I have worried for too much of my life about whether I am a success or not.

This video shares the simplest and most empowering definition of success that I have found.  It comes from Pema Chodron.  It is a wonderful reflection for me about how I am living my life.

Am I learning to forgive myself and to be a positive addition when I am with other people?

Thank you for your comments, reflections, shares and likes!

This week’s video is about Steven Covey’s 7th Habit of Highly Effective People: Sharpen the Saw.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Burning yourself out is no service to anyone.  Running your car without changing the oil will destroy the engine.  Running at 100% all day and all night will destroy your own personal engine.

Feeling good doesn’t just happen.

Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself.  You know what to do, but do you make the time for renewal?

Sharpen the Saw means taking care of the greatest asset you have: you.  Here are some examples of activities:

  • Physical: Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
  • Social: Making social and meaningful connections with others
  • Mental: Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
  • Spiritual: Spending time in nature, meditation, music, art

As you renew yourself in each of the four areas, you create growth and change in your life. Without this renewal, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish.  Not a good life.

I ran out of battery on my iphone this afternoon while sitting in starbucks.  I was waiting for 2 people.  I had to stay.  It was good that I ran out of battery, because I ended up looking at Tibidabo mountain for 30 minutes and thinking about life.

I was thinking about my post on Fear of an Ordinary Life from yesterday and the responses that it generated.

The Origin of a Fear of Ordinary

Where did this fear of living an ordinary life come from?

I read intensely as a child.  I would read anything, but by far my favourite type of novel were the fantasy or science fiction novels where a young unknown hero saves the universe.

From age 7, I watched Star Wars repeatedly.  I would watch 10 to 15 minutes each morning during breakfast before going to school.  The books are terrible, this was a movie world not a book world.

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The final Dune book, in my hands today

Starting from age 11, I read fantasy books.  My favourite fantasy world of all was Dune.  I found Dune aged 12.  There are 8 books (I still have them here on my bookshelf) in the series.  We follow the life of Paul Muad’ib from his life as an unknown son of a small time aristocrat to his becoming the Divine Emperor of the entire known galaxy, including mystical powers of telling the future and reading other people’s minds.  I fancied myself as a version of Paul.  I tried the mental skills that he was taught in the book.  Never did work.

Didn’t stop me imagining. As a teenager, I read the Dune books twice; from start to finish.  Each time, it was a 6 month journey.  (I have only ever read 3 books twice:  Dune, Lord of the Rings and Steinbeck’s East of Eden.)

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The bottom of my bookshelf

I remember the first time I finished the Dune books, I searched everywhere to see if there might be a ninth book.  There was no google, no amazon – only my local library and local bookshops.  When I realised that it was over, that there was no more adventure to be had in the fantasy world of Dune (and that Frank Herbert had passed away…  the final book was finished by someone else) I was devastated.

Real life never felt as intense or as alive as the experiences that I was living in these book-based worlds of fantasy.

In the real world, I went to school (boring), did my homework (boring), climbed trees (fun), ate breakfast, lunch and dinner (alway enough and healthy).

I think it is this immersion in these fantasy worlds for much of my childhood that shaped my fear of living a life that is ordinary.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

The Fantasy Worlds I Lived In

The Author’s & series that I loved during the ages of 10-15 (in order of preference):

  1. Frank Herbert – Dune Series
  2. Isaac Asimov – The Foundation Series
  3. Terry Brooks – Sword of Shannara
  4. Orson Scott Card – Ender’s Game
  5. Tolkien – Lord of the Rings
  6. Stephen Donaldson – Chronicles of Thomas Covenant
  7. Arthur C Clarke – 2001 Space Odyssey

My anxiety: It’s not FOMO but FOOL

Last week, I was given the thoughtful gift of a book “How to be Bored“.

It describes the anxiety arising from the Fear Of Missing Out, made famous as FOMO. I have a hard time sitting at home doing nothing productive. I have a sense that I am wasting my time.  Classic FOMO.  (I won’t mention the clues of social media addictions…  I had to delete facebook from my iphone…  it was becoming too consuming).

Summer amplifies this anxiety as I have too much time to think.  I don’t teach too many classes and spend a lot of time reading, reflecting and thinking.

As I reflect, I think my fear is less FOMO – fear of missing out, and more FOOL – Fear of an Ordinary Life.

I am a F.O.O.L.

…it does cause anxiety late at night, through the morning, before lunch, after lunch…  etc.

Fear of an Ordinary Life

It strikes me as supremely arrogant to believe that I deserve a greater than “ordinary life”, but there is definitely a striving inside myself pushing me to live a meaningful life. I have the feeling that I was given great gifts in this life: where I was born, when I was born, the brain I had, the health I had, the options that a good education has opened for me.

As a meditative exercise I sometimes reflect upon how tiny I am in this universe. It is 11 billion years old, and more enormous than I can imagine. I am miniscule. In 100 years I will be forgotten. In 1 million years… why does any achievement or lack of achievement matter?

This meditation takes away the rational questioning about whether I should care about doing meaningful things or not, but it doesn’t take away the underlying unease with myself.

The Buddhists say that this is an itch I should not try to scratch. I should learn to observe the itch without being driven, moved, affected by it.

I am a poor observer of the itch. FOOL is running like a clogged back-end server process on my brain’s CPU.

Where’s Ctrl-Alt-Delete?

I was in London the last 2 days.  It struck me how many large office buildings are under construction.  There were also many large residential complexes going up.  It is a marked contrast to Barcelona to see so much construction activity.  I don’t know what it says about economies, but on the surface it looks like London is really booming.

Here’s me in front of that famous buildboard display in Piccadilly Circus.  My brother’s business (Bitposter) manages outdoor display advertising spaces… hope they get these big displays onto their system soon (if they are not there already…)!

If you find your job is boring and lacks excitement, and you don’t have a good view from your office…  I have a suggestion:  You could work with these guys…

This year Shakespeare is celebrating 400 years since something… I can’t remember if birth, death or first theatre performance.  Here’s me taking a #selfie in front of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

And here’s the boat that kept Sir Francis Drake attacking the spanish merchant fleet and stealing all their new world gold.  I guess the spanish had stolen it from the Incas, so Sir France Drake was stealing pre-stolen gold…

 

I was skiing with Florian, Rose and Alvaro yesterday in the Andorran resort of Pas de la Casa.  There was not much real snow, but the Grandvalira resort have worked magic with the artificial snow production machines… and so we were able to ski most of the pistes.

Over lunch, Rose sat in the bad seat.

The table behind kept knocking into her with their ski jackets and ski helmets and ski whatevers.  They kept doing it, and there was no sorry, no acknowledgement whatsoever.

I told them of my first 3 weeks at university.

Nobody messed with me.

I made a fine first impression.

I arrived at Nottingham University aged 18 years old in September 1991.  My mum dropped me and my 2 bags of belongings off to my rooms in Cripps Hall (an All-Men hall…  not my first choice).

In the first week, two things happened that would affect how I would make my first impression on fellow students:

First, a local barber was offering free haircuts (marketing plan?).  A friend suggested that if we shaved off all of our hair, we would save money on haircuts for quite a while.  The barber, for this free haircut, shaved off my hair.

Second, I went to try out for the university football team.  I was doing quite well, until mid-way through the first half I went to head the ball… and the defender went in to head the ball…  I got the ball, he got just above my right eye.

I was taken off to the hospital bleeding profusely.

After a 6 hour wait in the public hospital, I had 6 stitches put in just below my right eyebrow.  I was told not to drink alcohol for at least 10 days.

At this particular crucial life moment, I was wearing black t-shirts with heavy metal angst bands (I can’t remember which bands first week…  A little later in the year it was Ministry).

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Trainspotting

I spent the first 3 weeks of university with a shaved head, a nasty black eye and an angry black t-shirt.  I looked like an extra from Trainspotting.

Nobody messed with me.

First impressions make a big impact.

Even if it is not the impression I’d have liked to have left.

Inspiration

PS. I was inspired to write this by Florian who responded to my story with “That is an awesome blog post…  If you don’t write it, I will!”.  You should read his blog over at http://florianmueck.com 😉

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Release

In excitement and childhood joy at reliving my youth, here is a few videos from the Star Wars Franchise.  Are you going to see The Force Awakens?  Have you seen it?  What did you think?

Official Trailer

The Official Teaser

Jimmy Fallon and crew making fun of the Star Wars Anthem

Have a great Friday and I hope to hear your thoughts on the movie.  I watched the original Star Wars over and over on my parents’ betamax video player.  I used to watch 10-15 minutes each morning before heading to school.

Don’t forget my old set of posts on Jedi Productivity:

Do you know what is the worst question that you can ask yourself?

It is a powerful question If you intend to avoid living a life that is fulfilling at all the levels: safety, risk, connection, significance, growth and contribution.

What big goals do you have for yourself?  (You do have them, whether you have taken the time to write them out or not.) What is the next step?  The step that takes you from where you are today towards where you need to be for your goal to become realised.

Now, when you look at that step, there is a question that is guaranteed to kill the chance of you achieving the goal.

It is guaranteed to stop you taking action.

It might be fitness action, it might be relationships action, it might be learning reaction, it might be better eating action… but this question is guaranteed to stop you.

The Kill-Joy Question

It is a simple question, it seems a reasonable question to ask oneself.

I hear it all the time.

It gets into every nook and cranny of our lives, it seeps in to every effort.

I use it too often myself.

The Small Life Question

What is the question?

“Do I feel like doing this?”

Each day is an opportunity to make an incremental difference in how your journey in life pans out in the long-term.

Every day that you do “what you feel like doing” is a day that doesn’t build you a better platform for tomorrow, nor does it give a sense of a day used for fulfilment today.

Do I feel like writing now?  No.

Do I feel like going for a run before lunch?  No.

Do I feel like calling my accountant and getting our accounts closed before year end?  No.  (Definitely no).

Do I feel like making a detailed plan for 2015?  No.

Even the things that make me happy, are things that I don’t feel like doing just before I start.

PS You probably already know this, but this is an important reminder to myself this morning…

I am sitting at the airport about to board my Iberia flight back to Barcelona via the city of Madrid. I have had a great week teaching at IEEM Business School in Montevideo.

There is something special about spending a week working and living in another city. It changes my perspective on life. I have taught over 150 students and have enjoyed many short and long conversations about business, entrepreneurship and life.  Here’s a few pictures that I have taken over the last week.

How do you set limits on “Free”?

I teach communication skills.  I help entrepreneurs deal with leadership challenges.  I find it hard to effectively manage the gap between free advice and paid consulting.

“Would you listen to my speech?”

or “Can we meet for a coffee, I have an important meeting coming up?”

I find it hard to do the “American Lawyer” mode – bring a clock and start timing the conversation as soon as I talk about communications.

I like the little conversations, but I am conflicted about how to set some limits.

How do you set limits on your service?

Are you a coach – how do you distinguish between “free advice to friends” and “professional services”?  How do you have the conversation when someone assumes that they should get your help for free (and you’re not so sure)?

…And The Overly Complicated Sales Cycle

The other area that I have challenges is keeping the sales process under control.

I have a Swiss client that calls me, says they need a specific date, signs the contract and pays.  Minimal admin.  Zero hassle.

I had a Spanish client that asked me to come back and explain my services 11 times before signing the contract.  I would not have done the 2nd meeting if I had known that there were 9 more to come.