Working with Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle yesterday I realized again how much I hunger to be in the “student” position in life. Yes, I love teaching and mentoring. And I love just “being”. Flowing. But there is something wonderful about sitting at the feet of a master who is unquestionably above you, further along on the path of some worthy discipline. Emptying your cup and just saying: “teach me.”
Sigh. Nothing better in life, and I owe so much of who I am to those who have been kind enough to share their wisdom.
One such man is Tim Piering, who I’ve mentioned before. Martial arts master (although he would never call himself that), engineer, family man, self-made millionaire, coach and teacher of rarified life skills. Just a great, wonderful man. He teaches martial arts in Pasadena a couple of times a week at some ungodly early hour of the morning. Six, I think. I can’t do it: I’d be trashed all day, and wouldn’t be able to provide proper support for Jason’s morning ritual.
Oh, well. If there is one thing I’ve learned from Tim over the years that pops to mind most rapidly, it is the following approximate quote:
“The key to accomplishment is:
- Well defined WRITTEN goals and plans for their accomplishment expressed in continuous action.
- The ability to take action despite the voices in your head”
Man oh man, it that SECOND part ever devastatingly true. So true I was able to turn it into a diagnostic coaching tool. If I made a suggestion to a client about something to improve their life, I noticed that they would usually have one of two responses:
- How can I adapt and implement that? Or a part of it?
- Why I can’t do that.
It wasn’t until I thought back on hundreds of interactions with people (yeah, I used to coach people long before I ever charged for it. My friends used to call it “being Steve’d”. Heh.) and realized that their response usually indicated which direction they were headed in in terms of dealing with the issue. If they had “permission” to lose weight, save or make money, find love or follow a dream, they would have the first response.
On the other hand, if their “brakes” were on, if they were deviled by their demons and trapped in a snarl of negative emotions and beliefs and values, if they were invested in remaining the same or justifying their current condition (the ego operates like that) then they would use their intelligence to figure out why they COULDN’T do something.
And this is where smart people screw themselves, why so many of them say intelligence is a handicap. No, intelligence is just problem solving. But if your emotions are screwed up (due to abuse, neglect, disappointment, conflicting programs in your biocomputer, whatever) then they will simply direct your intelligence to work on the wrong problems, “looking where the light is, rather than where you dropped the keys” as the story goes.
Because if you started working on the RIGHT problem? You’d figure it out. Realize that some of your programming was simply wrong. That those conflicting values originate in instructions you were given in childhood by people who were well-meaning but incompetent, or filled with obsolete information, or even deliberately destructive. That you anchored PAIN to the idea of accomplishment, or money, or fitness, or sex or love, such that your unconscious attempts to protect you from even bothering to try.
It’s a jungle in there.
I start with the assumption that we can have fitness, love, financial abundance and creative expression. Why? Because I’ve seen it, and done it. Been broke, and alone, and weak, and without hope, and clawed my way out. And seen countless others do the same.
And in EVERY case, at some point the monsters in their minds will coil and hiss and vomit up every reason why you can’t. Shouldn’t. Mustn’t. How DARE someone suggest that we can heal ourselves, grow, live, love, thrive. How DARE you!
One of the great teachers of my life, Dawn Callan of the “Awakening the Warrior Within” workshop, is a pint-sized phenomenon. She can teach people more in two days of her intensive work than most instructors can in two years. No kidding. I’ve seen totally broken, abused women (and men) enter her workshop like whipped dogs and emerge as lions. Amazing. Even more so when you see that that willingness to fight to the death to protect their families, hearts, or dreams results not in becoming “hard” but becoming loving and “soft”…that’s what happens when people KNOW they can defend themselves. Behind the hard shell is usually mush. Fear. “Don’t look at the man behind the curtain! I’m tough! I’m smart and strong!” You can only see such people curled into a foetal position crying their eyes out so many times before you get the terrible joke.
Well, Dawn said something to me once, something no man could have said, and something I never would have accepted from someone who had not proven her point countless times. And it was that the hardest thing in the world to do to help a woman who had been raped is get her to take responsibility for her safety. That they tended to interpret this instruction as “guilt for what happened to me.” Guilt, blame, and shame.
No, responsibility. Literally, “the ability to respond.” Response-Ability. Whatever you are: healer, teacher, lover, magician, artist…you MUST find the “warrior” part willing to kill and die to protect what is precious. The part that can draw the line and say: “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”
Only this part can face down your demons. Look a predator in the eye and promise the glorious option of dying together. ONLY this part can keep your child, your dreams, your values precious. The part willing to walk away from a bad relationship, leave an abusive job, know you don’t need a wall of flesh to keep you safe, or even survive a “no” from a potential lover or customer.
It is the part that says: “how can I use or adapt this?” The antithesis is the voice that says: “no! I can’t! I mustn’t! How can you even ask me to get up and crawl out of this burning house! Let me be! Someone will come and rescue me, and if not, what difference does effort make: all is lost.”
You have to learn to recognize the voices in your head, to realize that they stand between you and your dreams. What would you rather do: overestimate your capacities, or underestimate them? Take your choice. No one is “right on the bubble.”
And the quality of your life will ultimately depend on which decision you make. “I can!” and risk failure, or “I can’t” and guarantee it?
The choice is yours.