Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

The Fire of Fierceness

In 1 on January 29, 2010 at 7:50 am

I am going to post this because I know this sentiment intimately, but will write about it more soon.  I am feeling this coming to the surface in me.  To return to my favorite quote of all time by Paul Valery “Seeing is to forget the name of the thing one sees.”  Right now I feel what Alice Walker said below, but cannot articulate the context….Some people need to look out for me in the near future….

“…we have to look into ourselves, know who we are, know what we believe in, what it is we want, and we have to connect with the fierceness….there is always a necessity for compassion, loving, kindness, praise….but also we have to kindle the fire of fierceness.  We need to understand the intense happiness, the intense joy of being in a just battle.”

Alice Walker


Psychology, Philosophy, and Policy

In 1 on January 25, 2010 at 8:28 am

I was watching the Sunday News programs today and heard an interesting comment from one of the talking heads.  They were “judging” Obama’s record so far, especially the stimulus, and they, of course were having a balanced conversation because there were people representing both sides.  One of them commented that in FDR’s first month, the economy grew despite the fact that no policy had been implemented yet.  The guy on the other side said that, therefore, FDR should not get credit for that.  One said it was psychology and the other guy claimed psychology is not policy.

Really?  Psychology is not policy?  Alan Greenspan said that it never occurred to him that companies would not act in their own best interest which is what led to his policies over the years.  He  also said years before that if he could predict fear and exuberance, he would not need any economic model to predict the economy.

Psychology is policy and it is the refusal of people to accept this that causes so many problems.  The science is clear that in each of us are conflicting interests fighting for control.  No matter how much we want to believe we can overcome this with intellect, history tells us we are, if not slaves, then at least puppets to the inner conflicts.  And when we create laws or policies, we are simply acting out our psychology.  Why?  Because our psychology fools us and it is often the hardwiring of childhood experiences.

Over the last year, I have been involved in turning around a building full of people who worked there and the people who paid to be members.  It is pretty clear to me that we needed a very simple policy to turn things around.  That policy?  To have fun.  We turned the numbers around in only a few months.  And while we, of course, paid attention to the numbers, they were simply the result of people once again having fun.

Until our leaders understand that psychology is, in fact, policy we will be sold “ideas” that are nothing more than ideology born out of the hardwiring of the past.  Until we remember that philosophy is simply the love of wisdom, we will forget that policy, that ideas, demand that we actually know something.

Worst of all for a capitalist society, we will never know how to act in our own best interest.  That is a pillar of capitalism that we somehow let the politicians and financiers steal from us.

Thomas Paine wrote that society is how we fulfill our wants while government is meant to protect us from our vices.  What could be more about psychology?  And Newt Gingrich often talks about how the Founding Fathers were brilliant because they started with human beings in mind when they wrote the Constitution.  Coach K from the Duke basketball team once said:

You have a chance for everyone to have ownership.  That’s the ultimate goal.  Where a team is owned by everyone on that team.  It’s always we. Psychology is the most important factor.  What happens in sport a lot and it happens in business as well, people try to learn the business or they learn the sport, the X’s and O’s and all that.  The amount of time they spend on that is so disproportional to the time they spend learning about people.  Yet these are the people who make the X’s and O’s work.

So don’t tell me psychology is not policy.  It is the mother and father of policy.

Bob Dylan and heading home

In 1 on January 21, 2010 at 7:07 am

I remember standing just offstage about 5 feet away from Dylan one night watching him, listening to him sing.  He was dressed in full leather in 100 degree heat, not a single drop of sweat on his face, his gravely voice singing “Blowin’ in the Wind.”  His skin hardened by the years and sun as my friend told me he was like a lizard.  He was not the same guy I grew up listening to, but a couple of quotes of his still seemed to ring true.

“I was born a long way from where I belong and I am on my way home.”

I know that feeling all too well and it took me years to understand what it really meant.  Who knows what he meant by it, but I’ve read enough about him to think we share that understanding.

At first you think there is something missing, and the con game tells you that means something is wrong with you.  In psychology they might even call it a disorder.  Fortunately for me I took enough classes in psychology and counseling to understand that a disorder simply means you don’t fit.  I distinguish a disorder from a true disease where something might truly be wrong.

But not fitting in, feeling like something is missing, can be one of the greatest gifts in life.  Maybe we blame our parents for what we did not develop early on.  Maybe we blame others for what feels like a hole now.

But Dylan it seems to me got it right.  We are all headed home.  We are all a promise waiting to be fulfilled.  If we would just let go of the need to fit in and to find what fits us instead.

I often try to explain how I live to other people and they mistakenly think I have a bad life, a tough life, maybe even a sad one.  They simply don’t understand.  I explained to my mom my circumstances this summer and she said exactly that “I’m sorry.  It must be tough.”  I felt a tear well up in my eye and I replied, “But you know I could never live the way you and dad live.”  She simply said “Yes, I know. I just wish you had what I have.”  It wasn’t in me to tell her I had no interest in what she had.

Fulfilling one’s promise was never meant to be easy, never meant to be safe.  Nature can be cruel.  But it is what it is, and I am what I am whatever that is.

But when I realized that pain is simply Nature’s way of telling me I was not protecting myself, was not fulfilling my promise or turning her gift of life into the skills for living, I understood.  And I knew when I heard Dylan’s words, “I was born a long way from where I belong and I am on my way home,” I understood that home is where fulfilling my promise leads me.  And that offered me peace, eased the pain.

I often read books that no one else I know reads.  One of those books is “Defining the Wind” about the origin of the Beaufort Scale for measuring wind.  In that book, Huler writes about his experience trying to use the scale, how elegant it was for the sailors in the 1800’s.  He also wrote about the new gadgets they’d created in more modern times to know what the wind was and how false they were, how we don’t need them for most things in life.  Here’s what he said:

“…our own body is the greatest perceptive instrument ever designed.  Not only can it perceive sound, light, movement, temperature, aroma, taste, and time, but it possesses all the processing capacity and speed to organize, categorize, and express that mass of data almost instantly, to then retain and reorganize it, and to find utility and value and meaning.”

And that, my friends, is the difference, the answer, the secret.  Not so secret, though, if you know where to look.  Here is what actor William Macy said:

“Here’s the thing– you are sufficient.  You don’t have to improve yourself.  First of all, you’re not going to.  In your study of acting you’re not going to become better people.  You are sufficient.  You’ve got the goods.  You are enough.  You’re completely emotional enough. What we need from you is your bravery, your will.  If you do it right, the journey of the character is strangely similar to the journey of the actor.  The fear that the character feels is so similar to fear that you feel.  At some point, you have to stop saying to yourself “I am wrong to feel this way.  I should be feeling something different.”   If you’re feeling it, it’s real.  The purpose of technique is always to free your subconscious.  That’s why you have a technique, to let the inner stuff out.  You want to get out of your head because that’s where you’ll find the truth.  You’ve got the goods.  You are sufficient.”

I’ve spent a lot of years observing, listening, seeing the difference between people who fulfill their promise, who find “home,” who know that pain is simply data that we are not protecting what’s right about us and those who do not.  I’ve witnessed first hand the virus of insecurity because someone was convinced something was wrong with them.  It is a virus that turns our life’s work, our meaning, into jobs that Studs Terkel described as “too small for our spirits.”  I’ve dated or married women who simply could not see their own beauty or take the pressure they felt from me because I could see it in them.  And while I understand all of these people, understand the virus, I cannot accept its existence.  My entire life is dedicated to eradicating this virus.  I simply wish I was better at it.  I simply wish others could see what I see.

I used to be infected.  But I stopped listening to that voice in my head.  I stopped wanting to possess beauty realizing the experience of it was sufficient.  And best of all, I came to understand money cannot buy those experiences.  Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees as Paul Valery said and as a result we can only feel those experiences. Thank God for that.

In the first week of my fiftieth year, I have witnessed the virus each and every day in others, especially on my birthday.  I took a moment to honor the mother that gave me away.  And then I thanked her for giving birth to my promise, a long way from where I belong.  I am still headed home.  But I am sufficient and what used to feel like a hole inside of me is simply Nothing, the greatest thing of all.  The stillness, space, and silence, where Nature’s whisper calls me to wonder, to seek beauty, and in doing so see truth.

And what’s truth?  The truth is I still have a ways to go, that I am still turning those gifts of life into the skills to live my life, the life inside me free of the virus.  As Van Morrison sang “I am free because I see.”  No need to name things, but to feel what I see.  And when I feel pain, it is also Nature’s warning that I am not doing enough, not that something is wrong with me.  Wonder seeks beauty to find truth that turns back into wonder…and on it goes…

And that leads to what is truly mine…moments…As Joseph Campbell said, as one person specifically taught me one moment on a beach:

“The central point of the world is where movement and stillness come together. Movement is time, but stillness is eternity. Realizing this moment of your life is actually a moment of eternity and experiencing the eternal aspect of what you’re doing in the temporal experience.”

And as photographer Sam Abell said describing photography:

“Stay this moment…it was hard learning to be between the photographs not knowing when the next one would appear. Above all it has been hard learning to live with the mental images of scenes that I saw and failed to photograph. Stay this moment. It’s the heartfelt, passionate feeling when life is achingly beautiful or funny or poignant. Powerful you might say.”

Powerful.  Energy doing what matters.  And when I understood the virus of insecurity, when I saw the damage of the voice in our heads and stopped listening, the time between moments, the space between the notes simply turned into what defines the music of my life.  Anyone can play the notes.  It is what we do in the silence that makes the difference.  It is that silence that guarantees I will not miss the moments that matter most.  No regrets.

As Bob Dylan said “You don’t need a weatherman to tell you what the weather is.”

You’ve got the goods.  You are sufficient.

P. S.  One of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to is Chronicles: Volume One by Dylan.  It is narrated by Sean Penn.  It is amazing.  Listen to the book instead of reading it.  You can get it on itunes or,

The voice in your head

In 1 on January 10, 2010 at 8:03 am

So someone I care about greatly and whom I respect greatly challenged me a bit tonight.  So let me say right off her concern is a valid one.  She basically challenged me that the voice in your head is not always a bad thing.  But then she went on to say that some people listen to their heart which she does.  I trust her completely on this.  And while she thinks I am saying that is a bad thing, I am not.  Assuming I understand her (which might be a bad assumption) let me address this.

If you asked me what mattered in life, how I knew what mattered in life a few years ago, I would have said something all together different than I believe now.  But I’ve learned so much about myself the last few years, I have to answer that question differently now.

I lived in a tent for three months at the top of a mountain with no water, no electricity, and the knowledge that every night something might be lurking outside that might literally kill me.  It is that experience of myself that changed me.  We were warned about mountain lions, bears and other assorted animals that I might provoke into harming me EVERY night.  That changed me.

I also was broke.  No money.  There was a study done that said that during the recession people ate at a place like Wendy’s because you could literally get a great meal (taste wise) for less than five dollars.  Kelly and I were in that group.

And what I learned was how little I needed to be happy.

I awoke one morning to seven moose outside of my tent and I got to watch Nature do its thing.  Nothing has moved me so much as that did.  This entire experience allowed me to let go of something– the belief that I know exactly what makes me happy.

So in addressing my good friend’s concern, here it is.  There is a huge difference between listening to the voice in your head and listening to the music of your heart that then needs your head to figure out how to keep the song going.

What I mean by the voice in your head is that there is some game you must win to judge yourself adequate.  This is the con game and it is strictly defined by the use of words, words fused into stories by which you measure yourself.

But my friend knows she does not live this way.  She listens to her heart, then uses her head to get what she needs to keep it going, to keep singing and dancing and playing.  Words are more like lyrics.  To use her words, her head helps her know what’s next, but only because her heart tells her what direction to head.

I’ve worked with a fair number of high level athletes and once they get good at their sport, I see a similar pattern.  They chose their sport from their heart, but once they got good they stopped listening to their heart and got into their head.  Why?  Because they forgot that they fell in love with what they did.  They loved swimming or basketball or whatever it was.  Then they turned it over to their head and lost the love.  They talk about winning instead of playing,  Winning became more important than the actual doing of the thing.  Winning became more important than love.

So here’s the key difference.  Love does not reside in your head.  Love is what is in your heart.  Listen to the music or song in your heart and then use your head to figure out where you take that.

The goal it seems to me with anyone is to quiet the voice in your head just long enough for you to realize that it is not you, not the voice from your heart.  Once you realize that, you don’t need to quiet it or silence it necessarily, but you will listen to it very differently.  And if you choose not to listen to the voice in your head, eventually it will slip back into the recesses where it came from….

Without love for who you are and what you do, my experience, my belief is you will never get where you want to go–because you will have no idea where you want to go or why.

I wear my sunglasses at night

In 1 on January 9, 2010 at 4:45 am

So I have accidentally conducted a social experiment over the last year.  Because I have basically had little money, when I broke my glasses I could not afford a new pair as they were about $400.  I have a pair of reading glasses and a pair of very good prescription sunglasses.  For most of the past year I have worn my sunglasses most of the time including indoors and at night.  Amazing how much I can see.  Even more how much I can see into people from wearing them when people expect me to wear regular glasses.

And what I see is how uncomfortable people are walking around on a daily basis.

I even had Dave Matthews comment on it one day as he got to know my girlfriend in CVille.  One day I walked past him inside and had them on.  He said “Who does he think he is?  Kanye West?”

I am amazed at how uncomfortable they make people…so, of course, that encourages me more to wear them.  People who know me just accept it.  But most people feel the need to judge me instead of ask why I wear them.  They complain they cannot see my eyes.  They think I am trying to look cool or that I think I am better than other people.  And they rarely comment to my face, instead saying things behind my back.

What have we done to people that the mere wearing of darkglasses brings out so much judgment?  It has made me realize in the slightest way what prejudice feels like.  I cannot imagine if I wasn’t a white male what they’d say or how they’d judge me.

Only a few people have actually asked me about it.  When I tell them I’m broke, they feel bad.

I wonder if this is why Corey Hart sang about this in the 80’s.


In 1 on January 3, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Maybe it’s the time of year.  Maybe it’s the economy.  Whatever it is, it is pretty clear, people are posting and talking about their pictures more on facebook and twitter than I’ve noticed before.

As I am working on an idea centering on food and why and how I eat, I came across a picture of a little girl lying on a mirror.  I can’t really see her face except for in the mirror.  And what I notice most is her smile.  She seems pleased with herself, playful even.  And I reminded of the value of pictures.

In some of the posts I’ve read about pictures or the comments, it is interesting to see how many people look at their hair or their clothes or the person they were with and say “What was I thinking?”  And it is funny.  Looking at the pictures is fun.  Brings back memories.

But there are a few pictures, defining pictures that truly capture moments.  Not things we did or people we were with or the places we were.  They capture us living our promise.  Those are the pictures I value most.  They stop being pictures and become mirrors of “who we are meeting who we want to be,” of wonder meeting a moment, of the gifts inside of us.

Part of my process then includes putting these defining picture in one place to replace the mirror in which I might see age and wear and neglect.  That is the main reason you will see me post pictures of myself from back in the day– it is my smile, a smile that too often has gone missing.

All my life, I’ve had the ability to see the promise in people even they’d lost sight of it.  I believe in people, but I believe in them because I see that little kid in them, the little kid the girl sees in the mirror.  It’s not the fright of an inner child, but the promise of the little kid, the Calvin in all of us waiting to play.  I can walk through the grocery store and see that kid in so many people.  I see it in their eyes and, if am lucky, I see it in their smile.

Yesterday I asked what you would do if  someone handed you something so intimate only you could care for it?  Well, in a sense, that’s what I am doing for myself, what I am offering you.  Take some time to find those pictures of promise, where who you are met who you want to be.  See if you’re smiling.  I bet you are.  If you were an athlete playing your sport, check your eyes and see if they’re locked in. If you’re a parent holding a child, maybe you’ll understand that your promise is their promise.  Maybe it’s in their smile and your stillness as you share it with them, the purest form of listening.

Laugh at the clothes and the haircut.  It’s fun.  Dis the guy or girl you dumped or who dumped you, but don’t miss the reflection of who you are now, who you are still.

National Geographic photographer Sam Abell said it best when asked why he named his book of photographs Stay This Moment:

“Stay this moment.  It’s the heartfelt, passionate feeling when life is achingly beautiful or funny or poignant.  Powerful you might say.”

Power is energy doing what matters well.  Your promise is still there, in that smile, in those eyes.  Let it out.  Live it.

Use the mirror in the bathroom to make sure there’s nothing to worry about as you walk out the door.  But look into those photographs for the pictures of the promise and mirrors of the moment.  See the stillness of the smile and think about what Joseph Campbell said about eternity.

“The central point of the world is where movement and stillness come together.  Movement is time, but stillness is eternity.   Realizing this moment of your life is actually a moment of eternity.”

And in another post I’ll tell you the story behind the above picture.  It actually made the newspaper!!!!!  But I use this pic because that is how I see my promise– the curly hair, the eyes, the smile, the face.  That is me.  Time to let him out again….

CNN’s Get Motivated List

In 1 on January 3, 2010 at 6:31 am

So the number one tip for making change happen this year is……drum roll please….set smaller goals!!!!

And guess what number 6 on the list is. Know thyself.

Maybe I’m a little slow, but how does one set ANY goals without first knowing thyself?

And herein lies the problem with most motivational, change-based, self-help programs.

There is rarely a self involved. Why?  Because it is easier to buy and sell something outside of us, that lacks true intimacy, that comes with a time frame or deadline.

I will also add that too often resolutions are about changing what’s wrong about ourselves instead of waking up one day and seeing our own promise and seeing how the world needs to change.

What if…?

In 1 on January 3, 2010 at 12:37 am

What if one day, you woke up and found something wonderful and beautiful lying in your bed?  What if one day you were handed something so unique there was nothing else like it in the world?  What if you were given something so intimate that only you knew it well enough to care for it?  What if someone asked you to make a promise only you could keep?

What would you do?

What if that something was you?


In 1 on January 2, 2010 at 7:39 pm

In the past few days, several people have commented on my writing style or ability or skill.  Geez, I am so far from where I want to be with it, so it’s nice some people like it.  But here’s the thing, here is how I think about writing or better said communicating.

First of all, what do I want to communicate?  I want to provide everyone including myself the right information that tells fuel what to do so we do work.  Our fuel knowing what to do to do what matters.  That’s it.  Period.

But because I don’t know most people who read my work, the best I can do is to remind people to inform their energy.

As long as I keep that in mind, I have some idea where to head.  But what people don’t see or hear is that I talk with people a LOT.  I am a good listener when I need to listen, but very often I need to talk, to say things outloud and fortunately I have some friends who tolerate this.  I used to use email to do this, but realized too many people were not reading what I wrote, not because they weren’t interested, but because email became a chore to them.  Okay, many of them had no desire to wade through my prose or they told me they read it as they went to sleep.  Great, thanks.

I am ALWAYS looking for the right words, or better said in this technological era, the right symbols.  Pictures, videos, music, whatever it is that can tell our fuel what to do or why it is important to do.

Stanley Fish once wrote an essay called Theory and Dennis Martinez.  It was about Baltimore Oriole pitcher Dennis Martinez and his manager Earl Weaver.  Fish told of how the television commentators went on and on about one of Weaver’s visits to the mound.  They claimed Weaver was telling him what to do and how to think, maybe giving some technical advice.  They filled several minutes of dead air time.

After the game, they asked Martinez what Weaver had said to him.  His answer? “He told me to throw strikes.”  The announcers did not believe him, but the truth is Martinez knew what that meant.  Do what matters.  Stop messing around.  He knew how to do it, he just was distracted.

The announcer’s job was to fill dead air on television.  Weaver’s job was to inform Martinez’s energy to do what mattered.  The announcer’s job, their work, in the end would be measured by ratings which translate into advertising which means money for the owners.  Martinez and Weaver were measured by winning games which might also mean ticket sales and therefore more money for the owners.

But here’s the thing as I see it and this is the challenge we all face.  What happens when the money is the object, when the money from entertainment is more important than the winning?  What are we learning?

The job of the announcer is very different than the coach.  The announcer wants to build the drama, articulate the battle between pitcher and batter.  The coach wants to eliminate or minimize the drama.  Just do what you need to do.  If you believe what you’re doing matters, you will battle the drama the Storyteller creates in your head because it matters so much to you.  You feel fear if you’re afraid you might screw up.  Or you might be inspired and jacked and that creates energy.  The announcer and the coach are at odds even if, in the end, they are making money for the same person.

But it all comes back to energy.  The fuel to do the work.  Does your energy know what to do and how to do it?  If it doesn’t, do you create more energy that needs more information?  Or do you breathe and relax and still the energy so it can listen, so it can wonder instead of worry?

And that is my long winded explanation of writing.  I write to inform energy.  I write to remind myself and others to wonder, to inform energy.  The better I write the less energy I need to do work.  The fewer words I use, the less energy I either use up or create unnecessarily.

I know what Promise and Wonder and Power mean to me so I only need to see those words.  They are symbols, reminders to me of what matters.  But it has taken years to understand this. Throw strikes.  I know what that means.  I know how to do that to a degree.

The term “informed energy” is not sexy.  Most people roll their eyes when I say it.  but to me, it simply means fuel that knows what to do.

That is why I write…and that dictates how I write…I am working on it…

P. S.  There is one great book I doubt most people have seen about writing.  It’s called Artful Sentences by Virginia Tufte.  That’s good writing.

me part 2

In 1 on January 2, 2010 at 7:25 am

As promised, here is a little bit about me.  I have a Ph. D. in sport psychology/education.  I went to the University of Virginia where some say I played basketball (though not everyone called it that).  Officially I majored in English, but unofficially I majored in staying eligible to play basketball.

The team I was on was very good, but I got known for sitting on the bench and being a good three point shooter before it was worth three points.

All of my work comes out of that experience.  I was a public failure so I have spent the years since learning about high level performance from high level performers.  I was on the faculty of the University of Virginia School of Medicine Faculty for fifteen years.  I also have been invited to regularly present at the Darden School of Business Administration in the Executive Education Power and Leadership program.

I have also spent 25 years interviewing over 500 world class performers and an equal number of people who had trouble sleeping at night because of one line I heard over and and over again:  I did everything I was supposed to do, but my life doesn’t feel the way I thought it would.  I am inspired by both groups of people.

I have consulted with world class performers from a variety of fields including some of the most successful companies in America.

But in my real life, I am simply curious about life.  I accidentally got into the field of high level performers and that accidentally led me to wonder what I was actually designed to be and do.  This blog is a combination of the two things.

I will share my journey and also share some of my past writings.

I have had an amazing 49 years.  Feel free to comment on the picture.  One of my favorites of me….and it is 30 years old.