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Self-Worth

Thoughts on Anxiety

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The title of this post is intentionally ironic. Considering that thinking is exactly what causes anxiety. None the less, this is an important topic because anxiety effects roughly 40 million Americans over 18.

I am one of them. I didn’t know what to call it until later in life, but I’ve dealt with anxiety as far back as I can remember. Varying from gripping panic to the constant hum of unease, anxiety has been a frequent visitor. I remember having panic attacks so severe that I would pass out. I’m certain that my anxiety comes from being born into a situation that constantly immersed me in hyper-threat alert mode.

So I don’t arrive at these thoughts on anxiety lightly and without experience. I have been my own lab, my own research project, my own source of empirical data. To be clear, these thoughts are what have been of help to me and those I coach and mentor. They may not work for you. I am not a therapist, psychologist or any other sort of mental health professional.

  • Anxiety is yours. You own it. And if you begin thinking it’s someone else’s responsibility to fix it, you become its slave.
  • No one or no thing actually causes anxiety. Anxiety is entirely an inside game; a construct of the mind/ego. As I overheard recently, “the ego believes all of its stories”.
  • Anxiety is trying to protect you. It comes from thousands (maybe millions) of years of evolutionary biology to protect, to survive. But it doesn’t mean something is actually wrong. True danger triggers several responses, but anxiety isn’t one of them.
  • You are not your anxiety. In Internal Family System (IFS) behavioral theory, anxiety is a “part” that your psyche created to protect your core self. As I mentioned above, this is why it is trying to protect you. I call this part of me “The Parameter Dog”. On occasion, it still barks at perceived threats — but mostly he just works (once understood, anxiety becomes a fairly decent motivator) or rests like any herding animal.
  • Anxiety’s only cure is action. You can’t think your way out of anxiety. That’s why when dealing with anxiety or apanic attack, you’ve got to move. This includes sitting/standing up straight with your shoulders back and your breath even. Or push ups. Or a punching bag. Just move.
  • Anxiety comes from the same part of the brain as addiction. So anxiety can fairly easily trigger addictive behavior — especially an addiction to coping mechanisms. This could be relatively benign coping mechanisms like NetFlix binging. Or highly destructive and corrosive mechanisms like drug abuse, excessive consumption of pornography, excessive shopping, excessive eating… to name just a few business models that rely on anxiety.
  • Anxiety is heavily influenced by our attachment style. This includes the spiritual aspects of attachment that were taught by Jesus and Buddha as well as the emerging psychological science of attachment. In essence, we have a pre-disposition to either anxious, avoidant or healthy attachment styles. Anxiety plays a major role in the lives of anxious and avoidant attachment styles. If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend this book.
  • Remember this mantra: Ownership > Anxiety. This loops back to my first thought I shared. You don’t choose anxiety but you do choose how you react to it. Own that you have anxiety. Own your current reaction to it. Own the action you want to take. Own the search for the root cause. Own how it effects how others interact with you.

If you deal with anxiety or love someone that does, I hope these thoughts are helpful. And if you have your own tips and hacks for anxiety, please share them in the comments.

Being in a Doing World

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For me, the gravitational pull of the extrinsic and external is my greatest source of anxiety. This sense of detachment from my inner self produces a sense of untetheredness. It makes me overly-sensitive, over-reactive. In this state, I tend to modify myself in order to get acceptance. I pursue what I think will make me happy — forgetting that I’m already happy.

In simple but true terms, “doing” is extrinsic and “being” is intrinsic. Doing is an external activity. Being is an internal state of consciousness.

Similar to the war on self-worth (a future topic), the pull of the extrinsic manifests in several ways in my life. Maybe some of these will resonate with your own experience.

  • I often find myself trying to see how others see me. This puts me in the doing mode of creating an image. I want others to see me as successful, attractive, confident, enlightened. So my energy is focused on doing whatever is necessary to create this image. To be intrinsic is to be your true self in any situation or any condition. There is no doing here. Just a sense of being; of connectedness to your own self-worth. This intrinsic place is fleeting for me.
  • I frequently attach way too much value to to my to-do list. It literally has the word “do” in it! While certainly things need to get done, I must be cautious of the highly addictive solidity of task. The mind loves the sense of meaning and value of getting things done. This is the essence of what it means to be a workaholic. There will always be something on the to-do list. But to combat it’s narcotic effect, I also need a “To-Be” list. This would include things like being connected to God, being compassionate towards others, being open to adventure. The list is endless.
  • I know I’m in a high state of extrinsic doing when I am worrying about what other people are doing. The irony is rich. I am making my doing about what other people are doing. In this place lies obsession, lust, resentment, judgement. It is a detachment from the humanity of others because doing detaches me from my own humanity. There is a place for being when it comes to others. This would include observation, curiosity, connecting. Being is looking beneath the surface of the behavior of others to understand and listen to their souls.

Like almost everything in life, the solution is awareness. And awareness comes from asking good questions. Like …

Am I grounded in my soul or grasping for attention?

Am I loving people where they are or judging them from afar?

Am I seeking the root or chasing the fruit?

Can I look into someones eyes — including my own?

Doing is ultimately self-absorption. This is sometimes necessary at a survival level. That’s why its gravitational pull is so strong. But there’s no growth here. The to-do list just changes.

Being is ultimately self-worthiness. It’s the surety of knowing that you are connected to permanent things like love, truth, goodness, creativity. Our soul is wired to need these things. And this is most certainly where growth is. The to-be list just expands.

 

The Bravest Coward

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I’m 6’3″ 250 now — but I was a frail kid. Migraines, fainting spells, anxiety — and physically a weakling. I was tall but skinny. I couldn’t do push ups, pull-ups (which I still can’t do!) and could barely lift the bar on the bench press was I was 16. So physical strength was not something I knew until my 30s when I started lifting weights.

I had daily reminders of my lack of physical strength and stamina. Slow and awkward at recess games. Unable to lift irrigation pipes, saddles, close wire gates on the ranch. Bullied at school by kids whose own insecurities seemed to be attracted to whatever kick-my-ass pheromone my little body was releasing.

That frail Justin remains in me today at nearly 48 years old. My first reaction to any physical activity or challenge is “I can’t do this” or “I’m going to suck at this”. When I do physical things in a group, I assume that I will be amongst the laggards.

The past few years, I’ve returned to my true self, the original me. Yet to get there has required me to examine these other parts. (For more info on this approach, check out this article on Internal Family Systems). I’ve avoided this frail Justin part because … well … I don’t like him. I’ve buried him so deep in me because I’ve been afraid he would come back. But he never left and I never took the time to get to know him until recently.

In re-examining my journey, I saw that frail Justin was the bravest coward I’ve ever known. Despite feeling weak, fragile, puny and cowardly, he did a number of brave things:

  • In a 6th grade football game at recess, I saw that Todd Chavez (one of the better athletes — and also a frequent contributor to my misery) was about to blitz. I moved over to block him. And I sort of did. In the collision, I received a black eye and concussion — but he didn’t get to the QB.
  • I spent hundreds of hours outside at the ranch. There were all kinds of ways to get injured (which I did frequently) or even killed. I remember each day making a list of all the things that might hurt me — with the most imaginative stories. Like imagining what I would do if I stumbled across a hive of killer bees. Or if a serial killer showed up and held my family hostage. Or the Russians invaded (Thank you, Red Dawn!). But I did it all anyway. I rode horses and got bucked off, I rode motorcycles and wrecked them, I worked as an adult, I broke bones.
  • My sophomore year in high school. Walking down senior hall, I was suddenly surrounded by a group of bullies straight out of casting central of an 80s teen movie. Mullets, acne, chew tucked in to their lower lips, all sporting t-shirts from heavy metal bands. They started pushing me around; shoving me from one to another in their circle. Then something in me snapped. For the first time in my life, I fought back. I remember thinking, “they might kill me, but I’m taking a few of them with me.” And I fought back like the cornered animal I was. Throwing an elbow into the balls of one of them that jumped on my back. Kneeing another one in the face. Punching another one in the throat. They all got suspended (one expelled from the school) and I was — for a few days — a hero.
  • My junior year in high school, I went out for football. I was 5’11, 125 pounds and ran a 6.85 40 (in case you were wondering, turtles are faster). I got destroyed in tackling drills, I puked during the conditioning — and when the season started, I played a grand total of 5 plays for the entire season. One day in practice, the head coach (more than a little crazy) decided to pit the bigger offensive/defensive lineman against some of the smaller kids on the team. One of them was Steve Woodcock. An 18-year who looked 28 with a full beard and mean temper. The coach yelled at Woodcock “If you let Foster tackle you, then we all run sprints”. Here he came. He outweighed me by probably 100 pounds so I knew I couldn’t take him head on. So I decided to jump on his chest. I wove my fingers into his practice jersey and held on. He tried to push me off but couldn’t. As we neared the goal line, I began to slip. Which caused him to trip and fall on top of me about one yard from the end zone. With a spewing of profanity and threats, we all ran sprints. And it was probably the only time I’ve ever run with a smile on my face.

There were many other brave things. Stories maybe for another time. But in my 20s, 30s and into my early 40s, I kept that Justin tucked away in a dark corner; a distant memory. A reminder of what I did not want to become ever again. I covered him up with size, strength, bravado, brashness. But he was still there.

And in the last year, he came out again. But I noticed something this time. He was still brave. Brave enough to move to an entirely new state and start over after 20 years. Brave enough to walk away from the church I attended for pretty much my entire life. Brave enough to start a (another) new business. Brave enough to accept my life-long partner/wife’s awakening of who she truly is. Terrified by all of this, he did it all anyway.

Yes, this Justin is weak. Thank goodness. I’m more certain than ever that our weaknesses are designed to make us ask for help, keep us humble. I would much rather have a powerful soul and a frail body than a frail soul and a powerful body. I would not have known this without my weaknesses. I would not have asked God for help. I would not have gone back to therapy. I would have not spoken the truth if not for these weaknesses.

Of course, there are parts of me that I’m very proud of: being a dad, speaking skills, coaching/mentoring, strategic thinking, owning a business, writing intellect, etc. These things have fueled my confidence for years. And they still do. But added to this is a growing acceptance and confidence of this frail Justin. The bravest coward I’ve ever met.

How Do You Become an Original Thinker?

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Steven Pinker: A contemporary example of an original thinker.

I had recently gave a breakfast talk to a group of finance/ops executives in Austin. The presentation was called “How You Lead is Your Brand” and it made the case that leadership and brand are directly connected. I proposed that brand is no longer just an external construct but the cumulative result of leadership beliefs, behaviors and standards. As part of my presentation, I proposed that we need a new kind of leader in this post-industrial age era we call the Human Age. One of the traits of this leader is to be an original thinker.

One of the attendees reached out to me and asked to meet for coffee. We met up this morning and in the course of our visit he asked me this question:“How do you become an original thinker?” I thought this was a great question so wanted to share my response to his question.

First, there are two primary indicators that you are an original thinker:

  • Original thinkers have original ideas. People frequently tell you “I’ve never thought of that before!” We live in an information-saturated world full of meme-madness and a parroting of books, “inspirational quotes” and the ilk — what I call being a karaoke singer. Original thinkers are not fans or followers of any particular thought-leader. Of course, they will be inspired and even admire certain figures, but they see themselves as peers not groupies.

The ideas of an original thinker are often heretical and threatening to the status quo, which leads to this trait …

  • Original thinkers are immune to identity politics and refuse to be jammed in to any particular box. As such, original thinkers frequently offend conventional wisdom, corporate institutionalists, political ideologues, religious dogmatists and politically correct “social justice warriors”. This produces an array of reflexive and under-thinking haters and trolls that will try to silence them or mis-label them.

Now back to my new friend’s question on HOW …

The first step is to go inward. When coaching people on original thinking, I/we start with three questions:

  1. What have you always known to be true? (What did you know that you weren’t taught)
  2. What idea or principle would you be willing to commit civil disobedience over? (I asked this in my talk)
  3. Who will you most offend? (See above!)

The second step is to pick up some specific skills — like learning to confidently speaking on your ideas, becoming a prolific creator/sharer of original content, learning to relate with every human that crosses your path, embracing the discipline of reading, becoming a master of personal growth and more.

The third step is to begin to express your ideas. This could be speaking up in a meeting, challenging a teacher in class, pushing back against dogma in a conversation. It could be starting a blog, writing a book, teaching a workshop. Regardless of format, just start expressing! Life will present you many opportunities to share your ideas, but you must be willing to do so.

Finally, an original thinker thrives on being uncomfortable through self-examination, skepticism and questioning everything. This includes being physically uncomfortable at times (it’s no coincidence that most original thinkers frequently take cold showers!) It is nearly impossible to become an original thinker by being in comfort mode — drifting through life with a maintenance mindset. All of which numbs the mind and the soul and robs you of original thought.

Many thanks to my new friend for sparking this with his thoughtful (and original) question!

I have a curated list of original thinkers across business, society, personal growth, spirituality, creativity and more. Send me a DM and I will send you my list!

When Did You Know?

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One of my LinkedIn contacts reached out to me recently. She wanted to visit with me about my mission, career, journey. We chatted recently and she asked me this question …

“When did you know?”

She wanted to know when I knew that I was on the right path with my life, relationships, career, etc. I stammered through some extemporaneous answers — but her question triggered a lot of thought (as good questions do!) so I decided to elaborate further here.

I would say there was no set moment when I knew. It was more of a dawning — an elimination of darkness, a clearing of the fog. And it was very recent. Just last month, I had this realization: the gaps between my relationships, work and personal growth were essentially gone. These gaps have caused a lot of suffering in the past years. But now I began to see a congruence; a flow that blended these three essential areas of a fruitful life.

My first attempt at knowing came in November 2010 on the heels of a mental breakdown. At 40, it was the first time in my life that I really begin to examine what made me happy, what I believed, what I wanted.

From then until 2014, I mostly experimented with different roles. I was a freelance brand strategist, then the CMO of a start-up, then the contract CMO of a consulting firm. I thought I was looking for the perfect job or role. I did not yet know that: a) there are no perfect jobs (at least not for me) and b)even if there were, it wouldn’t make me happy. I also reached out to mentors, advisors, other successful people to learn from them.

In the spring of 2014, I had my first true awakening. It was an awakening to my own value as a human (I call this “I met me the human). It was full acceptance of who I am and how I’m made. This was a huge awakening because I had been taught that who I am and how I was made are threats to my soul. Not true.

Later on in 2014, my mission began to crystalize as part of a greater spiritual awakening. (I call this “I met me the soul). I realized I’m here to teach self-worth to every one I meet. I am strongly certain that increased self-worth would be a world changer. This mission also manifested as a message:

Nothing matters until you connect with your heart.

I then began a combo that I continue to this day:

  • I read. A lot. I read about 75 books between 2014 and 2017. And countless blog posts and articles. The topics were about spirituality, personal growth, innovation, creativity, history, biographies and more. (If you send me a message, I will send you my book list).
  • I began to journal in earnest in late 2015. A practice I continue on 90% of my days. I keep three journals. One based on the booked “Writing Down Your Soul”, one that is more of a free thought journal, then also use Apple notes to capture daily ideas and concepts.
  • I created a personal ownership system that I tweak to this day. It’s based on something I created called “The 5 Pillars of Self-Worth”. It’s a system of accountability but also of freedom — all intended to keep me grounded in my soul, yet ever growing and learning.
  • I started going back to therapy in 2016 but it wasn’t until I experimented with several therapists until I found my current one. Her work with adult attachment style and deep psychotherapy has brought many hidden wounds to surface in order to heal.

Along the way, I learned how to understand the roots of my emotions, how to express them as feelings, how to ask for what I want (this is still a weakness). I learned that nature is a great spiritual teacher. I learned to be more vulnerable with those that I love and that love me. I learned to ask myself great questions.

All of the above — plus a series of life experiences — contributed to that recent dawning of knowing. I know I love my friends. I know I love my work. I know I love me. I know I love God. I know my mission. I know my worth. I know what to work on. I know to stay humble. I know to be present. I know there are flat days. I know I will fail, but I also know I will get back up.

I also know that I need friendships that run on truth, deep connection and a shared curiosity about life. Thankfully, I have been able to make a number of friends with these same standards.

I know there’s a “what’s next?” to knowing. I’m not certain yet of that answer. I know I need to work on visualization and imagination. I know I need to continue to work on my physical body (fitness, nutrition, rest). I know I need to continue to walk into my darkest corners with a spirit of curiosity. And when I get there, I know I need to let you know how it goes!

Trauma or Drama?

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(Photo credit: © iStockphoto.com/ Justin Horrocks)

Trauma and drama are two very different things.

Trauma is the violent, terrifying things that happen to you that you had no direct control over. Trauma’s impact is profoundly reveal and can’t be ignored. Trauma is pathological — meaning it must be treated as an injury.

Drama is how we react to things — especially situations or conditions that we created or attracted. Drama is psychological — meaning it is mostly in your head.

Here’s the great biological practical joke … our primal brain can’t tell the difference. Once fight/flight/freeze is triggered, its all treated as a threat response by our ancient mind. This mechanism is designed to protect us. But it also gives us a bias for seeing problems where they don’t exist.

It takes an intervention of wisdom and awareness to discern between the two. So here’s a helpful metaphor for that …

Drama is a mosquito in the tent. It captures all of your attention but contains essentially zero actual threat. We are flooded with how we feel about that *@#* mosquito! And that feeling determines our behavior. Pretty soon we’re swatting, flailing, swearing and the “problem” rarely gets solved. Because the real issue is our reaction, not the mosquito.

Trauma is a grizzly bear trying to get into the tent. This is a real and present danger! The very thing that our primal mind was designed to handle. Do I fight? Do I run? Do I freeze? What’s interesting is that you don’t feel fear — at least the kind of fear that you’re used to. Trauma survivors report being intensely aware and calm during an attack (the fear came later in the form of PTSD). Again, this is by design to clear space for the most effective survival response.

So try this …

The next time something feels like a problem, threat or otherwise negative disruption of your life, ask yourself its a mosquito or a grizzly bear. Unless you are dealing with some heavy shit, 99 % of “problems” are mosquitos. In that case, re-train your mind by giving it some action to take (thinking and fretting is not action) — belly breathing, take a walk, do some push ups. If you do this, you will be much more capable of handling the grizzly bears that inevitably show up in life.

Inside Anxiety

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Up until 2014, my life was primarily comprised of outer peace and inner turmoil. On the outside, everything was excessively “normal”. Make a living, have a good marriage, be a good dad, go to church, maybe take a vacation now and again. But inside, I suffered from severe and debilitating depression. This manifested in a number of ways — from mania, to crashing, to destructive behavior. It showed up in physical ways as well — primarily as crippling migraines.

As I’ve written about here before, that all begin to slowly change starting in 2011. It initially culminated in a big bang of a spiritual awakening in 2014 — which lead to stripping away all of the “normal” and getting to the root of who I am and what I’m here to do. In the process, I had less and less bouts of depression — to the point that I haven’t had a serious episode in over five years. Even the migraines have greatly been reduced.

In short, I moved from outer peace and inner turmoil to inner peace and outer turmoil. The outer turmoil was based around either the dismantling or evolution of these outer conditions and systems. A massive upheaval that has revealed a life that I had no plans on living.

One side effect of all this outer turmoil has been anxiety. From unease to screaming panic. Depression and anxiety are often lumped together. But not for me. When I was dealing with depression, I had no real anxiety. Depression robs you of pretty much all feelings. For me, anxiety came to me when I started feeling everything.

Depression feels like a permanent weather pattern. Like living in an air inversion or a fog bank. Anxiety feels like a submarine under attack. Dive! Dive! Dive! Do it now! Urgent, urgent. Panic, panic. Then it goes away. The outer conditions shift and anxiety disappears. Almost as if had never happened.

In working through anxiety, I’ve learned a few things that I felt compelled to share here. A strong disclaimer: I am not a therapist. I have no formal training in dealing with anxiety. These are just my personal experiences and observations.

  • I stopped treating anxiety like a disorder. Society, religion and pop psychology would have us believe that if we aren’t happy-dappy all the time, something is wrong. This is how I first responded to anxiety. “What are you doing here? Why are you threatening my happiness? Go away!” I was treating anxiety as an unwelcome guest. Then I realized this … anxiety is a signal. It can’t hurt me. It’s not here to hurt me. It’s here to provide a signal, a warning, a protection. Now when I feel anxiety, I consciously accept it. I listen to it. I often visualize it as a messenger sent to my door to warn me of something. Then, instead of treating it like a problem to solve, I treat it as a mystery to unlock.
  • I determined the triggers. If anxiety is a check engine light, it requires some investigation. This investigation is tracing anxiety back to specific triggers to understand the source of the warning. This was impossible to do when I was responding to anxiety as a disorder. Once I accepted it, I was able to follow the clues to reveal the triggers. Which are … 1) Fatigue. When I’m exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally, I see the world as a scary, threatening place, 2) Hunger. Again both literal hunger, but also a hunger for connection, for meaning, for spiritual bread. Hunger makes me desperate, self-absorbed, greedy. 3) Isolation. One of my greatest fears is to be isolated with nothing to do. This is different than solitude — which is isolation that I chose to create. This isolation is the confidence-eroding blend of being left out/left behind, boredom and waiting. In knowing the triggers, I can pre-plan, take ownership over what I can control. This is empowering and greatly reduces the length and severity of an anxiety attack (I don’t really like that word for it, but that’s what it’s called)
  • I heed the warning light. As I mentioned, anxiety is an alert, a warning, as signal. For me, this warning light almost always means that I am either A) Too attached to someone or something or B) I am anticipating future pain or suffering. As Buddha said, “All suffering is attachment”. This profundity helps me to see that anxiety is warning me that I am attaching my happiness to someone else’s behavior, the outcome of a situation, etc. Because of the systems upheaval of the past few years, my psyche is highly sensitive to future suffering. The only cure for this to be present. To be here. Right now.

In understanding these three areas and their sub-sets, I can now be proactive about anxiety. I know that when I’m anxious or uneasy, I tend to attach the alleviation of this feeling to someone else. This makes me modify my self in order to get attention, affection, validation. Which erodes my confidence. And if I don’t get those, I will create conflict instead. Because conflict is way better than anxiety (according to my ego). By taking ownership of anxiety, I can then take another pro-active step. I can tell someone that I love that I feel anxious. By expressing without attaching to them, I can use vulnerability to proactively thwart anxiety.

These are helpful tools and resources, but the #1 proactive ownership I can take is to work on my confidence. Self-love and self-worth are engines of happiness. If these are tuned up and performing at a high level, the warning light of anxiety rarely comes on. But if it does, I now have the awareness to pull over, pop the hood and understand the source.

The High Cost of Fear Goggles

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We humans are pre-wired with a heightened sense of fear — which is rooted in the ego. For thousands of years, this heightened sense of fear was a necessary element for the survival and advancement of our species. As we’ve become more “civilized”, these primal traits remain. Yet they are used for much less threatening circumstances.

Unless you are a trauma survivor.

For trauma survivors, these primal instincts are further amplified. In fact, recent breakthrough brain research shows that trauma triggers deep-seated survival components that are manifested in PTSD, depression and other mental health issues.

That’s the science. This is the story.

I have noticed in myself a marked increase in fear the past couple of years. I used to be bold to the point of recklessness and brashness. But now as I’ve experienced a deep and transformative awakening, I noticed a much higher level of fear. From low-grade unease to abject terror. To some extent this makes sense. When you awaken, you feel everything.

I tried to explain fear away — “It’s just past trauma”.

I tried to mantra fear away — “Fear is a liar!”

I tried to pray fear away — “Please take this cup from me”

It was only when I turned in to the fears that I began to understand them. In short, I discovered I’d been wearing “fear goggles”. My perspective was being twisted by past experiences and changing how I saw things. Not just in small ways but in destructive, tyrannical ways.

Fear goggles made me …

  • See everything as a problem to solve.
  • See everything and everyone with a threat level assessment.
  • Create little false worlds or situations that I could control.
  • Either idolize or villainize people — especially those I love.
  • See myself as a victim.
  • See people as objects.
  • Visualize the worst case scenario in even the most benign situations.
  • Assume that something was deeply wrong with me; that I was permanently damaged in some way.
  • Look back with regret or nostalgia.
  • Create conflict in order to feel in control or powerful.
  • Look forward with delusion, dread or anxiety.
  • Lose my faith and spiritual vision.
  • Try to get comfort from more information and more data.
  • Possessive and greedy.
  • Not trust anyone or anything.

In times past, I would occasionally exchange fear goggles for rose colored glasses — an irrational hopefulness and recklessness disguised as positivity and optimism. This inevitably lead to more trauma, more disappointment — which lead to more fear. And back went on the fear goggles.

My path to freeing myself of fear goggles began with awareness (seeing that I was wearing them) and then advanced to this realization: wearing fear goggles is entirely a choice. Fear is a primal response. And all primal responses can be over-ridden by the one thing that elevates humans above all other creatures: the power of choice.

Getting rid of my fear goggles frees me to see that there are real problems to solve and sometimes real fears to confront. But it also frees me to see all of my resources and assets. It frees me to see my own worth. It frees me to see others as humans. It frees me to use my natural gifts.

By choosing to remove the fear goggles, I can see … the truth, the reality and the mystical.

 

The Courage to Listen

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Photo Credit: Evolving Science

It takes compassion and discipline to listen to others. To truly be present in the moment and listen to their words, their body language and their energy. Most of us (myself very much included) don’t do this. So we miss many opportunities to love, serve, extend kindness.

It takes something different to listen to the voice of our own soul: courage. Most of us don’t do this either. Because it’s terrifying. The voice of the soul is always counter to the life we crafted. So to listen to it is to set fire to all we’ve carefully constructed. But some do listen and begin to organize their lives and priorities around what this voice is whispering.

I have witnessed this act of courage on many occasions the past year.

I have seen it in the work Emily and I do at Root + River — where every single client came to us (either by serendipity or word-of-mouth) after saying “yes” to the voice. Each time, it required a re-organizing and re-purposing — often of very comfortable and secure lives.

I’ve seen it in those sent to me to mentor through a “what’s next” happening in their lives. After what is often many years of ignoring it, they began to listen. Or they had a cataclysmic event happen that awoke the voice. In listening they could see — that what they had thought was important and urgent was neither important nor urgent. And what was important and urgent was to listen to that voice.

I’ve seen it in my immediate family and closest friends — embracing their true selves at the expense of lighting fire or walking away from the movie set they’d built for their life. At the expense of trading the picture in their head for the voice in their soul. At the expense of relationships that were crudely pieced together to create a facsimile of family or love.

And I’ve witnessed it in my own life — in often starkly painful ways. The whisper to leave Boise and move to Austin. The clear insistence to build a new kind of branding practice with Emily. The quite but always-there prompt to encourage my wife of 25+ years to go find herself. The calling away from the church I’d attended with regularity for nearly 43 years. The push to begin sharing my musings I hear in my soul with the world. And a thousand or more other prompts, urges, whispers, pushes, pulls for a variety of moments.

All that have finally listened to this voice report a similar thread. That the voice is like drums in the distance, or a heartbeat, or the roar of a distance river, or the pounding of the surf. When the first act of courage occurs (to acknowledge this often far off sound), a new act of courage emerges — to step towards it. In doing so you begin to hear more clearly. Until you are close enough that it, indeed, it as as clear as a direct whisper in the ear.

Here’s what I know about this voice …

  • It doesn’t have a Plan B.
  • It is directly destructive of your current plans and ideas for success.
  • It uses no logic but makes complete sense.
  • It is always supported by what appear to be random coincidences and occurrences.
  • Those that have ignored this voice in themselves will be your greatest detractors.
  • It will produce some sort of creative output: writing, singing, art, spoken word.

Once tuned in, you can hear it all the time. Like living right on the shore of a river rather than hearing it from a distance. What did it say to me this morning?

Write about the courage to listen to this voice.

Women: You Are Heard

By | Life, Self-Worth | No Comments

As I see my various social feeds fill up with a cascade of #metoo stories of women I know, I am sickened and horrified. I am also amazed at the courageousness to share something so vulnerable and raw. Added to this are the many woman friends that I know have their own #metoo story that they’ve had to deal with.

This matter of systemic predatory behavior by men is real and widespread. It is intolerable and inexcusable. It must be exposed every time it is witnessed. These are all true maxims, but I feel overwhelmed and frustrated about what I can do.

But I know what I have done …

I was raised by two very different but strong, independent women (my mother and paternal grandmother) to love and respect women. Because of this, I have always paid attention to my words and behavior — that no woman in any setting would ever feel disrespected, unequal or a target of unhealthy male energy.

Lynna and I raised two men who love and respect women. That have a sensitivity for equality. That do not view women as objects.

I’ve been very proud and supportive of Lynna as she has embraced and expressed her true self.

I am very proud that I have a woman business partner. One that personifies grace and feminine power in business, at home and in her community. And that our team is comprised of similar but unique women.

I hesitated to post this because I didn’t want it be viewed as taking away from these expressions of courage. But I have to say something. I have to add my voice to the “I believe you” and “I stand with you” voices. For all the women reading this, I want you to know that you are loved and supported.

For my fellow men, we have a direct and specific role in eradicating this toxic and damaging behavior. First, we must teach respect to everyone we lead. At home, at work, in our communities, in our civic groups, in our places of worship, in our circles of friends. Second, we must speak up EVERY TIME we see a man behaving this way. This is not a time for a domesticated, tepid response. To stand silently and wag our heads but not raise our voices.

We especially must stop allowing predatory men to hold seats of power due to financial or political expediency. This is where these predators thrive — on power and darkness. And silence. Predators are cowards. When exposed by the light of truth, they will run. Our collective voices are that light.