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Archives for January 2010 | Obligation Nation

Archive for January, 2010


Yesterday, Apple released the iPad. Nanoseconds later, much of the social media contingent ganged up to trash it. Okay. While the success of this product remains to be seen, the scowling reaction made me realize something: While it’s true that the microscope is on those who try, you’d need a telescope to see those who sit by.

Sideline chirping is fear-based and teaches nothing to the chirper. Failure on the playing field is a learning experience, but many avoid the pain involved. They instead settle for the dull ache of never bringing their original work out into an overly critical world. Have you ever felt vindicated about your own inaction because you watched someone else fall on their face? Is it really entertainment when American Idol continues to torture us with awful singing auditions, or is it simply justification for why we don’t dare?

If your dreams are never seeing the light of day, ask yourself, “Do you do, or do you don’t?” If your answer is the former, then go ahead and take your noble place on the playing field with the worst case outcome being iTried. If you’re intent on settling for the latter, well, I suppose there’s a ton of room in the grandstands for iTold-You-So.

Popularity: 41% [?]

Can’t Spell Funhouse Without F-U

Do you like the way you look in a funhouse mirror? Yeah sure, it’s pretty funny, but that’s because you get to walk away from it. Could you imagine if the image of a squat, dumpy, flat-headed, droopy-eared, bug-eyed, ridiculous looking YOU all of the sudden became permanent? Not so funny.

We don’t bother mourning the way we look in a funhouse mirror, because we know it is a distortion of reality. Yet when our minds serve up their endless thought distortions about how we are weak, undeserving, insufficient, unimportant — all of which are profoundly UN-true — we don’t walk away. We live them out, letting them negatively influence our every dream, goal and desire. Where’s the fun in that?

Next time you find yourself meandering through the warped carnival of self-doubt, skip the house of mirrors. Instead, try heading straight for the tunnel of love. I’m pretty sure you’ll get a much better ride.

Popularity: 54% [?]

Please Curb Your Charybdis

In Greek mythology, Charybdis (kə•rib´•dis) was the daughter of Poseidon and Gaea. After she’d been caught stealing Hercules’ oxen, a pretty ticked-off Zeus banished her to the sea where she became a gigunda whirlpool in the Straight of Messina. Horrifically depicted as a single gaping mouth, she would suck in huge quantities of water and then belch them back out, thus creating a turbulent and unrelenting whirl of chaos. Sound like anyone you know?

I bring up this tragic Greek figure because, chances are, there is a Charybdis in your life and they just might be harboring a similar background story. Not that there’s anyone out there still stealing oxen for kicks, but rest assured, these people are paying in some way for some wrong. But rather than chalking it up to their own shortcoming, we instead empower them with our desperately dramatic reactions and weaken our own spirit in the warped process. Now there’s the tragedy.

So what do you do with them? Well, first consider this question: “Would you say that Charybdis comes at her victims from a place of power or weakness?” Heck, she’s banished to do what it is she does for all eternity — sounds pretty vulnerable to me. Simply know this about your menacing monster and you’ll inspire the necessary paradigm shift in perspective that will help you regain your power and ideally release you from the grip of this truly mythological vortex.

Popularity: 41% [?]

Enlightening Lightning

Roy C. Sullivan

Ever bemoan something miserable that keeps happening to you and chalk it up to being cursed or unlucky? Well, this guy was struck by lightning seven different times. Roy Sullivan, by all accounts, was a dedicated U.S. park ranger and I suppose his proximity to all those open spaces didn’t help him much, but seven times? I’m thinking that, say around the second or third time that I got mowed down by 100 million volts, I’d be heading off to the nearest big city to live amongst some very tall buildings. But that’s just me.

How ’bout you? Are you a lightning rod for some, suspiciously consistent, negative outcome? This can take on many forms, from never following through on anything you start, to always hooking up with the absolute wrong partner. It doesn’t really matter. It’s predictable, it hurts and makes us feel as if we’re always traveling in circles. You reckon Roy might’ve benefitted from doing something different? Hard to say for sure, but it begs the question, “are you taking the same old approaches to your new opportunities?”

There’s a now clichéd saying that’s been widely attributed to Tony Robbins, but I’d first heard it from an old horse wrangler out in Montana. It goes something like, “If you’re gonna do what you always done, you’re gonna get what you always got.” There was just something remarkably powerful about hearing it from this ol’ cowboy, with his sage-like voice and weathered face that warned, “son, you oughta listen to this.”  So then, take a long look at Roy. The story in his face. The charred hole burned through his hat. Now…are you ready to listen?

Popularity: 64% [?]

Thoughts on Sawing Someone in Half

This diagram shows how magicians saw people in half. Apparently, a contortionist assistant crumbles herself into one side of a box, while some fake feet stick out of the other. This gives the illusion of a whole person.

Many of my coaching clients show up looking this way. Scrunched up into a limited life circumstance, with a phony set of feet planted somewhere that they’d rather not be. Their audience (whether it be their boss, family, friends, colleagues) see a whole person, but the individual knows deep down that it is only an illusion.

There is always the fear that venturing outside of the box will compromise their well-received and socially acceptable illusion, but that is precisely what is necessary to reconnect somebody to their own true feet. Feet that walk confidently along an authentically genuine path, despite the opinions and criticisms of others.

Successfully challenge your obligation to any illusions that you’ve created along the way, for whatever good reason, and you will no doubt clear the way for something better…perhaps, even magical.

Popularity: 81% [?]

A Magic Kingdom in a Puddle

I was doing a radio interview with Julia Roberts (no, not that one — this one) not too long ago and we touched on the subject of the seemingly benign things that can capture a child’s imagination. She related a story of how her little one’s fascination with a puddle in the parking lot at Disney World, implausibly delayed their entrance into the theme park. I marveled at this ability and offered, “I guess he found his magic kingdom in that puddle.”

One question, when the heck did we lose this ability? I’m guessing around the time we became obligated to seek and master the factual reality in, well, everything. Eckhart Tolle encourages us to go into nature and forget the names (i.e. labels) we’ve given to everything we see and just experience it all with our own eyes, in that moment, as if it were all new (which of course, it is). Most kids don’t need to be told this! I reckon the older we get, the more stories we amass about things and the way they are, or worse, should be. This learned ability can drive an unrelenting wedge between you and your forgotten sense of childlike wonder.

If what you’re doing, in any given moment, is at all routine, check in with your story about what you’re doing, in that given moment. Chances are, the story is inaccurate. If so, shake the Etch-a-Sketch. Erase it. Now what do you see? Menicus proffered, and pardon his gender distinction, ”The great man is he that does not lose his child’s heart.” If you’ve been taught to believe the opposite, well then, no wonder…

Popularity: 40% [?]

Auld Lang Whine

Overheard a couple on the street talking about how pathetic holiday lights and decorations look when kept up after New Year’s day. Heard another guy complaining about when the hell his neighbor was, “gonna take all his crap down.” A couple of weeks ago, those who set their homes aglow were looked upon, by those who appreciate such things, as having exuberant spirit. Seems that in only a matter of days, the holiday spectacle went from the festive to the fruitless. I reckon this is what happens when something becomes disconnected from its purpose.

Are there parts of your life that appear as a flurry of lights, but there’s no longer any meaning beneath it to support the display? You could be lingering in a life circumstance that’s long since served its purpose or, perhaps, was only intended to be a mere stepping stone. If you’re routinely grumbling about feeling bored, rudderless or frustrated, you just might be in need of reexamining what really matters to you now. The evolution of one’s life purpose is just that, an evolution, and we avoid a slew of unnecessary suffering when we evolve with it.

Take inventory on what still fits and what doesn’t and question your obligation to preserving it. In the material world we call this de-cluttering. In the emotional world, think of it as a way to get your heart re-fluttering. So, should old acquaintance be forgot? Nope, just the stuff that no longer serves your ever-evolving purpose.

Popularity: 40% [?]

The Crudest Buddhist

During one of my experiential learning trainings, my colleagues and I were asked to break into groups of four to engage in an “authentic” discussion. Seems like a silly request I know, but given all the BS that we’ve become accustomed to tossing around in our day-to-day interactions, this one wasn’t so easy. As you can imagine, being exposed to other people’s truths got dicey and two members of my group launched into an epic battle complete with yelling, tears and one of them storming out of the room. The tension in the air was palpable. People gasped and heck, I even regressed to some childhood memory of the routine skirmishes at my family dinner table. But the fourth member of my group, a confirmed Buddhist, sat with a curious and contented smile.

When order was restored and we were asked to process the exercise, I was compelled to ask what my smiling friend was so pleased about. She simply responded, “that was so not my shit.” I can’t tell you what a shift this was for me and now, when I find myself completely uncomfortable or even suffering in someone else’s business, I step back and remind myself, “dude, that’s so not your shit.

The great Byron Katie breaks it down this way: “There are only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours, and God’s. Whose business is it if an earthquake happens? God’s business. Whose business is it if your neighbor down the street has an ugly lawn? Your neighbor’s business. Whose business is it if you are angry at your neighbor down the street because he has an ugly lawn? Your business.”

To what degree do you find yourself obligated to be in the business of others? Do you ever find yourself thinking that if so-and-so just did (or stopped doing) _________, well then I’d finally be happy? Try to remember these four powerful words “So Not Your Shit” by using the acronym SNYS (pronounced “sniss”) and the next time you get the urge to control your own outcomes by sticking your nose in other people’s business — just SNYS IT!

Popularity: 50% [?]

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