Saturday, October 24, 2009

Swimming Up Stream or Going With The Flow And Hitting Every Rock Along The Way

I can remember more times than not in my life struggling to reach my goals. I used to think it was "character building" to fight tooth and nail for something I set my sights on. "Nothing worth having is easy" was the motto that seemed to fit in my world.

Part of that lightbulb moment I had last week, when I first heard the passion drummer, was that I was unhappy because I was fighting a natural law of the universe. By constantly fighting to swim up river, I was missing out on life! When a fellow AFS member asked if it wasn't good to struggle, when talking of dancing with the passion drummer, my reaction was adamantly to the contrary. If you have to fight too hard, I said, it's likely a red flag that you're moving in the wrong direction. Now, that is not to say that there are those that fulfill their dreams after much fighting. What I'm saying is that you don't have to fight like that to feel fulfillment. And it's much more enjoyable to not struggle like that. It's less stressful. I've been looking for the non-stress approach to life for a very long time and this truly has been the key for me.

Many people have tried to stop swimming up stream, to "go with the flow", maybe just to try it out. Often they end up feeling like they are out of control or that they keep getting battered by the rocks and other hurdles of life. Even though they try to maneuver to avoid them, they're mostly unsuccessful. Battered and bruised, they say "this isn't for me" and they turn around and start swimming up stream again thankful to be done with the whole thing.

But it is very apparent that those that listen to the passion drummer's beat aren't battered and bruised. The rest of us watch them going with the flow and think they must be lucky, living charmed lives, that they can avoid all those rocks as they ride through life's often turbulent waters. You know what? They aren't avoiding those rocks! They run into those rocks just like everyone else. So, what's the difference? Why don't they get battered and bruised? It's all about focus.

I remember Jason saying, "I just let it go" and "I don't dwell on hard knocks unless I have some control over the outcome (in this he means the ability to directly change the outcome) and that outcome impacts my happiness." So they do hit the rocks, but they don't focus on the rocks. We, getting battered and bruised, are focusing on the rocks. We see the rocks. We try to avoid the rocks. We try to maneuver around them. We worry about hitting them, setting expectations for what might happen. And, when we can't avoid them and we hit them, then we are still focused on the rock and its impact. Not only does it impact our level of happiness but we're already focusing on the next rocks we see up ahead. In contrast, those charmed people also see the rocks, but they don't care. They are enjoying the ride so they keep going without really worrying about the rocks they see and eventually hit, because they've been focusing on the fun of the ride so the bumps don't have the same power to impact them. Theoretical, you say? Okay, let's look at an example.

The River (aka Life):
Let's say you're really good at something. Someone you know asks you to share the inner working of that skill with them because there is an upcoming opportunity in which that skill is needed, that you both would be interested in.

The Rocks (aka Risks/Challenges):
There is a chance that by sharing your knowledge with this other person that you'll lose out on some opportunities because this other person will get them.

The Freaks of Nature (aka Passion Drummer view)
If you're one of those people, there really is only one choice. Of course, you'd love to share your passion with that other person and teach them what you know. As long as it's enjoyable, you're "in" and happy for the interaction with someone that shares your passion. You know there is a chance that person will get an opportunity that you'd also like to have, but it is irrelevant to your motivation to have fun and share your passion so you don't give it a second thought.

The Battered and Bruised (aka Goal Drummer view)
If you're like the rest, you're pretty hesitant to share your valuable skills with the other person. Sure you'd probably enjoy showing them the ins and out of what you know, but you don't want to be used or taken advantage of, and you especially don't want to lose out on some really valuable opportunities that you've worked so hard at preparing for.

Rocks Up Ahead!
A) Going With The Flow and Getting Battered and Bruised (aka Goal Drummer choices)
You decide to share your knowledge despite your concerns and "better judgement." You're going to try to embrace this "going with the flow" thing. You're still a bit worried how this is all going to work out though. You're just hoping you're not going to regret it.

B) Maneuvering To Avoid The Rocks (aka Goal Drummer choices)
You decide not to share your knowledge with the other person because you see the trouble that it could cause later on and you have too much at risk, too much to lose. You see yourself as being a strategic thinker and proud of yourself for having avoided a potential pitfall.

C) Truly Going With The Flow (aka Passion Drummer choice)
You share your knowledge with the other person and have a really good time with them. You don't worry about what is going to happen down the road as a result of this interaction. The important thing is that you had fun.

The Rocks
A) Battered and Bruised
The other person gets that opportunity that would have been perfect for you. You knew you should have listened to your instincts and not let them use you! You saw this coming and you just let it happen. You really regret the choices you made. You feel taken advantage of and a little bitter. You will be more cautious in the future. You won't let this happen again!

B) Steering Clear
You get that 'perfect' opportunity, and you know you helped level the playing field by not sharing your skills with that other person. You feel like you are on top of the world. You have realized another goal, achieved another success.

C) Just Another Bump In The Road
You're new friend lands this great opportunity and you're really happy for them. Yes, you would have enjoyed that opportunity yourself, but, hey, it's no biggy. You are already really happy and in the whole scheme of things it really doesn't impact you. It's no skin off your back and besides, your friend and you have plenty to talk about these days as their new opportunity unfolds.

The Universe Works in Mysterious Ways (aka You Reap What You Sow)
A) Battered and Bruised and Bitter
You become a bit cynical over time. You struggle to feel good because of the bitterness that is pent up inside of you. You want more out of life and you feel like every time you turn around life hits you again with another challenge, another set back, another loss. You see your friends that stayed focused on their goals and the success they've realized and you envy them. You see those charmed people in your office that are high on life and you want to punch them most of the time just to wipe that smile off their face. You're miserable but you don't know how to get out of the life you're tied into.

B) Successfully Limited By Your Goals, Round and Round You Go!
You go on restricting and conserving yourself, only sharing yourself when it benefits you. Most of your connections with others are based on mutual opportunity. You've networked with all the successful people with similar mindsets. You're a winner. You make your moves with a strategic mind. No one is going to pull one over on you. You're successful. You achieve close to everything you set your mind to. You aren't aware of this, but by constantly focusing on setting and achieving your goals, you are only achieving your goals. You don't leave any room for other opportunities to come into your life because you can't see them, or you don't value them for what they are. You limit your personal development to that which you conceive. You definitely feel successful but somehow you always feel like there is something missing, and you're hoping to fulfill it with the accomplishment of that next goal.

C) Passion, Happiness, Fulfillment, and Other Things You Never Imagined For Yourself
While your friend is busy working on that new opportunity, out of the blue you get this email from someone you similarly helped out several years ago. You haven't heard from them in ages. They ask if you're available for this great opportunity that you never would have even thought was possible. This opportunity would never have been something you could have accepted if you were knee-deep in the first one that your friend got. This opportunity catapults you into a completely different and unexpected arena. You're now a leader in this field, not that you really tried to. It's really amazing how things work out. You don't really look for them, but they just seem to appear at the right time. You've becoming an expert in your field without really ever having to work at it, you just followed your passion. You develop lasting and meaningful relationships with others following their passions and in that way surround yourself with people with similar values and you all seem to help each other and learn and grow from each other. It's almost like "paying it foward." You love your life, you love what you do, you didn't really plan to be where you are. Frankly, you're a little amazed how things have worked out for you, but, hey, things always seem to have a way of working themselves out like this. You may not really think about it, but you just "get" how the universe works. No struggling. No fighting. Your needs are met. No worries. You are happy.

Those of you dancing to the goal drummer may think this is more than a tad bit silly. I used to. But I've seen all of these people described above in my life over and over again. I can tell you that I don't want to be A or B. I opt for C. I used to be a B, and at times was even an A when the chips were down. Mostly as a B, I found C's to be naive and vulnerable, or worse, just plain dumb. There was no way, I thought, that their happy-go-lucky meandering could be a superior approach to life than my carefully articulated and educated plans based on years of experience and knowledge development. Think again.

Somehow I found my way to personal fulfillment. I, by chance really, heard that passion drummer and took that other road. It's something I'll never regret. It has profoundly changed my life in just 8 days. I can't wait to see where this road less traveled takes me! I'm making choices still, I'm setting goals still, but I'm not limiting my experiences anymore or myself. I'm not fighting life anymore either. There is another approach with the passion drummer. Don't worry, be happy. I have to laugh as I write that last sentence, because I know what that sounds like to the goal drummer crowd.

Here's hoping to seeing you on the other side, dancing to your passion drummer!

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