Managing Your Consciousness

I don’t know why you pay so much attention to the outside world. If you pay attention to your personal interior world you’ll see that when I say that you live within your consciousness I’m not speaking figuratively or metaphorically. As I’ve said before, Stephen Hawking’s body might have been bound to a wheelchair but his consciousness has touched the edges of the known universe. And that rule applies to all of us. We would all applaud a surgeon cutting our bodies wide open to repair us just as long as our consciousness isn’t present to notice.

658 Relax and Succeed - Not my circusBecause your emotional experiences take place in your consciousness via your thoughts, it is a beautiful thing to be able to genuinely wish the best for someone who would traditionally be categorized as an enemy. Because any hating or resentments or anger would be taking place in my consciousness not theirs. I would be experiencing it not them. So I can love an “enemy” and they won’t even know I’m doing it and yet it allows me to feel much better than I would if I was hating them. That’s totally in my control and the good thoughts are guaranteed to feel better than the bad ones.

Likewise, when other people are upset with you that’s something that happens in their consciousness. If you start to consider and re-think and wonder about their thoughts then you can injure yourself because now those are your thoughts too. People have lied about you to get things they wanted, or to accomplish things they thought were important, or to hide a mistake they made etc etc.. And people have given you credit for things you didn’t do, or they’ve had overly generous opinions—in the end, good or bad, every opinion of you is just that: an opinion. So there is no need for you to invest any of your lifetime in trying to manage the interior of everyone else’s consciousness.

Opinions are ideas about who you are and even the most detailed ones are based on shockingly little information when you think about the complexity of a human life and all of the reasons you did this or that thing. So someone can know someone for two months and decide they’re “slutty” when in fact the person is just going through the tail end of a divorce and it’s enormously common for most people to be a bit slutty during that am I still attractive? phase. So is that person casual about their sex or did someone see 1/10,000th of their life and paint an entire picture based on it?

658 Relax and Succeed - Never explain yourselfYou’ve all had this happen. There are all kinds of opinions out there about all of you and they differ wildly. So you can’t be all of those people so who are you? You are the thinker of your own opinion of you. You too have an idea of who you are. And keeping that version of you healthy already requires a lot of your attention so there’s no need to cripple your awareness by considering every other opinion about you.

In the end the closest thing to who you are is what you do under given circumstances. So pay less attention to what people think about you—bad or good—and focus on what your friends know about you by watching you live your life over time. Because most people’s judgments will have been gotten second hand so they can easily storm up and combine to “define” someone’s reputation. And yet those views are ultimately nothing more than a collection of thoughts in a collection of heads. Those don’t matter. Half the time people have misinterpreted your motives even if they do get some decent facts. So you can’t live your life trying to have a good reputation. You have to live your life fully as yourself, unafraid of judgment, because that is where real bravery, real character and real respect reign.

Now go have yourself an awesome day.

peace. s

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

Teen Parents

An extremely common thing I am approached about is teens who begin to exhibit behaviors that are perceived to be undesirable. I’ve never actually counted them, but I’m confident they would be my most common client—them or their parents or some combination of both. Because it’s so common it’s also a good basis for discussing the concept of separate realities, so I’ll use it as a case study to explain where the tension comes from and what you can do about it.

553 Relax and Succeed - No one should abandon dutiesHuman beings are wired up not to notice things if they’re too repetitive. Better to invest the available brainpower in something useful, than to constantly stop everyth—SQUIRREL!!! You get my point. So if something goes on too long, it becomes invisible to us by being absent from our consciousness. As I often note, pig farmers don’t smell pigs.

A good example of this is one of the subtle things that happens to parents: they have, for more than a decade, unconsciously been the undisputed masters of their kids schedules, activities, resources and wisdom. So when the child actually begins to change that relationship by having their own ideas, that stands out as extremely noticeable to a parent. It is a shift from near-absolute automatically presumed control, to an inability to control, combined with belligerence and distance. It’s like a two year old with a driver’s licence. To the parent it’s a real whack to the wiring in the brain and even the most open-minded person will need time to adjust.

From the kid’s perspective, they didn’t go looking for autonomy. All that happened was, they eventually had enough trusted outside sources of perspective to allow them to develop an idea about the world that differs from their parent’s. And they notice it when they do it. I remember doing this. It was startling. It was like a whole new way to be. And kids like this new thing to do with their mind, and so they exercise it a lot—which is understandably insanely frustrating to their parents who, until then, could wade in and end any big kerfuffle quickly and effectively. There is no way to break up eye rolling. They either volunteer to quit rolling them or you voluntarily control homicidal fantasies on a fairly regular basis. Either way, for both parties it’s all new.

553 Relax and Succeed - You do not have to make your childrenThe kid is at a huge advantage. All of this capability of opinion is captivating. They develop paper-thin perspectives on everything. And blasting electricity into these new parts of the brain feels exciting and compelling. On the flip side, parents are pulling their hair out as they legitimately watch their carefully built lives completely upended by the dramatics that go with the hormones that go with the teen years. This whole era for the relationship is a much better deal for the kid than the parent.

What I want to focus on is the fact that the reason these two parties are in conflict is because of what is contained in their consciousness. The parent wants the kid to have a clean room, and the kid—at least some kids—previously kept their rooms clean out of a sort of blind obedience. But it’s not like a clean room ever had much actual value to a 10 year old. They’d live in a tree fort if they could. So they clean it out of obedience in a one-mind kind of way. They don’t recognize that they have certain autonomies and so they “behave.” But as they age those opportunities to decide appear more and more often and autonomy increases as a result. We never achieve pure independence, but that’s what we seem to target.

My point is that what is in the kid’s brain is legitimate. For a kid. Yeah, an adult can choose to think about how much they paid for the house and how they imagined it looking (like from a magazine), etc. So then this messy room gets converted into some glowing sign pointing at bad parenting, a bad kid, and a non-showhome home. But meanwhile the kid’s actually not doing anything wrong. Doesn’t it make sense that a teen isn’t necessarily going to be invested in the reasoning behind slaving to keep a gorgeous room that only the occupant will ever see? That’s saner than it is crazy.

553 Relax and Succeed - Yeah I made mistakesA lot of kids have trouble following the parent’s rules simply because their mind is filled with the sorts of things it should be at those ages. They are learning about who they are and an integral part of that involves learning things through experience. So they need to be involved in those experiences. They need to be invested in their own life and priorities to a large degree. If they’re destroying your home, kick them out. But if they leave socks on the floor well… so do lots of great people.

It is not unreasonable for parents to feel violated if they have worked hard to buy nice things and live somewhere nice, and then have it be disrespected by the very people who they built it all for. In their imaginations they have built that castle in the sky and now they want to live in it. But the kid sees no such castle and so they simply cannot comprehend what you mean when you describe their mistakes as defying logic and common sense. Because they cannot see the future you see, they cannot imagine what logical steps would get them there.

This process is entirely innocent. The kids aren’t aware they’re doing it, and yet the parents have every reason to feel exasperated on a regular basis. It’s simply the chemistry of those ages. It’s why older parents like mine are much more sanguine about things. They weren’t when my much-older brothers were kids. But by the time I rolled around they were wiser, and I got the benefit of that. They just didn’t offer much resistance at all and I was given general support, but never firmly guided on what to do. I’m sure I looked lazy for a while, especially during the time where my friends and I spent long summer days in the basement playing video games. But those friends grew into good men, and we’ve all gone on to good lives.

Periods of apparent drift shouldn’t be worried about too much, because it makes perfect sense that a teenager would not have the same priorities as someone in middle age. They are learning to socialize and this automatically translates to at least some failure as they learn to make their way through life. But however they get there, if children have been around respectful, positive, compassionate behaviour for most of their life, then they’ll have learned all they need to be truly successful.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #42

540 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Dress every day

The implication of this quote is that you should be dressing so that you look good for others. Hey, it’s nice if that happens. It’s nice if people look at what you chose and they choose to appreciate it. Appreciation always feels good. But you should also be dressing so that you appreciate yourself. Not because you’ll look good to others, but because you feel good yourself. Life isn’t a show, it isn’t a competition. It isn’t something we’re supposed to necessarily look good for. Just go live. If you don’t feel like dressing up, then don’t—otherwise you have less freedom than a four year old. If you live by people’s praise you’ll die by their rejection. Create art for the sake of creating it, not for the reaction. Cook for your own palate, dress to your own comfort and taste. Stop trying to use all of these things to be accepted. You don’t need to be accepted. You were born perfect and every step you take is taken within the profound holiness of the universe’s infiniteness. Trust me, the universe is big enough that it can accommodate anything you’ll choose to wear on any given day. So don’t worry about what the rest of us think. Don’t even worry much about what you think. Just be instead. If you do that you’ll be more beautiful than even the most talented designer in the world could make you.

peace. s

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Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offence to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Other Perspectives #30

468 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - I think everybody should like everybody

Hey, I’m as much an Andy Warhol fan as the next guy, but because Andy had some cool things to say about the world doesn’t mean that every phrase he uttered is true. I love his sentiment here—it would be awesome if everyone liked everyone, but that would also make the world kind of boring. We need all types to make this world spin and you are one type and people you can’t stand are another type. So you can go ahead and not-like people and they can go ahead and not-like you. There’s nothing bad happening just because two people don’t see eye to eye. Sure, expand yourself by truly trying to understand someone else’s position. See if you can like everyone you meet. But if you realize that you just see things too differently, then do your best to mitigate any damage that might result and otherwise just limit your contact with the people with whom you have difficulty. Trust me, there’s no shortage of people you’ll be able to connect with as long as you’re doing your best to live outside of your judgmental ego. So like everyone you can, and forgive the rest for not matching your preferences, for it’s important to remember that you don’t match theirs either. 😉

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Producing Disappointment

I ways back I used to eat my porridge every morning in a greasy spoon near where I lived. An old farmer owned it and it was one of those totally unpretentious places where everyone knew everyone, the service was fast and friendly and it wasn’t unusual to have strangers at your table. I went in the morning of my 28th birthday and ended up sitting next to a huge Aboriginal guy who was quiet, but very friendly. He heard the staff wishing me a happy birthday and he asked me how old I was turning. When I told him he said, “Ah, 28. The year you learn to say ‘no.’”

453 Relax and Succeed - There is only one wayNot long after that I got a call from a billionaire that used to meet with me fairly regularly. He used to use my ability to notice strange patterns in things to help him make business decisions, although secretly I think he was actually more interested in the fact that my Dad is my hero and I think he wanted to know how to be a hero to his kids. This time the call was all business. He was greatly expanding his television network and he wanted me to come on board to help choose and develop future programming on the both the film and TV side. I had just come off a couple of movies and a few series, so I was due for a change and I agreed. What exactly I was agreeing to though, I did not fully comprehend.

Canada was/(still is?) the second largest exporter of TV worldwide after the US, but it was still a small enough industry that all of the steady working people knew most of the people in their region and a lot of us knew most of the people from one end of the country to the other. That closeness proved to be an interesting factor when it came time to do the job.

I had a budget that was the envy of the industry. I had the freedom to work in both free and pay TV, on series as well as features. It was the only job like it in the country and it brought virtually every type of producer into my office. On average we would receive about 1600+ submissions a year, we would develop maybe 25-50 and produce about a dozen, including series. Of course those numbers meant that I was saying “no” the vast majority of the time.

The trick was, I was saying no to my friends. People who I had grown up with in the industry. People I liked and respected. People close to me. And to each of those people their projects were generally the only thing they were working on. They had all of their eggs in that basket—their heart and soul was into it, and I would be the guy who would crush their dreams of ever getting or sustaining a mortgage.

453 Relax and Succeed - If nobody hates youBeing the guy I am I was able to appreciate that someone had to make the determination. They couldn’t give the money out on a first come first served basis. Nor could we do it alphabetically, or by script weight. Someone had to give an opinion about what they thought would work and the billionaire anointed me. I won’t say that I liked turning down my friends—or even the non-friends who I knew had worked super hard on their submissions. But this wasn’t a popularity contest. I had a job and my job was to pick things that would recoup their investments and it turned out I was extremely good at that. But that meant that I had to turn down development proposals that ended up destroying companies and careers. And it’s not like I didn’t turn away some heartfelt personal stories. And undoubtedly I was wrong many times. I crushed a lot of dreams being a success at that job.

When you’re responsible for money like that it’s strange. Everyone has theories about what they would do if they had the job, but it’s much different imagining spending one million dollars on Richard Chamberlain. It’s another thing altogether to actually be responsible for one million dollars for Richard Chamberlain. Because there is no way to actually calculate beforehand if he would be worth it (it turned out he was), and there was no shortage of people I’d turned down who disagreed. I also had to chastise lazy writers, and inform neophytes about what they didn’t know. I had to not cast people’s spouses and even for those that got money, they didn’t always get what they wanted.

People used to ask me if it bothered me that there were people that hated me for those decisions (and undoubtedly for differences in our personalities too). But the answer was no, it didn’t bother me. Why would it? No matter who I chose, someone wasn’t getting money. A lot of someones weren’t. The majority of someones weren’t. And so I made a lot more people angry than I made happy. But hey, that’s why it’s tough at the top. That’s why they pay you the big bucks. But bottom line, you can’t be who you are and also cater to the desires of everyone you meet. You have to be your own person. You have to have faith in yourself. Not to be 453 Relax and Succeed - Stop being afraid of what could go wronginfallible. But to realize that you’ve been given a job because it needs doing. And your job is to do it the best you can, which I did.

We won a lot of awards and set a few records while I was there, but that’s not why I felt successful. I felt—and continue to feel—successful because I chose those projects with great care and with tremendous respect for the money I was investing and for the work that had gone into the projects. I knew I couldn’t be right every time, but I was going to be right as often as I could.

You sense of self can’t come from the approval of others. If everyone likes your decisions then you’re not making any—or at least any of consequence. To make an omelet you have to crack a few eggs. You can’t focus on the cracked shells, you have to focus on your objective, and the objective wasn’t to reject things. I’m sure there were many money makers in the “no” pile. But again, I only had so much money. So rather than focus on who I disappointed, I focused on who I could help. And I’m pleased to say that I gave a start some very talented people who’ve gone on to great careers. But I couldn’t have done that if I wasn’t prepared to put myself out there to be criticized for my decisions. I get that. If I worked two years on something and it got rejected I would be upset too. And I might even call the person who did it some names for a few minutes after I found out about the rejection. But eventually that would wear off and I would know that someone had to choose, and they couldn’t say yes to everything and so it only makes sense that we all have a better chance of being in “no” pile.

453 Relax and Succeed - You are not designedDon’t let fears of being liked prevent you from doing what you think is right. You absolutely will be wrong quite often, just like all of us. But as long as you’re right more than you’re wrong, they let you keep playing the big sandbox.

I’m glad to be out of that now. I had a ton of fun at the height of the industry—just before the internet took the legs out from underneath the golden age. It was nice hotels, limos, cool festivals and real life movie stars. But you got none of that unless you were willing to have some writer scream obscenities at you in a hotel bar. You had to be willing to know that a good friend considered you the reason that her business failed. Again, everyone has their separate realities and it’s obvious I would be the villain in many people’s rejection narratives. But that’s like having someone mad at you because you don’t want to date them. You’re not saying they’re not worth anything. You’re just saying they don’t match you.

Don’t be a pleaser. Be yourself and those who love you will make ample room for your choices. You’re not here to make us happy, you’re here to make you happy. So respect people. Be empathetic to their pain. But as much as possible, don’t let the downsides dictate a decision. Just make the best decisions you can with the information you have and go from there. And just always remember that they could be right; you could be wrong. 😉

peace. s

Being Human

More comment than question: I find it interesting that even if the question has no relationship to my life I still always learn something important in every one of your answers. It always seems like there’s at least one or two sentences where I think, ‘wow I never thought of seeing it that way.’ I just wanted to say thanks.

signed,
Grateful Reader

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much! What writer wouldn’t like a compliment like that? And if you don’t mind, I would like to use your comment-not-question as a jumping off point for a discussion about something important. Something you referred to when you noted that every blog—regardless of the relevance of the question—seems to be helpful to you. I hear that all the time. And it speaks to how much the same we all are.

422 Relax and Succeed - Your emotions shouldn't be dictatingPsychological understanding is based on the fact that each psyche will be logical. What’s different are its available routes of thought, which are dictated by experience, and included in that will be how bold or timid someone might be, how informed about relevant information, how well they might reason, and what they might value. But they will all process their information in the same way everyone else will. They will feel whatever they think and they will mistake their beliefs for universal truths just like the rest of us do when we’re in a state of ego. Despite our differences, we are all the same in how we create our egos.

The range of human feeling that we refer to as emotions are fabricated from language. Fear is primal—it keeps us alive. It is a feeling. Anger is fear turned aggressive and this is used to attack for defensive purposes and possibly for acquiring food. Love is what breeds compassion and care which leads to survival which leads to continuing this adventure which is, deep down, the point. But we share all of our feelings with most of the rest of the world, animals included. Emotions are distinctly human and they emerge from the complexities of language.

The very thing that we proudly display as what separates us from animals, is the same thing that makes the animals healthier than us. Because worrying that there might be a bear near where you’re hunting is one thing. But being afraid that your boss will yell at you because you were late because your daughter threw up on you just before you left for work—well that’s something entirely different. One is about literally not existing and the other is about clashing in imaginary psychological space. And yet language causes us to use the same neuro-chemicals for 422 Relax and Succeed - I am in charge of how I feelboth. One can kill us, the other is just something we imagine, and yet we walk around treating them equally simply because our biology hasn’t caught up to our ability to invent things like words, abstract concepts and languages.

We have to stop seeing ourselves and others as the individual thought patterns we were trained to be by experience. Yes, this sets your initial course. But as soon as you are actively conscious you can choose your direction. You can shape your personality. To surrender that idea as though it is impossible is to be like the guy who throws his frozen computer out the window, as though the hardware is the problem rather than the software. We can always introduce patches to the software. But we should look at other people as processors of information with filters made of belief systems, and because we ourselves are looking through a similar distorting lens, we find are left completely unable to find a fixed place to judge from, and so once we have that realization we can relax into simply being. There’s nothing wrong anymore. There is no way to judge. Things just are. It’s stunningly healthy.

I appreciate you sending in the generous compliment. But I also appreciate that it fed nicely into something I’ve been looking for a question on, because I think it’s an important principle worthy of everyone’s consideration: emotions confuse and misguide life, being guided by feeling leads to an authentic life. It’s worth being able to tell the difference.

Thanks again for the kind words.  Have yourself a wonderful day, week, month and year.

peace and love, s

Under New Management

I’m an MBA grad with a new job leading a team of people who have been with the company for between 7 and 24 years. I have absolutely no idea what to say to them. I have no idea what leading them looks like. I don’t want to overcompensate and become an asshole when in actuality I’m 100% terrified. Do you have any advice on how I should approach this?

signed,
Worried Grad

Dear Worried,

Good for you to recognize what you don’t know. Now people can help you. When that happens we form quality bonds with people, and that will be good for you as a part of your process to fit into an already established culture. Remember though, without you meaning to, any plans you make will inevitably impact the pecking order of the society. So don’t go in thinking there’s 400 Relax and Succeed - Leadership is not a positionsome miracle way for you to avoid a shakeup. Managing is like herding cats. And a new cat-herder is definitely something that will shake the group up.

The single thing you can do that will save you the most grief—and that will help you tap into what will make your team work their hardest and best—is to remember they aren’t employees, they are people who choose to work for you. Some choose it because they need money, but if they’re lazy you soon get rid of them. We’re going to talk about the productive people you actually want to keep.

Yes you pay them, but if they’re good they’ll have other options. So remember that they volunteer to come in to your workplace each day and if you’re constantly complaining about their performance they won’t log into their bank account to see your last deposit to make them feel better. They’ll just start to resent you. Companies have to remember that they are also a culture, and if their culture is unhealthy it won’t matter much what productivity or profitability targets are set. It’s not the managers that make the money, it’s the employees. Managers are oil. Employees are engine. They are mobile and will drive to another workplace if the oil is more refined elsewhere.

This same logic goes for negotiation as well as leadership—always take time to seriously consider the perspective of the person you are leading (or negotiating with). They generally earn a lot less than you and are more likely to have financial challenges that would be difficult for someone of your age to comprehend. There will also be health issues that can show up in the 40’s and progress from there. The men are different from the women, the single from the 400 Relax and Succeed - Boss vs Leaderpartnered, the young from the more mature etc. etc. Each comes with their own unique challenges. But what’s important from your perspective is not to always and exclusively think about how the company will benefit—you’ve already done that, that’s why you’re asking the employee whatever you’re asking them for. You should also be thinking about how it impacts the employee’s specific life. So if they have three young kids and you’ve offered them more money for more time, then in their world that raise might not be worth the time away from their children. Or they might think it is and change their mind. Because in the end, their work is only what they do to pay for the life they lead when they’re not at work. It’s good for work to remember that.

In study after study, Salary is second and Title/Power is third, but the main reason why people stay at or leave the companies they work for is Appreciation or a lack thereof. As previously noted, an employee’s day isn’t spent studying his bank deposits. Work is a third of his or her 400 Relax and Succeed - True leaders don't create followerswaking existence and it’s reasonable that they would want to feel like they were safe,supported,respected and cared about. A lot of managers balk at the last one, claiming it’s not their responsibility to care for their employees. I’m not going to waste energy debating the semantics of the phrase “care for” but I’m not talking about what you have to do, I’m talking about what works.

Doubling someone’s salary will not have as big an impact as doubling that employee’s sense that you are seeing and recognizing the good work they are doing, or that you understand the pressures they are under. Because yes there are people who might need different types of training, but in my experience most people are genuinely interested in doing a good job regardless of what their boss wants. So you can see we don’t have to make them work or force them to maintain quality. If they love their work they will do those things because they care. And they will care if you will care back because that’s how human beings are built.

Remember that it is important to ensure that the employees can actually sense your connection to them. If they only time they see you is to get in trouble for being behind schedule, or when you stop to show them your new six-digit car or pictures from your scuba-diving trip to the Maldives, then plain and simple they won’t feel respected or cared for. The suspicious conflict between the request for greater performance and the clear benefits to the manager of the current performance leads employees to feel whipped. To them it’s as though they never 400 Relax and Succeed - No one has every made himselfgot their chance to celebrate their successes—even if that was pure survival—and now they’re being asked for more. And if you’re new and they’ve been there a long time, then it’s even worse because they hear this plea for yet another record month twelve times a year for 15 years. It starts to wear pretty thin if work isn’t a fun place to be.

This is really pretty simple, and the only people that have a bigger challenge with it are really shy people. It takes them a while, but the nice thing is that it also leads them to being considerably less shy. All you have to do is spend time with the people. You have to watch them work. Help them. Listen to them. Understand what their day actually looks like. Don’t design the new receptionist’s desk—let a really organized receptionist do it. Congratulate an employee with a smiling handshake when their child graduates. Don’t make a big demand on an employee the same day their dog was put to sleep. And if they work for you you should know if their dog was put to sleep. Because if you don’t genuinely care about these people then your boss made a mistake giving you the job. Because the best managers always care.

Don’t make any sort of decision without thinking about how it impacts the day of the people that will have to enact it because that will be a key indicator of how sustainable the idea is. You would be amazed at how one small change can drastically cut the morale in a company. And it’s hard to recover something like that. Just respect that they have lives and their job is only one part of that. So if they’re asked in over a weekend so you can essentially get free movers to move your office five floors up in the same building, then remember they gave something up for that. Even if you paid them. They gave up rest and recuperation time, family connection time, hobby pursuit time, sports time, time in nature time—time away from you, or whatever. Again, their lives are more than their jobs. So if they come in on a weekend then you should too, and it400 Relax and Succeed - Before you're a leader wouldn’t be a bad idea to make them all hot dogs in a funny hat. Because the less you feel like a boss and more you feel like a trusted and respected friend, the better.

You’re off to a good start because you’ve admitted you’re rather appropriately terrified. Don’t be afraid to let them know that too. People can be quite helpful. Yes you’ll find a couple will try to take advantage, but it’s better that you find out who those people are right away anyway. You still may want to keep all of them, but at least you’ll know what their personal angles are in most cases. The rest will likely rally around you. Some definitely won’t like you. There’s contrarians everywhere. Everyone’s different and they all glance off of you at different angles, and their life context is constantly in flux on top of all that. Being a Manager is not neat and tidy. It’s more like being a kindergarten teacher. A lot of stuff gets stuck to you.

You know how you learn this best? By doing it. I’ve given you what I find is the single most useful awareness to maintain when devising strategies for your business. You need them to genuinely buy in to your direction and your plan to get there. You need a reason for them to care. Without it I can’t imagine how you could lead such a disparate, fluctuating tribe anywhere productive.

It’ll be terrifying. It’ll feel fantastic. It’ll feel foreboding. It’ll feel good. And it will slowly feel more and more like you. You’ll be fine. Take a healthy lunch and eat with your team.

peace. s

Trying Not To Hate

I can’t stand a woman I work with. All she does is complain all day about everything and everybody. I’ve sat next to her since I started a few weeks ago and it doesn’t matter who she’s talking to the conversation’s all negative. She criticizes all of us and she has an opinion about every subject in the world. I’m starting to hate her and I know that’s not a good thing for me. What would you recommend I do in a situation like that?

signed,
Trying Not to Hate

Dear Trying,

How wise of you to be proactive about the feelings you were experiencing throughout your work day. I’m very impressed. And your situation is a common one so it’s good that a lot of people will be able to read about it and we can start to change everyone’s days for the better.

382 Relax and Succeed - I have decided to stick with loveFirst off, of course we all know people like this. They won’t talk about the fact that the warm weather’s a day away, they’ll tell you that the cold weather has lasted over a week. And if it’s been warm, they won’t talk about enjoying that weather, they’ll tell you about how they dread what’s coming. Essentially any subject will be referred to in critical, judgmental, opinionated, habitual ways. Early on in life too many things got wired into negativity. These are people who are very unlikely to have had healthy home lives. Essentially what you’re hearing and seeing on the outside is a direct reflection of what’s going on in the inside too. One is the shadow of the other.

Of course the person this bothers the most is the woman herself. By repetitively and consistently choosing that course-of-thought she guarantees herself a steady dose of the sort of brain and body chemistry that is hard on a person. Stress is not a good thing. To be negative is to not accept what is. It is pushing back against the Tao—the current of life—and it feels like swimming upstream because, in a cosmic way, that’s exactly what it is. She’s torturing herself with chemicals and she isn’t even aware of it. The problem for us is that she’s infected you.

At least the fix is easy. You have to reinvent her in your imagination. You have to see her a different way. Right now you’re turning what she is as being about you or having something to do with you. Such is not the case. She just is. Everyone is just a marionette for their thoughts and she’s no different. So don’t let her get you thinking in negative terms. Instead, watch her like an entomologist might watch an insect. (I don’t mean that derogatorily, I just want something we wouldn’t have cuddly feelings about.) Be passive. The scientist doesn’t think the insect is putting on a performance for him. It is simply being what it is and he is watching it in an attempt to understand it better. Do that with her.

382 Relax and Succeed - It's all about loveActually learn to watch how she forms the negativity. Understand how she hears things and what word choices she makes. You’ll see that she’s not negative, she just sees the world through very dirty glasses and so she’s just calling it as she honestly sees it. You’ll also catch her doing it to herself. Or maybe you’ll catch her doing the exact oppositeshe’ll never say anything negative about herself because she just can’t stand that anymore. But whichever one it is it will have grown out of how she was treated when she was little.

As you watch her more closely you also might notice that her life is very small and repetitive. Angry negative critical people don’t get invited out a lot, and not many people want to be their friends except other angry negative critical people. But they’re generally quite isolated both literally and figuratively. You may spot a sign of some kind of passion flickering under the armour. And it will be something warm. Something gentle and kind. Plants, horses, a faux romance with a movie star, romance novels, cats. There will be some attempt to find some warmth. Which is the basis of Step Two.

In Step Two, now that you’re not taking the way she is so personally, you can choose to make an attempt to impact your environment in a positive way. There’s no guarantee it will work because she has to actually change her thinking and you don’ t control that. But you can influence it. At this point the fact that she won’t attract a lot of friends will mean it will be easier for you to have an effect.

382 Relax and Succeed - Water is the softest thingAll you have to do is engage her in those one or two subjects where she can find joy. Talk about those with her. Build a positivity bond between you and her so that when she sees your face she associates it with happiness. Because there will be chemical bleed. If she’s just been super happy because she was having a discussion about Arabian stallions, then if a co-worker walks up and asks her something, rather than her being in her usual negative state of mind she’ll be in a positive one and so her first response is far more likely to be warmer. That’s how we all work.

So watch her, find out what makes her happy, engage her with that and then continue to watch her learn to see things in more positive ways. The great thing about it is it will help keep you mindful too. Because if you’re watching her then you won’t be creating a you with your thinking. You’ll simply be Being. And in that state you’ll notice a lot. So use what you learn to keep things steered toward the positive and you’ll slowly start to rewire her understanding of the world to include more positive responses.

She’ll be bad at it at first and you’ll feel like you’re failing but in reality it takes a while to build speed. It’ll start off that you’ll be excited to hear anything positive. And then you’ll get bits of days where she’s pretty good. And it will build and build (with the odd tumble backwards too), and within about three months you can have had quite a shift happen already. And if you maintained it she would be pretty nicely rewired within a year. She would still have times where she was down and negative, but once people have been truly happy they don’t want to stay in negativity anymore. She only stays there now because she’s never truly known happiness. But after she changes, she’ll let herself be negative for a while, but she’ll eventually shift by choice simply because she’ll know how. Because you’ll have taught her.

That’s a pretty good bet anyway.

Good luck with it. Negativity is an insidious thing. I’m glad you’re being proactive about defending your life. It’s too short to waste any of it hating anyone. Give her my love.

peace. s

 

The Tribe at Work

I just started a new job and the people there have been super rude. They’re not friendly at all and I’ve been going out of my way to try and be nice and helpful but it’s not making any difference. How can I show these people that I’m a good person?
I’m a team player I just need a fair chance.

signed,
New Tribesperson

Dear Tribesperson,

I used the term “Tribesperson” because that’s actually a better way to think of it. It’s a collection of co-workers that will have an established social structure. So no matter who you are or how valuable you are or how nice you are, you’re new, so you’re the one disrupting the social order. This is a very subtle but powerful force. And the negative feelings you’re picking up on relate to the fact that your arrival forced the change they have to manage. You can’t really call it “fair” or “unfair,” but it’s how groups work.

374 Relax and Succeed - Be yourself no matter whatSo you can’t take what’s happening personally for the reasons above. No amount of effort on your part can change the fact that because you showed up everyone else has been forced into refitting themselves into a new shape that accommodates you. Some of them might even blame you for their revised position on the social totem pole. But there’s nothing you can do about other people’s judgments. You’ll find out who your friends are there by just being your authentic self. That way people like you can recognize themselves in you and that’s easily enough to ignite a good friendship.

So if you get what I’m saying there, then that pretty much takes care of work. You just need to give it some time. But I want to shift to the more important principle that guides this whole discussion. We can’t live our lives wanting to be liked. Then what do you do if you’re among a bunch of Nazi’s? Do you really want to be liked by them? You have to live your life being yourself. I know that can sound ridiculously obvious, but since I’m writing it here maybe it’s an idea worth revisiting.

Very few people are ever being themselves. Most people are providing performances for the people around them. Maybe they’re painfully lonely, and yet when someone asks how they are they answer, “Great!” However people do it, egos are afraid of judgment and so they try to be all things to all people that are deemed worthwhile. The people we deem not-worthwhile are those asking us to do things we won’t get in line with. So the friends we’ll make depend on their “personality,” and yet “their personality” overwhelmingly depends on “our judgment,” and our judgment hinges on our own personality. So no one is seeing anyone clearly—we’re all dependent on each other in a way, and we simply tend to align ourselves with people that push us the way we prefer to be pushed, and pulled the way we prefer to be pulled. And because 374 Relax and Succeed - Keep knocking and the joy insidewe feel “closer” to those people, we call them friends and we begin to develop attachments to them. But….

Freedom isn’t having the same friends for a zillion years, freedom is when you move from authentic interaction to authentic interaction. It’s like being in love with everyone you communicate with. But to do that you have to lower all of your barriers to your natural self. You have to stop believing in your description of your own personality. You have to stop believing that you are some things and that you are not other things. Drop those beliefs and you’ll be free to connect on a deeper level with anyone.

I understand the compulsion to do so. We all do it sometimes. But as much as you are able, don’t get caught up in your internal narrative soap operas about who likes who. Just be your authentic self as much as possible. The cool part about that is that you can still have long-term friendships with other people who also live authentically and those are the richest friendships of all.

Relax, be yourself and enjoy life. That will be plenty attractive. The rest leave up to nature. 😉

peace. s

Peaceful Friendships

I’m a very honest and direct person. I love my friends but I can’t actually be honest around them because they don’t like to hear the truth. How can I be me and be honest
and still keep my friends?

signed,
Honestly Friendly

Dear Friendly,

What an awesome question. It looks so easy and straightforward and yet it’s huge. Let’s start with something simple like: defining the truth. What you mean is, you give them your honest opinion. Because the only real Truth is that there is no central, objective Truth. The only Truth is that we all create our 339 Relax and Succeed - Being honest may not get youpsychological experiences the same way. We are largely blind to other perspectives and so it is impossible for us to evaluate which Truth is best. So I applaud you being honest, I just want to make sure we’re not mistaking that for the Truth.

Secondly, I’m not suggesting that you should devalue your Truth just because it is only your own. Your view is legitimately yours and it is equal to all others. Now in the external world other people might appear to have power due to the illusions created by ego, so to live with others you might have to live with someone else’s opinion, but there is nothing they can do to make you agree with it. You can carry out work or activities without believing they are the best choice. So regardless of whether you are disagreeing with one person or one million, you still always maintain the capacity to think your own thoughts and to therefore form your own entirely legitimate reality.

Third, can you see your want in there? You want to keep your friends. You can’t be living in the moment if you’re thinking like that. Because keeping means you’re imagining a future where you still have the friends you have now. But if you’re thinking about a future then you’re not focused on now. And yet if you focus on now it’s amazing how wise you are. You’ll do more useful, smart and productive things from that head-space than any other. So you don’t really want this attachment to your friends anyway.

Can you see how you think you desire your friendships and yet you are actually trapped by them? You clearly wrote that being with your friends necessitates you not being yourself. Who doesn’t want to relax and be themselves? So if you can’t fully relax and be accepted by your friends then maybe these aren’t your friends. Not to say that you can’t be super friendly with them. Not to say you can’t love them. But your friends will accept you—all of you. And even then….

339 Relax and Succeed - We are all cellsHave you heard of The Peace Pilgrim? On New Years Day of 1953 Mildred Ryder left her life behind and started walking across America as The Peace Pilgrim. By 1964 she had already walked more than 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) and she walked steadily until 1981! She obviously met thousands and thousands of people along the way as she was offered food and lodging. She would have met all of these strangers and yet her interactions would have been authentic. Because they did not think they knew her they gave her the freedom to be herself, whereas you have performed being a less-direct and less-honest version of yourself for the world and so your friends now expect that person instead of you.

So go ahead and keep your friends. But know that you’re only in a healthy relationship if you’re free to be yourselves. Because no one can tell Mildred that she wasn’t loved by people in deep and meaningful ways. So it’s not how long you’re with someone that counts. It’s how authentic the connection is. And that authenticity naturally emerges any time you openly express your Truth. Whether you’ve known the person for 5 minutes or five years.

Have yourself a wonderful day.

peace. s