Be A Ray

[continued from Step Into The Dot]

Our shorthand, “step into the dot,” has a companion phrase: be a ray. It comes from Kerri’s son, Craig. A few years ago, when Kerri was in a particularly dark period, Craig told her that she needed to get out of her yuck cycle. He told her that, instead of spinning in her eddy, she needed to be a ray. She needed to choose to shine.

Choosing to shine begins with stepping into the dot. Remember that “to step into the dot” is to step into the present. It is to move forward in life with all the lessons but leaving the self-imposed limitations behind. The reason to step into the dot is that an opportunity becomes available from the dot that is available nowhere else. The opportunity is to shine.

A few weeks ago we got a puppy (it is more true to say that the puppy got us). It’s been a very long time since I had a dog and I forgot how much a dog wants to please. Our dog, Tripper, (a multi-faceted name: 1) from “road trip,” 2) he’s an Australian shepherd and is very good at tripping me and, 3) he is a trip as in acid trip. Zounds.) wants to belong. He wants to know how he fits into the pack. He wants to understand his world, know the rules of the pack, and he thrives on attention and positive strokes. In this way people are not so different from puppies: they want to belong. They want to know how they fit into the pack. For people, fitting in to the pack has a lot to do with the gifts they bring. People ask, “What’s my purpose?” People want a life driven by their unique purpose. When they fulfill their purpose, people thrive.

The great thing about “purpose” is that it is impossible to fulfill a purpose in a vacuum. It is impossible to fulfill a purpose without the participation of other people. Givers need receivers. Purpose is never fulfilled without impacting the lives of others. We cannot fulfill ourselves without fulfilling others. To serve others is to serve your self and vice versa. It’s a feedback loop. When we finally see beyond our personal story fog, it’s possible to see that the whole gig, all of life, is a service opportunity.

That’s what you can see from the dot. Connectivity. You see the interrelationship of gift giving and receiving. You see that every moment is an opportunity to bring your best game, to fulfill your gift. When you step into the dot, when you step out of the story fog and into the present, everything looks like an opportunity to shine. Thanks to Craig, Kerri and I have a shorthand phrase for seizing opportunity to shine. We say, “Be A Ray.”

How Do You Know?

What’s the difference between pursuing a dream and chasing an illusion? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately. This past year too many people have told me that I’m chasing illusions and my question is always the same: how do you know the difference between a dream and an illusion?

The problem with dreams is that most people let go of them. When I was in high school an English teacher screamed at me. My dreams frustrated her. She insisted that my dreams where too big and too varied and I’d have to “pick one and learn to compromise.” Even then I knew that she was shouting at herself. Dreams do not die easily.

You can spot a dream strangler a mile away. They will tell you that your dream is not practical. In fact, that is true. No dream is practical and that is precisely the point. Dreams lead into the Netherlands of the unknown. Going into the unknown has never been practical. It is practical to stay at home and watch television. Safety is practical. Living a vibrant life has nothing to do with practicality. There is no accounting that can predict the bottom line of a dream.

When does a dream become an illusion? What is the distinction between pursuing a dream and chasing an illusion? When do you give up hope that your dream is viable? At what point do you set down the dream and say to yourself, “I guess I will do something else.” What else would you do?

I want to do good work in the world. Like every person I’ve ever met, I bring specific gifts to the party. Like every person I’ve ever met, bringing all of my gifts to the party is my dream. Unlike most people I know, my gifts do not easily fit into a single box. Or, perhaps it is more true to say that I am not good at fitting my gifts into a single box. I’ve been a tenured teacher, an artistic director, a corporate consultant, an executive and life coach, and actor and director. I’m an illustrator and author. I’ve worked with many schools and universities – I started a school within a school. Lately I’ve been watching entrepreneurs and accelerator partners trip all over themselves so lost are they in needing to know what they are doing. I wrote a book last winter that I thought would help – and I drew half a years worth of a comic strip. Humor is a great way to say what cannot be said otherwise. I’m a painter. None of those forms are the dream. They were attempts to bring my gift to the party.

This is my gift: I help people see clearly and step into their field of possibility. I help people see what they cannot see. And, like most people, I do for others what I most need to learn.

Here’s my latest theory on the dream/illusion border: Joseph Campbell once said that no one lives the life that he or she intended. We step into life with an idea of what we want to do or become and then something else happens. If you hang onto the dream, what happens is that the dream reveals itself in a surprising form. If you let go of the dream, you have nothing left to chase but illusions of fulfillment.

This dream/illusion question is no small affair…

Step Into The Dot

Kerri and I have a shorthand phrase for moving forward in life, carrying the lessons while leaving the yuck-story behind. We way, “Step into the dot.” Identity is a funny thing. People tote all of their past experiences with them, which means they tote their interpretations and patterns, too. “I can” or “I can’t” are statements of carrying past experiences forward into the future.

I used to guide an exercise called The Dream Police. The idea is that in five minutes your memory will be erased. On a piece of paper, capture the important stuff that you need to know about yourself. People most often write about their children or moments of epiphany. Some write names and phone numbers of loved ones with the idea that they will be able to make a call and re-learn who they are. We orient according to the past. In all the years I’ve led the exercise, only one person has written her dream life. She wrote about her triumphs and successes. She made it all up. In debriefing she said, “If my memory is going to be erased I get the chance to be anything I want to be. Why not tell myself that I am living a full and vibrant life. Why not be who I want to be instead of who I am.”

Too often we define our lives according to the yuck. We carry forward the reason “why I can’t” instead of standing in the field of possibility that is present in each moment. We can’t see the field of possibility through the lens of the past.

In his book, Aleph, Paulo Coehlo writes about a choice every person has the capacity to make: we can choose to orient our lives according to the past, according to what has been. Or, we can choose to orient our lives according to our soul. The past has little relevance when we orient according to our soul. The soul knows no past. It is like a puppy that is ready to play. The soul is in the present moment playing with possibility. Another word for “playing with possibility” is “creating.”

The opportunity is to orient to the present, not what has been. There is great power available when the past does not dictate the future. Rather, the present is ever-present, always new, always unknown, always learning itself. In the present moment, nothing is “known.” And, what specifically is unknown is…you. To orient to your soul is to step into the dot.

[to be continued]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.


A few weeks ago Jen asked me questions about meditation. She asked about how to meditate. I was surprised by my response because I was certain that I had no idea. I told her that it was all about connecting to the present. It begins and ends with the breath as the conduit to the present.

Jen’s question reminded me of a Transformational Presence Coaching class that Alan and I led a few years ago. Alan began the class with a meditation and afterward someone in the class commented that the meditation “took them away.” They said that they had a difficult time coming back into the moment because they went so far away. Alan’s reflection was beautiful and profound for me as he reminded the class that the point of a meditation is to bring you in to present, not take you away from it. The point is to become more present and not to escape from the present moment.

I’ve since come to believe that everything is a meditation. How I do the dishes is a meditation. How I treat the barista is a meditation. How I think about myself in the world is a meditation. What I believe is possible and not possible is a meditation. How I create my relationships is a meditation.

Recently on a frosty morning I was walking the dog and marveling at the sunrise. For some reason I became conscious of my internal monologue narrating the moment. My next thought was, “Everything is energy and that is particularly true of my thoughts. My thoughts are how energy moves into form.” Thought is how energy moves into form. The thought was overwhelming because I knew it was true. It is an old saw but no less applicable: what I think is what I create.

This summer I made it a point of walking across the city of Seattle every morning and again at night. It took me about an hour each way. I made it a game to notice acts of kindness. You’d be amazed at how many generosities you see if you only pay attention. The amount of kindness far outstrips the impatience and aggression that we assume permeate our daily lives. The kindness is there but we simply choose to not see it. We believe the world is violent and so it is. Seeing is a form of meditation. Where you place your focus is a form of meditation. How you interpret your experiences is a form of meditation. Living in choice is a meditation.

If Jen were to ask her question of me today I would tell that meditation is not a separate thing that you do; it is what you do. The trick is to recognize that you are doing it.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Breathe At The Edge

Alan and I talked today of edges. We agreed that this was the year of finding and moving beyond our personal edges. Moving beyond personal edges was a theme that emerged in the summit we facilitated last spring in Holland. At the time it was a concept to explore and little did we know that it was foreshadowing what was to come. We laughed at our edge stories.

I have never been so alive. That is the way with edges. That is the gift of being tossed out of your complacency. The disorientation and discomfort that comes with an edge snaps you awake. If you resist it, the awake-ness feels a lot like suffering. If you embrace it, look into the field of possibility – which requires relinquishing control – the awake-ness found at the edge is breathtakingly beautiful.

Lora once had a teacher, a Buddhist that told her he’d rather be alive than comfortable. Judy once told me that she keeps herself close to the edge so that she doesn’t sleep through this gorgeous life (my words). As difficult as this year on the edge has been, I have no desire to return to the sleep walk. There is too much to feel, see, taste, touch, smell, lose, find, discover, trip over, mess up and experience simply. There are too many stories to hear and tell. There are too many colors to gasp at as the leaves explode into color and the cold crisp air blows off the lake and makes my fingers sting.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Know Your Cue

[continued from Create Flow]

In my post, Step Onto The Field, I inflected two words against each other. I set the word “protected” in opposition to the word, “inclusive.” I wrote:

Showing up is being present with others. It is inclusive (as opposed to protected).

Skip reflected that, “Protected doesn’t feel opposite to inclusive. Yet it is part of what is opposite. Something is missing here.”

Keeping in mind that the post addressed how entrepreneurs’ pitches are similar to actors’ auditions (though this is not what he meant) Skip is exactly correct. When an entrepreneur or actor enters their arena protected, something very important goes missing and what goes missing is any hope of meaningful connection.

When an actor protects him or herself from the audience, they create separation. Hear it: they create separation. They exclude the audience not only from their performance, but more importantly, they bar the audience from meaningful access to the play. They block the audience from participating. And, since stories are pathways for transformation, by blocking the audience from entry to the play, they prohibit all possible transformation.

Over the past year I’ve watched dozens of entrepreneurs pitch to investors and because they show up in a metaphoric suit of armor, they too create separation. They effectively exclude the investor from their story.

In fairness, an entrepreneur’s task can be more difficult than an actor’s task because often investors also show up in suits of armor; investors demand a higher status position than the entrepreneur (whether it is deserved or not). There is armor all around! No one gets to play in this scenario because both are actively creating separation.

Many years ago with Judy I attended a workshop given by O. Fred. Donaldson. His life’s work has been about play (the noncompetitive variety). More specifically, he’s studied how people and animals “cue” each other for play. The cues are universal. His workshop was fascinating because he demonstrated how play is evoked through non-resistance. Resistance reinforces separation. Non-resistance is and invitation. It is like Aikido: with nothing to push against, resistance has no power. It falls away and in the absence of resistance connectivity is possible. Play is possible.

I know this is a gross oversimplification but people are pack animals; belonging is what we desire. In other words, we tend toward each other. We seek to fit. We desire to play. The only way to remove the armor of another person is to remove the armor from our selves. Armor begets armor. Vulnerability begets vulnerability. Armor is a cue to close. Showing up open and available is a cue to open.

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.

Create Flow

[Continued from Begin With Yourself]

Continuing with Skip’s reflections from last week’s post about bringing your unedited best to the world, Step Onto The Field, his next question came from this section of my post:

Showing up is not passive and has nothing to do with information delivery. Showing up means to share the quest, to bring others along on the pursuit of a dream. Showing up is being present with others.

Skip reminded me that over the past year we’ve talked much about “presence” and reflected that my statement was similar to ideas found in Paulo Coehlo’s, The Pilgrimage, and other stories from the Camino. In other words, “Showing up is being present,” is the same as inviting others on the journey with you. In reference to entrepreneurs he wrote, “…this is not about presenting (one way), but more about inviting….” What a fantastic reflection!

He is exploring presence as a matter of the direction or flow of energy. Presence is circular and ripples out. It is inclusive. In other words, “to be present” is two-way communication. It is relationship. When one is present, one joins. One connects. Separations disappear. I used to do an exercise in workshops with young actors to show them that the honest pursuit of an intention was the very thing that facilitated an audience’s capacity to join the story journey. The exercise is basically a game and the more honest the game is played the more magnetic the action is to the “observers” of the game. In fact, the “observers” are like sports fans, cheering and contorting and embodying the action on the field. In contrast, pretending to pursue the action of the game blocked the audience/observers from entering the story. Pretending dams the flow. It is an equation: honest pursuit = energy exchange. Honest pursuit creates flow.

Pretending is one-way communication. It is broadcasting. The energy is directed outward, broadcasting to the audience. There is no expectation of dialogue and no capacity for participation. Broadcasting is protected. Experts are broadcasters in that they present what they know and are not necessarily interested in other points of view.

For actors and entrepreneurs, the idea is to create flow. It is to include, not to broadcast. It is to create an energy exchange and provide entry into the story. It is to open to possibility so that possibility can open for them.

[to be continued]

For a humorous look at the wonderful world of innovation and new ventures, check out my new comic strip Fl!p and the gang at Fl!p Comics.