Let Your Light Shine to Reach Your Potential

It has always mystified me how some people never get done what they had planed on doing in life.  They get caught up in what is known as paralysis by analysis and never get really started living.  The old Chinese Proverb that says “A journey of 1000 miles begins as a single step”, is so true in reaching our potentials.

I read a story the other night that really makes my point.

A few nights ago a peculiar thing happened.  An electrical storm caused a blackout in our neighborhood.  When the lights went out, I felt my way through the darkness into the storage closet where we keep the candles for nights like this.  Through the glow of a lit match I looked up on the shelf where the candles were stored.  There they were, already positioned in their stands, melted to various degrees by previous missions.  I took my match and lit one of them.

How it illuminated the storage room!  What had been a veil of blackness suddenly radiated with soft, joyous golden light!  I could see the freezer I had just bumped with my knee.  And I could see my tools that needed to be straightened.

“How joyful it is to have light!”  I said out loud, and then spoke to the candle.  “If you do such a good job here in the storage closet, just wait till I get you out where you’re really needed!  I’ll put you on the table so we can eat.  Or I’ll put you on my desk so I can read”.  I took down the lit candle, “I think I’ll put you in the living room where you can light up the whole area.”  (I felt a bit foolish talking to a candle—but what do you do when the lights go out?)

I was turning to leave with the large candle in my hand when I heard a voice, “Now, hold it right there.”

I stopped.  Somebody’s in here!  I thought.  Then I relaxed.  It’s just my wife teasing me for talking to a candle.  “OK, honey, cut the kidding,”  I said in the simidarkness.  No answer.  Hmm, maybe it was the wind.  I took another step.

“Hold it, I said!”  There was that voice again.  My hands began to sweat.  “Who said that?”  “I did.”  The voice was near my hand.  “Who are you?  What are you?”

“I’m a candle.”  I looked at the candle I was holding.  It was burning a strong, golden flame.  It was red and sat on a heavy wooden candle holder that had a firm handle.

I looked around once more to see if the voice could be coming from another source.  “There’s no one here but you and me,” the voice informed me.

I lifted up the candle to take a closer look.  You won’t believe what I saw.  There was a tiny face in the wax.  (I told you you wouldn’t believe me.)  Not just a wax face that someone had carved, but a moving, functioning, fleshlike face full of expression and life.

“Don’t take me out of here!”  “What?”  “I said, Don’t take me out of this room.”

“What do you mean?  I have to take you out.  You’re a candle.  You job is to give light and joy to others.  It’s dark and scary out there.  People are stubbing their toes and walking into walls.  You have to come out and light up the place!”

“But you can’t take me out.  I’m not ready.” The candle explained with pleading eyes.  “I need more preparation.”  I couldn’t believe my ears.  “More preparation?”

“Yeah, I’ve decided I need to research this job of light-giving so I won’t go out and make a bunch of mistakes.  You’d be surprised how distorted the glow of an untrained candle can be.  So I’m doing some studying.  I just finished a book on wind resistance,  I’m in the middle of a great series of tapes on wick build-up and conservation—and I’m reading the new bestseller on flame display.  Have you heard of it?”

“No,” I answered.

“You might like it.  It’s called Waxing Eloquently.”

“That really sounds inter—” I caught myself.  What am I doing?  I’m in here conversing with a candle while my wife is out there in the darkness!

“All right then, I said.  “You’re not the only candle on the shelf” as I blew the candle out!

As Max De Pree said, “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”

<strong>So step out and begin letting your light shine.</strong>

Facebook backlash isn’t just about Facebook (but I bet it wishes it was)

This month I’ve read a few articles bashing the facebook IPO.  The most resounding one was: Facebook Ads Aren’t Grabbing Users.

Have you ever clicked on a facebook ad?  Out of interest in a product?

Social media people will (hopefully) tell you that social media is a tough nut to crack.  The best tools are passion and authenticity, which breed consistency.

Facebook ads don’t get clicked on because very few ads of any kind in any medium get “clicked on” anymore.  People are either interested in a product or they aren’t.  TV, Radio, Print, Web.  There’s noise everywhere, and you’re either passionate, authentic, and consistent (and funny helps a lot), or you’re noise.

Part of the facebook backlash was GM pulling their facebook advertising budget the week before the IPO.  This is a big lumbering slow-moving corporation that actually analyzed its facebook ad performance and decided it wasn’t going to make any babies there and pulled right the heck out.

Money doesn’t buy happiness?  Maybe.  But you definitely can’t monetize friendship.  When you do, the friendship goes away.

What does all of this mean for everyone who wishes to advertise on facebook?  Or any other social media FTM (for that matter)?

Bring PASSION, be AUTHENTIC, be CONSISTENT.  And if you’d like to interest me at all, be funny and be quick about it.  And don’t use big words like Deliverables and Strategic Objectives.  Talk normal, folks.  If your service delivers results nobody cares where you came from (if they do care, let them ask).  What I’m noticing more and more, is that the more time and physical space you need to explain to someone why you functionally exist, the less important you are.

….sorry, got off on a rant.  gee, how important am at, clocking in a 327 characters so far.

Consistency is the straw that breaks the camels back.  You can fake passion and authenticity for only so long…then you just get tired of it if your heart isn’t in the game.

Consistency is two fold:  1) Update regularly, and 2) measure your results to give people more of what they want.  If you make money from cats dancing to Katy Perry, post something new about that once a week.  If you make money from your adorable dog, post something new about that every day.  If you make money by writing a regular 3000 essay on being a single dad, do that.

If you do a posting, or a video, or an instagram, or a tweet, only once every so often, you’re not going to benefit a whole lot from social media marketing, because you won’t actually be doing social media marketing.

Facebook ads:  they don’t work because they aren’t authentic.  People who are on facebook are there to interact with their friends.  It’s just like watching TV….you DVR everything because you’re there to experience your shows, not watch commercials.

When your own “commercials” become the reason that people are there, the thing that people are interacting with – – THAT is when you will be effectively using social marketing.

Signed and untagged,
Scott

 

 

Facing Grief, Unflinchingly.

What is a good metaphor, or simile, for grief?

Grief is powerful and inevitable. It occurs to all of us. It can be disabling.  It can feel like a tsunami – an unimaginably powerful force overtaking and smothering every other aspect of… reality.  Grief can feel like a magnet – one occurrence of grief becoming a magnet for every other possible grief response we might have imagined, but never did, and so when a knife-like grief experience occurs, suddenly…. other grief responses are invited into spaces that existed before… but now those spaces also have the added burden of grief.

So what are good similes or metaphors for grief, I ask my writing community? Please! I want to know! Comment on this post, or create a post of your own that links to your personal website. Please.  Similes and metaphors are powerful tools in writers’ toolboxes for dealing with…  and shaping… grief.  (And also other powerful life experiences.)

Many of us know the power, value, and utility of simile and metaphor.

Simile is saying something “is like” something else.

Metaphor is saying something IS (identity-like) something else. A bit more powerful and abstract than simile.

Similes AND metaphors have their place and their usefulness as we understand our human experience.

So what are the metaphors (or similes) for grief?

Grief is like the rogue wave, unexpectedly roaring in and covering, maybe obliterating, everything in its path. (That is a simile.)

Grief is a cranky bitch. (That is a metaphor – the “is,” construction, not the “is like” construction.) But this statement invites questions about the meaning of “cranky” and the meaning of “bitch.” I will not expend my own life force on explaining this metaphor at this time. But let me know in a comment if the metaphor intrigues you.

So I return to my original question: what is a good metaphor, or a good simile, for grief?  Because metaphors and similes allow us room, and space, and vocabulary, with which to deconstruct and understand life experiences that otherwise would be…. obliterating of our own lives, or of the meaning of our own lives.

We grieve all kinds of losses.

We grieve the loss of the heart-beating lives experienced by people we know and love, even when the ending of that life is a loss more to “us” than to the person who lived that life.

We grieve the loss of… jobs… marriages…. friendships… tomato plants that did not thrive in clay soil.

Like many people, I retreat from the nearly overwhelming, death-dealing, breath-squeezing, reality of authentic grief to the….. safer… less breath-squeezing level of… humor.

I feel, in this moment, when asking for a simile or metaphor for grief…. that I would like to know: “I do not know what I am talking about; do you know what I am talking about?”  (That statement/question is my idea of humor.)

My beloved and respected writing friends’ authentic wisdom about grief is invited. We all experience grief. May our collective and caring words about grief serve to increase compassion in the world. And thereby change the world and the future of humanity.

A story of our pets as teachers

A recent post by fellow-blogger Steve Kenagy brought back poignant, important, consoling, and peaceful memories.

One beloved cat (Ginger) simply stopped showing up. We never knew what her life was like after the day she did not show up for dinner. This cat (an independent-thinking, fun, challenging, and loving manx) had “shown up” in our lives, at the start uninvited, but Continue reading “A story of our pets as teachers” »

The Dance

Welcome to the dance! Many of the networking groups available today have a technique called the dance. The dance is when two members of the networking group get together and spend about an hour getting to know each other. Each person takes about half of the time and talks about who they are and what they need as far as referrals. This generally gives the participants a good insight into the other person and they are able to refer them to much higher level.

I like to take the concept of the dance a little further than just a networking technique. Over the years I have met and danced with the number of people. A lot of those people became good friends and the rest good acquaintances. I believe this technique is something that most people should do on a regular basis. Invite somebody that you want to get to know better have a cup coffee, and interview them, get to know them, and share a little of yourself with them.

This last Saturday, I had a dance Liz Tidyman. We set about an hour, at Tully’s, to share a cup of coffee and a few stories. As they say time passes when having fun, so three hours later Liz and I were still chatting. It was a delightful time, we talked about the three forbidden topics – sex, politics and religion. We also talked about our time in scouting, schooling, business and life in general. During our discussion, I got to know Liz an entirely different level than our time in Tuesday’s with Deborah. She is a wonderful, intellectual and caring person. I’m glad we had the dance!

My recommendation to all of you is welcome to the dance. Pick a person who you’d like to get to know better, set a time for cup coffee, and enjoy the dance.

Writing session after TwD – Part 2

I told the following story about grocery rescue, my TwD friend captured it and emailed me a first draft. It is one way to write together. We will write together again June 5, from 2:45 to 3:45, and other TwD participants are welcome to participate. Tomorrow I may be giving editorial feedback on a collection of my friend’s writing. It is inspiring to be in the company of writers.  Join us by the fireplace at Friends, Philosophy, and Tea for a second cup of tea; draft your next blog post, be part of the conversation a bit as we all improve our writing practice. We will discover how to move our writing along.  Here is what my friend and I made possible in less than an hour last week:

I wish there were more “grocery rescue” volunteer drivers.  That way, it would be easier to find a substitute driver when I go on vacation. Being a grocery rescue volunteer is a very important part of my life.  In less than three years I have personally carried more than 15 tons of donated food to the local food bank, and the only cost to my family has been 2 hours per week of my time plus the gasoline to drive 2 miles per week.

How much money would I have to earn to feel as though I could donate 5 tons of food per year?  That’s 10,000 pounds!  For reporting purposes, a food bank might value donated food at a dollar a pound. So food bank arithmetic would tell me that a dollar value of the food that I carry each year is about $10,000. I do not feel as though I have $10,000 every year to give the food bank, but I do feel as though I have 2 hours every week to give the food bank. And my 2 hours a week makes it possible for the food bank to obtain the fresh food that my local supermarket is eager to donate – extra that they do not wish to throw away.

I wish more people would donate time to their local food banks, so that there could be more grocery rescue drivers and more substitutes for us.   The Food Lifeline Network is the umbrella organization through which my local grocery rescue operation takes place; Hopelink is the social service agency that operates my local food bank. The experience enhances my life, values, and community connections.  It has formed me and benefited my family and me, every bit as much as any food bank client has benefited from the food obtained by my participation.

McKenna I hardly knew ya’.

Occasionally I have startled myself saying, “Wow. A Republican politician I actually like, and if conditions were good, even cast my vote for.”

In memory I can remember feeling the heat wave generated by democratic ancestors spinning furiously in their graves.

I will admit to anyone who asks that I am a life-long liberal democrat much like they were, a past member of the 1960s counter-culture, and human relationships advocate.

I am a permanent card-holding member of the 99 percent.

Growing up with a Democratic Party member for mother and a Republican Party voting father it truly never ever occurred to me to regard any Republican politician in anything resembling a positive light.

But once in a while I found myself coming to respect and admire a Republican politician. There I’ve said it, I admired a Republican politician.  Aagh!

John McCain was one that caught my attention – but then he sold out to the right wing of his Republican Party. Rob McKenna was another I deeply admired after he resisted the Bush administration by acting with extraordinary integrity as Washington State’s Attorney General.

I found that once again my esteem for a Republican politician grew. I began to imagine Rob McKenna as a viable candidate for my and our governor.

And then to my chagrin and great disappointment, he revealed his core Republican roots with his very public and well-publicized “Get a Job” interaction this week.

I am sure Rob McKenna is a terrific guy in person; I will still remember him with admiration for the integrity he displayed as Attorney General, but once again I remain disappointed by yet another good- person- but-Republican politician.

McKenna I hardly knew ya’.Get a Job

How it happened: the sweat lodge phenomenon

How is it that some people can sit and watch someone get hurt, or even die and not lift a finger to help?  How could those folks in the sweat lodge not notice that someone was in real trouble?

Not having been there, I don’t know the exact circumstances.  But I do know what kind of atmosphere can create a situation like that.  Whether or not what I’m going to describe has anything to do with current news events, the patterns are worth all of us understanding in case we find ourselves, or someone we know, in a similar situation.

Let’s start with some basics.  Human beings need hope.  With hope, we will endure almost anything.  When we lose hope, we give up.  Humans also have a need to feel that they belong.  It is hard wired into us.  When we feel like we belong to a group, we become very loyal to that group.  When we are aligned with the group we feel good.  When we go against the group we actually feel like we are doing something wrong.  We feel guilty.  So it is natural not only to seek out people who give us hope and make us feel that we belong, but also to be intensely loyal to that group.

Powerful leaders use these innate needs of humans to create a loyal following.  They offer hope–hope that you can have it all; hope that you can be rich, successful, in love, beautiful, happy, etc.  What they offer seems possible, really possible.  So you open yourself up to have some hope.

The next step of powerful leaders is to remove fear.  They encourage folks to face their fears and demonstrate how you can’t trust it.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  The basic idea is that they push you through your fear, your doubt, and your logic and have you come out in a better place.  After a few times, you begin to doubt your fear and trust the leader just a bit more.  You start to want them to push.  The eventual goal is for you to trust the leader more than you trust your own feelings.

Once you are in the system, you don’t even realize that you are losing trust in yourself.  You may even be thinking that you are having a great experience.  You most likely feel like you are doing some important personal growth work and, you are.  Learning to face your fears is a critical life skill.  It only becomes a problem when you associate the good feeling of facing your fear with the leader and not yourself.

The experience of facing your fear and coming out in a good place is compelling.  The experience of having witnesses while you do this is even better, and when you witness others, then a group bonding happens.  At this point you have both hope and a sense of belonging.

Then, they add the consequences of giving up.  They tell you that if you back down from what scares you, you’ve failed yourself and missed out on something wonderful.   They teach you that the only reason you won’t succeed is if you “give up” on yourself.  Within this frame, all difficulties you are having with the leader or the organization are because you are being scared.  And, the way through that fear is to hang in there a little longer, until you come out on the good side.

This combination of hope, belonging and attitude that “the only way to succeed is to keep pushing forward with this group” is a powerful structure.  Stepping out, leaving the group often feels like being cast out or ripped away from the only good in your life.  The equation is now: being in the group equals hope and belonging, and being out of the group equals letting my fear win and giving up on myself.  Since most of the time when we join these groups, we are in some kind of transition and often do not have a strong support system outside of the group.  Going against the group means starting all over and this is extremely hard.

So, you are in this group where you have great hope. You are growing and you feel like you belong.  The leader often asks you to do things that are scary or hard, and you always feel better when you do them.  This time, it’s sitting in a sweat lodge.  It will be uncomfortable, hot and humid, but really nothing to worry about.  By the time you are a couple of hours into it, you are in a completely different state.  The group pressure to push through this new challenge is quite high.  And, you trust that the leader really knows what they are doing.  That is the key.  Once we hand over authority, humans tend not to take initiative.  They leave it to the one in charge.  They trust their leaders to do what is best and they don’t trust themselves to override the leader.

Now, we have a huge problem.  If the leader isn’t paying attention or is unwilling to act, people can get hurt.  People can die.  And the ones that live will have a lot of emotional damage to deal with.  It will be especially hard because from the outside we can’t even begin to imagine how the others could have witnessed someone in dyer need and not done anything.  And, they can’t even explain it themselves.  That transfer of their inner authority to the leader happened so subtly they never saw it happen.  If we had asked any of them while they were still a part of the group, they would have denied any problems because for them there weren’t any problems.  They had hope and they belonged.  They had all they needed.

A good leader will do many of the same things that the dangerous leaders will do.  Determining the difference isn’t exactly easy.  A good teacher will have many ways to challenge you and many things you can learn from them.  The main difference will be in their intent.  The good leaders are focused on what is best for you, not what is best for them.  The false leaders will put themselves first.  A true leader, teacher, mentor, will continually hand the reigns back to you.  Or refuse to take the reigns when you attempt to hand them over.  They will push you, but they will make sure that you don’t begin to blindly follow them.  They will not promise you more than they will deliver.  Often they will not promise anything, they will simply show you what might be possible.  A true teacher understands that their ultimate goal is to help the student outgrow the teacher.

The damage done by false leaders can be very deep.  It can not be measured in dollars lost or time spent.  These people gradually take away our sense of who we really are, and recovering from that takes time, patience and often some professional help.  The shame people feel when they have followed a false leader is immense.

It is very important that we all understand that this really can happen to any of us.  Many people have had an experience of following a false leader.  The duration of time that we followed varies.  It is, however, very common.  Unless you understand the combination of factors that create such a following, you are likely to follow a few false leaders on your path.

A leader’s job is to create a compelling experience, one that encourages you to push yourself out of your comfort zone.  They will provide an opportunity to feel like you belong and motivate you to keep going.  When a leader considers themselves to be more of an authority on your life or your feelings than you are, it’s time to stop following.

If you’ve been there, or are there now, take some time to think about how you got there.  Be gentle with yourself about your experiences.  There really were good things within that experience and it’s OK to take the good and leave the rest.  Most importantly, you are not the only one who this has happened to.  You are not alone.

I think that most of us have walked at least a few steps down this type of path and spent a little time with someone who crossed the line a bit too often.  When and how we came to terms with it is an individual process.  But before we get too excited about the cases that make the news, maybe we need to check out the cases within our own lives and let that serve as a reminder to us to trust ourselves a bit more and be willing to speak out when something seems wrong.  A good leader will appreciate that you are speaking out.

Carla Camou, NLP Trainer and Personal Change work:  www.nlpinseattle.com

 

 

Essential Learnings

I was looking through my computer files and found a list that was written years ago.  It was a list that I wrote down during a session with a client.  I don’t remember all the details of the session, how we got to this point, but there we were.  She was a Kindergarten teacher, and had been for a long time.  I had a sense that she was doing a pretty spectacular job, and not totally aware that she was.  What I asked her was:”What is it that you want your students to learn?”  This was her list:

 

That they are worthy of being seen and heard

That they feel respected

That they know they have gifts and the time and space to pursue and share

To learn to focus on what they can do

To have a feeling of self-improvement

The ability to set their own goals

The ability to self-evaluate (not rely on someone else)

To be able to speak up, in a way that will be hear, when something doesn’t feel right

To Know they all have something to contribute

To know that it wouldn’t be the same w/out them (as good)

To be curious about each other

 

I sat in awe for a couple of minutes, imagining what it must be like for a 5 or 6 year old to have their first experience in school with a teacher that was holding this list in her heart.  After all, this was the year that for most children set the tone for the rest of their education.    A child who learned all this in kindergarten would be starting their education with some powerful tools.

I asked her permission to share the list.  When I shared it with others that were teaching, in a variety of venues, they were all quite impressed.  All of us who teach want this list for our students, no matter what their age.    It is what I want for all my students, although until I asked my client the question, I hadn’t thought to make a list, to set that intention.

I learn some of my most valuable lessons talking with clients.  This was one of those moments.  This list has stayed with me, in my mind and my heart ever since that session.  It is what is most important to me in the creation of a learning environment.  I teach NLP to adults, and this list helps me keep clear on what is most important.

This list is also a roadmap for all of us.  Take a look at this list.  Have you learned all of these things for yourself?  Are you unsure about any of them?  If so, these are the places in your life that are worth paying some attention.  We are all capable of learning these things, and we all deserve to know them.  Now, take another look at the list.  Do you affirm this in your interactions with others?  Can you see and know this about anyone you interact with?  I wonder, what our lives, what the world would be like if we did.

Carla Camou, NLP Trainer and Personal Change work:  www.nlpinseattle.com

LifeBook thoughts and expanding permutations

There are 76 million baby boomers and another fifty plus million others who could use the Living Legacy LifeBook as a framework for honoring themselves, each other, their roots, futures, and their descendants.

The more I discuss my book and ideas with others the more ideas for application arise. Please add more in your comments below (Thanks)

LifeBook or LifeBooks could be:

  • Part of a welcome packet for an independent living or retirement community.
  • Part of a Pre-burial plan contract purchase (if you are buying a hole that has not been dug, a monument that has not been cut to be erected on a plot you yourself will never really enjoy, have one of these to complete between now and the time you will be using your plot. It also makes for a well-written eulogy…)
  • Home care agencies, instead of watching one more soap opera with their home bound client – they can ask great questions and listen to some truly astounding replies.)
  • Senior downsizing movers and De-clutterers could use this.
  • Senior housing placement agencies can offer this as part of their services.
  • Senior centers could use this as inspiration for activities.
  • Retirement or other financial counselors could offer this to clients as a service.
  • Divorce counselors, attorneys, mediators can offer this to couples in distress to help them clarify their marriages and intentions, conceivably help restore health to damages relations.
  • A gift from:
    • Adult children to their Senior parents which would make visiting their parents much more enjoyable and productive
    • Senior parents to their adult children which would make visits much more enjoyable and productive
  • A gift to:
    • Newlyweds so that they can start their Living Legacies right away, and learn each other[s families early on in their marriage.
    • Oldy-weds (a relationship enhancement tool) who can take their intimacy and compatibility to the next level by sharing their lives in this manner – one tell their stories or bucket list, the other scribes – then switch roles, then discuss between them.
  • A service for religious congregations.
    • Honoring their senior members,
    • younger members, youth groups, can visit and listen and record older members as they retell their stories, share their wisdom.
  • And much more yet to be conceived. 
  • There is even a memory board game in the works… (imagine)

Anything you can do or say that will help me reach 150 million Americans would be deeply appreciated.

You can write to me directly at livinglegacylifebook@gmail.com

Thanks!

Paul