The Friday Dose #138: Dan Gilbert

A lot of people think that it was the swing smashing a hole in my head and a near-death experience that lead to the understanding that I share with students. While that may be true, and while my memory from age five isn’t vivid, I personally believe the reason has far more to do with what that accident made me aware of; namely thinking.

When I first meet a student I do a little talk not unlike this one, wherein I explain the fundamentals of how a brain works. I’ll usually use things from people’s lives rather than experiments (because Dan’s a psychologist and I’m just someone who for 45 years has watched what people said and did super-closely). But essentially the point is the same: reality is flexible, happiness is negotiable.

My “course” is 12 hours long. If you can’t see me, but you’re interested in that what the first hour conveys, I’d suggest giving this talk a listen and it’ll give you a taste of how you’re like everyone else. The rest of the course would then be about how these general truths impact your specific life. What’s most important to take away from this is that, if you aren’t enjoying life, you can learn to.

Have a great weekend 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.

Your Life Story

There’s debates about who said it or who said it first, but somewhere sometime someone said that every writer has to write a million words of shit before they’ll write anything any good. The number itself is largely a metaphor for the fact that in everything in life, we get good by doing. And the more we do (either in intensity or duration or both), the more skilled we get at that thing.

Just as in life, every writer wants to be good because they know the tools. They know the alphabet, so they have their hammer; and they’ve read sentences–which is like watching a house being built–so that’s where they start. But it’s absurd to think they’ll be as good of a carpenter on that first job as they’ll be in 25 years.

That logic applies to anything. The conscious person who learns with intensity learns more than someone with less intensity, and someone conscious who puts in more time also learns more than someone who puts in less time or who uses less consciousness. This is is true of writing, cooking, raising kids, teaching, or–yes–living.

Living is a skill. So yeah, physically and mentally you eventually deteriorate, so maybe your life-work gets a bit sloppy near the end, but by then everyone’s forgiving you. But otherwise you just get better and better at living life every year you live it, and the more conscious you are the more your learn. That’s all well and good. The problem comes in when you want the wisdom before you’ve even had the experiences that teach it.

Your expectations of yourself and your life start off pretty wacky. Because you can edit your writing you think you can edit life. And because of that you’ll go through these periods where you’ll feel like you’re totally failing because you’ll be nowhere near your targets and you can’t fix your past. But it’s not your life that’s the problem, or your ability to edit; it’s your expectation that you would know things before you learned them. You do that all the time and yet it’s truly crazy.

Graceful living requires only one thing: live the moment you’re in fully and presently. That means being in it and aware of it, rather than thinking about what-ifs or regrets. Things going in challenging ways aren’t failures, that’s just the texture of the surface you’re climbing. And when you reach the summit of your own peak–your own death–you’ll have a better understanding that you weren’t supposed to climb the highest mountain or the hardest–you were just supposed to climb. Which mountain you started on never really mattered.

You will know more tomorrow than today, and today you know more than you knew yesterday. If you go back and rethink and rethink over and over, re-editing all of your life’s work, you’ll never get much writing done and you won’t get much living lived.

Trust that as the writer writes, the writer improves. Forget the early pages. They’re both written and read. Because that’s the other important thing; other people will only glance at your book just as you’ll only glance at theirs. You might read deeply into maybe half a dozen books in your life. Because it turns out these weren’t being written to be read, the were written for the writing’s sake.

Stop worrying about your mistakes and just write–just live. You were never supposed to be perfect. You were just supposed to be here. That in and of itself, is perfect.

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: Casual Kindness

There are many ways to spread kindness into life. Most people remember the direct ways, like doing things for people or offering them a compliment, but there are also the indirect ways. Since people are experiencing what they’re thinking about, changing how someone thinks is to change how they feel.

Parents do this with their kids all the time. You’ve seen it. The kid is screaming about something, and then the parent introduces something new to bait the consciousness of the kid. Hopefully it’s not a threat or a gift, because if that happens too often that person will end up unhealthy. But if it’s an experience then it can be expansive.

So there’s the screaming kid at the grocery store, and the parent says, Do you want ride your bike this weekend with the adults, on the adult trails? And the kid starts thinking about that and they switch from anger to excited in no time. So why don’t we do that as adults? Adults actually argue with you to hold on to the idea that’s painful to them. Don’t try to change the subject on me! (Even though all the discussion in the world wouldn’t fix anything.)

You don’t want these efforts to feel forceful. It’s not some wedge of distraction you hammer into a conversation, but if you’re truly listening the way we all should–very intently and with no other purpose than listening–then you will find yourself struck with opportunities to turn the conversation toward something more enjoyable. It’s your nature. The trick will be getting out of its way.

If humans were designed to tune to negativity we never would have made it out of our first cave. We’d have been too scared. But instead we’re tuned for possibility. We see opportunities. So if you give someone an opportunity for positivity, well, that’s like bait to a fish. Eventually they’ll bite. And if you’re a patient fisherperson who doesn’t try to force the hook in, then you might find that you can succeed on your first try.

Today in the March of Kindness you want to listen carefully to the overall tone of a conversation. If it’s angry or sad or defeatist, listen intently and a natural response will occur to you that would pull the conversation toward something more pleasant and more productive. If you do it well people shouldn’t even notice that you did it.

That’s all that happy people do. When someone shoots them a ball of negativity, they gracefully give them back an easy play on a winning shot. You abandon the subject of their conversation and you focus instead on the tone only. You don’t argue any point, you simply offer a route to something more enjoyable.

You might have to offer it three times if they’re really upset, but eventually everyone would rather pedal their bike on a downslope. Just don’t listen with an agenda. Patiently listen and what to say or do will occur to you. Trust it. Your doubts are only made of thinking.

This is a very subtle form of kindness, and yet once you’re good at this it will be the one you’ll get to use the most. The sheer subtlety of it means it faces less resistance and it gets better results. So join the rest of us today and find some silver linings and help some others notice them too. Because in the end, we’re all in this life thing together.

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: Cheering and Applause

Yesterday our focus was on our criticisms and our act of kindness was to offer a positive for any negative. Today we want to add momentum to others. We want to add even more strength to people who feel strong. In other words, we want to encourage others in areas where they are already expressing belief in themselves.

It’s one thing to be kind to the person who got cut from the team, but it’s also useful to cheer for those that made it. A lot of us are naturally responsive to people when they’re down, but we can tend to forget that even people on the way up are still facing challenges. It never hurts to add your own belief in someone to their own belief in themselves.

It might seem strange to listen to other people talking or to watch social media for signs of strength, but that is part of why these acts of kindness are also good for us. We want to live with intention. Most of us are trained at sympathy, but we’re often less aware of, or vocal about, those times when we feel the person is already taking care of themselves. Today’s about celebration.

Watch the people you know and the world around you for things worth celebrating. Don’t let your support be invisible, clearly state it. We all tend to offer more corrections than congratulations. If our awareness is scanning the world for strength that alone is a good thing. Our support of that strength just makes it all that much better.

A small percentage of people will find this exercise easy, but many more will find it almost confusing. We get very focused on fixing what’s broken, when it’s equally important to share in others ongoing success and joy.

Find examples of people recovering, of people endeavouring, and of people celebrating. Support all of them, whether they’re starting down, on their way up, or if they’ve already succeeded. This isn’t about the external event, it’s about the direction of the person overall. Adding a positive number to a negative one helps, but it’s equally valuable to add positive numbers to other positive numbers.

Find the positive. Add your support. It can be someone you know who’s decided to quit smoking or it can your national team in a sport you don’t even really know much about. How close you are to the subject is irrelevant, the idea is to add ourselves to positive things. Today, rather than your kindness being about preventing bad things it’s about loving good things.

Start right now. It’s highly likely you have some form of social media in your life. Scan it until you find something great and don’t just “like” it, actually write a message of support. Help someone feel seen. Spend some time describing that support. It’s nice to write, “you can do it,” but it’s even better to state, “I’ve always admired your courage.”

Today, your assignment in the March of Kindness is to add your positivity to some existing positivity. Do it as many times today as you can. It’ll feel good for you and for the person being supported. And if you’re watching for good things to support, you’ll be surprised at how many you can find.

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.

The March of Kindness

1106-relax-and-succeed-the-march-of-kindnessIf you read yesterday’s blog you know that a few years ago I started doing the March of Kindness. Thanks to some teachers and schools from around the world this idea was actually practiced. It not not only put a lot of positive action into our world, it also reduced ego by focusing us on the needs of others.

March includes twenty-three weekdays. That’s twenty-three days of action, and the only action you need to undertake today is to right-click on the photo, save it, print and sign it and then post this notice in a location where you are sure to see it during each of those twenty-three days.

The world is a big place, but it changes one individual at a time. By signing and committing to these principles, you are placing yourself among the important change-makers from around the world. This isn’t just for people like the prophets, or Gandhi, or Rumi, or Martin Luther King, it’s for you as well.

Let us join together and help make the world the incredibly creative, loving and supportive place it has always had the potential to be. Don’t forget to enjoy the process. Have a wonderful day everyone.

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.

The Friday Dose #136: A Season of Compassion

1053-fd-relax-and-succeed-compassion-is-the-radicalismMy family’s not religious in any way but, since we all grew up in a countries that were predominantly Christian at the time, we celebrate Christmas where others may celebrate Diwali, Ramadan or Hanukkah etc etc etc. When these events are and what they are called and what rituals we do are simply cultural. But the spiritual part underlying every meaningful celebration is really about love.

There’s a lot of frustrated people today trying to keep up with change. The next generation wants to live like Star Trek. No more races or wars, just a Federation cooperating on managing Earth and travelling out to new worlds. It’s all very hopeful. So the route from here to there is pretty simple and Ellen does a good job of drawing our attention to what is important to do as we make that journey to a brighter future.

I’ll start the Best of Series next week everyone. I hope you all have a wonderful break if you get one, and if not you have to work–I’ll be right alongside you too, so there’s no reason we can’t make even a busy working period into something festive and worthwhile. I wish you all the very best.

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.

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.