|Why? why? why?|
…“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Why do you do what you do? I think this is probably the most important question we can answer, or be conscious of, as we go about living our lives.
As you may know, since 1999 I have, in varying stages of intensity, delivered over 1,000 talks to strangers on planes, trains, cafes, places of worship, gyms, and saunas.
But about 2 weeks ago my brother Jono asked me why I do them. I have to confess that I could not answer him in a clear, concise way, so I went to work and have spent hours re-crafting my talk and doing my best to answer the question. I will be sharing my story much more in the weeks to come, but the essence is this:
Why do I do this? Because I know that I am not the only one with a story like mine. We all carry wounds from the past, but we don’t need to let the past define us. We all have our own stories of being embarrassed, ostracized, alone, bullied, beaten or abandoned.
I have learned that it really can be different. We really can change our story about what happened to us, and leaning into courage, and trusting ourselves and the process is the antidote to this, and the ‘holy grail’ lies in telling our stories.
Why do you do what you do?
A Communication Process
I have found this process, which I have adapted from Marshall Goldberg’s, Non-Violient Communication – also known as the Clear Communication or Collaborative Communication model – an essential and valuable tool for resolving conflict and being able to communicate when it’s easier not to! It is a remarkable process and I urge you to try it.!
“Better out than in.” A young mother talking about her 3-month-old after a projectile vomit. The image below shows what the warm and positive after effects might look like.
The same goes for communication – particularly the difficult ones.
This process is designed to enable you to express yourself and for the other person to really hear what is going on for you so that you may both reach a common understanding and appreciation of where you are in your relationship. This maybe the first time you have actually expressed how you feel to another human being in a way that is safe for you.
Most of what gets us annoyed, angry or frustrated in our relationships with others it’s not what they do, or say, but what we don’t say or do.
Here is the process in 7 steps.
By way of an example I will use the following:
You are deeply frustrated, angry and saddened by the state of the relationship with your significant other. You have gone for years not communicating clearly, lovingly courageously and openly with each other. You have had enough.
There is no benefit in pointing our fingers at the other person because this exercise is about personal responsibility, looking at our own behaviour, actions and words and expressing ourselves.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Remember to speak in ‘I’ statements, not ‘you’ or ‘we’ statements. E.g. I feel frustrated and angry. Not, you make me feel frustrated and angry.
Step 1: Request
I would like to have around 20 minutes with you so that I can communicate my thoughts feelings and experiences and some recent events. It is really important for me to express myself and I would appreciate you giving me the time. (Don’t make it ‘heavy’ or ‘significant’.)
Step 2: Agreement/ contract
In essence, there are two reasons that relationships breakdown: 1. There was no agreement, or 2. There was an agreement, but it wasn’t clear, or structured wasn’t paid attention to, so it fell apart at the seams.
Without agreements, life simply does not work, yet we somehow convince ourselves that we can get by without making them or keeping to them. (See separate module on ‘being your word.’)
I request please that you do nothing but listen from beginning to end as I go through these points without interruption. When I come to the end please feel free to ask any questions to clarify what I have said nothing more at that point. When the process is complete, I would be very happy to exchange rolls either right after I have done this or a day or a few days later If you would like to.
This is where you relate to the other person the data/facts/what happened and there is strictly no emotion or story involved in this part. The power of doing this is that the data is immutable and clear for both parties to see, even if one party doesn’t like what they hear, the facts are the facts! All too often a source of breakdown in our relationships is because we go to story, drama or emotion. It becomes very hard for each other to see each other and to appreciate where the other is because we are too busy defending our own version of the story.
There have been several things you have said that I would like to talk about, for example. we agreed after we got married that we would wait for a year before we started our own family. But then on the plane to Mauritius you decided unilaterally that you were ready to fall pregnant.
Step 4: Feelings
The importance of sharing feelings cannot be stressed enough. If we do not express our feelings, we run the risk of becoming ill, angry, frustrated and resigned. We do not need hours of therapy we just need to share what those feelings are.
Feelings fall into five basic categories:
- Mad (anger, frustration, intolerance, confusion, uncertainty etc.)
- Bad (Shame, guilt, embarrassment etc.)
- Sad (sorrow etc.)
- Glad (happiness, joy, elation, love etc.)
- Afraid (fear, scared etc.)
Initially when you said you wanted to start a family right away, I was confused as it was something different to what we agreed. I take responsibility for not at least challenging you on this and coming to an agreement that work for us both. Instead I just let it go and I allowed my anger and frustration to build.
Step 5: Needs
This is where you express your needs. It is surprisingly clear and easy for us to tap into our needs and yet we make it very complicated because we have tried in the past or become resigned and cynical to what is possible in our lives and come ‘from the past’ rather than listening to our hearts, gut or intuition, which never lies.
The power and beauty of expressing our needs is that we get to express ourselves. It doesn’t matter whether the other person can grant you those needs or not the most important thing is to express your needs.
I need to be able to communicate and connect with intimacy and courage in our relationship, free from feeling like I am being judged or having to defend myself.
Step 6: Requests
This is where you in “seal the deal” and make a request for what you want.
I would like to draw a line in the sand in our relationship and make a new start. What this looks like is having an agreement about what we are committing to and then carrying through on those commitments. Too often we have made agreements and then broken them. On the plane, you made a unilateral decision and I didn’t have the courage to challenge you on it. I want this to change so that we can work together and collaborate and have the wonderful partnership that I believe we can.
Specifically, I would lie to request that each of us on a piece of paper write down what we want for ourselves in our relationship and what we want for the other person and that we bring those together and create a loving contract together. I would like to do this within the week. Do you accept my request? This last question is very important.
Step 7: Appreciation
All being well you have made it to the space where the other person has listened to you and how you feel possibly for the first time. It is important to acknowledge and appreciate their willingness to listen and not interact and defend their position. It’s important to be generous in your appreciation to really feel it from your heart to guys.
Thank you for listening to me. I’m grateful that you have had me as it takes enormous courage to do that when one hears Is not always easy. I hope that I can return the favour for you and that we can create something magical going forward.
You can now invite them to do the process for themselves and you can give them some guidance in terms of the headings of how they can prepare for themselves and suggest that you make a diary appointment to do that in a few days’ time.
I didn’t have a very long or illustrious boxing ‘career’ – in fact it lasted just two bouts – but I remember it well. Whilst attending The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst – where the British Army trains it’s officers – we were introduced to ‘milling:’ 60 seconds of non-stop ‘controlled aggression’ against your opponent, with boxing gloves. With a twist: the ever-watching training staff would pair you up with a friend. This video will give you a sense of what it’s like.
From this process, a few of us were selected to box in the inter-company boxing night, along with all the pomp and ceremony that is the British Army. The day before, I discovered that my opponent had boxed no less than 32 times for the Metropolitan Police.
It was not a long fight. I ‘telegraphed’ my punches and he saw them coming. A jab here, a jab there (repeat) and after 2 rounds my nose exploded, covering the canvas with bloody crimson dots. My nose felt like a rock for the rest of the week with all the congealed blood.
But I didn’t give up and I didn’t shy away from the ‘milling.’ I was shit-scared of looking weak or beaten as adrenaline coursed through my veins, but it taught me the power of resilience or ‘getting stuck in’. The dictionary defines resilience as: the ability to recover from, or adjust to, misfortune or change. It has been an essential skill for me over the years; a faith and belief that everything will be okay in the end.
And this time of the global Coronavirus pandemic, with change and uncertainty rife, I believe that resilience is about the most important skill we can posses. Check out this post for some sound scientific tips on how to build it.
Now get out there and knock ’em dead, and shout if you need help. If you are looking for some inspiration, watch this remarkable short video on an exhibition of boxing resilience.
Often when we are in breakdown, we look at successful people and wonder how they did it.
The truth is, many successful people took a long time to get there, and not without their fair share of failure along the way.
Consider the following examples:
- Henry Ford’s early businesses failed and left him broke five times before he founded the Ford Motor Company.
- When Jerry Seinfeld first walked on stage at a comedy club he was jeered and booed off.
- Before JK Rowling became the phenomenal success that she is with her Harry Potter books she was severely depressed, divorced and virtually penniless.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his bestselling book Outliers – The Story of Success, talks about the 10,000-hour rule. In a nutshell, research has shown that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become masterful at something, irrespective of the particular field.
So consider that every breakdown that you encounter is an opportunity for you to keep learning and acquiring mastery.
Success will come; what success is really about is stumbling from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm. (Attributed to Winston Churchill, but no proof exists.)
A note on success:
To me it’s about self-acceptance, setting my mind to something and being committed, yet unattached to the outcome – which is a lot easier said than done, like most things. I experienced this when cycling through Africa. The success was cycling 13,000km’s over a period of 14 months. The ‘failure’ was that I was forced to abort and fly over Algeria, which I viewed as an abject failure at the time, but what I now see as an essential part in getting my partner and me home as I may have died in the desert as I had malaria at the time.
Don’t we so often get so stuck, absorbed and over-interested in ourselves? What we want, what our purpose is, how we can make money, what’s my legacy?
What about asking a different question? What if we were to ask, ‘What does the world want from us?” Or, “what were we put on this earth to do?”
It’s like the difference between seeing the world through our own eyes, and then having a transformation where we view the world from the world’s view.
I was chatting with a good friend and I asked him this question. He runs a retail business and is really, really good at it. He didn’t hesitate for a moment, “To encourage others.” I was moved to tears in a moment. Why? Because that is exactly my experience of him. He is one of the most selfless, caring, loving human beings I know. I know he got the power and clarity of his answer too.
What came to me the first instant I asked this question was, “to connect with people.” That has evolved to, “to influence, inspire and enable people to unite, connect and celebrate our shared humanity, rather than focusing on the differences that separate us.”
What’s yours? I’d love to know.
In a conversation with a client recently, I used a phrase: one swallow doesn’t make a summer.
I was unsure whether or not to use it, as I thought he might experience it as demeaning, or patronising; or that I was just throwing out a quote or a cliché.
That was until I chatted to him at a function recently. I asked how he was doing and he said, “that quote you shared with me all those years ago really stuck; I have never forgotten it and it recently really helped me in dealing with a challenge I was having. .
Turns out it was perfect for him, in his place and time.
Never be afraid of sharing something that comes to mind as we will never know how it might land with someone and the difference it might make, as the saying goes, “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
Is there a word of phrase that sticks in your mind, or one that comes to mind as you read this?
What about me? I don’t care about you.
I find it incredible to think that one day I will die. When I start talks with, “ok, so we all going to die,” the audience invariably looks stunned.
But it’s true, isn’t it? Yet our inner critic – what I call, “The Whining Dream Killer,” thinks that we will live forever, there is always tomorrow and this life is a dress-rehearsal.
That same voice is the one that whines, moans and complains; the same voice that is driving us to extinction, the voice that says, “But what about me? It’s not fair. It’s their fault.”
You can see it in everything that is wrong in the world, from wars, to violence, to hunger to an uncared for planet: My wealth, my power, my comfort, my ego.
Well the truth is I don’t care about you. Not The Whining Dream Killer you.
I do however, care deeply about YOU, that wild, loving, passionate, compassionate and creative being that is here to make this world a better place.
So, what are you going to do as a result of this?
Sit and wonder and think and give the Dream Killer space to play, or get up off your butt and go and do something amazing, powerful and helpful to others and the world.
I’d love to hear what you are going to do.
Go on, I D.A.R.E™* you!
• Decision: Make the decision. Everything changes when you do. Get rid of the alternatives.
• Action: Action is the real victory. It’s the process, not the outcome that counts. You always control the process.
• Result: You get the result you get, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always you get the gold medal for giving it a go.
• Evaluate: Now reflect on what you did. Did it work? Did it not? What did you learn and how will you apply that next time?