Don’t Wait ‘Till You Die

I have little patience for talk, talk, talk, and no action. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I am often reminding myself of my own mortality, and the awareness that I still take many things for granted… Or perhaps I just like to get stuff done and I don’t suffer procrastinators gladly. Who knows?

Some years ago now, a friend of mine got irritated when in conversation I brought up the Stoic practice of contemplating death – I’m sure other schools and communities used similar rituals – to remind oneself of both the fragility and gift of life. He got frustrated and interrupted the conversation. I guess for him I had just become another one of these annoying nutcases talking about death and playing with these grandiose ideas to look cool.

Whatever my friend’s problem was, the fact remains that looking at my own mortality, as scary as it may be sometimes, has numerous benefits. I have written about death before and you can read some of the ideas and insights I shared here, here and here – I recommend you take a look 🙂 . I do find the topic profound and useful, although I’ve got a lot more to learn and it doesn’t make the reality of death less challenging to deal with.

But here I want to relate death to another area which, as a coach, I very much cherish: ACTION.

This same friend was often postponing and procrastinating on his dreams. He did not even articulate his desires as dreams. He was simply getting by, living life as it came, by default. Not much ambition, not much drive. A What-s-the-point type of attitude. Every day looking the same. Flat line. Whenever I’d ask how he was doing, he would reply “fine”. The exact same “fine” that Simon Sinek describes in this interview on millenials. Slowly dying out of boredom. Resolved. Cynical. Living, but not really alive.

Not that I think it’s “bad” to live this way. Everyone can do as they please. But it’s clearly not the life I choose to lead, and given the line of work I have been called to do, I generally don’t want this for other people either. I want to achieve my goals. I want to create my dreams. Not just talk about them. I want to DO, and what better fuel for DOING than the wisdom that my time is finite?

Unfortunately, we often continue to pretend and act as if we’ll live forever and we’ll do that thing, “someday…”.

I speak to too many people who are continuously putting off what they say they want. And the tricky part is: they always have good reasons for it. We all do! Whenever I am not owning up and stepping up to a desire I have that I’m not creating, you can be certain that I’ve got a bunch of reasonable arguments to defend my pitiful lack of initiative in the direction I want. I am blind to the truth, and blind to my own blindness.

We ALWAYS find ways to rationalise our lack of self-leadership, our hiding, our playing small.

Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind that you don’t pursue a desire you have – actually that’s not quite true because I know I love seeing my clients create what they set their mind to… But what I really do care about is when we bury our head in the sands of incongruity between what we say we want and what we actually do about it.

I don’t want people to feel “fine” in their life. I want them to feel extraordinary! Not always joyful perhaps, as life has its ups and downs, but at least inspired, meaning-rich, walking their journey! This is my mission, this is what makes me feel alive. I don’t know why, it just is.

Don’t wait ’till you die to get started on your dream. If you’ve got a chance to take a big step forward towards it, grab it. If a small one, step forth. Be bold and trust that things will work out. Because they do.

Don’t wait ’till you die to invest in yourself. There will be nothing left to invest in by then. YOU are your greatest asset, no doubt about it. The best time to act and stretch yourself is now. It’s the only time you ever get.

Don’t wait ’till you die to say what’s on your mind. To do what your heart calls you to do. To look people in the eyes and say “I love you”.

Please, don’t wait ’till you die.

The Business Of Creation

It took me a while to get to this realisation, but I finally ended up embracing the fact that everything in the world is co-creation. Everything that happens in life, yours or mine, is exactly at the convergence between forces unravelling outside of us, and how we choose to show up to meet reality.

We are responsible for a portion of what reality is, and the Stoics already understood this 2,000 years ago. We can control our thoughts, our emotions, what we choose to say and do and the meaning we make about life’s events. That’s where we have agency.

We do not control what other people think, say or do. We do not control their actions, their beliefs, nor do we control natural forces like the tides or the weather. Basically we don’t control anything apart from what lies inside of us – and even there, there are some biological processes which we do not consciously control.

But… what if we did? What if we did control other people’s thoughts, beliefs and actions? What if we did control the tides and the weather? What if we did control our health, our cells dividing and dying, and everything else?

As a kid, I used to spend hours playing outside, imagining that I had magic powers and could control elements like fire, or water, or forces like electricity. I would spend evenings lying in bed wishing for something special to happen overnight so that I would wake up with superpowers, like a mutant from X-Men or something. Even a few years ago, my initial interest in hypnosis was driven by the mystery of the human mind and the power of suggestion. Could we really control someone else’s mind? The child within me was fascinated…

Today, I have decided that I am a grown up. I know I don’t have superpowers. And yet, I still pretend I do… it is a game I LOVE to play.

What if everything that is present in my life and everything that happens to me is something I created? What if everything that is present in your life and everything that happens to you is something you created? I know this may be hard to swallow for some events, but let’s look at it playfully. It’s a game designed to empower us, and the purpose of the game is to ask ourselves: how?

I look at my fiancée and I ask myself: how did I create her?

I look at the money in my bank account and I ask myself: how did I create it?

I look at my clients and I ask myself: how did I create them?

Hell, I even look at my clients’ results and I ask myself: how did I create those?

I look at my body and I ask myself: how did I create it?

I look at the people who never replied to me and I ask myself: how did I create this?

I look at all my failures and I ask myself: how did I create them?

I constantly play this game with all my clients, and even if it may piss them off every once in a while (it can be challenging to own your responsibility when all you want to do is pointing fingers), the insights we discover are simply invaluable. Who we become as we continue to dive deeper into the game is not something that is easy to describe. There is a faith, there is a power, there is a sense of absolute possibility which lifts one’s spirit and liberates one’s soul.

Now THAT, my friend, is the Business of Creation.

Why You (And I) Don’t ‘Deserve’ Anything

Language is powerful. Language creates new worlds. Language leads ideas and people. AND language destroys lives and leads to despair.

I touched upon the impact of language in the past. Here, I want to explore a danger that is flooding our society. I wish to share my perspective around a pernicious lie that harms many of us without our knowing.

This lie is the idea that we somehow “deserve” to live a beautiful, happy, wealthy, in a word ‘grandiose’ life.

The other day I saw on Facebook an add for a webinar called “Create The Life You Deserve.” In this vast economy of helping others, there is commonly a use of language that boasts positivity, breeds motivation and fuels hope. You’ve come across it many times. You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? This language, broadcasted by people with beaming smiles, glittering clothes and dollar signs with lots of zeros behind them…  You see the type. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about internet marketing, creating apps, investing in properties, building a startup, earning $1,000,000 using free online traffic, developing your interpersonal skills or learning to vibrate at the same frequency as the universe.

The problem is in the language used to present these… “methods”. They will supposedly help you “Create the life you ‘deserve'”. AS IF earning sh*t loads of money by not doing any type of real work, developing your mental capacity or improving how you behave with yourself and others were ways to access some kind of terrestrial nirvana that was your birthright.

I’ve been exploring the world of human improvement for the past 3 years. I hate to tell you this, but you (and I) don’t “deserve” anything. It is not because you (and I) were born that we had a birthright for a perfect extraordinary existence, with tons of money, happy relationships and never-ending love, passion, adventures and travels.

This webinar embodied the utmost example of what is wrong and dangerous with personal development (and education) nowadays: entitlement. I fell into this trap myself when I began my journey; thankfully, I got out of it early on. This type of approach sells on people’s hopes, and insinuates that you have access to something greater, just because… well there’s no real reason, frankly, so one is made up: just because you’re YOU! Isn’t this amazing? This kind of language preys on the “quiet desperation” that David Thoreau was talking about. Indeed once the magical effect of novelty dissipates, when life takes its own rights once again, in other words when sh*t hits the fan, what people are left with isn’t nirvana. It is misunderstanding, hurt and despair.

The Ancient Greek school of Stoic philosophy understood better than we certainly do today that there are two kinds of things in life. There are the things we have control over – our thoughts, our actions, and… well, that’s pretty much it – and then there is everything else. Long story short, the Stoics encouraged to live a life where we did our best with what we could control, using reason, and then learnt to accept that everything else was just what it was. If something is not in our control, there is no point moaning about or being hurt by it. By the way, this “everything else” includes other people’s beliefs, decisions and actions; the loss of money, job or a person we love; and other events like earthquakes, diseases and alien invasions.

The Stoics saw life as the unfolding that results from the convergence of a proactive force, us, and a random occurrence of events that unfold totally outside of our influence; what they called ‘fate’. This wave of causes and effects lying outside of our sphere of control brings chaos to our existence, while we strive to lead orderly and structured lives. As a result, the life we have simply cannot be something we “deserve”. It just is a combination of what we strive to achieve and a chain of events occurring outside of our own sphere of influence.

I was lucky. I had a pretty good life (so far). I did not go through unbearable pain, and I accomplished many things I wanted to. But assuming that I “deserved” the life I’ve had is simply ridiculous. Yes, I worked hard. Yes, I tried to do my part well – constantly striving to improve what I could control: my thoughts and my actions. But I was lucky. Very lucky. That’s the part I don’t control. Neither do you. We have to give it credit too. One day, it will change. Like everybody else, I will soon lose people who are very close to me. I will soon face crushing pain and loss. When life takes its own rights, I don’t want my whole world to come crashing down because I was deluded in thinking I “deserved” something else.

You (and I) don’t deserve anything. Our responsibility is to keep making the most of what we’ve got, regardless of what life brings at us. This means striving to do our best with what we can control, and remembering that everything else is out of our hands.