Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Understanding Why Creators Must Create

This post is inspired by a post written by my friend Elizabeth, a wonderful writer who courageously shares her most vulnerable questions, the ones the rest of us have but don't dare ask aloud. Her latest blog post, On the Noise, the Process, Listening to Others and Yourself, she writes "It’s perhaps unsurprising that at an artist colony the question arises: why do we make art? In a climate where the prospects of one’s work ever meeting the world feel so bleak, the query takes on a sharper edge. Without faith that our writing will ever be seen, what should motivate us to get up in the morning, put our heads down, silence the noise, and get to work?"

I don't believe this question is limited to artists. I believe it's pretty much a universal. Every vocation is creative in its own right and begs the question, why do it? The question may be easier to answer if you're an auto mechanic, or a businessperson, but even they sometimes wonder why they are doing what they do. For artists, the question often arises in reaction to the response our work generates(or not), or it's sometimes brought on by peoples' unspoken projections that such a life is a frivolous pursuit that is only self serving. We have to always remind ourselves that people still consume the fruits of our labors daily. Our books, our music, our films, our reality shows, and whatever else we create are being sought after just as much as the services offered by bus drivers and CEOs. People pay to be entertained, cultured and informed. But that's not really why we do this.

Underneath every talent is a gift. We have a tendency to confuse the two. We often think that the talent itself is the gift, but I see it differently. Your gift is who you are, and the unique qualities of your being that you bring into your own realm. It is something that you alone have to offer your world. Your talent is a medium through which your gift reaches the world, maybe one of several. This distinction is important to me because it really makes the difference in understanding why we create. If our talent is rejected our gift is in no way negated, just not received. We create because to not share our gift is the most acute form of suffering we experience, even more so than rejection.

We have little control as to how our gifts will be received and responded to. Certainly we would like to be universally adored, but the reality is that there is only a fraction of humanity at any given time who is in the place to be open to our offering. Finding that fraction is not often very easy, but we still have to put it out there. Working through the gatekeepers of publishing, bestseller lists, Billboard charts, Neilson ratings and box office reports just adds to the malaise. Our sense of worth and value becomes attached to their acceptance and validation of our work. But if we focus on that alone we forget the gift, and we suffer needlessly. Ultimately someone will be impacted by what we do, we just have to know that and carry on.

Bringing your awareness back to your gift is the way to back yourself off the anxiety and self doubt that comes with waiting for your audience to respond. Your gift comes with an imperative, share it or despair. Go ahead and let go of what you've already done and get back to the act of creating. Keep bringing your gift forward in any way you can. Refine your talent and yes, trust yourself. Your own inner guide knows exactly what to do now.

Your talents will be judged. There is absolutely nothing you can do about that. The good news is that some people will like you. They are the only ones that matter unless you like pain. Then negative criticism might help you out. If there is something to learn from a critic or a gatekeeper go ahead and learn, but don't dwell. Staying present and centered in your own gift is the key to confidence. It is the reason you're here. Go ahead and create for your own sake. Your creativity will come full circle soon enough. Your impact will be made. Just write another page...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What if Happiness is a Starting Place Instead of a Finish Line?

You've probably seen all the books lately about being happy. Sure, there are some great insights there. These authors seem to make happiness a goal; something to strive for. I've been doing a lot of inquiry lately into another idea. I think happiness is something you can attain pretty easily, and it doesn't necessarily happen as a result of something great coming your way. Happiness is an emotional state that is your body and psyche reacting to your circumstances and your interpretation of them. Our stored memories include not only imagery and sound, they include the whole experience. Those stored experiences are filed away in our minds in a file called "The Way It Is". Happiness remains elusive and we make a goal of it.

What if you can be happy first? What if happiness is your natural state, the place you live, and the place from which your real work arises? What if your real work is to release your own creative, joyful expression into the world? Doesn't that change the frame? It sure does. As someone who tends to depression I've always cast an eye of suspicion on these kinds of beliefs and the programs that promote them, and that suspicion has perpetuated the depression. I've had enough. I don't want to live like that any more. I'm ready to open the creaky, dusty door to a much more fulfilling experience.

As this year began I came into it with a desire to cultivate my own happiness. I came across a Facebook post that promoted something called the Release Technique. It was discovered by a man named Lester Levenson in 1952 after his doctors had basically sent him home to die. He began an inquiry into his life then that led him to find that all of his suffering was due to his thoughts and their subsequent related feelings. His quest to transform negative emotions into an experience of love resulted in him attaining Self realization in a surprisingly short period of time. Over the course of the next few months he relentlessly examined every emotion and past trauma that arose and he consciously worked through an amazingly simple process in which he allowed himself to feel and then release every emotion. He also saw that his thoughts, desires and behaviors reinforced his emotions. He released those as well. 

So in my cursory experience with this method, I've found an amazing amount of relief, in addition to a great return of energy and creativity. This has turned my thinking around to a great extent. As I release my negative emotions and my desire to control, I find that my happiness is hardly determined by the external world, but that I experience that world differently because I'm happy. It's also the same in my work. Instead of laying the burden of my happiness on whether I'm working or not, or on the quality of my work, I'm finding that because I'm happy I'm free to do my work in a heightened state of presence and delight, no matter what the work is! Even maintenance feels good.

I invite you to look into it for yourself. Here are a couple of links that I'd recommend if you'd like to check it out:

Release Technique Home Page Larry Crane is a student of Lester Levenson. He's kind of brusque, but the love comes through :)

Release Technique Books and Related Products at Amazon.com:
Larry Crane Books

Release Technique Home Study Course Available Here!:
click image for Release Technique Store

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Inertia

Feeling stuck. So many things to do, and it's difficult to choose between them. All are important, some even urgent. Underneath the stall is a mess of emotions. The inertia is just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the surface there is some resistance, some fear, some anger, some depression, and if I go deep enough, some shame. This is one of the times that I have to muster some will and get some movement. My friend's grandfather used to tell him that the hardest part of exercising was putting on his sneakers. Once his shoes were on all he had to do was move. So I don't care which one gets done first, I'm going to just pick something and do it.

The very cool thing that happens when I just jump in is that the whole iceberg gradually melts. The inertia goes, the gross feelings go, and satisfaction starts to creep in. This isn't a time for imagination or analysis. I just have to act.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Is Your Competitor Your Collaborator In Disguise?

Looking at the posters in a coffee shop you see a freshly hung full color announcement of an event that sounds very much like the same event you've been planning for the week following the freshly announced function. Shit. Always behind the 8 ball. They beat you to it and now they are going to get the audience and it's accompanying success, and you will die a slow death waiting for the scraps to fall from the table of life.

That's true in the old paradigm of zero sum, scarcity and adversarial competition, but there's another alternative that isn't quite habitual for most of us, myself included. What if you were to actually form a connection with the competitor and see if there are opportunities for the two of you to work together? After all, you were able to tell just by looking at their poster that they had something quite similar to you to say and share. What if the two of you could somehow compliment the other and make something with even more powerful impact through collaborating? Wouldn't that be cool? Win-win?

In the old way only one could be the first to cross the finish line. In the new way, every runner can join hands with the others and we all cross together. We shore each other up, we encourage and help each other. Everyone thrives.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

I Don't Care If Someone Else Already Did It. You Need To Do It, Too!

I remember taking a class in Psychology in college where we discussed a theory called "the hundredth monkey". My limited memory of the discussion is that a few monkeys on an island began using a tool that they previously had not used, something like using a stick to dig a hole or collect grubs or some such. At some point the number of monkeys that were using the tool reached a critical number and at that point their entire species somehow adapted the new behavior, even on completely separate islands. 

That particular theory is one that I've been intrigued by over the years, especially as it might point to the phenomenon of how the same ideas occur to people in completely different places in the world without any kind of personal relationship between the two. Has that ever happened to you? You get an idea for a book, or a t-shirt, or a bumper sticker or a solution to world hunger and all of a sudden you start finding that dozens of people around the world have had similar ideas?

I can't tell you the number of times it has happened to me. I have a "brilliant" idea for a song or a book or a project of some kind only to find that it's been done, or is being done and they are way ahead of me. Sometimes that has been so discouraging that I've stopped following the lead of my initial inspiration and have not pursued many of those ideas to their end. These days I deeply regret that that was the case.

I have also had a number of friends and clients who have been through this with similar decisions and regrets. In the last few years I've realized that I didn't need to give up these pursuits so easily. In fact, what I see now is that in these situations my own voice would have added depth and dimension to our common experience so that a more detailed picture could have emerged. Every vision and voice creates a more distinct understanding of the universe and our place in it.

I'm intrigued by how our common history has so many parallels on every continent that happened within just a short time of each other. Every stage of our evolution appears to have spread relatively quickly around the world. Even if it took a couple of hundred years, in the grand timeline that's nothing. And the amazing thing is that these leaps required no communication across oceans. They just happened because new circumstances demanded them.

Let's bring that understanding to this moment now. Our present circumstances are now inspiring new adaptations. And that inspiration that comes to you in the strangest of times is your own take on something we all have in common. If you think that doesn't matter just because you've now found a few hundred articles that hold similar inspiration in your Google search, you're dreadfully wrong. Your take is unique enough that if you don't raise your voice, we all may be the worse for it.

I don't care if there are a few dozen other books that are saying similar things. You still need to write yours. While the internet connects billions of people, there is a limit to how many people see the same things. Even if only a dozen, or a hundred, or a thousand people read your book, it will still have implications for every other monkey in this world and maybe other worlds. So go ahead, create what you're inspired to create. Your work will not be in vain. It helps the whole of us reach a new place together.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Blog Author Vanishes Into Bookmosphere

For the few folks that check in here to see what I'm up to from time to time, I just want to say thanks for the continued interest in Heart Driven Work. I've been busy with a few projects lately, of most interest here I've been writing the Heart Driven Work book. Finally was able to get past the last bit of resistance and start writing a few weeks ago. Please look for announcements to come as it nears completion. In the meantime, go and order one of these attractive t-shirts Order here:

Friday, September 6, 2013

Human Need Hasn't Gone Anywhere

We keep hearing about the employment crisis in America. The jobs report that came out this morning suggested that 372,000 people in the past few months have given up entirely in their search for a job. Hearing a number like that it's easy to despair that things are bleaker than we thought. I think we need to understand that those people gave up looking for conventional employment. Those are the kinds of jobs that are disappearing for a variety of reasons. The kinds of jobs that paid a nice salary, had great benefits and provided a sense of security seem to be harder to find.

But the jobs report doesn't reflect the number of people who have created their own employment, which has spurred a few thoughts this morning. What we all need to remember, especially those of us who are in the midst of looking for work, is that if there is a need to meet there is an opportunity to work. Human need has not gone anywhere folks, and every one of us has a unique ability to respond to some aspect of this need. In fact, need is the very basis of work. Need creates demand, and each of us has a supply of resources with which to meet that demand.

Many of us have the opportunity to become self employed, or contract workers. There are legitimate services we have to offer and people who need these services, but this requires that we start to think about our work from a different perspective. To begin to make this shift in perspective I'd like to ask you a few questions:

What do you have to offer?

If you've read any other articles in this blog you've probably run across the use of the word gift. There is an aspect of who you are that finds expression in the work that you do. Do you know what this unique, individual aspect is? On top of that aspect are there certain experiences of yours that stand out above others in which you found yourself feeling more alive, engaged, awake and powerful? Moments of flow that seemed to come from a place deep within you? These are clues to your own gift. You alone can really name what this is. Using your gift is probably the most important consideration in your work. People who work outside of their own gift are susceptible to burnout and work related depression and anxiety. Working from your gift is a self energizing, flowing process that is inherently satisfying and rewarding.

Who or what really matters to you?

What in the world do you really care about? Is there anything so interesting to you that you want to know everything you can about it? Is there anything or anyone that you care deeply about serving? Is there a situation that you get angry about? Is there something you really love to do? The answers to these questions give you an idea of where you need to direct your gift. Our values are reflected in our strong emotions. Even for people who consider themselves more thinking than feeling, strong opinions are supported by strong emotions. Your values are also a part of what makes up your purpose in life. We're here to do something that matters to us and to our world.

If compensation was no consideration what is the best work that you can imagine for yourself?

Take money out of the equation for a minute. Let yourself really have the work that you want. What is it? As you imagine this reality try to envision in vivid detail what it is that you'd most like to do? Who are you working with, if anyone? What is the impact your work is making on your life and the lives of others? What is the most satisfying aspect of what you are doing? If you were to live out your gift perfectly what would happen? Again, imagination is the key activity here. Let your goal be doing the work that you really want to do instead of the money you'll make. That can always be negotiated and worked out.

What is your gut telling you?

We have been systematically trained to ignore our own will. Well oiled industry didn't run well with a bunch of free agents, and as a result the education that most of us received and the initial work experiences we had were highly structured exercises in learning how to be punctual, work hard and follow orders. For so many there has been no room for learning to trust your own hunches. Intuition is left to leaders and we relegate our own will to that of those in charge. No wonder we're confused when we are faced with choosing our own path. A fundamental tool has been taken away from us and it's our task now to take that tool back. Learning to trust your own will, hunch, intuition or leading is the most important tool in your box. Your will lets you know exactly what you want in this moment. It's not as concerned with future or past. It's concern is immediate, and it's usually very clear. As a general rule your will operates in an either/or capacity, YES or NO. Maybe means no, for now. If you have feelings of strong desire or anticipation, that is your will saying yes. If you have feelings of reservation or dread, that is also your will speaking. It's trustworthy. Say yes to the work that you really want and, emphatically shout no to the work you don't.

What kind of work really fits your temperament?

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the Kiersey Temperament Sorter, the Enneagram System, to name a few are tools that you can use to discover something about your own personality traits, preferences, attributes and tendencies. This kind of self knowledge can be very helpful in choosing what direction you want for your life. There are some practitioners who believe this alone is enough to indicate what you should do. I'm not one of them. Temperament is just one aspect to consider in your work. What these tools can tell you is what kind of environment, structure, systems and processes will be most suited to your personality. A person who is prone to sensory overload will likely prefer an environment of quiet with time and space to think and reflect. A person who craves stimulation will most likely do the opposite. I won't say much more here about this topic but I will encourage you to seek out the help of one or more of these tools to help you understand more about your own temperament and preferences. You can start with these:

These questions are a good starting place for beginning to see which needs in the world you are best suited to respond to. They will also help you to clarify your direction and to identify your unique resources and mission.

The last thing I'll mention here is that it's becoming more and more important to keep as much of our money in our local economies as much as possible. While most consumer goods can only be found in big box stores, we can still shop for most of the services we need locally. Family owned businesses and self employed people need to be able to depend on each other to stay afloat. Keeping business local strengthens your community and creates greater opportunity for everyone. We may pay a bit more for something from a local producer, but in making that transaction we don't lose as much as if we send the majority of our spending elsewhere.

So find a need that you can meet and meet it. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Redefining Success

Seems like every decade there is a new idea of what success is and how people attain and measure such a thing. For a couple of decades you could just locate the latest Tom Peters book and deduce from the title what the new idea was. In the 80s we searched for excellence and then thrived on chaos. In the 90s we shifted our attention to innovation, and then became obsessed with branding, an obsession that has only grown since then. In the 2000s we are reimagining excellence in a disruptive age. Seems like every time we turn around success has a new face and we find ourselves with yet another goose to chase.

 I've been watching with deepening interest the new movement being initiated by Arianna Huffington that she is calling the Third Metric. The basic assumption behind this movement is that the prevailing measures of success that have been propagated by a primarily male corporate and political culture are money and power, and those measure have been the driving force in creating the polarized imbalance in our business and politics. She's encouraging people to include measures like happiness, well being, mindfulness and positive community involvement in a broader definition of success with the understanding that such considerations help us find new ground with each other and allow us to begin to respond to our common challenges more thoughtfully from a foundation of empathy and mutuality.

I'm pleased with this development, because the underlying premise of heart driven work is that there are qualities in addition to wealth and power that are desirable and equally important in our measure of our life's work. Several recent studies have corroborated that people who believe that they are delivering something of value to people, even if it is through a menial task, are more deeply satisfied with their work and feel more successful. Anecdotal examples of this include the hospital housekeeper who didn't see her job as being just a cleaning lady, but as being an integral part of the process of healing for patients in the rooms she cleaned. Her gift of service may not have been a generator of great financial wealth, but it was rich with meaning and purpose. She was genuinely happy in her work.

As an artist I often struggle  with the idea of success and what it means for me. What is the value of singing a few dozen songs that either I've written myself or that I just love to sing? The money I receive for such a thing isn't exactly a fortune, but a full tip jar at the end of the night is very gratifying. The more important measure of my own success as an artist are the connections made and the emotional exchanges that happen along those connections. The days when I feel like a failure are those days when I don't sense that I'm connecting with the people I'm singing for. The days that I feel like a huge success are the days when the crowd is engaged, singing along, asking for requests and asking for more. Most days I'd rather be paid $35.00 for the latter kind of experience than $300 for the former.

I think that connection and emotional exchange has much to do with our well being and our feeling of being successful. In my perfect world, money and power would be only byproducts of these realities. I think, or maybe hope we're heading in that direction as a species. As you share your gift with people there is a great sense of satisfaction to be had just in the sharing. The external return is just gravy. And wouldn't it be nice for everyone but the business and management publishing industry, if we could land on an understanding of success that recognized the inherent value of every kind of work?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Gift Really Is The Most Important Thing

The more I work with people in finding their heart's path the more I realize how central their gift is to this process. The symptoms of dissatisfaction with work all fall into the same basic categories. Lack or overabundance of resources, absence of or too rigid structure, low motivation or restricted will, unclear or incorrect paths, lack of purpose or value, and no viability all find their resolution in the identification and embodiment of the gift.

Again, the gift is not a specific skill or talent. Those are manifestations of the gift, but not the gift itself. Your gift is at the cross section of two realities; who you are and what matters to you. First, identify who you are. What is the role in your social relationships that you most naturally gravitate toward? What do the people in your life almost automatically ask you to be for them? Is there a common thread as you look across all of your relationships? For me this role is one of encouragement. For my wife it's inspiration. What is this role for you?

Secondly, what really matters to you? Other than your family, what things in life really grab your attention? I have a friend who loves to make things from wood. He just built his first guitar and you should see his face light up when someone who knows how to play makes his guitar sing. I have another friend who lives her life in service to those in their later lives. Still another is devoted to helping babies come into the world. For me the things that matter most are creativity and community.

I've named my own gift encouraging creative community. Do you see the components? If you were to identify your own relational role and your own deepest value and understand that the two together comprise your gift, what would you name it? This gift is at the center of your own being and for those of you who are wondering, it's why you're here. If you put your gift at the center of your work you will experience the following: a deep sense of purpose, a clear path, an engaged and energized will, a structure that allows you to embody and deliver your work, and the resources you need to sustain your work in the world.

All too often we get stuck in thinking that our work has to show up in only one certain way. The truth is that as long as you are authentically embodying your gift, it can show up in infinite ways. I can encourage creative community as an artist, as a coach, as a speaker, as a friend, as a guitar teacher, as a performer, as a counselor or in a completely crazy number of "jobs". It's not so much the specific work that matters as much as it is the embodiment of my gift. When I'm engaged in that work, no matter how it shows up, I find that I have boundless energy, high levels of effectiveness and satisfaction, and the resources that flow out are easily matched by those that flow in.

In the times in my life when I've worked outside of my core gifts I've found the opposite to be true. I'm taxed, tired, ineffective and unmotivated to the point of depression. My existence in those times has seemed meaningless and without purpose. If the gift is central, the manifestation makes a desired impact and the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards are many.

Who are you, and what really matters to you?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Making A Living

In the 1980s Marsha Sinetar wrote a very popular book called, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. She proposed that if you really engaged in work that you love, you'd eventually find yourself getting paid for it. While it would be lovely if that were true a hundred percent of the time, I'd venture a guess that the real percentage is closer to the other end of the continuum. I think in many cases that the odds of making a living solely by doing what you love are somewhat longer. For example, I don't hear often enough that poets are thriving by selling scads of their verse. Most of them are teaching creative writing, writing software, selling appliances, or writing ad copy for a living so that they can afford to write their poetry in their off hours. The same would go, not only for most artistic and literary pursuits, but also for many folks who are offering viable goods and services. If you're not sustaining yourself with your passionate pursuit, you have to make up for it somewhere else. And thus, another Day Job is born.

The good news is that there are always exceptions, but the exceptions seem to have a slightly more complex working formula than Love=money. I think the ones who tend to the success side of the tracks are the ones who employ formulas that go like this:

Love+Create+Produce+Plan+Promote+Persist+Adapt+Repeat=Money.

To be successful in any venture except games of chance requires more that just doing what you love. Doing what you love is just the beginning. If you're going to make a living at it, you're going to have to acquire some other skills, and you might also have to completely reconfigure your basic ideas of work and how you're compensated for it. I'd offer a few suggestions for that reconfiguration here:

  • If you can, make sure to reserve your most productive time and energy for your passionate pursuit. Don't wait until after the family goes to bed to do your great work(unless you can actually make it happen then), give your peak hours to the work you love.
  • Structure your support tasks so that they get done regularly, but they don't consume all of your available time. Make one half day each week your administrative time, and use it wisely. Get all of your tasks done then and be diligent about saving those tasks until then instead of interrupting your creative flow.
  • Improve your planning skills and processes. Contrary to popular belief, good planning is a skill that can be learned. It's not something that anyone is born with, everyone who is good at it has practiced to be that competent. At the very least I'd encourage you to have a short period of time at the beginning of each work week to write down a vision for the week ahead and a prioritized list of measurable goals to go along with it. Keep it simple, but write it all down. Take advantage of some of the amazing books, videos and software that has been written about planning and productivity. Every moment you put into creating a plan will pay you back in hours saved by the focus you gain.
  • Look for multiple ways to create income, especially passive income. Most people who are following their passion have had to cultivate diverse income streams to make a living. While I encourage you to make your passionate pursuit the main source of your income, I'd also encourage you to be open to other possible streams as well. For many creative artists, teaching their specialty can be a viable sideline. Private music and art teachers can command lucrative hourly rates, especially if they offer group classes. If you're competent at an activity, you probably can offer some kind of service related to that competence. Coaching, teaching, mentoring, counseling are all possible streams of income for a specialist. The only caution here is that it's easy sometimes to shift into spending all of your peak time in this secondary stream. Having a schedule full of students can take a lot of time and energy to manage as well as teach, so again, give yourself a workable structure to allow yourself the time you need for your own creativity. Passive income sources are those that don't require more than minimal time and energy to manage, yet they still provide a return. Regularly invest a portion of your income in interest bearing accounts. Create an online shop through services like CafePress or Zazzle that will give you a commission for items you sell on their websites. Write and sell ebooks on your area of expertise. The key is to have more than one predictable stream of income flowing in.
  • Learn all you can about entrepreneurship. Like planning, entrepreneurial skills are able to be studied, practiced and learned. There are thousands of books, videos, workshops, seminars, coaches, programs and more on the art of entrepreneurship. At the very least learn everything that you can about starting a business, even if it's a non profit or a seemingly unrelated service. There are some basic categories of knowledge to learn here: planning, organizational structuring, managing resources, delivery systems, financial planning and reporting, sales and marketing, project management, etc. The more you learn about successfully starting a venture, the more opportunity you'll create for yourself. Most cities have an organization called the Service Corp of Retired Executives(SCORE/ACE). These are skilled and experienced retired businesspeople who volunteer their time to help fledgling entrepreneurs to get started on the right foot. This is a good place to begin. At the very least I'd encourage you to identify and work with a mentor who you respect and admire that can point you in the direction of your own success.
  • If you have to have a day job, shoot for a position that is complementary to your passionate pursuit, but don't settle for doing something for someone else that you could be doing for yourself. For example, if you'd sell used cars to make money when you could be selling your own paintings, why not buck up and sell your own work? But if you want to be a teacher and you're getting your certification taken care of, substitute teaching is an excellent way to get classroom experience and make contacts for your future career. I also recommend that you find a day job that offers you as much autonomy, flexibility and related experience as possible. Sometimes work at home situations can allow you to set your own schedule, pace and flow. If your employer's requirements make you compromise your own pursuits, it's probably not going to be a beneficial relationship for you to be a part of in the long run.
  • Make your own work your top priority. It will never, ever be anyone else's priority, so if you don't, no one else will. 
My wife, Monica Corrado again is one of the best examples of someone who has initiated several streams of income to make her work viable. Her company, Simply Being Well, LLC is a for profit corporation that features products and services that she has designed to help people regain their health through holistic nutrition. To fulfill this mission she offers cooking classes, individual consultations, published materials, public speaking engagements, and teacher training. Each of these streams is driven by her passion for inspiring people and for holistic nutrition. These diverse streams make her work sustainable.

The last encouragement I'll offer here in regard to making a living is that it rarely happens overnight. The people who are successful are also diligent and persistent. They learn from every decision they make and they are committed to making their vision a reality. They didn't wait for permission. They didn't suppose that it was up to anyone else but themselves. They didn't wait for a Hollywood producer to discover them at the Piggly Wiggly in Hattiesburg. They made one commitment at a time to the work that they loved, and they followed through with each commitment until they had what they wanted. Do what you love, then plan, promote, persist...whatever it takes until the money follows. It will look like magic to others, but you will know that the only magic was in the conviction, commitment and dedication that you put to the task.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Where There's A Way, There's a Will

I don't remember the first time that I ever heard the saying "where there's a will, there's a way". I'm pretty sure that I was probably very young, and since then I've heard it said so many times that it's little more than noise when it's spoken. I've always taken it to mean that if I want something badly enough I'll make it happen by whatever means necessary, within reasonable moral and legal limitations. But recently I've become aware of the power of turning that phrase around...where there's a way, there's a will. Instead of being an instrument of coercion, control and manipulation, this turn of a phrase allows the will to be the gauge of the correctness of a vision or plan.

As I've gotten older I've come to an ever greater place of trusting my intuitive hits. One of the ways those intuitive hits show up is in what I call the yes factor. The will is clear in the present moment. It's open and energized or it's not. If there's any hesitation, doubt, or "maybe" about the feeling I get in my gut about a decision, I elect to wait and see, or decline the offer altogether. But when the will is open and energized I've found that going with that inner impulse is a reliable guide to making my best decisions.

There are certain circumstances when I have a difficult time tuning into my will. Most often for me those are times when I am depressed or anxious. I've discovered personally that those are not the best times to be deciding anything, but I'm learning to refocus my attention during those times to envisioning and imagining better times. Often that simple adjustment can be enough to get me back on track. I find that my will is easiest to discern when I've had time to be quiet and reflect, and there are also times when a conversation with a trusted confidante can bring more clarity to my situation. The most difficult times to hear my own intuition is when my senses are on overload.

But getting back to the idea of the will being a meter of the correctness of an idea or plan, one of the factors I've adopted in making my own priorities is a simple scale of one to ten with the question being "on a scale of one to ten, how much do I WANT to?" I'm amazed that this little exercise delivers such accurate information. If I don't want to do something, is there an adjustment I could make to the idea I'm responding to that would make it more appealing? If the response to the question is a number less than 4, is there any reason to continue except for obligations like taxes and parental responsibility? I'm finding more overall happiness in being true to my own will, even though in doing so I have to override the old messages of "you should, you ought, and you'll be sorry if you don't".

Recently I found myself making a commitment to a project that I really had no desire to be a part of. My underlying reason for agreeing to participate was that I really should because I need to be meeting more people. But as I began to show up for the meetings related to project planning I started to have feelings of regret and even resentment that I'd gotten involved. I also found that my contribution to the process was actually detrimental and didn't reflect well on me. Had I listened to my will in the moment I agreed to participate, I would have already made the correct decision to decline. Saying yes in this instance ended up with some negative consequences that I could have avoided altogether had I really let my own will speak to me when presented with the initial idea.

In contrast to this, when I've been presented with an opportunity that aligns my gift and passion, opens and energizes my will, I've experienced almost an eerie sense of rightness about being included. There is an easy flow that happens and synchronicity abounds. Even if there are obstacles and challenges, there seems to be a corresponding spurts of creativity in response.

If you're experiencing a lack of motivation or energy for your work, is it possible that you are needing to change your path or plan? Are your gift and passion central to your work? For the next week see if you can take a moment before you make a decision to test the scale of one to ten and see how much you really 'want to' before you act. Go with the number and see what happens. And when you're creating your own path, learn to listen to the voice of your own intuition(9 times out of ten this ISN'T the voice in your head). Your intuition and will are intricately bound. If the vision is correct, your gut will let you know. If it's not and you go forward, there will be some unavoidable messes to clean up, but you can always take those opportunities to begin listening to your will, too. Mistakes are nothing more than detours.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Learning to Listen To The Heart -- Honoring The Will

The will is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the self. From the earliest ages we're conditioned to bind, mistrust, contain, yield, avoid and ignore our own will. That aspect of ourselves that leads us from the inside, directing our steps and moving us to the place where we most need to be is routinely subjugated and viewed with suspicion. I'm sure the reasons for this are many, and rooted in the power structures of Agrarian and Industrial ages and their reliance on conformity in order to function. Hierarchical social structures like religions and corporations historically have hidden or shunned those who march to the beat of their own drum. And just as often, those marchers are the ones who usher in each new wave of possibility.

So after a lifetime of learning not to listen to your own inner guide, it's not surprising that such action would lead to some of the most acute suffering that a human can bear. Fearing the smiting hand of some Almighty Someone keeps us living in fear, depression, shame, guilt, despair, rage and powerlessness. This goes on and on until there is an inevitable breaking point. Breakdown, illness, suicide, outburst, acting out, addiction, endlessly second guessing your own impulses and yielding to the whims and control of others are just a few of the manifestations of a will that is screaming for attention, and more importantly is working hard to get you to move into a different direction.

The will is the Heart's bidder. It wants to take you exactly where you want to go. But after years of ignoring it and believing that everyone else knows better, the will can be a very difficult voice to hear, let alone heed. A common misconception is that the will is subject to reason. The will has nothing to do with logic, and everything to do with emotion. It doesn't care if your list of pros is longer than your list of cons, it's just trying to take you to the place where you'll actually feel better. Not only is the will about emotion, it's mostly about motion. A body's got to move.

So how do you learn to listen to your will? First of all start taking your emotions seriously. Unless you're in some kind of space of wanting to do harm to yourself or others, you can start by paying attention to how you feel. Most of your body is below your neck. The only sensation you get in your head is a headache. The language of the will is the physical experience of emotion. We've talked about how your attention can be centered anywhere you choose. Move your attention to the place in your body where you feel ANYTHING. Are you depressed? Where does that feeling live? Go there. Are you raging? Where does that feeling live? Go there. Are you stuck? Where does that feeling live? Go there. Dive to the middle of the feeling, in the place in your body where it lives with all of your attention and stay put for a while. See what happens.

You'll notice that I didn't say act on the emotion. I'm actually saying to wait before you do anything other than heed the feeling. Giving your full attention to how you feel is just the first step. Your will isn't actually telling you to slam the door or tear the house down, or to put the gun to your head. That's something else, namely conditioned reaction. Your will is just using the emotion to get your attention. It's telling you that something needs to change, and it needs to change soon. It is the Heart's way of getting you to take action, moving you out of suffering and toward what you desire.

Oh yeah...desire...that's another voice of the will. One of the primary ways we bind the will is by ignoring our own desires. The Flesh is the Devil's gateway to hell. I'd like to announce and declare that this particular message is utter bullshit. Humans have desires. Period. Some of those desires are incredibly powerful. Our species actually depends on them for survival. The real gateway to hell is ignoring what you really want. And I'm not talking about wanting to do harmful, crazy things. Those are manifestations of a distorted will that have nothing to do with getting real needs met. But we've got to get honest with ourselves. Everyone needs to eat, shit, sleep, piss, fuck and drink. Everyone, except for that ascetic SOB who lives on air in the Himalayas, but he's got a diet of his own to attend to. Not only do we need the basics, just mentioned in the most guttural form, but we also have desires that reflect our spirit. We need community, we need culture, we need love, we desire connection, we desire solitude, we crave experience. Our desires are a part of every day, and the Heart takes them seriously, no matter what they are.

Another good early step in listening to your will is to start keeping track of what you really want. Make lists of whims that you feel, or things that you see that make you say 'yes'. Keep track of things in others that you really do envy. Instead of focusing on the sin, look at the silver lining of what it is that they have that you would enjoy having. Give yourself permission to really want things, and then give yourself the joy of actually having them.

The last voice of the will we need to learn to hear is the voice of intuition. Intuition is something other than an educated guess, and it's not really based on your past experience. It has nothing to do with any intellectual affirmation or declaration or belief. Your intuition is the activity of the energy in your gut, your solar plexus. It is an ally of your imagination and creativity. When you're actively creative, your intuition lets you know when you're really onto something. It's as if there's almost an automatic action that flows from the creativity itself. That's the intuition at work. Your intuition is always working in the present moment to lead you through your immediate circumstance. The hunches you feel are there to guide your steps. Ignore them at your peril. The intuition doesn't work with 'maybe' as an answer. That's the way the rational mind works, with conditions and guarantees. The intuition is either about leaping or staying put. It's your 'yes' or your 'no'.

Heart Driven Work demands that you start listening to your own will. Nothing else will do. No other voice needs to be heard so loudly. It may take a while for you to get comfortable with this. Take as long as you need, but start now. Begin to form new habits of taking stock of your emotions, desires and intuition as you go through your day. Stay present and look for the next step as your will shows the way.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Getting Back To Those Damn Aspects

We've taken a look at six aspects of work that are all necessary for potential to be realized. Those six aspects of work are called by different names in different circles. Corporate management and leadership literature often identifies them as Existence, Meaning, Mission, Power, Structure and Resources. Although the meanings are similar, I believe that particular language doesn't capture the spirit of work that is driven by the Heart. Nor does it flow exactly the same way. My experience of Heart Driven Work is that the aspects I call the Gift, the Imperative, the Path, the Will, the Embodiment and the Supply all flow from the core of your being out into the world, but not necessarily in a linear flow from one aspect to the other. I experience the flow of Heart Driven Work as more of a process of putting pieces together intuitively as they emerge, more like a jigsaw puzzle or mosaic.

In looking at books that have been written about work, business, management, leadership and self development, you'll usually find that each book presents one or two aspects of work as the "key" to "success, fulfillment, productivity, efficiency, achievement, _____________________(enter your particular buzzword here)", but in practice a reader will often find that addressing the one or two aspects doesn't quite deliver the goods in terms of actually making your dreams and visions a reality. So you'll find titles like "Is Your Genius at Work?", "Passion At Work", "Getting Things Done", "Living With Vision", "Unlimited Power", "Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow", and each title will address part of the picture, but it will leave holes in the big picture that can be debilitating when you're trying to get something done (I'm not using these examples to disparage the books or authors in any way, In fact I'd recommend reading all of them as a complete study so that you can actually address all aspects of work adequately).

Another common occurrence that I see in my own experience and that of clients is that we usually tend to focus most particularly on those aspects of work that reflect our strengths. As an example, I can easily spend days upon end imagining ways that I could meet a need. Imperative and Path work are the aspects that seem to come most easily to me. But focusing only on those aspects doesn't end up with my work becoming a reality. Most often it results in the endless generation of fruitless ideas. If I'm really going to meet the need that calls out my gift, I'm going to have to create a way to deliver the goods. Will, Embodiment and Supply happen to be less developed strengths for me, which means that I very often get stuck in the imagining, goal setting and planning stage and rarely see my projects through to completion, which also results in resources being wasted and not replenished.

Heart Driven Work addresses all aspects of work as they need to be addressed. Returning to your core when you find that you are stuck often will reveal to you a next step that will get you moving again. There is a certain kind of surrender that is required when working from the heart. It's not a passive waiting for the right time or circumstance as much as it is a trusting that you'll know exactly what to do next and that knowing is reliable. How do you return to your core? That's what this is all about. There are many ways, but you will most likely have to discover your own. I've found that mindfulness meditation is the easiest way for me to get centered. Some folks do yoga, pray, take a walk, work out, dance, play music, sing...virtually any repetitive activity can be a centering process. The Jesuit priests have a beautiful practice of cycling their focus inward and outward throughout the day, spending equal times in cultivating their inner world as well as outer. Every outward action flows from and to an inward reflection.