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The Illusion of More

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little. Epicurus

 

A brand new college grad with his mortar board on says to me: Gotta get into grad school!

Comment to me after my 94 year old uncle passed: So sorry he did not make it to 95

Parents remark at their daughter's wedding: Now for my grandkids!

First question in an interview with me: How long do I have to do this job before I might get promoted?

Never enough. Never good enough. 

One of the greatest distractions in life is this uneasy and ultimately sleep depriving feeling. It can motivate and haunt you. It can dominate our thinking and our actions. We see it in our social media, we see it in our credit card statements, we see it at work and talk about it with almost everyone. It is a silent and powerful under current that defines our lives. Wanting MORE. More please

Some believe this constant desire and pursuit for more is rooted in our biology — that it helped us to survive. Some believe that this pursuit is fundamental to a capitalistic society that requires consumerism, propelled by the media, culture and of course, all of us aid and abet the crime of MORE

It is true that our survival instincts and competitive nature have brought us great progress and material luxuries. But when we lose ourselves to the MORE, that requires an intervention.

According to Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, income does predict happiness—but only up to $75,000 per year.

The infinite and never satiable goal of a bigger, better, and more expensive version. We do live in a Big Gulp, Super Size, Monster truck, Power Ball,  iPhone 10, All you can eat, Botox filled world that is relentless and unyielding. It is an epidemic.

The yearning for life and wealth shows no signs of aging even as a man grows old. It does not weaken with age. It is a lifelong disease. The man who gives it up finds happiness.  Dharmasutras

I have come to appreciate Marie Kondo's popular and simple advice about Tidying. I have read her book and saw her speak recently. For me the essence is--Look at your things, things you did not remember you have, so many things--Look at each one of them and ask, "Does this spark joy in me?" If it does not, then get rid of it. Give it away to someone who needs or wants it. We should be surrounded by things and people that spark joy in us, right?

A desire arises in the mind. It is satisfied; immediately another comes. In the interval which separates two desires a perfect calm reigns in the mind. It is at this moment freed from all thought, love or hate. Complete peace equally reigns between two mental waves.– SWAMI SIVANANDA

Regardless of what we believe to be at the root of this constant wanting, it takes a conscious and deliberate effort to experience contentment or satisfaction in our lives — to fully appreciate life, people, and the activities we engage in. To stop and smell the roses, as my Dad used to say. To interrupt the impulses and the continuous thoughts that undermine our sense of self and the present.

Yes meditation helps a lot. Anything to disrupt the pattern and bring the world back into focus.

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.

And we become what we say. We evolve into our narratives. So when we say MORE, to ourselves and to others, that's what we believe and that's what we become. 

Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have. Buddha

This is most evident in interviews and conversations. How people always tell me they are looking to make a change because they want more. The most over-used term is "growth" followed by "opportunity". I have learned these are code words for more money. Some souls are looking for meaning and fulfillment, but most want the "opportunity to grow".  Grow to do what or be what?!! We may never know. 

Here's what kills me. Many people have read the same blog posts :), received the same coaching and have the same routines, answers and presentations. And when the vast majority of the walking dead say, "I am looking for a place where I can (continue to) grow." I always ask, "What are your top priorities for personal and professional growth?" This is a stumper. The vast majority of people I meet say that the cause, the issue, even the industry "doesn't matter"!!! I wish I was kidding. They can't articulate what "more" they want. Money is embedded and hiding in these abstract thoughts of more. But what is most often avoided is any self awareness, authenticity, and or introspectiveness to identify what more they want to become.

More is superficial when disconnected from the "P" words of passion and purpose.

How much is enough?

 

The Illusion of More        

Don't need a thing
To do our thing
We have what we need
To pursue what we heed
Everything before us
Nothing between us
The more of our world
Is the distraction
The less of ourselves
Is the attraction
When we forget me
We build on the we

The more takes from the now
It carries us to the next
Without gratitude or grace
It abruptly changes our place
For here is this moment
So full and complete
It's a shame we might waste it
So we can compete
For the more of tomorrow
And miss this special time
Are we deaf to the music
And what's left of this rhyme

No things is our aim
In the end
We are all the same                                           jek

 

There are a few MOREs that deserve our attention:

More peace and social justice

More time with people we love

More solitude, silence, and soul nourishment

More effort to be kind and non-judgmental

More altruism where we give and help without any expectation

More joy, awe, and wonder.

Let's enjoy what we have . Let's find and nurture the spark of joy around us. Let's interrupt the nonsensical wanting impulses. No more. 

Thanks for reading. John

 

 


You Busy?

How we spend our days, is how we spend our lives.  Annie Dilliard

Isn't this the most asinine question? Busy?! No, I was just napping or sitting on my hands waiting for you to call, knock or interrupt the boring silence I call my life. 

We are all so busy. Not sure what we are doing and whether we are making a difference, but we are indeed very preoccupied with stuff. Important stuff. Well at least stuff that matters to hopefully someone. But one thing is certain we are busy!

Let's get real. According to time diaries kept for more than a decade, we have more leisure time than we ever have. The researcher John Robinson says, "Americans actually have more leisure time, are less rushed, less stressed, and sleep much more than we think we do." And we have been lying about how busy we are for 50 years. I can hear your predictable cries of protest. I know none of my readers are average, but tv viewing and use of internet media is up to all time highs. Anyway, Robinson estimates we all have about 40 hours of "free" time each week. 

I have tried to ban the B Word, from every environment I have had any control over. Ask my colleagues from my past lives. My point is to help people stop the habit of valuing how "busy" we are and instead reflect on their priorities and the bigger picture.

I’m a big proponent of “busy is a decision.” You decide what you want to do and the things that are important to you. And you don’t find the time to do things — you make the time to do things. And if you aren’t doing them because you’re “too busy,” it’s likely not as much of a priority as what you’re actually doing. Debbie Millman

My motivation is to continue my rehab as a recovering busy body, where I foolishly thought that activity equalled productivity or even importance. I never realized how much I stressed myself out and everyone around me. 

Don't get me wrong I am type A+, I fault my parents, my immigrant grandparents, my DNA, the internet, cell phones and anything and anyone and everything that has influenced me. :) The reality is I try to maximize my usefulness, my waking time, my chances, my fleeting moments to do as much as I can. Not as a contest, but just because I realize that there is no way to measure the fuel left in my tank. 

Been to too many funerals and memorials for people much younger than me--Who died "too young". I live life like many people as if I was part of a dutch auction where you start with the highest price, and as the price drops,  you bid on the way down. Versus building my empire and my "retirement funds" for some magical time in the future where all my deferred gratification will occur. Makes no sense to me. I want this time right now to be a full life of no regrets!  Busy

God, what surprises you most about humanity?

"That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.”

“That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health.”

“That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live in neither
the present nor the future.”

“That they live as if they will never die, and die as though they had never lived."  

Excerpt from Interview with God poem.

I meet people every month who literally say they are too busy for their friends and family.

I worked with an up and coming executive. He was single (still single), no kids, not even a pet. No real hobbies. He would talk about impressive things he would do, but not because he was passionate about them because he liked the way they sounded. But mostly he talks about how busy he is. I know you know one of these types, they are everywhere. Busy people whose greatest accomplishment is being busy. I have nothing against people who choose a single life. Or people who mostly work. What I resent is when people, who have no passion(s) and personal commitments, tell me how busy they are and have no empathy for their colleagues who have many other obligations.

If your life is full of love and commitment, then your busyness can be fulfilling

When you are aligned with your work and your life, time is not the question. How busy you are is never an issue. You gain energy from the work. It is a virtuous cycle. 

Being busy is like gravity to earthlings and water to fish. We do not need to discuss it, we do not question it. We focus on what we are doing not how long it takes or what we are not doing.

Being busy is good if it matters to you.

Stop using the B word. Being busy is no career or life strategy. And start thinking about how you will take control of your busyness. 

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it. Seneca (circa 50AD)

Get busy being you. 

Thanks for reading. John 


What Would the Wolf Do?

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  John Muir 

This video beautifully and inspiringly tells the story of trophic cascades, basically where the top of the food chain is disrupted and the changes that follow. In this case, the re-introduction of the wolves into Yellowstone National Park dramatically shifted the course of the entire eco-system from the migration pattern of the elk to the height of the forest to the direction of the river. A great and visual lesson on the unknown consequences of changing things in our environment, in our worlds. We know everything is connected to everything else. We intellectually understand that at the atomic level we are in an infinite sea of life. We are part of this connectedness. What we do matters. There are immediate and unseen impacts from our actions and our in-actions that reverberate out and into the future. 

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. - Mother Teresa 

We also know that we have to do what we were meant to do. We can not hold back. Yes to be fulfilled and to feel purposeful. But we need to do it because of the ripple effect. The waves it sends out to others. We want to help others. We do. That's why I have advocated a lifestyle of networking and mentoring to help others. If we make it part our lives, part of the way we think and act, then it is not special, it is routine. And the ripples reverberate your righteousness. 

When we are wolves seeking our habitat and doing what wolves need to do. We change the world.

When we are not wolves we suppress nature, and the world changes anyway, often without us. 

Intuitively we think we know what happens when we do something. The cause and effect. We naively imagine a linear relationship of our actions and the intended consequences. But what really happens and what happens if we do nothing?

The world without wolves?

But too often we wait. Wait for a sign, for the "right time". We contemplate our navels and consider our options. We take chances or we balk at choices. We embrace the fear or we regret it later. We show up or don't. We say what's on our minds or we shrink from the truth.

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.  James Baldwin

Consider, if we do not act or speak or assist someone. Consider what happens if we do not build relationships, connect, network and mentor each other. Consider the cascade of events that would happen if you do or do not.

We have many excuses. We tend to think about obsess about what will go wrong. How I will be embarrassed. The inconvenience of the time. 

What if:

If I did not talk to this woman on a plane I would not be married and have three kids!

If I did not take a pay cut for a job I loved I would not be in this career.

If my mother had not encouraged me to be a YMCA counselor I may not have become a Big Brother.

If I did not become a Big Brother I would not be writing this blog.

I am sure you have  a longer and better list, if you think about it. We can think of these as special even magical moments. They are. And they aren't. The more you do the more that these moments occur. And best of all it triggers consequences well beyond you. 

We know your very presence makes a difference. But we forget. 

You avoid talking about politics, religion, or anything controversial or revealing about you, for fear of judgment or being politically incorrect. And your voice is silenced. People that look to you for guidance hear nothing and they adopt silence and neutrality as a mode of living. And your silence begets silence.

It is the slipperiest of slopes. You do less and less to protect what you have.

What our peers do matters. We crowd source. We pride ourselves on individualism but we can default to the lemmings. We follow and fall for what others around us do.

Maybe you need a different crowd. 

We have to be ourselves. Our best selves. Our most generous, compassionate and empathetic selves.

You agree to mentor someone even though "you are busy" and there is a cascade.

What happens to everything around and after you, if you are not you?

Nature abhors a vacuum. So when you fail to act, to show up, to do what you want to do the world changes anyway. The cascade of events that follow your absence is different. 

All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.  Octavia Butler 

But will you be the change that starts a beautiful cascade of events that you can not predict and only your presence generates? 

It all starts with giving without an expectation. 

The future is helping children you will never know. 

Give up on your dream and your instincts and you mess with the cosmos. 

WWWD? The world needs your ripples. 

Thanks for reading. John

 


Making the Jump

Every day, every fork in the road, every choice we confront, there is a leap of faith we must make or avoid. Little decisions can lead to bigger decisions. If life is a journey then we must take steps to keep moving and jumping can accelerate our quest. Hard to just move faster. We feel we are going at warp speed now, right? Our natural resistance to any change can trigger our lizard brain to move us back from the cliff.  (Pre-historic preference: when confronted, fight, flight, or stand perfectly still and hope it passes) Too often we jump to conclusions instead of to our destinies. We fear change so much and of course, failing, that we are paralyzed. We analyze, we consider, we weigh, and we examine the fine particles stored in our umbilical area :) But we don't act on what we know is right or best for us. I see it everyday. We become prisoners to this analysis and the warm feeling of the status quo. There is no parole hearing to get out of this jail. You have to escape these confines because you want to.  

Skydive jump
Jumping out of a perfectly good plane

I know some of you are already saying soothing things to yourself because you believe you are in control of your life. Hope that is true. Others of you have begun reinforcing the height and width of the walls that incarcerate you. Stop!

Here's the deal. Not asking you to blindly leap to the newish thing without your brain. I am not telling you to use your heart as your only compass (although I think that organ is under utilized) I am saying decide and do! (Avoiding the Nike ad) I am saying Jump!

Jumping from one place to the next is frowned upon by some. And yet the jump to the next level is always admired. Is the next level always up? Really? It isn't. So making the jump from bad habit to good. From a meaningless job to one that fulfills. From a better self to your best self. Jump over the fear of failure and make it happen!

Skydive feet
Me over the north shore of Oahu

I meet so many neurotic professionals who can not surrender to the jump. 

29 year old man who is so smart so gifted so confused. He wants a career. But he is so concerned about appearances, what others think (he would deny this) that he has no room to consider HIS fate. His parents and his "friends" are the shackles that prevent him from jumping. He wants to get married and have children -those things will also wait for his leap. Graduate school? (That omnipresent demon of delay) Career change? Internship? He came to see me and I simply told him to silence all of the voices except his own. Forget what others think. What do YOU think? Make it happen! And  jump!

I have been obsessed with the physical act of jumping since I was a kid. I still like it, even with my bad knees and back. I was in track and field for many years and was a jumper. High, triple and long. I know, I am pretty short but I had decent hops. That's how I met one of my best friends Willie Banks, Olympian and former world record holder in the TJ. He's in this video. Love this classic song: JUMP! Makes you want to.......

My career and my life has been a series of jumps. Being ready to jump at opportunities and through fleeting windows of opportunity. That's how I got my present job and how I met my wife.

I have been also plowing through my bucket list and jumping was on it--Parachuting, paragliding, and skydiving--did them all. And then my kids wanted to skydive so I went again last weekend.

After that jump, here's what I wrote to my kids:

We jumped out of a plane! We ignored the possibility of failure to enjoy a thrill, a sense of surrender, a wonder, and a great memory. Life is a series of jumps from different heights and perspectives. We have had many jumps together. Fear is always the enemy. Overcoming it is our single greatest learning and teaching moment. We have had our share of bumpy landings, but here you are. Thanks for letting me experience this moment with all of you. You got a chance to see your grandparents and our parents. They are taking a different jump, with a different set of fears at this point in their lives. They live through you and your jumps. Instead of bracing for impact, how about embracing every moment we have together. How do we brace for enlightenment and love? Here's to many more jumps together! (Not just out of a plane!) Love Dad

Skydive family
Me and my kids

We all went tandem skydiving with an instructor. Because big jumps should not be done alone. Without my partner Sarah, I could not have made any jumps in my life. In fact she did not join us on the skydive, because someone has to be grounded! The point is you need help, support and expertise to make most leaps. So ask for help to build your strength and courage to jump. 

Time is our enemy, to explore what we want and where we are going. We have to help others jump, especially the younger folks around us. To jump to new worlds, new experiences, and new opportunities--to activate a different part of the brain to subordinate our lizard head. Once you jump and learn and grow you get hooked on jumping. 

Every day an opportunity to connect, to mentor, to advance our lives emerges and evaporates. We have to jump on these moments as well. No need to just think about the monster jumps, because the little jumps will lead you there. Get into the habit of jumping on the chances and challenges right in front of you.

Where are you jumping next? And who will you help make their big jump?

Thanks for reading. John


What's New? and Making Something from Nothing

Without the salutation of "Happy New Year", we return to our old rote greetings or conversation starters. "What's new?" is one of the most popular.

How we answer this question could change our life and the lives of others.  But instead we all tend to perpetuate an empty robotic exchange of nothingness. 

I know we are "busy" and short cuts and auto-responses expedite, streamline, and generally make our lives more efficient.

But what about the unintended consequences? What is lost in the these meaningless transactions?

A lot.

Everyday, we enter into many micro transactional conversations that involve these queries. Our brains are not engaged, we blurt out things in this short attention span edition of our ADDHD lives. 

So someone you know or don't know innocently and probably automatically says, "What's new?"

My unscientific survey reveals these most popular and ineffective answers:

  • Nothing
  • Not much
  • Keeping my head above water
  • Busy. Very busy
  • Same ole same ole
  • Nothing to complain about
  • Nada mucho, how about you?

You say you want conversations. You want want less "small talk" and more substance. And yet, your answers to this question often leads to a laughable script for the least substantive conversation possible.

What's new?

Nothing. Really busy.

Yeah me too. Nothing-to-say

Wow. Weird to be able to mouth the conversation as it happens, like a movie you have seen too many times. You know what the next line is so your interest and attention fall off.

Are you a network node that leads to other people, ideas and places or are you a predictable dead end street?

We have to stop these robotic meaningless, missed opportunities to connect! And it is not just the hollow responses. It is also the duty of the initiator to follow-up. A "nothing" response can't be accepted. The lack of sincerity and veracity have to be called on the carpet.

"Nothing!" And then you launch into a list of the things you have monitored and tracked because you are a master networker. You ask about their kids, their pets, their hobbies, their charities. You are following the updates of your network. And you know from FB, Linked-in, blog posts, and the media that--"Nothing" is simply not true.

So YOU ask about the new things that your colleague is too busy or lazy to mention, to resurrect their attention and the conversation.

Do you believe in the Law of Attraction?  You attract to yourself what you give your time, attention and words to---Negative or positive. 

So when you have nothing to say you attract nothing. 

So now change the setting to an interview.  Are your answers different? Of course.

How about when your boss' boss sees you in the elevator?

How about when you meet someone you do not know who will be your next boss?

How about to a head hunter? Or a prospective new client? 

The point is you may never know who you are talking to until you do. 

The challenge is your brain and your mouth get into bad habits. They start talking before you think.

Pause before you answer any question? Think then speak. Listen then respond. Awaken in the moment! 

Never say "nothing" or that "I'm busy". We are all busy!

Start by bragging or complaining? No way! Start with something positive.

Personal or professional? Yes! Talk about what is new that is on your mind. Work, your kids, your hobby, the book you are reading--anything and everything is available to mention.

I try to put myself in the mindset of an ambassador. How am I representing my country, my people? Who am I trying to help? How can I be authentic but also diplomatic? How can I assert my ideas without offending? How can I engage people in my work in a mutually beneficial way?

You can't win with just defense. Responding to all inquiries is good but what do you think? What will you assert or advance? Who are you trying to help--besides yourself?!

Your reputation is built on your impressions. Listen to yourself. How are you doing? 

I have always asked my external teams, my sales reps, my fundraisers--anyone who interacts with the public as part of their jobs--How do you answer the question: "What's new?"

This is a softball pitch, right down the middle. You have to be ready to hit it out of the park.

I coach my teams to use this wonderful question to discuss something that is personally exciting to them about our organization. Something that is new, fresh and interesting. Something they know about. Not the elvevator pitch. Not the company line, or that last press release necessarily. Their genuine energy and enthusiasm will be contagious.

Nothing is never interesting or engaging. Nothing is worse than boring. Nothing is a lie. Nothing is not even possible.

What's new? A great question that deserves an answer. A fantastic conversation starter. Let's not waste it.

Adopting a lifestyle of mentoring and networking requires us to be the ones who put a stop to these meaningless conversations and help others make something from nothing.

Thanks for reading. John