Monday, July 2, 2007

When I Get to Go to 'Plerk'

I attended a seminar a few months ago where one of the speakers used the word "plerk." It was an invented word, so it's simply spelled phonetically here. The speaker really enjoyed his work, so much so, that he considered it a combination of play and work, or "plerk" as he called it. He loved spending time at "plerk." So would I, I thought.

Specifically what he did is not important at this time. It was fitting for him, not something everyone should do. However, I have been on a similar path before. For most of my life, work was work and I tried to leave it at work. After work, I loved to play, if and when I had the time. My motto was, "Work hard and play hard" and one was never confused with the other.

Now, I can see the time coming soon when I get to go to "plerk," too, where work becomes play and vice-versa. In this day and age, especially in this society, we seek work that pleases and fulfills us, uniquely fits us, and feels more like play than hard labor. For me, the idea of working on my business instead of in my business is a start. (This idea is clearly expressed in 'The E-Myth Revisited.') I have a plan to derive greater pleasure while I'm working, not just from my work. I'm not there yet, but I'm heading in the right direction.

My journey from work to "plerk" is getting easier. At first, I had all kinds of subconscious blocks. It didn't help that I repeated my motto with pride. Oh, I enjoyed my job when I entered into that line of work. But I felt stuck in my career after a while and for a long time. Work was supposed to be hard. If something came easy for me, or if I enjoyed it, that wasn't work. (My bosses made that clear.) I know I still have a few hurdles. However, I'm becoming more conscious of them as mere assumptions and that gives me more choices.

Here's an example. It struck me just the other day while reading 'Book Yourself Solid' that we commonly provide an answer concerning work that does fit the question actually being asked. "What do you do?" is intended, and accepted, to regard work, nothing else. The first two words in the answer, however, are not, "I do" or some other action verb. They are, "I am." "I am a writer." "I am a carpenter." "I am a chemical engineer at a large pharmaceutical company." When asked what we do, we answer with who we are, as if our title or job description simultaneously defines us and satisfactorily answers a question about action.

Why not answer the question directly and clearly? "I earn money by helping small business owners make the most of the Internet to market their businesses." Who cares if my title is "Internet Consultant"? What is that anyway, expect a ploy to raise curiosity while impressing my neighbor?

Personally, I've had to work at thinking differently about work. I had to unlearn assumptions that formed my foundational understanding of work. I had to acquire new philosophies about work, talents, fulfillment, priorities, etc. One assumption I'm dealing with now is in regard to writing. I always enjoyed it. Many people have indicated they like my writing style. The formula for success seems simple. Even still, I have a way to go. I don't feel justified in charging for my writing. I don't think I'd be able to survive from freelance income. As you can see, there is a lot of negativity holding me back. I can admit it. I can see it. But, to work around it is, well, work, not "plerk," for now.

What do you think? Are work and play separate? Can they be combined? Must one or both of them be compromised in order for that to happen? Personally, can you tell work and play apart? Is your attitude such that it doesn't matter what work you do? Do you have a talent, gift, ability, desire, or destiny that expresses itself through work? Do you have something that you were meant to do and it simply gives you great joy to be able to do that? Please leave a comment and let me and others know what you think.

My Reviews:
Book Yourself Solid
helps translate potential clients into people you were meant to work with. This is a must-have book for anyone who builds a network of clients. I noticed a change in my approach within the first few chapters. I can't wait to implement all of the ideas.The E-Myth Revisited clarifies the difference between working in your business and working on your business. I loved the beauty of simplification in this story that reveals the myth that self-employment is anything like business ownership. I had also read "Rich Dad Poor Dad" which did the same thing but with other ideas thrown in.
The Path is about developing a personal mission statement which connects work and life with purpose. Using biblical and other historical principles, the author illustrates the distinct position of someone on an important mission. This is the kind of book I want to read again and again.
The Pathfinder delivers a systematic way to choose a satisfying and successful career. I also needed to get ideas and change my thoughts about possibilities and this book helped me a lot.
What Color is Your Parachute is an annual classic about designing your life's work. This is an intense book. It requires a lot of thought and exercises. I read an earlier edition which I felt focused too much on a career in the world of employment. However, that may have just been my own short-coming at the time I read it. Since then, I've come to think that the Epilogue in this book alone makes it all worthwhile reading.
Do What You Are is a discovery of what may suit you based on the Myers-Brigg personality type. It had plenty of examples and descriptions of each to make this a favorite reference book of mine. (However, I disagree with the idea that personality type never changes through life. I think I've become more extroverted over time. Then again, perhaps my introversion was not true introversion, but repressed extroversion.)
I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was is worth it if you relate to the title at all. I did - big time. The book is full of fun exercises, humor, and light-hearted insights that helped me release creative energy. Barbara Sher is one of my favorite authors because her books read like she's sitting right in front of me.
It's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now is another fun book about letting it go by Barbara Sher. This book was key to me for letting go of assumptions and regrets, and learning to dream and pursue my dreams again.
Rich Dad Poor Dad is another must-read if you haven't already. It was and is the single most important book to me in transitioning from a state of employment to business owner. It basically gave me permission to think about money in a different way (without being greedy). It is what got me unstuck from my career.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Masculinity and/or Femininity

Talk about explosive words. These terms pack a lot of powder and conjure many images of heroes and heroines, dominant and submissive behavior, wild and domestic natures, deep thoughts and deep feelings, and, of course, sexuality.

Last night, I had a discussion with two other male friends about faith. During the conversation, one said about men that failure to recognize and develop our masculinity was a prominent problem in today's society. We need to remember that we are men and that means being masculine. In addition, women continually test us and frequently destroy that characteristic in us. It isn't that they want to destroy it. Rather, they want to be sure we're sturdy and dependable in our masculinity. Most men fail the test.

Consider this analogy. Have you heard of the 'terrible twos'? A child will only feel secure when a parent responds firmly, yet calmly, to his or her first attempts at expressing independence using highly emotional and erratic behavior. If the parent maintains gentle control and the child feels loved and that authority has been properly maintained, both of them benefit.

To make matters worse, these characteristics, masculinity and femininity, are represented as outward appearances by mass media. We seem to glorify and hold in high esteem those few individuals who qualify as genuine heroes and heroines. They have matured in their masculinity or femininity. What's more, maturity itself seems to be completely optional for most people and probably more relevant for college professors. In general, it seems too difficult to bother endeavoring to be mature. "I have enough to do."

I looked on my bookshelf and discovered I had accumulated a mass of books that at least touched on the subject of masculinity, especially from a spiritual perspective, if they didn't address it directly. (Part of my motivation to buying and reading such material was to clear the confusion created by my upbringing. I didn't have a very well-developed sense of identity. See Sweeping Dust Bunnies for some insight into my past.) I've gained a lot of insight from these books. But I'd like to hear, and share, the insights of those who read this blog.


What are your thoughts about these terms? Are men not masculine? Which ones are? Do women test men? (Is this a well-kept secret that should remain so?) When are women feminine? Should these characteristics be understood and sought? Or, should we seek a balance with some of both? Deep in your heart, what characteristics do you desire for yourself and your partner (whether or not there is a partner)?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Sweeping Dust Bunnies


I was going to write a piece on creativity in general this morning. But, I decided to focus on a common theme I encountered while gathering material for this piece: how to set creativity free where it was once stifled. Even this particular angle leaves much to write about. So, I'll go one step further and make it personal to try to narrow it down. What were some of the factors that stifled my creativity? What are/were some of the tools I use/used to free my creativity? What blocks to creativity do I still encounter?

A. What were some of the factors that stifled my creativity?
1. Parents Just Don't Understand (a song title by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Will Smith) - a humorous music video that pokes fun at this parent-child relationship. This factor does not apply to some people, but it probably applies to many people who don't realize it. Your story may be very different from mine, but the factor may be (or was) present nevertheless.

My parents divorced when I was young and I lived with my mother until I was eighteen.

My mother stifled my creativity because she did not encourage activity except what was necessary, such as schoolwork and chores. Oh, I played and pretended. But, I had to escape my mother in order to be creative. Eventually, my 'creativity' took the form of rebellion by the time I was a teenager.

My father stifled my creativity because his creativity took the spotlight. He was fun, interesting, and entertaining to be around - so long as you wanted to do what he wanted to do. (I sometimes see myself in that way towards my own son. Yuck! See the third question below.)

They were both 'functioning alcoholics.' This basically means they drank without falling down. But I didn't learn this truth about them until I was well into my thirties. Boy, was I in the dark!

2. Constant Constriction of Creativity in the Classroom - Talk about an environment for stifling creativity! At least I went to public school. I've heard that some (most?) Catholic schools were worse. It's common to hear someone who went to Catholic school use the word 'survived'. Ouch!

School was all about coloring inside the lines. Getting the right answer. Southwest Airlines, and that creative crew, once advertised for employment with a large drawing that had the outline of a cartoon figure. There were different colored crayon marks scribbled all over the page. The ad said, "We're looking for people who color outside the lines."

To make school matters worse, by the time you hit college you're told, "we're are looking for original thought." Well, I ask, why was it discouraged for 12 years prior to college? School reminds of the saying, "You're unique! Just like everyone else." Why did being unique feel like conformity?

3. Group Think and Peer Pressure and Conformity! Oh my! - This was especially prevalent in the corporate environment in which I worked for way too long. I got into computer programming in the mid-80's I loved the brain-tickling challenge. But then, I slowly realized there were ten unwritten commandments to acceptable corporate behavior.

Some of them were things like: thou shalt have no higher priority in life than work for this company; thou shalt strive always to climb the corporate ladder we have provided at the pace we determine; thou shalt always reflect an attitude of seriousness and contentment with thy job; thou shalt continually strive to learn the jargon we dump on you, and the more you learn, the more we dump; and thou shalt covet, but not threaten, thy boss' position. After a while, 'Yes, Master' seemed like an appropriate response. Too bad this was the real thing and not "Young Frankenstein."

C. What are/were some of the tools I use/used to free my creativity?
5. Therapy - Yeah, I had to do this, even psychotherapy and psychodrama at the Caron Foundation. But, boy oh boy, am I ever glad I did! Yippee!! (I was going to say 'Yahoo!', but that has other connotations.) Through therapy I was able to largely disarm the 'Terrible Triggers' and free a lot of emotion, and become more genuine and whole as a result. Keep in mind this is a journey for me, not a destination.

Be careful! While I highly recommend therapy for just about anyone, not all therapy is truly therapeutic. It's easy to get into a co-dependent relationship with a specific therapist. However, this will be easier to see as therapy progresses. 

In a way, life is therapy. That is, it's a journey to wholeness, not a destination.

 This above all: to thine own self be true,
 And it must follow, as the night the day,
 Thou canst not then be false to any man.
       - William Shakespeare (more quotes)

4. Books - I put some links below to some of my favorite books on creativity. (Sorry! I had listed these books using the Amazon Affiliate program and the links went obsolete after Amazon made some changes. I never updated the links and simply removed them for now.) But there are many more. To me, books are not an escape, but a way to see more clearly the world around me. I love humor, non-fiction, and self-improvement (self-help, therapy, wisdom, etc) type books. I also noticed that where I read makes a difference, depending on the genre. Which leads me to...

3. Nature - There is something about the raw earth that helps me feel connected to it and to myself. I love reading in the park, body surfing in he ocean, windsurfing on a lake, hiking through the woods, biking on a rough trail, or just jumping in a puddle. I'm made of this stuff and this stuff is good for me - water, earth, air and the fire of passion.

2. Play / Recreation - Need I really explain this? I think creativity and play go together like couch potatoes wearing old, shredded underwear. What's that? Something more positive? Okay. How about this? I think creativity and play go together like rainbows after a sun shower. Better?

1. Humor - Did you ever read the personal ads of single women looking for men? Most have two things in common: they love the beach, and they want someone who can make them laugh. You would think characteristics like 'hard working' and 'gentleman behavior' would top the charts. Nope! Oh well, better for a single guy like me anyway. I can probably qualify. (It does make me wonder, though. Maybe that's why we're still single at midlife!)

0. People - Basically, there are two types of people: those who divide people into two groups, and those who don't. Personally, I don't. I know I just did, but that was an exception, and I'm rather exceptional . The better I get to know myself, the more I love the diversity of people I encounter. Even people who grew up in the same family can have very different ways of looking at things, different passions, widely varying attitudes, and unrelated interests. Of course, I sometimes see familiar patterns of dysfunctional behavior. But, I still see precious individuals underneath. In learning about other people, I can creatively learn more about myself and try things I've never considered before, such as writing like this to an audience that includes you.

B. What blocks to creativity do I still encounter?
29. The Terrible Triggers - All the therapy and religion in the world will not render me perfect and without blemish. Only God can do that! I still have stored emotional memory. I think we all do. Denial is a good example, so don't try it!

Triggers are things that cause an inappropriate, unconscious and undesirable response. My biggest triggers remind me of my parents: harmless, repeated cliche statements, which my mother used 'all the time', get me angry at the person who said them; criticisms, even constructive ones, were used destructively mostly by my father, and are sometimes difficult for me not to take personally in a negative way; and praise, which I often thought was insincere because both of my parents said one thing to praise me and did quite another to correct me. (See my previous blog entry about being called a 'genius and a lovely person'. The phrase was repeated so often and without pleasant emotion that the words themselves, no matter who said them, became meaningless.)

47. slp&ija)osd#ifwCLUTTERzgo%irqe*joci!af - Before I had even heard of Feng Sui, I knew clutter acted as a starching agent for my brain. (Now, I've only merely heard of Feng Shui. Other than having something to do with channeling earthly energy in your environment, that's pretty much all I know.) It's amazing how efficiently clutter works against me. If I accumulate junk, I find myself 'stuck'. Yet, if I clean out the old, in comes the new. Simple, but not always easy, it is getting easier to let go.

I have a bad habit of letting mail, miscellaneous notes, magazines, coupons, pamphlets, and fliers pile up. Then I move the piles to make room for more. Have you heard the de-cluttering rule: handle each piece of paper only once? Well, I learned there's a huge gap between 'hearing' and 'doing'! But now, thanks to computers, I can clutter my hard drive with all kinds of files and choose to see only a few windows at a time. Looks clean to me!

71. Ho Hum Boredom (yawn) - I left a description of this factor until last. I don't even like to talk about it. Boredom is a yucky place to be. Does boredom cause depression, or depression cause boredom? I don't know, but they seem related. Either way, I think creative activity is a necessary intervention. I'd do something creative, anything, especially if it's different and it's what I enjoy.

I once played with my son's Legos for 2 or 3 hours. (He wasn't around to object.) Some people think that the activity must have a purpose and be productive ("constructively occupied"), such as Father Flanagan, founder of Boys Town. His book provides much needed insight and wisdom. But, I think the omission of creativity as a virtue is a fault. Take Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, he was a creative genius. I'd say he was virtuous.

98. Senseless Repetition Senseless Repetition Senseless Repetition - If it seems like I'm doing the same thing over and over, I must get away and do something else. That's one of the reasons I started this blog. It's a creative release for me, especially since work requires things that must get done whether I like them or not. I also ride my mountain bike to the local park. Recreation is essential, at least for me. The word comes from the act of recreating, or simply, recreate. It's like starting over with fresh insight, instead of staying stuck and looking for a way out.

What are your answers to these questions? What new, and hopefully creative, insights have you picked up from this blog entry? How is or was your creativity stifled? How is it set free?


Note: "The Geranium on the Window Sill Just Died But Teacher You Went Right On" is a hard to find, out of print book. But, you may be able to find someone selling a used copy. It's a compilation of children's poems regarding their school or classroom experience, especially in regard to being stifled. It's usually both funny and sad at the same time. Sometimes it's just sad. "Finding Happiness..." may also be hard to find, but I think it's still in print.

A Couple Creative Quote Links:
www.innovationtools.com/Quotes/Quotes.asp
www.wisdomquotes.com/cat_creativity.html

Monday, May 28, 2007

Love, the Soul of Genius

"Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius." -- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart



I love this quote. (I must be a genius!) Actually, I thought determining genius had to do with measuring IQ. Albert Einstein was obviously a genius, not a musical one perhaps, though he played violin, but an intellectual one. Then I thought genius came in seven flavors as described by multiple intelligences. Michael Jordan is a genius of bodily-kinesthetic nature.

A genius who performs extraordinarily well is an amazing thing. I am bewildered and dazzled! But experience tells me that real genius, as Mozart suggests, comes from the choice to love, that genius has a soul. I cannot choose the gift of intellect or bodily-kinesthetic ability or one of the other multiple intelligences, but I can choose the gift of love. Perhaps, I can choose to be a genius.

Dr. Theodore Kaczynski will be remembered most as the Unabomber. But he was highly intelligent in complex branches of mathematics and made significant contributions through his work. Was this man intelligent? Yes. Was he mentally and/or emotionally damaged? Probably. Did he love, deeply and compassionately? I don't think so. At least I see no evidence of this. In my opinion, he was not a genius because his genius had no soul.

My mother often said to me, "You're a genius and a lovely person." Unfortunately, it was not expressed in a loving way. It was more cliché than meaningful. I came to despise that remark and regretted its use on me. It wasn't until much later that I could even think that those words could ever genuinely apply to me. Hence, true genius only took on significance when love was brought into the equation.

For example, I learned to play piano late in life. I had wanted to play for a long time. I loved classical music, especially symphonic sonatas and piano concerti. I especially adored Mozart's compositions. (I watched a lot of Bugs Bunny as a kid! Classical music was always in the background and sometimes the theme of a strip.) My piano teacher was amazed at how quickly I picked it up. However, I knew it was not just the practice that mattered. Advancement was limited with mere practice. What bolstered my playing was when I practiced while I was filled with love for the music. To be filled with love for music was a conscious choice. I don't claim to be a musical genius, far from it (bewilder or dazzle don't enter the vocabulary), but I do know it makes all the difference. Perhaps musical genius is possibility for me. From this experience I understood what Mozart meant.

This applies to life in general, I think. One can live a life of genius by choosing a life with soul. And the soul of genius is love. It matters little what you're doing so long as you're doing it with love. M. Scott Peck, MD, described love as "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." So, if you don't see yourself as a genius yet, you can be.

What do you think of the quote from Mozart? What do you think of the quote from M. Scott Peck, MD? Did you ever consider yourself a 'genius' in any way, or even think the term could apply to you? What are you really good at, that you love to do, that you take for granted? Why do you think or feel is this not genius if you said 'no' to the previous question? Do you ever wish you could be a genius in something? Do you wish you could love more deeply and compassionately but feel 'stuck'? What is your first impression when you hear the word 'genius'? Did you ever associate the word 'genius' with the word 'love'?
Please leave your comments. Expressing your views is refreshing to all who read them, including yourself. Thanks.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Affluenza Strikes Again

What do you call an illness of the mind and heart to endlessly chase material goods in the pursuit of happiness? Think 'affluence' + 'influenza' = 'affluenza'. Based on a PBS documentary, there is a book that explains what this is all about. On the back cover jacket of the book, the authors give a pseudo-dictionary definition.

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. (Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic; John D Graaf, David Wann, Thomas H. Naylor; Berrett Koehler; San Fransisco; 2001)

The problem is that affluenza is easier to detect as a condition of a society or large group, but it is difficult to diagnose ourselves. I think a large part of that difficulty is because we don't want to look at ourselves, especially in that way. But even if we successfully divert attention away from ourselves as we point to the society in which we live as suffering from affluenza, we have to admit that we live in that society. I know I've said to myself and my friends that I want to "simplify my life." But what does that really mean? What have I actually accomplished to reverse this condition creeping over me? Honestly? I've gotten real good at creating a diversion. (Think I could be President someday?)

How about you? Do you think you suffer from some degree of this condition? On the other hand, do you think 'affluenza' does not apply to you? Why not? Have you told yourself or others that you want to simplify your life? How successful have you actually been? If you were successful, what did you have to do? How did you have to change your attitude and habits? If you were not successful, how honest are you being with yourself about it?

As always, I look forward to your comments. Feel free to comment on previous posts, too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Beginning Unstuck

One person said in a comment that the name sounded like a website for geriatrics. But they were delightfully surprised (my words) that it wasn't. It's called "The Center for Improved Living."

Each day, a simple statement is made or a simple question is asked, yet it's always unexpected and makes me think, even if just a little. Today's question was, "What's the best thing that happened to you in the last two days?" I commented that I had started this blog.

I appreciate the blog, mostly the author, Marc Horowitz (who's main blog is "I Need to Stop Soon," which is a little strange for my tastes), because, to me, it's original and creative. If I omitted the names of other contributors to 'The Center', please forgive me. Perhaps leave a comment to let everyone know.

Mostly, I appreciate its simplicity and its success at getting me to start my day unstuck. Instead of thinking of all the usual routine things I must (or at least should) accomplish, I can think of something entirely different and get my creative juices flowing. For one, I'm more productive when I'm creative, and not feeling overwhelmed before I start anything. For another, it gets me writing my thoughts, rather than trying to think of something to write. By the way, whoever coined the term: 'creative juices'? Why not 'spontaneous sparks of wonder'? Too long?

Do you have a morning routine that helps you start the day with a brighter or more creative outlook? Do you write, exercise, read, meditate, plan your day, kiss the kitty, wake up earlier than others in your family, or hit th snooze button for an hour? What gets your creative juices flowing? Or do you feel this flow has mostly dried up for you? When do your creative juices flow the least inhibited? What happens when they do?

As always, I welcome your comments to any or all of these questions.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Voice Dialog

I never heard of Voice Dialog until a few weeks ago. I've heard of dissociation and multiple personalities, each with their own voice, but those are disorders usually resulting from extreme emotional and/or physical trauma. (An amazing true story along these lines is "When Rabbit Howls" by Truddi Chase.)

Voice Dialog, as it was explained to me, is a therapeutic technique that recognizes distinct parts in all of us and gives a voice to each of those parts. A distinction in disorders is the accompanying memory loss that occurs between personalities. We have these parts normally, and we remember them.

For example, I have a confident side of me that is out in front most of the time. But certain situations cause a more insecure part of me to come out, such as being in the midst of large crowds of unknown people. Instead of trying to 'fix' the insecure part, or worse, ignore it, I give it a voice. That is, I can accept it and let it speak. The dialog may start something like this:

"So, how did you feel today when you were waiting for your friends at the stadium?"

"I felt 'antsy'. I kept wondering what I should do. Should I sit, stand, buy something, walk in circles, pretend like I see someone I know in the distance? I was afraid of being perceived as a loner. I almost wanted to go back to my car, wait a few minutes, then come back in again, hoping they would be waiting for me. My mind was also racing with ideas of possible causes for their tardiness. That was ridiculous because they were hardly 'tardy', maybe 5 or 10 minutes."

That is only a start, but I hope you get the idea. Ultimately, I may want to learn to acknowledge this part of me, even embrace and love it, in order to help me to be and feel whole in that situation. Please share.

Have you ever engaged in any kind of Voice Dialog even if you called it something else or never gave it a name? What comes to mind when you hear the word 'therapy'? In your opinion, when and what kind of therapy is applicable for whom, if at all? What should be the goal of therapy?

I look forward to your comments regarding any of these questions or your own experiences.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Purpose of This Blog

I have a copy of Leo Tolstoy's "A Calendar of Wisdom" translated from Russian by Peter Sekirin. Leo Tolstoy made a collection of sayings that elevated his spirit when he created it, as well as when he read it over and over. The book has an acclamation by Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of "Simple Abundance," who used words like 'profound' and 'passionate' to describe this work. One aspect that stands out among all others is that it is deeply personal.

I would like to follow suit. The entries in this blog may not all be original. But I don't think the experience is as effective unless the words and phrases are held as deeply personal. I will share with you some of my thoughts, dreams, sayings, etc, and invite you to do the same thing. I have no agenda. It enhances my life to write. (See Julia Cameron's book, "The Right to Write.") However, if you share your thoughts, we may greatly benefit from each other's insight. After all, relationships are the synapses of life, and we can choose to enhance our experiences together.

What is one of your favorite devotionals and why?

Here are the referenced books from Amazon. I included a men's version of Simple Abundance.