Archives for May 2008

Speak Freely or Die

In the spring of 1970 just after the Kent State shootings things were extremely tense on college campuses. My campus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) was no exception. It was a time of drastic transformation, courage and unrest. Yet during those pressure-packed days the IUP administration made an uncharacteristically wise decision. Black Power members and other radical students decided they wanted to demonstrate by walking a route right through the heartland of the two groups on campus who felt threatened the most by the rapid change, the ROTC (reserve officers training) headquarters and the athletic field house.

University officials knew that the peace could not be kept by anyone in uniform. They also knew that they couldn’t deny the request to demonstrate. Their solution was pure genius. They asked my fraternity, the Brothers of Sigma Tau Gamma, to march on the outside ring of the demonstrators to act as a buffer of peace and sanity between both groups.

In 1968 I was a ROTC cadet myself but the Vietnam War changed everything. I opted out – and by 1970 I was a longhaired wild man wearing cut-off bib overalls. My fraternity was asked to serve that day because of our unique makeup. Some of us had become full-fledged hippies and some of us remained hard-core jocks. I was proudly both and I did inhale. Because we had the respect of both sides we were the buffer least likely to fan the flames of hate. Now it was up to the Brothers of Sigma Tau; would we accept this perilous assignment?

As I look back on those times I find it fascinating that I was my wildest, most courageous and most unrestricted self during those college years. It also was the time when I felt the most freedom. We could choose to go to class or to honor the fallen students at Kent State by not attending. We could choose to remain silent and buy what our government was selling or we could express ourselves freely in protest.

Is there a connection between the freedom of self-determination and the freedom of self-expression? Darn right there is. They go hand-in-hand.

Employees have less of both freedoms. We self-employed get to choose, but even among the ranks of the self-employed we sometimes choose an inauthentic silence.

We suppress our freedom of self-expression when we hold back from saying what we really want to say. We restrict ourselves because we are afraid of some undesirable consequence.

Self-censorship is all about fear. It could be a fear of standing out, offending, being judged, or fear of what others might think of us. What’s behind that fear? Why do we care so much? Could it be a primal fear of crossing cultural lines and of being left alone because our tribe no longer accepts us?

Or is it simply fear-based economics? If we believe that there is only so much good to go around, aren’t we more likely to censor what we express for fear of offending? For example we could believe that by taking a spiritual or political stance we may adversely affect a hiring or buying decision? Business blogging gurus say that it’s simply good sense to play it safe. But when we play it safe, are we really living our lives on our terms? Or are we just pretending?

Are we afraid that once we are totally exposed, fewer people will like us or support us as we really are? Stripped of our fears, who are we?

Without your fears who are you? Really consider this question for a bit. Who are you without your fears? Are you more or less yourself? Are you happier? Stronger? In the absence of fear are you not more carefree?

What good might happen if you decided let go of your fears and freely express? When we hold back from revealing our whole truth, aren’t we saying that the opinions of others matter more to us than our own? Isn’t this a pretty small way to live?

Where in your life are you playing it safe and thus way too small?

Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

David Whyte, from his poem Sweet Darkness

Holding back is choosing to play it safe. Just so, exaggeration also masks the real you. Hiding behind a facade of exaggeration is a most cowardly form of self-censorship. Where are you exaggerating the truth to make yourself appear other than you are?

If you do not pretend to be more than you are, you will dare to be all that you are.

Susan Thesenga

Might that dare be your call to aliveness? Might it be your time it to show yourself, bruises, baggage and all?

What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am? Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Without your fears, you are a gloriously wonderful human being. You came here to do something remarkable. The world needs your special contribution. Isn’t it time to speak up before the real you withers away and dies? If you could remember to be who you are more often, how would this change your willingness to freely express yourself?

What did the Brothers of Sigma Tau do? Yes we were both hippies and jocks but we were first brothers. So we marched and we kept the peace that day. Right on.

What Makes You Exceptional?

Do you know what makes you exceptional?

If you do are you frequently and fearlessly expressing your exceptionality?

Here’s my theory of exceptionality. We increase the probability of creating a life of freedom, fulfillment and financial prosperity to the degree that we are willing to express our exceptionality.

I hope you’ll agree, that the best of both worlds, would be if we could all be paid very well, simply for being who we really are. When we take action from the core of our uniqueness then it’s an easier action leveraged by our inherent assets.

But it seems like so many have gotten so far off-track that even if offered a great reward simply for being completely authentic – they may not be able to collect. Could you? If a foundation sought you out and made an offer of $100,000 just for being 100% who you are, for one week, would you collect?

In order to collect you’d have to choose to fearlessly express your exceptionality every time it ran smack into cultural conformity.

In order to collect you’d need to express your odd behaviors, personality quirks and peculiarities without regard for societal norms.

Could you do that? Would you be willing to risk becoming a cultural outcast to collect the hundred grand? If yes, I salute you. If you would not be willing, what stops you from expressing yourself completely? Haven’t you noticed that most of us are obsessed with the uniqueness of celebrity while personally reeking of conformity?

Identifying and expressing ones exceptionality is an essential key to self-employment success. The market is way too crowded to hold back and expect success. We’ve got to let our exceptionality rip so that our unique voice can be heard. I call that guy my Wild Tommy. He’s the part of me who doesn’t give a hoot what others think. He just shows up and lets it all hang out.

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

– Dr. Seuss

Cultural conformity is a fear-based limitation that tells us what we are supposed to do. There are no rules and there are no sacred things that we are supposed to do.

“Hell, there are no rules here – we’re trying to accomplish something.” – Thomas A. Edison

Somewhere we lost our way and allowed appropriateness to crush our wildness. Do you think that’s why it seems like we have to work so hard to get what we want? I do. Somehow we have lost the inspirational example of our natural world and replaced it with lots of effort. Whistling while we work is natural. It’s how life gets to be when we express all of who we are. Isn’t wholeness the meaning of integrity? So what’s with all this pretending?

Perhaps we simply need to check the validity of our decisions on how alive they make us feel? Does it really need to be more complicated than that?

“Don’t ask what the world needs – ask what makes you come alive and go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

What can you do to express your exceptionality more? A good first step would be to discover it. You can discover it by answering some questions designed for that purpose.

I’m curious, what do you think? Could expressing our exceptionality more frequently be the key to creating the life we most want to live?

Watch Your Words – Use Success Language

Many say that they’d like to be their own boss but keeps them for using success language. . Fear has an insidious nature to it. It seeps into everything you think and say, thus making your quest for work life freedom and happiness seem much more difficult than it is.

When fear latches onto the possibility of your dreams, it expands – as one fearful thought after another colors your world darker and darker. These thoughts create an illusion of doubt that is strengthened by your fearful words. What’s the way out?

Watch your language. Is it success language or something less?

Sometimes a tiny adjustment can lead to a huge leap in progress. This is one of those times. If you can simply bump up your awareness on what comes out of your mouth, the fear will dissipate like a morning fog and you’ll be on your way.

Language acts as a bridge between your intentions and your dreams. You can be very clear about what you want and even be very willing to take bold actions. But if your talk doesn’t allow you to see your optimum path – you’ll never walk it. Powerful language not only emboldens your actions, it makes visible options to which you were once blind.

And there’s the rub. Unless a life coach or a really good friend is willing to suggest corrections in your language, you may never know how ineffective it really is. No one can see his or her own blind spots. We simply fall into language patterns over time that do not serve us well. This weaker language repeatedly persuades us that we are capable of far less than we actually are.

In my small business coaching, I work with many clients who have fantastic ideas for a product or for their own small business but they lack a deep belief in themselves. It’s not so much the idea that brings success, but the man or woman behind it. It’s fascinating that these same clients are willing to make bold action agreements to move their ideas forward. Yet they can’t see the silent dream-killer working behind the scenes to trip them up. They can’t see how their own words and thoughts that precede them are making the climb to success so slippery.

If your words don’t line up with your intentions, then you’re working much harder than you need to be. It takes a tremendous amount of energy just to fight the confusion and doubt in your own mind. There is an easier way, and here it is.

Three small language adjustments that will make your dreams come true.

  1. Use Words that evoke Possibility. Some words open us up to seeing more options and some simply close down our receptivity. The simplest shift into possibility language comes from replacing one word with another. Every time you catch yourself saying should change it to could. Should is judgmental and only reinforces an erroneous assessment of your own capability. Using could presents greater options and the life of possibility. Replace should with could in all statements about yourself and addressed to others. When we point the finger of should at another, we are making a feeble attempt to shrug responsibility. Also replace your “I must” and “I ought to” statements with “I can.” Like should, must and ought are also statements that to only serve to make you feel guilty, ineffectual and out of options.
  2. Use Words that place you in the Now. When we speak in the future tense of “I will,” we don’t even believe ourselves. Saying “I will” is almost as weak as saying “I’ll try.” No one believes you when you talk like that, including you. However, there is something boldly empowering about bringing our language right into the present moment, which is the only place from which we can create. Here are the most powerful two words in the English language: I am. Any dream added to these two words instantly energizes and aligns your actions with your intentions. Now I’m going to give you a great gift that I often give my coaching clients the instant they hire me. Use these present moment phrases on the front in of your dream. Instead of saying, “I want to start my own business.” Say… “I’m on the verge of” starting my own business.” Or… “I’m on the brink of” making my dreams come true.” Or my favorite… “I’m in the midst of building my dream life.” The present moment power isn’t in the dream but in those first four empowering words just before you state your objective. Try a few out loud and get ready to blast yourself forward.
  3. Use Words that are Powerfully Positive. Imagine that your life is a ballgame and you are the announcer of that game. If you could carefully listen to yourself call your own game, you’d be amazed at the level of negativity. This is no game; this is your life! If you want your life to more closely follow your intentions, it’s time to begin putting a more positive spin on how you tell your own story. This is often the most difficult of adjustments, because we are unaware of how pitiful we sound. But everyone else can tell almost immediately.

For years I repeatedly talked about my biggest business and life failure. I wrote about it here. It hurt so much that it had become not only my story but also my identity. It colored everything, so that new dreams had a very tough time taking root. Then magically one day I really heard myself – and changed how I called my life’s game.

I want you to know that how you talk about your life could be just as important as the actions you take. In fact, more so – because you probably aren’t taking actions because of the accumulation of your self-talk. Once you realize this and act on that basis, you’ll begin to watch your language about yourself and your dreams. Calling a good game means that you put the most positive spin on how your life is going. Essentially, you look for the bright side and talk about it often.

Here are a few tips on how to put more powerfully positive talk in play.

  • Select an important area of your life where your default talk is generally negative.
  • Write down what you usually say in that area. Now, rewrite your story with a more hopeful, positive spin. Keep rewriting until announcing it lifts you.
  • Commit to announcing your new positive story out loud three times daily. You may have a lot of crappy programming to record over, so stay with it. Have fun with it and call it out like you would a ballgame. Nothing is the end of the world. Your heart still beats regardless of your major wound. It’s time to watch your language and lighten up.
  • Pump up your awareness so you catch yourself when you slip into old powerless positions of blame and negativity. Congratulate yourself for each catch and replace the old with your new, inspiring spin.

A client once asked. “But what do I do when I am so stuck in the negativity that I don’t believe a more positive story about my hopes and dreams?”

When this occurs, we have a deep psychological objection to thinking more positively about ourselves. We need something that will counteract our hidden unwillingness to feel better. Gary Craig developer of Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) designed a powerful ”setup” phrase that works really well.

Here’s the phrase. “Even though I have this ________, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” Read what John Freedom writes. “This does work – much of the time – but not always. The Setup is intended to be the built-in antidote for psychological reversal (PR). A PR is an objection to healing. It is a form of subtle self-sabotage, and includes any limiting belief or consideration a person is holding, that prevents them from healing and changing now. Often this takes the form of implicit self-hatred.”

Go to the link and read about it for yourself. I really like this setup phrase because of its honesty. I’ve found it to be much more believable than pie-in-the-sky affirmations that are so much beyond what one currently believes.

But by adding the powerful “Even though,” we admit where we are and then can affirm what we want. For example, try combining all of the tips above in one powerful statement. “Even though I’ve struggled, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” Then…. “Even though I’ve struggled, I’m now in the midst of turning everything around.” When we add the power of tapping (here’s a very good video tutorial on EFT tapping) to this powerful language, amazing breakthroughs are realized.

Watch your language. These three small adjustments can make your dreams come true. Are you willing? Are you ready to make them happen or are you all talk?



Screw-ups, Fresh Starts & Comebacks

Have you ever screwed up and not followed through on a self-pledge? We all have, many times, and we are likely to continue, right? If that’s so, consider this. Wouldn’t it be a better strategy to give up on perfection and simply allow the screw-ups to occur? If we could do that without being so hard on ourselves, we’d be more fulfilled, waste less time and be far more productive.

Trust builds when agreements are honored. Thus it’s our self-trust that takes the biggest hit when we don’t follow-through as promised. So we need to trust ourselves once more to comeback from this temporary breach of reliability.

When we screw-up we can either change what occurred so that we don’t make the same mistake again or we can change how we feel about making mistakes. I find the latter to be just as effective and far easier to pull off.

Please get this. It’s not the mistake that derails you. It’s how you feel about letting yourself down. Since you admit that you are too hard on yourself, what might happen if you simply cut yourself some slack?

I’d like to introduce you to a couple of words and their definitions that you may have forgotten.

Forgive – to cease to feel resentment about.

Absolve – to free from guilt or blame or their consequences.

Have you forgotten that you have the power to self-forgive and to self-absolve? It’s often a necessary step before we can get ourselves back on track. I really want you to know a few things.

There is no limit to the number of fresh starts you can make. You can always begin again. As a coach, I often ask clients to give themselves permission to forget about past misses and begin anew. Absolve yourself. Let it go. Recognize the futility of holding onto the mistake and its accompanying guilt. Start over. Take a Mulligan.

If you take yourself too seriously, lighten up and praise your good. Most of us tend to overplay our misses and under-recognize our hits. You do a lot of things right, don’t you? Who sees those? Whose job is it to make sure they get duly noted and celebrated? Perhaps if you spent more time recognizing your progress and all the things you do well, you would no longer need to be so self-judgmental.

Know that making a mistake is not an indication that anything is wrong with you or fundamentally lacking in your makeup.
As kids, many of us had adults place the “what’s wrong with you?” curse on us. Know and act on the basis that nothing is wrong with you. You are a child of God who occasionally misses the mark. So what, who doesn’t?

Sometimes when you disappoint and do not follow through, it means nothing. It could mean that you just screwed up. Perhaps in your enthusiasm you simply over-promised. Perhaps other priorities and/or opportunities entered the picture.

Mistakes are simply attempts that missed the mark. Lighten up. Start over. Forgive yourself. Let go of the misstep. Shrug it off. Release those guilty thoughts.

Mistakes are inevitable and without them we would have no feedback for course corrections and adjustments. If you’ve made a mistake, it’s already in your past. It’s behind you, so allow it to remain there.

You can come back from anything. Clear the air. Forgive yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Give yourself a break. Love yourself. Pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Begin anew. Life wants you to win.