I am the man!

Not Getting Stuck

  12/17/13 18:50, by , Categories: Personal, Advice

So I was on the phone with my mom last night. As most people who know me know, I spend quite a bit of time at Landmark. It is the context out of which I run my life when my life is working. At the moment I am in the Introduction Leaders Program (the ILP). This is a program I am doing for the fourth time. The first time around, I met my wife and gave myself permission to be in a great relationship. I also connected to the wireless world (I got a pager; that was a big deal for me at the time). The second time around I got to choose Sharleen all over again, become a teacher, and go back on the stage, acting in my first play since law school. The third time around, I took a four day trip to Germany - I was applying for a job - and reconnected with one of my cousins in Germany, and have been connecting with much more of my family since.

Along the way I have opened and closed law offices, saved a synagogue that was on the verge of financial collapse, passed a few more bar exams, qualified as a lawyer in a second country, home-schooled a child for three years, built some furniture, fixed a lot of stuff (my parents' house, cars, bicycles, computers, a lawnmower, a KitchenAid), rowed more than 12 million meters, run four and a half marathons, run for political office a number of times, taken on my religion, moved to another country, learned another language, raised four amazing kids (thousands of meals, dishes, games), etc.

But that's just some of the fun I had. Courtesy of Landmark, I make a profound difference in people's lives, and the impact has rippled out to thousands of people in the years since I first participated in the Landmark forum.

For all that, I have often been un(der)employed, and have too often reached the end of a day feeling “I'd got nothing done.” I am exiting one of these phases at the moment. I have a program, a coach, a number of new friends who are committed to my success, and admittedly a bit of work to do and a number of habits to take on to carry things forward.

So, what does all of this have to do with my mom? I invited her yesterday to do the ILP. Her response was “I'll do it when you get a job.” Then she started going off on my lack of integrity. There was a time this might have plugged me in (my wife reminded me of $50 for an A), but I was actually amused.

$50 fiasco

In the fifth and sixth grades, I was in a special program the City of Stamford Schools had created called “Project Explore.” As part of this program, on Thursdays and Fridays, we were bussed from our school across town to the Springdale School, where the program took place.

By the sixth grade, being out of my regular class that much caused me some difficulty. I didn't know what was going on a lot of the time, I didn't know how to ask, and I essentially hid behind my clipboard. I came back with a report card of Ns (for Non-Satisfactory) and Us (Un-Satisfactory).

Since I was obviously lacking in motivation - as opposed to say lost and confused - my mother figured I needed an incentive. She offered be $50.00 for each E (Excellent; this is about $250 in 2013 dollars) and $25.00 for each S (Satisfactory). The conversation I had with myself was something like “Oh, apparently the grades are more important than I am. Well if that's how it is, you can stuff it with your damned grades, and your lousy $50 too.”

I pretty much gave up on school that day, and from a grades standpoint, I became a middling student at best.

It took me a long time to appreciate that I love to learn, and there's great value in giving my best, and no shame in having a great grade that can go with that.

So being present to the mess I'd made in the past, I got how ridiculous the attempt to link my work to her doing the program. Landmark's programs are about empowering people in fulfilling what's important to them in their lives. I want her to do the program for her. If what's important for her is my having a job, she might find tools here to enroll me in the possibility that represents for her, but the path of bribery/extortion has never been a good one to take with me, and anyway, why should her fulfilling what she wants in her life be tied to some circumstance in mine.

That said, I can also get that a solid steady job might be a good thing for me at the moment. But if it comes along, I won't take it - or not - because that's the key to my mother doing something, and I won't use it to force her to do the ILP, although I might use it as a lever to get her out to an introduction. I'll take it because it fulfills me, and I won't worry if it fulfills her in some way at the same time.

So this week's invitation is to notice where you get stuck in conversations that have nothing to do with you, that you let stop you and get in the way in your life. Don't do it. It's not worth your life, and in the end it's your life with which you'll pay.

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Seer, Coach

  12/10/13 19:02, by , Categories: General, Advice

So, as I pay attention to what my young mentors are saying, I am visited by the phrase that “everything old is new again.” In this case, the context was Scott Dinsmore's A Beginner’s Guide to Fearless Giving: The Difference Between a Failed Business & a Flourishing Revolution; what strikes me about this post is that he describes my ideal of the good neighbor. It seems his whole movement is about recreating the connection that was once so basic to life.

We have spent so much time putting the focus on the individual that we have neglected the importance of the social context. And it's not only an individual, it's a particularized ideal of individual that has infected our society. Just think of the people that society worships.

On the other hand are the people of Scott's “revolution.” What sets them apart is that they want to look deeper. They want to see the individual within, and that starts with themselves. It's almost tragic that our modern world has brought us to the point that seeing and being with the person within takes such an effort. Perhaps this has always been the state of man, but I haven't been around long enough to know that.

So I share with you some of the advice I've shared this week. This first bit addresses the gnawing doubt that is just too often present in our lives, in this instance, I was responding to a young designer stopped in pursuing her art:

I am guessing here - but sometimes I am a good guesser - that this is just a symptom of your inner critic (little voice, hidden script, people have given lots of names to this) screwing with you. You are obviously a perfectionist. You obviously know a lot, but you haven't studied this and probably don't feel you have the credentials to pass yourself off as the expert. My guess is you probably don't value what you know and have the way others would. You might have been brought up thinking that you have to work for your money instead of play for it. So if this is the case with you, I invite you to give it up. If someone would actually agree to give you X thousand (currency unit of your choice) to help them re-imagine their space, then you are worth that and more. I think once you get comfortable with that, or at least learn to ignore that little voice (it'll never leave you by the way, but you can just let it babble in the background), you'll find it's a lot easier to turn what you love into money. I actually love this Amanda Palmer Commencement Speech about following your inner muse.

By the way Amanda's speech is about the Fraud Police, her version of the inner critic. In my case, it happens to be the voice that says “Who are you to think that you are ‘the one’?”

But this is clearly not the question to be asking. We should be asking “who are we not to use the gifts given to us?” This calls us into action as opposed to stopping us. The problem is so many of us have been trained to ignore our gifts and do as we are told, or live into the unwritten expectations of and for our lives.

Well, one of my gifts is the ability not to get caught in people's drama (I thought of using another word, but this one's okay) and challenge them to be bigger than they imagine themselves to be. I see the bigger person within just crazy to get out.

But this is a blog, and it's kind of hard for me to be in your face like I'd like to be. So I am going to start with the basics, and here's your first assignment.

Say THANK YOU! So much of happiness has to do with being grateful for what we have. We all know people who have a lot, but it's never enough, and people who've got next to nothing, but are happy. It's obviously not about the having.

A great first step to happiness is waking up every morning and coming up with at least three things to be grateful for (thank your deity if so inclined). If you want to take it to the next level, actually thank someone every day. I thank my kids for choosing me to be their father, my wife for her love and patience, my parents for their support, etc. etc.

Then take a look at what lights you up, and put that in your schedule. If you've got a hundred things on this list, pick one, and make it happen. It's that simple.

And if people tell you you are nuts, here's the thing, taken from today's advice to a high school student:

You are threatening to those who have squelched their own ambition to survive in this world. Don't buy into their crap. Be ambitious, be proud, be yourself; don't let anyone tell you that you must settle for less.

And yes, maybe your idea is crazy, but maybe it's the one that will change the world. Don't be afraid to experiment. Feel free to ask your teachers and elders to let you fail. I am sure if you probe a little bit, you will find that they all have some experience of failure from which they learned a heck of a lot. While they might want to protect you, it just might be keeping you from growing. There are some things best learned first hand.

That said, feel free to thank these people and listen. Maybe there are pearls in what they say.

In the end however, you must make your own way, and they know it. There might be hurt and disappointment along the way, but if there weren't you wouldn't be putting yourself out there and living.

So whatever it is, I suggest you go for it. Do your best to prepare, ask advice where you can get it, but mostly just be in action.

. . . and if I can help, call on me. As you may have noted, I added a word to the header of my coach blog, ”Seer.” That's my job, to see what's great in you, whether you see it or not, and get that to shine through.

I wish you a great end of year and a beautiful holiday season. But let's turn the spirit of the season into the spirit of our lives. Let's be neighbors and take care of each other. Maybe we'll just find it's also the best way to take care of ourselves.

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Making a Difference Since 1969: Blatant Self Promotion for Fun and Profit

  12/04/13 20:04, by , Categories: General, General

If you want people to do business with you, they should want to too.

People will only do business with you if they want to do business with you. I am turning coaching into my business. I want a coach who is straight with me, and that starts with being straight with me in soliciting my business. I mention this because two solicitations have come to me recently that were anything but.

One, in an English teachers e-mail list inviting me to “Something for the soul - an amazing report that I want to share with you.” The link provided took me to a page promising a guide to a “more peaceful and happier life,” which would be sent to me on sharing my e-mail with the promoter. The 29 page report promised “Happier. Forever!!!” complete with the author's account of his personal journey, some exercises to raise self-awareness, and of course, an invitation to use his services to get more (“20% discount for a personal consultation meeting” “unique for readers of this report” that bring the coupon along.

The second, in my Cornell University Alumni Network on LinkedIn, a Ms. Emily Filloramo shared a post titled “I'm curious... do you ever feel like your life has reached a plateau?” The truth is she wasn't curious, because she didn't set up the comment for people to share and discuss their personal plateaus, but rather invited us to request a copy of her worksheet, a twelve page “Confidential “Get Out of Your Own Way & Unleash Your Full Potential” Worksheet 1.3,” complete of course with invitation to contact her to see if she can help me get to my “highest core loving self.” She's not even a coach, but a Success & Happiness Catalyst, whatever that means.

Perhaps I am old school, but this just didn't play for me. We're a group of alumni all at our own places in life, and this could have been set up as an opportunity to share and support instead of a not so subtle invitation to use the tools of Ms. Filloramo. And she might get some business from this approach, but she might have gotten even more if she had started and moderated a meaningful discussion, allowing people to see what she could bring to their lives. She didn't do this. She offered a quid pro quo.

After a long winded comment by Ms. Filloramo about getting to core beliefs, I added a comment regarding the on-line tools that I find useful. I figure if we're there talking about where we're stuck anyway, I might as well share what helps me get past my blocks:

This is one way of looking at it, but we don't necessarily need to come up with a big why. Rather, I would suggest that we can become present to what we have, and give our all to the work that presents itself, but not like we have to run faster on the treadmill. There is a parable about three stone cutters. A person comes up and asks each in turn what he is doing. The first says I am shaping a stone, the second I have to work to feed my family, the third says he is building a temple. They all may be doing exactly the same thing, but their experience and satisfaction at the end of the day are unlikely to be the same.

Certainly there are negative core beliefs, and they effect our actions, but they are also the most present when we are spending time gazing at our navels instead of looking at the contribution we can make or are already making in the world. If you want to get present to your internal dialogues (i.e. core beliefs) and stop giving them power over you, I'd suggest you take the Landmark Forum. Landmark is expert at this and has delivered its programs to more than two million people, with 94% of customers in independent surveys agreeing that Landmark's programs have made a profound and lasting difference in their lives.

But then get it's not necessarily about the job (though it could be; I also like Scott Dinsmore. James Altucher, on the other hand, takes a more philosophical approach, which is a bit raw but much worth the searching person's time). For a different philosopher's view, I'd also suggest Mike Rowe's A Lesson From Some of the World's Dirtiest Jobs, for another good point about happiness.

My New Friends

So, I have these new friends at Scott Dinsmore's Live Your Legend Creator's Guild. Every couple of days there is new and real connection. I feel particularly old in this group, but that's a conversation for another day. What drives this group of people is that they are passionate about making a difference, in their own lives and in those of others. And they are searching and vulnerable and open, and beautifully human. It could be that Ms. Filloramo is this as well, but I don't get that from her presentation.

Today's new friend is Ms. Sarah Cooper. What I love about her is she is willing to put herself out there. She came to my attention because she was asking us what she could do to get past her writer's block. I challenged her to play a game outside of her comfort zone and she jumped at the chance. The result is here. She's given us both a chance to look beyond our everyday. So we are taking on a challenge together. On her blog she asks:

Where are you in your story? Are you screaming “Don’t go down there?” Are you waiting for the action to get started or trying to make sense of it all? Is there a clear direction? Who is the villain or love interest in the piece? Most of all are you enjoying your story?

We've agreed that we're both going to engage with these questions. We'll be honest and direct and post our response before we have second thoughts about it. I salute you Ms. Cooper for asking these questions and giving us both a chance to grow. So here's my take:

My story is that I have a life of missed opportunities. Where my contemporaries have accomplished and created all sorts of great things (particularly where it comes to business and career), I am still stuck at the same place that I was ten years ago. I've got a great wife and some amazing kids, but other than that, I'm behind the eight ball. I have a few more licenses along the way, but no record of success. That's not exactly true. What I do is that whatever success I have, I chalk up to luck or circumstance, and where I have missed, I say it says something about me. So I have a lot of big ideas, that come and go, that light me up for a moment and then get gobbled up in thoughts of my inadequacy to the task at hand. I rely too much on my wife and our families to support me and have trouble seeing a powerful and independent future for myself.

Where don't I go? I don't make promises. I haven't fully put myself in the games I want to play in life. I say big things, things so big that I don't expect anyone to believe them. I may even start them, but I have a built-in excuse to fail. Where I don't go is that I don't admit I care. I care so much it hurts. I don't want to be with that. So I continue to try to make a difference, but no matter how big a difference I've made, I say I didn't really do it or it would have happened anyway, and I run away. I'm left with results I don't acknowledge and feeling weak and ineffective. Whatever I do accomplish, it's never enough.

So where I have been is waiting. I am pretty sure there is no sense in it all. I'll do what work comes, but I don't take any big initiatives.

There is a clear direction. If I look at what I have declared, there are many lifetimes of actions that could be taken in pursuit of the goals I have declared. I have said that I am about restoring freedom, that I am about creating education that works, that I am about empowering people to fulfil on those things that are important to them. I am a stand for fairness and justice, for better understanding between people, for committed, outrageous, generous and happy people, for a world where people look outside of themselves.

But there is also a clear villain and that is the little voice in my head. I too often let it run my life. It's the little voice that keeps asking me “Who are you to presume that you are the one?” It asks “What are you thinking?” It says “You missed the boat.” It's the voice that lets me avoid all responsibility in my life, and in the end takes my life.

So am I enjoying my story? Of course not. I am suffering it every moment I let it run me. But then it's a familiar suffering, and it's amazing how long we suffer the familiar just because it's not the unknown.

But I am seeing it's a story, and that I am the author, and that it's not the story I need to live out. And the truth is, I'm pretty fed up with it. It's long past time to break out of the holding pattern and embrace the unfamiliar. And I must be ever vigilant, because the villain never will go away. But I've seen that what keeps him at bay is admitting that I care, and denying myself permission to run away.

In my new story, I am human. I will screw up. That's okay. I'll probably hurt people, and might hurt myself, but that's the only way I can learn to be better. In my new story, I take responsibility for the success just as I do for the failures. In my new story I remember, as Winston Churchill so elegantly put it, “Success is the ability to stumble from failure to failure with no lack of enthusiasm.” I am scared. So what? Who isn't? The only question is who I will be in the face of that fear and what I will do anyway.

Blatant Promotion Part

You want me, you can have me. You can have my heart and my love and my commitment to your success. You can have someone who will believe in you when you don't and remind you why you should believe in yourself. You will have someone who sees right through the façade and doesn't leave space for anything but your best. It will cost you obviously, but what price can you really put on a life of power, freedom and full-self expression. And if you want to improve your presentation and look, that is the work of my wife. She can give you an amazing smile (she's a dentist too) and then teach you to create the ensemble to go with it.

1969 is of course the year I was born, but making a difference has been who I am as far back as I can remember..

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  11/27/13 23:58, by , Categories: General, General, Activism

If I think about it enough, there's probably no end of things for which I ought to give thanks, and perhaps we all should, as gratitude and the daily acknowledgement of the things for which we are grateful make us happier human beings.

So, I start with being grateful that I am no longer constrained by the notion that I should not start a sentence with a conjunction. It might seem a small thing, but it's a part of flowing with what is there instead of what I think is the right thing to do, the rules, usually as written by someone else.

I am really grateful I have learned to question other people's rules and default beliefs. Thoughts like “That's the way it is and how it's always been” just don't run me any more. I am in many ways bolder than I have ever been, and feel free to challenge others - and sometimes even myself - to play bigger and bolder games in life, which always leaves me feeling better.

I am thankful for, thank and acknowledge my partner and playmate, Sharleen. She always has my back, is infinitely patient, and is all about creating worlds that work. If someone needs to be taken care of, and it's in her ability, she does it. People are better just for having been in her presence. It's pretty neat.

I am thankful for my great kids, curious people who play with, challenge and engage me. They all make unique contributions to their classrooms and worlds. I am thankful for the great family that made these kids possible.

But mostly, I want to thank my parents. They have taught me what faith is and what it means to be committed to friends and family. They have been unwavering in their commitment to and support for my happiness and success. I love you both.

It would not be Thanksgiving if I didn't thank the people who gave us this opportunity to be mindful, PresidentAbraham Lincoln, Sarah Josepha Hale, and William Henry Seward, but theirs was an exhortation to a greater power, and I join them in remembering that:

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

Same old, Same . . . Let's just Stop It

  11/27/13 23:49, by , Categories: Activism

I thought I'd gotten over this long ago, but some things just keep coming back around. I've actually had a pretty good week, have started to acknowledge myself more for the contribution I make (thanks again to Scott's planner - "celebrate last week"), I've visited with some movers and shakers, and committed to moving and shaking a little more on my own. For all this, I just noticed how much I start to resist something when I declare that I am taking it on.

Or maybe it's just the size of the thing I take on. I have a rowing machine. I have rowed close to 12 million lifetime meters. Coming into this ranking year, I set a new goal for myself, a bit ambitious, but doable given my history. I started out okay, but somewhere along the line, just gave up. I'd miss a week, two weeks, a month. I took on a one month team challenge, and disappeared for two weeks in the middle of it. I have a half-marathon (running) happening next week. I haven't gotten my head around it yet. I obviously knew it was coming. I've gotten out to run a little, but I am not ready.

And it's obviously not just in the area of exercise I seem to be running to extremes. When I have blown off my diet, which I love keeping and feel better on, I've been binging, mostly on chocolate and doughnuts (it's the season). My cars, I didn't just wash, I detailed. The house and office hit a point of greater order than they've seen in quite some time, and now I'm having trouble finding my desktop.

I've set myself down to write, and spent hours on anything but. I notice I can see a big picture, but am not reducing it to the details, most of which I could manage. So what's missing is probably just integrity and perspective. I've been pretty good at keeping some promises (I pray every day and my kids are taken care of), but for those I am clear what the daily tasks are. I think for the bigger items, I just haven't taken the time to plan out what I need to do today to keep these in the realm of reality. And I don't know that it is, but I just hate calendars. I get the clarity they can provide, I'm keeping one at the moment, but mostly what's in it are the big “have to” appointments. It's almost like they go against who I am, but I get that that is just a function of what I declare and act on with integrity.

So I guess what's missing is me consistently bringing integrity to my actions, to actually put the keeping of my weekly planner in my calendar, to systematically break down each project to its component parts, and then determining if I really want to commit to what it takes today, right now, to keep that project alive.

So I am ready again to draw the line, but then I wonder if it won't just be in the sand again. So I will remind myself to Stop It!

and I'll throw it out there anyway, because if I don't declare a new game, I probably won't be in action in anything.

So I commit - once again - to bringing workability to my life, starting with creating order in my home and office. And I commit to rowing at least 200 thousand meters this holiday challenge (that so used to not be a challenge), and we'll go for keeping my diet throughout the challenge, which means keeping it today. But first, I guess I'll put it down in my calendar.


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