Shrink to Fit

From the Szenabling file:

I love the idea that we think we can be involved in various situations that may not be quite right but somehow we feel we can make it work – like the shrink to fit jeans that only need a simple washing and miraculously will conform to our individual body contour. Has that ever happened to anyone? I’d love to hear just who has experienced the actual delivery of that promise. In my experiences (yes, there were more than one) the jeans would either not shrink at all, leaving tent-like space for possible homesteading or become reduced to the size of a two-fingered glove.

One would think that all of us would prefer to just find something that fits and go with that. The problem is that what actually fits is not always the same as what we think will fit – or maybe better said – we view ourselves living in a perfectly fit body that thrives on clothes and coverings that accentuate only the good parts and hide the rest. The mental construct of our own selves won’t let us forget what perfection is and so we buy the size we were or want to be and not the size that we really are. Why in the world would one buy a “big” wardrobe version of oneself when we know so well that this slight bloaty-ness is only temporary? It would be a waste of money and closet space. That’s also why we keep things in the back of the closet that we swear will one day see the world again without the confines of being stuck on a hanger.

But alas, we do change and grow, but thankfully, not just physically. Physically, we get bigger than we were and often we’re the only ones that notice it. But more likely is that what we notice in ourselves is not seen by others. And that’s because we know us; we know what fits and we know how we feel when it doesn’t. And so we think that everyone we meet looks at us and judges our appearance – not based on reality but our own, sometimes contrived, view of our perfect self. We know that they see the extra inch(s) and we feel judged or perhaps ashamed. How could we let ourselves go? What were we thinking?

STOP! No one is judging you – nobody cares. All of us have our own image bugaboos to contend with. The idea that any of this matters is insane. So relax; you’ll get back to the back of the closet when you’re ready. Until then, it is what it is and it doesn’t matter to anyone but you anyway.

We’re blessed that growth is not limited to one dimension. We grow in wisdom and maturity and in the ability to be open and giving and we seek our highest level spiritually so that we can negotiate life’s hard choices and situations. We grow so that we can share. Without internal growth of emotion and all that the heart can provide we may be forced to shrink to fit our lives into only what is available. Without growth we settle for less and we stop looking for more. We accept what is as if it’s all we can have and that is simply wrong thinking. When we stop growing we die on the inside and it’s for sure the outside will follow soon after.

So how can we insure we keep moving forward? What do we have to do to maintain not only the perfect physical size, but also keep expanding the pulsing, massive psychological and emotional power source that we were given when we were born, alive and vital? The answer is twofold:

1. Connect to your own inner voice. It came here with you so that you would thrive. Listen to it. Honor it. It will serve you well.
2. See yourself in a perfect world. Imagine the perfect you and live up to the dream. You can never imagine more than you are capable of being. Everything you need to get there, you already possess.

The next time you slip into your “thin” jeans remember that one size does not fit all and who you are right now – this very second – is perfect.
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Today’s Szenippet: Just because something fits doesn’t mean it belongs.

Celebrating Our Freedom
I was thinking about the fireworks this Fourth of July and the meaning of celebrating independence. Getting freedom so easily handed to us, makes it easy sometimes to take for granted. On another level, freedom is not only about living in a free country and being able to vote etc., it’s also about the opportunities that come to us personally.

Freedom of the people is also freedom of the person. Being independent and having freedom means that we each have the responsibility and opportunity – both individually and independently – to use the gift of freedom to create the lives we choose. Therefore if we choose to be happy in or lives, the responsibility to make ourselves happy falls on our own shoulders. No one else can be responsible for our happiness, and the good news is that we don’t have to apologize for being happy. In fact, it’s our right…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Declaration of Independence

What our Founding Fathers could not do and no one can, is define what happiness is to us. That’s our job, and the sooner we know what makes us truly happy, the easier it becomes to create some fireworks on our own.

Szenippet: Sometimes you can find happiness, but often it finds you.

Becoming

Something truly great is about to happen. You can feel the tension and anxiety inside and you wonder if you are ready. Well, whether you’re ready or not, it’s coming soon and there is no way to stop it. So you might as well accept the greatness that lies within you, rise to the challenges ahead and take all of the good fortune you were meant to have.

The process of coming to be something or the passing into another better state or season or chapter in our lives is something to be cherished. Don’t doubt that you deserve it, you do. Your heart orchestrated everything you needed to get you to this point. Your heart was the inner voice that kept you going. The voice that encouraged you when things seemed hopeless. The voice that convinced you that it is your time to shine. The voice that speaks now of what’s becoming. It’s reminding you to embrace your destiny – you’ve earned it and it’s yours for the taking. Remember, if you miss it and this chance passes you by, it may never return. And then, what will you become?

The choices we make about our own future are based on the options we create for ourselves. But no one option is ever completely certain and so there is always a risk of failure. The greater risk might be in not acting and assuming that there will be another chance, maybe later. But waiting for the perfect time is an illusion. There is no perfect time, there is only this time, your best first chance. You know that you’re as ready as you will ever become.

The only thing that separates the you today from the new and powerful you that’s meant to be is the step that your heart is begging you to take.
From the Book of Szen

Szenippet: We may have chosen our path in life, but once on the path there will certainly be other interesting intersections; stay alert.

From the Szenabling file:

I remember a day a long time ago when my father came home from work in the middle of the day. I was getting ready to go to my baseball game and thought it was great that dad could maybe see the game. He always worked on Saturdays for as long as I could remember and never got the chance to see me play. I asked him if he could go to watch the game and he responded by saying that he had lost his job. As I stood there watching, I saw just how upset he was, although I was way too young to appreciate what it meant to a family man to lose a large part of what defined him. He sat down in the kitchen in a slump of silence. A few minutes later I was running out the door and told dad where I was playing if he felt like catching the game. No response.

The memory of that moment remains clear to me and I often remember the feeling of not knowing what to do or say. There was no one else home, mom was working and in hindsight I always thought that I should have stayed around. I had never seen him so down. It wasn’t his nature. I knew that he wasn’t always the most optimistic person but he was never as defeated as he seemed to be that day. Later on the same day, I discovered an important life lesson, which today seems like an important and relevant insight to share.

I don’t know about you, but the recession recoil and tough times we face seem to be penetrating every life I know. It may not be affecting you directly, but the ramifications of such a profound uncertainty of an economic nadir are scary. People all know someone that is experiencing a down-sizing or shift in their security blanket. Everyone is impacted and included in the still unfolding scenario of lost investments, income and confidence. It’s hard to be “up” when so many are “down”. It has become a contagious, cynical cycle that has everyone talking, digging in, and praying.

I realize that every situation is different and I don’t pretend to know what you may be experiencing right now. Hopefully everything and everyone in your circle is okay. I don’t have a magic-wand answer for what is a one-of-a–kind unraveling of the world we knew, at least in economic terms. I won’t go into my opinion, but I have heard so many opinions and reactions that suffice it to say, nobody really knows what to do and everyone is afraid to do the wrong thing. That puts us collectively in the state of neutral. Idling, wanting and waiting to step on the gas and get going, but unclear of the journey ahead. About the only comforting aspect is that we’re not alone but that fact doesn’t make it any easier to share our troubles; pride after all is the last bastion of human frailty. We need to keep up a good image and that holds us back from appearing weak or lost or vulnerable. Pride, however in the face of pink slip psychosis, is very difficult to maintain and so we retreat.

When we disconnect from the outside because the inside hurts, we generate a coldness. This coldness is reflected in unreturned emails or telephone calls and lack of eye-contact to friends. The pain and the fear make us want to hide and recoil. We seek respite in our own thoughts and imagination and therein lies the trap: We create insular and isolated worlds that promise peace but never deliver. The key to getting through turbulent times is to remember that you can’t ignore it or avoid it. I think what will help most is a simple mantra that reminds us that relationships trump bad times and our families need us present:

STAY ENGAGED / DON’T RETREAT – You never know the power you have to change a life by simply showing up, just like my dad did by coming to my game on that Saturday long ago when I knew that he did it just for me.
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Today’s Szenippet: Life can deal up some pretty amazing situations that are not only unplanned, but unpredictable. However, once whatever happens happens, it becomes a reality whether we like it or not. That’s why we all have the gift of “choice”; it’s what determines what happens next.

Getting Engaged

From the Szenabling file:

It’s hard not to be influenced by what is going on around us. The economy, global warming, other happenings and just day-to-day stuff fill our heads and sometimes our hearts with anxiety and angst. We barely get going in the morning and we’re bombarded with news of gloom and sometimes desperation. Even if things are going well for us individually, we all know someone that is quietly suffering and in that knowledge, come new rules for encountering and engaging with each other.

Today’s interactions remind me a bit of Cliff Notes. These are popular, published pamphlets that condense whole books into a few easy to read paragraphs and excerpts. These “mini-guides” thrive on college campuses where some students don’t take the time to read every single word of text or story. In that context, I think we’re all susceptible to living the “shortened” version of life. That is, we rush to conclusions, scan the headlines and use terse, cryptic e-mails to accelerate our communications to those in our world. And anytime we practice the abridged or condensed version of living, it’s akin to only getting the box scores but never seeing the game.

I plead guilty to cutting corners myself. I rationalize that if I know the outcome of something, I really don’t need to know how it got there. Give me the scores and the Oscar winners and Headline News and forget the details. It is truly convenient to be able to squeeze so much life into easy- to- digest snippets – just the factoids please. But with so much information piled on and available in a blink, we take a risk of losing the richness that life holds; our world is revolving so fast that we are missing opportunities to evolve.

So how do we balance the need to keep up with the desire to stay connected? How do we manage to push through the rigors of life and still find time to nurture relationships or even simply be still enough to absorb our surroundings? How do we maintain and grow simultaneously? How do we capture the joy and beauty that life offers amidst an ever growing ennui? The answer is that you already know the answer. The solution is that within you lies the gift of empathy and the ability to share space and time and understanding with all those in your circle of influence. It turns out that we all get to choose just how engaged and sensitive we want to be with the people that not only cross our paths, but perhaps can alter our journey.

The investment we make in taking the time to engage with others is in direct proportion to the compassion we have for how we seemingly make others “feel.” If we don’t care, they won’t care. If we listen, they will listen. If we give, they will give back. In essence, every encounter we have is a reflection of who we are. If we are open and attentive and not consumed by our own thoughts and problems we stand a good chance of making someone’s day, not only a bit brighter but possibly, profoundly extraordinary. Yes, it’s true; you can have that type of impact. It’s also true that you may have been wasting opportunities to apply that power.

To shift from detachment to engagement requires only the simplest of actions: when in the company of other people STOP and BE with them and not on your own mental juggernaut; this will make them happier and make you richer – what a deal!

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Today’s Szenippet: Life is already too short to take short-cuts. When we compromise on being truly present we miss the riches of what life is unfolding before us. Paying attention lets us see the beauty that lies in every moment we live by unlocking our hearts to what is before we venture to what if.

A Trip to the Unknown

From the Szenabling file:

Recently I took a trip by car to the great Grand Canyon state of Arizona. It took about 6 ½ to 7 ½ hours to drive from Southern California, although I’m sure many could beat that time. What made this particular excursion extra interesting was that neither a map nor GPS system was used. Navigation was accomplished by the sense of the right direction, a basic knowledge of the correct route numbers and the occasional aid of the compass. Before departure, I had planned to go to the AAA and get their famous “trip-tic” that details every step and turn and landmark but simply forgot and figured that I could find Arizona without it. After all, I entered the world without directions and found my way here.

Knowing basically where you want to go, but not knowing exactly how to get there serve to either get you lost or maybe discover something new along the way. There are usually multiple options for every journey, but I think most of us would like to have a plan and calculate a very specific path to our destination – the shortest distance syndrome. It would be nice to know exactly where to turn and know for sure what’s ahead, but that’s not realistic and sometimes life presents unpredictable and even unimaginable changes to our itinerary. Life can deal surprises beyond belief, which often renders any map useless and morphs our original goal for reaching a specified destination into an internal query of self-evaluation. Not getting to where we had wanted and totally expected to go, forces us to rethink the plan: Can we get there from here and if not, where can we go?

The answer to that question is found, not on a map, or in a parents’ dream nor in what used to be your corner office. The answer to where can you go now is only found in your own internal compass where the needle doesn’t indicate north or south, but rather points to right or wrong. And almost always finding the right way begins by accepting that your compass does not lie. It works not on the magnetic pull of the earth, but on the pull of your dream. Dreams can guide you to a new reality, but often they are overshadowed by the circumstance of now. The key to negotiate and navigate a new path and destiny is to accept that you can’t change how you got this far, you can’t go backwards, and no one is going to stop you no matter which path you choose. Just remember that whatever course you decide upon, it exists in the unknown and requires you to be open to its possibilities.

To begin, there are three steps to take:

First, you have to identify your strengths and what makes you special. Be serious and honest and create the list of your best and greatest talents.

Second, once you have your list of what makes you great, you have to be ready and willing to use everything on the list – all of your gifts. Don’t leave any behind just because it may not make sense to you now or seem inconvenient. You were given your own special mix of talent that is embedded in your DNA. It’s yours to use any way you want. And what you want is _________ (fill in the blank).

Third, you have to practice using your talents every single day. The more you tap into your greatness the more opportunity to be great will appear.

And finally, although not one of the steps, feel free to share your dream with those you love. They can help you stay the course and provide the always needed rest stops and perhaps even drive for a while. Enjoy the trip.

Love is Free for the Giving

Love is a force of such immense power that when you encounter even a snippet of its majesty you succumb to its seductive and life changing invitation. When love finds you it can create havoc or peace, pleasure or pain, or sometimes just an opening to see or feel a spark that exposes you to your own, unknown destiny. Love can begin sometimes with little provocation and often without any warning at all. A hello, glance, smile or chance encounter can put two people together that up until that instant they met, had no clue that Cupid would unleash her magic arrow.

When love hits, it creates change. She offers opportunity where none existed. She provides hope in the face of despair. She gives faith to unbelievers. She turns two into one. And she does this effortlessly and continuously for all of those that pay attention to her calls. Not everyone however hears the calling. Some are distracted, self-absorbed, or even bored with what they see as love’s bitter trappings – they have tried before and they don’t like the hurt that they feel when it doesn’t work out. So, they don’t try anymore and guess what, Cupid gives up too, but only until you invite her back.

The power of love is not controlled by any switch or third party. The power of love is controlled only by you. As such, it is simply a wonder drug for the ages and provides unlimited doses of kindness, joy, and bliss to overcome any aloneness or detachment you could feel. Love heals separation and draws energy to it. It has the power to uncover deep seeded needs and can release anyone from whatever desperate longing they hold inside. Love can be called upon to bind as well as inspire. Love is unlimited in what it can do. And the best part is that it’s totally free. It’s the all you can hold buffet – non-fattening, good tasting and healthy for you.

Love is resilient too. She can outlast even the most difficult of relationships. She finds ways to survive amidst chaos and uncertainty. And she can also wait patiently for you to open up to her magic. She’s stubborn that way, but she has another side too; her fragile side.

Love spends a great deal of time in providing us with the positive energy we need to share our feelings. She fills us up with an endless supply of good will and good fortune. She never runs out when it comes to giving. When we give love we will never run dry. Receiving love however is a bit more complicated. To get love means to feel that someone out there needs and wants us as much as we want them. It means that we can feel secure and okay with ourselves because someone special is sending all of the love we need. The problem is that sometimes it’s simply not enough or it is not given freely. Love that has to be coaxed or pulled out of another lacks the intensity of true love. Love forced is a fragile love, depleted of its life-saving, world-changing properties. It becomes a contrivance and loses its power to heal, nurture and grow. When you force, or someone forces you into love, you miss the mark and Cupid’s arrow falls aimlessly to the ground.

Love is an energy flow not an obligation. Let it be and it will serve you. For those around you today, think about how much you truly give of the boundless love you possess. Is it enough? Could you give more? By focusing on what you have to give you will receive more than you ever thought possible. Even a little more will generate amazing return. Love loves it when you share so don’t hold back. It’s free to give; it’s all up to you.

Source Code

People that walk with you on your path, cross your path or even knock you off of your path are there for a reason. Whatever situation you may find yourself in, it’s a good bet that you are not alone. Somebody somewhere knows what you are going through. They saw you enter the situation you now face and perhaps they helped you get into the spot you are in now. They see what angst you encounter and sometimes they help and sometimes they let you be. They become an unexpected link and connection to bringing you closer to your raison d’être.

Now if the current spot is a good place, then that secret companion would be considered a friend. If’s it’s not a good spot then it may be time to change friends. Before you decide to change friends however, you may want to visit the inside secret hiding places of your heart- the magnate for all uncommon connections.

Following the heart sounds so simple and one would think that everyone can just go about listening to their inside internal voice and make decisions and base their life on the wisdom that they perceive from within. But somehow we don’t trust our instincts and look to society and outsiders to determine our next move. We make choices based on popularity and the degree of resistance we’ll face. We decide what to do based on what we think others want us to do and more importantly, what others approve of us doing. We don’t follow the heart, we follow the flow.

The source code to your own personal heart-based intuitive decision making process is always connected and on-line. It sends signals for us to absorb and react to and it monitors everything we do and also what we don’t do. It keeps a perfect accounting of the good and the bad and the easy and the hard. It knows when we are in a positive space and when we succumb to the negative. Our heart is connected to situations, people and things in ways we often can’t comprehend. Our heart is the internal architect for shaping our lives, creating our presence and virtue, and it is also the ambassador to a world packed full of potential.

Following one’s heart is an underlying theme and goal for almost everyone. If we could awake every day and simply listen to our own internal dialog, we would be closer to the ultimate happiness we seek. We would be free of contradictory input, we would arise beyond commonness and we would be instilled with an energy and determination to reach out and touch all of those that can’t find their own heart’s calling. We would become the connection to awareness and appreciation for all life-change; the stuff that makes miracles happen.

Now is the time to take an accounting of your internal assets, both positive and negative. On the negative side, what are you feeling that seems impossible to reach? What holds you back from achieving your dream? What is it that you seem to lack that will make a difference in your life? On the plus side, take a look at why you answered the way you did. The truth is that you have identified an obstacle that you feel can’t be overcome. The reality, however, is that you can reach what you want, achieve your dream and you lack nothing to get there. Your source code lies inside waiting to activate. It has been waiting for you to re-boot and light the fuse. What a great time to “flick your Bic” or hit control alt. expand. Stand clear – life changing in progress!

How the Book of Szen Became a Book

I am extremely excited and proud to announce that the Book of Szen is now really a book. I’ve taken the best of stories and Szenippets and put together a collection that I think you’ll really like. It’s written just for you because you told me what you liked. The book is dedicated to all of the loyal fans of the Book of Szen. It’s been an incredibly positive experience to share stories and ideas with so many interesting and supportive people. Your feedback and encouragement reminds me every week that I am welcome to enter your lives. Without you, this book would never have been written.

Thank you.

Gary

P.S. Now that the book is here, please take a look and tell your friends and family and write a review on Amazon if you like. I will continue to write these Szen letters every week or thereabouts and as always enjoy your feedback and suggestions. I feel like this is a new beginning and I want to share my very favorite poem on the subject from author John Donahue:

For a New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

The Secret to Balance

From the Szenabling file:

Do you remember learning to ride a bike? Better yet, have you ever taught someone how to ride? It’s one of those concepts that seems really simple in hind-sight, but at the time can seem impossible to grasp and even traumatic. The key, of course, is to master one’s own sense of balance without any aid of external devices or props including body weight calculations, g-force analysis, a carpenter’s level or a parent running along side. Balance, in a physical sense, is built into our human computer and when properly activated can keep us from simply tipping over, to actually conquering huge obstacles that may require precision and incredible steadiness – True balance, is a gift, and as such, is intuitive and requires very little, if any, analysis.

Balance is also an important concept in other aspects of our lives and means having the right mix of elements to keep us well rounded, sane and at ease. Without a good sense of balance we can become stressed, irritable and often counterproductive. Balance in a psychological sense, is the art of maintaining perspective amidst vacillating amounts of turmoil, as well as joy. Maintaining a good life balance is every bit as complex as getting on a bike for the first time, but unfortunately it is not nearly as intuitive.

Given the nature of the world today and knowing how difficult it may be for some of us to stay in balance, I’ve assembled a few balancing acts for your consideration:

1. Don’t believe that being in the middle means that you’re necessarily balanced. Don’t confuse balance with being stuck in neutral. Like riding a bike, we need to keep our momentum and move forward – righting the ship doesn’t insure you’ll reach a safe harbor.
2. Balancing is based on bandwidth too. Sometimes we have to lean to the right or to the left if we’re to successfully negotiate a turn of events. If we’re not careful, the middle ground can sometimes collapse below us. Be ready to lean into the turn when it comes.
3. Overcorrecting can be dangerous. Pain isn’t always fixed with equal amounts of pleasure or visa versa. Getting back on track doesn’t always mean returning to the same spot you became derailed; often just recognizing where you were can turn lost into found.
4. You’ll know it when you feel it. True balance begins in the heart and it’s the subtle but undeniable feeling that it’s going to be okay. We all have a personal “sweet spot” when it comes to how we live our lives. It’s the internal guide to personal happiness and joy – a barometer and compass we each possess that brings whatever life sends us into an alignment worth celebrating.

Achieving balance is the only cure for when you are on edge, lost or bewildered by events you can’t control. Balance is the inner voice reminding you that you’re going to be okay. It is the by-product of you believing in you and the secret gift only you can open.

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Today’s Szenippet: Inspiration is that moment when you realize that you don’t need permission to create what your own heart has always known you could do.

From the Books of Szen©2012

Any Minute

Almost everything that is truly unexpected and life changing happens in a moment. It’s a point in time when there seems to be no answer to your problem, no way out of the distress and no chance to avoid the situation. It’s a moment we all have experienced – the end of the line. Yet for some reason, something changes and shifts. A chance meeting, an unpredictable outcome, a call from a friend – can turn a disaster into victory. Just when you thought there was no way there was some way.

Why and how do these mini-miracles happen? Why is it that when we least expect it or maybe even deserve it, there seems to be a divine intervention, almost like the hand of God reached in and changed the outcome.

A very close friend of mine some years ago joined and also invested in a new company. She was an adamant analyst and did her due diligence well. She checked the company stats, competitive landscape and the references of the owners. She joined the firm for stock and a little salary and a chance at millions. She left a safe, albeit humdrum, position in a Fortune 500 company for a chance at greatness. She got her chance and then some.

The plan for the new firm was to introduce its flagship product just prior to the Christmas selling season. It was a high-tech gadget that would monitor your email as well as your vital signs, and keep copious records in a journal like way that could be downloaded into your PC or MAC. It was the 21st century personal secretary in an easy to use, hand held – change the world, kind of device. The product was being distributed through major retailers literally around the world and all of the research indicated it would sell out fast.

About one month prior to the product shipping a problem developed. One of the memory circuits was failing and caused erroneous data to be transmitted. It was akin to the old game of telephone where one would whisper a message and pass it on to the next person and of course at the end the final message it had little resemblance to the original. The launce was in jeopardy and while the distributors were asked to wait, the precious shelf space where this product would be displayed for the Christmas crowd was in danger of being lost. This would mean a disaster for the company and its shareholders. The ad campaign was on hold and precious media advantages were being lost. My friend was in a state of distress. Her ticket to a new life was being challenged by a simple, inexpensive memory chip; the only chance the company had was to replace the chips with new ones and still make the shipping deadline.

I know you probably think that a new replacement chip was found and the devices were all updated and the company made the deadline and the product was a huge success. Sorry, no. The company missed the deadline, the product never got to market and the dream of high earnings and early retirement were never realized. My friend was devastated. It was over.

I tell you this story because even though it did not turn out as expected, the experience provided additional outcomes. My friend was hired by a firm that needed her expertise in launching new products. The investors sold the shell of the company to a foreign manufacturer. The patents that made the product work were sold to a consortium for a lot of cash. My friend made a lot of money, found a new cause to join and the product although never brought to market has created a wave of enthusiasm for the science and potential.

For whatever you may be hoping for now. For whatever dream you may hold, remember that it doesn’t always go according to plan and that any minute, things can change. Maybe not your way, but God’s way and possibly the best way you could ever imagine. So don’t give up on your dream and it won’t give up on you.

Check Your Baggage

It’s not always easy to start the New Year on a positive note. Sometimes the problems from the past make the transition to a new season of opportunity and change very difficult. Often we carry the burden of having to fix one thing before we can begin another. That is we can’t leave the job we hate until we find one that we would like or we can’t buy the new car until someone buys the old one. We can’t get the promotion until we get some more education or training and we can’t make a bonus until we recoup the losses from before.

There is a great deal of linear thinking at this time of year – something typically has to be finished before we can get on to the next pursuit. We seek closure before we can plan anything new because we often assume that we need to lay the track first before we can begin a new journey. Well, that’s only true if you plan on getting there by train. What if you plan on leap-frogging to the next incarnation of your one true self? It begins with a declaration: I am the greatest _________ (fill in the blank). Don’t worry that you haven’t done it or haven’t the time or money or training or anything to get there. The only thing you have to worry about now is that when you state that I am the greatest whatever is to believe that you really are. Without that you’re dead before you start.

So now that you’ve filled in the blank, let’s construct the path to your achieving the greatness within. Firstly, congratulations, because you have already begun by simply identifying your goal. I know it seems too simple but many of us are not clear on what we want. Once you fixate on the new you, things will shift to accommodate your new beginning. On the subject of beginnings I must turn to a master writer, John O’Donohue:

When the heart is ready for a fresh beginning, unforeseen things can emerge. And in a sense, this is exactly what a beginning does. It is an opening for surprises. Surrounding the intention and the act of beginning, there are always exciting possibilities… Beginnings are new horizons that want to be seen; they are not regressions or repetitions. Somehow they win clearance and become fiercely free of the grip of the past. What is the new horizon in you that wants to be seen?

John O’Donohue, Bless the Space Between Us

To appreciate and underscore the power of a new beginning, one must be ready to leave the old behind. It is extremely difficult to be positive about finances or jobs or relationships if you are holding onto past conditioning or somehow trying to rationalize that the past can be fixed. It can’t be fixed. It can’t change. Only you can change. Only you can know what it is that calls to your heart. Only you can visualize your destiny and only you can know its importance.

With that said, the burden is on you to decide on whether you spend your time worrying about what if’s or could have been. It’s up to you to check the baggage now and it is a very personal and often profound moment in our lives – that moment when we admit that whatever happened before will not hold us back from what will happen next or even now. You cannot become a success you can only be one. You cannot be the greatest whatever; you are already that which you seek. It’s in you now and it has been planted there for sometime – waiting for you to awaken the power of your own personal magic to create the joy you deserve and are destined for.

Have a great trip. You ARE the GREATEST!
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Today’s Szenippet: I never met a year that wasn’t open to new possibilities.

From the Book of Szen© All Rights Reserved

Gift Exchange

 

The 7th grade teacher Mrs. Bothersome was dutifully cutting up the class roster into equal indistinguishable pieces. She put all of the names of the students into a cloth sack and invited each child to walk up to the front of the class and select a name for the holiday gift exchange – something affordable, and an item they may like and, of course fun. No peeking and no telling the person that you selected them; it was supposed to be anonymous.

 

Duncan, shy and dubbed a loner by his classmates, reached into the bag and pulled out the little slip of paper. He held it tightly in his hand as he walked back to his desk. He opened it slowly and crouched over his cupped hands so no one else could see and peered in to read the name Monica – the new transfer student that nobody liked. He let out an audible sigh, crumpled up the paper, stuffed it into his pocket and slouched back into his desk chair. This was not a good choice he thought. He wondered why he couldn’t have been luckier and picked somebody that he knew. There is no fun in shopping for someone you don’t know anything about he thought; what’s the point?

 

The scoop on Monica, pronounced Moan-eek-ah, was she had moved from some foreign country in either Latin or South America and had joined the class after the Thanksgiving holiday. It was reported that her parents were arrested or died or something and that she and her little brother had to move here and was living with an uncle. A couple of people thought that maybe she was retarded because she never talked at all outside of class. And when she did talk, her English was so poor, the kids laughed out loud at her. This hurt her because the truth was that she was alone without her friends or parents and Christmas was coming.

 

Well, whatever her story, Duncan started to pay attention. It’s funny what you can find out about a person just through observation. As Duncan started considering gift options he began to observe and study Monica. He found himself watching her every day and noticed that she was always alone. None of the other girls or students talked with her or sat with her at lunch. Duncan would stare at her when she wasn’t looking. He saw how people avoided her and even ignored her. He watched her try to start conversations and see people just turn and walk away. In class she was shy and frustrated because she could not always find the right words. Students would snicker when she would make a mistake. In a very short time she had become completely ostracized.

 

She was retreating too. She stopped trying to make friends and ate alone and left school in a flash every day. This was not un-noticed by Duncan who had fought his extreme shyness his whole life and resigned himself to the role of a loner. He could tell Monica didn’t want to be alone which caused him to become strangely drawn to her. He began to wonder how he would feel if he were in her shoes and he even felt like he should approach her, but he never could get up the courage.

 

At the last period of the day before the Christmas break, the teacher took all of the gifts and piled them in the middle of the room. This way no one would know who placed what package and thus the secrecy of the giver would remain intact. As students started unwrapping their presents one could see a wide range of gifts from simple trinkets or books to bizarre and funny gag gifts. Monica grasped the card with her name on it. She opened it and read “I want to be your friend.” It was unsigned and she quickly moved her eyes around the room to try and discern the giver’s identity. Nobody returned the eye contact. She closed the card and thought how cruel a gift this was. She began a stifled cry and sat down in her seat.

 

Duncan worked his way through the noise and wrapping paper and came up behind Monica. He tapped her on the shoulder. She turned and looked up and heard him say “it was me, I want to be your friend, is that okay?” She nodded yes and they exchanged the biggest smiles you ever saw.

 

When we give what we seek we draw situations and people to us that bring us what we need. Kindness, compassion, appreciation and friendship are powerful gifts and work great not only as last minute stocking stuffers but as living breathing conduits attracting the happiness God has in store for all of us. Merry Christmas.

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Today’s Szenippet: The gift you always wanted has forever been inside you waiting for you to open it.

 

 

Updated September 2011

THE UPSIDE OF DOWNTIMES

A Leader’s Guide for Turning Turmoil into Trust

By Gary Szenderski

Every organization, both public and private, is affected by today’s global economic turmoil. Leaders are faced with difficult and complicated scenarios where problems cannot be fixed easily, yet something has to be done “now.” Based on our experience working with brands and companies in transition, we’ve noted some common situational problems and identified five conversion principles – easy to remember marketing axioms – which leaders and owners can apply today to create positive momentum and change for their organizations.

Conversion Principle # 1 – No news is bad news.

The problem: Our business is down due to external forces beyond our control. Because no two recessions are alike, neither are their recovery periods, so it is very difficult to predict a way out. Market conditions can be impacted by credit restraints, monetary fluctuations or simple consumer fear and though problems really may not be our fault, they may create an opportunity to take ownership of the situation. You can do this by owning the facts: what, where, how, when, why, why not, how come, who made this happen etc.?

Learn what you can, and try to give it some perspective that you, your staff and partners can apply moving forward. As a leader, silence won’t make it better or make it go away whereas the facts can be your ally. Keeping communications fluid with staff and stockholders is critical and when you can share solid data and insights you also position yourself as an expert and resource in the category.

Conversion Principle # 2 – Downtime becomes think time.

The problem: This slowdown is creating vacuums of “dead time” where we just seem to be going through the motions. This is a chance to recruit your entire organization and enlist them in helping to solve problems or, even better, to create new concepts and opportunities. You never know where your next winning business concept will come from and if you have people in the company that care – or simply want to keep their jobs – this is the time to ask.

Involving your team can provide them with a sense of control and hope. Setting aside time for brainstorming and open forums with management allows you to hear and better understand what your team needs from its leader. You will be mining the downtime, not simply filling it. It’s a win-win.

Conversion Principle #3 – Attacking creates space.

The problem: The company is feeling wedged in by circumstances and fear among our channel partners and in the general marketplace. It’s a good bet that if you’re feeling the economic pinch, your competition is probably trapped too; you have them where you want them. Maintaining or even increasing market presence during a recession has been proven to improve a brand’s position once the recovery takes hold and is fueled by pent-up demand. By differentiating your brand from competitors you create space in your target’s mind for you to reside permanently. It is therefore essential to preserve the strongest possible connections to your existing customers while beginning new connections to your competitors’ customers. They snooze, they lose.

Market share during downtimes will not remain consistent. As buying habits and purchasing trends evolve and shift, openings for gain will emerge for leaders on the offensive.

Conversion Principle # 4 – Good news will be used.

The problem: Customers and consumers are on hold, afraid to spend, waiting for something good to happen. In downtimes there are three types of customers: Those that will wait for better times to buy, those that will buy because they can’t wait, and those that need a nudge to buy.

Leaders that can share some good news – modify their pricing, add value, a bonus, a deal, rebate, a free whatever – have a chance to push reluctant buyers back into the market. This is especially true in the business-to-business segment where, like you, your customers want to emerge ahead of their competitors. Waiting too long to get re-started can be disastrous because once the spending begins again for everyone you could find yourself lost in the crowd.

By recognizing that some customers are reluctant but still want to win, you can position your firm as an asset and resource. Leaders that can provide support or special incentives not only reinforce the relationship with their customer, they join them on the road to success.

Conversion Principle #5 – Taking the lead creates trust.

The problem: Our team feels weary, fearful and tentative. The reality of economic downturn and recession is that people lose their jobs. Prudent leaders facing business realities have to do the math. So what about those that remain?

Leaders that apply the first four principles demonstrate that they are not just reacting to market conditions but creating opportunities to not only survive, but to prosper. These leaders recognize that leading is not telling someone what to do, but listening to what they think about what they do. Effective leaders open their minds to the possibilities and build trust by providing encouragement and empathy for their staff and organization.

In any successful endeavor there has to be a leader that not only calls the play, but lets everyone know exactly what their role will be. In today’s world, many decisions are analyzed and scrutinized by a public and workforce that want integrity, honesty and respect from the boss. Today’s leaders can’t be successful in the marketplace if they are not successful as human beings.

The Reluctant Recovery:

One of the most difficult aspects of this recovery has been putting people to work. It’s very likely that Congress will pass some version of a new “jobs” bill soon. The impact it will have is not clear, but some money will be invested some where and as a leader you want to be ready to take advantage. Turning things around is never as easy as it sounds. Leaders have to start with good reliable information, enlist support from their team and be candid about business realities. They need to stay engaged with their customers and exploit competitors that are stuck in neutral. Right now people are desperate for some good news and leaders they can trust. They are looking for an “upside” to their lives and they need it now.

I hope this article has been helpful and I’ve referenced many sources if you’d like to know more. Timing is everything, but only works for those prepared to act.

Sources:
Harvard Business Review – How to Market in a Downturn (April 2009)
Harvard Business Review – The Essential Advantage (2011)
Wall Street Journal – The Value of Advertising
Brand channel.com – The “What’s Next?” process
ADWEEK.com – Tough Times or Not (March 2009)
SZEN Marketing – Culture as a Fuel Source (online whitepaper)
Book of Szen – Ongoing Insights on Managing Change
Influencer – Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, Switzler (2008 McGraw Hill)
Contributors – Jane Gibb, Sherrie Good and Jerry Walters

Gary Szenderski is a Senior Partner at SZEN Marketing, home of Visionization© – a marketing methodology designed to assist owners and top management in adapting and refining corporate visions to maximize marketing efforts and potential. There are many variables to consider as every organization has a unique character or personality that must be assessed. SZEN Marketing leverages its decades of marketing experience with companies and brands in transition to provide the tools to translate corporate goals into realities, to capitalize on your company’s unique point of difference and vision and align it with the opportunity, and to take it to the next level. To learn more, contact Gary Szenderski for a free consultation. © 2011 Szen Marketing, All Rights Reserved. [email protected]

Learn to Fly

Every once in a while we break away or sometimes are forced away and find ourselves in an entirely new and a way different world and space than we ever imagined. It could be a new job gain or loss, trip or transfer, or just simply moving on to our next chapter. And in that new space we quickly discover that there are no preconceived labels or roles to live up to. Nobody knows us there thus there are no restrictions on how we tell the story of our life or write the next verse and story line. There is no limit to the possibilities or the opportunities to create a new persona and image based on whatever we choose to define us.

The first day on a new job or new anything sets the tone for how your life unfolds. That’s because so much of what defines us is based on how people see us. We are essentially a reflection of those around us and those around us are a reflection of who we are. The beauty of a new palette and situation is that we can choose to feature only those characteristics that we feel not only best define us, but best showcase our individual greatness. We literally have the option and opportunity to reinvent, redefine and reintroduce the self we’ve come to know and love to a new and entirely open minded audience. In virgin territory we can escape from the labels and bias of our past relationships and start over.

This process of uncorking a new you is not about projecting an invalid persona or lying about who you are, it is about taking advantage to realign yourself for the next great adventure of your life without the burden of expectations and judgments from past labels and pigeonholes. If you find yourself in a new environment or an environment that has significantly changed since you last visited, you have the advantage of new receptivity and openness that lets you recalibrate your personal perspective and introduce your individual dreams to the flow of creation; it’s another chance to be the you you always wanted to be.

For those that are embarking on a new venture, be it job, relationship, geography or attitude, there are myriad ways to bridge the journey from what was to what will be. Creating a new archetype and pattern for your life within a “new” scenario is much easier than trying to grow out of a predictable and staid reality. If you are not moving to something new, the old will hold you back. We have all been in situations when you know that the place that you’re in is not fulfilling and keeping you down. No matter how often you may announce new thinking and goals and mindsets it falls on the deaf ears of those around you that only see you in a box; the fact that you see yourself with wings goes unnoticed – they think you can’t fly and sometimes you believe that they’re right.

Well, it’s time to start flapping those wings a little harder. I’m telling you that you can fly – flying is another way of saying you can rise above it all – and soar as high as you want. You can take off from here and propel yourself to any fertile destination you choose. And even if you’re forced into a destination that’s not of your choosing, the trip will still be worth it because once you learn to fly you will come to know that it’s not so important that you ever land at all. The freedom of flight and awareness and wonder of life from the perspective of new heights will serve to keep you elevated internally, mentally and spiritually. Taking flight is your ticket, not just out of the box and past, but out of sight of everything or anyone that has ever clipped your wings.

The new view for the new you is beyond the earth and the limitations of judgment and gravity. The new you can levitate and create the perfect next chapter and story of your life because learning to fly is learning to appreciate what really holds you up and what currents to take to make it a trip that never ends; a journey that lets you glide, lifted by the faith you almost forgot you had but got you to liftoff.
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Today’s Szenippet: (pronounced znippet): The difference between making an impression and making an impact is that the former feeds the ego and the later fills the soul.

Gary Szenderski
From the Book of Szen

Shift Happens

Like death and taxes one of the things you can always count on in life is that things will change. They will change sometimes seemingly all by themselves or very often things will change with a nudge here or there. Change can be positive or negative or painless or painful. Change can send a note that says she is coming or can unexpectedly arrive at your front door. Change is on call 24/7 and doesn’t mind working overtime. Change can be hard to warm up to but once you get to know her, she can be a true friend. On the other hand, if you ignore her, she’ll turn on you in a heartbeat. She’s just that way; you can never really tell what will happen next.

The key to living with change is to recognize that deep down inside change carries with her the opportunity to shift. And shifting is the fuel and the means you need to let change into your life at just the precise moment when you can enjoy it most. Shifting is, in essence, adapting and modifying your inside software to the new external forces entering your life. Shifting is like learning to speak the language of whatever environment you find yourself in at the time. Shifting keeps you conscious and aware of what is actually happening so you can not only deal with it, you can enjoy it. If we don’t shift when change comes she will still arrive, but instead of the guest bedroom, she’ll take over the whole house.

A shift is related to change, carrying some of the same DNA, and yet it is totally different. A well-timed and conscious controlled shift is akin to the happy and generous uncle of the family, whereas some of the family tree is indeed shiftless or even shifty. When change happens it’s related to some type of shift. They each need each other to survive and play off of the other’s actions. There are lots of examples of how shifting can be beneficial and sometimes critical. In physics, a shift in frequency can cause incredible effects. In phonetics, a shift in vowel pronunciation can alter an entire language system. In music, a shift in the position of the conductor’s hand or the fingers on a keyboard can have a dramatic impact on the music. A defensive shift on the football team can mean the difference between victory and defeat. Shifting is our friend. Shifting lets us recognize the landscape and allows us to downshift, if needed, to make our engines work at peak performance. The power to shift lets you maneuver through life’s changes in ways that keep you in control of the effects of change. The power to shift our thinking and perspective when change occurs can save us in desperate situations and conversely, that same power to shift our thinking and perspective can also create exactly the change we desire.

The three keys to being in the driver’s seat when change comes to visit are:

1. Take your own car. Recognize that you can set the speed and direction of your life and create miracles for yourself and those around you. Taking the wheel gives you an advantage in manifesting only the changes that you want – your greatest dreams.

2. Watch the road. Don’t ignore signs of change. Pay attention to what’s going on in your world. Don’t ever assume it will stay status quo. By paying attention you may see change about to cross your path before she sees you. This could be the advantage you need to avoid a crash.

3. Don’t follow the map. Being rigid on any journey can cause setbacks. Sometimes the careful path you selected is under construction or re-routed through tough terrain. Another direction may be in order and even if it’s not on the map and you’re unsure of where it goes, it can often provide the best possible, unexpected, and most direct road to happiness.

In the end, change will happen anyway, but shifting is an option and so how we deal with change is every bit as important as the change itself. Things will happen and you will make things happen and within this give and take and flux, there can be joy and love and bliss. And in the event that you encounter a change that was unexpected or the deliverance of a dream come true, you in all of your awesomeness, have an unlimited reservoir for creating another better version of whatever you choose. Shift on!
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Today’s Szenippet: Don’t settle for makeshift when you can make shift.
Gary Szenderski
From the Book of Szen

The Book of Szen is published weekly or thereabouts and permission to reprint or share is granted. For back issues please email me directly at [email protected] © Gary Szenderski 2008 All Rights Reserved. Gary is an author, branding specialist and part-time instructor at UCI. He specializes in helping people and organizations navigate change. Gary resides in Southern California.

Wait Problem

I really enjoy exploring the aspects of time, the fleeting subject that it is. How it takes time to do anything, yet anything you actually do happens in the one moment you do it. Time is certainly precious, as we all know, and no matter what you earn or achieve, time is limited and thus should be spent wisely. Which brings me to this point in time and today’s subject: waiting – time’s number one enemy.

There are three types of waiting.

1. Waiting for something, anything, to happen and not caring what it is.
2. Waiting for something you really want to happen and can’t stand waiting for it.
3. Waiting for permission to stop waiting.

Waiting for something new to change your perspective or life is pretty common I think. We sometimes get in a rut and even though we may realize it is a rut of our own design, we stay patiently hoping for something, a sign, an event, a moment that will energize us to start caring again. Maybe we silently pray for a reason to change our situation. Maybe our situation has lost its luster and has become rote and predictable; it’s still okay but somehow not enough and definitely not painful enough to instigate a change on our own. Thus we wait for the universe to deliver a “happening” to inspire us to act.

The universe of course will oblige, but without a clear vision of what you want or need it will send whatever it thinks will shake you off your mark. People are often amazed at what is delivered to them and unfortunately don’t always like it. It could come in the form of an illness, or job loss or an accidental encounter. On the positive side, it could be winning the lottery or finding true love. But whatever form it takes, it succeeds in its purpose to move you from the “wait” list to the “do” list. Once moved, you never move back.

What if you are focused on something that you really want but it is taking its own sweet time to manifest? It could be a promotion, a business opportunity, a degree, loan, funding, inheritance or a stubborn client, mate or child. You know deep inside that once “it” arrives, the waiting will be over and life can begin. The goal is so noble and significant that your undying need of the expected outcome has you stuck in a state of abeyance, which is akin to the baseball player waiting for the perfect pitch. There is no such thing; forget the home run; just try to get on base. As Will Rogers said; “even if you’re on the right track, you’ll still get run over if you just sit there.”

The real problem with waiting is that the goal, whatever it may be, is only in your mind. It’s something you imagined, dreamed of or concocted to give you hope and a sense of purpose. It’s your inner vision of the real you, the you that can create whatever it is you want. The you that’s waiting to get on with your life. It’s not something to assume will come to you. It’s something that is you. It’s something that can’t wait to be born. It’s something that needs to get out to start living its own life now, today, this moment.

So, why are you still waiting? You have permission to stop waiting this moment. You can do that by moving your thinking into acting. The shear process of movement and action will help you download your dream into the reality it is destined to be. Take the first step to your goal and then the second and then third etc. and know that by staying intent on your dream and believing in yourself you’ll overcome all of the obstacles, those who doubt you, and your own fear. You will literally own time and not be a victim of it. You will be in the state of “being” not waiting, and in that miraculous moment you will proclaim that “yes, I have arrived.” You will have transcended from a “think I can” to a “yes I am” reality – the secret mantra for all those whose time has come, including you.

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Today’s Szenippet: (pronounced znippet): “Timing is everything” only works for those prepared to act.
Gary Szenderski
From the Book of Szen

Get Rich Slow

Years ago I worked with a colleague that was only a year out of college but bound and determined to make it big. He was driven to acquire the symbols of success and was relentless in his pursuit of being noticed and admired. His entire decision making process was about the image he projected and the corresponding reflection of that image from all those he came into contact with. He exhibited a sense of confidence, success and arrival well before he had attained it. He subscribed to the age-old adage that image is destiny. He literally began to live and look like the person he wanted to be.

Over time he had learned his job well and even though he had a ways to go, he had stretched his income into the creation of a façade of wealth with new suits and cars; actually it was only one car but it made a statement. His life was a statement. His job was a means to an end and as you might guess, it wasn’t too long before he was not only living beyond his means, but the very identity he sought to own. He was lost in his own creation. He owned the symbols of wealth but not the essence of wealth.

Once, after a job review, he received a raise that he felt was too low. He felt justified in challenging his boss and became upset when the boss simply told him that what he got was based on what he deserved. This upset him quite a bit and for the next few months he began to look for another job. The fact that he still wasn’t totally qualified to do the job he had didn’t bother him. He wanted more and money was the way to get it.

I would talk to him about slowing his path to riches program down a bit and about giving some time to creating relationships instead of income streams. I reminded him of what I had learned about success and wealth, which is that the essence of wealth is not about what you own but who you are. I related some experiences that I had in living in the yin and yang of opulence. And that what I discovered about the process of coming down from a contrived perspective of success based on acquisition alone – hitting bottom hurts like hell and if you’re alone, it lingers longer.
We live in an abundant world and it’s just as true that in our quest for “more” we sometimes forget that we’re only one person and we may not need everything we want because we already have more than we truly need. Still, our universe is pretty amazing and elegant in that it is programmed to listen to our desires and provide everything we want. It also provides stuff we didn’t want, as well as hope for things we still want, and the means to get over things we wanted but then changed our minds about. The bottom line is that like my young friend and colleague, we can aspire to greatness and all of us have the opportunity to get there. But greatness is not the same as your bank balance or title or the suits or car you drive.

Greatness is the twin brother of gratefulness. Greatness is the point when you have nothing but could have everything. It’s the point when, without a single possession you can reach out to give whatever you can. It’s the place in your heart when you feel wealthy beyond belief because of the love you have sown. It’s the place that we all eventually will end up at anyway. It’s the only place that really matters because it’s the only place that lets love thrive without judgment on others or opinions based on possessions alone. Greatness is home and the door should be left open.

Yes, symbols and wealth are nice too, but they are only a by-product of the love that you have inside which corresponds to the love that you’re willing to share – a love that was given to you and needs to be passed on to others. It’s a simple equation and formula for making the world a better and richer place than we could ever conceive or create on our own.

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Today’s Szenippet: Greatness is a state of mind. You can never become great because you already are great.

Gary Szenderski
From the Book of Szen

Mental Potholes

Growing up in the Midwest, with dramatic seasonal changes and temperature swings, I was introduced to the mechanic’s best friend: the pothole. The rise and fall of temperatures created a corresponding expansion and contraction of the highway and would create a wide variety of potholes in the road; some small and some more akin to their bigger brother the sinkhole. These surface irregularities were of an equal opportunity nature and did not discriminate from one car or vehicle to the next. Positioned like landmines a pothole could take out the suspension, blow a tire, or rake the exhaust system clean off. This would all happen without notice or retribution.

If you ever became victim to one you had no warning as often the attack was insidious. The hole would be filled with water or covered with leaves or snow and for most of the classic potholes, those 2 to 3 feet deep and 5 to 6 feet wide, they also would sing a secret song that only your tires could hear and were drawn to. The jolt and the almost instantaneous cussing and swearing was like being awakened from a sound sleep and realizing you have been punked and singled out for road ridicule. The sad part was that complaining about it didn’t improve the disposition of your car or your own temperament. And because there was no hiding or escape from these sunken monsters, drivers would use radio traffic reports to warn others…”save yourself on Gordon street, I just saw a VW swallowed alive.”

As bad as potholes can be for drivers, the ones hidden from view in our minds can be devastating. A mental pothole is a place and space in your thinking or psyche that can lay dormant for many many seasons. It’s a thought or a memory that when brought to the surface and present moment stops us in our tracks. It’s something we don’t like to think about, wish we could forget, and maybe pray that no one else will ever discover. Everyone has been to the “dark” places and have dwelled in sadness or pain, and then emerged free and happy only to have some comment or other trigger bring them back to that moment of hurt.

At the moment when we hit a mental pothole, we lurch into a mental collapse and are instantaneously and dramatically reconnected to a place and time that we prayed we would forget. It could be the death of a child or friend, the loss of a lover, a job, an opportunity missed or an extraordinarily embarrassing experience. It could be something that we’re not proud of or afraid of. It might be something that no one knows about you – your own personal secret from hell.

If you don’t have anything like a mental pothole waiting to undo your journey that’s great; keep on trucking as they say. If you do have a thought or memory that somehow haunts you and maybe even holds you back I offer a few suggestions on how to set it free:

1. Own it. I know it might be painful but bring it to the surface one more time. Play it in slow motion and let the feelings come through. By owning it we can place ourselves in the right frame of mind to deal with it.
2. Don’t judge. Let the memory or thought be free to be what it is. Don’t blame the situation or timing and for sure don’t blame yourself. Whatever it is or was is gone and over and it can’t keep you from experiencing the present moment.
3. Be now. The present is the only place to create new memories. As you proceed on your journey you may hit a pothole or two but they can never ever keep you from reaching your destination. There is always a way to proceed; a way to let it go and move on. I know you know you can.

Our journeys are never clear and straight and free of obstacles. They are packed solid with life and all that comes with it. And we can complain or maintain or we can embrace the trip of our lives; the only one we get, the one that’s calling to you now.

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Today’s Szenippet:Everyone has a place inside where no one else can ever go.

Gary Szenderski
From the Book of Szen

The Role of a Lifetime

Has anyone come up to you and asked “what do you do?” The question is really about giving you a label that will help identify how you should be treated. When you tell someone that you are a teacher or lawyer or entrepreneur or whatever, it sends signals and creates expectations about you that are really less about you personally but more about all of the zillions of people that do what you do. People tend to group other people into a category based on their own collective experience so as to better understand how to interface with each other.

If you say you teach, they respond with what and where questions. If you say you are a coach they want to know your record. And if you’re a doctor they have questions about a malady they want to share with you. If you say actor, they want to know what shows you’ve been in and if you say parent they want to know ages and sexes of the children. Roles help society save time. Roles come with a preconceived and well defined persona that allows all of us to cut through the polite conversation to the meat of the matter. Knowing a person’s role allows for us to jump to a conclusion and save precious time in really getting to know them. In fact it eliminates the need to know them at all. Once we know what they do, we assume we know who they are, and expect them to act accordingly. Not.

I think that one of life’s misfortunes is that we tend to define ourselves by the job or role, or position we have. We seek to be able to define ourselves by a title that somehow fills in all of the blanks that people need to know to relate to us. A title covers a lot of ground and yet can still be open ended. Being a parent for example only means that you have children; it doesn’t mean you’re any good at it and it’s just about the same for any title or role you can think of. It seems that somehow we have all resigned to the fact that we’re here to play a part and with it comes a predictable set of rules and guidelines that we adhere to and follow without even thinking. It begins with being a “good little boy or girl” and carries through to being a “good citizen” or even a “trusted friend.” The sad part is that by assuming a role, we negate any real chance for connection.

This last week, I’ve been to a couple of different hospitals to visit a close friend that has just not been able to be labeled. They don’t know what’s wrong exactly so they don’t know what to “call” it. And without a clear and affixed diagnosis the response and treatment has been basically wait and see. Until they know what you have you can’t conform to a plan of action. Still, because of the nature of society’s desire to pigeon hole all of us; the hospitals assign everyone a universal role as “patient.” And as a patient you are expected to act accordingly.

My friend has decided not to play that role and does not act as a patient but a person; a person that is actively involved with their own health care. This disregard for the obvious role has created a new and interesting dynamic. The doctors and all of the caregivers have approached and regarded her as the person she is and not a sickness to be cured. That shift has been liberating for all involved. The “patient” and the “caregivers” relate and discuss and evaluate the symptoms, and subsequent strategies for recovery. Everyone asks for the opinion of the other and in that process develop trust and respect for each other. In effect it personalizes and elevates what would be considered routine into something unique and special. It allows for and encourages connection which is what gives all of us the power to see the person behind the facade.

Now, when people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a professional wrestler. It allows them to respond by thinking that I must be the weakest and dumbest wrestler on the planet or I’m simply a lunatic. All I know is that there is no role or label that can ever totally define me or you or the next person you meet. And knowing that allows you the freedom to create connections for the real you – the you behind the scenes and beneath whatever role you may have been given or earned, but do not essentially own nor adequately define the real you.

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Today’s Szenippet: By stepping out of character we step into relationship.
From the Book of Szen
by. Gary Szenderski