The Horns of a Dilemma

1020-relax-and-succeed-this-wayIn every life people will reach big moments where they have to choose between two very different opportunities that are mutually exclusive. It could look like a great new job in your old field versus an entry-level job in an industry you’ve always want to work in, or maybe you have to decide between a job opportunity and love. Maybe it’s between having a baby or not. There’s lots of ways we can be stuck trying to decide the undecideable.

To decide comes from French and before that, Latin, and it essentially means to cut off. So you have reached a point in a path of life where one path necessarily cuts you off from another. It’s either this or that but never both. We think what is painful is our inability to see far enough down the path to know which one works out better, but just that thought means we believe that a decision today will determine the rewards in our life later, when that’s just not true.

The notion of a path to success and a path to failure misunderstand what it is to succeed and what it is to fail. Your life is a set of experiences, not a set of gradings by you or anyone else. No one can tell an elementary school teacher who loves their job that they should have chosen something more valuable, because they are the one enjoying their job. That joy is a feeling they experience, it isn’t a theoretical gain in people’s imagination. Being called successful isn’t the same as feeling a real connection to your own life.

1020-relax-and-succeed-if-you-cannot-do-great-thingsYou being important happens in other people’s heads, your daily joy is in your head. How others–or even a changing you with your fluctuating priorities–view your life choices from a distance isn’t as important as how much you enjoy those choices in the individual moments you’re in. So it’s not the path that’s good or bad, it’s your walking of it.

There’s a lot of people trying to improve their life through better life-choices at key moments rather than trying to improve it moment by moment. Even terrible marriages that are better abandoned will still have a lot of fun and joy in them, that’s why they happened in the first place. So a “failed” marriage can have been largely good, but that bad part might still be serious enough that the person may still have to leave the relationship. But that doesn’t erase the parts of it that were or are good, it just makes the payment worth more than the benefit. So you leave, but not because the other path was bad, but rather because it was unwalkable, which is like having no choice at all.

The agony we feel at these times of choosing is based on our thought-based bouncing between two very nebulous, ambiguous ideas. The truth is, each path will contain it’s own unknown opportunities for suffering and it’s own unknown opportunities for joy; we won’t know what those are until we live those moments, which is why the style of our walking is more important than the choice of our path.

1020-relax-and-succeed-hold-onWhat will make any path bad is constant comparison to any road not taken. Our imagination regarding what would have happened is just an uninformed guess. Whatever we think we know, we’d have to be there to be sure. People tend not to advertise the downsides of their choices lest they look bad to others, so we never really know what a life feels like until we live it. But if that’s the case, then there’s no point in torturing ourselves over a dilemma. We’d literally be better to flip a coin, choose, and then dive back into the world’s individual moments with our eye pointed toward joy, because looking for it is how it’s found. It’s not the path you’re on, it’s the perspective you take while you’re on it.

What path are you on that you’d like to be off? What’s making the current path bad? Is it really bad, or are you just trapped in a state of wanting when deep down you’re not even really sure what you’d get if you got what you want? Because no matter what path you’re on, nothing will make it feel worse than wanting to be on another path.

Be where you are. Live consciously. Maybe the job or spouse or choice you’ve made really is a great choice. Maybe you just haven’t realised that because you’ve been too busy wanting something else instead. Either way, you never really have to worry about going the wrong direction because your life happens in your consciousness where there are no paths, there is only presence or want, and you are always in control of which of those two states you’re in.

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.

Spinning Uncertainty

921 Relax and Succeed - I will not die an unlived lifeA crippling activity has invaded human life. The two fundamental ways of being have been increasing in contrast. The first way involves a boldness that presupposes much of the world is what we make of it. The second way involves endless loops of thoughts but very little activity; it includes calculation after calculation is made in an attempt to avoid any downsides or suffering. This is what it is to surrender our life to ego.

Why is avoiding mistakes so important? What is so expensive about them that people would literally defer life itself if we calculate even a single downside? The downsides are all connected to ego, not the being that thinks the ego into existence. Your spirit doesn’t care what you earn it just seeks enough to be satisfied because it is rewarded by growth not money. Your reputation will suffer no matter what you do because your enemies will lie about you incessantly. And your day-to-day status is largely irrelevant to a task at hand. So if none of these things amount to much, why are people spending so much of their lives trying to avoid them?

There are people in this world who are aggressively living their life in the understanding that it truly is a limited opportunity. They aren’t worried about your judgments about them. They’re not selfish bullies pushing their way to the front because the healthiest people are also well aware of their connection to others. But if you hesitate to seize an opportunity they will not feel badly about snatching it up. It isn’t their job to give your life to you and they know it.

921 Relax and Succeed - Be decisiveThese “successful” people enjoy their own lives. Yes they have challenges like everyone, but they live largely on their own terms. They trust themselves. They believe their dreams are worthwhile 2and that they are capable of achieving them. And maybe most importantly they believe they are permitted to fail. They won’t feel bad when something goes wrong, they’ll just collect the lesson and continue on. No spinning for the successful. Spinning is the act of an ego. While the spirit does the ego talks.

Today far more people spin than ever before. It’s an illness. Everyone’s just sitting around using their thoughts to create dis-ease. They spin on relationships. They spin on jobs. They spin on major decisions. They spin on minor decisions. They spin on almost every decision. And if we asked them how their life was spent upon their death, the vast majority of it would have been spent contemplating life rather than living it.

This can play out in the most subtle ways. For instance, I was recently at the grocery store. It was early evening and the store was packed with people sorting out the week’s meals. Every line was super long. I only had a basket and so I joined the express line. Right as I joined it a clerk who knows me from the store strode up and mentioned that he would be opening the next till and he asked me to join him.

921 Relax and Succeed - Why complicate lifeAs I moved over I got the attention of the two people who were ahead of me in line and I pointed out the opportunity and offered it to them. The harried woman at the front and the angry man behind her both immediately recognized what was happening and both were clearly frustrated that the “new line” had started behind them. Recognizing their frustration I again offered that they assume the front of the new line. Both rejected it for no good reason–clearly their till was held up on a price check.

The rest of us went through very quickly and by the time I walked out four people had been through my till and the harried woman and angry man were both still waiting to put their stuff on their conveyor belt. They both looked very unhappy. Extremely unhappy. Maybe they were unhappy with the cashier, but she obviously needs the price for things she’s charging for so blaming her made no sense. And I got the hairy eyeball too, but as you might imagine I didn’t feel bad at all. I had offered.

If they couldn’t even represent their lives better than that by 50-60 years of age then me being polite would make little difference. They both clearly wanted to jump ahead in line (who wouldn’t?). They were both clearly upset with their cashier and the four us us who beat them through the till. But do you think I cared? Why would I? I was polite. And the people behind me had no issue with me offering them the chance. It was the people who saw the chance and somehow talked themselves out of something they naturally wanted that were responsible. They wanted to be seen as good.

921 Relax and Succeed - If you want to be happyYes, take others into account. Be good to others as a way of being good to yourself. But life is a verb and it will be what you make of it. Don’t surrender your days to meek deferrals of life itself. If she took me up on the offer the woman would have gone faster, been grateful to me and the other four people who were now letting her into our line, and she would have walked out feeling happy and lucky. Instead she balked at the offer of help in an egotistical attempt to look noble or proper or polite. What she got for that was wasting her time, misplaced frustration at the cashier and those of us in the other line, and then she left the store tense and upset and she took that home to whoever she was going to see.

Life is made a zillion little daily solutions. If you’re not taking others into account then the world will soon teach you that your strategy lacks a future. But if you take others too much into account–to the point where you automatically place others needs above yours–then you’re no longer living a human life and you’re merely a slave to convention and obligation. Life is bigger than that.

Set yourself free. Stop all the spinning thoughts. See the world as kind and generous and inclusive and you will happily take chances like the one I gave those people, but see it as difficult and scary and socially expensive and you can literally be alive without living.

You’re not pushy or selfish if you simply represent your own life with some confidence. And you don’t need to go get the confidence. Those two people were confident what they wanted, they just weren’t confident they deserved it. And to me, their lack of belief in their own value was the worst thing that happened in that line that day. Don’t be meek. Life is short. Live.

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.

Generations

Something bad happened and almost no one noticed. Now something really good has happened and again, no one has noticed. I get it. My broken brain is weird. So it sees these shifts in general patterns in how we’re wiring kids with the things we tell them, how we educate them, what we do, and the experiences they’ve had. And that leads to societal impacts.

906 Relax and Succeed - One of the best ways I knowThe first trend I saw wasn’t long after I left school when I was aware of how new approaches to education would lead to future issues in large segments of the population. In the 60’s people were even taught by doctors and parenting experts that love was dangerous and it would undermine a child’s skill-building. They pendulum was then swinging in the direction of, no pain no gain.

By the 80’s pop psychology was big and this was the beginning of both a positive and an unsettling trend. At least it laid the groundwork for something better to follow. Those differences are at the heart of the debate of why those under 35ish often feel so different than those over 40ish.

The differences are real. They had to be. They childhoods were entirely different. In the 60’s everyone was forced to grasp the concepts of cause and effect and that unfortunately got perverted into earning one’s keep.

906 Relax and Succeed - We've bought into the ideaPart of this trend was from the idea of original sin, and so everyone was starting off in a hole and needed to work to get out. If you were still in the hole after a while that was perceived to be because you weren’t using your spiritual strength to climb out, as opposed to you were injured or in a much deeper hole.

Then we decided love was important to child-rearing (go figure), and the pendulum swung too far in the opposite direction–toward individualism and love. People were lied to and told they could do it all on their own, and the idea was that all you needed was love, but then love was presented by advertising as: the acceptance of your peers. (Please “like” this post. 😉 )

So a group that was unloved thinks the only way to create value in yourself is to work hard to earn it. This is great in that it created a lot of the world’s greatest things, but it also leaves little room for the joy of living. The group that was untested is often left largely incapable in classical senses, but maybe that’s not a bad thing if what you’re building is subconsciously something quite different.

906 Relax and Succeed - Calvin and HobbesIncreasingly there’s more people who can do both. Yes, many have taken the worst of it by becoming strict promoters of hard-work and individualism as shallow routes to ego-success. But increasingly more and more people are choosing loving generosity, where they’re so good at love and compassion that they have learned to care more about others than themselves in many ways. This is very healthy.

Where this creates a conflict is that adults are pushing kids towards classic responsibilities of which 80% will still apply. But they can’t see the other 20% that involves imagining a world so different from the older group that they often have trouble seeing it at all. So the Burning Man Festival looks crazy rather than beautiful.

Meanwhile the more modern kids are left psychologically frail, where too much of their self esteem depends on external praise, but at the same time they’re less interested in ownership and control and they’re more motivated toward connection and creating happiness. If we combine these two generation’s strengths we’re really accomplishing something.

906 Relax and Succeed - How to change the worldThis is why I stay happy. You can see that people over 40 are slaves to the man, and you can see it that kids are lazy and lack motivation, or you can say that that the over 40 crowd really does have useful strengths all while the under 30’s are leading us toward a brighter, more egalitarian future.

People can now imagine a future without borders and race, where we work together to fulfil the largest number of needs rather than make crazy sacrifices towards the achieving the largest number of wants for a tiny selection of people. It’s a massive shift. And people should take heart.

We’re going in a very positive direction. Pretty much like we continually have. And that seems like something we can take pleasure in enjoying. So have yourself a fantastic Monday and instead of looking for what you don’t like about the world, try meditating on what good things emerge from those same things. You’ll surprise yourself and you’ll get better at seeing the best in life more often. And that is the biggest way you can make the most useful contribution to the best in all of this. I wish you every good fortune. Have an awesome week!

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.

Inspiration, Enthusiasm and Motivation

812 Relax and Succeed - I love being meInspiration. It has “in spirit” right in it. The root word behind enthusiasm means possessed by God. It’s a motivation; a stimulus to action. If these things aren’t in your life they should be. A friend and I made an entire feature film motivated by a desire to discuss the strange behaviour of many of our friends who went to jobs every single day that they hated.

I know bored people. Unmotivated people. Uninspired artists. Unenthusiastic participants and passionless parents.  But the truth is their spirits are simply not in motion. Every human being is a creation machine. Every day we build a life. You’re not just moving around some flesh and blood. Your existence is far more like the work of a novelist. You life is a story you create. People who have a lot of good days do so because they choose to. They’re intentional about it.

I’ve got other blog posts for people who are sad, this is for those of you who are just not in motion. You’re existing not living. You probably don’t even have to change jobs. But you do have get invested in your own life. You have to find ways to make your work matter.

812 Relax and Succeed - If you are happyMaybe you’re a security guard at a mall. You don’t make a lot of money, you can move a bit up the ladder, but really the value you’ll create in your life won’t be ego value it’ll be quality of life. Maybe you’ll always do your best to smile and make people feel welcome. Maybe you share your lunch and give dignity to some homeless person. Maybe you buy a little old lady coffee every day and let her waste your break telling her about her grandkids because you can tell it really matters. And you’re right–it does.

You have to find things that matter like that in your life. You need reasons. You need the sort of reason that easily gets you out of bed because you’re happy to live your own life. It’s a lot easier than you’re imagining. You think you have to go hike the Annapurna Trail or scuba dive through a famous wreck, or cross the Sahara on a camel or something, but all you have to do come alive within your own daily life.

You have no idea how fantastic an ordinary day is when your mind is filled with wonder. Have you looked at little kids faces? How exciting everything is? They jump up and down at sounds and colours and puppies. Every new person they meet might be their new friend. Learn from that. Have more wonder. Create more things, relationships and ideas without fear of reactions. Do it the way a great scientist finds something. He or she isn’t trying to get a million dollars from Sweden for a Nobel, the scientist is trying to solve the riddle. That’s their motivation.

812 Relax and Succeed - Be so happyIf you have kids I mean… just think about it. You created a human. You have to really stop and think sometimes. That was some cells inside you or your wife. And now it’s playing hockey or getting B- in math. Math? Those cells you tipped over like dominoes number one and two–those lead to something that can do math?!?! Seriously parents. They are only every age for one day. The next day, poof. Invest in that. That’s amazing.

Even if you don’t have kids. Maybe you’re a collector. A conversationalist. A buff. Maybe you have a job like law or politics where you can have an inspirational impact on others. Maybe you’re a great friend, or you run every day and you absolutely love it. Adding love to the world counts. It doesn’t matter what you do or where. What matters is that you do it, that you do it genuinely, and that you do it one moment at a time. Everything after that is just surfing the wave you get.

Come alive in your own life. Shake off your low expectations of it. Start to think like you did when you were five. What did you want to be then? What about that life appealed to you? Because it probably still does. So what’s its new form? Should you take skiing back up? Go back to school? Record your music? Actually start having heart to hearts with your kid? It doesn’t matter as long as you’re adding to the universe by being original. By taking original, authentic action that means something to you.

There are people who ventured out of the cave looking for new vistas. Some–more timid–stayed back and protected things. Too many people are acting like we need too much protecting. What we really need is more living. More alive-ness. Come on people.

Put on some music in the morning and dance as you get dressed. Listen to the comedy channel on your satellite radio. Add your laughter to the world. Or cook a great meal, go talk about that movie you saw, figure out a better process at work. As long as you’re expanding the universe you’re good.

Don’t leave your life unlived. That is the only thing it is possible to truly regret. Everything else is simply living.

peace, s

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

Parental Limitations

Our mind could have any habits or choose to recall any part of its past, but our very sense of identity means that we get up every morning and load the same software-us into the hardware-us. That brain could be bold instead of shy. It would just have to do one instead of the other. But we generally don’t. We generally surrender that freedom and instead we play out the role we’ve unconsciously written for ourselves. That’s what our ego’s for—it recites who we are to us. If we’re not constantly reminded about our limitations who knows what we might try?

677 Relax and Succeed - A teacher is never a giver of truthI was fortunate enough to have two parents that didn’t really set limits for me. They were stricter than most of my friends parents in most ways, but much more relaxed and open in the most important way. I was expected to live up to commitments and carry my own share of the family chores and pass in school etc. etc., and rather than an allowance I had to pay room and board, but I was not pushed toward any sports or any grades or any post-secondary or employment choices. My parents spent more time asking me who I was as opposed to telling me who to become. That’s huge. That, in my experience, was the biggest fundamental difference in how I was raised. Now, when I asked Mom about this tremendous wisdom, she simply said,“Oh we learned from your [much older] brothers that you can’t really tell a kid what to do.” So they focused on principles and let me find my own way and that has lead to a fantastic life that I’m very happy to have lived.

As with many parents mine each took on different roles. Mom was the one who taught me to follow rules and Dad taught me to question who made the rules and their value. Mom taught me to be polite, Dad taught me to respect others. Mom taught me to vote, my Dad taught me to care for others just as much as for myself or those I loved. Mom made sure I lived up to my commitments regardless of my personal resistance and Dad made sure that I understood that apologies helped people feel better. Mom wanted me to be responsible. Dad wanted me to have fun. Mom wanted me to be a good citizen and Dad wanted me to be a good friend.

677 Relax and Succeed - The rules for being amazingI routinely get all aspects of this wrong but I nevertheless know that I’m always genuinely pointed in a loving, caring direction and so I live without regrets or a sense of judgment. I respect others so much that they are welcome to not like me. If I’m going to be a specific way it only makes sense that I won’t mesh with some people. Meccano can’t be Lego. My parents acceptance of whatever I did as long as it was respectful means that I feel good as long as I am respecting other’s perspectives as much as my own. I may not always agree, but I’m free to have my views and I have no conflict with them having theirs. People are welcome to have their conflicts with me but I do not have any with them. It’s very peaceful.

People could easily look at my life and see that I could have used the skills from my accident in a different way. They can see that I could have done more of this or that, made more money, been more famous or had more status or whatever. But in this weird subtle way, the way I was raised didn’t lead to any of those desires. But it did create a real value around the idea of freedom, respect and openness. I like that I never hold grudges, never hate people, and that I find it easy to forgive. I can’t imagine what money or fame could get me that would equal the value of just thinking enough of others and of myself that I essentially have no real quarrel with anyone. It’s a nice, simple, clean way to live.

We can teach kids how to manage money and understand how loans work and we can teach them to change the flapper in their own toilet or the oil in their car. But if we don’t teach them to value their own life enough to enjoy it then we have spent all of our time paving perfect roads that ultimately lead nowhere. Life is not a destination. There is no particular perch from where it can be lived in total happiness. But at least if happiness is a priority then the child builds a life around what brings them joy rather than what brings them externals. A nice car is only there to bring joy anyway, so why not skip the expensive middle man and go straight to the joy? But that’s not even on the menu unless someone has separated the idea of the car and the joy. One is to get the other, it is not the other itself.

677 Relax and Succeed - My philosophy isIf you want the best way to teach a person to value joy, value it yourself. Laugh more, do more things that are frivolous but joy-filled. Stop teaching kids how to protect themselves from bad things without telling them how to go and get good things. You need both for a successful life. What you don’t need is a cookie-cutter pre-conceived idea of who your children are. Let them be known to you and support the life they choose for themselves just as you wish the people around you would have been fully supportive in whatever you chose. I had that in life. It feels fantastic to have that support. It breeds a lot of confidence and that’s also where a lot of happiness resides.

Don’t worry so much about loading your kid up with every possible skill. They’ll get hurt terribly just like you did. Everyone does. But that’s okay as long as they know what to do between disasters. As long as they wring some joy out of those in-between times they’ll be fine. That’s a lot of life. Most people die without ever having even started to live. So just love and respect your kids and teach them to value their own enjoyment of life and a lot of the rest will just sort itself out. The best thing you can possibly do is be the best version of yourself that you can. Enjoy your own life. The rest is osmosis.

peace. s

Easy on Yourself

When people ask me to define the psychological/spiritual advantage my accident gave me in just a sentence, I’ll often say that I saw things for what they were and that I didn’t mistake words for things. This is entirely accurate, but to be truly helpful it’s time I gave that statement a bit more detail.

647 Relax and Succeed - The most dangerous risk of allWhen you’re like me and you can see through words here’s the kinds of strange things you notice: people will tell you that they love progress and new things but you’ll note that they’ve just been brainwashed because in many cases the new thing is much, much worse for the person than the old thing was. The two best examples we have are so huge, and we spent so much money on them, that they clearly demonstrate our willingness to actually trade more for less if we’re told it’s an improvement.

Rolling Stone magazine did an entire issue surrounding the quality of MP3 recordings. Producers don’t like MP3’s because they hold less information than CD’s which limits their creative freedom in way it previous wasn’t, so music marketers sold the idea that this recording wouldn’t skip when you jogged or in your car, even though too few people jog and there were even fewer at the time, and I never remember anyone listing CD skipping as a major car issue. Besides, music is about listening to art. Why would we care more about convenience than the art itself? That’s like we’re doing with our food, where we’re starting to care less about it being tasty and nutritious in favour of it being fast and mobile, practically given to us in toothpaste tubes that we can quickly inject into ourselves as we rush from our 647 Relax and Succeed - Normal is getting dressedfirst job to our second or third. (You may notice that’s why the wrap is replacing the sandwich.)

Next, people used to press between seven and ten buttons on a phone to be in a position to actually hear the other person. We could hear their tone, their mood, and I never remember a couple coming to me because they were looking at ending their marriage over a phone call that went bad. But texting? I cannot tell you the number of times that the couple in front of me is there because of a 140 character facebook status, tweet or especially a text. So now we hit hundreds of keys and young kids are getting repetitive stress injuries all so that we can communicate in a slower, far less effective way. Sure, texts can be useful. But most people have replaced basic conversations with them and way more often than not the communication was either meaningless or it could have been done more quickly with a call and some voices.

Another major area I saw this related to my age. Just as I was growing up the fitness craze started. When I was a kid the only adults that went to gyms were professional body builders and boxers. No one else. But then automation started to take over, more people were driving, fewer were walking, food was beginning to be processed, so it was loaded with fat and sugar and people started to suddenly put on a lot of weight. So what my brain noticed was that all 647 Relax and Succeed - We buy shit we don't needof these people had worked to pay for conveniences that that in the end only incurred more time and more expense because now they had to get a gym membership. This weird insanity continued to the point where I saw a fitness club in my city where you could sit in the lobby and literally watch people ride up the escalator to the gym where they would go in, change and then pay money to climb fake stairs!

Our bodies were built over a long time to do specific things just like any animal. And if you start changing those things you will change the animal. So people are sold iNDEPENDENCE and in turn they get loneliness where they sit alone in front a screen looking at life rather than what they used to do, which is take the energy they used to have for joy and they would go out with their friends. But by 30-35 years old most people aren’t seeing their friends that much, but they’ll be likely to be working very long hours to pay for all of their conveniences.

This is all insanity. Your life isn’t better because your phone is better, or because your car is faster, or because your TV is bigger. You don’t enjoy the championship game 30% more 647 Relax and Succeed - Slavery has many different formsbecause your screen is 30% bigger. Sorry, the guy listening to the game on a radio is maxing out his excitement so there’s no beating 100%.

We’ve all been sold a bill of goods. We’ve been convinced to do things that, if we look at them closely, we realize have no real benefit to us. We’re working for weeks to get enough after-tax dollars to be able to buy the car model with Navigation because we have FOMO, even though we barely ever drive to anywhere we haven’t been before and even if we are, someone else can tell us how to get there just like before. So we work all of these extra hours to get this shiny bauble when in fact we would have drew more joy from some free time talking with a good friend.

We have to start doing far better accounting of our joy. Because we will quickly learn that the reason people go camping to quiet, remote, undeveloped places on their weekends is because it’s slower and it doesn’t include all of those conveniences. We want simplicity, quiet, and companionship. The healthiest people you know are the ones who eat like 100 years ago, who work their bodies like 100 years ago, and who have positive social relations not tons of likes.

647 Relax and Succeed - Imagine there is a bank accountYour life won’t improve if you just put your head down and watch the ads and do as you’re told. It really is crazy for you to spend your life stressed because you bought some expensive thing to impress people and now you own it, but it owns your joy. You have to start being slower and more judicious with your money. Because you give up a lot of life for that power to spend, so spend it wisely. Spend it on things that bring joy and goodness to your life, rather than things that—if you really stopped to think about it—really don’t make much sense. So stop hiring another kid to cut your lawn or shovel your walks when you’re in your basement working out. Because if you can’t see that’s crazy, then you’re very deep inside the illusion that the Buddha was warning you about.

Be free. Spend less on things and more on creating time. Ask yourself, does this create more time or less time? Because it might save an hour, but if you had to work an extra two to buy it, you’re actually an hour down. Remember: use after-tax dollars, not pre-tax dollars when figuring out what something costs your life. Because that’s the real measure, and it almost instantly makes many more things look much more expensive because that’s what they really are.

Here’s to your freedom. Here’s to more joy, more time with people you care about, and a more fulfilling life. Because no one was on their death bed asking someone to collect all of their stuff. No one is saying, just one last tweet, just one last selfie. No, they want to hold hands and look into the eyes of the people they loved. If they had more time it would be for that, not another social media post. So remember that while you’re walking around every day. Because if your attention is one place, it’s not some place else. And right now other people decide where your attention is more than you do and it’s time you changed that. Here’s to freedom and time. That’s real wealth.

Have yourself an awesome day!

peace. s

Ageism at Work

Millennials” is the colloquial word that Boomers and Gen X‘ers use, but they mean the very tail end of the Millennials and the first wave of Generation Z. These are the people that are often misunderstood, and so they drive their older co-workers and managers crazy. And rightly so in some cases, but there’s been two overlapping paradigm shifts in our culture and they can confuse these issues if they’re not thought about carefully.

637 Relax and Succeed - WhateverFirst off let’s get the reasonable concerns off the table so we can focus on the more meaningful issues where each group can actually help make each other better. Several generations have seen a steady advancement in mechanization, electronics, computerization and now web-integration. In short: life has gotten easier and more comfortable all while also becoming more time and energy stressed. So kids rarely walk to school even if the weather is terrible, but they’ll also almost never experience true privacy.

School also got easier. I asked a couple recent college classes if they were concerned about their education in any way? A student offered that he felt he had been moved through grades more because that’s what the school wanted, as opposed to it being very focused on whether or not each kid knew the material well enough to use it. Other kids joined in. Sports too—prizes for limited efforts. When I asked how that made them feel, I believe in both cases it was the entire class who agreed they felt insecure and unprepared compared to generations they interacted with that were older than them.

Now a critical area where older generations misunderstand the motives of younger generations is in their values. Character has always been a big thing that defined people. Where are your lines? What defines you? What will pay a big price for? Those are the sorts of questions that arise out a period where there was a war every few decades. But advertising has sold that a lack of effort is a victory and that a life of leisure and wealth is the only value in life that there is. But of course, a beer or a bed always feel a lot better after a day of chopping wood if you get what I mean. So on one hand younger generations were told not to try too hard. Instead of 637 Relax and Succeed - By learning you will teachlaughing at Bart Simpson as the writers intended, people were laughing with him as though Bart was the success of the culture, not the failure. This is a real issue that masks a rather beautiful transition that happened that will benefit us all.

These “kids” watched the most miserable generation in history come home from work and bitch and bitch and bitch. And I don’t blame the parents for bitching. Because my Dad could raise six kids on one salary and he could take his holidays and we had lots of free time. Today people are struggling with at least two jobs per household, their two kids go to schools miles apart in different neighbourhoods and all of their “play” is actually organized training like dance class, hockey, scouts—whatever, and it all costs a lot of money. It’s no longer—go outside and play and Mom was free and clear for 5 hours. Those days are gone. Mom has a cell phone and her boss will send her emails to answer at 8:30pm and night. So the kids watch Mom become a strange kind of slave to her office even within their own house. Bosses and work get talked about disparagingly and work life starts to become so dominant that kids rightfully identified that as a problem. They weren’t go to mimic that and that makes perfect sense—it was, and is, making everyone miserable.

So no, these kids will never care about a company as much as their parents did, because like the French learned that “King” was just a word, a couple generations later learned that “company” was sort of another word for “King.” The bottom line was, this generation does something much wiser than the two before it and they value time more than money. Yes, like all young people they want their cake and eat it too, but that’s no different than any generation. This recent shift has to do with how capitalism actually overtook humanism as the dominant way of looking at how to set up the world. So if a company’s profit went up but it laid off 20,000 people, that was suddenly a good thing. Of course it’s not, because profits exist in our imagination and those 20,000 people have very real appetites and medical needs. But for a time economists had people so mesmerized that they had everyone subscribed to a system that is supposedly kept fair by something as silly and nebulous as “the invisible hand.”

637 Relax and Succeed - Patience and WisdomSo now kids interview the companies too. Good for them. They grew up with recycling and Wall-E was big when they were young. They don’t want to work for companies that make smart tax moves by donating to charity, they want a company that actually believes in supporting the broader world around it because it has a vision much bigger than simple financial profit. Oh wouldn’t that have looked impressive to aliens if they arrived? Hey guys, check out how cleverly we structure debt! No, these kids know there’s a serious problem with the planet. These dates that don’t matter to my generation are when this one wants to be having kids, so the idea that the planet might look like hell is actually pretty important to them. So what they like is companies that give based on what they believe rather than what the tax code would reward. Redditt is getting a ton of credit for giving away 10% of its ad revenue to charity and it’s letting its readers choose who gets the dough. That’s who the smartest people in the new millennium want to work for.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve aged that the one giant mistake I made as a manager was I completely overlooked the enormous amounts of experience I often had working for me. By the time someone’s 50 they’ve met a lot of people and tried a lot of things. I should have been able to figure that they would have a lot of wisdom just by stopping and thinking about it. I count it to this day as the biggest mistake I made as a manager. Age teaches far more than you’d think. But let’s not forget that those with some grey hair should also listen carefully. Because as we age we lose that drive to win or beat others. We get softer and more interested in quality experiences. And these kids want to build a world where quality experiences are more the priority than profits. So I think there are a lot of reasons that people of every age can successfully work together toward an objective like that.

No matter how old you are and now matter how many people you work with, regularly give them a fair and open listen and see if maybe there’s some wisdom there for you to glean.

You guys have an awesome day, okay?

peace. s

Matthieu Ricard: The Habits of Happiness 2

This week I’ve been posting some favourites that were written long before the blog was as popular as it is now. It’s been nice to hear from so many of you—I’m happy you’re enjoying them as well as finding them informative and enriching. Rather than end the work-week with a former Friday Dose, I’m going back to before the Dose was even created. This post features a talk on happiness that many readers have found profoundly helpful in their own psychological and spiritual pursuits. I highly recommend checking it out. Enjoy:

Relax and Succeed

142 Relax and Succeed - The only wayYou’re so busy trying to arrange the outside world so that you can be assured of happiness, and yet happiness is not an experience of things outside of yourself, happiness is your experience of the inside of oneself. I wrote a lot this week about getting in touch with your inner experience and this Ted Talk is in keeping with that theme.

Matthieu Ricard is a Molecular Biologist-cum-Buddhist Monk who uses his understanding of the struggles of the 21st century ego to express his own understanding of how happiness arises. It is amusing, warm, and for those with open minds, extremely informative.

Enjoy.

peace. s

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The Politics of Love

54 Relax and Succeed - I am only one but I am oneBecause I faced the very serious reality of death at five years old I had shortly thereafter wondered–if you could die at five what was the point of being alive at all? I was already wondering this in the hospital, which was perfect because my brain injury was so massive that the doctors and nurses spoke to each other as though I wasn’t there at all. That level of candour taught me a lot about people and gossip, but most importantly it taught me about happiness and its sources.

Maybe people bought new clothes they thought they looked good in, or maybe they went on a vacation to relax. Maybe they started exercising to feel physically better, or maybe they bought a puppy to keep them company. Maybe they had sex with a co-worker, or maybe they told a lie to make sure someone else didn’t have sex with a co-worker. Eventually it occurred to me that people were on a spectrum with suffering at one end and love at the other. And everything that everyone did was all a part of their effort to either move toward love and belonging, or away from suffering and separation.

There are a lot of ways to reduce suffering and increase happiness but individual people tend to pick their own familiar routes. As a society it is also important that we value our happiness as a group. In school when they taught us about Gross Domestic Product, I made a teacher angry by asking what meaning that had? What if we made 10 times as much money but we were all unhappy? What if this abstract number grew, but so did the suicide rate? What I learned through asking all of those questions—and years of questions afterwards—was that a lot of teachers don’t like questions.

54 Relax and Succeed - Be selective in your battlesI recently heard a radio story about an election and a split government. 50% of the votes went to one extreme and 50% to the other. Both sides felt like the country had lost. Both sides described the situation as unfortunate and impossible. Can you see how they have been infected with limited thinking? Why can it only be one way or another?

Why is winning only defined by you getting your way? Why can’t winning be about creating the greatest amount of happiness for the largest number of people? Why can’t each side say, “Okay, let’s lay out what we each want and see if there’s any overlap. If there is, we can do those things right away. Then we can look for things we’re willing to negotiate on, which allows each of our constituencies to be represented to an equal degree.” In short, what if we respected the fact that the “other side” will certainly have at least a few good ideas?

No matter what issue you’re looking at, if someone thinks the other side can’t possibly have anything useful to say then they are truly and fully brainwashed. It is the height of an ego’s arrogance to think that anything that we believe is always right and anything someone else believes is always wrong.

54 Relax and Succeed - Shrinking heartsWe all have to stop wanting to win. We have to stop wanting more. We have to forgo power and wealth and status, and we have to start making the sort of decisions that lead to everyone experiencing more love and joy in their lives. We have to forget our beliefs and turn to love. We must trust love. To be loving is our purest self.

If we want the world to change we have to change how we do things. It is no surprise to anyone that worldwide most political work from all sides is juvenile and dishonest. It’s time we set a new agenda—each of us in our own lives and collectively as a society. We have to begin by nurturing a culture of patience, respect and compassion because that is the only way we will experience a culture that is patient, respectful and compassionate.

Stop complaining about the people you disagree with because those complaints are your reality. Instead, use that energy to see what you agree with and do that. Because then that cooperation and support will be your reality. And living that life will affect the world just as positively as it will affect you.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s

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