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Self-Worth

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

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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.

The Ego Test

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We all have an ego. It’s part of the operating system that runs the human app. This is not a surprise. I’m certain that everyone has some varying degree of awareness of their own ego. Even if the old ego=pride definition is applied, it still shows some awareness that there’s a part of us that can be corrosive and destructive if we allow it. The sharp increase in the practicing of mindfulness has also brought greater awareness to the presence and influence of ego.

The first thing to know is that we need to stop trying to kill our egos. We need the ego. It contains a large portion of our identity. It makes us alert and situationally aware for threats and opportunities. It provides the drive to hunt, achieve, perform. It fuels passion and charisma. The issue is not that the ego is some sort of defect in the human app. The issue is that the ego is constantly in pursuit of trying to take control.

In short, the ego makes for a great employee but a tyrannical boss.

As such, it is an essential skill to learn how to be aware (quickly!) that our ego is running our lives.

I simply call this The Ego Test.

While there are certainly variances based on behavioral profiles and external conditioning, the red flags of ego are universal. They include:

  • Comparison. This is the #1 indicator that the ego is the boss. To put it directly, all comparison is of the ego. And from it springs jealousy, attachment, insecurity, unworthiness and many other destructive reactions.
  • Judging your feelings. “I should feel X.” “I shouldn’t feel Y”. Your feelings are just your feelings. Yet the ego puts a good-to-bad or right-to-wrong spectrum on them in order to label and to control.
  • Self-Righteousness. This may be the most deceiving trait of the ego; where we become convinced in our rightness and everyone else’s wrongness. Skepticism and rational (two key elements of being a free thinker) can’t co-exist with self-righteousness. This is the essence of extremism.
  • Lack of Compassion. By design, the ego doesn’t have compassion. It’s the primal side of us that is needed for survival. And compassion and survival are in direct conflict with each other. So if we begin to lose our ability to see our own humanity or soul and the humanity and souls in others, we know the ego is in charge.
  • Self Absorption. The ego loves the role of Victim. By attaching our ego to our suffering, we become so consumed by our pain that the pain itself becomes becomes our identity. This means we spend our days in a personal hell of torment and lose our capacity for gratitude and compassion.

Once you begin to be aware of these indicators, you can then begin to learn how to make your ego a productive, efficient employee. But that’s a separate post.

Why You Won’t (or Can’t) Opt-In

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A few years ago, my business/creative partner Emily Soccorsy and I coined the term “Opt-Iners”. We use this term to describe the millennial-minded mature leaders (40+ years old) that are opting into the new way of doing business – what we call “being human”. Opt-Iners are self-aware, heart-centric, spiritually curious, tech savvy and adventurous. All very necessary traits in building and growing 21st century brands.

Emily’s recent post entitled “The Most Terrifying Question You Can Ask You” got me thinking – which lead me to this question … why wouldn’t someone opt-in? The evidence is clear that the era of command-and-control leadership, treating humans as capital and treating consumers as idiots is over. Why hold on to any vestiges of that era?

Here could be why …

  1. Industrial-Age Mindset What made a leader a successful in the Industrial Age wrecks organizations and people in the Human Age. From health benefits to workloads to performance metrics to safety, all the ways a company treated people in the Industrial Age are over. You can no longer hurt people, discriminate, suppress, wreck the environment, etc (not that there aren’t still more subtle ways of doing these). Yet much of the Industrial Age thinking remains. A great example is this … in the Industrial Age, you moved the people by moving the numbers (quotas, performance bonuses, productivity metrics, etc). In the Human Age, you move the numbers by moving the people. If you have an Industrial Age mindset about what moves people, it is impossible to opt-in.
  2. Linear Thinking. This is very much related to above. The Industrial Age produced straight lines to improve efficiency, productivity, output. Marketing was a straight line between product and target market. Recruiting was a straight line between job and skillset. In the Human Age, everything is spherical. It’s messy. It’s unclear. It takes a leader to see the patterns and rhythms – and linear thinking is the enemy of spherical thinking. If you see everything as a Point A to Point B activity with a series of processes and checkboxes, it is impossible to opt-in.
  3. Hours in the Office. It’s no longer viable to be addicted to work. Yet thousands of leaders wage a war of attrition with their minds, bodies and souls around how many hours they spend in the office, how they are never disconnected. A cynical view is that vacation time for most leaders is a time to recover enough to go back to grist mill of their role and job responsibilities – like a military leave from a combat zone. In the Human Age, Opt-In leaders measure things through energy acquired and spent. This is partially why EQ and mindfulness are such a hot topic in the business world lately. When you measure things through time spent, it is impossible to opt-in.
  4. Lack of Self Care. Addiction, depression, anxiety and suicides are tragically at an all time high. Too many leaders treating themselves and their people like rental cars or disposable razors. Too much of a massive gap between the real person and the job person. In the Industrial Age, you kept your emotional and spiritual (and often literal) wounds to yourself. You showed up. Because you had to. In the Human Age, these wounds, if left untreated, will wreck your career and hurt the people around you at work and at home. In the Human Age, if you aren’t taking care of you first, its impossible to opt-in.

Each one these areas are a choice. No one can make you do, think or feel anything. So if these resonated with you as reasons why you haven’t opted-in, I encourage you to examine your attachments, beliefs and fears. These three are the root of why we don’t grow, don’t change, don’t evolve. For those of us that have opted-in, it’s essential that we show compassion to those leaders that haven’t. This is not some character flaw. These are not dumb people. They are simply afraid and need some encouragement.

Embracing the Low Tide Moments

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In a year plus of massive transition and upheaval, this week has been especially so. In light of those dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane, none of it was life-threatening or cataclysmic. But it still was a force multiplier of emotions that left me weary and raw — but also hopeful and grateful.

Here’s a summary of the week:

  • Our older son Logan and daughter-in-law Sarah moved from Austin back to Portland.
  • Our younger son Caden moved into his own place here in Austin.
  • Lynna and I moved to a new place and spent our first night as “empty nesters”. (An aside, I really dislike that term. Any suggestions on a better descriptor?)
  • Several other key relationships were full of tension, testing and conflict. These are relationships that have been a lifeblood to me so to have them disrupted was especially painful.

Oh … and I still had a business to co-run, clients to coach, spiritual practices to continue, adulting to do.

All of these combined to create a sense of low tide. I had previously hated these low tide moments: when our first son moved out, the passing of my grandparents — plus many other low tide moments in relationships and situations. In each case, I tended to go numb during the low tide moments. I felt exposed and vulnerable. Like everyone could see my scars, the debris, the hidden wreckage. I wanted to hide, lash out, cover up.

At best, these low tide moments were something to endure, something to overcome. So I tried to rush through them — like rushing would bring back the high tide. The low tide moments caused me to harshly judge myself for feeling the way I felt. They also carried a series of triggers that caused me to be hurtful to the people I most love.

This week was different. But I didn’t realize how different until sitting in my new thinking/reflection spot in our new home. In this week of upheaval, my mantra was “find the joy in each moment”. For the most part, I did. There were moments of feeling exposed, but I expressed them. There were moments I lashed out, but I asked for forgiveness. In the process of finding joy in each moment, I had three epiphanies:

  1. Yes, the low tide exposes scars and debris and even some death. But it also exposes treasure, nourishment, discoveries. All of which are impossible in high tide.
  2. No two low tides are the same. The natural process of drawing back and being exposed always appears differently. Yes, some of the same landmarks. But always different treasures and different debris.
  3. The high tide always returns. Always.

My intention is to continue my new-found embrace of low tide moments. I want to use them to practice gratitude, awareness, patience — especially in the low tide moments of relationships. I am certain these are the treasures that the low tide brings every day.

The Seven Thieves of Modern Life

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Despite the headlines, all the data shows that we are in a great age of prosperity and abundance. Probably the most prosperous and abundant era in the history of the human race. Yet if that’s true, why is there still so much suffering and unhappiness — especially in the US?

I believe it’s because we’ve allowed a set of thieves to steal our energy, attention and connection to self. I call these the Seven Thieves of Modern Life. Here they are and what to do about them:

  1. Worry. Worry is highly addictive unnecessary waiting. It’s ego attaching happiness and peace of mind to an external condition or outcome. Worry hijacks our natural coping mechanisms and makes us obsess over the trivial and insignificant. Worry robs us of present moment. Worry warps our lens of how we see ourselves and others.
    Solution: The only solution for worry is action. The first action being awareness of the worry, then a willful decision on what to do about it.

  2. Distractions. We receive 5000–7000 behavioral requests a day. People, alerts, advertising, emails, outside stimuli — all demanding our attention. It has made our minds weary; effecting our decision-making, ability to prioritize and our sense of what is important and what is not important.
    Solution: We all need occasional sacred space — a walk, nature, reading, meditation … whatever is uniquely your recovery space. Even 5–10 minutes of uninterrupted stillness goes a long way. But we must demand it and create it because it can’t be given to us by others.

  3. Comparison. Our economy runs on comparison — improvements, upgrades, status. We compare our lives to each other — often through the lens of social media. We compare our own performance as a human to some impossible ideal that we agreed to. All of this comparing just feeds the ego’s never-ending appetite for more. It robs us of gratitude and self-worth — and puts us in a perpetual state of There or That.
    Solution: The cure for comparison is clarity. Clarity about who you truly are, what you believe, what matters to you. This clarity protects you from internal and external comparison. It allows you to interact with humanity as your true self. It brings discernment to what you give your value and attention to.

  4. Attachments. Attachment is part of the Human App. We naturally attach our happiness to ideals, goals, other people’s behaviors. The list is endless. Attachment becomes a thief when our identity is completely tied up in what we’re attached to. A great example is a career or title. We are not that career or title, but because we are so attached to either, it informs our world view, sense of worth and decisions.
    Solution: The solution to attachments is self-examination. Some would call this “awareness” but I believe it’s deeper than that. If you are honest, self-examination will reveal what you are attached to and how it is driving your decision-making. Self-examination reminds you of your power to trace the root of the attachment to its source — then either say “yes” or “no” to the attachment.

  5. Options. We have too much choice. Closely related to comparison and distractions, we are inundated with options — all designed to consume our attention and value. Comfort, short-term gratification and distraction are plentiful — and just a few clicks away. We create preferences based off these options — and don’t pause to ask if we truly want (let alone need!) that particular preference.
    Solution: The Power of Choice is the solution for options. No one can decide for us. No one can make us do anything. It’s all choice. By reclaiming the power of choice, we are also re-claiming our yes’s and no’s. We are re-establishing what is essential and necessary vs comforts of life.

  6. Information. Similar to options, we have too much information. We search and Google and read reviews and consume “news” — all to feed our ego’s need to know. This robs us of being grounded, centered and present. It also creates the angst that we are missing a key piece of information that we need. And that it’s just around the corner.
    Solution: Context is the solution to too much information. Context is the ability to use reason and logic to discern what’s important and what’s not important. Context breaks the ego’s lock on information and returns it to being a tool rather than a master.

  7. Isolation. So many friends and followers, yet so little actual connection. Many blame social media for this. Social media is just an amplifier of real life. We have found it easier to maintain a cordial, surface distance from most people — even within the walls of our homes. This disconnect from others leads to isolation. A sense of deep aloneness where you lose your sense of self and of humanity. Distractions, coping tools and information just make it worse.
    Solution: Connection is the key. Actual, real soulful connection to other humans. We are designed for solitude (not isolation) so that we can more fully connect to others. This requires a lot of spiritual nudity; showing your true self without the aforementioned attachments. When you can connect on a daily basis, these conversations become little rest stops on the otherwise wearisome road of life.

I’m certain there are more thieves of modern life. And I’m certain that many of these are over-lapping — even feeding off each other. But my key point is this: every one of these thieves enters by invitation. This is why I believe so strongly in sovereignty, self-love and personal liberty. You don’t need to build walls or stronger locks. You just need to stop inviting them to enter your lives.

Allow Me to Introduce Myself

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How often do you show up to situations and events as your true self? I have done poorly at this in the past. My pattern was either put on a performance (in order to be accepted) or retracting into a shell (to protect my ego). But that has begun to change.

As I’ve written about frequently here, the last several years have been a time of massive — and often terrifying — transformation. One particular area is this matter of knowing your true self. I had to strip away all that I was taught (directly and indirectly) about myself. And even the ideas and definition of “self”. I’ve had to examine my attachments — and what those attachments do for my identity. I had to strip away veneer and sandblast the remnants of old movie sets and old roles.

Beneath all that, I found someone I love unconditionally. Then, and only then, was I able to show up as me.

The discipline to show up as your true self feels very exposing and vulnerable — a sort of spiritual nudity. Showing up as your true self is full of risks. It may cause many people in your life to turn away. It may cause you to take an unplanned path that doesn’t fit your plan. It will most definitely lead to temporary hurt.

Recent experiences have taught me that showing up as your true self does not eliminate the risk of being hurt or rejected. In fact, it increases those chances. After all, if you have been showing up in costume, you may be unrecognizable out of it. But I did it anyway. I showed up as me. I expressed my fears. I spoke from the heart. I eliminated all pretense. It was terrifying, purifying and exhilarating.

On the other side of all that is this truth: when you show up as your true self, you learn even more about yourself. And that makes it totally worth it.

So … allow me to (re)introduce myself with this …

I am Justin. I am …

  • A living soul
  • God’s unique creation
  • A Sovereign being
  • A whole and complete man
  • A Believer
  • An overcomer
  • A father
  • A friend
  • A leader
  • A Warrior
  • A Messenger
  • A primal, sexual creature
  • A man of simple pleasures
  • A man with high standards
  • A man with a complex mind
  • A truth-seeker and teller
  • A free thinker
  • A learner
  • A Coach
  • A writer
  • A presenter
  • Brave
  • Defiant
  • Sensitive
  • Awake
  • Generous
  • An adventurer

Treat me with respect. Communicate with me with directness and specificity. Don’t stifle my feelings or words. Don’t ask me to modify to make you feel better. Forgive me when my intensity is too much.

This is me. Who are you?