Archive for July, 2012

“I want to feel safe, not be protected”

Part of what came out of the conversation about hard tactics to gain compliance was my antiquated belief that my girl friends want me to protect them. Heather has been fairly upfront about her requirements in this area. She wants to feel safe with me, she doesn’t want me to protect her.

These two things are not the same and I’d mention that they are more different than they are similar.

Protection is about controlling a situation or people. It is about preventing things from happening. While it has its place in certain instances - life or death moments, or moments of complete absentmindedness - it isn’t appropriate most of the time in a loving relationship that is based on trust and mutual respect.

Given that it is about control, protection is selfish and fear based. It is an attempt to immunize oneself from a future, a fatalistic prediction about a possible outcome that creates a sense of loss. There is important information contained within the projection, so a need or want to protect someone who is independent reveals a lot of useful information and while it should not be actioned upon, it should not be ignored.

Allowing or helping someone to feel safe is altruistic in nature as it is about the other person feeling safe. It is a fearless way to act in that it is freeing. Safety, in the context of relationships, doesn’t require that someone control a person or situation, it means that the other person has the liberty to act as they feel appropriate.

What does feeling safe in a relationship mean? It means having the freedom to be self-expressed, it means having the option to act as you feel is appropriate without the power struggle, it means acting with a win:win outcome being the goal, it means you get to create your own environment and act naturally within it. Ultimately, it means being able to exist in a relationship in a natural way, free from the others will and live a life rich with the experiences you each bring to it.

When I Stop Protecting I Start Progressing

Yesterday I was talking to Heather, I was a little annoyed at a tactic that one of our mutual coaches used during the conversation to help gain Heathers support in something.

“That’s pretty manipulative” was the comment I made. She replied with “it’s only manipulative if I / you think it is, I actually respect her more using the tactic.” And this made me wonder a few things.

Why do I care about the tactics someone employs when trying to enroll my girlfriend in something?

Heather didn’t care, the opposite was true, she would think less of the coach is she hadn’t used the tactic. I don’t really have a horse in the race so why did I care?

That was fairly simple to uncover, I think I was trying to be a protector and mitigate the negatives that she is exposed to. It’s easy for a boy to want to do that when completely enamored by a girl. There’s an almost social imperative that boys look after their female partners so finding and trying to play this role is easy; particularly given my strong traits. But Heather isn’t looking for protection, she wants to feel safe (which is another topic worthy of its own consideration).

What’s the cost of acting that way?

The answer here is a tough pill to swallow. It has cost me a lot of relationships. Admittedly, the relationships ran their course, but at the core of protective behavior is a strong desire control situations to cause something to not happen. That is a key piece of the unworkable nature of life. Situations are what they are and they occur because of the way life has been engineered. We create our own luck, our own life and almost everything that exists around us.

It has cost me wisdom. Volumes of lessons that would have expedited a lot of my maturing. Everytime I have tried to control a situation or behavior out of existence I have closed-up making learning impossible.

It has cost me peace of mind by creating a sense of victimization. By creating (or trying to create) a life that sees me not having to deal with the things, I don’t grow powerfully towards being able to deal with those things. For example, by tying to protect myself or others from being sold, I am unable to actualize that positive that exists from buying. Instead, I feel like the world is out to get me.

All in all being that way has cost me a happiness and a lot of fulfillment and abundance. And as it winds down, I see that it hasn’t gained me anything. The world continues on with or without me getting on board with it’s motion. My perception of having control is simply a perception, it doesn’t reflect anything that actually exists.

Almost 6 Months Later

It has been almost 6 months since my father died and I’m having a challenging sort of day. A friend just lost his father and the news kind of took me back. I feel for him and the loss that his family is experiencing now, I have a deep understanding of some of the emotional pain that he may be living through. I kind of feel weird because back then he reached out to me and I didn’t accept or connect with him. Today would have been today regardless of what I did back then, I just wonder how he is doing.

A month after my dad died, I meet a new friend whose father is terminally ill - well, that isn’t a great way to phrase it because he has been given a terminal diagnosis but it’s well down the road - a few years vs. the “get your affairs in order” timeline a lot of people are given. I love talking with her about the entire thing because it helps me remember and feel useful, and significant in a way.

The struggle one has during these times is their own. Some may look at the news her family received and claim that it is no news at all given that all of us will die at some point in the future. The same may look at what my family was told and say that must have been tough on us. But it’s all the same news when you get down to it. Death is a future event, be it 6 weeks or 60 years, there will be a time in the future when it end.

But it’s in the future and there is no amount of thinking that is going to alter the eventuality about it. I have tried for months to think my dad back into existence - not constantly, but there are moments when I realize that I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that he is gone and forever is a pretty long time. Even now, as I type this, there’s a piece of me that wonders if maybe it’s all just a big misunderstanding, that he’s lost somewhere, or on an extended vacation.

Weird, I know, but the reality is slow to register some of the time.

I was asked how I dealt with the news that my dad was going to be dead in a few months and feel like I’m in a position to actual answer the question. I let go of the fact that he was going to be dead in a few months when I was around him and I made my time about him, me and the family. When I wasn’t with him, I let out whatever was building and was lucky enough to have someone to hear me. I talked to him about it, my feelings and what was going on and then we only talked about it when I needed to, which wasn’t very often or when he needed to, which was even less often. My dad was accepting of it, he had lived as long as he was going to and he was content with his journey.

There wasn’t an elephant in the room because I let my dad set the tone and he kind of didn’t care that much. He ask that Des and I look after our mom, gave some other advice and then got back to living life - having a few beers, a lot of great food and laughing as much as possible. It’s odd, but up until right there, I wasn’t as aware of the absence of the beer, great food and laughing in my life recently….

So if asked for a couple of pieces of advice on how to handle the news of a terminal diagnosis I say:

How you think you are going to feel will be different from how you feel. My fathers death impacted me in very different ways than Natalie’s death. Natalie’s ended up being a lot more destructive and I should have gotten therapy to help manage it. Their death is coming and you don’t know how it will impact you so don’t try to think your way through it. The grief process is will written into our DNA and will look after itself when the time comes.

Anticipatory grief is likely, but not necessary. I say this because EVERYTHING breaks down. The confirmation of this doesn’t alter the reality, it just heightens ones awareness of it. Take it as an opportunity to get out there and have a little fun with life, yourself, your family and your planet.

In the end, when the process has worked its way through, I’ll have the wisdom to be very useful about this topic. Right now, as I move forward I remain grateful for having had a great life with my father and for having those last 6 weeks together. I file them away under “how to live each moment to the fullest”.

How To Live In The Present Moment

This version for living in the present comes out of my weekend at the LandMark Forum in Toronto.

It comes down to accepting that we are the designer, creator and actor in a play that is our life - we influence almost everything in it and are responsible for almost everything that happens to us and EVERYTHING we perceive.

Once we accept the truth of the above statement, we uncover our strong traits, our trump card, work on a list of possible things that we don’t know we don’t know, our list of rackets and then spend time talking to people who will tell us the truth and not what they think we want to here.

It’s easy and just requires hard work. There’s no paradox there, it’s just mindless effort once we have the instructions.

Imagine if you were able to see yourself from the outside, see your actions in an unemotional way that doesn’t impact you. This view would help you make strategic or tactical decisions that move you closer to what you consciously want. That is what this process will do for you.

If you disassociate from your body / life and realize that the mental processes are just programs running, you gain the ability to see the input and output without judgment / bias and this opens up the present moment into something that is as long as you want it to be. It’s a skill, you need to develop the muscle, but each of us have this ability within them. It’s the willingness to put in the work that may be in short supply.

Apollo 13 - Lessons

I have two favorite movies, Fight Club and Apollo 13. Much of this blog has been about the wisdom that Fight Club relates so I figured I should give Apollo 13 its shot. Below are some of the lessons that I gained from watching the movie a few hundred times!

  • When you don’t need to do anything, don’t. Tweaking for the sake of tweaking is pointless and lowers the predictability of outcomes. Change only the things that need to be changed and change them in ways that give you the outcomes that are useful.
  • You can complain to the world all you like, but after all your complaining, the world is exactly the same, you just have less time to come-up with a solution.
  • Sometimes life has a funny way of working out for you. Just do your best and see what happens.
  • Really complicated things tend to blow-up. The same is true for training, diet, thought patterns and ones understanding of the world. The more complicated the thing you are about to do, the more likely it is to suffer a catastrophic failure. Whole food is better than a complete regiment of supplements, hard work has a greater likelihood of generating success than the perfect program, transacting with the truth and being integrity keeps life very simple with less drama.
  • It doesn’t matter what something was designed to do, what matters is what it CAN do. Be creative with things and you’ll come-up with some fantastic solutions to problems.
  • Human beings are at their best when faced with a challenge of emergency. Sad but true. When all hell is about to break loose, we tend to find the answers we need to address our biggest problems. But the answers were there all along, we just were not motivated to find them for some reason.

Cannot Make Poor Choices

Des was asking me about Heather a few days ago and I mentioned that there are moments when I feel a little scared about things. I used the word insecure and he took the opportunity to ask me about it and give his opinion about what insecurity is.

“People are insecure when they believe they can make a wrong decision.”

It was a great and timely comment.

I’m enjoying the progress of this relationship. I feel very connected to Heather and I feel very challenged by her. She is unlike anyone I have dated before and there is something she says each day that alters my understanding of the world. I have a strong desire to grow and cultivate our relationship.

What scares me about things is that I’ve had a lot of good relationships with great girls and we have learned a lot of amazing lessons together. But I am not with any of them anymore. The relationships ran their course and all parties have moved forward with life. The story or narrative that runs within my mind is about the end of every relationship. Compounding this were the “lessons” I gleamed from the premature death of Natalie - that life ends unexpectedly.

There is little wonder why I was worried about the future, I have allowed “the end” to be a part of the present. I’ve scaled down the timeline of the future and making the end to be the next thing that I think of. Given that it was so close, I believed that I was able to make poor choices. So I made poor choices.

Writing this out is great. Most of what I’m saying has an antiquated feel. I get how it was true, but it doesn’t apply to me so much now. The notion that things will end and that I will have a hand in them is silly. Sure, I can wreck things, but that is a conscious choice, it won’t be a wrong decision in an insecurity-creating way. My desire is for happiness, fun, fulfillment and passion and a lot of it for a very long time. With these motivations, I cannot make a poor choice. Things that are good don’t end and as I view the middle as the longest, funnest and greatest part of it, the future looks a lot brighter.

For the first time in my adult life I am more excited about the middle than I am about the beginning. This really is an unfamiliar way to approach a relationship and I’m grateful to have found this way of being with Heather.

10 Things That Will Boost Your Progress

Intelligent people want to be living a life that is moving forward, growing towards something greater than that which  already is. It could be a part of human nature, part of how we were raised or part of our specific genetic code, but intelligent people are on the move, forward and upward. Progress is the unit of measurement, the currency of driven people, and we like to fill our banks with lot of it!

Below are ten things that will speed-up your progress; not just your body transformation or your athletic pursuits, but in all areas of your life.

  1. Realize that effort alone doesn’t work. Many business owners perform all the roles of their company and their business say small because of this. The 20 hour days don’t yield the same results as a well thought out 10 hour day at enrolls other people in doing some of the work. Effort is kind, up until a certain point, then it becomes a joker.
  2. Know your motivation. Be moving towards something very important or leave something behind that needs to be left behind. Or both! There needs to be a compelling reason for WHY you are trying to progress. Progress for its own sake is good, progress for a higher purpose is GREAT. Focus on this purpose and enjoy the boost in efficiency. Most people do not know their motivation for doing things and this is a huge limiting factor with their progress. Have a compelling MUST have reason and notice what happens in your life to help you get it.
  3. Learn from EVERYTHING and EVERYONE. We learn from experiences, not from sitting around. Be open and wise to the fact that you don’t know everything. Progressing forward is about acquiring new knowledge and converting it into wisdom, and this will only happen when stuff goes in. This applies to both the things to do and the things to NOT do - there is a reason why someone lost their job which is usually not the inverse reason why someone keeps their job. Learn from both and maximize your progress.
  4. Choose proof over theory. Some things look great on paper but don’t pan out as predicted while other things seem doomed from the beginning but turnout to be not just the best way to accomplish a task but the ONLY way to accomplish it. When you are looking for progress, go with what works. When you are looking to innovate, go with theory.
  5. Take a few small actions each day. Success is made-up of 1000’s of small things. Progress is about attrition against the odds. While it is unlikely that the small thing you do today will lead you to the victory you are looking for, not doing the small things is usually the reason for a lack of progress. If it takes a few minutes and you have a few minutes, just do it. It will get it out of the way and make action your method of operating.
  6. Set many small and achievable tasks. 10’s or 100’s of these tasks will make-up a goal. Setting-up goals as being the combination of many small things makes achieving them more likely as they won’t overwhelm or discourage you. This way you will always be making progress, everyday and with almost every action.
  7. Find someone to be accountable to who you WILL be accountable to. Sadly, many people get into the habit of not being accountable to themselves as there is a temporal processing issue with it - how do you be accountable to the you of the past? The finest way to overcome this is to enroll someone else to help you stay on track. Engage someone who will be dogmatic about your objectives and who will press you hard when you present excuse as reason.
  8. Track your results to make sure you are staying on track. Consider enrolling someone else as the tracker of your progress - ideally your accountability person. When you do not achieve your results, you need to uncover the cause of your breakdown and eliminate the offending behavior. The objective opinion of an outsider can be the difference between a slow or light speed progress. They only have a vested interest in your results, not your emotional reasons for not acting in a goal achieving way.
  9. Focus on behaviors, not outcomes. Being progressive is about acting in a progressive way, not about achieving a progressive thing. If you do the right things for long enough, the outcome is an inevitability.
  10. Become part of a success orientated group. Successful people need to be surrounded by other successful people and there can be a magnificent synergy between group members. It is usually true that many minds are better than one when it comes to seeing solutions so engage others and enroll them in your journey. This will boost your accountability and it can dramatically increase the intellectual resources that work on an issue, problem or task. You never know what or who other people know, so connect with others and share unconditionally; both your quest and your wisdom.

Thank You Letter To My Dad

Having completed the letter to Natalie, I started to work on the one to my dad. This one hacked opened fresh wounds; removing the new skin was needed because the flesh didn’t close the cut with any precision. My brain / spirit had been put back together, but were held in place with the same sort of scripts that had held them together after Natalie’s death. The gratitude exercise was freeing and restarted the recovery journey.

When I saw Heather the next day I mentioned that I wasn’t sure we’d ever reconnect. This comment landed oddly. “Pat, you need to clear the space in your past to allow you to recreate a history that more closely resembles what you lived.” (Or something like that). “And it wasn’t completely selfless. If this [our relationship] is to be all that it can be, your past needs to be put away accurately.”

Hi Dad,

I know I said thank you and told you how grateful I was for having you as my father a few times during your last few weeks, but now that it’s a few months later, I’d like to let you know some other things.

The last 4 1/2 months have been a wild ride. February was a month to get wasted and forget, to feel victimized and create as much pain as I possibly could. But it was also the last month of the life I had been living because your death meant that I had no one else to blame for my place but myself and once I had to start blaming myself I found it a lot easier to change my behavior.

I miss you like crazy dad, but your dying meant that I could finally start my life. It’s weird to say, but your support and belief in me was something I used to keep me standing still. I’m grateful for it, very few other people in the world have supported and helped me the way you did, it made life less risky and dangerous and it allowed me to read, write, train and have fun knowing that nothing would ever go wrong. I don’t miss spending my time like that, but I’m really thankful that your life afforded me the opportunity to do it. It was a lot of fun, I expanded my mind and I was able to do a lot of things first hand that others can only read about or observe.

I’m grateful that you taught me how to love a partner! Your relationship with mom is special. She doesn’t cook very much anymore, she doesn’t see the point of it. I get that, I just didn’t realize that the two of your were so much a part of each others identity. I miss her cooking and knowing that there was an outlet for her love. I still think back on all the amazing food over the last 6 weeks of your life and am happy with the thought that maybe those will be the best meals I’ll ever eat. Anyway, I still like food and have stopped eating sugar for the most part because you warned me not to eat too much of it because I could end up like your dad. I’m kind of rambling because I’m sad. I haven’t been crying much recently. I burned a lot of it out and kind of blame the crying and grieving for why things didn’t go well with Sharyl. I sort of haven’t really opened up with Heather about you, and I think she’s noticed something incomplete about it. Heather is amazing dad, she’s everything I believed a partner could be, but never felt I deserved. All of this is to say thank you for modeling how to love your wife because I plan on being my version of those behaviors for Heather.

Thank you for being an amazing dad! I’ve told you this a bunch of times, but I have a greater understanding of it now. You were tolerant and understood things that you didn’t need to understand. You continued to learn so you would have stuff in common with Des and me and you deferred to us as experts when I noticed a lot of other peoples parents wouldn’t accept that their kids had developed skills that far exceeded anything their parents could possess. You never played small or made us feel bad for being the experts in these areas. You had a young spirit still, and you allowed us to mentor you. I know very feel parents like that and it is a quality that I am working hard
to maintain - that is to remain open to a changing world even when it becomes difficult to adjust to the newest trends and information.

Thank you for being an amazing friend to those you impacted. Your wake was a lot of fun, it was the kind of event you would have loved! :) George from across the street told me and Des separately that he really liked you and that you never had a bad thing to say about anyone. It chocked me up because I am often a little quick to condemn others for their actions. Hearing him say it and then having Des tell me what that he had said it to him changed me. While I don’t really need people to say the same thing about me, I do need to mellow and accept others for doing the best they can. I remember you saying that to me once, that you do your best regardless of what comes of it. I didn’t really understand that so much until recently.

This is hard dad. I’m crying because I’d love to chat with you about how things have adjusted over the last few months, to tell you that I get it now and to talk to you about the world as I see it. The world is an amazing place full of wealth, possibilities and opportunities. It isn’t the scary place I was pretending it to be so I didn’t have to try. It is the world that you tackled so many years ago, the world that you taught Des and me to enjoy and the world that had you and mom move us to Canada, to give-up the familiar for the possibility of a better life.

Dad, you and mom were right, this is a better life than what Ireland would have been. Canada is amazing, the people are great, it’s a fantastic society and most of the people respect each-other. I will become everything that I have ever wanted here and that is because you created the possibility by giving-up what you were doing so Des and me could do what we wanted.

Thank you for showing me how to be a father. I may never become a dad and I’m okay with that, but if I do, I’ll be a lot like you. I’ll be honest and teach my children to be compassionate and loving. I’ll be fair to them, not a friend until they get old enough to know what a parent friend is, but not a jerk either.

Most of all dad I want to say thank you for putting up with me and helping me deal with the challenges life gave. For a lot of it I thought I knew better and didn’t really appreciate just what you knew and did. We did chat about this on the Saturday before you ended up in the hospital and I remember driving away thinking we were complete. I didn’t want it to be that way, I wanted there to be lots more chats, but under the circumstances, we both knew there wasn’t much time left. You were amazing, you were open and loving and you were my dad. You were so much of what I am and what I will become. I am so grateful for you. I’m half your dna and half your upbringing and I am 100% your son.

I knew we would eventually part ways, that life ends for everyone. You were open about this and you never avoided this reality. You were honest with me, even when it didn’t make me feel better. And I suppose that’s what I needed. You were trying to set me free from the demons of my past, from the meanings I created from the events that occurred. I not sure I ever thanked you for that part of it. Thank you.

I’m going to go now dad. I’ll close this with saying that I am becoming me for the first time in my life. I’m feeling the possibilities that I felt when we moved to Canada and I’m very aware that you have guided and helped me become so much through your life and in your death. Thank you for all of it.

No matter what becomes of life, I will always strive to be a man that you are proud of and to cultivate the compassion for other people that will have George say “you’re just like your father you are.”

I love you!
Pat