Shout Shhhhhhhhh!

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

Today I’ve had three separate conversations about how badly I suck at community building/business and marketing (the same stuff in my case). I am – it seems – the master of one-way communication. Do you know that over 13,000 of you read this blog over the course of the year? Several hundred of you read it each day. Some of you tell me when a post rings a bell for you. Sometimes you reflect your stories back to me. It is a discipline to me, a meditation. I love to write about the magic I see. I love to rail against the education system or write about what makes me weep. Even when I feel that there is nothing more to say, when I sit down to write, something always pours out.

Do you know that I’m a coach? Do you know that I help people everyday to open their stories, move through their blocks, and step into their power (thus, the name of my business, Truly Powerful)? This blog is an extension of my work in the world. I don’t think to say it because I assume that I’m shouting it. Raquel dope slapped me this morning and told me I never ask for help getting the word out into the word. I think I do…but apparently not. When I took Kevin Honeycutt’s amazing launch class for speakers, he gave me my all-time favorite feedback when he said, “You shout ‘shhhhhhhhhhhhh.” So, if you know anyone who’s blocked or not fulfilling their purpose, send them to me. I do it for organizations, too and who doesn’t know a constipated organization? I could use a few more clients. How’s that for an ask? Of course, Diane reflected that I rarely make a strong ask. I shout shhhhhhh in my marketing, too. It’s in my nature. I am boldly quiet.

People often reflect that they have a hard time finding me. “How is that possible?” I ask myself. Could I be any more out there in the world? Carol recently reflected that, in addition to being the master of one-way communication, I am a marvel of deflection. Ask me to tell you about myself and I will inevitably tell a story of triumph about another person. I love helping people to their triumphs! Message: if you come looking for me I’ll point you to someone else. Last week Skip and I gave away over 30 hours of time to budding entrepreneurs. Skip is a gold mine of information, wisdom and insight. Literally. I am a transformer of perception and consciousness. If you want to meet your purpose and light it up, I’m your man. When we were bemoaning our dearth of income and empty seminar attendance I asked myself, “Why would anyone ever attend any workshop we give when they get it for free everyday…”

Did I also mention that I am a slow study? Alan told me once (not a direct quote) that perhaps no one hires me because everyone is my friend. I like people. People like me (mostly…there are a few who would stone me if given the chance). So. Truly Powerful People teach what they most need to learn. Take off the brakes. Shout it from the mountaintop.

Help me make this a conversation. Share your stories with me so I might share them with the other 12,999 people looking in. I welcome your stories of my ineptitude (they show me that you love me;-) or tell me about the mountains you move everyday. We’re all doing it. You are wise and heart-centered and deserve to know each other.

Share A Meal With Jakorda

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

Jakorda Rai sat behind me. His hands on either side of my head, he read my energy just as he’d read the other students who previously sat before him. Unlike the other students he did not progress to the second phase of diagnosis. Instead, he simply tapped me on my right shoulder and through a translator told me that nothing physically ailed me. My challenge was to open my story. As if to emphasize his diagnosis he tapped me again on the right shoulder and repeated his instruction. Open your story.

Later I would return to his house compound and participate in a ritual. He initiated me into his family temple. I became one of his family line. Only now am I understanding the import of that gesture, the gift that he gave me. The high priests brought me in to his temple and then Jakorda Rai sent me back into the world to open my story. Before I left his house compound he invited me to come back back. Through the translator he said, “Someday come back and share a meal with me.” I thought I’d be back within a few years. More than a decade has passed.

What does it mean to have an open story?

Artists – and by artists I mean all people who are conscious of their actions and choices – flourish when the emphasis in life is moved from “answer seeking” and placed on “question engagement” – the capacity to explore and engage, to sit solidly in uncertainty: that is the environment (and I think it is an internal environment) necessary for humans to flourish and fulfill their creative impulse.

I’ve posted these words before and decided to post them again. My dear friend Sam asked me to describe under what conditions an artist flourishes and this is what I wrote in response:

It is perhaps too simple but this is what I know and experience: the artist in me becomes present (it is all about presence; artistry is not something you do as much as something you are) – there is no past or future, just what is before me (and in me) in that moment and we are not separate: the poem or the painting or the story and I are one fluid thing. The world (my seeing) moves from nouns to verbs, from object focused to process focused. When I am present the environment, my seeing of my environment, comes “alive;” the colors are more intense, the sounds and textures of my space richer and clearer. I guess, in my artist self, there ceases to be a separation between me and my environment, I am not moving through a day, I am in the day. All concepts of “time” disappear. I am the creator, the creating, and the created.

This is what it means to have an open story. And now that I know, now that I am an open story, I remember that I am long over due to share a meal with Jakorda Rai.

Take A Look At Strider

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

He was formidable walking down the hill toward the waterfront. Wrapped in a grey blanket that made him look like a Jedi knight he took bold confident strides. He was a paradox: homeless and determined, aimless and intentional. People parted and opened a path for him even before they could see him. They felt him coming. He was a force.

For a moment I felt as if I was watching two worlds overlap. His grey blanket-cape swirling through a crowd of reserved business-casual wear. He was the most alive person on the street and the most fearsome. He was striding beyond the rules. He didn’t care if he was hit by a car or ran over a tourist. He didn’t care and the freedom of not caring was dangerous. I could see the message in his pace: no one cared for him so why should he care for anyone. He was experiencing the worst punishment a tribe can deliver: he was cast out. He did not belong.

I knew he had no destination because I recognized the force that drove him. He wanted his life to be different. He wanted a break, an opportunity, anything that looked like hope. And there was none in sight. He was pissed at his life choices. All he could do in this moment was walk and walk fast, hard, and determined and burn off the fury. It would either make him feel the vibrancy of his life or exhaust him and either way he would emerge from his walk in another mindset. He would find hope or fatigue and sleep. He would live another day.

As I watched him descend the hill, knowing that he would simply turn and walk right back up again only to descend one more time – a modern day Sisyphus – I also realized that the folks in business-casual were probably doing the same thing only with less awareness but with a modicum of hope. Someone cared about their actions. Someone cared that they showed up. They had a place to go. The strider did not.

Last night, I had yet another conversation about the need to create community and connectivity – this time with a maker of software. My fascination with this conversation began nearly 15 years ago in school with the ongoing ever-present conversation about creating community. I hear it in one form or another almost everyday. Here in a metro area of almost 2 million people we feel the need to create community and that can only be true because we do not experience it beyond the superficial. A community cares for the health and well being of all of its members. A community does not place the interests of the few above the values of the whole.

I have been walking since January AND I have places to go. If I do not show up at Carol’s before midnight I get a text. Judy checks in with me. Horatio and Arnie want to know how I am doing. Megan reminds me to eat and throughout the day tugs on the lifeline to see if I will tug back. I am loved. I have been meditating on this thing called home that has evaded me or that I have avoided (I don’t know which) and the strider shook my meditation like a snow globe. I think I will find home because I am determined to create it. I wonder if any of us will ever really know a greater community? The man in the cape swirled down the hill and people parted, they glanced but mostly did not give him a second look. Outcasts are ordinary. Not belonging to something bigger is an everyday occurrence. Do you feel it?

Lower The Drama

801. 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’s the reason we invest in all the drama and gossip!” she said. “Wrap yourself in drama and people will see the drama and because they see the drama they can’t see you. Drama is a smokescreen. It’s a way to hide.” And then she laughed and added, “At least that’s what I’ve discovered about myself. And, even better, all that good yummy drama not only keeps others from seeing me, it keeps me from seeing me. And isn’t THAT the point.”

We are the last people to see ourselves. Horatio reminded me today that I am an easy target. “People take advantage of you,” he said. “You don’t see it but those of us that care for you do see it.” I wanted to protest but he was right. I don’t see it and I am always surprised and disappointed when it happens again. How could I not see it?

What do we do to keep from seeing ourselves? What do we do to keep from being seen? What stories do we tell? What games do we play? What addictions do we claim? We beliefs do we hold.

Her parting question was priceless: “Imagine what people might see if there was no layer of drama to obscure their view? What might we see in ourselves if there was no gossip to distract us?”

Take Your Eyes From The Sky

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

From the department of very odd moments, twice in the past 24 hours I have walked by elderly men standing on street corners, arms raised to the sky, eyes open, blessing passers-by. They did not offer their blessing in full voice or with great intention. The blessing came in a whisper. It came as a ghost might whisper from behind you.

The first man I passed while I was walking home from tai-chi. I saw him from several blocks away and the closer I got the more he piqued my curiosity. It was clearly painful for him to keep his arms stretched toward the sky. As I passed he whispered his blessing and only then did I wonder if his outstretched arms were a form of penance: suffering for sins or reaching the godhood through intentional infliction of pain. I will never understand that. I’m not a believer in sin nor do I think one need suffer to experience the divine. From my perspective there is nothing corrupt about nature or anything (including humans) in nature. To me, the divine is in all things. One need not reach for it as much as realize it. Be it.

This morning, far across town from my first encounter, I saw another elderly man standing on a street corner, arms raised to the sky. I changed my route so that I might pass him. I wanted to know if he, too, would whisper a blessing as I went by. He did and I stopped and turned to look at him. He kept his gaze firmly fixed on the sky, his arms shaking with the strain of their reach. It was odd. He offered a blessing to me but he refused to engage with me.

There are many paths up this mountain. There are many roads that lead back to the tree of life. Separation seeks unity in many forms. As I turned and walked away I wondered what worth was a blessing that comes from one who would look to the sky as a way of avoiding engagement with me. I turned back. I wanted to ask him if he wanted a cup of coffee. I wanted to know what path in life made him choose pain as his route to the godhood. I stopped myself. I wanted to respect his choices, not criticize them. I walked away glad that I see the divine in all of the eyes that look back at me. I felt relief that on my path I need not peer into the sky and disengage from this glorious world to seek for my reassurance.

Ask The Next Question

799. 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 met John in his workshop. He was cutting pieces for a chair. He’s decided that his summer task is to learn to build chairs. I’ve known John for many years and he was a master woodworker when I met him. That he’s set himself the task of making chairs seemed at first already within his reach. I’ve sat in many many chairs that John’s designed and built. And then, like a little kid excited to open presents, he showed me his prototype and all the things he didn’t know how to do. He showed me all the things that he couldn’t wait to explore. There are new joinery, curves, and design elements. He’s incorporating metals into some of his designs. Brushing the sawdust from his shirt, he said, “I figure if I’m not learning then I’m probably wasting my time.”

John chooses his projects based on what he doesn’t know. For years I’ve admired how he orients himself to his tasks. He is a true master. Mastery is not about what you know. Mastery is about how you address yourself to what you don’t know. Mastery and curiosity are bedfellows. Most of us choose our projects based on what we know. We do stuff because we know how to do it – and sometimes we mistakenly call that expertise. We use our knowledge to distinguish ourselves from the pack. Masters have no time for such nonsense. They are too busy learning. They are too in awe of life to separate from life. They are joiners and not concerned with status games.

As we jumped into John’s truck to get some dinner and a beer I noticed that he was limping. I asked him about the limp and he was told me about the magic his naturopath was working. He has arthritis in his back. He said, “I have a lot to learn. There is so much for me to do, so many things I want to do. I figure I’ll never get to it all but I need my health. I’m too excited to stop asking the next question.”

Make The Offer

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

If you’ve not yet heard Neil Gaiman’s commencement address to the University for the Arts in Philadelphia, take a moment and treat yourself. His message in a nutshell: make good art regardless of what life throws your way. And, by good art, he means your art. Give full expression to your voice. Make your art regardless of what life throws your way.

This morning Kerri sent me a text. She’d just played the music for a funeral. Her message: this ride is short. There’s no time to be afraid. Make your art. Step into life. Love big. Love now. And, back to Neil Gaiman, enjoy your moment. Really enjoy it. That’s how you make good art. The tortured artist image is highly overrated and mostly a lie. Art comes through pain but is never sourced in it.

As Skip and I waited for the ferry last night he recounted a conversation from his day. It was with a young entrepreneur who thought the whole world was waiting impatiently for his idea. Idea thieves lurked around every corner. He was keeping his idea close to his vest. He was suffocating his idea and himself so steeped was he in his assumed importance. I told Skip to share with the young entrepreneur what Quinn once told me: there are several billion people on this planet and you are the only one who gives a damn about what you think.

Life is too short to suffocate your ideas and limit your artistry with assumed importance. The other several billion people are thinking about their voices, not yours. They might compare theirs to yours and perhaps, like you, even copy some of what you chunk out. That’s called inspiration. Make good art. Share it. Enjoy it, regardless of its reception. Its worth has nothing to do with how it is received. Your worth has nothing to do with how you are received.

Make the offer. Make good art.

Own It And Offer

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

All winter in the many arenas of my work, I’ve been hearing a question: Who are you in service to? Sometimes the question comes in the form of “customer.” Sometimes it wears the mask of “client.” Entrepreneurs and actors try to identify their “audience.” Most often the question of service comes hidden in the guise of “purpose.”

This last variation, purpose, is deceptive because when a person asks, “What is my purpose?” they automatically focus inside themselves. The question implies unique volition, an inner imperative. It implies ownership. All of that is true. Purpose is uniquely felt. Purpose is an inner drive. It is personal. It is also empty if not offered. Arrows need targets. Businesses need buyers. Pastors need congregants. Artists need audiences. Purpose needs receivers. Purpose is all about relationship.

It comes as a great curiosity to me that the block entrepreneurs experience most is rooted in the fear of reaching out and talking to potential audiences. They fear that their idea might be stupid. It is better to not know than to put it out, ask and adjust. Their fear is akin to the data that tells us that most people fear public speaking more than death. Think about it. Rather than be seen, most of us would rather die. We want to speak but only if we know what we have to say has merit before we speak. Young actors have to learn not to shield themselves from their audience. They want on the stage only to hide. It cancels the purpose. The challenge is the same – it is playing out in many arenas.

In other words, purpose is all about relationship yet we are deeply invested in controlling or restricting our relationships. We blunt our purpose in the restraints we put on sharing. Ownership of purpose is related to freely sharing our offers. Share. Ask. Engage.

This work, my purpose, is at the center of Flipped Startup (my new collaboration). Yesterday I realized it is only incidentally aimed at entrepreneurs. This work is for everyone. In this world we are of necessity all entrepreneurs and wrestling with the same question: who am I in service to? Own it. And offer it.

Let Hope Catch You

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

A few days ago I was on my way to get a morning cup of coffee and passed through the plaza that borders the international district in Seattle. It is a threshold place. Beneath the plaza is the light rail station. Bolt buses from Portland and Vancouver board passengers from the plaza. The train station is just across the road so travelers make connections to and from the train through the plaza. It is a crossroads.

A young woman loaded with a heavy backpack and bedroll slipped off her burden and sat on one of the large stone benches. An older man sitting on a facing stone bench, thin and striking with a long gray ponytail, called out to her. He said, “I hope you’re going toward something instead of running away.” She smiled and replied, “Mister, I’m not chasing hope. Hope is chasing me.” Her response stopped me in my tracks. The older man laughed and she sat facing him. They started a conversation.

Many weeks ago when I was in a low mood Megan suggested that I act as if the entire universe was conspiring for my good. Essentially she was suggesting that I walk my talk and her reminder was timely and helped lift my spirits. Why would I assume otherwise?

Sometimes I play the game of tracking back in time the choices that I made to bring me to this moment. Last week I met an amazing woman, a musician living in Wisconsin that I’ve been corresponding with for the past several months. One day last December she sent me an email. I responded. She replied and a conversation blossomed. Last week a job took me through Chicago I jumped off the plane and we met. She told me that she almost didn’t send the initial email for fear of what I’d think. I replied to her outreach and today I have a new friend.

Many hours after my morning cup of coffee I walked through the plaza on my way home and the older man and young woman were still talking only now they shared a bench and a cigarette. They’d been talking for hours and by the intensity of their conversation they’d be talking for many hours to come. She chose a bench. He chose to ask. I smiled as I walked by and thought, “This is what hope looks like when it catches you.”

Keep Walking

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

Last week, the night before the launch of my new business, 6 hours before I was to get on a plane and travel for a week, my computer died. There was not time between stops to get a fix. There was no way to put up a post. My string of consecutive posts ended at 794. After I stopped trying to figure it out and recognized that the gods of technology both grant and revoke access, I settled into a week with minimal technology. It was lovely. And a new era presented itself. Here are two short lessons that came during the week that my computer died (and have nothing to do with technology):

1) As it turns out, no challenge is insurmountable. Challenges only appear insurmountable when given too little time. They seem insurmountable when the choice is to stop. Stopping is a valid choice. In fact, stopping is to make the choice for a new challenge. Resting is a valid choice, too. I learned that I’ve been on a thirteen-year pilgrimage back to Bali. What I thought was a lost cause was really a long walk with a few rest breaks. A great teacher has been waiting for me. He asked me to return and break bread with him.

2) These past several months of wandering have been extraordinary in the invisible helping hands that have opened doors, lighted my path, and provided support, guidance and dear friendship. All of my life I thought that when the helping hands appeared, they illuminated a single path. It turns out that is not true at all. They help. They support. They guide. Within their guidance there are many choices to make. There are many possible paths. In this way, destiny or fate has many faces. It is both random and predetermined. Energy can take many forms. Choice is always available. As a wise person once wrote: there are many paths up the same mountain. What is important is to keep walking.