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Posts Tagged ‘trust’

Knowing What Is True

December 2nd, 2009

When I was young, I knew what the truth was. I had really good instincts.  But somewhere (early) along the way, I stopped trusting them.

Why?

Because grown-ups kept telling me that what I knew to be true wasn’t true. Or that my feelings were wrong or bad and really needed to be different. And, because I assumed grown-ups knew more than I did, I let them be right.

Here’s an example of what I mean: when I was young, my parents had a VERY strained relationship. They slept in separate rooms.  Arguments and/or stony silence were the norm. And yet, to the outside world, we presented an over-the-top normalcy. I learned early to lie about even the smallest of things so that that the “happy family” picture could be maintained.

But I KNEW it wasn’t true. To my very core, I knew that families did not act the way ours did behind closed doors. When I was at my friends’ houses, the energy was just so very different. I never really wanted to invite friends to my house because I knew I would have to answer impossible questions.

In order to stay sane (and my sanity was quite short-lived but that’s another story), I stopped trusting myself. I let child looking outmyself get into all kinds of bad situations because I cut off access to that part of me that could sense danger or even mild discomfort. And this disconnectedness lasted until I was at least 30 years old.

Fast forward to now. I am watching my seven-year-old son (who is an empath like me) struggle to make sense of a world that tells him that what he knows and what he feels are simply not accurate.  He “shouldn’t” feel angry when a younger child snatches his favorite toy. He “shouldn’t” get impatient when he can finish his worksheets faster than anyone else. He “shouldn’t” try to explain when he’s been falsely accused of misbehaving.

And he isn’t the only one.

I watch children. A lot. And what I see is SO alarming. Either all of their feelings and whims are over- indulged (which does not lead to learning accuracy) or their feelings and whims are shut down without any attempt to understand them. Only the most tenacious children (read The Young Turk) have to energy to persist and insist that they have a right to express whatever is going on. Most of them realize it is just easier to shut down that side of themselves and maintain the status quo.

Is it any wonder we now have SO much difficulty being real? Or even knowing what our “real” is? Where do we learn how to do that? Who shows us the way? Who gets rewarded – those who maintain the status quo or those who stand up and say “THIS is who I am. THIS is what I know is true. THIS is what I am no longer willing to settle for.”

(And I know it’s easy to say that those who stand up get rewarded, but let me tell you – they also get endless missiles, potshots and shit thrown at them too – and that is hard to take.)

If we can’t teach our children to trust their instincts and what they know to be true, how on earth are they, or even we for that matter, every going to learn how to escape mediocrity. Or better yet, not settle for it in the first place.

As always, I am intensely interested in what you have to say. 🙂

Failing Sucks

August 12th, 2009

We’ve all heard it from the guru’s right? “Take big risks!” “Fail early. Fail often.” “When you fail, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep going.”

And for the most part, I agree with these sentiments. The only problem is, no one ever talks about how much failing SUCKS and what to do about it so you CAN pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

Here’s the thing: as entrepreneurs we pour our hearts and souls into what we do. Of course we are risk takers – how could we work for ourselves if we weren’t? So when we take a big risk – everything in us is on the line. Which works out great if the risk pays off.

But what about when it doesn’t pay off?

I recently lived through this experience and I am here to tell you it can be gut-wrenching and heartbreaking. I wanted something very very badly. I thought I had my bases covered. I put all my chips on the table – my smarts, my heart and my soul – and I hoped for the best.

But it didn’t work out. Not only did it not work out, it blew up spectacularly in my face. And it felt horrible.

Prevailing advice is that I should have been able to shake it off, get up and keep on trekking. And I’ve been able to do after many failures – trust me.  But this time I just couldn’t. My heart was too heavy and my spirit was busted. But I also knew I had to choose between moving forward somehow and throwing in the towel.

Walking The Grid

Photo by Simon Scott

I can’t remember where I first heard it, but when I find myself in situations where I really don’t know what to do next, where I feel like I am grappling in the dark, where my heart just isn’t in taking one more step, the phrase “just walk the grid” always comes to mind

I have a feeling that I’m not the only person out there who struggles to find a foothold after failing and I’m hoping this idea might offer some help.

The whole premise of walking the grid is based on two things: 1) some structured routine and 2) keeping things very very simple. Each person’s grid will look different, but here are some pieces of mine to give you some ideas:

  1. I walk – every single morning. Whether I feel like it or not. In fact, the less I feel like it, the more insistent I am about going. 30 minutes minimum – longer if I can.
  2. I check in with a trusted friend or colleague every day. Not the same friend or colleague every day because I want to keep as many of those as I can. Sometimes I talk about what’s going on with me; sometimes I can bring myself to actually inquire about them (when I’m walking the grid, I can be kinda self-centered).
  3. I reduce my commitments as best I can. Getting back to full speed takes time and energy and I want to give myself as much of that as I can.
  4. I write first thing every morning. Dumping out what’s bothering me onto paper helps keep it from eating away at me all day. (And a side benefit is I usually get a really great NEW idea while I’m writing – eventually.)
  5. I try to eat well and not survive on coffee alone.
  6. I give priority to working on the projects that make me feel really good, really smart and really talented. Same goes for people I talk to.
  7. I read books by authors who make me feel better. My favorites when I am walking the grid are Julia Cameron, Martha Beck and Anne Lamott.
  8. I nap a lot. (Ok – I nap a lot anytime I can. Walking the grid just gives me a really good reason.)
  9. I cry. Yes it’s true. If the experience is heart-wrenching enough, I’ll probably cry more than once. And don’t say it’s just because I’m a girl.
  10. I take small actions. As soon as I can I take small baby steps toward something that feels like it might be right. Baby steps feel simple and doable. As they accumulate, though, I find myself creating forward momentum once again.

Sometimes I can zip through walking the grid in a couple of days and I’m good to go. Other times, it may take me weeks or even a few months of walking the grid to feel like I am on solid ground.

Failing isn’t permanent and the fact that I failed to get something I really wanted doesn’t mean that I am a failure. But taking the time to acknowledge that the experience was painful is a gift of respect I can give myself.

What are some simple, structured ideas you would add to The Grid?

Diving Into the Void: A Lesson from Cirque Du Soleil

July 9th, 2009

Early last month I was in Las Vegas and had the chance to see a Cirque Du Soleil show. I chose to see KA– again. If you missed my first post about this amazing show, you can check it out here.

This time when I saw it, I was moving in this new direction of Escaping Mediocrity so I watched it with a fresh lens. It was as amazing and moving as I remembered it to be. So much so that I bought KA Extreme which chronicles how this amazing production developed.

For those of you who aren’t as rabid as I am about Cirque Du Soleil, I’d like to share the fact that this company is often cited in business articles and books (Blue Ocean Strategy is just one that comes to mind) because they redefined the whole concept of “Circus” and they embrace creativity and innovation as business strategies. 

Up until they hit the scene, conventional thinking was that a successful circus had to have three rings, animal acts and be targeted to children. If it didn’t look like that, then it wasn’t a “circus” and would not succeed. (Oh and you couldn’t charge more than, say, $35 a ticket and getting grownups to come was a huge marketing challenge.)

Then this band of street performers from Canada hit the scene and turned the definition of “circus” upside down. Cirque Du Soleil is sophisticated, high energy, targeted to grownups and charges premium dollar for tickets. Oh – and there are no animal acts or “rings” of any kind. Cirque Du Soleil could be THE poster child company for Escaping Mediocrity (hmm…maybe I’ll ask them about that….).

Here’s the thing I love most about them though: they NEVER stop pushing the boundaries of their creativity.  With KA – they broke the mold that THEY created. First, KA is a story – like a ballet or an opera. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. None of the other Cirque shows have that. Second, and to me most important, they created this moving stage that actually becomes many characters in the show. Looking at those words – I simply am not doing justice to the concept.

The stage pivots 365 degrees in all directions (I think) and weighs more than a 747 at takeoff. It transforms into a ship, a seashore, a mountain – and in one of my favorite sequences – a vertical chessboard.

Here’s the thing that made me catch my breathe over and over again: the performers are almost always at risk of falling off of the platform. Sometimes they even have to fall off on purpose in a freefall and you don’t see them land. “They perform on the edge of the void” as Robert LePage, KA Creator and Director says – and it is a l-o-n-g way down (up to 100 feet – yikes!) to the net below.

In the KA Extreme video, I got to watch the perfomers go throught the emotional process of learning how to overcome their fears and master both performing on the edge of a void AND making a complete freefall. And just in case you think it was easy for those amazing artists, it was not.

LePage says “We ask our performers to find the courage to confront the void”.

As if that quote isn’t enough to chew on, Lepage closes KA Extreme with this:

“I feel that my life is bristling with opportunities or invitations to dive into the void…I don’t mean emptiness…I mean the void in terms of taking risks.  The ambitiousness of this Cirque Du Soleil show is a very clear invitation to dive into the void.”

And the result of learning to “confront the void” and to take risks is a Cirque Du Soleil show that is so beautiful, so touching, so astonishing and so unlike any other that it leaves everyone I know speechless (and trust me – my friends are rarely at a loss for words about ANYTHING.)

Here’s what I learned: If I am committed to escaping mediocrity,  I have to be willing to freefall into the void and to take HUGE risks. IF I can manage that, IF I can screw up my courage and let go – I just might create something magnificent.