doubt

Cooking up the Supreme Career

How did we end up where we are, right now? What were the thousand of unmemorable decisions, influences, strokes of luck (bad and good), right place right time circumstances that conspired for you to be right here. Some of you are smiling and others are not. We all have stories, do we not?! While our resumes and bios give certainty of credit and trajectory, we all know better. In fact we have forgotten most of the things that really contributed to our successes. Bits of advice, mentoring moments, what friends said or did, a death, a birth, a movie you saw, a speech you heard......hundreds of things that shaped your point of view and pushed and pulled you to where you are.

Are you noticing what is influencing, could be influencing you now? Emerson

In the last 72 hours I was reminded of the subtlety and fragility of those moments and messages. When I was younger I was "too focused" too ambitious" to see so much. I was lucky to have gained anything--and I did. I feel like I see and hear so much more today. Yeah, the clock is ticking but I am paying attention with a heart and mind that knows how much I don't know. That I still have unexplored talents and potential hidden within me. 

One of my favorite books is Instructions to the Cook  describes the Zen Buddhist concept for the supreme meal. The supreme meal is when we live our life fully, wholeheartedly---a fully expressed life.

So the first principle of the Zen cook is that we already have everything we need. If we look closely at our lives, we will find that we have all the ingredients we need to prepare the supreme meal. At every moment, we simply take the ingredients at hand and make the best meal we can. It doesn’t matter how much or how little we have. The Zen cook just looks at what is available and starts with that.

  • I lead a workshop for 74 newbies in the field of philanthropy. We all paused to reflect on the unpredictable circumstances that pushed us into philanthropy--a field none of us "majored in" or can explain to our parents! So is this a way-station to something else or is this the most important opportunity of our lifetime so far ?(choose #2). How do we make the most out of what we have and where we are?
  • Visited the incredible Frank Gehry exhibition at LACMAThe genius of Frank's architecture could have easily been lost to his stronger interest in becoming a pilot. His ceramics class unexpectedly led him to architecture. He ignored his professor who told him that architecture was not his field. And later after he designed a typical shopping center in Santa Monica, a mentor asked him if he was happy designing for others. Frank quit his cushy job and took a giant leap--and the rest is history. How do we respond to self-criticism and the judgment and discouragement of others? How do we do what we love?
  • Saw He named me Malala  film where a 14 year old girl literally gets shot in the face with her destiny and becomes the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her unique parents, her name, her incredible personality, the influences of the needs around her and the Taliban forged her destiny. How do we uphold our values and the rights of others? How do we react to tragedy, pain and threats? 
  • And then to top it off I saw Lost Angels, a gritty documentary about the fates of regular people who end up on skid row. Poignant stories of choices, challenges, misfortune, and the ovarian lottery. How do we manage our balance, sanity, finances, addictions, and demons to stay on the straight and narrow?  How do we make the most out of what we have?
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Stuff happens. Switches get flipped. New paths appear. People push, others pull. You get bored, inspired, discouraged and educated. Outside forces influence your little asteroid into a different orbit and trajectory--if you let them. What chances and changes do we prevent from happening? What do we suppress, fail to express, and under-value in our pursuit of the practical and prudent? What is right in front of you right now that you can't see because your lenses are zoomed in on what is more important to others than to you? 

All of the ingredients are in your cupboard to make the supreme meal. What do you have that you have forgotten about? What do you have that you have never tasted or used? How do you focus on where you are and what you are doing to make it supreme?

Every moment is fleeting, fragile and filled with opportunity. The emergence of your passions and purpose grow within you. Meaning and fulfillment are not foreign destinations you hope to visit some day, they surround you. You have what it takes. The possibilities within you are untapped. The opportunities around you are boundless.

I want to incorporate the flavors of the newbie beginner's mind, the outside perspective of Gehry,  Malala's courage, and the humility of the homeless into my cuisine. 

What do you want?

Put on your apron, open your cupboard, sharpen your knives---let's get cooking!!

Thanks for reading. John

 


The Bully of Doubt

The greatest revolution in our generation is that of human beings, who by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. Marilyn Ferguson

One of the most surprising things to students of my mentoring workshops is my advice to mentor themselves. That the very first and most connection that one must make is the connection with thyself. To know thyself and to understand the improv group you have residing within you. Yeah that crazy group of personalities that counsel you, make fun of you, inspire you, and doubt everything you do. They hold your interests, your passions, your emotions--and your potential. 

Some people have a board of directors in their mind running their lives in an orderly consistent fashion. But most of us, including yours truly, have this collection of competing and often conflicting voices in our heads. Chief among them: Ambition, Doubt, and Confidence. A very rough variation of Freud's Id, Ego, and Superego. 

Like any capable improv group some of the material works, some gives pause, and some falls flat. And like all improv groups there are compelling personalities. And the voice of Doubt can be the bully. Bully

The bully yells louder and the group falls apart. Because we can be weak and easily succumb to the bully’s powers. Doubt undermines our confidence and therefore our ambition. Doubt breeds the most unfortunate process of settling. 

Like most bullies Doubt is strengthened by the weakness of others. Doubt is hungry and greedy and it will eat your confidence for a snack--if you let it. Yes, there are many layers of accumulated experience, self-talk and other people's ideas and expectations that give Doubt its strength and power. But you always have to confront the bully!

You are not good enough. You have never been good enough. No matter what you do, you fall short of what you could and should do.

Confidence is fragile. And the voice of doubt can be brutal. 

Top grad students were randomly told they were falling well below expectations without any evidence . 40% agreed with the unfounded criticism. Saying things like: "I know. I never meet expectations." WTF? 

We all tiptoe on a very fine line of self confidence that is so delicate. 

When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt. Honore de Balzac

We doubt whether the good times will last and that the law of probability will catch up. In golf, like in life, or even flipping a coin, the "odds" are the same each time you try. But we think that the good is perishable. Our mind lets doubt ruin our momentum.

But we also know that life is not a Chair of Bowlies, as my dyslexic friend says :) Yeah there is sweet fruit but there are always going to be the pits. 

It is about moving forward through the challenges. Not in a straight uninterrupted line, but in a spiral upwards propelled by your lessons and failures.

Go from one failure to the next with enthusiasm. Winston Churchill

You-re-Not-Good-Enough-You-re-BetterThe easiest way to shut up the bully, the voice of doubt is to shift the mindset. To adopt a perspective that it is not about winning or losing but playing the game. 

By the way we need doubt otherwise we are overconfident, obnoxious, unteachable, ego maniacs who live in a mythical world of certainty--the only thing worst than doubt. 

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. Voltaire

Here are a few tips on how to put the bully of doubt in its place:

Let Doubt Out--Express your doubt see if it flies or dies. Talk about your doubts with others. Get feedback and ideas. Talk to your mentors about whether these doubts are real or imagined. And find strategies to address them. Doubt in captivity festers. Doubt in the open can be tamed.

Build on Your Strengths--Focus and build on what you good at doing. SWiVEL! Great basketball players shoot their way through the slump. Keep honing and practicing. Build your confidence around who you are and what you love doing.

You are Your Story--What you say about yourself becomes you. What is your story? How do you introduce yourself? How do you answer the question, "What do you do?" It matters. I wince when people say, "I am just a Mom/student/(fill in the blank)" Be proud and authentic about who you are and where you are in your life! 
 
Your Network Is Your Antidote--Seek and connect with people who model and  live the way you want to live. People who are working on things you need to work on. People who push you and tell you the truth. People who see the world differently than you do. A network like this will pull you, inspire you, and give you energy to move way beyond doubt. 
 
Help and Mentor Others--Strength and self worth and self esteem comes from doing good. You see the best in yourself when you are generous and supportive. You will always get more than you give. Helping others is not for a time when you are at a better place but a way for you to get to a better place. 
 
Stop the bully of doubt, by engaging, by asking for help, and appreciating the good within you. It is a choice. Your choice. To unleash your goodness.
 
Thanks for reading. John