To Learn Or Not To Learn

From almost the first day of school a line was drawn: book or people. Some of us are life-long learners. We take courses online and in universities. Give us a book and a test and life is good.

Some of us learn to read the crowd. We have Ph.D.’s in the masses. We can read a group or an individual and know what they are going to do, sometimes before they do.

We are taught that we have to make a choice. Ever wonder why we let the herd position us into having only two choices? Books or people? Why do we have to choose between the two?

Personally, the system doesn’t work for me.

Love studying and love people. Can’t get enough of either subject. Hey are they really subjects? I know I’ve been called many things in my life. Not sure if subject really feels right, from the people part of my mind.

Yesterday I took my team to a team building/leadership class. It was important enough that I closed the entire clinic for the day.

Were we having problems?

No. Don’t ever go for help to a place that can’t help themselves. They are confused and they lack if not integrity, then the ability to do what they preach. Clinics are a place where patients are mentored back to a state of health in which they are charged to maintain it. If the clinic you go to can’t lead themselves (long wait times, rude staff) then there is very little chance you, the detail to them, is not going to get lost in the shuffle.

No, my clinic was not having problems. We went to refine our skill set. We went to learn and re-learn some materials so that we as a group can reach out and deal more effectively with ourselves and our patients.

The speaker got up. I split my mind into two. The first part went over the course: good materials, good sources. I was happy.

The second part of my mind studied the presenter. Right off the bat he made a joke, how many of you are here because you were forced to be or told to be? More than half of the audience raised their hands. I looked at my staff. They looked at me. We started laughing.

Problem here: Why did he choose that example? I wondered what part of him didn’t want to be here?

As he went on, he made a joke about the poor quality of his hotel, the long hours and bad pay. He said it didn’t matter because he loved what he did. I get it, trying to bridge a gap. I gave him that one. He was trying to find common ground with the audience.

Or was there another thing happening?

Within 20 minutes another reference to bad hotels and pay. Hmm, strike two. Now I know why he made that opening joke. He is very unhappy with his pay, his travel schedule, his hotels, etc.

As part of the audience I was wondering why he worked for such a crummy organization if he had valuable information to teach?

Crossroads. How many of us have been in this situation? We’ve paid for a class and the presenter’s issues are interfering with the information we are seeking?

How about an internal conversation? Decision tree time: throw the baby out with the bath water or find what I can and make it useful?

The people part of my mind identified him as a soul sucker. What could he possibly offer?

The mind steps in and says, quite a bit, actually.

In between jokes about his pay and long hours on the road we covered some great works by Maslow, the boss as coach, boosting morale through relationships not trust-falls (whoever came up with that idea is a genius marketer, because they seemed to be everywhere and I have yet to meet the person who said, until my group caught me I just couldn’t trust them. . . gasp), using creativity to solve problems instead of platitudes, self-analysis, etc.

While everyone was on breaks I was still on the job, watching the people. The range of complaints ranged from the job that brought them there, to audience members (me? I guess when I said the worse outcome of an HR meeting is assault, I stepped on some toes), to the presenter. One lady said, as the break was ending, two hours to go.

In my mind I wondered what was so pressing at home. Television? Kids? What?

I got back to my group and checked in. They were busy going over the section on self-empowered teams. How they saw themselves in that role and how it applied to tomorrow’s day.

We went through the class and I focused on my outcome. I came there to learn how to work better as a group member of a clinic. I didn’t care if the audience or the presenter were driving me crazy.

You know what would have driven me crazy? Going home the same way I came.

I finished the class with a question to the instructor: Why do you continue to work for a company you resent? I haven’t gotten a reply, yet.

In other words, when we make a choice and we know the benefits wouldn’t it make more sense to use both sides of your brain to extract every last bit of knowledge available? Why wouldn’t we separate the good from the bad and get what we need to learn?

The next time you go somewhere to learn break out that big melon of yours. Use all sides of it. There are academic and social parts of the brain hungry for knowledge. Put them together. Let them party.

Each day is an opportunity to break new ground.

Learn new things.

Image: coronadousd.net

Only Through The Eyes Of A Child

It’s funny how wisdom chases us through the ages. Some lessons keep coming back to us. Some themes keep getting louder the longer we live.

Here’s one that keeps coming back to me: attachment.

I first read about these concepts attachment/detachment as a teenager in upstate New York. I was a strange kid. Couldn’t get enough Eastern philosophy into my head. By the time I was in high school I was reading and learning from the greats: Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Han Shan, etc.

Here’s the scene. Bill (TH3RD FORCE cofounder) and I were up at the beach in Cooperstown, sitting on a towel. We were high school seniors making our move with the local ladies.

Our move consisted of not talking to anyone. We paired that with not really making eye contact with anyone either. We did play the Deadmilk Men loudly on an old boom box.

“This sucks,” said Bill, “We haven’t talked to anyone yet.”

“Yeah,” said I, “they don’t know what they are missing.”

We sat there for a while waiting for something, anything to happen. As the temperature dropped we went to town for a couple of slices of pizza. We saw some of the same girls at the pizza restaurant.

We didn’t talk to them. They didn’t talk to us.

Like a lightning bolt it hit me.

“Hey Bill, we don’t have to worry. We should not be attached to this whole thing.”

“We don’t?”

“No. Nah. We’re just not attached to it. I’ve been reading the Dao De Ching and I think this is what he was talking about.”

“Us?”

“Um. Well, sure.”

Silence. We didn’t really believe, at that moment, that the Dao De Ching was written with us in mind. The book is several thousand years old and shaped Chinese philosophy to be what it is today.

We went home, unattached as it were.

_______

I am crazy loyal when it comes to my friends. If anyone or anything is doing them a disservice I get irrational quickly. I can’t stand the thought of anyone I love being hurt.

Here’s the next scene. A buddy of mine is being taken advantage of. He’s doing all the work in a project that is supposed to be shared. When he’s working, his partner is off screwing around.

One day another friend brought up the project. I couldn’t take it any longer. I texted him, “You are a sucker. You are working and they are off playing.”

I was hot.

I was wrong.

We went home and that text haunted me. I don’t really have a filter. Things come into my mind and I speak them. It makes for some interesting social situations.

When I got home, I said to nobody in particular, I shouldn’t have sent that text. My buddy is already feeling bad and I made it worse. That’s not what friends do to each other.

My youngest asked me, “Dad why did you send it?”

I don’t know. I couldn’t see someone taking advantage of him. It bothered me a lot.

She was quiet for a moment.

“Dad do you remember when I was running and fell down?

Yes, I said, rubbing my head. Not my finest parenting moment. We went on a family walk. She was crab hopping down the road. I told her don’t do that you are going to fall.

Cherry blossoms carpeted the sidewalk. Fresh flowers perfumed the air. Thick and gorgeous white clouds flew overhead in the cerulean sky.

Bam. A loud sound like a head banging off of the sidewalk.

I turned around and saw my youngest had fallen on the sidewalk. I ran to her yelling, what are you doing? What are you thinking? She was crying and I made it worse. The sound was her hand, not her head. She had used her hand to absorb the blow, which had taken the skin completely off of her palm. But that was weeks ago.

Back at my house, my daughter staring up at me smiling, eyes slightly hooded. “Daaaaad, do you remember why you yelled?”

“Yes. Can’t stand the thought of anyone hurting you. Even yourself.”

“And all I did was cry more when you yelled at me.”

So there we were sitting at the breakfast nook. She’s staring at me. Her eyes impossibly large. She’s shaking her head up and down rapidly: one inch up, one down. Both eyes focused on me. Her mouth split wide in a maniacal grin.

I am not getting it.

“Dad. Don’t you think you did the same thing with the text? You yelled at him because he was hurting himself by doing all the work.”

“Ohhhhhh.”

“Dad you shouldn’t be so attached.”

With that she marched her 7-year-old body up the stairs and to bed. Now that is what Lao Tzu had in mind.

 

In the sudden silence of the room I started laughing.

 

So what has the world been telling you lately or for the last 20 years or so?

Long Walk To Freedom

 

Walking up to the entrance I noticed on a sign that the group was a capella. Good grief I thought. I need some Paul Simon in there. Some drums. Maybe a few bright notes of guitar to carry the show. Why can’t they just spring for some musicians? Sure they made the trip from Africa, but I came here straight from work, no break.

My daughters were excited. I was thinking oh, well, if it’s just for them it’s worth it. I settled down listening to the coughing behind me. I put the collar of my jacket up and sang my song to ward of airborne infectious agents.

Curtains down. The singers walked out to the stage: Greetings from South Africa we are Ladysmith Black Mombazo.

Lights dimmed and they started singing. Not the type of singing I expected. This was a deep resonance. Each baritone note an invitation to shadow dance in the footsteps of God.

I closed my eyes and the world dropped. I floated. There were hands clapping. My daughter smiled at me.

This is important, I said leaning over.

Yes Poppa it’s beautiful.

She held my hand as they continued to sing. I sunk deep into myself, usually I only get here in meditation. But there I was, in a crowded hall, touching the divine.

Joy.

That’s what they conveyed. Please remember this band hails from South Africa. The band members were raised in Apartheid. The child born of that harsh mother: these songs, each one a beautiful tone poem of welcome, joy and peace.

At one point they did a tribute song to Nelson Mandela, called Long Walk To Freedom. I thought, well this could go either way with my kids. I was afraid of what they would sing about.

Note to readers: If you need proof that the world is getting better I have some, right here. I tried and failed to explain apartheid to my kids. They just didn’t get it. I think that if anything says more about our potential as a species than any Nobel Prize.

You know what the chorus was for Long Walk To Freedom?

Good boy, good boy, carry on.

So simple. So sincere. So understated. Where was the anger? Where was the retribution? Where was the part I could identify with?

Good job, good job, you did a good job.

How’s that for a soundtrack for a life that changed history? How’s that for a mantra?

With all the pain and suffering the band faced, they only conveyed a serene and playful joy.

You know what I listened to at intermission? People complaining about the seats, the temperature, the lack of great glass of wine (mind you there was wine, just not great), and um, well, I guess I didn’t vocalize my irritation that the band didn’t spring for musical back up.

Most of our pain is imaginary.

Most of us in the western world no longer have a very real, physical threat. Someone who will kick down our doors at night and take our children against our will.

So what do we do? Give thanks? No, for the most part we create our own demons. We walk around looking for unhappiness: wine, musical accompaniment, the person coughing in the audience.

Oooops. The lights are flashing. We should grab a seat.

Another song came up. The speaker said: today we are celebrating 20 years of the THRIIIIIIIIIIIIIILL of democracy. When Uncle Walt wrote about a barbaric yawp heard over the rooftops of the world, he had this guy in mind.

My daughter asked me, what was so thrilling about democracy? I told her, these singers had no choice on where they lived, what kind of job they could get, what kind of education they had. I told her, 20 years ago they started making their own decisions. Twenty years ago they took control of their destiny. They forged a new way.

She said, Poppa do Americans have a thrilling democracy? I told her, no. Less than 50% of Americans vote. She looked disappointed.

But that’s not important, I said.

What is important is that you vote. What is important is that you feel the shiver of goose bumps when you hear an 80 year old man raise his voice in honor of personal freedom and choice.

What matters is not that people complain about the choice of wine at an event. What matters is that on the way out we stopped the exit line so an elderly lady could finally make her way from her seat to the aisle.

What matters is that when my internal chatter started up in my head I screamed stop! You see someone behind me had started complaining about the hold up. Someone had bumped into me. I bumped back.

You know what I played instead? I took out the old program and put on something new.

Well done, well done, you did a good job.

The next evening before eating dinner we said a prayer for those singers and our good fortune for sharing a family, a home and a meal together. The band was playing on the stereo. I looked up and saw my daughters in the gentle light of a February evening in the Pacific Northwest. All of us singing along:

Long way, long walk, long way, long walk to freedom.

Photo Credit: www.totalexposure.co.za

Small Signals

Just spent the week in San Diego, California with TH3RDFORCE co-founder, William Donnelly. Let me tell you, there are few cities, culturally speaking, further apart than San Diego and Bellingham, Washington.

Bellingham is the city of subdued excitement. When people move here they ask about a restaurant scene and I tell them to learn how to cook at home. They say, what about the night life? Learn to mix drinks, again, at home. Concerts? Make sure you have a good sound system.

On the flip side, newcomers comment on the lack of people, traffic, noise, crime and proximity to both the mountains and the ocean. Solitude is so close at hand, it’s hard not to find some during the day. Another thing I like is we don’t have a scene. People just are.

For me San Diego is an opposite character study in the fine art of public display. It was hard to take a few steps without being assaulted by someone’s sign.

No we’re not talking about Zodiac, though we did see a trust funder offering free yoga lessons on the beach.

Signs are the signals we broadcast about ourselves. Signs are social armor. We wear what conveys the message we want people to know about us. Some dressed in designer clothes, others went hipster. All of it, a swirling kaleidoscope of labels and messages acting as lighthouses in the acetylene landscape that is suburban sprawl.

Clubs? Yes, we even went to a club. You have to realize that I don’t club. I am as anti-club as they get. My idea of small talks goes something like: at what point in time did you realize that your image of yourself was simply the behaviors that caused you the least amount of effort? Not really a great line, if you know what I mean. But, I was interested in the social structure, so I gladly went. Ok, not so glad, but still, went.

What message did I convey with my jeans, plaid shirt and wing-tip boots? Yeah, you guessed it, leave me alone. And they did.

Other members of our group enjoyed dancing and had a blast. I would say the high point of the evening was when a lady was talking to Bill. He started laughing. She came up to me and said, how much money do you make? Me? I have a stock answer for these circumstances, I’m unemployed. She recoiled as if struck. Then she went down the line of us, asking each in turn.

One of our group, she didn’t ask, she just made fun of his shorts and baseball hat and sneakers. She mocked him and then went on to the next.

The music was pumping, and I was reminded of that old Dead Milkmen song, Instant Club Hit: You’ll Dance to Anything.

Oh, baby, look at you
Don’t you look like Siouxsie Sioux
How long’d it take to get that way?
What a terrible waste of energy

You wear black clothes say you’re poetic
The sad truth is you’re just pathetic
Get into the groove just get out of my way
I came here to drink not to get laid

So, “Why don’t you just go on home?”
‘Cause if you want to moan you’ll have to moan alone
You’ll dance to anything
You’ll dance to anything

So let’s get back to signals for a moment. By all forms of measurement our young lady was looking for a cash cow, but she didn’t know how to look for the signs.

You know that guy she skipped? Well he’s a millionaire. Yep, that’s right. She saw the shorts, sneakers and hat and went into mock mode.

When I look at my buddy, who pretty much dresses like that all the time, you know what I see?

Someone who doesn’t care what anyone thinks about them. You don’t get that way without a lot of confidence. And with confidence, comes cash. We think it’s the other way around don’t we? That money will give us that boost? It doesn’t. Money only allows the illusion of confidence. Take it away and you are where you started.

Best-selling author Dr. Jonah Berger, in his class How Ideas Spread, went over the strength of signals. In the course he talks about how companies market. The cheaper and poorer quality, the smaller the label. In fact, below $100 it’s hard to find a label on most products (he was talking about sunglasses and designer bags). When the price jumps up to $100-$400 the labels become large. Guess what happens when we jump above $400? The labels shrink again.

Excuse me sir, but what?

Market research has shown that companies on the top tier have an insider/exclusive track. No known labels, but they may have a cross stitch on the handle, or a ivory inlay, for example.

Why would anyone want to hide that they have spent several thousand dollars on a product they could have had for under a $100?

Companies do this so that middle-class and low-class people don’t dilute the product. The top tier is reserved for those with enough money, and experience to understand what the goods are.

And that quiet guy sitting in the corner, grinning like mad, sporting shorts and baseball hat, is the goods. The riffraff go off in search of gaudy labels.

Take a look at yourself and see what message you are projecting. Study your clothes, your behaviors and your friends. People are loud. I am loud. You are loud.

Isn’t it about time we figured out what we are trying to say?

Photo credit: collwrites.com

Why Limit Yourself?

Pearl Jam sang it true, so many years ago, in their epic song, Daughter: She holds the hand that hold her down.

It’s really a great line. I can feel my head bobbing to the music, just writing it down. It’s a great line until I realized we live and die alone on this earth. So who’s hand am “I” holding, if not my own?

The culture around us tells us it’s society. It’s our family. It’s our upbringing. It’s our economic background. All of these things create a riptide surging against our best efforts and potential.

It’s not to say that these things aren’t important. They are. But they are external limitations. It’s about time we learned how to blow the roof off of our self-imposed ceilings. Pack you bags, reader, for we are going to Austin for a demonstration of what it looks like to no longer hold the hand that holds you down.

__________________

My buddies and I picked South By Southwest in Austin, Texas for our annual moronathon.

We had been meeting with each other (some of us) since the 10th grade.  Now that we were in our 40’s it was time to upgrade. We were interested in food, music and just being with each other. Serious down time in a seriously fun city.

We landed in SXSW ready to have some fun. We saw some shows, ate at Franklin Barbecue. Drinks at Peche. Coffee at Houndstooth.

Donnelly (co-founder TH3RDFORCE) came in the last Saturday morning of the festival. We were eating breakfast.  He walked up behind me and gave me a nice big hug.

I see you boys aren’t drinking yet?

We looked blankly at him after days and days in bars giving out free drinks.

A round of Bloody Mary’s arrived as if on cue. Drinking start time. 10 a.m. Check. This is never a good sign.

We had a few shows we hoped to catch, Cloud Nothings, were at the top of the line. So we cued up and it didn’t look good. Finally someone came and said, you’ll never make it in.

In a state dejection we wondered down the street.

Free beer. Free beer.

As one, all of our heads turned to the right.  Hearing that siren song we went into to bar. A brewery from Colorado was offering whatever they had on tap for free from 12-2.

At this point we commenced Olympic style drinking.

A few hours later we were wondering down to see Drowning Men. Let me tell you this is a great band. More people need to hear them. They have opened up for one of my favorite bands Flogging Molly several times over the years. In fact, they were the first band to sign to FM’s label.

Basically had a few more bloody Mary’s. Austin is famous for them, sometimes serving a bloody Mary decked out with brisket, sausage and ribs on top (not joking)


Anyway as the show times was drawing near there was a line for beer and Tullamore Dew whisky (sponsoring at least this show). I was behind a guy who was giving everyone a hard time, not in a mean way, just taking the piss out of them. I started laughing and we started talking.

We shared a drink and then he was all, I’m off. He hopped on the stage and picked up a guitar and the band started warming up. That was so cool. Had no idea I would be sharing drinks with a band member.

The concert was literally 5-8 people (and this is no disrespect to the band) and us. Nobody knew who they were and it was way too early for a show. So they played their hearts out. Afterward I bought the band some shots and we hung out. Great guys.

After the show we were walking down the street and we saw all of these vip tents. I kept saying to my buddies, we gotta get into one of those, we gotta get into one of those. That looks fun.

Finally my friend Roger said, lets’ go here, to the Moonshine Patio Bar and Grill. I said, OK. They headed for the VIP tent, I ducked out to the bathroom. I got a text saying we are in. Just come in, tell them you are with us.

Us? Now we are an us.

I walked up to security pointed at my friends, they waved me in and I sat down.

How the hell did you pull that off?

Well, said Roger, we walked up to the lady working the front entry. I went right up to her and said, do you have room for us?

She said, who are you?

I told her, he is, pointing at Bill, Billy, and we are the kids.

Billy and the kids? Now if I spend time looking on this list will I find you?

No. But that’s not your fault. We are the next big thing. So big, nobody even knows we are here yet.

Remarkably, she laughed and said, I’ll give you 30 minutes Billy and The Kids.

Since we all grew up together or had known each other for 20 years plus it only took about ten minutes until we reverted to jackass mode. We ordered drinks, oddly enough, only amaretto and gin. Only those two drinks, each mixed three different ways. Food came. Plates full of deliciousness.

We had entered a VIP tent. The inside was full of music insiders. Music insiders and us, a group of degenerates. Anyway, we started getting rowdy and having a lot of fun. As a group, we are not known for our subtlety.

Both Brian and I are former newspaper reporters and photographers. We crowd watch for fun. About the same time we noticed that people were looking over at our table. Pictures were being taken. We were becoming a thing.

The lady who had let us in seated us directly behind her in the front. She looked back once in a while, laughing. We waved.

The drinks kept coming. Finally, I got that feeling. The one saying someone is having issues with you. Turning around, I saw a bunch of very fine looking fellows. They looked, to be honest, a bit too fine. A bit too orchestrated. These were not our people.

As I sat there nursing my drink, disgusting by all accounts (amaretto and ginger ale) I saw them looking at us, not too kindly, and then the satellite was dispatched to our table.

Hey, he said, who the hell are you guys anyway?

Roger, way past drunk, said, We are Billy and the Kids and I don’t like the way you are talking to us. He was laughing. Billy and I got very quiet, putting our drinks down and me, taking off my glasses. Focusing on this person now, in front of us. Who are we? We are having fun. You guys look like you are posing for a gap commercial.

He got the message, and went back to his group. By this time people were stopping by. Saying hello. It had been long past an hour and to be honest I just couldn’t take the sweet drinks anymore.

We signaled we were leaving and asked for the bill. The waitress literally beamed at us. Gentlemen you are in the VIP tent. Everything here is comped.

It’s free? Yes, Billy and the Kids. We looked up and their was our angel. Smiling in the Austin sunlight.

On the way out we stopped to say thanks and give her a couple bills. She took the money, laughing.

You guys stole the show. You know who that is? They are Young the Giant. You totally stole their show. This was a top spot and all everyone was talking about was who you all were. That made my SXSW.

It made ours too.

 

__________

I really had a tough time with this post. I wanted to edit out certain parts of it. Ever notice how people always appear better on paper or film than they really are? I wanted you all to see how the TH3RDFORCE works. The TH3RDFORCE is the synergy between the body and mind working together. When you give in to the flow and pull of time interesting things happen. Not any part of my was interested in getting rejected at the VIP tent. But part of our group was certainly prepared to do what it took to make that entry reality. And that is why, it’s important to choose your friends well. They can shore up weaknesses and bring you together in such a way that very little is impossible.

Get Away? From What?

 

I was tired. My tires screamed on the highway. My eyes were blurry. A few hours longer. I sank back into the seat of my pickup and let the road push me about the driver’s seat as if it were somehow navigating these turns.

A few days earlier I was overcome with an intense need to be alone. I checked with my boss, got Monday and Tuesday off. After work Friday I drove on up toward Colorado.

Climbing altitude from the middle of Arizona I could feel the air cooling. Stars danced along the top half of my spider-web-cracked windshield.

I drove until my eyes betrayed me. Thought I saw something in road. Hit the brakes. Nothing but wind in trees. I slowed down a little. Took the turns a bit wider. Adrenalin would give me another half hour. I was so tired though I decided to follow a turn off in the road.

I got out of the truck and locked the hubs. Started climbing Box Canyon road. The road cutback across the slumping belly of the canyon. Every once in a while, the tires would spin out.

I drove until the road ended in water.

Through the floating dust of the headlights I could see tire tracsk on the other side of the river. I figured it was maybe 8 feet across. Had no idea how deep?

Back in the truck. Rolled down the windows. My eyes were watering. I looked up and hit the gas. The truck lurched into the water, spraying me from the open window.

I came awake in that instant. A live wire buzzing in the early morning darkness of an August night. Water went over the windshield. I heard rocks kicking up under the truck bed.

The other side of the road hit hard on the front end of the truck. Bucking like some kind of demented bull, the truck and I hurtled out of the creek bed onto dry land.

Tires skidded as I stopped the truck and walked back to the water. My tracks already gone. I took a quick walk around and discovered I was actually on a little island. The road continued further into the canyon. Shrugging my shoulders, I opened the bed of my truck and threw my sleeping bag on the ground. I climbed in and felt my body let go.

I was asleep under the Rockies. This is what I came here for.

Next morning I woke up the first time. It was cold. The sun didn’t find me in that canyon for a few more hours. I burrowed deeper. By the time the sun’s rays warmed my sleeping bag I was climbing gently towards awareness.

I woke up stretched and looked around. Even in my haze I knew there was something wrong with the white rocks. I rubbed my eyes. Yep. Those rocks were ribs. I had thrown my sleeping bag within ten feet of a half-eaten deer.

Mountain-lion tracks were everywhere on that little island.

I started a fire and made some coffee. As I stared at those bones in the sunlight, I began to question my motives for being here.

Ostensibly I needed a break. I told myself I needed to have the mountains and sky fill my mind and heart with their stark outlines. I needed to get out of the valley heat of the Arizona desert. I had to be somewhere nobody knew me. I had to cut myself off from the known.

I came to the mountains to meditate. I wondered, coffee-warmed cup in hand, If I were really all that interested in meditation, why I did I burn up 16 of 96 hours driving? I thought, at the time, that my dramatic exploration was as much a distraction from peace as the life that put me in that truck hurtling over unknown creek beds.

Have you ever found yourself making excuses on when you will begin doing whatever it is that you have been putting off? Well that’s how my excuses found me. I was not impressed.

I had a good laugh. Finished my drink and drove a few more miles to a camp site. Set up my tent properly and spent the next couple days meditating and walking.

As I drove home I passed by that island. The bones were licked clean. I gripped the steering wheel tightly as I bounced along that creek bed to the other side.

Months later I waited for that feeling to well up inside me. It never did again. I had started meditating daily, again.

There was nowhere to go.

Photo courtesy of Boxcanyonblog@blogspot.com

 

The Road To Nowhere!

 

 

This is our third week in our series of how to have the best 2015 you can have.

How did it go?

Why start a post asking you, the reader, how it went?

Well this is how it went for me, the writer.

I spent a couple hours this morning writing this last installment. I had woven the Talking Head’s song, Road To Nowhere, through the bones of this baby. Amidst all the rapid-fire typing, I was interrupted with a question. I had to get out of word to check something, while I had multiple files open.

Where am I going with this?

Yes, you guessed it. The proverbial dog ate my post.

When asked to save, I said no, because two of the three files I had open definitely could not be changed.

Wha la.

So that’s it. I’ve decided no more posts. It wasn’t meant to be. Fate worked against me. For the first time ever a post didn’t save, so that means that I am not following the Dao. Every time I try to save, it doesn’t work, that must mean it’s time to stop. Nobody is reading this anyway. I have better things to do. I quit.

Does all of this sound a little familiar?

It sure does to me.

When I was confronted with my loss I laughed for a few minutes. It was such a great post, in hindsight it would really have been Pulitzer material if only the cold, calculating hand of fate hadn’t separated us.

There it is again, 20/20 hind sight/Pulitzer prize winning. If only. . .

So there I was, strumming my new favorite ditty: I wrote a post to nowhere, come on inside.

So disappointed. So what.

We take our hits and get back up. Simple as that. When Bill and I are San Diego in three weeks we will have a good laugh over a beer and plan for our best year at THIRDFORCE.

Maybe it’s time we simply get rid of the excuses. Stop making up reasons why things happen. We don’t know. We will never know. The only thing we can change is our response to what happens to us. These changes in the way we respond to the world do not come easily.

But what is there worth doing that doesn’t come at a price?

When you are breaking new ground expect challenges. Expect failure. You are after all asking your nervous system to change. Not only are you asking your nervous system to change you are asking it to forge new ground. Believe me, the last thing the nervous system wants is to work. That’s why we have a subconscious – it takes far, far less energy than our conscious thoughts.

Good news is we all know it’s true. Breaking new ground takes effort. The bad news is, the culture works against us. There are an endless supply of people out there telling you about going with the flow, following the way or the Dao. 

One of the most ridiculous memories of my 20’s and during my Chinese Medical school was when a student came waltzing into class late. The teacher at the time was famous for two things:

1) She would cut you to bleeding pieces, smiling the whole time as your life’s blood circled down the drain.

2) She ran a tight ship.

On this day the student came in the teacher began her smiling assault. He hardly moved a muscle.

Why are you late? Why do you think you can come in here when you like. I was up hours preparing for this class to teach. All you had to do was sit there and learn. Why? Why?

In reply, he said, I was following the Dao, you know, the way. My body told me to sleep in so I followed.

The Dao? She replied, sneering through her smile, red stick lighting the wall to the side of her.

The Dao, smile fading.

Yes, he said, The Dao. You should try it sometime. Nature is my teacher. In the meantime you are filling in. Quite well I must say.

Needless to say he was kicked out of class and brought up on all kinds of student behavior charges.

The funny thing is some of the students agreed with him. Their intuition was telling them to stay in bed longer too. Winters in Portland, Oregon are an abysmal affair. Lots and lots of rain and down time.

A few of us were at a pub about a week later and the incident came up. Everyone, shockingly, was on the student’s side.

I said, to the group. You know I lived in a temple in Korea. It was a combination of Rinzai Zen and Daoist practices.

All heads, swung as one to me.

And we did change our patterns with nature.

Nodding.

In fact we did sleep in during the winter.

You see, they said, we knew it.

Yep we got to wake up at 3:30 am and start meditating.

Spirits dampening.

During the summer months it was back to 3 a.m. If you are following nature than you understand just how regulated and consistent it actually is. We might, in modern times, even be able to forecast the sunrise and sunset a month in advance. Can you believe it? The sun and moon don’t veer off course because they want to.

Nature is its own law. Human beings have been cutting themselves off of natural order as long as we have been thinking.

They looked at me not knowing exactly what I was saying. On one hand I was the only one who spent a lot of time in temples, which was cool. On the other hand, I was suggesting that natural law was not the same thing as just doing whatever you wanted to do because you thought it was a good idea at the time.

In the end, my view was tossed out. The Daoslackers won. I was, as is my most favorite position, walking that margin.

All of which to say, is that, if you are truly making new ground and changing the way you are functioning you will find it difficult, hard and above all else, deeply rewarding.

Get up. Try again. The road to Nowhere is calling. Come on outside.

 

(Photo credit, Glide Magazine)

It Was Not Your Fault, But Mine

So what defines us in the end? Is it our things? Our actions? Our relationships? Kids? Our businesses? Our Crafts? Our wine collection? Our tragic last-second loss of the Super Bowl to a bunch of cheating, lying, ball deflating. . .

What! What?

Sorry about that last line. It was very interesting. The whole state started firing the same shot. Dumb call, throwing that pass.

I got caught up in it too.

But then, my program kicked in. How did the Seahawks get to the Super Bowl? By making weird, off-kilter plays.

That’s how.

They simply did what they were doing without taking time to make an analysis whether or not that pattern still served them. It’s easy to love your team when they are being themselves and winning. As far as loving them when they are down. Well that has everything to do with how we think and how we behave.

Back to the mind, then. Where did these thoughts and feelings come from? We keep looking at our lives and mind like there’s something mysterious or aloof about our outcomes. But really, if we look closely, we will see the same pattern repeating.

We are the accumulated outcomes of our habits.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

Our patterns form states. States give birth to thoughts and emotions which ultimately our outcomes

So let’s break this down THIRDFORCE style.

How do we even create a habit? Does it take place in 14 days? Sorry Steven Covey, you were a great man, but habitually optimistic – which is not a bad thing.

According to cutting edge research in neurology, it takes at least 90 days of daily routine for something to form a habit (Check out Joe Dispenza and his work). If it only took 14 days then we would all be hitting the gym the last 51 weeks of the year.

So there you have it. That’s where we fall short in our goals.

CS Lewis said it best. We don’t don’t get into trouble because of the strength of our passions. We get into trouble because our passions are not big enough to outweigh our apathy.

Let me say it again. The problem is not that we have too many wants and needs. The problem is that we don’t fuel these wants and needs with enough energy so they become habits.

You have to see it through to the end.

Perhaps one of my favorite songs in recent times is from Mumford & Sons, Little Lyon Man. The lyrics hit so true and so close to home the first time I heard it I literally pulled off the road to listen:

Weep for yourself, my man,
You’ll never be what is in your heart
Weep, little lion man,
You’re not as brave as you were at the start
Rate yourself and rake yourself
Take all the courage you have left
And waste it on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head

Let’s go back to last week’s post. In it, we asked a few questions:

Body: What makes you function at your peak? What throws you off your game? What can you do to “tune up” your system? Leave your car at home. Take yourself into the shop.

Mind: What thoughts are habitually showing up? Did you analyze them? Which one’s do you want to keep? Which no longer serve you?

Spirit: How easy do you move through your day? Are you fighting uphill? Certainly, the challenge is never greater than the demons in your own head telling you fail. How did you change your relationship to adversity?

Remember these changes take a minimum of three months to set. Take the time to write up a three month plan. So there you have it.

What will you do with it?

3 Ways To A Better 2015!

SONY DSC

Life can be confusing at times. We are pulled apart by events, circumstances, chance, relationships, beliefs, times, environment, etc. The heart says one thing. The mind, the other. And the body? After abusing it since October, well it isn’t saying much anymore, just quietly putting on those winter pounds.

But, hey, didn’t we just make a bunch of resolutions? Well, yes, the royal we did. However, in my clinic I have already seen these fall to the wayside.

So, what happened?

Let’s take a look under the hood. With all of these obstacles it’s time to take a look at our filter. Let’s see what information is coming to us and see how we are responding to it.

Our filter is the part of us observing what is happening in our life. As we start 2015 let’s have a quick look at how we can use our body, mind and spirit to have a better year.

Each of these three parts of us experiences the world in their unique way. Best practices are to nurture the three-fold path.

Each week for the next three weeks we are going to look into the future by giving you tools to alter tomorrow through modest efforts today.

Body: Treat your body kindly. Eat foods which give you long-term sustained energy. Don’t know what foods do this for you? No problem, make a food log and track energy levels. Highly functional people are 8-10 out of 10 on the energy scale. Where do you rank? Does your level change throughout the day? I had one patient say they woke up tired, drank enough coffee to dislodge themselves form home. Get to work. Space out. More coffee. Meaningless work – not the kind that accomplishes anything. Then lunch. More coffee. Big slump by 3. More coffee. They are wearing a headache by now and their neck and shoulders feel wooden. Add in some reflux and it’s time to think about going home. Home sweet home. Crack a beer. Watch TV. Repeat. We take better care of our pets and automobiles then this. First step, just figure out what makes your run better or worse.

 

Mind: Ever have an experience where you say something and then apologize a minute later? You ask yourself, now why did I say that? That’s the program. About 95% of what we do is the unconscious, pre-programmed mind. Every once in a while we get a chance to see what we really think by observing these automatic responses. Most of the time they are startling. We say something, or feel something, know it isn’t right and then end up doing it anyway. Why? It’s leverage. If 95% of us is moving in one direction, the rest will follow. Not much choice there. Figure out what you are thinking and then decide what you would rather think. I think Dale Carnegie said it best, we have people guard our banks. You should rather, guard your mind with that same level of intensity for the contents are much more valuable.

 

Spirit: When you say spirit in these, modern times, people give you a blank look that seems to say, I didn’t see that at Best Buy, what do you mean? What we mean is that the spirit is felt clearly when the body and mind are at their most quiet. I always know my body and mind are working well when I am stopped in my tracks by a night sky filled with stars or a leaf dancing in the wind. I think the spirit is so hard to get in contact with because if the body and mind are ill, it’s hard to hear or feel anything but agitation. Spend some quiet time with yourself. For the spirit, quiet is nourishment. Unplug.

Why Be Good At Going Home Early?

 

My daughter looked up at me asking, Hey Dad, should we stop believing?

She was impossibly crammed in the couch between my friend and myself, both of us elbowing her in the excitement. She squirmed her head up at me, looking.

No. This is how the team always plays. They come from behind and all of the sudden they wake up. They remember they are champions and after that, they win.

The Seahawks were trailing 19-7 with 5 minutes to go for NFC Championship game. Or was it still a game? For all purposes it looked like it was already over.

Almost everyone thought it was over.

Unbelievably, even the fans were leaving the stadium. Seriously? The stadium that the 12th Fan, not Man to my girls, built! Even they gave up?

As they were leaving I was reminded of a Jim Rohn quote. I’ll have to paraphrase, but the gist of it is: When you go to a performance don’t leave before it’s over. Think about all the time they spent practicing. All the time away from their families. If the score is bad, stay and show the team your support. With so many things to be good at in life, why choose leaving early?

Dad, why do we believe?

Because without faith, there is nothing worth living for.

She was quiet for a time. Then looked up again as we scored a touchdown.

Does that mean if they lose we have nothing to live for?

No baby, they might lose. That doesn’t even matter. What matters is we believe in the possibility that they may not.

The Seahawks scored again. There was Green Bay Field goal. Complete chaos was breaking around us. For the first time in my life I felt the deep adrenalin rush of watching, I mean really watching, a sporting event on television.

I’ll have to back up here a bit. Bill Donnelly, Co-Creator of TH3RDFORCE, had few greater joys growing up than inviting me over to his house to watch football.

I hated football.

I did, however, suffer from adolescent-boredom syndrome. It’s a terrible burden for both the afflicted and their friends. So I would sit there or up in his room reading books while the game went on. I always hoped his team would win because if they didn’t it meant he was in a bad mood for the whole night.

So how did I find myself in this particular situation, elbow to elbow with crazy Seahawks fans?

Fate. No other word for it.

I married a Canadian. She hates football for not being hockey. It’s a crime the NFL will never come back from. I have two daughters. I thought I was safe. I thought I had seen my last pro game in high school.

Then Rowy struck. What is a Rowy, you ask? She is my daughter and she’s crazy about the Seahawks. She got into the sport last year. At her school they had Seahawk Fridays. Kids got to wear their jerseys, hats, etc.

Soon enough she told me she was the only kid in her class without a jersey. We asked her teacher. Her teacher said, well yes, she is the only one in our class. She said this giving me the look. Not the you should feel guilty look but much worse, the my God, why don’t you know about this look? Pity, that’s what it was. Pity.

Off to the store to feed the machine. I felt a little ill paying for the NFL jersey. The sting was softened by my kids immediately putting them on.

Next came the Super Bowl. Safe, I thought, we don’t have cable. One of our friends has a daughter about the same age as my kids. He called and invited us to his Super bowl party saying the kids could play. Laughing, I told my wife, yeah right. The kids heard and that was that.

We watched the game. I have to admit. I kind of liked it. Gone were the grotesquely fat, slow, football heads of the past. In their place were the Seahawks who looked more like lacrosse and basketball players than the behemoths I remembered.

This season I didn’t even think of the whole Seahawks thing. But wouldn’t you know it. Rowy asked if we were watching the game this weekend.

The game?

Yeah, the Seeeeeeaaaaa HAwkssss.

Fate stepped in. My parents were over for dinner.

Sure, my Mom said. You can come over. I’ll even pick you up.

We never missed a game. Not one.

And that’s how I found myself sitting in the living room. You see by now I had been won over by the sheer athletic ability of the Seahawks as well as their strangeness. Let’s face it. They are as eccentric as any characters in any novel.

Back to the game. It went into overtime. Russell Wilson, the quarterback, had scored perfect 0 in ratings until the last few minutes.

After two absolutely perfect throws the Seahawks won in overtime.

He went from a 0 rating to a 100 rating.

Why?

Pete Carrol, the head Seahawks coach said it best, Russ has an internal conversation going in his head that doesn’t allow him the possibility of giving up.

As the game ended and the room exploded, I found myself grinning like a school boy. I hugged my daughter and for the briefest of moments felt a hand on my back. It was Donnelly reaching through time, probability and space – a high five for the team.

Lessons learned: Don’t leave early, never give up and never say never.