How to Save the World

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I was obsessed with saving the world.

 

In High School I would spend my spare time working at homeless shelters and soup kitchens. And I never would have said it at the time, but I hated every moment of it. But I felt I had to do it. I felt it was my mission.

 

I wouldn’t say I was very successful either. I didn’t feel I made a big difference at the organizations, and all the time I spent going door-to-door to find jobs for the homeless – I didn’t get a single one.

 

I felt a shift 10 years later when I volunteered at Miriam’s Kitchen for the early morning breakfast shifts. I learned how much chronic homelessness is connected to mental health. I had thought I could solve the problem at the level of food and work, when there was a much deeper story at play.

 

Catherine Crum, the Deputy Director, asked me to spend more time with a man named Carl. I sat down at his table, started talking, and the most interesting thing happened… Carl became my mentor. I would listen to his poetry, offer feedback and then he advised me on my life in a way that may have been psychic. I would barely say a word, but he would somehow know what what was going on and what I needed to hear.

 

I started to love volunteering at Miriam’s Kitchen, even though it was at five in the morning! I liked the other volunteers, and the clients would tell me their conspiracy theories over coffee and a newspaper, as I would hand out vitamins, cold medicine and toiletries.

 

I didn’t realize what was really happening to me until I read the work of Osho

 

“How to save others? Save yourself! The problem is inside. It projects it on the outside world…Don’t try to change anybody. Just change yourself. And it happens. When you change, many come to share you in your light. Share — but don’t try to save. Many will be saved that way.” – From Come Follow to You.

 

I laughed when I realized if I want to save the world, I need to save the world from ME! By projecting a state of brokenness onto the world, I had kept myself in guilt and pain during those high school years. And no one ended up benefiting.

 

Focus on changing yourself, and the world will change with you. Does this sound too selfish to be true?

 

I used to think so. Until I read a story about Mother Theresa’s Orphanage from Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money:

 

“As I walked up the steps I saw a large piece of crumpled newspaper on the doorstep and I stooped to pick it up. There inside the crumpled mass I discovered a tiny baby, still breathing, still alive. She was a girl, a just-born and very tiny fragile little girl. I was shocked, and gently lifted her from her newspaper swaddling clothes and wrapped her carefully inside my shawl.

 

“Opening the wooden door, I stepped into a room lit by two lightbulbs dangling on wires from the ceiling… There were 39 cribs, each with one or two small babies inside. There were additional padded mats on the floor with more little babies… I handed the tiny infant girl to the nun who greeted me.”

 

This is where I had an awakening…

 

I thought that the nun would be upset to see the problem growing larger – to know that the already crowded orphanage would be further tested. At best I thought she would sigh and accept the new baby. Instead, the opposite happened…

 

“[The nun] seemed delighted to have another little one to care for.” 

 

That’s when I realized the secret to saving the world. The secret is to fall in love with the problem. Not to hate it.

 

I know, it sounds crazy, but the business world keeps proving that the companies that fall in love with solutions are the ones that fail. They’re blinded by their silver bullet approach. They can’t see deeper and they can’t change it when they need to.

 

“Fall in love with the problem, not the product.”  (If you’re an entrepreneur, read this manifesto and watch the video at the end).

 

So if you’re thinking about what to do with your life and how you can make a difference, think about all your ideas and opportunities. Look at them and see the problem that you want to solve.

 

And now ask yourself, with steadfast truth… “Do I look at this problem and love it? Does it make me feel alive to engage with it and wrestle with it? Do I welcome every new instance I see of it, feeling more and more alive?

 

If so, then you’re following the path of greatness, the path of genius. It’s the joy that Mother Teresa felt for every homeless child. It’s that divine insanity that Edison experienced as he tried 10,000 fibers to make the light bulb, none of which he considered to be a failure.

 

You may be focused on your own myopic universe, but when you look up from that laser focused joy, you will see the world brightly illuminated around you, with nothing to save, and everything to give.

Is TED the new Toastmasters?

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Nathan Heller writes a brilliant piece on the TED talks in the New Yorker, asking the question, “Has a conference turned idea into an industry?”

 

I’m sure you’ve seen many TED talks, such as Jill Bolte’s real-time description of witnessing her own stroke. Or Simon Simek’s game changing exposé of what’s really driving leadership (and marketing). And then there’s the more risque, such as Nicole Daedone’s explanation (and how-to instruction) on women’s orgasms saving the world.

 

The TED conference undoubtedly revolutionized speaking and education: They limited speakers to 18 minutes, forcing them to focus, while inspiring them to create what’s called a “TED moment” – a standing ovation that goes on and on. And those moments are hardly random. The curators work tirelessly to find material that’s new and counterintuitive, so it has that shock value. And then there’s what’s become the formula. Heller describes it perfectly:

 

The Ted Talk Arc

 

1. Opening of direct address
2. Narrative of personal stake
3. A research summary
4. A précis of potential applications
5. A revelation to drive it home
6. And ending that says, “Go forth and help humanity.”

 

I loved all of this when there was simply the TED talk in southern California. But my energy and passion for it has waned as the brand extended through TEDx. Anyone can apply to host a local version of TED, and there are now five a day throughout the world. It’s certainly not “easy” to get approved, and it comes with a 136-page manual to execute it. But now the number of talks is overwhelming and the quality certainly suffers.

 

In a way, it’s a brilliant combination of open and closed systems.  What is open vs closed? Apple is the most famous example of a closed system – it’s totally regulated. Its code based is not shared, and anyone on the system (such as app creators) need to be approved. Open systems (Linux, Android) allow everyone to play in the name of innovation and free markets as the best drivers of progress. Closed systems focus on quality control to maintain a consistent experience, while open systems focus on crowdsourcing the new ideas.

 

Now I wonder if TED is embracing the worst of each world – the low quality of high proliferation, and then the formulaic process, akin to a Hollywood story format that gets used over and over again. Yes, when done right, it can be both entertaining and life changing. But now we have to sort through more and more content to find them. I think we now need a curator for all this curated content.

 

Richard Saul Wurman, the original creator of TED seems to be tired of the entertainment factor and wants to make it a completely engaging experience.  He sold TED to Business 2.0 magazine founder, Chris Anderson who is responsible for taking it from a conference to a brand empire. When asked why Wurman is not invited back, Anderson replied, “He started talking about this idea that the prepared talk was finished. I think his words were, ‘I now must destroy what I created.'”  Understandable that his invitation would get “lost in the mail.”

 

While Wurman did not have the chance to destroy TED, this month he created his new model to replace it. Called WWW.WWW, the conference is free form discussion, taped in black and white, and set to be released via an interactive app, rather than passive video. It certainly sounds more like the passion project of a rich eccentric of yesteryear, than a TED replacement… But I still think he’s onto something.

 

I’ll share that idea in my next post.

What do I focus on??? (the 3-point strategy)

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“If you have more than 3 priorities, then you have no priorities” – Jim Collins in Good to Great

 

I have a lot of ideas, and a lot of projects I want to start. And yet, I know that focus is the key. I used to think I could just try a lot of things. You know – throw them up against the wall and see what sticks. But then I realized that’s a way of rationalizing my doing a half-assed job at a lot of things and expecting luck to show up.

 

And yet, how can I just focus on one thing? That is so boring. I took a look at what I’m most excited about and what I need, and I came up with the The Three Point Focus Strategy…

 

Screen_shot_2012-07-09_at_1

 

 

1. The Bread and Butter (80% of time)
This is the focus that pays the bills. It’s the area where you have the skills to deliver value to a customer consistently (and that customer may be your employer). You also have the passion to do it, so that you don’t burn out. And lastly, there’s a market for it. This is your top priority because without it, everything will turn to shit, fast.   For me, this is my culture consulting business, and my first book, the Culture Blueprint. If you are having trouble with this as a business, check out Business Model Generation. If you are having trouble with this as an individual (employee or freelancer) then check out Business Model You. If you know what you want, but you’re just having trouble getting a job, check out The Two Hour Job Search.

 

Now, something to note about the bread and butter. Even with passion, it can often come with challenges. When they come up, I think of this quote:  Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.” –  Thomas Edison 

 

2. The Innovation (10% of time)
Your innovation project is the one that you want to work on, but it’s not fully developed yet, or there’s not a market for it. You also may still be developing your skills in this area.  If you’re like me you probably have a lot of these, but the idea here is to pick just one.  For me, that’s an idea called “The Corporate Start-up.” – It’s all about ways for businesses to turn their brand itself into a product, and to turn cost centers into profit centers. It’s not fully developed and I certainly can’t start charging for it, so it’s my innovation project.

 

3. The Fun (10% of time)
This is for the hare-brained ideas. The ones that make you laugh, the ones that are just ridiculous and yet they would be so much fun. You have absolutely no way of justifying your time on this except that it makes you smile and gives you energy. For me, this is a site called Dating is for Douchebags. It’s all about how the current model of dating is totally flawed, and my ideas to re-invent it. I’m just having fun with it, and inviting others to contribute if they feel the same way.

 

So there you have it. Select your three to focus on, and give the majority of your time to number 1.

Ideas and Execution

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I asked my friend Chance what his best advice would be for me in writing a book. He said, “The best advice I can give you is the one piece you don’t want to hear… JUST WRITE IT… One idea fully executed is worlds better than a thousand great ideas that go nowhere.”

 

Quickly thereafter I would write 5 pages a day, and then locked myself in for 4 days to do nothing but writing. And now I have a working copy of my thoughts on creating a great place to work, called The Culture Blueprint.

 

While Chance’s advice was key, here is what I consider to be the leverage point:

 

Separate your idea versus execution time. 

 

In other words, consider these as two different people. When you are in a wild storm of ideas, take them all down. But when you execute do NOT let the idea person in the room. That person is not welcome. That person will mess up the process. They have good intentions, but they will derail your inner executer.

The Prescription of the Big Cleanse

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Okay, here’s the prescription, as discussed in previous posts.

I recommend first reading Mastin’s original story behind the cleanse (Part 1, Part2, Part 3), and he’s is also available as a mentor through this.

Then here’s the plan. For 30 Days…

ELIMINATE:

  • Sugar
  • Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Alcohol / Drugs
  • Caffeine
  • Sex
  • Dating
  • Flirting
  • Masturbation
  • Facebook
  • TV
  • Talking to Ex’s or Crushes

START:

I have found that myself and others question the Kundalini Yoga part, but it was really quite essential in processing all the emotion that comes up. Mastin did it twice a day on the cleanse so he believes 3x a week is the minimum.

As you can see, it’s no small deal to do this. But two of my friends dived in instantly. One is almost complete and the other just started, and both are loving the experience of really getting into what emotions have been pushed down for years.

Consider it like a re-boot, for your life.

The Big Cleanse – Finale

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“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” 
― Joseph Campbell

 

The first two weeks were quite challenging, as I mentioned in the first big cleanse post. All the emotions, and not a single vice to suppress it.  I found that a lot of thoughts came through that I didn’t like. I found myself to be an incredibly judgmental person. It was like I was sitting back and watching myself, because if I took action on those thoughts I believed to be true, I would have said a lot of things I’d regret.

 

What was also hard was the social detox. The prescription included no contact with crushes or ex’s, even if they were from high school! I thought that would be no bid deal, but a close friend of mine was going through a challenging situation and I couldn’t reach out. I prayed for her each night, and I was often upset with myself for the pure selfishness of this cleanse. But I also knew I had to do this to find my inner peace.

 

You see, most of my life I’ve been obsessed with “doing the right thing.” And I’ve found this to be a terrible compass. It has created more stress and anxiety than anything else. The difference between what I believe is the right thing to do vs what actually feels good has created a sense of guilt so strong that I have often felt like ending it all. (I now realize it was an internal conflict of values so unresolvable, that action action in either direction would cause me pain).

 

As a life long learner, I became aware of this on an intellectual level. But mere awareness never seemed to change anything (not for long at least).  And as I went through the first few weeks of the cleanse, what I feared most was going through it for 30 days and seeing nothing really change. As I mentioned this, my healer laughed and said, “The one constant in the Universe is change. So don’t worry about that!”

 

And then something shifted after the second week. It started when I began going to bed earlier. I found that I loved spending time alone. I cleaned, I read, I wrote, I meditated, I exercised. I was creating a new lifestyle for myself. Emotionally I felt like there were no big highs or lows. Just a constant peaceful foundation that couldn’t be rocked.

 

I was taking Kundalini yoga classes 3x a week, and on the 30th day I had my final class. After two weeks of pure peace, I began to feel very scared. When I started the cleanse I couldn’t wait for it to end. And now I didn’t want it to stop. I had entered my innermost cave, made a home for myself, and I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want to change my militant diet. I didn’t want to be social, or be in a relationship, or even have sex.  And the guilt ensued. I literally felt crazy – like I had experimented with being homeless for a month and didn’t want to come back.

 

It’s been two weeks since the cleanse officially ended, and to be honest… I don’t know if I’m back. I don’t know where I am. I’m continuing almost all of the new habits, but I’m not tied to them.  I find I have very few judgments. I have a much deeper acceptance of people and myself. I’ve also noticed that the emotion of embarrassment is largely gone. I didn’t really notice it till now, but I used to walk around with this constant chatter in my head, wondering what people think of me, trying to take care of people and not upset anyone. Most of that is gone.

 

It’s been really nice to reconnect with people. They say I feel more a lot more authentic. And it amazes me how intrigued people are by the cleanse. It definitely gets a strong reaction (in one way or another). A friend of mine noticed a difference so great that he immediately started the cleanse and now I’m coaching him through it. He’s two weeks into it and loving it.

 

I highly recommend trying it. I’ll post the exact prescription in case anyone is interested in doing it. But even if you don’t, I want to leave you with a question.  How are you distracting yourself? What is it you’re doing now to avoid a feeling you don’t want to feel?  These things are the guards of the innermost cave. They seem benevolent because all they want to do is protect you from pain. They don’t believe you can handle it. They think you’ll die.

 

But I’m here to tell you, there’s gold in that cave behind the dragon… And God knows we don’t appreciate things that simply land in our lap.