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.

Success by Failure

Each of us will take a direction in life depending on who we see ourselves as. For some people this leads to obscurity, for others it leads to great fame, but fame should not be mistaken for success just because it’s more visible. That’s just their job. People’s personal lives will all share the same sorts of ups and downs, so we shouldn’t either lament that we aren’t famous, nor should we be jealous or envious of those who are.

Just the other night my parents were watching America’s Got Talent, and a young singer noted that to pursue his dream of being a famous singer, he left home and moved to New York and for a few years he slept on couch that smelled like cat for $30 a week. Britney Spears has had jobs since she was about eight years old. Olympians rarely see their friends so they can work out instead. And there’s only so many of us who think the result is worth that effort, just like some people don’t think cooking a fancy meal is worth the effort when they could just fuel up. We’re all different.

1207 Relax and Succeed - Believe in yourselfI remember I’d been working in film and television for about 10 years before the first time I ever heard anyone say that they wanted to “be famous,” rather than note what they would want to be famous for–as in the case above, where what he really wants to be is a singer, not famous. In my experience, the ones that want to be famous never have that cat-sofa dedication and they eventually surrender that idea for something that actually suits them better. In that way their failure is a success.

A very talented film student I taught wanted to be an A-list cinematographer on big budget superhero blockbusters. But after close to 10 years climbing his way up and seeing Hollywood work, he concluded that the reality of the job wasn’t what he wanted and he surrendered that and went to do smaller, but much more meaningful documentaries. And he’s much happier doing it.

Cases like the one noted are often seen as a failure by the person approaching the decision. All they feel is the separation from their previous identity. It feels like they surrendered in a bad or weak way, when it’s actually the smart or strong way. Once that student crested the hump into his new identity, he got to work at his new career and it turned out he loved it the way he’d assumed he would have loved the Hollywood blockbuster job. It wasn’t a fail. It was a discovery. You’ll make them your entire life.

As I’ve noted before, if you want to know where you’re at, imagine your life as a big continuous sine wave that completes each wave about every 7-9 years. At each peak you have slowly rewired your brain to be fully efficient at being that version of you. But of course, once you’ve maximized why continue? Been there done that, as the saying goes. And so it’s not really disappointment that disrupts success, it’s the inklings of our next success.

The sooner we start to embrace that downslope the shorter it gets–although it can never be fully removed, otherwise you can’t have your peaks either. This is why a Buddhist monk on a train once lead me to conclude his encapsulation of life: everything changes. If it’s good, enjoy it–it’ll get worse. And if it’s bad, don’t lament–it’ll get better.

Find where you are on your wave and surf that. It’ll include the pain of those downslopes, but wherever you are, wishing you were an an upslope is the literally the definition of suffering. But if you surrender instead, it’s actually flows pretty nicely.

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.

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.

The Friday Dose #132: Feeling Lucky

1033-fd-relax-and-succeed-i-will-be-gratefulLuck isn’t something that happens to you, luck is something you impose upon the world with your thinking. Just watch for yourself to see which habit you have. Some people generally always feel like it could have been worse and they’re grateful, others always wish it was better and they complain. Just listen to how the people around you react. They’re pretty consistent and so are you. One is a life of gratitude and the other is a life of complaint. I’ll let you figure out which one would feel better.

This video is great example of the power of gratitude. It can be a deep and even difficult feeling at times, but it does not feel anything like an ego complaining even at its darkest. There is a profoundness to feeling it, even if that’s to be grateful you made it to a parent’s bed before they passed. These are still rich and rewarding feelings.

Watch how quickly these people can become connected. Watch how quickly their own challenges can change from monumental to nonexistent. You can do this any time you choose. Wisdom is knowing what the choice is, enlightenment is living that choice.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. We’re all a lot more fortunate than we realise.

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.

Anxiousness vs Authenticity

You feel uncertain and anxious but it’s not your fault. You are however the only one that can get you out of that trap, but to do that you don’t need to change yourself, you just have to recognise that the only reason you feel uncertain is because long before you, humans created language and we used words to assemble ideas of right and wrong (as opposed to what we personally preferred). For the first time there was a way for a human being to be unacceptable.

In school you were taught this correct thing and that correct thing and you got big red X’s for anything that wasn’t correct. The problem is, later in life it turns out those same educational experiences taught you to always look for answers outside of yourself. A line was drawn between you and your natural wisdom. You were inadvertently taught to seek external approval, meaning you literally, subconsciously learned not to trust yourself, like a mechanic trusting a computerised scanner over something obvious to their own eyes and ears.

So here’s your lifelong problem; you spend your whole life searching for the parts that will make up a healthy you when you were whole right right the start. Yes you might need to add to some knowledge to do some specific thing, but after that you have to trust yourself in life. It’s like that trust exercise where one person falls backward, counting on the person behind them to catch them? This is like that except you’re both people. You need to trust you. You just also have to remember that sometimes even the catching part of you also falls. It just goes like that sometimes. For everyone.

1027-relax-and-succeed-stop-trying-to-fit-inYour life isn’t over. It hasn’t even started. Understand that the world still has a lot of cool directions to go. That’s all highly acclaimed art and science are; it’s art that not only was fantastic from a craftsmanship perspective, it’s the stuff that is more like a philosophical treatise, like when Picasso created cubism. Most breakthrough science entails uncovering new knowledge that couldn’t possibly have been learned by looking at what already existed. We must have faith in the infinite nature of the universe. Trust me, if you had a better appreciation for how vast it is you’d feel more comfortable with the idea that it has enough space even for you to be a genius.

What’s you being your own genius look like? I dunno, maybe you’re a working mother who deeply would rather stay home and raise your kids like you were raised, but you and your husband need the money for the mortgage, plus if you’re not working then other women will think you’ve lost your mojo or something. But think about it: these are your kids and they’re only kids a short time. Better you shape a tree when it’s young. It’s not crazy to prioritise family over work, but how brave have you been about making something work?

Can your ego accept a smaller house and the lower payments that would allow you to be a stay-at-home mom? Could you trade the joy of what feels natural and the upsides to your kids for whatever thought-based reputation you have among your friends and co-workers? Is what anyone thinks of your decisions really important when those judgments only remain place in the conscious of often unimportant people for a short time?

You can afford to be braver. We all have plenty of headroom in that regard. But you can’t second-guess yourself using egocentric, word-based thought because if you’re scared you’ll always be able to rationalise your decision not to take action. You are not that voice. That voice is just something you do instead of taking action.

As I’ve written about before, there’s a guy whose ultra-religious family lead him to rebel by creating super creepy art featuring blood and skulls and snakes and things and he’s rich and lives in a castle and has superstar clients. What would you have done if that’s what you wanted to do? Surely you have an easier calling being a stay-at-home mom, or whatever your authentic choice yours is. Just don’t expect to live in a castle, because that’s not the point. The point is that he’s happy with his life and he does what moves him and somehow that either works out to be wonderful or it’s some kind of valuable lesson. Either way you win.

Stop worrying and create more original living in your life. You don’t have to read the right book or take the right class or meet the right person or get the right job; you just have to be yourself and your place in the world will be known. And then wherever you are you’ll always feel comfortable because you’ll always be comfortable with yourself.

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.