Don’t Move Mountains

Hawaii, 1983: The small community of Royal Gardens had sixteen homes destroyed by Mount Kilauea’s eruption and lava flow.  Royal Gardens no longer exists.  Only the mountain.

After destroying more homes in other communities, as well as the town of Kalapana, the lava flow shifted out to sea.  But, in April of 1990, lava poured out of the mountain for almost a year, burying the town in 85 feet of volcanic rock.  Kalapana is gone.  The mountain is alive and well.

Crazy enough, a small subdivision they named “Kalapana Gardens” was erected on top of the old Kalapana.  But, in 2011, Mount Kilauea destroyed a home in that neighborhood as well.

Some people don’t believe in mountains.

For two years, I lived in an apartment just on the east side of the Appalachian Mountains.  A beautiful area in upstate Pennsylvania.  But, in the winter, the sun would set below the mountain in the late afternoon and it was like someone flipped off the light switch.  I like the night, but at 4:30?

Before that, I grew up in inner-city Philadelphia.  Quite arguably, the worst neighborhood in the whole city and if you were observant, you could see it was going in the wrong direction.  The glacier was breaking off and it was falling fast.  Some neighbors were in denial.  Some wanted to stay and fight, while others were just stubborn.

Some people want to move mountains.

At the beach, we set up our blanket, a cooler, a speaker, and maybe an umbrella.  This is our spot.  Then, the first strong wave of the incoming tide touches our blanket.

We can’t move oceans.

The Mountain always wins, as well it should and for reasons we may not be able to understand, nor should we.  Metaphorically and/or literally speaking, the “mountain” is neither for us, nor is it against us.  It just is.  Fighting against it, ignoring its power, or denying the inevitable, is quite foolish.

We can embrace its existence or we can climb it, go around it, and move away from it, but we can’t move it.  A life of trying is a miserable, losing endeavor.

Don’t move mountains.  Move.

Photo by Marc Szeglat on Unsplash

Be the Guide, Not the Show: 10 Wisdoms

I grew up as an only child and an introvert.  In my third year of college, I had to take Public Speaking and I remember thinking about dropping out, because of it.  I went to that class against my own will and with a bad attitude.  Oh, I was kicking and screaming like a three-year old.

I remember the first day of that class: It was icy, cold, and snowing.  I just drank a gallon of coffee, so I stopped in the men’s room just outside the classroom doors.  It was a large facility with a bank of urinals and stalls and it was empty.  Sweet!  I took the far urinal against the left wall and just then, the door opened.  This older guy comes in whistling.  Whistling!

As if that wasn’t enough, he broke rule number 2.5 of section 1, under man-code “A” of the manual.  He took the urinal right next to mine!  Are you kidding me!?  That urinal isn’t supposed to be used at all.  In fact, it’s just a buffer to the next one.  There’s a whole bank of urinals and you want to rub shoulders with me!?  And then … this: He stopped whistling to speak to me.  Why?

It went like this: “Good things, these.”

Um … what?

“These.  Urinals.  What a great invention; am I right?”

Uh … sure.  I guess so.

“Cold out there.  Have a good day.”

And he left.  Skipped the whole hand washing bit.  That was weird.

I washed my hands and headed into the classroom where I met my Public Speaking instructor.  Yep … you guessed it: Urinal guy.  Ugh!  But, as it turned out, it was one of the best course experiences I had and he was a great instructor.  Never shook his hand though.

He challenged and pushed me and at times, I hated him for it.  Now, I love him for it.  It’s been many years since that class and I’ve built my career on being a really good guide.  I’ve been, and some I still am, an instructor, teacher, trainer, host, guide, mentor, speaker, writer, marketer, brand manager, sales director, business development manager, director of corporate culture, and presenter.

I’m not a yogi.  Not yet, anyway.  However, if we’re going to be yogis, teachers, instructors, leaders, managers, speakers, hosts, or have any human interaction whatsoever, I’d like to share some practical real-world wisdom:

It’s not about us.  It’s about the audience and each of their individual experiences.  It’s our job to be the guide, not the show.  Unless we are the show and if that’s the case, we better be the damn show.

  1. Be credible. Know your shit.  Learn, train, practice, research, and prepare.
  2. Lose the ego. They’re looking to us to lead, guide, or teach.  That is all.
  3. Be real. Be you.  Be authentic, down to earth, and relatable.
  4. Check your bad day at the door.
  5. Be present and engage with the audience.
  6. Get a sense of humor and relax.
  7. Be alive, enthusiastic, and energetic.
  8. Never stop learning and growing. The journey is ongoing.
  9. Speak clearly, understandably, and audibly. And … listen.
  10. Be, flexible and adaptable, because shit happens.

What we’re teaching, presenting, hosting, writing, sharing, or instructing is the show, not us.  We are only the guide.

Be a great guide.

Photo by Severin Hoin on Unsplash

When is Someday?

When I was a kid, my parents and extended family would throw around the word “someday” as if it was a magical destination.  “Someday, my ship will come in.”  “Yeah, we’ll do that; someday.”

Everyone seemed to be okay with this, but me.  As if saying “someday”, sedated them.  I quickly developed a dislike for “someday; a word of appeasement, not of action.  It was hopeless hope.  Someday meant it’s not going to happen, but … whatever.

“Someday” is in the future and the future isn’t real.  Not yet.  It will be; it can be; but not right now.  The past isn’t real either.  Not anymore.  It was, but not right now.  Only now is now and we can’t get to an actual “someday” without it.

But when is “now”?  Now is always.  It was then, it is now, and it will be tomorrow.

Without now, someday is just an abstract thought.  In martial arts, a black-belt is merely a symbol of achievement; a result earned through the process.  In Aikido or Hapkido, the “Do” is “the way”; living, studying, learning, and training in the process.  That’s where the mastery lies, not in the result.

So, if we’re going to have a goal, then the goal should be the way, because the way is the goal.  A graduated continuum of the “now”.  Do this right and “someday” becomes today.  In fact, we’ll lose the need for someday altogether, because we’re living it.

Now that’s an achievement!

Enjoy the journey.

Photo by Basil Samuel Lade on Unsplash.

Scar Tissue

It all started when I decided to try the whole walking thing.  Once semi-accomplished, I thought that walking on the other side of the stair railing would be much more fun.

My parents had reserved seating in the emergency room: “Oh, hello Wilson family.  What did he do this time?”  Enter scar tissue:  Tricycle crashed down cement steps, because Knievel would have nothing over me.  I was three.  Hit the pavement from second story, climbing the outside of our house.  I was seven.  Got hit by a car, because I was The Flash.  Damn shoelace!  I was ten.  Oh, there’s much more, but I’ll leave it at that.

In a brilliant attempt to tame these tendencies, my parents enrolled me in martial arts.  Throughout Hapkido, Aikido, and Judo, we practiced Yoko Ukemi, which is a side breakfall, designed to protect the body from the impact of a throw or sweep.  I must have done thousands of them over the years, mostly on my left side.  Most people are right handed, so …

With Yoko Ukemi, the hip absorbs a lot of pressure, but it’s not something you notice while doing it.  In fact, years go by and … nothing.  Scar tissue builds up, but it goes virtually unnoticed.  Recently however, there was a twinge; then pain, and trouble.  There it is and it’s not happy.

Physical scar tissue is something we can locate, palpate, diagnose, and treat with a pretty high degree of certainty.  It’s the not-so-physical pain; the kind our souls bear, that … when it manifests, we don’t know what the hell is going on.  It too, can go unnoticed for years, but then outbursts, irritability, underlying unhappiness, and even crying for “no reason”.  There’s a reason.

Most of us tend to proceed forward, relegating the symptoms to the fringes of our consciousness.  We deal with it, waiting for it to go away on its own.  Reality laughs at that notion.

Whether the scars are physical, emotional, or psychological, we all have our own to varying degrees.  Usually it’s a mixed combination.  Some we may have caused ourselves, while others by others, circumstances, and accidents.  No one goes unscathed.  It is what it is, because it was what it was and hear we are.

As far as my hip goes, deep tissue therapeutic massage.  It works, but very painful.  Outwardly, I’m a stoic pranayama breather.  In my head, I’m a 1980’s scream queen.

And yoga.  The mind, body, physical, mental, soul, conscious, and subconscious as well as other humans and the universe, as we think we know it, are all connected.  It’s not new-age; it’s old school and it’ll take you on a journey of truth and falsehood, reality and delusion, pain and ease, forgiveness and guilt, regret and contentment, denial and acceptance, testing and rewarding, weakness and strength.

As Nic Gregoriades said, “Yoga is a martial art you do against yourself”.  True, but so is doing dumb shit.

While I still find the other side of the railing alluring, I’ve tamed my response, upgraded my skills, and refined my approach.  Besides, the emergency room ain’t as cheap as it used to be.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Leader: No Titles Needed

Back in my single digits, I remember getting birthday cards in the mail addressing me as “Master Wilson” or “Master Rob”. That was pretty cool. You don’t see that much anymore. In accordance with the English honorary system, as we become adults, “Master” becomes Mister (Mr.), where Mr. is used to denote rank below Knighthood. That would be “Sir”.

“Introducing Sir Robert Wilson of the Clan Wilson, descendant of Scottish ancestry and rightful heir to … well, whatever it is he’s accomplished and earned at this point in his life, I guess. Anyone want to chime in here? Anyone at all.”

Crickets …

What I may have achieved in rank or status is simply a byproduct of the journey thus far.  I am comfortable with “Rob” with no need or attachment to “Mr. Wilson”.

Anyways, mastery is in the process, not the result.  Ego and pride, like anything else, can be healthy, but there’s a threshold.  Too much of either and we’ve crossed over into insecurity.  Wait … who’s room is this?

Power exercised, through rank, title, or status, is weak and it’s following is false.  True leadership is empowering those around us to be their best selves.  Throw in the dynamics of reality with its infinite number of variables and it takes a diverse menu of skills, characteristics, experience, and knowledge to effectively serve that restaurant.

For Starters: Trust, open and honest communication, candor, real-world experience, benevolence, knowledge, wisdom, transparency, confidence, active listening, interest, passion, and authenticity.

Main Dishes: Respect, optimism, delegation, collaboration, empathy, resilience, strength, care, decisiveness, fortitude, optimism, focus, egoless, human-centric, concern, and nuance.

Desert: Humor, levity, celebrate wins as a team (big and small) and encourage personal growth and quality of life, because happy people are successful people.

When we do the leadership thing right, there’s no need for a mandated “Mr”, “Sir”, “Master”, “Doctor”, “Sensei”, “Yogi” (which I’m not), or whatever.  If it’s offered, then we graciously accept, but just the name should be and mean more than any title (official military ranking aside).

Your table is ready, Mr. Gandhi. “Please; call me Mahatma. Thank you.”

Photo by Mikito Tateisi on Unsplash.