Feeling Like a Fool

You can’t lose. You really can’t. Because you either get the thing you want or you get something that makes you bigger. That’s how your world works. It’s one or the other. So you can have a great time hanging out with your beloved cousin, or you could have that same cousin suffer an injury and nearly die—or maybe they do die. So in one scenario you gain because you enjoy yourself, and in the other scenario you learn what it feels like to lose someone close to you. And so later when you’re around people who are going through a loss similar to that, you’ll be more empathetic and you’ll often know what to do or say just through your experience. The cracks are where the light gets in, so to speak. When everyone else is crippled by their lack of experience you know what to do.

653 Relax and Succeed - An adventure is only an inconvenienceLikewise, if you fail a test you also become more resilient. Maybe you’re more familiar with the pressures surrounding the test, or maybe you’re becoming more resilient to outside judgment. Everyone’s lives are littered with failed tests and no one more-so than the sort of person who wants to achieve a lot. Want to be an astronaut? Then fail a lot. Because you have to be good at a lot of things to be an astronaut and to be good at a lot of things you have to have failed at them first. When my brother was a salesman and he knew that one in ten people was a real buyer, he knew that a non-buyer was someone who had kindly checked off one of his nine empty boxes and he would be grateful for them because he understood they were just as necessary as the one who actually bought. And so my brother always met his next sales prospect with a great attitude and that gave him a much better chance at increasing his odds from one in ten to two in ten and that one small difference made him rich.

Maybe you’re in an exciting, whirlwind romance where you feel like you’re floating twenty feet off the ground. Or maybe you’re bawling your eyes out for the fifth night in a row because you got dumped. Either way you win by enjoying the romance and the back rubs and the cuddles and the cares, or maybe the very absence of those things has raised your awareness of the value of those things and so you are now more likely to place greater value on your future partners. Or maybe you’ll be better at choosing a partner next time. But 653 Relax and Succeed - Pain means you're growinghowever it happens, the loss of a relationship results in a gain in awareness about something useful, usually involving how you could have been a better partner. This is why they say the second spouse gets what the first one paid for. Again, you win no matter what.

In each and every case there will be some form of good fortune for us in every experience. The only question is, do we strictly look at everything for what we expected or do we look at life to see what we’ve actually received? Because in many cases we will get lessons that we did not even know we would need some day and yet in many cases those lessons will prove to be more valuable than the original benefit we sought by undertaking the activity. Certainly all of us know the wonderful level of comfort that gets created by someone who has been where we are and who is comfortable being there with us. That empathetic connection alone is worth a lot.

As the Buddhist’s say, there are no one-sided coins. You either get the benefit you were expecting or a benefit you weren’t expecting, but either way you win so never get too down on life. If it looks like you’re losing just wait a while. Your vision will clear and soon you will happily be on your way as you once again notice the incredible good fortune that every single life enjoys.

Every day is a gift. Treat today like that’s what it is and it’ll treat you pretty well right back. Have a great one!


Failure by 30

Winner: Scott’s Favourite Questions of 2014 #2

I’m only 30 and I feel like my life is over. I’m already divorced and dating has been one ugly experience after another. My parents are getting older and need more of my help right when I need to get a second job to cover all of my debt. And I have no spiritual life to speak of other than quotes I share on facebook. My personal relationships are bad or non-existent, I have way more debt than equity, and I haven’t taken one step toward nirvana. Please tell me I’m not doomed. (I’m doomed I know it.)

Feeling Doomed

Dear Feeling,

Ha! That is such a common Western state of being. Does it make you feel better to know you’re in with a huge collection of society? Lots of people feel that way, and for good reason. The story you’re telling yourself about your life isn’t a good one—it’s not surprising that you find it painful to listen to. But you do understand that it’s just a story, right? Because I can offer a 409 Relax and Succeed - Let go or be draggedcompeting story and it will make just as much sense as yours:
From my perspective you have about 30 years of youth left. If you stay active you’ll be surprised at how active you can be at 60. So you have this fabulous luxury of time in which you can fit all sorts of >experience. Because your life isn’t made up of relationships or finances, your life is made of experiences. That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s how you know what happened in your life. It’s a collective sense provided by all of your sensory inputs. It is an experience.

So you don’t take your experience opportunities and squander them sitting still re-thinking about past experiences. The way you improve your life is to make better experience choices today than you did yesterday and that’s generally pretty easy because we have the advantage of the results of our previous choices. So with experience comes wisdom. Not age; experience.

But of course your experiences are shaped by your thoughts. So if you want to have quality experiences then you have to have quality thoughts. You can tell yourself a wanting story or you can tell yourself an abundance story. Want hurts. Appreciation feels good. It’s a nice system that’s been set up to encourage you to choose what’s best for you. So go for what’s good. Especially when it would be easy to think a painful, suffering story. That’s when it’s most important to remember that your life is made of your experiences and your experiences are shaped by your judgments. So make them wisely because you will feel them instantly.

409 Relax and Succeed - When you realize there is nothing lackingYour life is not a waste. The way you are judging it is negative and harsh. And you are as spiritually close to salvation as anyone. Everyone is always only one thought away from enlightenment. So you are as close to the glory of God as anyone who’s been in church or mosque or temple for their entire life. Because if you can see how the universe works—if you can profoundly come to understand your role in describing your life to yourself—then you are free to use your imagination to create for yourself an interesting, entirely worthwhile collection of experiences to go live.

You don’t need external markers of success. You don’t need a relationship or a certain status or list of friends. You don’t need achievements or skills or experience. You only need conscious control over the very natural process of invoking your own thinking. If you can choose to focus on appreciation and not on want then your life will constantly feel rich and abundant and generosity will be your nature. Such is the way of wisdom. I look forward to seeing you alongside me along the way.

peace. s

A Difficult Decision

Over the last 6 months or more I have had two rescue dogs I just love. One of them had a troubled past which has lead to some serious behaviour issues. I’ve been through two trainers and a behaviourist with little effect. He’s needed operations—I was with him in the ICU spending a fortune I don’t have when nothing was for sure. I have dedicated untold hours, sweat, love, tears and frustration in my efforts to rehabilitate my dog, but with my other dog learning his bad behaviour, I’m really wondering if I’m doing the right thing.
Do I give up and admit defeat, or do I lean on how wonderful he is when
he is behaving and he’s on his back for a belly rub?

Sincerely Torn Dog Lover

Dear Dog Lover,

Let me begin by thanking you for picking up some of society’s slack. Maybe it’s a family-less senior’s dog that ended up in a shelter after a death. Or maybe it was an immature purchase by someone who hadn’t really given it appropriate thought. Whether the arrival of an animal at a shelter is preventable or not, someone has to take up that slack and I’m so grateful that you 307 Relax and Succeed - The price of any thingand so many of my friends are very active in this regard. You also have my sympathies regarding the associated challenges. What you’ve glossed over in a paragraph is actually a lot of life. I realize that situations like this can come to dominate our lives.

Of course no one but you can ultimately decide whether you should keep your dog and fumble through the challenges, or shift your attentions to an animal that is capable of receiving them in a useful way. But I’ll do my best to give you some things to ponder which may help you find your way through a maze of what I suspect must be very conflicting thoughts.

Firstly, you aren’t defeated if you were in an unwinnable battle. For all you know the dog has some undetected physiological issue that’s impacting its ability to act in a safe and survivable manner. You also aren’t responsible for the experiences the dog had before the shelter, and it appears those may have been very serious experiences that powerfully embedded some ideas into the dog. You cannot get attached to results. You can only focus on your action, not on outcomes. If the action is loving, then there is no need for regret.

Secondly, I can see why you might be inclined to see it as a failure and that you may have a sense that you’ve “let the dog down.” You didn’t. You’ve clearly done far more than most people would and you should feel good about that. But there’s no way around the fact that stopping now will be traumatic for both you and the dog. I’m not going to pretend those hours will be easy. But then again, most of life is already traumatic for you and the dog at this stage. And the world is not currently benefiting from all you have to offer, so I want you to consider it another way.

307 Relax and Succeed - Its not like everything is someones faultImagine that every being in existence is equal. I suspect this idea is easy for you. And let us say that each person’s ability to contribute to the world in a positive way is rated from +10 to -10, with zero being someone who has no extra compassion or energy to give, but they also don’t need any from anyone else. Most of us are lucky to just bounce temporarily into that negative zone. Big life events like getting fired, or divorced or insulted by someone you respect—those will all take you lower. But likewise, successes, compliments and cooperation will get you higher. Now let’s get to you specifically.

If you’re doing all you’re doing for these two dogs, then clearly you’re on the plus side of the equation. You have a lot to give. The question is, who should you give it to? Can you see that right now you’re taking your +7 being and you’re giving 8 points to your -9 dog? So he’s still a -1 but now you are too! In the accounting of the universe this is not always a good deal.

I would like you to think about what would happen if you only gave away 4 points to a dog that was a -2? Then you would be a +3 and the dog would be a +2. That feels a bit better, doesn’t it? Because that has some balance to it. A -9 dog needs several people to pour a fair amount of life energy into it, and even then that’ll 307 Relax and Succeed - Life is a series of naturaltake time and people can get tired of the expense to their lives. So it’s not so much that this dog doesn’t deserve the care—of course he does. But we also must be prepared to accept what is, and if you’ve poured that much work in, then you’ve probably already demonstrated that this is not likely to be a rescue-able dog. That is a shame, but rather than pour good energy after bad, you might well be wise to consider if your loving efforts might yield more valuable results elsewhere.

Again, no one can answer this but you. But don’t waste your +7 life having -5 guilty-thoughts. As I’m sure your friends have told you, you’ve done much more than most people would. There is no shame in surrendering in an unwinnable battle. And I’m sure there’s some adorable little balls of love that would really benefit from time with a soul as loving as yours so obviously is. So maybe the troubled dog isn’t a rescue case after all. Maybe he’s a lesson in disguise. Maybe he’s a lesson in perseverance. Or maybe he’s a lesson in letting go. And deep deep deep down, I believe you already know which lesson he is. So trust yourself. Because those feelings are how the universe speaks to you.

Big hug. Good luck to all involved.

pees. s 😉

Hills and Valleys

233 Relax and Succeed - Gather strengthYour path through life will rise and fall despite your best efforts. If we’re wise and focused we can certainly choose the path we would prefer, but there is no way around the fact that everyone will have to climb some very steep hills as they move forward. And by forward I don’t mean toward some destination. I just mean: in motion.

The point of life is to be alive. You would be surprised at how few people ever are once they’re in adulthood. Most are blindly on a path without ever really asking why. Most never do any kind of assessment of its value. This means that they’re inclined to think they’re failing when they’re in pain, and that they’re succeeding when they’re not. But there is no success or failure because each is dependent on the other, and everyone will experience both. So rather than fighting that idea, we are better to accept it, because the failures we experience today have little to do with what will happen tomorrow.

The truth is, no one knows where you are in your life. You could be just about to meet the love of your life, or you could be driving home to a divorce, or maybe even your own death. So don’t assume that if things are bad that they will stay that way, or that you will have to do anything other than wait. Life will change even if you don’t.233 Relax and Succeed - Experience is not what happensIf you’re at a low point in life as you’re reading this; if you’ve failed to accomplish some goal, or if you’ve lost some love, or you otherwise feel alone and defeated; remember what excellent company you are in. All of humanity has been there. DaVinci, Mozart, Shakespeare. Everyone’s been afraid, or challenged to the point of tears. Everyone has questioned their value at times. But the important thing is, once that is done, we must simply return to our passions. Because there is no success or failure. There is simply doing or not-doing.

If you’re feeling low, don’t worry because everything changes. And if you’re feeling up, then enjoy it because everything changes. So up or down, careful or not, you were going to fall down some holes. Just don’t take them too seriously. Handled with wisdom, they can become passages to deeper understanding and capability.

Remember, don’t have your mood affect your judgment, have your judgment affect your mood. Choose your thoughts carefully, and when you’re in a mode of suffering, then just know that it is both inevitable and temporary. More opportunities will arise. But you will not see them if you’re not watching for them. So even when you’re feeling low, keep an eye out for anything positive. Because enormous success can follow shortly after crushing failure. If you don’t believe me, ask these folks:

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.

No Mistake About It

Winner: 2013’s Blog of the Year: #2

My accident had caused me to think differently, but the first time I recognized that was when I first noticed how people reacted to being wrong. It made Grade One surreal. Everyone saw wrong as a mistake or a problem or otherwise something that you do not want to do. That truly baffled me because it’s an indefensibly crazy idea.

191 Relax and Succeed - Self-education isYour brain processes/creates the world in such a way that you notice patterns in things. That’s how you know how the world works. So if your mom buys five cans of soup at the store, before too long you’ve figured out that you don’t need to look back in the cupboard for another soup if you’ve already eaten all five. By making that mistake when you were little, you learned that five is five is five and gone is gone and done is done. These are concepts that your brain had to learn to absorb and then apply elsewhere.

The point in the soup story is that you needed to be wrong. You had to try something that wouldn’t work before you could begin to understand the reasoning behind what did work. For you to recognize a pattern you have to identify its rough edges by failing. As William Blake said, “You never know what is enough unless you know what it is more than enough.”

Failing is why you lost your helium balloon as a kid. Kids always lose them because they are making the mistake that the balloon will fall down and not up. Because they’ve practiced that gravity idea, remember? They dropped stuff from their highchair all the time. Intentionally. Just to watch it fall. And in doing so they built the idea of gravity. And it looks like it’s always in operation—until a kid sees either a hot air or helium balloon, or a plane or helicopter, and of course these are all things that amaze kids. These things break the law of gravity and that’s one of the most certain ones we feel we have.

191 Relax and Succeed - Ever make mistakesThroughout life you collect that reasoning and the laws and principles that emerge in life (like gravity or grammar or customs etc.), and then you live your life according to them. But none of those neural networks could exist without you using Socratic Method. Your brain must guess and test itself through the world, and the wrong answers are more important than the right ones because they will eventually be what exposes why the right answer does work. And then that principle can get applied to other situations. So much like the best batters are also the people who strike out the most, being smart is like being willing to be wrong the most. Remember, when you’re born your brain doesn’t grow outward like branches on a tree. Rather the entire thing glows with possibility and by learning you shut ideas off—you remove possibilities. Yes you can add new concepts too, but in the end your beliefs/identity are less like a tree and more like a sculpture.

There is no shame in being wrong. As Jonathan Swift said, it’s a way of saying your smarter today than you were yesterday. How can you be upset about finding out you’ve been wrong? Finding out you’ve been wrong is the end of being wrong. Why would you be upset that the ignorant part is over? You should celebrate that. You just had a eureka moment. You’re bigger now. You understand more. You’re more capable.

Your vocabulary doesn’t expand if you don’t look up the words you don’t know. If you can’t admit you don’t understand it, then you can’t take the steps to correct your misunderstanding. So people who don’t like to be wrong are the same people who learn the least. You know those people; they’ve had the same job for 20 years, but really they haven’t grown—they’ve just re-lived the same year 20 times with no growth-from-wrongness occurring.

191 Relax and Succeed - When I let goLeap towards your mistakes. Revel in being wrong. Rejoice at learning that you were incorrect. This is an expansion of you. This is what makes you better at being you. Failed relationships increasingly point to what we truly want in a partnership and from ourselves. Getting fired points out either bad bosses or missing skills. Being turned down for one thing creates an opportunity for another.

Your divorce wasn’t a failure. It was you testing the world to see what you truly want. And maybe that was a healthy marriage for who you were at one time. But life changes. People grow. Sometimes together sometimes apart. So as experience teaches you that, you don’t think you made the wrong decision getting married 20 years earlier. Realize instead that you’ve had 20 years of growth from two people and that it would almost be surprising if they were still wanting all of the same things in life.

Your life isn’t a collection of successes and failures. It’s a set of tests that had results, and the results informed which directions you chose in life. That’s all anyone is doing. And even if they’ve been super successful at negotiating the work world, that doesn’t mean they’ll have been good at the marriage world, or the kid-raising world. So stop comparing yourself. And stop beating yourself up for the mistakes that are an inevitable part of your growth. Your realizations that you’ve made a “mistake” are merely you recognizing that your tests of life have lead you to become someone who is both bigger and better.

peace. s

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

Growing Pains

Everyone says they want to be rich. Everyone says they don’t want to work. And yet the very rich can do anything they like, and yet what they want is the same thing everyone wants of course: to have a life of meaning. The simple fact is you can only screw around for so long before you realize that it’s your nature to be creative. It is your nature to expand 182 Relax and Succeed - I am not telling youyourself—and through that, expand the universe as well.

You’ll notice there are two types of street people. People who feel so broken that they do not create. This group essentially begs, which is actually a nice humble act. You have to be in a healthy headspace to pull that off. Think about how hard it would be for you to do. But bottom line, until they begin to fulfil their nature and grow, they will be crippled by their lack of connection to their natural sense of being. There are no flowers that grow part of the way out of the ground and then just stay that way. The growth to a bloom is a natural event that must be interrupted by very intense thinking.

The other half of the street people are much more like daily workers. They may have a trapline for bottles in some alleys, or they do daily work, but otherwise they live without encumbrances. They still maintain a purpose and a sense of accomplishment and these elements are what makes their lives more enjoyable. Street people or not, they are doing all they need to do to fulfil themselves.

So this makes it very worth it to study where our joy actually comes from. Because much like a tree-climber can see farther the higher they climb, so it is with any kind of growth. If you go to the gym and talk other people into lifting weights for you, then you will not develop yourself at all. In fact by not employing your own nature, you will actually degrade.

This also holds true in offices, or at home, or with friends. If you put no effort into finding ways to be productive or help others around you be more productive, then you are stifling your natural ability to help the universe expand. Don’t look after your home and soon your home will degrade to the point where you won’t want to live there anymore. Don’t look after your customers or co-workers, then you too will see your world shrink. Manipulate your friends to always do what you want, and you’ll never be challenged and you’ll never grow and you’ll soon be out of friends.

182 Relax and Succeed - It's your road and yours aloneEach of these challenges expands us. Through our expansion we can appreciate other people’s experiences better, and that permits a stronger connection to them. As we become more capable we also become potentially more helpful. But if we have always taken the easy way out, then we will have no strength to help either ourselves or those we care about.

You will benefit from any expansion of yourself through experience. Whether it’s the sort of strength that’s in your muscles, the strength you employ to redirect your thinking to healthier choices, the strength to admit you’re wrong, the strength to ask for help, or the strength to try things both physically and emotionally that scare you—the sense of overcoming is the sense of strength being built. The fear is like pain in the gym. It’s a signal of growth. And by enduring that aspect of life, you open up many others.

Do not live in fear. Do not look for an easy life. Do not avoid challenges. Life is a playground. Don’t stand idly by why others do your playing for you. Get in there and get dirty. Not because you should, but because you can. Because all of the people who are doing it are the ones that keep doing it and that’s for good reason: because the view is always worth the climb.

peace. s

J.K. Rowling on Failure

130 Relax and Succeed - Some failure in life

Failure is one of the most crippling concepts in life. Everyone fears it, and yet after you experience it you realise that it doesn’t really exist–that it is only a concept in your head. It is no real barrier. And as J.K. notes here, passing through it leads to a very particular and wonderful type of freedom.


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.

Management vs Leadership

Many of the new students that train with me are motivated by a desire to improve their working conditions. Workplaces are not only the places where we earn our livings, they are holistic experiences. So in a practical sense, hardly anyone judges their job based on how well they get paid because they don’t feel that every day. What they do feel is the culture of a job.

They may not have had this or that job before, but they’ll have usually had multiple work experiences. By 30 years old most people in the first world will easily be able to recognize a happy, encouraging workplace, versus a negative, debilitating one. Despite this fact, many employers 63 Relax and Succeed - An entire sea of water can't sink a shipstill want to try to dictate to their employees what their view of the company and work should be. If the employees suggest that they don’t like something, they’ll more often than not be told to start liking it, as though their issues are a failing of the employee, rather than of the management.

One of the companies I’ve recently been working with is an excellent example of what I’m talking about. When faced with complaints by staff, their management’s response is consistently one of the following: management suggests that if they don’t like it maybe the employee should leave or be replaced, the manager responsible points out that he had it much worse where he used to work, or management reminds the employee about their pay structure. Of course, what these answers all have in common is absolutely none of them do anything whatsoever to address the employee’s situation. They are simply ordered to feel differently, as though that would have any realistic affect.

For the managers, their issue is resolved—they no longer have to listen to a complaint. For the employee, it’s now a source of gossip regarding how ineffectual the management is when compared with this or that job from the employee’s past. And they won’t be comparing pay, or hours, or conditions. They will be referring to how they were treated as human beings. Here’s an excellent example:

A manager at the firm had a meeting shortly after he had been scolded by his own manager for performance. It was a widely known fact that the business was in the midst of an industry-wide slow-down. No competitors were doing well either. Despite this fact, the manager proceeded to blame that slowdown on the employees, going so far as to even call them childishly derogatory names. In 30 years of management experience it was one of three most juvenile management reactions I’ve ever witnessed, and the effect was predictably and thoroughly negative. A bunch of adults had just been spoken to as though they were children. They were hardly motivated. Instead they were drained of the excellent energy they entered the room with. Energy the manager had failed to even take note of, when it should have been the very first thing he did.

63a Relax and Succeed - Stop waiting for things to happenHad that manager been focused on the staff and not on himself, he would have easily seen he had an energetic, upbeat group that day. He could have focused that energy like a laser on the tasks he wanted accomplished. But instead he belittled people and somehow thought he would get positive results. Negativity does not result in positivity. That’s simply how it goes. But instead of taking that positivity and expanding it, in this case the situation got much worse.

The next manager then called a training meeting. Again, had he noted the emotional temperature of the group he would have easily recognized it was an absolutely terrible time to attempt to do a training session. Everyone was down and discouraged and they were not in the sort of alert, attentive state of mind that is great for learning. Two particularly strong employees generously approached the second manager and attempted to explain what had just happened and offered really intelligent help by suggesting that he defer his meeting to a later date. That manager made the situation much worse by responding with, “I don’t care how you guys feel, you have work to do.” That is one of the most oxymoronic statements I’ve ever heard in a workplace. This manager doesn’t get that his employee’s performance will be impacted by how they feel. Wow.

I do this sort of thing for a living so I’m a pretty keen observer and in my observations, I found the staff to be by far the strongest part of the firm. Most had found very creative ways to work around much of the childish silliness that their managers used to create make-work projects, or worse, for discipline. The staff often had their own meetings to try to encourage struggling employees, or to more effectively train new people. Overwhelmingly I saw a strong, sincere and active dedication to making the workplace positive and successful. For the most part, management did nothing but impede that success.

Motivated by their genuine desire to create a strong, healthy and successful workplace, some of the staff approached me about what could be done to proactively improve the situation. I reminded them that most true leaders didn’t have titles. Gandhi didn’t have a title. Neither did Nelson Mandela when he did all his amazing stuff. I pointed out that the very fact that they were asking for guidance proved that they were the actual leaders in that workplace. They were the ones listening.

63b Relax and Succeed - Let your light shineThey did not expect the same performance from an employee in the midst of a divorce that the managers did. They realistically understood that these are not employees, they are people who work for a company. Expecting them to be the same thing every day is as silly as it is impractical. And so when a fellow employee was struggling, their co-workers didn’t scold them like management did. They pulled the person out of it with increased support. They took weight off the struggling employee, they didn’t add more.

Those few employees took what I said and they set it as an objective to “happy up” their workplace. They decided that despite management’s comments, they would compliment their fellow staff, they would encourage each other, they would cover for each other when they were dealing with challenges, and overall they would demonstrate respect to each other. The affect was immediate and very noticeable. And had those true leaders not shown up, those technical managers would have been in very serious trouble before long.

If your workplace is negative and your management has proven unwilling or uninterested in improving it, then do not feel you have to flap like a flag in that wind. You can have an enormous impact on your workplace via your own attitude. So if you work for managers you may like personally, but who are ineffective at creating a positive, sensible workplace, then create it for yourself. The truth is, I see that version far more often than I see the version where the management’s actually doing the leading.

Create your day. Make the sorts of decisions that are most likely to create the results you’re seeking. It won’t always work, but it’ll rarely hurt. And when it does work, it’ll reinforce how capable you are at influencing your daily experience. And that is a strength you should always stay in touch with.

peace. s

AA Or Your Way?

Everyone has someone they want to be. They want to be thinner, or happier, or more relaxed. And they’re perpetually disappointed by their inability to change into that other person. The reason that change is difficult is because they’re trying to change into someone they’re not, rather than trying to be fully themselves.

50 Relax and Succeed - Welcome to todayFor instance, addicts don’t really want to give up their addictions. In my practice, they’re always the slowest to sign up. They’ll call and discuss the idea with me for some time before committing. The reason is they get the sense they’ll actually quit with me, so part of their journey is acceptance of the idea that they could actually imagine themselves as a non-addict.

I’ve had a lot of success helping people kick everything from painkillers to cocaine to alcohol. The interesting part is, I didn’t do that by trying to get people to kick painkillers, cocaine or alcohol. Rather than getting them to stop enjoying the islands of numbness that dot their otherwise painful life, I got them to start enjoying the seas in between those islands. Eventually they very naturally come to the point where they don’t stop drinking, they start living. They knew the islands were there, but they were simply less attractive when the sailing was good.

Can you see the subtlety in that? If you try to change, you will feel resistance to change. If you accept who you are and use that as a foundation to grow into the person you intend  to be, then there is no resistance—you’re like a sailboat following the wind. There’s nothing forced about that. You’re not struggling against a headwind to go in some direction because you think it’s right. Instead you’re working with your own nature, going the way that makes sense. You do it all the time, but you don’t think about those things like smoking or drinking or drugs.

That famous experiment with the rats taking heroin instead of food until they died? The one that proved how powerful addictions were? Well that experiment’s been redone except they put the rats with the source of heroin into a space that included rat maze with a bunch of fun 50 Relax and Succeed - A smooth seastuff to do. And you know what? No addicted rats. They had some heroin, but over time mostly they just played on the available toys and habitats.

AA and the like ask you to push against your addiction. They encourage you to make the addiction very real every day. They even tell you you’ll always have it—that it will define you for the rest of your life. I have trouble hanging around many AA “successes” because all they do is talk about not drinking. Well I’m sorry, but talking about not drinking is just another way of talking about drinking. If AA’s helped you and you’re loving your life that’s terrific—I truly am super happy for you. But in most cases what I see in the AA approach is tension and a fear of failure. Everyone feels like they’re clinging because they feel like they’re constantly battling the “fact that they will always be an addict.”  Well that simply isn’t true and I have a lot of examples of people who prove it by living differently.

First off, don’t feel alone. Remember that a large percentage of the population is anaesthetized with either alcohol or some form of legal or illegal drug. Other than people who’ve only been using for a very short time I have yet to meet the addict who’s not trying to quit. But that kind of quitting will cause you to beat yourself up and that will only serve to make those islands even more attractive. Forget how ugly the seas feel and focus instead only on your sailing. Get to enjoy that and the islands won’t seem anywhere near as important and you certainly won’t feel motivated to interrupt a good time sailing just to stop at one.

Stop trying to change. Accept who you are. You will only change by following your bliss and you will naturally grow into the next—and bigger—version of yourself. But like water finds low ground you must choose your path by nature. You must not try. Simply move towards what feels good. Eventually whatever you’re addicted to will simply fade in value next to all of the goodness you will have accumulated.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s

Living With Fear

They play through your life all the time. Your dreams. The things you feel a compulsion to move toward. But you sit still instead, calculating all that could go wrong. Calculating the prices your psychology will pay if you fail. You imagine all of the disparaging thoughts the witnesses might think or say out loud. Meanwhile you look on enviously at others lives, 34 Relax and Succeed - Fear does not stop deathassuming theirs are better when really it’s just that you’re not fully living yours. Those fears keep holding you back. And when you think about it, those are strange fears to have. To not live your life because someone else might temporarily hold a judgmental thought in their consciousnesses? That’s what we’re all afraid of.

Back when I was writing exclusively for film and television I ran a BBS chatroom where local writers in my city could ask questions and debate ideas with top Hollywood professionals. There were Oscar and Emmy winners and nominees, and writers of many famous and beloved projects ranging all the way from Woody Allen movies to groundbreaking series and guilty pleasures like Cheers or Baywatch. Young or old, those were very generous writers and producers and we were all very lucky to have their daily guidance. Especially me. Because that experience lead me to meet and eventually become good friends with a wonderful man named Jack Sowards. Jack’s the man who famously killed Spock when he wrote Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan.

For several years and for reasons I’ll never fully understand, Jack used to spend at least an hour a day on the phone with me and sometimes we’d be on for over four hours. Jack had learned a lot from other writers and he was known as a bit of a 34 Relax and Succeed - The worst enemy to creativityguru in Hollywood because he really enjoyed passing that knowledge on. And with me he had a super eager student. Even though it got to be a daily routine, I never stopped feeling lucky every time he called. As I matured as an artist I later realized I was actually in large part an aspect of his own fearful procrastination.

At one point it turned out that Jack and I were up for jobs at the same time. His was for a million-dollar re-write of some star-filled project and mine was for a smaller (but for me still very substantial), movie-of-the-week. We both found out the same day that we got the jobs and we had a wonderful conversation about how awesome it felt to be the chosen writers.

And then there was the next day.

I was in a panic. Every artist and most others will know this feeling; the feeling that you’re doomed. That there’s no way you’ll actually be able to pull it off and you’ll finally be exposed as a fraud. The feeling like everyone’s finally going to figure out that you’re just faking it. That you’re just pretending to know. That you really can’t do this incredibly hard thing. And you certainly can’t do hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars worth of it. I remember thinking, how can anything I just invent in my imagination be worth this kind of money?!  I was so worried I couldn’t write. Every word felt like it had to be worth hundreds of dollars. That makes them hard to choose. So I called my guru.

34 Relax and Succeed - Work hard do the best you canI’m glad you called.”
“Jack this is ridiculous. I can’t write anything worth this much money. I’m in way over my head.”
“I know. Me too.”

Wait a minute—what?

Jack was scared too? How could this guy who’d had hits—who’d been paid these amounts lots of times—how could he be worried? He did know what he was doing. He’d proved it numerous times. Oddly though, the news calmed me. Being in a group with Jack felt like a safe place to be as a writer.“You thought you weren’t supposed to be scared?” he said. “Scared’s part of the deal. Scared’s what you get all that money for. Scared is what most people won’t walk past to get to their real life.”

Is it any wonder I loved the guy? I thought all of these artists “above” me were all calm and collected and done. They were finished. They knew all they needed to know. In fact there is no such thing. Just when you’ve figured out how to be 20, you’re 30. And by the time you figure out how to be 30, you’re 40. And so it goes. As soon as a writer has a good list of skills, all they tend to notice are the skills they don’t yet have. They feel like that must be what’s preventing them from succeeding with their current project. But that’s not true. What’s preventing them from succeeding with their project isn’t what they don’t know—it’s their lack of use of what they do know.

34 Relax and Succeed - The only thing standing between you and your goalYour job isn’t to figure it all out and then live your life in some impressive way. Let me save you the time: there is no figuring it out. That’s like saying you have to know everything about music to create a song. I’m sure Mozart still felt like he still had much to explore. But the music he wrote came from what he knew, not what he didn’t know. You can’t create with knowledge or understanding you will have. So you just march forward and forget what everyone else thinks.

People’s judgments about your life are just words in the wind. Think about people in your family that have been dead for 20 years. Are people thinking a lot about what they did in their life, or does it come up once in a while and without much detail? And even if they did, do you imagine that bothers the deceased? Or the living? So what are you worrying about? The fact is, people are too busy studying their own lives to really focus much on ours, and so their opinions of us have more to do with them than us.

Be bold. Know that every great person dealt with tons of people who hated their choices and yet still they went on. They went on because they weren’t trying to be impressive—that would be impossible. Instead they trusted that strange tuning-fork that lives inside all of us. And by listening they heard it and it told them which way was theirs. They went past their fears simply because they felt that was their way to go.

34 Relax and Succeed - One should as a rule respect public opinionYou have those feelings too but you ignore them in favour of building barriers with word-based thoughts that focus on your fears. Your ego talks your spirit out of enacting itself. But those fears are only an ephemeral curtain of thought. They are the illusion that separates you from your own fulfilling life. Just like other people’s opinions.

Instead of looking at what someone else has look at what you have. Stop trying to get people to be impressed with your life and start actively loving your own life exactly as it is. Because truly loving it in the present moment without changes or adjustments is what allows us to see our way through the fear. And that’s important because past those fears is where your real life is.

Carpe Diem. Life: it’s yours for the taking.

peace. s