Context, Language and Re-framing Our Past

“Oh yeah?!?!? Well here I am batting a 1000 at failed relationships.” It was a throw-away comment which was supposed to be equal parts humorous and something else that I can’t remember anymore.

“Can I give you some coaching?” was her reply, to which I quickly said “sure”. Things had been going, blendery – as if the evening was being mixed on high and going all directions a once. The truth was, I knew that whatever was about to come-out of her mouth was going to change the course of my life. This was her first formal request to alter the path of history, the rest had been uninvited and simply just part of what two people do during a first date.

“Consider that you have had a series of successful relationships that taught you a lot and moved you towards now.”

My initial thought was to recoil and laugh, and point out the way me and various whats-her-names don’t see eye to eye anymore, but a few moments abated this into a dumb look on my face that got her to continue. “It’s about language Patrick, some of your language is powerful, it lifts and moves people, it’s exciting to hear because it shapes the future. Those words about failed relationships don’t belong with the rest of the things you say. Your words create feelings and those words are a dead stop in terms of possibilities.”

I wish I could have seen my face and body language at that moment because the entire evening had been a marvelous dialectic joust; to which I added nothing by replying “okay?”

“You can’t change your past, history has been written, but you can change the context very simply by selecting the words that empower and alter the narrative tone.”

Heather took the LandMark forum a month before I did, so we were already connected – this is one of the worlds new truths, there are those who took the forum and there is everyone else; there’s a third group containing those accepting enough of life to see it for the stories we tell but without a proper framework to place our history upon, it’s really difficult to bridge the gap between knowing your past is a story to believing it happened EXACTLY as we tell ourselves it did.

“Okay” was my next attempt to say something intelligible, then “so I’ll rephrase. I have had a series of amazing relationships with wonderful girls all of which taught me something that I needed to move me forward in my life.”

“Wow, that sounds enlightened, how does it make you feel?”

“Peaceful and calm, and strangely lighter.” This was true. It was a little over a month from completing the LandMark forum and while I was still riding the perspective bliss, reconnecting with my ex’s hadn’t re-framed the relationships completely. I wasn’t angry or anything, I had still been regarding them as experiences I should have ended sooner. But at this moment in time I was feeling settled. It didn’t matter which girl I looked back on, they had been amazing, our time had been well spend and I had learned a great deal from them and our time together.

What does this all mean?

Language is important, the stories we tell are impactful, what happened isn’t very important because it is subject to change. Yet for a very long time I had remained fixated on my memory of the events and believed that the stories I told about them were fairly accurate. Maybe they were I suppose, but the words I was using to tell the stories didn’t really do much to add a positive context to them. Sure, I became a compassionate person because I felt that being nice was the only way to make sure I fit in – my story of ridicule during my first day of class in Canada demonstrates this very well. But the context has changed. Becoming compassionate was a trait I developed to overcome the feeling that I didn’t belong, when I was 9 years old!

Now that I’m much older I get it. I’m able to use language to re-frame the past – to transport new resources back to that day – to give the younger me exactly what he needed to manage the situation more effectively. When Heather coached me to alter the story I was telling about sex, love and romance, she created a cascading tidal wave in my consciousness which flooded my unconscious mind.

EVERYTHING works out. Those things that occur that didn’t yield the result I was anticipating taught me something, those people who graced my life were my teachers / mentors for some lesson/s, life moves us forward and experiences shapes us, creating the opportunity for NOW. When we choose to use the language of empowerment, we are choosing to frame or re-frame these experiences in terms of us being the protagonist in our life. And that is a valuable lesson!

Silence Does Not Mean Compliance

A funny thing happens each week at the Break Throughs seminar at LandMark Education. The leader gives us the task of going out and recruiting people to participate in the LandMark Forum and then asks is anyone not going to do this?

I don’t do it because I’m not certain about the whole experience yet, the weekend was fine, the follow-up stuff has been a little less than satisfying, but that has more to do with the person I am vs. what is going on.

I also don’t say that I won’t do it because I had a feeling that you’ll get coached on who else to ask / invite. A girl last night did say she wasn’t going to do it and it panned out exactly as I had thought it would. 5 minutes of “coaching” on how to get more people enrolled. I laughed out loud and left the room.

Their approach of constantly asking us if we’ll bring people and the snubbed look they give when you voice your lack of appreciation for their marketing is why I won’t ask people to do. The information they provide is great, the lessons are useful and their coaching is decent, but there is too much network marketing for new people and not enough coaching for my liking.

I have talked to the leader but they are doing what they do so it continues to be what is, as it has been for a very long time.

There’s so much sales psychology involved in the whole thing that my head is spinning.

Maybe They Can’t Be

This post was written on my phone on March 23rd as I was sitting in my car waiting to go to the Landmark Forum after buying a coffee. It is funny to look back on because the weekend had already started to transform me before I set foot in the building.

I’ve often wondered why a cashier seems to be really nice to the mean person in front of me in line, the one who snaps “adequate” to her smiling “hi, how are you?” berates her for not letting them pay with VISA and barks “whatever” when they say “have a great day.”

My smiling “hi” seems to evoke the same sort of response from her as hers did of the mean person before me. Historically it has been a really challenge for me not to wear responsibility for her replies, but today at Starbucks the beautiful barista demonstrated that it had nothing ever to do with me.

Mean guy was beating off her legendary customer service. She kept it coming at him with happiness, unphased by what he was putting out in an effort to infect the world we share with his dark past. As he slugged away, seemingly more pissed that her spirit didn’t accept his *gift* I though “what is about to happen here doesn’t have anything to do with me.”

Me “hi! How are you?” with the pathologically happy smile that is becoming easier to start and harder to control lately.

Her “great! What can I get for you? How are you doing?” not reciprocating my smile but sharing the same smile she gave away to the mean guy.

This was not what buying coffee, groceries, clothes, etc… right after mean people usually is.

And it dawned on me. It is EXACTLY what is has always been like. It was never about me or them or mean guy personally. It’s about a baseline that is sometimes hard to muster, especially when someone is trying to paint you with their junk and their past.

The decaf coffee was delicious, as only it can be for someone who has just stopped smoking. The lesson was enjoyed more than the coffee!

My LandMark Forum Part 9 – The 6 Weeks Following

On the weekend of March 23, 24, 25 I attended the LandMark Forum in Toronto. It changed my life in a very profound way. I cannot credit all of the transformation I have and am undergoing on the weekend but it played a big role and remains a new starting point for my new being. I was more than 3 weeks into complete sobriety and the end of my compulsive behaviors and stopping as much as I stopped will change a human being very dramatically. I’ll just say that I was ready for the experience and the timing of the things couldn’t have been better.

My focus has been outstanding! I have a much cleared head that I ever remember and my thinking seems to be more effective. There are fewer open loops in my life because I am being integrity – whenever I realize that I’m drifting off course, I correct it as soon as I can.

My energy has never been better! When I am on purpose and just being, the energy of the universe just channels through me. Gravity seems to decrease and I almost float around. I know I’m off course when my energy level nose dives – time in the car is a lot more challenging than any other moments I live now – this is the opposite to what I was experiencing a few months ago when I would feel more alive when I was by myself driving.

My dreams are wild and anything but normal. This is what I have been expecting. I am not the same person I was before the LandMark Forum weekend. This is a battle going on in my brain to assimilate the world and universe into my antiquated world view. This takes time and each day I am faced with something new and many things that I find scary. I acknowledge that fear that exists, I accept that there is a survival benefit to trying to keep things as they are but that the universe does not remain static even for an instant. Emotions and dreams are the key ways – and are likely the fastest ways – to uncover what is going on in the unconscious mind. When I’m dreaming or feeling, something is matching or resonating with past memories. The nature of the match may not be clear, but there is information being given to my consciousness and it is irresponsible of me to ignore it.

I’m seeing where and why my life hasn’t turned out as I had hoped and as I am being integrity, my future actions become clearer. And some of the possibilities that fantastic – a sustainable relationship with a girl that adds value and enjoyment to both of our lives, being in a partnership that helps cause greatness in both of us – and the path to those possibilities is scary – my path to this moment, while a very real creation of myself, a product of my will for a specific future needs to change because my relationships are not working for me or the girls I date.

Life is scary, dangerous and when I embrace this, I become bold, fearless and indestructible. I speak frankly about this fear now, be it sitting in front of a new performance coaching client, a new or old girl friend, in front of a cycling class, my family, my friends, a stranger. I believe that life is lived fully when we acknowledge this fear and allow it to tune our performance up vs. shutting it down. I’m aware that I’m going to get rejected, have breakdowns, have things not go the way I want, but none of these things matter because they are always there and have always been a possibility. I may not want them to happen, but I grow more when things don’t go the way I had hoped they would. And I live more when I take the chance and start being the possibility of the life I am here to live.

My LandMark Forum Part 8 – Day Three, Part Two

I need to say the following though. Some people were destroyed by the weekend and not in the way I was destroyed. I died, I killed myself off because I am the possibility of a new being. That didn’t happen to some people. Some people were damaged by what they found out about themselves and this is part of why I am very reluctant to outright recommend EVERYONE take part in the Landmark Forum weekend.

I told my brother that he would gain from going there and he agree, but he also doesn’t need it. He’s emotionally intelligent, self-aware and everything that was covered in the weekend, he and I have talked about over pho during the last 15 years. His baseline is different than mine, he wasn’t lost and he had life understood early and had created the management skills well before the was 30. He would do what I did, engage other people and coach the heck out of them. He sees patterns faster than anything else and since he has no interest in doing what I do for a living, it would be a waste of a weekend.

I did attempt to directly enroll one person in the weekend and they didn’t want to talk to me. I understand why they don’t want to talk to me and I actually agree with them for this, but realize that the weekend would help them complete their past in a way that they haven’t been successful at up until we parted ways. There is nothing wrong with this person and, since we don’t connect very often and haven’t corrected our friendship, I wouldn’t directly suggest they attend. The stuff that comes out for some people requires a lot of therapy to manage and if there is a tendency towards avoidance or retreating, people shouldn’t attend. Once you see who you are, you cannot go back and MUST continue forward. Retreating back in to a past that you know is a lie causes serious damage.

A few of the people I recommend attend are in therapy so they are in a better place. I can say this with confidence, I am more value to the participants in the group than most of the people who volunteer their time; I have worked with people for more than a decade and am very effective. But I do part ways with some people and they are further along but damaged as a result of it. Months or years later we reconnect and the lessons are well received, but they needed to work stuff through. If you can afford therapy and have a good connection with your therapist this is a better option than a self help group.
Younger people would benefit from this because younger people have yet to be socialized ineffectively. The weekend is like a user guide for the mind and it is a solid foundation and those with a head start in this area will be much more successful simply because they’ll get to work much sooner.

Self-aware, emotionally intelligent and open minded people will benefit from the weekend because it will give you insight into your nature and offer up a lot of the skills needed to manage your mind, thoughts, complete the past and create the possibilities you need / want for your new being.

I will NEVER advocate strongly for someone to attend unless I am available to them in the evenings / mornings and during the day. I needed Des to coach me out of the thing I had on Saturday evening and while it isn’t his responsibility to help me with this, it saved me a lot of time and kept me on course. It was a tough hour before things fell into place again. I think Des knew what I would get out of the weekend before I went so he wasn’t surprised that I called. He is the most effective coach, teacher and mentor that I have and he did his thing with me so quickly on Saturday night that I’m still in awe of what he does.

My LandMark Forum Part 7 – Day Three, Part 1

I make something to eat and get a few fragments of sleep. My dreams are in overdrive yet am not more than just about asleep.

I wake-up laughing and can’t stop. Life is a big joke. Everything is a big joke. We’re $7 worth of carbon, big meats sacks blobbing our way around the earth as it spins around the sun, one of billions of stars in an enormous universe. Each of us is utterly worthless, existing only because we were born and life has a strong need to continue. I, like the walking dead guy, have manufactured the existence that I have been conditioned and then choose to believe I deserve. I can be anything and given my ability to manipulate I have been doing the jobs, participating the relationships and living the life that I am best suited for. Knowing that I created all of this closed the door on the past and opened the door to the possibilities of almost anything.

I’m 39 years old, unmarried, no children, limited dept, limited obligations, I ache when I am inauthentic, cruel or mean, I can read minds, strip people naked and control them, I am the most powerful person in the universe, one of a small group that float through time and space being of service to others while fearlessly acquiring little. I will die friendless and alone, and when I do, I will return to the earth to be broken down and reconstituted into something else. I am a general in the battle for human potential and I no longer ache when others do not achieve the freedom that is their possibility. I no longer seek to make people feel better and accept that in my wake will either be enlightened progressives or those highly committed to remaining stuck as they are blaming me instead of taking responsibility and walking through the door to a different future.

I float into Toronto, the weather is perfect, the roads are perfect, this is the first day of my life and I am younger than I have ever been, older than I ever thought possible and the same person as many of the people I have admired, read about and fantasized about being. There is nothing going through my mind but a feeling of contentment, satisfaction and safety. Everything that I have thought about the world is true, and false. It is as meaningful and meaningless as I want to make it. My memories can be fun, joyful reflective things or they can be oppressive punishing stories that milk the joy from my very being. I select the life I want to live, starting last night when Des laughed and I realized that I wasn’t going to die from the knowledge I got that I am a compassionate, manipulative, analyzer. The wisdom is out there, the choice has been made and my possibilities are endless because it’s all meaningless anyway. My body is made-up of the same particles that have existed since the beginning of time, in this form they exist for an instant. It doesn’t matter at all. I can make whatever purpose I like and have been doing this all of my life.

The room is filled with the same people, a few are different, a few are broken very badly, I can see their past, some have been raped, others molested, beaten, abandoned, rejected, taught negative love, or are simply young and insecure. All of them are beautiful and I love each of them. I approach and smile at a few, they smile back, taking something from the softness and twinkle in my eyes, almost basking in the safety of my energy. Touching their arms as we speak, I’m trying to given them some of what I’ve tapped into – the energy of the universe that flows freely when the AAT and rackets disappear. Some receive the gift, others seem taken back, I glide to a seat and the session begins.

There is value at this point, but less and less for me and more for the other people. I am present, alive, vibrant and of service to everyone and anyone. There are move conversations about language, stories we tell and chatter about what is coming-up before dinner this evening. I know it doesn’t matter, my transformation has begun, and it actually began when my mom asked me to not change anything until after my dad died and I didn’t change anything. I realized that because of who I am and what my strong traits are, I COULDN’T change anything until after he was gone. It simply would have been selfish and unfair to the entire family and that is not how I operate.

As we break for lunch I notice someone new. Standing there, tall, alive, clean shaven, hat-less and wearing really nice clothes is the greatest person I have ever met. The walking dead guy has clearly started act two.

“Wow, you look amazing, you look alive.”

There’s a huge smile on his face as he says “I feel amazing, I am alive!” We hug and he tells me the following:

“I went home and told my wife that I loved her for the first time ever. She asked me what it meant and I told her that it didn’t matter, all that was important was that I did and that I finally realize it. We chatted, we had breakfast, we were a family for a few short moments before I had to come here.”

I can leave now, I’m certain that my Landmark Forum weekend has begun and will never end until I return to the earth. But I’m going to stay. I’m having a fun like I used to when I was training clients and completely focused on them, like when I was working on a project with Ranger with a clear mind, like I was playing the last spring in Ireland before we moved to Canada, like I was talking with Rachel or Leigh or my family or one of my mentor friends. The present moment is a peaceful place to be, free of depression about the past, free from anxiety for the future and filled with energy like I’m in love and on fire!

Right before dinner, the big reveal and I’m laughing because it is obvious that the entire weekend has been building towards it. Des and I have been talking about it for years, I have always tried to get my clients, friends, romantic partners, any and everyone to see and accept it. Some accept it easily, others fight back trying to convince me of how wrong it is. But the science is solid and there is no refuting it. So I laugh, and laugh and laugh, and my laughing is starting to get to people. Much like my happiness, smiling and compassion towards people, my being makes some other people feel insecure, scared or fearful. I get up and walk to the back of the room, laughing. I catch eyes with someone else who feels the humor, he too is at the back of the room. We share a moment, it doesn’t matter, we’re the same person for that second in time, we ARE the moment.

The arguing beings and I’m captivated by watching human beings acting like human beings. The leader owns each and every people who tries to convince the group that the reveal is not accurate. I keep laughing. It’s like wack a mole watching peoples body language change as the reveal opens them up to the possibilities. They get taller, brighter and start smiling and laughing. I laugh, we leave for dinner, return, and I head home early. The graduation isn’t for me. I will never graduate. I am not the same as most people. My purpose in life is service to the universe, so service to myself. This was the start of my life, not just a weekend course.

My LandMark Forum Part 6 – Day Two, Part Three

For a long time I haven’t felt like I belong. For the most part I have felt only at ease around my immediate family and a few good friends. I’ve often felt that people either don’t like me or that I make them scared. I have often felt like I can read peoples minds and that I know what they are feeling and thinking. Des called me a reflector and commented that I likely have a lot of mirror neurons that allow me to experience more of what people are feeling than other people do. I don’t recall the entire conversation about this, but it did make sense. I do get into peoples heads very quickly and people open-up to me a lot more than they would with other people.

Some people make me sick though, almost physically sick and these tend to be manipulative toxic and emotionally void individuals. This is different from people who don’t like me or I don’t like, it’s people that darken my experience, offer no joy or effectively violate social norms in terms of matching transactional strokes. Someone calling me a dick or worse doesn’t impact me as someone who gives me nothing to reflect or causes me to feel black and empty. I hate being manipulated, it leaves me feeling gamed and when I feel it happening I am usually close to puking or voiding my bowels.

The last 45 minutes of day two were worth at least $1000, likely more, although I wouldn’t have believed it as they were happening.

I was riding a high. I was getting everything that was coming at me, I was rolling with the punches, learning the lessons, seeing myself in everything that people were saying. This was my Landmark Forum weekend and the universe had finally presented me on my path again. Then we started talking about strong traits – our go to ways of acting that help us cope with things that we don’t have the ability to cope with. I was pretty confident that passion was one of mine, it always seemed like I was passionate about things and I always liked the way it sounded – there’s a positive romantic feeling to it so saying it, and having people agree that I was passionate was nice.

Now for reason of copyright I’m not getting into the how, why and what of strong traits, but the leader asked us to think about them and then walked around the room getting us to say one of them. When I said “passionate” and he repeated “passionate” back to me, I got that sick feeling I get when someone is running a game on me. He continued around the room, but he could have jumped out the window for all I knew and cared, I was stuck in the moment of him repeating it back to me. I hated this guy; well, I hated the way I felt when he spoke to me. My body was telling me something that I needed to be aware of and deal with. I’ve had few moments as compelling at this one so I wasn’t going to waste it. I got up and walked to one of the staff and told them that I needed to talk to them. We left the big room and I then said “privately.” Once inside one of the smaller rooms the following conversation took place:

“What’s going on Patrick?”

“When ___ repeat passionate, I thought I was going to puke. That’s information to me, and I need to figure it out.”

“Okay, who does ___ remind you of?”

I take a moment before saying “to say my dad would be too simple, plus I liked my dad, he didn’t make me sick.”

“Okay.” Long pause.

“Some sort of authority figure, but to be honest, he reminds me of myself.” Pause before “but I’m a manipulative little prick.”

“___ is a manipulative person too” slight smile.

“Okay, what does that mean?”

“I can’t tell you.”

There is a moment or two and we return to the big room. The homework is assigned and I am the first person out the door and I’m likely already on the highway by the time anyone in the front row has made it to the back door. I’m upset, I’m not certain going to this thing was a good idea. I don’t know why I’m so spinning, but I don’t feel good at all. Psychologically wounded. I call Kate, she doesn’t answer, I call Des, he does. I tell him what has happened and he sort of laughs.

“Good, you’re laughing, I’m not going to die.” He says something to the effect of “yeah you will, but not tonight or because of this.” We chat about my manipulation, how it has been there as long as he has known me, how my folks have had to deal with it for most of my life, how there have been very few people in my life who haven’t had me do it to them and how he’s immune to it, but only because he feels it and calls me on it.

“Maybe this is why I was doing all of the compulsive stuff, why I was getting sick so much towards the end of my last few relationships, why I was always trying to alter the way I looked.” His reply of “maybe, but stay with it for a while, you’re on to something and to consider the possibilities” was what I needed.

“But I’m not a dick, I tend to act in the best interests of people, particularly if they enroll me in helping them. I’m caring and compassionate.”

“Yes, you aren’t a bad guy. You feel shittie when you hurt people or do things that aren’t win:win. Stay with these things Pat, there’s a lot that’s coming out.”

We get off the phone and I swim in the possibilities. I end up talking with Kate and, by this point, it has hit me. Yes, I am a manipulative person, I’m extremely analytical and I have a lot of compassion. I feel like dirt when I am mean to people and my spontaneous actions are towards fairness, compassion and helping. But I am ruthlessly controlling and extremely effective at getting what I want. I always get what I want. I am hard pressed to remember a time when I didn’t get what I want. Even the things that I consciously don’t think I wanted, I unconsciously wanted. Even the things that I say I want and don’t get end-up make my life move forward. Be it the start of something, the end of something, the possibility of something or the end of the possibility of something, ALL of it moves my life forward and, if someone is with me, it will move them towards the things they say they want.

My Strongest Trait – Analysis – Why My Relationships Breakdown

My interpersonal relationships began to go wrong when I started to suffer depression a year after Natalie died. My analytical strong trait developed as a way to cope with the feeling of being alone after Natalie broke-up with me and then died. It didn’t take hold until about a year later when my depression faded. I had been working diligently to uncover a solution to my grief and confusion and found that everything could be altered by changing the context. Life was then simple because all I needed to do was understand enough to change the context.

My relationship with Natalie was normal for a first relationship. Fun, passionate and fearless. The first part of it with Leigh was the same, along with spontaneous. But after the depression, I started to analyze things in a way to fix them. It’s a truism that a human being will stop what they are doing spontaneously EACH AND EVERY time something goes wrong. Most of our coping strategies are attempts to fix or avoid the things that we judge to be wrong.

I became and remain effective at identifying the things that aren’t working. This isn’t a problem for the most part, it made me an effective manager and trainer, and now serves me well as a performance coach, but it creates challenges that many people do not face with their relationships given that I’ll usually try to fix as opposed to accept my partners for who and what they are or graciously part ways with them. I work aggressively to correct the things I judge to be wrong; and with an alienating intensity that makes people back away. It will be even worse when someone mentions that they like to be challenged because I’m immediately enrolled in the process of their future optimization.

I LOVE the analysis! Human beings are programmed to find being right to be rewarding – we get jolt of neurotransmitters with every right answer we get or with every pattern we match. It stands to reason why I do this because I’m able to identify things that are wrong and get rewarded. But there is one major flaw in this which makes it unworkable in my interpersonal relationships – there is nothing wrong with the girls I date. All of them are amazing, highly intelligent people and are very highly functioning. Some optimization may be possible, but it isn’t needed. The types of people who are drawn to me tend to be fairly self aware, bright, articulate and passionate. They are looking for spontaneous partnerships and NOT a tune-up.

It’s clear that my strongest trait, the one that developed to keep me alive and reorganize my life after the almost unmanageable trauma of the premature and unexpected death of a loved one, served its purpose well. I’ve used it countless time to manage lesser traumas, a number of tough break-ups, and, ironically, it seems to be the cause of a greater amount of pain in my relationships than it now prevents. It’s a fantastic tool for work, I can uncover the things that aren’t working for my clients quickly and almost effortlessly. Efficient service and exceptional value are two things that clients deserve, but they are things that girl friends tend not to be in the market for.

My future is loaded with possibilities that didn’t exist before and in many ways they exist because of my strongest trait of analysis. My career has started and I’m closer to fulfilling my purpose. The quality of my relationships can improve with the expression of this trait outside of the context of them. For this piece of knowledge, I am grateful!

My LandMark Forum Part 5 – Day Two, Part Two

On the way back from lunch I saw the walking dead guy. He looked the same, different clothes, but same hat and look of not giving a toss about anything. I say to him “hi, is this making anymore sense to you?” and he replies “no, not really.” He wasn’t dead, he was actually very engaging in his 3 word reply so I asked him if he wanted to chat a little because it was making some sense to me. To my surprise he said “yeah, that’d be cool.” We’ve got about 20 minutes before the next session begins so we head upstairs to chat.

I had no idea what was about to happen, I had little concept of what was capable of coming out of my mouth or my mind or that I was about to be changed. Friendly small talk on the way up in the elevator and we go into one of the big conference rooms were a lot of people are talking, eating and being all LandMarky.

“So, what’s going on” I say as I turn my chair to face him. He turns his to face me – this is odd, no one else this weekend had done this. I have a way of leaning into people when I’m trying to open them up and they almost end-up wearing me like a bulky Irish sweater. He did almost the same thing and begins to talk. He was born in a different country and moved to Canada when he was 9 with his mom. At 13 he gets HIV from blood because of an illness and the lack of appropriate testing at the time. His mom dies a few months before they would have become Canadians citizen (I believe they were refuges), he goes to live with is uncle who make the decision to not adopt him. The principle of his school outs his HIV status with gets him effectively kicked out of school. Not being a citizen or permanent resident the government denies his health care but allows him to stay in the country because is HIV wasn’t his fault. The doctors tell him that, without treatment, he will be dead in a few years and that there’s no way he’ll see 30.

I can hardly believe what I’m hearing and ask “how old are you?” “37″ and he continues. He didn’t know what else to do so he got a job, an apartment, some junky friends and got wickedly high to ride out life. Not point in doing anything because the doctors have told him he’s going to be dead before he can make something of himself.

Well, I don’t know what else to do but listen, analyze and try to figure-out when I can do my thing. Keep him talking is my first notion. He’s still alive so that’s something.

“That’s fu(ked-up.” Not my shining moment in coaching, but honestly, I couldn’t say “check please” and walk away so I went blue. “Yeah, but then I turned 30 and I wasn’t dead and I didn’t seem like I was going to die so I stopped getting high and just sort of wondered what do to next.”


“Well, I met a girl, we feel in love and, not having a problem with my status she married me.” They moved to BC to get away from his junky friends and to get him the chance to clean-up. But his immune system was beginning to dip and when he ended-up in hospital with pneumonia, it looked like HIV was going to take him down. But it didn’t, and was he was recovering, a doctor asked him about ARV medication stating that he was “the one in 100000″ that caught a break and lived long enough to get a chance to get them.” His viral load is non-existent, he and his wife had a child and they moved back to Ontario.

This is my opening so I launch, “can I say something?” “Sure.”

“I’m talking to a corpse. You are dead and this is overtime. The doctors gave you till 30 and you lived until 30. But your body wouldn’t die so here you are. You are a god damn miracle, except you didn’t plan on being here and you have no idea how to enjoy life. You moved from a different country, had your mom died, got poisoned by the government, neglected by your uncle, outed by the school and lied to my the very institution that killed you when they said you would be dead a decade ago. Your so messed-up because you’ve started act two of your life and never learned how to live at all.”

Pause, it was registering, but not enough for him to break the silence so I re-up and go again. “You did the very thing that anyone would do in your situation, you packed in as much fun as you could because it didn’t matter, you were dead anyway. But you didn’t die and when it got boring you stopped. But what skills do you have, what method for enjoying live did you find other than getting high?”


“So that’s why you are here. You are here to learn that you have lived a perfect live, done the perfect things based on the information you had. Created the perfect future based on what you knew. But it was all bullshit because your body didn’t do what it was supposed to do in-spite of the fact that you worked it over. You have no purpose because you are dead. This is all screwed-up because you were supposed to be gone a long time ago and your brain hasn’t been able to figure stuff out.” This got him, there was a change in everything about him. It started with a smile, then his posture changed, then he became excited. “You just need to figure-out what you want to do with your life and then do it. Do you cook, exercise, have you hiked, can you start a support group, can you have this conversation that we have just had with other people, …”

It was on him now. He was awake and alive again and, frankly, I had a hand in it and for that I took out of it that I am special. Not because I am particularly amazing, I am, but that’s not what it is. I am special because I see the possibilities in a way that most other people won’t aggressive attack people with. I didn’t give him sympathy, I didn’t set out to make him feel better, I set out to make this Landmark Forum weekend work. I didn’t have an idea what I was going to get into and, if I had, I don’t think I would had started the conversation. I was scared to death once it got going because it was scary. I wasn’t afraid of HIV, I was afraid of the conversation. Frankly, he is a bigger person than I am, he is a greater person than will ever be. I am a simple general in the battle for human potential who is naked, bold and fearlessly authentic in their quest.

We hugged, he thanked me for his rebirth, I thanked him because he had let me run my game and been open enough to the coaching, feedback, and thought and emotional manipulation that seems to come very easily to me. We parted ways and I felt pretty good about the universe. There was a moment when I thought to myself “you need to leave now, this weekend is complete. Performance coaching is something you have been doing for a long time.”

I stayed, stuff continued, and when I went out to my car for dinner, I noticed glass around on of the tires and it looked like it was going flat. This was a pisser that I couldn’t shake as I went back for the final couple of hours. Thoughts of me leaving at 10 to a car with a flat tire stayed with me until about 9:15 when my world got vaporized.

My LandMark Forum Part 4 – Day Two, Part One

I did not sleep well, which is to say, I had the most magnificent dreams and was so excited and glowy all night that I didn’t really get more than 30 minutes of sleep in a row. The alarm when off and sprang-up, showered, got dressed, did more of my homework, made lunch, went shopping for food and drove into Toronto.

I was tired, but not drained. The truth is, I had found a source of energy that I couldn’t adequately explain. It was a contained, calm but focused energy that hasn’t left me and that I have come to describe as the vitality of living in the moment – I get very little sleep now yet have this same energy when I am in the moment and feel as tired as I am when I’m off purpose or out of the moment.

Admittedly I was a little cocky. I felt fantastic and completely connected to most of the people. I was beaming, smiling and saying hi to people and, with each person who said hi back I felt more alive and with each one that didn’t I instantly saw their past, the life they had lived and the fact that I was either scary, dangerous, both or they were afraid. I cared enough to feel sad that they were not as happy as I was, but knew that I could help them if they were open to it. I said hi to the leader asked him a question which is answered with one word and turned away.

I felt sick, put right off. “What the hell was that?” I thought. It was kind of rude and since my cheque had cleared I had been anticipating something different. “I really don’t like that guy at all” was my thought as I took my seat.

Things began and I honestly have very little recollection of what was going on for the first part of it. I had been gamed or something and was wildly unsettled. We reviewed our homework and it was about making peace with someone in our past with whom we had allowed our lack of authenticity or a racket to leave things incomplete. At it turns out, most of the people in the room had issues with their parents or an ex. Okay, that’s bull crap, they had issues with themselves, specifically their lack of responsibility and their need to blame others for their place in life. This was a decent section for me, I had made peace with everyone in my life and all but one person had accepted my apology and given me forgiveness. Des has encouraged me to consider steps 8 and 9 of AA Twelve Step Program at the beginning of March to help me move on from an slightly tangled past. I accepted that rejecting forgiveness is a keen way to say locked in the past and made the decision to leave them there.

The sharing during this portion was me thinking stuff that was almost completely over the top. Still ringing in my head was the “I don’t want to make you feel better, I want to set you free” comment from the night before. I listened openly to what the people were saying an instantly heard the child in each of them. It was sickening the lack of responsibility that some of these people were taking for their own lives. This is common so the leader asked everyone who was 23 or younger to stand-up. There rest of us were then asked to look at them and, as we did, the leader said “this is what most of your parents looked like when you were born.” I broke-down. I’m almost 20 years older than my mom was when she became a mom, am 15 years older than my dad was, and I have been a complete asshole in some of the things I have thought about my parents. A complete judgmental asshole. I’ve had the luxury of spending 15 years reading, learning, and living life while my folks would have been raising Des and me. He sealed the moment with “if you are here it is because your parents were successful. Their job is to keep you alive until you are an adult.”

The sharing with partners began and I listened to someone bitch about their mother and younger sister for 2 minutes, when it was my turn I asked her to continue, which they did and, with about 30 seconds left I said “can I tell you want I’m hearing?” With their permission I unloaded the truth and did not make someone feel better. I told them that ignoring her mother for 3 months is the best way to let a parent know that they did a shittie job, that her younger sibling mistreating her mother was likely learned from the older sibling (her) and that, if she really wanted to feel good about herself that maybe she should call her mom, and apologize for acting like ungrateful child, poisoning the families sense of love and having the nerve to blame it on her. “You’ll be free the very minute you ask her for forgiveness, say I have no idea what it would be like to have your oldest daughter ignore you and then listen to her tell you what it was like. You’ve screwed up pretty bad here and if your first call at lunch isn’t to your mother it’s now on you because this is the way the world is.”

At lunch I called my mom and asked her when was the last time I told her that she and my father had done a great job with me and my brother. “The other morning” was her reply. We were both smiling and she told me she loved me and hoped I was having a good weekend. I didn’t call my old friend because I had already talked to her and didn’t see any value in repeating myself.