Here’s a little fable that I first read years ago in a book called Life 101 by Peter McWilliams. I have heard the story in other places since so I don’t know if McWilliams came up with it but its one of my favorites.
So god really wanted to give humans a gift of the secret of happiness but he didn’t want to just hand it over. He wanted to hide it somewhere where everyone could get to it but they wouldn’t find it easily.
He delegated the hiding job to a group of angels and then went to play frisbee at the beach with his kids.
So the angels talked it over and came up with some ideas. “Let’s hide it on top of the highest mountain!” said one. The others pointed out that eventually humans would climb to the highest mountain and find it. Then inevitably someone would keep it for themselves.
Another suggested hiding it under the ocean and a third suggested putting it on the moon or on another planet. These ideas were rejected because, while humans would eventually get to these places, neither one would be accessible to everyone. Not everyone could swim for example.
They considered hiding it in caves and closets or in deserts or under piles of laundry. None of these places were just right.
Then the wisest angel snapped it’s fingers and said “I’ve got it. We’ll hide in in a place that is so obvious they’ll never think to look there. It’s a place that everyone can access.”
“Where is this place?” the others asked.
The wisest angel had been watching humans and had been involved in the early design meetings so this angel really knew humans. The Angel explained “We’ll hide the gift in plain sight, everywhere, right now. To make it even harder for them to find it we’ll label the gift so it’s really obvious. Then they’ll ignore it entirely.”
“What will we call it?” the others asked.
“We’ll call it The Present.”
The other day I came across this quote from Alan Watts. He said
“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions, and ideas.”
This is what I realized long ago. When I am unhappy or upset or worried it’s because I am thinking about the past or the future. When I am completely involved in the present I am blissfully happy. This is why playing sports is fun. This is why I love doing improv. This is why playing music feels really good when you’re fully involved in it.
This works on the macro level. Nothing from the past and future needs to keep you from making this day, this week and even this year fantastic.
On the micro level, you can take a deep breath right now and experience the present. This is where bliss lives. This is the aim of Zen, to really be present to the present without thoughts of the past or worries about the future. This is surprisingly hard to do for more than a few seconds at a time but that’s the goal of meditation.
I’ve heard a lot of people say they can’t meditate because their mind keeps spinning. Here is the truth. I’m not sure if this is encouraging or disheartening but it certainly blows away the idea that some people can’t meditate because their minds are too active. Everyone mind is too active. You’re not special. No one can stay in the present. Let me tell you a story that illustrates that. Genjo Marinello was an old friend of mind and is now the Abbot of the Zen Temple in Seattle where I started my practice. Genjo told me once that he meditated every morning for 90 minutes and every evening for 60 minutes and meditated several times a day with clients (he’s also a psychotherapist). He said in all that daily time he spends trying to focus on the present without thinking he feels lucky if he has one or two “good breaths.” Now Genjo has since been declared a Dharma heir so maybe all that zazen has turned him into a Bodhisattva who is always in the present moment but the point is that meditation is not about doing it right. It’s about trying to do it. Tara Brach suggests that the real point is not staying in the present moment but rather getting in the habit of noticing that you’re not in the present and refocusing on it. Brad Warner, my new favorite writer about Buddhism and founder of the Angel City Zen Center which is located in Los Angeles and, ironically, somewhere in my future plans, compares staying in the present to riding a surfboard. It’s great when you’re on it but it takes concentration to stay there and inevitably you’re going to fall off.
So take a moment right now to appreciate right now. Do that as much as you can. That’s where happiness is hidden.
Simply put, I want to make my living doing what I was born to do.
What i was born to do is to entertain, delight and inspire people.
I keep trying to struggle with this statement but it’s really simple for me.
There are a lot of reasons why I’m not currently doing this. Basically it comes down to a bunch of choices I made over the years that led me to where I am now.
Unpacking and understanding those decisions and the unconscious motivations behind them are a topic for another time. Today is the second day of the new year so its time to look forward and get into action.
My plan this year is to use the platforms I have built over the past months and use them as a public diary of my journey and to entertain, delight and inspire people as I do.
So when you tune in to a face cast or read my blog I want you to get value for yourself as i experiment with techniques, tricks, tips and technology to get where I’m going.
All of this will done using the framework of the Three Simple Steps.
The three steps are step back, step up and step forward.
Step back is about defining goals, purpose and direction.
Step up is about responsibility and accountability.
Step forward is about taking action and staying in action.
These are not 3 steps that are taken in order once. These are three steps that are done in a continuous dance.
The idea is to be moving forward. Taking actions that lead to accomplishing goals. Of course goals change and there are challenges that keep us from taking action. it’s important, for example, to keep stepping back to make sure we have the big picture in mind and are going in the right direction as we step forward. If you have a commitment to walk a mile everyday or call your mother every week and you’re not doing it you revisit the Step Up step to look at why you’re not doing what you said you would to and how you can set up structures to support the actions you want to take.
Over the years and especially over the past 6 months i have been thinking a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
Here is an simple overview of what I’ve concluded boiled down into useful nuggets.
To get somewhere it’s best to know where you are going.
Action leads to inspiration, not the other way around.
Change your mind and you can change the world.
The only scarce resource is time.
It is very easy to spend all your time being entertained and distracted
Taking care of your body and mind should be your first priority.
You can only do one thing at a time effectively
Guilt and shame are usually not very helpful and, unless they motivate you to take positive action, they should be set aside.
Other people are the key ingredient to your success.
Let me expand on these a tiny bit.
To get somewhere it’s best to know where you’re going
Defining goals is hugely important because once you really understand where you want to go you might change the actions that you want to take.
– Goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and bound by time.
– Once you have a goal you can work on a plan to reach that goal and start working on it.
– Once you have a goal you can tell people about that goal so they can help your reach it.
– Once you have a goal you can figure out shortcuts to reach that goal
Action leads to inspiration, not the other way around.
Action changes your mind.
“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” – Millard Fuller
Let me prove this to you. Take a second to to inventory of how you feel physically and emotionally right now. Just notice how you feel.
Now close your eyes and take three deep breaths, focusing on your breath as you do it.
Now smile, make sure the smile crinkles your eyes.
Now do a silly dance for 5 seconds. Make sure you wiggle your hips a little.
How do you feel now?
Change your mind and you can change the world
Reality may be immutable at some level but your perception of reality produces your experience of life and defines what you are willing to do. Humans are meaning making machines and we change our experience of reality with our beliefs on a profound level. The effect of the placebo effect is astonishing for example. If you strongly believe that the ocean is full of deadly sharks there is no way you will go swimming in it everyday. If you believe that doing a triathlon is impossible you will not do a triathlon (etc…).
“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, either way you’re right.” – Henry Ford
This is not to say that you should live a life of delusional optimism BUT it’s worth noting that the people who change the world, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Christopher Columbus were delusional optimists. Optimists are more likely to take action.
On a more esoteric level it’s worth noting that quantum theory says that reality is actually defined by observation. The particles that make up the world act differently, as either waves or particles, depending on how we look at them. This is profoundly weird and has been confirmed by experiment in 2015.
I don’t think the final 6 points need to be expanded on or explained or argued for at this time. Basically they boil down to this.
When you want to get something done you have a limited amount of time to do it so its best to be as efficient and effective as possible.
If you let guilt and shame keep you from action you will be less effective.
If you spend your time being entertained or distracted you will be less effective
If you focus on one thing at a time you will be more effective.
If your mind and body are healthy you’ll be more effective.
If you get help you multiply your ability to accomplish something.
My Action Plan
I think that the best way to get where I’m going is to focus on 3 things i want to accomplish over a two week period. These things will be aligned with my over arching goal of making my living as a content creator. There will be other goals and milestones that will be part of that goal over the coming year.
Along with my overarching career goal that I have for this year, I also have a an overarching goal of taking care of my body, mind and community. There will be goals that will be related to those goals as well.
I will also commit to 3 habits that I want either change, start or strengthen.
I am going to I am going to publish a blog post Sunday night every week. In that post I will offer observations and tips and ideas. I will also define my 3 goals that I want to focus on for the fortnight and 3 habits that I want to work on.
Monday morning I’ll go over the highlights of the post and offer a valuable thought or tip to help you have a a great week.
Tuesday will be the Tuesday Trivia Show.
Wednesday will be Wild Card Wednesday. I might go for a walk or do an interview or do a workout or something wild.
Thursday will be a check in on the current experiment. How are the actions going?
Friday will be the Morning Dance Party.
What’s in it for you?
My hope is that you and many others will join me in defining 3 goals and 3 habits two work on every two weeks and that my sharing will provide insights and inspiration. I hope to start a constructive conversation and an engaged community. I hope that you will join me.
I am setting a big goal for the new year and I invite you to do the same.
I will be setting 3 interim goals or milestones and focusing on 3 habits every 2 weeks and reporting on them here and on the facebook page.
I will be creating an engaged community around setting and reaching goals and i want you to be part of it.
Three Steps to
Set a big goal for 2017
Set 3 small goals for the next 2 weeks and 3 habits you want to strengthen or change.
Share them with friends and in the comment section below.