The Parent Trap

1224 Relax and Succeed - We must accomodateYou’re a parent and obviously you want to do a great job of raising your kid. Or maybe you know a parent who’s trying to do that. Either way, people have no idea what the future will look like so it’s essentially impossible to raise a kid for success. About all anyone can do is raise their children to be flexible enough that they can thrive in any future.

My grandmother lived on the prairies before steam powered machines hit the farms. One bad growing season and people in her generation literally starved to death in the middle of Canada. My parents both served in and obviously survived, WWII. Not all their siblings did as well. For my parent’s generation and all the generations before them, being a good parent was pretty straightforward: keep the kids alive, and try to teach them some basics about staying alive and getting along with others.

That was it. No books, no manuals, no classes. There weren’t different philosophies or theories to follow or adhere to. There were no real major rules to be broken as a parent as long as your kid wasn’t a criminal. And most people turned out pretty healthy and certainly happier than people test as today. Today it’s much different. Today there’s a lot of choice available regarding parenting styles.

1224 Relax and Succeed - A bad moment and bad dayStyles. Before, when two parents met for lunch, one parent could see the other parent’s kids were alive and they’d talk as two adults about things unrelated to their kids. Today people meet and fretfully discuss the latest article they read that either promises the path to certain success or that explains what is certain to lead to disaster. It’s all very binary, as though parenting is either good or bad when really it’s neither.

As much as we like to dress it all up in psychological terminology, “parenting” a child is really them just the kid mimicking or reverse-mimicking whatever the caregiver does. Parents are simply the child’s most common examples of human behaviour. So if someone truly wants to be a great parent, other than loving their child, they should simply let the child be and focus instead on being the best person–and best example–they can be.

Oh, and as you’re trying to be that great example, don’t forget that when you do set a bad example, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it because that sets another bad example. Instead we should accept our responsibility and know it felt bad because it was out of alignment with who we really are. And if we have that feeling, then the child will be parented just fine. Accept mistakes as lessons and move on. Because even if that was the only skill you taught your child, they would have learned a lot.

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.

Wrestling With Life

He had been that way since the 1970’s but I had no idea he was hugely famous until I moved to Australia. I was just horsing around with a buddy at my uncle’s and when I grabbed him in a mock headlock I said, “Bret Hart throws him in a sleeper,” and the two kids in the room just exploded in excitement at the idea of an adult that would voluntarily mention Bret Hart. Likewise, I couldn’t believe two Australian kids would even know who he was.

Now I’m not into wrestling at all, but I come from Alberta, and if you’re from here it was almost impossible not to know about the huge clan of Hart children and their father, Stu. They ran the Stampede Wrestling League out of Calgary, the birthplace of modern technical wrestling. And then Bret took over worldwide wrestling for a few decades. So why should you care?

There’s a great lesson in Bret’s life. Here we have a guy famous for being very polite and kind (when not playing part of his character’s role). He’s intelligent, he comes from a big, hard-working family with a great work ethic, plus he’s a respectful, likeable person. He became a huge star and made a ton of money. It seems like a dream life if you’re okay with the wrestling part.

Bret has respect, admiration, good parents, physical prowess, intelligence, business sense, financial success and he’s well liked. None of that protected him from a two divorces, a bicycling accident that lead to a debilitating stroke, and very recently he was diagnosed with cancer. And while all that’s going on, I heard him mention in an interview that his body is pretty badly banged up from all of those years in the ring and he’s in a lot of pain. So again, he sounds like a nice guy but what’s this got to do with your psychological health?

I would submit to you that the reason Bret has been so successful is that he has a great attitude. I don’t mean every second of every day, I mean overall. We can’t judge people by when their stone skips off a surface when that’s a tiny portion of how far they go.  That’s just the price Bret was willing to pay for his success. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as he accepts it, and he seems to do that with the same grace he did all his training with. He just digs in and does it.

But look at what got him to where he is. Note how double-edged every decision is. Bret’s great work ethic lead to a broken body. Maybe his success contributed some to his divorce. Maybe his money made it harder for his kids to trust that their friends were real. There’s all kinds of negative spinoffs out of everyone’s life choices.

Even a good work ethic and dedication to one’s career had downsides, so do you see how life works? You’re not supposed to avoid the downsides. Those are inevitable. That’s not what failing is.

Failing is not living; Bret Hart has really lived. Pain is mandatory in life, so rather than whine about it, just ask yourself if you’re in a situation where the pain seems appropriate both for its reasons and its duration. And then if it is: just feel it. It’ll hurt, but it won’t last as long as the agony of resisting.

Don’t avoid life because you don’t want to get hurt. You will get hurt. But it’ll hurt a lot worse if you die with your life left unlived. Go.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Compassionate Management

There’s been a lot of studies done on what makes businesses succeed and–what a surprise–it’s the same thing that allows any group of people to succeed. And note I said allows and not causes. People will naturally surprise us with their capability, the only question is; just how skilled is a leader at finding those opportunities?

1024-relax-and-succeed-a-bad-manager-can-take-a-good-staffEvidence of this can easily be seen when a new manager takes over an old group. The very same group of people that the previous manager felt were useless can suddenly become superstars–why? Very often it’s because they stopped being managed like they were in the military and they started being managed like they’re human beings rather than human doings.

Bad leaders think people do things for them, good leaders know that in a good team all of the people are working together toward a common, meaningful goal. In one scenario the staff work for the leader and in the other all of them work for each other. In one case their job title is ordered to perform a business function and in the other some human beings cooperate to get something done that’s of mutual benefit.

Many times management will be so off target that they won’t even have considered the texture and feel of their employee’s day. All the manager sees is their own to-do list and they imagine that all of these people have been gathered under them to help them get their manager’s list taken care of. Ordering something get done is not management, it’s just orders, and those you can get from a machine.

1024-relax-and-succeed-if-people-are-goodWeaker managers will often be baffled about what else they would even do other than get their own lists done. They just see work; you do this, he does that, she does the other thing. There is no philosophy driving the work or how it’s done, it’s just a daily list.

Meanwhile, a stronger manager realises that the work day is generally at least 1/3rd of their co-workers lives, which is close to the number of waking hours people will spend with a spouse. Ordering consistently unmotivated work to be done in an unmotivated fashion is the same thing as covering the windshield and then telling the staff where you want them to drive. They can understand the directions and maybe even find it on their GPS, but that doesn’t help them negotiate the daily traffic of their lives. The problem for the weaker manager is that they’re only managing their own life and not the lives of everyone that works for them.

As an example, let’s say a mom returning from maternity leave has returned to work. She’s capable, hard-working and liked by her co-workers, but she starts coming in late. A bad boss draws her attention to her lateness and then possibly sets some kind of penalty. She tries to explain the challenges created by where her daycare moved to, but the manager doesn’t really listen to how the woman’s windshield is covered. Maybe she’s a woman too and she raised kids and worked, so she doesn’t see the problem. So she tells the woman to get to work despite the covered windshield, as though there’s no limits to managing around a kid.

Around a kid. A manager should hear that come out of their mouth and know immediately that’s gotta be wrong. The manager is asking a parent to value their work more than their child. Now the bad manager would say that’s not what they’re doing, but that’ll just be their beliefs about themselves. There’ll be a but… in there for the manager. Yeah, I know she’s gotta a new kid and that’s challenging, but she still has to get her work done…. So the manager basically says; your problem, not work’s. And technically that’s true, especially in countries that don’t even have mandatory support for maternity leave.

A manager is best to try to help solve their employee’s challenge because something being technically correct isn’t actually very useful to a manager. Technical correctness is a term for things that look like they should work but they’re missing some humanity. A poor manager sees the staff like buckets of skills that you fill with work. The staff see work as a major part of their life and they absolutely will respond positively to any co-worker/manager who finds a way to make that daily experience more enriching.

If you’re on a staff somewhere, figure out if your manager is trying to build a team and if you’re cooperating with that effort or putting yourself first. Because you may very well end up further behind by putting yourself first. And if you’re a manager somewhere, make sure that you also are not putting yourself first. You will be rewarded well for any efforts you make toward ensuring that the people you work with have an environment that is generally understanding, constructive, pleasant, supportive, and rewarding. And fortunately, creating even one of those things often leads to the others developing quite naturally.

Now go get on a team. It feels good to surrender your wants for almost any goal achieved in cooperation with others. And a good manager knows that.

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.

Fitting In

We all know that cloying feeling of wanting to fit in. We imagine a warm feeling, like a blanket that covers every part of us. The revelation is when we really go from intellectually knowing to truly understanding that absolutely everyone–within their own reality–feels the same way we do. They experience the same emotions all of us do. No one escapes, everyone wins.

757 Relax and Succeed - We all live with the objectiveYes, the people you feel are super confident, the ones who seem to fit in everywhere with everyone? They experience the pain of not fitting in too. Yup. Everyone feels like the outsider sometimes. And our identity is the narrative story we tell ourselves to explain our out or in-ness.

Our natural desire to belong is a healthy drive toward cooperation that has been turned ugly by modern life. We used to all live together and share, now we all live in separated boxes called houses that we have to pay for, many people are alone, everyone works and everyone has artificial light tricking their brain into thinking it’s daytime. So first people have insomnia and then they’re exhausted all day. Where is there any connection in that? Where is the value in that?

The truth is, if you have feelings of disconnection and longing you just have to understand them correctly. That isn’t you failing at life. You’re not failing at the Rat Race. You don’t add that lack of connection into your pathetic narrative of you–you use that feeling as an indicator of what is really going on. It’s feedback for steering your life. It’s feedback for taking action.

757 Relax and Succeed - The more I traveledIf you feel longing then don’t assume you’re a failure–go find people to be with. If you’re unhealthy, don’t beat yourself up. Use that same energy to join a running or cycling group. If you’re just lonely, go to one of those board games clubs, go bowling, take some classes in a field of interest, learn to paint in a class, walk your dog in a dog park during busy times. Whatever.

Don’t blame yourself for having human feelings in an inhuman world. You’re healthy and correct to be pushing back against many modern bits of life. If you could break free of all of your programming you would be absolutely amazed at how much of our lives are a bizarre collection of rules created by us, for us. Even the keyboard I’m writing to you on is laid out to slow typists down because typewriter keys used to jam.

But after the world’s typists had learned how to work around the machine by training their fingers to move rather unnaturally, there was no way anyone wanted to learn a new machine pattern and re-train their fingers and brains when we changed to computers. So instead of being healthy, we do what modernization tells us to. Then when we don’t feel connected to others we attack ourselves instead of the frameworks we live under.

757 Relax and Succeed - Comparison is the theif of joyWe don’t need to find out how to be better to feel better. We have to get conscious and start caring about the world and our place in it in a different way. A way that prioritizes how life feels and not how well we fit into a larger patterns. The things we’re taught to do as a society are acts surrounding life but they are not life itself. Those things are representations. But that’s like saying a Profit and Loss Statement is the same as the business itself, rather than saying it is a picture of the business taken from very specific angles that show some things and hide others–as every perspective does.

Don’t look to be more popular or more successful or hipper. Those are illusions. Try to make your life more humane instead. Ask yourself what brings you joy as a person and then look to build opportunities for that to happen into your daily life. Create connections with others that are meaningful and personal and deep. I’ve said it here before: the two dates on a tombstone are brackets. The dash in between is your life. It’s shorter than you think, so start living it like it’s yours–because it is.

peace. s

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

Scott’s Favourite Questions of 2014 #2

718 SFQ14 Relax and Succeed - The first 40 years

This blog got on my top 3 list for the very simple reason that several dear friends of mine in their 30’s found it profoundly informative when it came to contextualizing the challenges they were facing in life. Relationships, careers, our families—these are all things that our growing maturity views in completely new ways. Thanks to that new perspective we come to need drastically new ideas about how to live. I certainly hope many of you find it as liberating as many others have. It’s a holiday here, so I would like to close by wishing my fellow Canadians a warm and happy Canada Day! Enjoy everyone!

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Scott’s Top
Questions of 2014 #2

peace. s

Other Perspectives #70

696 OP Relax and Succeed - Life is too short

Hey, odds are I know how to get and stay happy better than you and even I would never set a crazy expectation like this. It’s a nice basic idea but if you go in by defining success as you being happy then failure is any time you’re not happy. But now you’re trapped because you can’t even know that success exists unless you know failure exists. But failure doesn’t use happiness to imprint itself on you. Different emotions imprint different types of experiences. Thinking you’re failing because you’re sad is like thinking a book you wrote is bad because of the librarian who filed it. That’s just who files it. One’s not better versus worse. It’s not this librarian is smarter than that one—your librarian is never wrong, they just understand more about the library than you. But your ignorance causes your ego to divide them up into the librarians you like versus the one’s you don’t like. So there’s the happy librarian versus the sad one, the calm one versus the angry one etc. etc.. But they aren’t actually good or bad. They just handle the books of experience that are appropriate to them. It was your ego that placed them in categories. The librarians don’t rank themselves. They don’t think happy is better than sad nor should you. Because if you’re going to sit in judgment of your librarians—of your own mind, of your own self—then you will criticize them for ever including failure in your library. And yet we’ve already established that you need some failure, so that very criticism of the librarians ends up just being a source of more failure and negativity. That causes the library to receive more of the types of books that will be carried by the librarians you don’t like. So don’t try to build an all-happy library. That’s a myth. Build one you can really enjoy, and that one doesn’t have more of this kind of book versus that kind of book, it just has lots and lots and lots of books. Because it turns out that reading (read: living) a lot is what leads the universe to deliver more of the books of experience that you enjoy the most. So by just reading your painful books without complaint you will actually cause more enjoyable ones to be delivered. So go have yourself an awesome day by accepting all of your emotions. That will allow them to be quickly filed so that you can get on to your next book/moment. Because in the end life is never about our judgment of the books, the real secret is that life is about the reading.

peace. s

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Values for Living

People often wonder, am I doing the right thing? Is there something better or more important I should be doing? We’re always asking the world who it wants us to be and it’s sitting there looking impassively at us, waiting for us to be the only thing we ever could be—ourselves.

668 Relax and Succeed - They say love is the best investmentIf you want to calculate the value of anything you’re doing you have to put it into terms of time. That’s your limited resource. It’s how much of that you’ll pay that determines how valuable you actually believe something is. So if you’re a $1,000 dollar an hour lawyer and you buy your wife a $350 dollar dress then you’ve invested about 20 minutes in her, whereas if you hand made her a birthday card that might take you two hours plus the time buying the craft supplies at the store plus the time to earn the money for that, so in that case the card would be worth more than the dress.

This not only applies to relationships with our lovers, but also the relationships we have with our children, or even our employees or co-workers. You can work to get a promotion that results in more hours but higher pay so that your kid can ride in a nicer car, or those hours can be spent at a less stressful job and more of that time can be invested in spending nows with the actual kid. Using this scale I think you can easily see that most of the Western world is wasting their lives on things that ultimately have no value. No one lays on their death bed wishing for more time in a mall or on social media. They want more time with their brother, or their wife or their son.

Every day you make choices regarding where you invest the time of your life. Like a vein of gold running through rock you have no idea when your lifetime will come to an end. And so starting to spend it more wisely is something that should be done as soon as possible. Do not always assume there will be more time. The vein will eventually be emptied. The answer that defines your life is, what did you invest your time in?

668 Relax and Succeed - It is no bad thingStart calculating your life based on how much time you’re giving to the different aspects of your life. Is enough going towards sleep? And how about food? Is enough going toward buying, preparing and paying for quality food? And is your time spent repetitively, or on debts for things that no longer assist us you in being happy? Because you need far less than you realize. If you slow down the rate of your desires you’ll be able to shift into the speed of life. This is where the most valuable thing is: connection. Maybe it’s you connecting to nature. Maybe it’s you connecting to your lover, or your family or to your friends. Or maybe it’s you connecting to yourself. That’s what life is. The time spent in those states of interplay with other aspects of the universe—that is when you are alive. Owning things has absolutely nothing to do with that. Those are the decorations around life but they are not life itself.

Spend less time adorning your life and talking about your past or future choices and start making choices in the moment you are in. Stop commentating on your life and others and start living as a verb instead. Don’t have a lifetime of items and opinions at the end of your time here on Earth. Have a lifetime of experiences. Have a lifetime of living.

668 Relax and Succeed - I was dyingSo many are bound up by thoughts about the paths that they believe were theirs to happiness. But there is no path to happiness. Happiness is how we walk any path. It is a choice to accept everything that comes and not argue with it because it steals our attention away from the experience we would otherwise be having. Talking about life is not living life. Decorating life is not living life. Being in the moment you are in is the only way we can actually live our lives consciously. The sooner we realize that the sooner we do it and the sooner our decisions start to more closely reflect who we truly are.

What are you currently investing your time in? What does that say about your values? Because we can make all the excuses we want, but where our time is is where our heart is and possessions don’t have a heart. Even the people in our life must be freely choosing to spend their time with us before a connection is truly achieved. Love cannot be possessed. It can only be lived and experienced as a collection of decisions about how we chose to invest the value of our lifetime.

peace. s