Letting go · Surrender

The harder I swim the faster I sink

We’re told to never give up, that we can have whatever we want if we just work hard enough, smart enough, focused enough.

We’re encouraged to pray to a god of faster, better, cheaper.

We’re seduced into the notion that if we just keep trying different angles, polishing our approaches, maybe even saying it louder and more forcefully, everything we want–for our ourselves or a person we care about–is within our grasp.

It’s a trap. And problem is often in the grasping itself.

The more we attach ourselves to a specific outcome, the more we risk getting hooked on a false sense of our power and control. The intensity of our desire often leads to an intensity of effort. Sometimes that works. Other times we are merely deluding ourselves that we have some sort of magical powers.

And there is a good chance we make ourselves–and the people around us–miserable in the process.

There was a time in my corporate life that I acted as if I was always one clever PowerPoint slide away from persuading just about anyone to believe just about anything.

There was time in my personal life when if I didn’t get what I wanted there must be something wrong with me. And I sure as hell needed to fix that. Or fix the other person.

There was a time when if things weren’t going my way my default mechanism was to work harder, speak more forcefully, hold tighter to the strength of my convictions.

And all too often, the harder I swam, the faster I sank.

It turns out you should never teach a pig to sing. It won’t work and it only annoys the pig.

It turns out quitting is underrated.

It turns out that despite how hard we try, some things are simply out of our control.

It turns out sometimes the more we want something the better it is to slow down, to let it be and, as hard as it can be, let it go.

 

h/t to Julien Baker for the title inspiration (and for being one of my favorite artists discovered in 2017 (thanks Claire!)

 

 

Be the difference · Letting go

“I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.”

The best moment on television yesterday was clearly this.

The second best, in my opinion, was Jake Tapper’s CNN interview with White House adviser (and front-runner for the least likable person to grow up in Santa Monica) Stephen Miller.

For more than 10 minutes Miller spouted off irrelevant nonsense until Tapper finally showed him the door with the send-off “I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time.” If only more folks had the courage to take decisive action on the useless, the meaningless, the dishonest, the distracting.

We waste our customers’ time with undifferentiated products, boring experiences and one-size-fits-all marketing.

We waste our teams’ time with meetings that have no discernible goals or impact.

We waste our friends’ and followers’ time with posts that serve no purpose other than to prop up our egos.

We waste our own time by needing to be right, staying stuck in resentment, obsessing about things we cannot change, confusing busy with effective, and on and on.

Mary Oliver, probably my favorite poet, beckons us with the question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Great question.

Tick tock.

tell-me-what-is-it-you-plan-to-do-with-your-one-wild-and-precious-life-2

This post was also published on my business blog.

Letting go · Radical acceptance · Smile at fear

Dragging the raft

There is a Buddhist parable concerning a man trapped on one side of a fast-flowing river. He faces great uncertainty and danger by staying on his side.  And he soon realizes he must cross the river to find safety.

Alas there is no bridge or ferry for crossing.  So the man decides to construct a make-shift raft from logs, branches and vines. Eventually he is able to paddle himself to the other side.

The Buddha then asks the assembled monks a question: What would you think if the man, having crossed over the river, said to himself, ‘Oh, this raft has served me so well, I should take it with me as I continue my journey on land’?  The monks replied that it would not be very sensible to cling to the raft in such a way.

The Buddha continued: What if, instead, he lay the raft down gratefully, thinking that this raft has served him well, but is no longer of use and can thus be laid down upon the shore? The monks agreed that would be the proper attitude.

If you are anything like me, you may find yourself clinging to beliefs, techniques and practices that once served you well but were meant for an entirely different set of circumstances.

If you are anything like me, you may hold on to the familiar–the comfortable–despite ample evidence it is no longer working.

If you are anything like me, you may be carrying around the proverbial hammer in search of the next nail.

Many of us have some version of a raft we continue to drag behind us.

Maybe, with the passage of time, we will find ourselves in the exact set of circumstances where that raft will turn out to be exactly the thing we need.  Maybe.

But there is so much freedom, so much speed to be gained, so much possibility to be claimed, in simply letting go.

This post originally appeared at http://www.stevenpdennis.com