Category : Personal Development

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Lost in Battle

imageCollateral Damage. That’s what it’s called. Friend or Foe, you lose. Whether it’s Gaza, Iraq or the Ukraine, countries in Africa or South America, the swathe of innocents caught up in other people’s wars are classified as collateral damage, a convenient term that seeks to justify a senseless waste as a ‘cost of doing business’. To see our fellow man as a commodity is the ultimate insult that can only be countenanced by the Hitlers of this world. Unfortunately they are not in short supply and from North Korea to Islamic State rebels there will always be some hotshot inflicting their stamp of brutality.

The imperialist legacies don’t escape vilification either with problem areas like the Middle East owing their frictions to the architects of the colonial empires that controlled resource rich third world countries.

Territorial disputes are fuelled far more by religious differences than linguistic ones and drawing borders based on religion is like a red rag to a bull when it comes to differences between neighbours.

Pakistan and Israel are both examples of this ‘fence me in’ mentality, powder kegs that can easily be ignited through insurgencies or cross-border conflicts. Religious zealotry is the fuse rather than territorial imperatives. It only takes one incident to light that fuse.

Buddhists, Moslems and Christians can live in harmony when their borders are based on language instead of religion. The Crusades were just as bloody and cruel as the Moorish Invasion, both inspired by religious imperatives to gain territorial control.

Apartheid based on race was bad enough but genocide based on religion shows no mercy and knows no bounds. How can any denial of humanity be justified in the name of religion? How could any God be so cruel?

If God created man in his own image, man created religion in his own image. We all rely on the same Divine Inspiration that created this Universe, to draw a line in the sand is the ultimate blasphemy.

imageTo define God and proscribe Nature is to have us believe that a child gives birth to the mother and that the Sun orbits a flat Earth.

The truth will never be told through the lips of a liar, it is only when the lie is exposed that the truth can be seen.

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One way ticket

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Michelangelo once quoted ‘only a soul in agony can bring forth a blazing star’. So many gifted and prominent celebrities have taken their own lives, whether intentional or not.

It’s difficult for us to accept although we try to understand why this happens along with everything else that is going on in the world.

No judgment is necessary, just recognition.

Recognition?

I recognise my car. I’ve seen it before, it’s no déjà vu.

If I was blindfolded, I might be able to do it by feel but I would have to literally ‘re-cognise’, a bit like the elephant in the room.

So it’s a rethink as well, which happens every time we lose something which is precious to us.

When we are stopped in our tracks and the wind is taken out of our sails, we have to start over with a new realisation, one that knows that what we took for granted has been withdrawn.

Maybe that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger but a part of us dies along the way.

Vale Robin Williams, Vale MH370, Vale MH17, Iraq, Gaza, etc.

Have a nice day.

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Bourgeois Crabs

image“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”  – (Wendell Berry).

“Why do they always teach us that it’s easy and evil to do what we want and that we need discipline to restrain ourselves? It’s the hardest thing in the world–to do what we want. And it takes the greatest kind of courage. I mean, what we really want.” – (Ayn Rand).

imageMost of us give up somewhere along the way and accept what we call ‘reality’. We are similar to crabs in a bucket that will prevent one of their fellows from crawling out. Perhaps the idea that escape may provide a better option is a threat to mutual security or an admission that the only reassurance lies in the safety of numbers that have not run the gauntlet. Bourgeois crabs?

Hermann Hesse wrote in “Steppenwolf” about the Theatre of the Mind and the comfort zone of bourgeois society. Achieving greatness is a lonely journey that requires us to sacrifice what we are for what we can become. It’s a lot easier to forget about it and join the mob.

Our most valuable ability is to love, the penultimate is the ability to transform, not just the world around us but ourselves as well. This synergy is as intrinsic to our well-being as the air we breathe and the blood in our veins, to deny this alchemical aspect of our nature is to thwart our soul expression and manifests as despair and disease.

The good news is that it’s never too late to pick up the gauntlet, as Zorba the Greek famously said “sometimes, in life, you have to undo your belt and look for trouble”.

The slippers and fireside armchair will always be there if you fail.

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Looking at the same Moon

imageCarl Jung established that we all dream similar archetypes or symbolic representations regardless of our creed or colour. The realm of human experience has also been neatly categorised by the ancient Chinese oracle, the I Ching. Oddly enough, there are 64 hexagrams within the I Ching and also 64 squares on a chessboard. 64 is also the first whole number that is both a perfect square and a perfect cube. So where is this leading us to?

Binary representation is a native language for the Universe, yin and yang, light and dark, male and female, etc. In the same way that we see the Sun’s reflection in the Moon, we see our reflection by the signals or biofeedback we get from the world around us.

We tend to relate to our experiences in a subjective manner, taking the results of our actions as a personal scorecard. We need to do this so that we learn from our mistakes but all too often we ascribe our own shortcomings to the person we think we are rather than our actions.

We look to the heavens to find mercy while we have no mercy towards ourselves. We need a priest to remind us that God loves us while we think of all the reasons that He shouldn’t.

If we could only see our true selves as being separate from the emotion we feel then we would understand that everyone feels the same way as we do.

The advantage this gives us is to ‘give ourselves a break’ and accept that we are here to learn from our mistakes and overcome our own shortcomings. There is no sin in that.

With this self-forgiveness we are also able to forgive others for their mistakes and shortcomings, not that they are ‘swept under the mat’, rather we are in a better position to help them deal with it by enabling them to forgive themselves.

Living in a competitive world often creates a ‘win or lose’ scenario but this needn’t be the case. Competition can bring out the winner or the loser whereas collaboration sees winners emerge on both sides.

There are more than enough resources for a ‘win-win’, it is only greed that insists there is not enough to go around.  There never will be enough for those who keep wanting more as they are ignoring what they already have and not putting it to good use.

Our basic needs are quite simple and we only punish ourselves by not allowing the opportunity of growth to flourish when our ambitions are not realised. imageThere will be a message in there somewhere.

When we see someone’s pain in their own non-acceptance of the consequences of their actions and can help them to overcome this obstacle then they, too, will realise that we care about them.

After all, we’re all looking at the same Moon.

 

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None of the above

imageWould you like fries with that? This classic add-on has infiltrated most levels of retail marketing and gone one step further with the assumption that consumers want all the extra options and need to cancel the ones they don’t require. This insidious technique begs cynicism and disgust as targeted marketing preys more and more on the vulnerable and less educated.

Social media has enabled computer algorithms to define these markets with an incredibly high degree of accuracy and vendor access has been optimised through exposure analysis.

Never has it been more critical for the consumer to exercise his only weapon, the ability to refuse. The list is endless of hidden extras, auto top-ups and camouflaged opt-outs. ‘Caveat emptor’ indeed.

The profit motive, if unchecked, will consume everything in its path for the holy dollar and this new level of sophistication presents a sinister and ruthless scenario where consumers have bought the book but can’t afford the chapters.

A tiny example of this is the illusion that canned fish is a healthy source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Little do consumers realise that this vital component is extracted via centrifuge before the fish are processed and the nutrient-rich oil is sold separately in capsules at over ten times the price of the remnant which is then soaked in vegetable oil.

Computer printers are sold for less than the price of a replacement cartridge, food labelling is a craft in deception and in consumer contracts the large print gives it all away while the small print takes it all back.

Consumer watchdogs can only do so much, public awareness needs to be extended into the classroom as this threat to our future good economic health is fast becoming a rival to drugs and STD’s.

image‘How can I help you?’ has fast become ‘How can you help me?’. Blithe rhetoric of ‘ask not what my country can do for me but what can I do for my country?’ is a call that will increasingly fall on deaf ears, as the main prerogative of an increasingly disillusioned society shifts to the 2 tier response of the rich getting richer and the poor getting the picture.

 

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Mentioned in Dispatches

imageWhat does it take to go that extra mile and go beyond the call of duty? Is it courage or a hell-bent motivation to succeed in spite of the odds stacked against you or maybe a combination of both?

It certainly is an act of bravery, all too often recognised posthumously. There are plenty of dead heroes. If the ultimate price is paid in blood, the deposit itself is a sacrifice upon the altar of service.

We all know this applies to wartime in the face of an enemy but how does this relate to us when the guns aren’t firing? Lest we forget….

The greatest honour we can bestow on those gallant legends is to use that quality to improve the lives of those around us, for they laid down theirs to protect our freedom to do so.

The simplest metric in peacetime is the success of business in meeting their customers needs and offering service above and beyond their competition. The standout companies know this and continually improve their product or service before somebody else does.

Success comes as no accident and always overtakes failure along the way. To quote Michelangelo “The greatest danger we face is not to aim too high and miss the target; it is to aim too low and reach it”.

Mediocrity is the comfort zone of the average person and the saying “It’s lonely at the top” is testimony to the few that make it there. To ‘rest on one’s laurels’ is akin to giving up the fight and allowing competitors to take the trophy.

When asked for his secret of success Richard Branson replied ‘surround yourself with people smarter than yourself to do the work’. It will often be necessary to swallow pride in the quest for victory.

We cannot escape our mortality and to make our mark in history or leave behind a legacy is more than having a street named in our honour. To know that life has become even a little bit better for our fellows is reward in itself and a imagebeacon for others to follow.

Those who succeed do so as a result of being prepared to do the things that aren’t done by those who fail. There are two queues in life, one for those who are prepared to do the work and the other for those that wish to take the credit.

Join the first queue, it’s a lot shorter.

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Found in a Lost World

imageAs we sit on the cusp of further technological developments which will continue to radicalise our perception of the world and our place in it, the question arises of whether we are the chicken or the egg.

Have we made a world in our own image or have we become a by-product of the world we have created? With computers assuming powers that were previously sacrosanct as our authority (please open those doors, Hal), what reassurance do we have that we aren’t delegating that responsibility to a set of transistors and printed circuit boards?

This is surely not a new topic but one that is becoming more and more a serious consideration with the likes of Eugene and his future cousins. Without dwelling on the sci-fi implications, our own sense of identity is being transformed when the tyranny of distance is no longer a natural boundary.

We have seen this happen with the rise of mobile communications, the instant accessibility of people and knowledge combining to melt differences between us.

How can this be a threat?

Computers love symmetry, mathematics and classical music share common ground in their love for structure and science is starting to dance with religion in the quest for our true fabric of existence.

We are creatures of habit. We are predictable in our emotional responses. We love to belong to a greater whole. Starting to sound like child physchology? Too simplistic perhaps?

Expert knowledge has been digitised. Computers fly our planes, will drive our cars and cook our meals and soon be monitoring us down to the colour of our underpants.

So who’s in control and does it really matter?

Maybe they can make better decisions than us. Perhaps many of the physical problems we face will be alleviated and eventually removed. But what about our sense of achievement and identification with the spoils of victory? Where is our pride in involvement with outcomes?

The only thing that will surpass these trepidations is the knowledge of who we are and what we’re here for. It’s ‘game over’ for patting ourselves on the back for making ‘progress’.

Machines do that now.

imageWhy should we progress what has been given to us as a birthright? Our true affirmation is our ability to give love to all creatures great and small.

Machines can’t do that.

We can.

The way to preserve our identity is by remembering that.

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Irresistible Influence

irr2Our five senses play a huge role in what we are attracted to as well as what we dislike. They are loyal servants which enable us to have a quality of life which we take for granted until we lose one or more of them. They form our frontline of initial reaction to circumstance and protect us from misadventure. They also allow us to ‘dwell’ in a situation of which they approve.

There is more to life than purely hedonistic pleasure, however, so what about our ‘inner senses’ of contentment, judgement, decision-making, motivation, etc? What do we look for and respond to with regard to these less physical faculties? Quite often we look to others when dealing with unresolved issues, whether it be for advice, information or inspiration.

There are some moments when all caution is thrown aside and the excitement of a new phenomenon sweeps us off our feet. Perhaps the most popular of these moments would be ‘falling in love’. An experience as old as the hills but new for each person who feels it. Ask someone who is doe-eyed and lovestruck about how they feel and they will probably be lost for words.

This feeling of ‘suppressed enthusiasm’ is highly attractive to us. Whether it be someone who has won the jackpot in a lottery, received a promotion or widespread acclaim, their inexpressible joy ‘leaks out’ for all to see and feel. We’d all like a piece of that action. The affirmation of success is universally recognised.

Can we utilise this dynamic in our personal and business lives? It is more than ‘positive thinking’. Is it a presumption of success, a victory claimed before the battle has started? Unfortunately many scammers and snake-oil salesman are good at promising the earth but delivering desert. This doesn’t mean that ‘buy before you try’ depends on slick patter and steak knives.

It is true that we tend to buy with emotion and justify with logic. The missing link-pin here is ethics. If we can illustrate a benefit beyond the buyer that unites the emotion and logic, then we have a winner. ‘The exquisite fragrance of Lotus Drops will make your husband fall in love with you all over again. The animals that haven’t been tested will love you too!’

Whatever ‘third dimension’ we can offer past the immediate sale will relieve the tension of a buying decision and assist in preventing ‘buyer remorse’. irr1The ‘Fair Trade’ appeal lies largely in our desire to extend the altruistic side of our nature rather than building loyalty by shopper rewards.

We are only limited by our imagination when it comes to developing this angle. A small step outside the square can bring big rewards and give us that Unique Selling Proposition.

 

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Rock me gently

imageWhat is it about rocking that puts babies to sleep, allows grandparents to relax and mixed with rolling, provides entertainment for those in between?

Perhaps the answer lies in a feeling of balance. Whether it is a redistribution of our centre of gravity or a stimulation of our aural balance mechanism, this soother has been utilised since time immemorial. When we are presented with an issue which requires a decision we are unsure about, we want to ‘toss it over’ in our minds. This process of evaluation is a form of rocking, albeit a mental one.

What we are actually trying to achieve is an alignment of our centres of motivation – physical, emotional and spiritual – to reach the decision that best satisfies these criteria.

This is what we know as the ‘Aha!’ moment when these spheres coalesce into a unified motive. Sometimes this can happen spontaneously or by a trigger, however stress is created while we still anguish over what we should do.

The stress hormone, cortisol, is most easily broken down by physical exercise. Rock ‘n roll is more than just fun, it’s healthy! Mental stress is created when we need to produce a result from insufficient resources. The reflective state induced by soothing rocking allows us to explore alternative solutions that we may have overlooked.

imageThe popularity of fishing as a pastime is a form of meditation or a legitimate reason to ‘do nothing’ as it induces this type of reflection. The bumpersticker “I’d rather be fishing” implies more than just fish.

A golden rule to prevent stage fright in public speaking is to keep your body moving whilst you address the audience. The physical kinetic energy circulating through the body assists the mind to maintain a momentum instead of ‘locking up’.

If adaptability is the key to our survival, rebalancing is a cornerstone of our ability to cope with change. The ‘dance of life’ should be exactly that, a dance instead of a walk over hot coals.

Running-on-Empty

Running on empty

Running-on-EmptyBeing creatures of habit, we all like our own routines. We all have our favorite indulgences which help to relieve stress in our lives. Whether it’s watching movies or just plain relaxing, the fact that we don’t have to perform or make an effort allows us to reflect on what we’d like to do rather than what we have to do. No harm there.

To be truly creative, however, requires a paradoxical combination of both work and play; the work of production and the play of design. The producer of a movie or publisher of a novel will often alter the original design to suit a commercial formula which may lose the intended message in the process.

Creating is to ’cause to come into being, as something unique that would not naturally evolve or that is not made by ordinary processes’. So it is making something that is new and original. How do we do this? From where do we obtain our inspiration? Is there a certain state of mind or place we go to inside ourselves to find this hidden treasure?

potters-wheel-2-300x207In the same way that a potter creates a piece of work by wearing away on a block of clay, to arrive at that place where we feel truly inspired often requires a wearing away of preconceived ideas and notions. A vessel needs to be empty in order to hold water. We, too, need to open up that space within ourselves to hold and harbour fresh ideas.

A singer/songwriter explained that when he’s short of ideas, he tunes into his bottled-up emotions and the song will express that feeling even though it may be an unrelated circumstance in the lyrics. Other times it just comes to him, words and music together. He then records it on his smartphone.

Phoenix-risingThe ‘Gift of Expression’ is exactly that. A gift. Rather than us being the doers, we are actually the receivers to act as a medium for the message. Seen in this way, we can allow what wants to come through us to be able to do so.

Inspiration comes to us through the ether, as it were, so if we allow this energy to manifest and circulate, then fresh ideas will sprout of their own accord. There is a natural cycle of renewal within Nature, paradoxically portrayed by the Phoenix, the bird that rises from the ashes of it’s predecessor.

Most of us are familiar with the Riddle of the Sphinx, however a lesser known but even more esoteric second riddle says it beautifully. “There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters?” The answer is “day and night”.

sphinxSo we are part of the cycle of renewal regardless of whether or not we avail ourselves of this energy. Similarly, as we spend a third of our lives asleep, the fertile times aren’t there 24/7 either, so in between we run on empty.

But rather spend 90 years that way than 60 years without any sleep. (Yawn…)