk to each other through phones even though we’re at the same restaurant table. We’ve become unnatural. And we have to get back to being more natural or we’re all gonna die.

If the Earth were the size of a basketball, the atmosphere is about as thick as two coats of paint and we have been pumping crap into it for 150 years. I’m a scuba diver and in my short lifetime I have witnessed the degradation of dive sites I had previously visited. I have seen the fish disappear and the shorelines change. We water golf courses and flower pots outside hotels, but if you’re travelling around the 484 Relax and Succeed - Sustainable development is the masterful balanceworld a lot and you’re watching for it, you’ll notice that a lot of things are dying.

We’re too interested in money and not interested enough in life. Our own or the planet’s. I don’t want you to do this because I’m some green activist because I’m not. I’m a guy who loves everyone around him and that’s the way of living that this blog exists to impart. It just so happens that a byproduct of that objective is that you fall in love with the whole world around you.

I’m not saying it’s easy or without its huge challenges, but seriously try to reconsider the world and your life at the same time. Instead of going out to a movie where you all stare in the same direction in the dark and don’t talk, try staying in, facing each other at a small table, and play a board game and talk. You’ll be surprised at how therapeutic it is. And it’ll leave a tiny footprint on the planet. People playing Scrabble or Chess or Monopoly tend not to do a lot of damage to the Earth.

You want your life to feel better. I’m not kidding. This is how. Stop caring about yourself and your happiness and start caring about other people’s welfare. The sharing of compassion is at the heart of the sort of love we’re all seeking. It’s that wonderful warm feeling where you don’t feel like you need to be anywhere except where you are. You are Be-ing.

484 Relax and Succeed - I thinkn a hero is any personPay more attention. Live more consciously. Choose connection. Choose friendship and camaraderie. Eat healthier and be easier on the planet simultaneously and both you and it will get stronger and healthier. But it must be intentional. You must really want to be this person who lives this way. It’ll be easy though. Because once you start, and once you get past the initial awkward stage that goes with any new thing, you’re left with one of life’s better experiences and that will motivate you to want to recreate them. And the only way to do that is to care. To actively care, with the accent on the active.

We can’t think the world into being better. Too many of you are unhappy and too many of you aren’t doing anything concrete to help anyone in a significant way. Choose an activity you currently derive little benefit from, and instead of doing that, put consciously compassionate living in its place. We’ll all be better off. The world could use your love. You’re awesome.

peace. s