Anybody miss me last week? My apologies for vanishing. We ran our fantastic event ‘Cocktails and Consciousness’ on Thursday – recording should be available soon – and suffice it to say that preparing for it occupied so much of my non-family time that I didn’t get to change my clothes for 3 days prior. Ugh I know, but that’s dedication for you! I just worked till I fell asleep each day, then got up at 4am and worked some more. Then I had a shower, stepped out, got my hair done and looking gorgeous did my best to entertain and educate – see how much I love my ‘job’?
And my computer died. Astonishing how much a part of life these little purring electronic beasties have become, isn’t it? This happened an hour before I had to leave for the event, which was a real pain and also put paid to any thoughts of me putting out my blog on Thursday evening. So now you know.
Well anyway I had to replace the thing. Now generally I’m pretty good at traditional boys stuff – I can hang light fittings, confidently and usefully handle a variety of power tools and singlehandedly monkey strap 4 fencing panels to my roof rack if the situation calls for it. I once even changed the points in my car. Back in my student days I drove a succession of ‘old bangers’ which broke down with such frequency that I got warned I was using the AA too much (that’s AAA to the Americans) and would have to pay next time I was rescued. I even got to know the local AA rescue guys! I would stand with them as they tinkered under the bonnet and annoyingly ask question after question, so that over time I got pretty familiar with the workings of my various vehicles. When one of these vehicles took longer and longer to start and eventually wouldn’t start at all, I reluctantly called a local mechanic. They wanted £50 just to tow it to the garage and couldn’t tell me how long they would have it or how much it would cost to fix it. “It might be something really simple” I said “couldn’t you just take a look?” “Oh it could be anything” said Mr Know-It-All Mechanic Man “It could be the engine, the tyres, the brakes … we’d have to bring it in and take a proper look”. This comment incensed me so much I just said thank you and hung up. How thick did he think I was that I would buy the idea the car might not be starting because the tyres or brakes were faulty! Steaming, I stomped over to the local auto spares shop, described the situation and what I had done so far and said that I wanted to have a go at fixing it myself. Did he know what the problem was? “Well it could be your points” he said. He told me where the distributor cap was, described what the points looked like and sold me a new set for £4.34. “It might or might not work” he said. Well it wasn’t working at the moment and I wasn’t going to pay the con-artists down the road several months budget to fleece me, so I would have to have a go. It took me an hour and a half under the bonnet and the car sprung to life. Hah!
So as I say I’m generally pretty good at boys stuff. One of the exceptions is computers though. I’m not talking about using them – I’m great at that. But once you start talking specifications my eyes glaze over. You say “500 Megabytes of RAM with a Pentium Dual-Core Processor” and I hear “nya nya nya ga ga ga ga ga”. I go to my happy place. If you could see inside my head I’d be sitting by a lake watching the swans. If you keep talking about it, eventually the top of my head creaks open, and a bird boings out on a spring saying “coo coo, coo coo”!
Which is why I decided that I would have to do this myself. Armed with the information that I currently had 4 Gig of one thing and 250 Gig of another, off I toddled to Costco, 3 kids in tow. Costco was ridiculously busy, so much so that I had to approach someone who was leaving just to get a trolley, in which I safely installed the kids. They gave me the coupon book and leafing through I noticed that there was an offer on an Acer. I had to visit the membership desk first because I’d lost my membership card and (after an hour’s wait) happened to get a computer geek as an assistant. In chatting I told him I had come for a laptop. “Oh are you getting the Acer?” he said “I just got one for my mum”.
Card sorted, we plunged through the crowds to the computer section. There were two in my price range. The cheaper one was barely better than what I had in that it also had 4 Gig of whatever and about 350 Gig of whatever else. A little beyond my budget, the Acer was the next one up and crowds were buzzing round it like flies. There were so many people there I couldn’t even get my hands on the thing. By now my son had worked out that you can pull up the wall of one side of the trolley from the bottom and was masterminding the escape of all three children. I plunked them back in, gave them sweets to keep them quiet (yes, I do it too) and looked at the specifications again. Nya nya nya. But it looked a lot better than the other one. To stop any further escapes and give me a little thinking time I set off ‘around the block’ of printers, DVD players etc. What to do?
Well, computer geek at the front had bought the Acer. The crowds were buzzing round it which meant it had to be worth considering (read ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ by James Surowiecki) and Costco have a habit of finding something great and discounting it so that they’re far cheaper than anyone else. I chose the Acer.
Later that evening computer geek hubby, who had desperately wanted to help me make the purchase, asked me what I’d got. I showed him, saying “I think you’ll find I’ve done well!” with a lot more confidence than I felt. He looked and was actually impressed. “Do you know it has a nya nya nya processor?” He said. “I don’t know what that means” I smiled “I bought on psychological principals, you know.” It took him several hours of research to find a comparable Dell computer at the same price, online. Bare-faced cheek and a little right-brained thinking won the day!
The moral of the story? Well sometimes I think it’s good to get out of your comfort zone and do something you previously thought you couldn’t. If you can’t do it the conventional way, just do what it takes. It’s very easy to get stuck in your beliefs about what you can and can’t do, but where’s the fun in that? Pushing your limits isn’t always easy or comfortable, but in the words of Peter Mc Williams, a self help author:
Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It may get tough, but it’s a small price to pay for living a dream.
You never know what you can achieve till you give it a go, so this week push some boundaries!
I’d only popped out of the room for a minute. I returned to find my one and a half year old had climbed all the way up the full size adult ladder, and like a little mini-marvel, was crouched low to avoid the ceiling on top of my son’s cupboard, at the very edge, delightedly messing with his most highly prized belongings!
Now I’m not one of those parents who hysterically screams “Come down Harry, you’ll hurt yourself!!!!!” every time one of my children dares to climb a tree or something – I do like to let them find their feet and push their boundaries. Even so, I caught my breath and had to bite my tongue while I strode over there. I quickly climbed up behind her, and complemented her on her climbing skills. Little monkey!
So I moved the ladder, this time leaning it at the middle on an old cot full of teddies. I figured that if she did go up, she’d hopefully get off at teddy level. I was wrong. You couldn’t keep her away from the thing. Under my watchful, OK slightly proud eye, she quickly got herself to the top again and this time stood on the second to top rung, leaning on the top rung, hands free, completely chilled out, and surveying the toys on top of the nearby shelves to see what she could reach. When she actually reached out and the ladder slid a fraction of a centimeter to the right that was enough for me. I captured my little monkey, put her safely back on terra firma, and put the ladder lying down on the floor till it could be put away … you should have heard the shrieks of protest!
It was a beautiful example of fearlessness (more on her part than mine). Fear is bred into us. If you watch small children they are completely fearless. They have to be. Think about it, you come into this world, totally reliant on others for your very survival, with the world around you making very little sense. With the exception of the feel, smell, sound of your mother everything else is foreign and your senses aren’t even fully developed yet. Once your brain receives information it has very basic compartments to put things in, probably labelled something like ‘me’ and ‘not me’. So we learn about the world around us at the same time as actually developing our mind’s capacity to understand that world. Can you imagine if we approached such a job with fear? We’d be too scared to function.
So where does all this fear come from? Why as adults are so many of us afraid of so much? People say that we need to have a degree of fear in order to keep us away from doing stupid things, like walking off cliffs or sticking our hands in a fire. I don’t agree. We don’t need fear, we need awareness. If you understand that a fire is hot and will damage you if you put your hand in it, then its common sense that dictates you don’t do it, not fear.
I think fear is overrated and overused. I also think it’s a big fat slug of a thing that might take humanity a while or at least a concentrated effort to shake off. It is so bred into us to use fear as a motivator both with ourselves and others. Don’t climb the ladder or you’ll fall off, don’t try something new or you’ll fail and everybody will laugh, don’t try to drive that truck, you’ll probably crash it.
Dontcha get the feeling that humanity is on the verge of something big right now? This is a bit of a soap box topic for me, and I’ll probably blog about it sometime. Personally I believe we’re on the verge of some evolutionary leap in the way we think. There are things we need to grasp such as the idea that there is more than enough for everybody, and that you attract to you the things you feel strongest about. There are also cobwebs we need to clear. Fighting and anger don’t solve problems, they postpone or even create them. You aren’t a successful human being just because you have the most stuff, or because you’re the most outrageous thing on TV. And fear is something that might happen to you if you’re in mortal danger but it shouldn’t make an everyday appearance on the horizon of your mind, every time you’re in touch with the unexpected or the new.
Let’s instead choose acceptance. Let’s choose curiosity and let’s choose a sense of adventure. Babies at their most vulnerable are also at their bravest … by and large they survive into adulthood, so they must be doing something right.
This week if you find yourself putting the frighteners on somebody when you could just help them be aware, then experiment with awareness instead. And if you find yourself afraid of something, examine it closely, get to know it deeply and see how well you can approach it differently.
Onward, fellow adventurers!
“There are always two voices sounding in our ear: the voice of fear, and the voice of confidence. One is the clamor of the senses, the other is the whispering of the higher self.” Charles B. Newcomb
Rest in Peace Steve Jobs. As you must know by now the co-founder of Apple died last Wednesday 5th October, age 56. I’ve just sat here and watched him delivering his commencement speech to the graduates of Stanford University in 2005 (you can find it on YouTube – www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA). The speech is very moving, simple and honest – if you haven’t seen it I’d say it’s worth 15 minutes of your time.
Don’t you ever find yourself wondering “What’s the difference that makes the difference with people like that?” There he is up on stage, just another human being talking frankly about his life, and sharing some things he’s learnt for the benefit of the graduating students present. Now he’s dead, the sentence already passed on every living being. Yet he was different, and in that he lives on. He was different enough to be instrumental in creating the Apple Mac computer, that has revolutionised computing and thereby the world. He mentions in his speech that he started Pixar (who pioneered feature length computer animated films). And most lately of course his company is responsible for the ipod/phone/mac. So a true innovator, and a sad loss for the world.
I think the thing that most struck me about the man, watching that speech, was that he spoke from the heart. It’s always refreshing to see someone who is in the public eye just be themselves with no airs and graces. And perhaps that is where the difference lies. I’m beginning to think that perhaps that’s what sets true geniuses, innovators and trendsetters apart. Perhaps it isn’t the brilliance of their ideas. After all we all have mind-blowing ideas from time to time – how often have you seen some new invention come up and said “Hey I thought of that last year!” Perhaps, just perhaps, it has more to do with the fact that they’re not afraid to be themselves, and to stand up for what they believe in. Everybody has ideas, THEY follow up on their ideas, and have the guts to offer them to the world. Look at the big people in our history – Einstein, Van Gogh, Picasso, Winston Churchill, Napoleon Bonaparte , Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi , Princess Diana, Thomas Edison, Mohamed Ali, the Dalai Lama, John Lennon even J.K. Rowling, to name but a disparate few. Every one of them a striking and unique individual. Every one of them bold enough to offer their personal gift to the world, without apology.
Steve Jobs himself touches on this idea during said speech:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
So if you truly want to make your mark on the world and share your gift with humanity, isn’t it time you started to live in accordance with your truest beliefs? Isn’t it time to really be yourself? I say this as much to myself as anyone. I think it’s something most of us really struggle with, because being authentic is a risky business. We risk being ostracised or ridiculed. We risk losing friends. We risk feeling stupid or the odd one out and we risk failure. Scary isn’t it? In times gone by if you were chucked out of your community that meant exposure to the elements and predators and almost certainly an early death, so it’s probably programmed into each and every human being to conform, purely for the sake of safety. It’s actually known that the best ideas usually get laughed out of town before they’re accepted as fact. I guess you have to weigh up the benefit of being safe and boring or living it large, and taking some risks.
Which leads me to one of my favourite quotes:
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, shouting GERONIMO!” Hunter S. Thompson from Hell’s Angels
Wanna be a trend setter? Wanna be the next Steve Jobs or J.K. Rowling? The truth is, you can never be them. You can only be the one and only authentic you. Starting TODAY.
My wish for you (and for myself!) this week is that we take some time out from the tumult around us, and tune in to the quiet yet persistent inner voice within each of us. That we listen well and act on those flashes of inspiration that come to us. The voice gets louder, and the ideas get better the more you listen. Your inspiration deepens, and the power of your creative though becomes more far reaching, the more you invite it into your life and the more you share it. Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy. You’re just tapping in to your own truth, and the deepest wisdom sitting there in the Universe waiting for you, just you, to claim it and proclaim it aloud. Draw down that gift that’s yours to give, and share it with existence – that’s your birthright, and your obligation.
Wishing you a deeply inspired, authentic week –
There I am, feeling a right nincompoop, half way up a mountain somewhere in Wales, aching feet, out of breath, ridiculously heavy backpack, tearful with effort, wondering what the heck I thought I was doing when I put myself up for this. Mountain Leader Training?!! Hah. Just cos I love being in the mountains, doesn’t mean I need to volunteer to be stuck in the middle of nowhere with two ex army guys, and three hefty outdoor adventure guys, all of whom are secretly or not so secretly wishing I wasn’t there so they can go bounding over the earth like mountain goats instead of waiting for little slow coach to catch up … Character building? I’ll give you character building. You try chasing those chaps up and down rock faces … when we finally got back to the bottom, and I trailed in, an hour after the first mountain goat had arrived, they all stood up and slow clapped me. And I’ll tell you something else too … several years later when my brother went to the same training company they were still talking about me! Talk about notoriety … Ah well, at least I’ll have a story to tell my grandchildren…
Anyhow, I’m glad I went, because I learnt something. I learnt (now pay attention …) that when climbing a rock face, you never underestimate a foothold or handhold. What I mean to say is, say you see a small foothold and it’s only 10cm or so above the one your foot is on, if there’s nothing else available you take it. And something astonishing happens. Your point of view changes. And you see other footholds and handholds that you couldn’t see 10cm lower down, or that weren’t available from slightly lower down. You work out your next move from where you are at the time (though of course you keep an eye on your general direction so that you don’t climb yourself into a bush or something), and you find that there’s always a way up, even if its 10cm at a time.
I think life can be a bit like that. Sometimes it really does feel like an uphill struggle, and there are times when the only available options are less than inspiring. The thing is to pace yourself, take one step at a time, and use those little options, if they’re all you’ve got. And your point of view changes. You begin to see other options that you couldn’t see before. You gain experience. You gain a sense of mastery. You get to feel great about pushing your limits, when you discover you can go farther than you expected. You can start to take joy in the moment too – joy in just being, joy in the privilege of having got this far. Once you begin to enjoy the process, the load seems lighter, and as you relax and start to smile your muscles loosen up just a little so the climb gets easier. Then at a certain point, you notice that you’re actually quite near the top. Your step quickens, and you’re happy to push yourself even harder. You clamber over the last few bumps and … you’re there.
If you’re climbing a mountain you get to survey the view. A beautiful lake glinting in the sunshine. Maybe a few little clouds huddled round a neighbouring mountain top. The deepest blues and the most verdant greens. Waltzing grass and patient rock. A tiny lone figure in the distance. A cooling breeze caresses the smile on your face as you stand there and just be. Nothing else exists but this moment.
If it’s life that you’re scaling, you can also let yourself celebrate those wins – there’s nothing quite like putting in everything you’ve got, and getting results you only ever dreamed you could achieve. When you go for something you truly want, that’s always been a part of who you are, and you get it … don’t you just think to yourself “I could die happy right now!” I love those moments. You feel like you’re stepping more deeply into being yourself. You almost glow, and the feel-good is infectious. People around subtly get the message “If you’re willing to do what it takes, you can achieve your desires”. And so your success becomes a beacon of possibility, lighting the way for others.
In either case, all the blood sweat and tears you put in are forgiven and forgotten as you rejoice in just being … after all, what else is there?
This week live in the moment. Take little opportunities that come your way. Know that you will get there … and rejoice in the process as you move closer and closer to your next summit.
Every morning, as I brush my teeth, like a trigger the dentist’s voice rings in my ear ‘electric toothbrushes are always better than manual ones’. And every morning I say to myself ‘how do they know?’ Well ok I suppose electric toothbrushes can be better relied upon to brush more strongly, provide more brush strokes and thereby remove more plaque … but how do they know that more vigorous brushing won’t wear away your tooth enamel … or maybe the vibrations from the toothbrush might, I dunno, rattle your teeth about too much and make them fall out earlier … who knows? Yet we’re all willing to accept the dentist’s recommendation to use an electric toothbrush…
Well, as my mind was pondering this bland conundrum the other morning I followed the thought along to ‘Just think how many other things we take as fact, which are actually just theory’. That we’ll be well and healthy tomorrow, that nuclear war won’t break out, that we are actually the child of our parents (hospital mix-ups do happen you know!), our religious or spiritual standpoint, or the lack of it, that when you see something red, and somebody else sees something red that you actually both experience red in the same way … the list goes on. It’s a little unsettling when you first think about it … that a lot of what we base our lives on is theory. What if the theory is wrong? What if I get to 70 and all my teeth fall out because I’ve used an electric toothbrush for so long?
I like living on a theory though. For one thing, life is never dull and you never quite know what tomorrow will bring … but I think it’s more than gratuitous excitement. You see if you live in a world of theory, the possibilities are endless. Once you realise that pretty much everything is unstable, if you can find a way to place yourself ‘at cause’, i.e. be a force that makes things happen, or holds them as they are, or stops them happening, then you can do anything.
I think that’s a real key to life. Being comfortable in instability. A lot of people like things to remain stable and when elements of their world change unexpectedly that’s unsettling for them. Instead of being rattled by the change though, you can see it as an opportunity. To create something new, to be the most updated version of you, to understand something in a deeper way.
Embracing the possibility of instability allows you to be truly alive. If we always wait for ‘absolute facts’ before we make decisions, we delay and delay in taking action, and often those opportunities go stale and pass us by. If, on the other hand we’re willing to act on an estimate or a 70% likelihood, we get to take action more frequently, and get to live life far more on our own terms. The ride may be a little choppier, and sometimes we’ll make mistakes, but we’ll get more of what we want and boy will the process be exhilarating!
So this week embrace uncertainty, live on the edge and push the boundaries of possibility – it will be the ride of your life!
Ps: A quick shout out to my colleague Sara Jane Tepper (http://www.facebook.com/sarahjanetepper), who gives a fantastic full body massage amongst other things. If you’re living on the edge you need to take good care of yourself and this is one way! – check out Sara Jane’s website http://www.hertsholistic.com from where I copied the following:
Herts Holistic is run by Sarah-Jane Tepper and is based at Elstree Film Studios in Hertfordshire. She is ITEC and VTCT qualified and has Diplomas in Anatomy & Physiology, Massage, Indian Head Massage and Reflexology . She trained at the Central London College of Reflexology and the Middlesex School of Complementary Medicine. She is also qualified in Reiki I and II. Sarah-Jane writes Being Holistic, a column for At Home magazine online and is an independent distributor for Forever Living. She is fully insured and a member of the Association of Reflexologists and the Federation of Holistic Therapists.