Coaching Spirit

Here’s one that’s likely to hit you in the feels. While the media can be really focused on money and status and achievement, in the end we all know that what really makes something impressive is empathy, connection and love. People pulling together is always more meaningful than a solitary achievement. The story about the sacrificing parent is always more poignant than the tale of actual victory.

For too many young children today sports is looked at like career training, when its most valuable contribution to society is that it teaches teamwork. It clearly demonstrates the value of chaining human capacity together to accomplish something bigger than any individual could achieve. In this way it is a beautiful metaphor for living.

The truth is, you don’t want enlightenment as much as you think you do. It’s pretty boring. It’s hard to feel something when you feel everything. And you can’t even share an experience because you are both the experience and the experiencer. You’re you and everyone else. In oneness there’s no one to hang out with. So we use our infinite power to create duality and opposition and drama and bingo! We’re interested in this drama called life. Nowhere is this opportunity exemplified more than in most sports.

You begin each season with the odds stacked against you. Maybe 30+ teams are vying for one championship. You are essentially signing up for pain. With pro sports you are volunteering to participate in a giant public drama where your agony may end up on full public display. And you do all of that for the slim chance that maybe you’ll do it this year.

Despite being disappointed for 50 straight years, Toronto hockey fans still line up to buy tickets filled with excitement. What else would enlightenment look like other than a group of people being thrilled to participate in something they can almost be guaranteed will be an agonising drama? Every league in the world is filled with people happy to sign up for likely failure. So if we can do that with a sport, why’s it so hard with our life?

The truth is, you just want a little bit of enlightenment. Just enough to take the pain away–you think. But then someone explains that to get rid of the pain you must accept the pain. You must become one with your pain. At that point it’s not an obstacle, it’s an experience and we can survive those, easy. It’s what every losing sports fan has to do every time they lose.

As Sam Houston State coach Matt Deggs so nicely puts it, rather than full enlightenment, you want the drama. Because in the heat of that, what you really enjoy is the joy of coming together. You naturally enjoy connection and communion more than the tearing apart and division, and this is how even a losing team can generate a winning experience. Because you can’t really enact enlightenment alone. It needs the whole universe.

Sports fields, workplaces, and within our own families, this sort of deep connection and appreciation can exist. All it needs is a few open people who are prepared to open up, be vulnerable, and love regardless of the setting. The question now is, are you one of those people? And if so, where will you share love 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.

Painful Subjects

1158 Relax and Succeed - If there is no struggleShe tried to act like there was nothing wrong, but her mother could tell she had been crying. She found her in her room, sitting on her bed. She sat next to her and put her arm around her shoulder. They were quiet for a while.

“Why are they so mean to me?”

Her mother kissed her head. She took a while to speak, composing herself first. “Some people just like teasing. But most people just want to feel secure. They want to feel like they belong. It’s human nature. But if there’s an inside, then there has to be an outside.”

“And I’m on the outside.”

Her mom smiles at her misunderstanding and pulls her closer. “Oh no, dear. There is no actual inside or outside, it’s all in people’s heads. They just think they belong or don’t belong or others do or don’t. They want to be in so they needed an out and people pick on difference. But everyone’s lines in everyone’s heads–they’re all different and they change everyday anyway.”

“They hate me because I’m fat.”

Her mother furrows her brow. What’s going on? She moves to face her daughter. They look at each other a long moment. “How did you make the leap that they hate you? Dani, them creating an inside and outside–that’s not emotional. It has nothing to do with how they feel about you. They’re trying to fix an alone feeling they have. When they tease you, that’s about them, not you.”

“But they called me fat and they were all pointing at me and laughing.”

“It just felt to them like they were succeeding in being more in the in group because if you’re crying then you looked ever further out. You looked ‘more different.'”

Her daughter looks at her mother witheringly. “Mother. ‘More different?’ What are you a Valley Girl or something?”

“Ha!”

“Ha what?”

“See? You just did it. You created an outside.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“A) You made fun of my mistake, which could be viewed as mean. And B) You attributed it to a definable group: Valley Girls. See? You do it too. And you don’t hate anyone. Outsides and insides. I was outsides the rules of grammar and so now you felt you had permission to tease me.”

“Mother. I really don’t think there’s an organisation out there protecting Valley Girls.”

Her mother smiles. The energy in her daugher is changing. “Fair enough, but you still made my point. Did you mean anything against Valley Girls; or where you truly against me when you corrected me?”

Her eyes roll. “Of course not.”

“But you still did it. And if I was feeling insecure it might have hurt me. Maybe I’d talk less because I’d be worrieder–“

“YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE!”

“Okay. I did. Maybe I’d talk less because I would worry more about being judged.”

“And what’s the advantage to doing it your way? Why shouldn’t I care?”

Her mother laughs. “Uhh…. you’re not in pain? You accept that what’s going on in someone else’s consciousness doesn’t impact yours? That you just go enjoy your life anyway, just like you hope the Valley Girls do? If you responded super positively, maybe you’d start teaching English, or start an organisation to protect Valley Girls.”

“I bet the little camouflage bikini uniform would look great on me.”

“I think they give you a sexy little hat too.” Her mother laughs and hugs her. “Honey, I want you to remember one thing: you left school and kept thinking about this. Painful subjects are called ‘painful subjects’ because they hurt. So you have to watch, because when we’re sad or depressed our brain will sometimes tilt toward them. So you have to be really conscious about being happy sweetheart. There’s a lot of great things about this world. You’ll experience plenty. But you have to watch for them. So don’t let what’s happening in someone else’s brain distract you from that. Fair?”

She’s obviously right, but what kid wants to take advice? “I’ll think about it.”

“Okay fine. You meditate then. I’m sure you’ll see the wisdom in it too, just like the Buddha. I love you. I’ll leave you to your meditation oh Great One. OOOHHHHHMMM” Her mother bows.

Her daughter waves her off like Cleopatra. “Be off with you then.”

Her mother closes her daughter’s door. Her daughter’s stronger thanks to an unpleasant experience. That’s as good as it goes. Mission accomplished. Her mother smiles and heads back to her day.

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.

MoK: Redirecting Negativity

The March of Kindness is about making the world a kinder, safer, more loving space in which to thrive as a human being. We can do this by adding goodness to the world, but we can also accomplish this goal be removing negativity and replacing it with something more constructive.

We’re all too often willing to participate in gossip when we personally agree with it or view it as just idle conversation with friends or co-workers, but it’s far from idle. What people say about each other becomes their identity to a listener. And that can have extremely serious consequences.

If someone didn’t like someone else in high school and they end up getting a job at their company, the new person can be destroyed before they’ve even started because everyone’s been cued to only watch for pattern-matches to what they were previously told. We all say the odd dumb thing, but if people are on the lookout for that then suddenly the odd silly statement can turn into a person becoming dumb rather than just the statement, when in fact the person might be perfect for their job.

We’ve all been victims of it and it’s not like it improves as we age. Who hasn’t had a bitter ex spread lies about them? And the workplace can be just as vicious as the schoolyard. The way to identify gossip isn’t by whether you agree with it, it’s whether or not it’s negative.

If someone is commenting on or judging someone in any negative way then it’s gossip. Period. Unless you’re the person’s manager or teacher your personal opinion has no relevance to anyone but you, and even in the cases of managers and professors, the reasoning should be based on their alignment with the work, not with your personal feelings. A student or worker can be someone you’d never be friends with but that shouldn’t impact how you evaluate their work.

As the saying goes, loose lips sink ships. It’s not like gossip is a minor force in the world. It literally changes lives. It ruins companies and institutions, undermines science, and it can easily destroy lives. People have committed murder, suicide, vandalism and other horrible acts all based on gossip.

Talking is thinking out loud. Taking negatively about someone else is not healthy for the person doing the talking. It’s a sign of being locked into an ego-based, judgmental and superior perspective. The world is the world. It looks different to everyone. You’re not supposed to be going around poisoning other people’s views with yours. Your view is yours. Our personal opinions were never meant to be applied to the broader world. At our healthiest we should function from a position of principle, not opinion.

Today’s act in our March of Kindness is simply to spend the day actively listening for gossip. At work, at school, even at home and out. If someone offers a negative assessment of someone else, then our job is remind the people listening that there are other views. If they identify something they don’t like about the person, identify something you respect about them.

If someone says, Mindy’s always telling people what to do, you could add: We’re all different, and I don’t share her style of doing things, but I have noticed that what she wants people to do isn’t about her or anything selfish, her comments are usually focused on more or better work getting done. At minimum her heart’s in the right place.

Or if someone says, Did you hear that Jennifer’s dating Chris? What an idiot. You could respond, Well, we all like different kinds of people. Do we really want everyone judging who we love? I’m just glad they’re both happy. The idea is to take a negative and insert a positive. Double value if you normally would have agreed and joined in!

Don’t help sink someone else’s ship. Get your oar in the water and let’s make the world better by sharing more about what’s good about the world and less about what we don’t like about it. After all, mental health is really little more than having a rationally optimistic view of the world and the people in it. So let’s make gossip the enemy rather than people.

Have a great day everyone.

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.

Other Perspectives #94: The Dangers of Fairness

1041-op-relax-and-succeed-im-human-so-dont-be-meanYou put an “X” through that?!

Yeah. Mean of me wasn’t it? They even used little kid handwriting to make it look more vulnerable and still I X’d it out. Tough luck kid. That’s a dangerous idea to give a you.

This is the first new Other Perspectives for the first time in a long time, but I have to. I learned by doing this series that a lot of people learned a tremendous amount about why they were struggling as adults. They began realising the dangerous ideas in our culture are often not the dark ones, they’re the light ones. They’re the big lies that get told to kids and those kids grow into adults who spend their entire lives upset that those particular lies didn’t come true.

1041-op-relax-and-succeed-dont-worry-about-the-peopleThose are the lies about being nice, taking turns, being fair, responsible, ethical–it doesn’t matter: still lies. Every kid finds their own version of those things, because like everyone’s principles for life, it includes a lot of real-life exceptions that need to be added to the parent’s rules in order to maintain the order the parent claimed existed. They need to add those exceptions because they need ways to figure out how to handle when someone else doesn’t match the behaviours they were taught were correct.

How this translates is that the kid/person tries to be nice to everyone they can, but if someone isn’t nice to them then the deal their parents said would exist is obviously not in operation. If that’s the case then the kid will no longer feel like they have to be nice either. The other person was mean first. After all, you have to be fair.

If we make fair important then it’s okay if you have to forego a responsibility to get your revenge, because you’re making sure that fair thing gets resolved. Then later you and your friends and family can discuss how unethical the other person was. And therein we circle the squares of our family subcultures.

1041-op-relax-and-succeed-human-kind-be-bothWhat got sold to the kid was a code of conduct. The parents defined both good and successful behaviour and the kid was told to live by both. But they’re instantly stressed because before they can even get to Grade One they’re learning that people don’t do what they’re supposed to do. People live based off how they feel. And the best way to keep them feeling good is actually to allow the idea of reciprocity develop.

Reciprocity was what we were attempting to codify and when we created the behaviour codes that shape our societies. But using the word fairness for reciprocity was a terrible idea. To say societies aim for those ideals is fine, but if we teach kids to expect fairness and suggest to them that something is wrong when things aren’t fair, that’s literally teaching them how to be unhappy the rest of their lives because their view of how they want the world to work will never line up with how it is.

Fairness is the quality of making a judgment without any kind of human, personal, or emotional content. Even when robots do that it makes us upset because it’s not taking into account the desire for reciprocity. The word is actually derived from the idea of beauty or attractiveness, so it’s a shallow, ego-based word.

1041-op-relax-and-succeed-if-someone-is-too-tiredReciprocity on the other hand has its origins in French, extending from a term meaning, to move backwards and forwards. Give and take. That still leaves room for people to give too little and take too much, but fairness doesn’t. Fairness is egotistical and rigid. It wants to live in all moments equally, whereas reciprocity is happy with just flexing to fit the moment where it’s needed.

Don’t tell little Jennifer that another kid is a bad kid because they teased your her, because little Jennifer’s going to do that some day too and then she’ll feel like a bad person. Explain that just like she does, some kids have very bad days before they get to school and those kids have a lot of pain in them that will come out during the day. Then little Jennifer can be taught to be compassionate to the unreasonable people because that’s what will make them more reasonable, not a demand that they be fair when they already feel they are down. We don’t save the world by keeping the happy people happy, we need to get the sad people happy.

It’s natural to want to protect a kid. But think about protecting the adult they’ll be too. Because teaching them to try to bend the world to the shape you claimed it was is a life of hell. But learning to manage the world as it really is can lead to a heavenly life, even if it’s spent dealing with plenty of unfairness.

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.

Kaizen

898 Relax and Succeed - KaizenKaizen is a modern Japanese concept that was co-opted in the 80’s and 90’s into a term to describe the way small and continuous improvements create differences between Japanese and Western company structures and the successes of, particularly, their assembly lines. But these “improvements” always only involve efficiency or things that directly impact efficiency, which means we shouldn’t take the concept into our lives without examination.

We certainly don’t want our life to feel like an assembly line so please don’t see spiritual growth as a demand. Wanting spiritual development is just as painful as any other wanting. And there is nothing in your life that exists outside of our basic framework for being so you don’t even need something from outside yourself to advance in that way. You are already complete, you simply don’t know it yet.

Our spiritual development is very much connected to our life development. If you want to know how spiritual you are simply ask yourself how contented you are? If you are content, kaizen is not continuous improvements of us, it is a continuous improvement of what we do. In a healthy mind there is no you, there is only an action (or inaction as action), and those actions add up to who you will have been.

898 Relax and Succeed - The Pursuit of excellenceDo not see yourself or the world as needing fixing or being broken or having anything wrong. I know it’s incredibly compelling to see it that way because all the egos agree that there are some terrible things going on and to ignore them places us in peril. But we have the choice of focusing our energies on the peril, or on creating solutions.

For essentially every single problem on Earth there are lot of people working on solutions. That’s impressive and it’s why the world has changed so much. Yes, we got a bunch of stuff that only half-worked, but that’s how learning goes. You try something, see if it succeeds or fails and then build off what you’ve learned. There doesn’t have to be failure or improvement in that. It can simply by an action: attempt, observe, adjust, attempt, observe, adjust. At no point are you wrong, instead you are simply in a constant state of kaizen, which means you are never actually judging yourself.

The meditations you’ve been doing over the last three months will have made a difference, but that difference will depend on how earnestly you undertake the tests to your awareness. It’s one thing to read about lifting weights, but until you move some you really can’t fully grasp the value in doing it. Same with our attention.

898 Relax and Succeed - Aging is an extraordinaryWe can read that it’s not good to focus on your weaknesses but most of you still do. You don’t see improvements as opportunities, you see previously untaken opportunities as failures. It is important to understand Kaizen not as a rigid practice about moving you up some invisible ladder. It instead is a very aware state of mind in which new, quality ideas can naturally emerge. We don’t invent good ideas out of pressure as much as we focus on our work and improvements simply occur to us. It’s intentional in a completely different way. It’s how you learned to walk.

Do not want to be better. Do not want to be different. Do not want to be like someone else. But you can improve. You can change. And you can observe and listen to others for guidance, but nevertheless you ultimately have no obligations. You could theoretically just surrender your way into a mental institution where people fed you and looked after the base of Maslow’s Pyramid for you. Why don’t you? Because you’re naturally creative, and you life is your ultimate work of art.

It is important to remember that the full value of your life’s work of art doesn’t even get considered until your funeral, so you won’t even be around to see if you won or not and none of the judges were present for much of your performance anyway. You’re here for the creation but not the competition. So don’t waste your life on meaningless doing as a way of achieving. Egos compete. Souls are complete. But it will take your life to make the journey through your abilities, so stop worrying about what others think of you and instead spend this week focusing on actions that grow you.

You’re not a herd dog keeping your own unruly flock in line, you are the herd and you’re naturally moving to where you naturally feel like being. That is your way. Now go.

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 Brighter Light

Gifts can arrive in such unlikely packages. A friend mine is the sort of person who makes you instantly smile when you recall him. In fact, he himself has an absolutely infectious smile. He’s kind, intelligent, he’s extremely enjoyable company, he’s a loving soul and he is quite simply what my father would call a good man. There is no higher praise from my father.

809 Relax and Succeed - SunriseToday my heart broke for my friend. Because my father is my hero and my friend just lost his. We spoke a bit about his home and his life when we met a few years ago. It was clear that he had an understanding of what his father had given him throughout life. And I knew he must have given him a great deal because that is the only way to become a good man. To have people who truly and deeply believe in you.

The friend and I met doing business with each other and became friendly based on his warmth. That warmth showed through when he recently posted a quote in relation to his father’s passing. I read quotes all day–they’re what this blog is about: breaking down the quotes to deeper meanings. But today my friend introduced me to what very well may be the most beautiful quote I have ever seen in my life.

I’m well aware of Tagore, I’m interested in his work and yet somehow–remarkably–this quote about the lamp eluded me. It is quite simply the most elegant, graceful and accurate description of death I have ever seen. Indeed, for every student of mine I’ve taught I have urged them to do what I saw tribal Fijians do when I was very young man.

809 Relax and Succeed - Death is not extinguishing the lightWhile my friends caught a nap I ended up on what was supposed to be a short side-trip with a local, that ended up being an education into the rituals of dying. I had thought I was at a celebration because I was. This was no funeral. This was described to me and it certainly looked like more of party. It was like Thanksgiving but for a person.

Everyone was celebrating the person’s existence and they expressed their gratitude for what that person had given them. It will be a painful process, but I do hope my friend is able to stay in touch with that very sentiment. Because his father gave him one of the greatest gifts a father can give a son: the gift of character. His son’s lives will be forever bettered by that gift and the light of their father will always shine because of it.

The reason I love the quote is that–for the person we love the light never really feels like it changes. As the full light of morning strikes we can stop telling ourselves a story in the darkness of individuality and instead we can become one again with everything.  And who among us would not move toward this brighter light? Who among us cannot appreciate the incredible infinite beauty of an expanding sunrise over the limitations of the lamp?

This is not a death. To the real soul it is a type of awakening. Truly a dawn. It is those of us left behind who cast our thoughts into the deepest darkest reaches of loss. But for my friend’s father, he has finally moved to the only place immense enough to express all of the infinite love he feels for his wife and children now that he is truly free.

With love and tears, s

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

Status Addictions

763 Relax and Succeed - The bias of the mainstream mediaThere’s a new disease out there. You may not have really bothered to hone in on it, but you have an awareness that it exists. You’ve seen the symptoms. Some people have already unknowingly been affected and have toppled over the edge into a new kind of insanity. You can’t blame them. There’s so many transmission points in our culture it’s difficult for kids today not to be diseased by a very young age.

By “diseased” I mean the very root of the word: dis-eased. Our natural way of being has been impacted somehow. Life has a natural ease to it. How to win is clear: move your genes forward by ensuring you can feed and provide shelter for yourself and then self-actualize. Enjoy yourself. Maslow yourself. Become. But those fundamental priorities are disappearing fast.

Back in the day of newspapers you printed as many pages as there was news. But the formula got turned around backwards when the creation of cable TV created a much busier marketplace and as people looked to fill it, the 24 hour news cycle was born. That lead to journalism being reduced to speculation the majority of the time and increasingly celebrity culture began to really dominate in a way it never had before.

763 Relax and Succeed - If a man has an apartmentSo where you used to be known for singing or dancing or science or something you created, increasingly you can be a celebrity just for its own sake. In many cases you don’t need any skill whatsoever and–to the contrary–you can even be self-destructive and poorly mannered in terms of how you treat others. It no longer matters what the person stands for as a verb, all that matters is if you’re even superficially present in the media.

The other way to fall into a status addiction is through money. This is where you continue to earn money far past the point of it making any logical sense whatsoever. I was very close with an extremely extremely wealthy man and that was mostly what he talked about once he knew he was sick. He could not figure out why he had sacrificed his life for more money than he could ever use in several lifetimes. He wanted to know his children better. He wanted to be their hero and there was no time left. That’s a crazy trade.

These addictions lead to the same crazy kinds of behaviour as any other addiction. It will lead to things like billionaires suggesting they cannot afford to pay minimum wage, to billionaires like Ken Lay losing everything and dying in shame by lying and stealing to hide the fact that he had made some big mistakes in business. In the end trying that strategy lead to him being even more embarrassed and exposed than if he would have just met it head on with character, rather than reputation.

763 Relax and Succeed - People want you to be realYou don’t need to be a part of this mass addiction. Stop and ask yourself if your social media presence is relaxed and really you, or if you curate it for effect. Do you remove unflattering photos that tell the truth about you? Do you tailor your contributions for how they will impact others view of you, or your view of your own life? Do you feel that you are allowed to be your true self and still be successful?

Do not get caught up in what others think of you. It’s an endless messy loop of differing opinions and it totally misses the fact that you are the only person who can be perfectly you, so we can’t have you wasting time being things for other people. Yes, we all have to meld and cooperate to succeed and form a beneficial society, but you don’t have to surrender your true self to do that. You just have to respect all the other true selves.

We create celebrity culture with what we do. We show children through our actions who will get the attention. Einstein and a lot of other scientists used to be in the mainstream news and it made kids want to be smart. When the space race happened kids wanted to understand technology and how it worked. Now it’s primarily appearance for the mainstream.

763 Relax and Succeed - Seek to be worth knowingLet’s not teach kids their value is in how they look. Let’s show them they are so much more than that. But we can’t if all of our attention is on ultimately meaningless and mindless activities. Life is waiting for us to live it, we don’t have to watch others live theirs. So let’s all set a great example for kids and let’s make sure our attention is on enriching and rewarding things. It’s like having a healthy diet for your mind. From there your love and basic good judgment will take care of the rest.

Have an awesome day today. And all the best to you and all those you love.

peace. s

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