Truly Powerful People (81)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

“We have no voice,” is a statement that Patti and I hear a lot from groups. Of course, the obvious follow-up question is “Who do you believe has your voice?” Or another version of the same question, “For whom do you stifle your voice?” It is not true that you have no voice. It may be true that you are afraid to use it.

There is a distinct difference between having a voice and using it. People use their voice when they feel safe; they withhold their voice when they do not feel safe. Perhaps the better question is, “when do you feel unsafe to give voice to your thoughts and ideas? Why do you feel unsafe?”

What do you need to change in your life and within yourself to feel safe enough to speak?

Truly Powerful People (80)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am surrounded by books. I love books. They are like people; some are merely acquaintances while others become dear friends that I visit often. One of my favorites is Influence by Robert Cialdini. Recently, I spent the morning rereading the last chapter because it has been haunting me, sitting in the back of my mind for months. He posits that, with the pace of technological change and the explosion of information we’ve had to adjust to the way we make decisions. He believes that, although we all want to make carefully considered decisions, “More and more we are forced to resort to another decision-making approach – a shortcut approach in which the decision to comply (or agree or believe or buy) is made on the basis of a single, usually reliable piece of information.” He continues, “An isolated piece of information, even though it normally counsels us correctly, can lead us to clearly stupid mistakes….”

This is the great paradox; the tiger trap hidden in the jungles of contemporary life. We are moving too fast to see clearly. We are so inundated with information that we meet complex challenges with simplistic thinking and are dumbfounded when we further complicate the challenge. Surrounded by information, we are uninformed. Inundated with information, we cannot hear our inner voice.

It is the word, “isolate” that called me to the chapter; “An isolated piece of information,….” Most people I know feel isolated from some sense of greater meaning, purpose or community. A standardized test is nothing if not an attempt to isolate meaning from greater context. Many of the people I coach in business wonder why they are doing what they are doing. Their actions are isolated from a clear intention.

There is an old Chinese parable; an image of hell in which people sit amidst a fantastic feast, starving because their chopsticks are 3 feet long and they are incapable of getting food to their mouths.

Sometimes the change we need is counter-intuitive. Slowing down enough to get out of traffic and breathe. Standing still. Listening inside. Not buying the line that anything about a human being can be standardized. Offer a helping hand to someone so they know they are not an isolated bit of information. Offer a helping hand so that you know that you are not an isolated bit of information.

Truly Powerful People (79)


Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.


On the southern most point of the big island of Hawaii after leaving the main highway, several miles beyond the rows of wind mills on a road more pothole than pavement you will find a rocky spot called the leaping place of the soul. It is the place were native Hawaiians believe, after dying, their souls leap to join the ancestors.


It is a powerful area. Two ocean currents collide just off the point. The rocky cliff face has Swiss cheese erosion caves just south of a black sand beach. It is the kind of place that evokes quiet.


I like the idea of a leaping place of the soul. I like the idea of the kind of connection to something greater that a leaping place implies. The Balinese believe that they are reincarnated back into their families every seven generations. There are important rituals after a birth to identify the baby’s former identity, to know which ancestor is returning. In a sense, this Balinese belief is the reverse of the leaping place: the soul leaps back in to join the descendents.


I often wonder what kind of world we would create if we believed the ancestors were awaiting us with open arms or that seven generations from now we would come back for another go at it. What choices would we make if our consideration included more than the world we are leaving our children but also the world we were creating for our future-selves? How might we treat each other if we believed we were eternal members of the club and not merely passing through?



Truly Powerful People (78)


Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I am in a small prop plane flying to a wedding from Santa Fe to Dallas. I am 20 years old and don’t really want to go to this wedding. I am along for the ride. It is my first time in a small plane and unlike being in a jumbo jet I can’t ignore the fact that I am in a tiny aluminum tube hurtling through the air. That’s why I came along, I wanted to know what it is the fly in a small plane.

We watch a mountain of thunderclouds rise in front of us, like a monster rising out of the sea. The pilot banks left in the hope that we can fly around them but they are moving faster than we are. The dark, angry clouds block our path and lighting flashes around us, the plane bucks. The pilot turns the plane back toward Santa Fe; the storm folds its giant fingers around us and begins to squeeze. The color drains from the pilot’s face. His intense dialogue with the control tower sounds one notch short of an SOS appeal.

I am suddenly very quiet inside. My mind chatter abruptly stops. I realize that my fear of dying is not about dying at all; it is about control of the moment. In my fear I was looking for a way out of the plane and the absurdity of it catches me off guard and I laugh. For a few moments I am intensely aware of every sound and smell; the storm is the most beautiful and ominous thing I have ever seen. I am more alive than I have ever been.

The pilot finds a gap in the wall of clouds and we are out of the storm; ironically, this is moment the mind chatter, my voice of fear, returns like a freight train. However, now I see what this voice really is. I see that it roars when it is invested in controlling things that it cannot control. It has nothing to say that is useful or genuine. If I had followed the advice of this voice of fear I would have jumped from the plane!

I wonder how many ridiculous actions I have taken in my life listening to this madness. From how many metaphoric airplanes have I jumped?

I kiss the tarmac when we land again in Santa Fe – I am happy to be on the ground again but I am especially grateful for knowing that my voice of fear has nothing of use to say.

Truly Powerful People (77)


Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

It is the last week of December and I am at Kit Peak observatory high atop a mountain beyond the Tucson city lights. It is late at night and I am with a group of 16 people taking turns looking through one of the many telescopes at the observatory. An astronomer acts as our guide and decides where to aim the telescope; he chooses a star cluster at the edge of our galaxy, types the coordinates into a computer and the giant telescope slowly moves into position. We move the dome by hand, slowly rotating the view opening of the building to align with the telescope.

It is my turn to look through the eyepiece. I see a ball of stars caught in a single gravitational field. The astronomer tells us that the stars slowly move within the field, stars orbiting stars. It is called a star cluster. Tears blur my eyes at the beauty of it all. I am suddenly overwhelmed with a paradoxical feeling: how small I am and how enormous my life is. Next to a star cluster some of the things we go to war over seem silly, so many artificial boundaries.

I once worked with kids in East Los Angeles who had never seen the stars. They had never been in an environment that was not constructed: never walked in a forest, never smelled the desert after the rain. They only knew concrete streets, a sun obscured by smog and artificial light at night. How could they possibly know their greatness in such a cocoon of abstraction?

It was in the night sky that humans began to recognize pattern and how the movement of the universe influences the movement of our lives – we are not separate! We’ve imagined our gods moving through the heavens and learned that we are not the center of all things. We are a speck of stardust and as vast as the night sky in our dreams and imaginations.

There is nothing ordinary about being alive and if you forget, all you need do to remember is move beyond the city lights and look into the night sky.

Truly Powerful People (76)


Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Among the many things I love and admire about Joe is his fundamental belief that, in his words, the universe tends toward wholeness. He doesn’t just believe it he lives it in all of its chaos and glorious messiness.

Of all the people I have known, Joe is the only one that has with intention and by choice walked straight into the darkest dark of his psyche. He did not wait for life to force him into it. He stepped into his abyss as a scientist would step into a laboratory. He conducted experiments, tested and retested his findings and started drawing maps of his internal geography – literally mapping his emotions, feelings and their changeability. And what incredible maps they are! The blackest-black morphs into a color explosion that radiates from the heart. Dense motionless globs shape-shift into rivers of energy and light. Stuck emotion is released, new perceptions blossom, and lives are transformed.

Now Joe teaches others to draw maps of their own inner landscapes. He introduces people to their unique mythology and like Virgil, he accompanies them on their personal heroes journey acting as witness as they transform their lives. This brilliant work is rooted in the understanding that people are the experts of their own lives – and the body, because it tends toward wholeness, will guide if we re-learn how to listen to it.

We are experts at wrapping stories of brokenness around our natural tendencies; we are gifted at absorbing trauma into our bodies and claiming it as our identity. Sometimes all that is necessary to find your way back home is a good map and a good person who believes you already know how to read it.

Truly Powerful People (75)


Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Once, when arguing for my misery, Ana-the-wise giggled at my total dedication to unhappiness and offered me this exercise:
She told me to start my day by looking in the mirror and saying out loud to myself these three phrases:

I am responsible for my own happiness.
I am responsible for creating my own happiness.
I am responsible for my own peace of mind.

She asked me for 30 days to repeat the phrases at the start of my day. I grumbled but agreed to try it. I am not the mantra-guy so I held little belief that my dedication to misery would change with an affirmation.

I challenge you to look into your eyes every day and tell yourself that you are responsible for your happiness; you will hear the word, “responsible.” I am responsible. Not my boss. Not my circumstance. Not my friends or my parents or my partner or the guy at the grocery store. I am. And the thing that I am responsible for creating is my happiness.

Here’s what Ana-the-wise knows: the path to wonderment opens when you claim your happiness. When you own it, when you are standing in your own center and not trying to claim a center belonging to another, you regain the eyes that see with awe. The full spectrum of vibrant dynamic life – all of it- is available to you and you merely need to own that it is yours to create.

Truly Powerful People (74)


Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

Truly powerful people are dedicated to inspiring true power in others.

Sometimes it is good to go back to the beginning and reconnect with your original idea, your reasons why. I went back to school when I was pushing 40 because my understanding and experiences as an artist had little resonance or relevance to my community. I was puzzled at how important and transformational the work was to the artists (myself included) but not so much for the greater community. I’d worked in many theatre companies, I had shown many paintings, and the work, no matter how good, had only a fleeting impact on the audience.

Artists have long, meaningful conversations about the importance of their work – raising awareness of issues or making statements about current events. Audiences come, enjoy and very much appreciate the work, and then go home, the deeper relevance of the piece having bounced off and disappeared. The people that stick around to engage in the deeper conversation are other artists.

Artists are like missionaries – they so believe in their offer to the world that they work endless hours usually for no or little money, they walk into the dark corners of society to see what is there and maybe shine a little light. They make terrific sacrifices, are eternally hopeful, often angry and frustrated, they celebrate each other and inflate each other with importance because the community has no real way of valuing them or their offer. Artists believe they are helping to create a better more conscious community.

I went back to school because, one day while painting I listened to a taped lecture by Joseph Campbell and he said, “…our mythology is dead. You just have to read the newspaper to see it….” I knew he was right and had no idea what he meant. So I went looking for some answers.

This is part of what I found: artists are the keepers of the common narrative. Artists are the keepers of the community identity – they are not inventors of the new, they express what is. When a community breaks down it loses its narrative. Without a cohesive narrative it doesn’t know what to do with its artists so it abstracts them from the center and moves them to the margins. It assigns a new purpose – like making profit – and if the art can’t fulfill the new purpose, it relegates the artists to the charity line (literally, non-profit status). And, without a center, the community cannot hold together and begins to do violence to itself. Joseph Campbell was right.

The artists continue to strive for a cohesive common narrative without regard to how the community identifies itself or the artist’s work.

It is not without reason that I believe that artists – and we are all artists when we know how to see – are truly powerful people capable of inspiring true power in others.

Truly Powerful People (73)


Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

[continued from 72]

When rooted in fear the mind will try to control the body’s experiences. That is akin to trying to reverse the flow of a river.

Actually, as I understand it, in a fear-story the mind confuses the body’s needs with its own. The body is not concerned with hiding or masking or changing itself. Mind will create outlandish arguments for control, lots of rules, and tales of lack and shame and need. It will tell you to eat even if you are not hungry (it will tell you not to eat even if you are starving!). It will convince you that fulfillment will be yours if you buy one more pair of shoes. It will wrap stories of good or bad around the most natural of impulses. It will have you rejecting yourself, ashamed of yourself and have you snarled in a collision of justifications, comparisons and judgments. All of those stories are about mind’s need not bodies experience.

A mind rooted in fear needs constriction and the illusion of control to preempt an impulse and predetermine an experience. My friend Roger is a great studier of people and he once told me that denial is among the most powerful human characteristics. Denial of what you feel, denial of what you see, denial of what you need,…. Robert Fritz writes that identifying a goal is the easy part, the tough part is identifying with any reality where you are in relation to where you want to be because we deny so much of our experience. We seem incapable or unwilling to see, “what is….”

How can you possibly know where you are if you are denying what you feel, what you see, what you need? How can you possibly create fulfillment in the future if you are unwilling to stand fully in the present? How can you support the fulfillment of others if you are denying yourself the fullness of your experience?

Truly Powerful People (72)


Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

[continued from 71]

When the mind is searching for an answer it needs a focal point – it needs to attach to something. It needs to make a story. It buys self-help books. It looks for answers in experts and gurus and teachers and preachers and therapists and astrologers and the I-Ching. It seeks answers in the eyes of its lover and its friends. It will turn over every stone, try every diet, chant every affirmation, make every accusation, and grasp onto anything that hints at an answer only to find the answer empty, to think it caught the prize only to discover air in its hands. Slowly the story changes.

A mind seeking answers is usually a mind rooted in a fear story. Fear is like a drug; once the mind attaches to it the mind needs it – fear makes for an easy story because a mind on fear will always play the Victim in the story. It eats it up! Victim is a juicy role and easy to play.

The problem/opportunity with a fear story, like all other drugs, is that fear eats what attaches to it. Consume fear and it will consume you. When the price of the Victim story becomes too high to pay, the story changes.

Eventually the mind recognizes that the answer it seeks is not out there but in here and the focal point becomes the mind itself. A mind focusing on itself enters a warrior phase (when the mind goes to war with itself). Eventually recognizing that there is no answer, no one need be right or wrong, no one need lose or win, the mind relaxes. All of that seeking only to find that all roads return to your Self! There is surrender all the way around, the weapons of comparison and perfection are placed in museums. It is at this place that the focal point of the mind returns to the body/experience. No interpretation necessary! The story fog dissipates; the mind releases the zany notion that it can control, and seeing returns.

The Victim. The Warrior. The Seer. All are necessary roles. Most of us are playing Victims or at war with ourselves. Where you place your focus will determine the play you are performing. What is your play?

[to be continued]