What if no matter what you had to do today – sit in a meeting you don't want to be sitting in, go to a job you don't like, go to a job you do like, take care of a sick kid, whatever is occupying your time – you knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is exactly where you need to be at this moment?
What if you absolutely, positively, knew that G-d, the "Universe", Karma, whatever you call the Great, All Knowing Higher Power that runs this joint, has sent you to this moment, to wherever you are, to whatever you’re doing; that this is not random and it is by design that you are right here, right now, reading these words?
Would that change how you feel about what you’re doing?
Half the time I’m working on this, I think, “I should be working on that.” If I’m in the car, I want to be at my destination. Or, I can’t wait to leave, so that I can get in to my car. I should be at my kid’s game instead of work. Thinking about work at the bleachers. It never ends.
Byron Katie says, “How do you know if something should be happening? It’s happening.” It’s that simple. You can’t change this moment. You can influence the next moment, but not this one. We don’t live in the past or the future. We cannot. We live now. Only now. Every moment, every decision, every action has converged on this moment to put us exactly where we are doing what we are doing. There's no way to change it.
Byron Katie again, “When you argue with reality, you only loose 100% of the time.”
So if everything has led to you doing exactly what you’re doing in this moment, and you can’t change the past or this moment, resisting is probably not the best state to be in for the best possible result or mood. So let’s try something different.
And, if we take the stance that it is true, that we are absolutely where life wants us to be, we can transform the moment. We can be truly present with the people we’re with. We can be in a relationship. We can learn what to change so we’re not in a situation we don’t want to repeat. But most of all, we learn to feel the flow of life itself. We learn to stop fighting the current and start swimming with the flow, altering direction when we need to.
The truth is, you are exactly where you need to be. Reading what you need to be reading? How do I know? Because you are.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? To fly? X-ray vision? Super strength? And if you had that power, what would you do with it? Protect the weak? Go after bad guys? Go on a really cool vacation? Really, what would you do?
I was in an airport bookstore looking for a gift when I heard the older lady behind the counter say the warmest hello to a new customer. Then to another customer, “Where are you from dear? Oh, I hear that is a lovely place.” In fact, she had a warm greeting for all who came near her. “Oh, what a beautiful blouse. Where are you going? Please have a safe trip home.”
And as I left her congregation, “Have a blessed day.” I had just met a true superhero.
Were we talking about superpowers? Every day in my circles the conversation revolves around this word, “Power.” Coaches want to work with Powerful People. Clients ask, “How do I find my power? Why do I give my power away? How can I make a powerful impact?” These are valid questions, and in context, excellent avenues to explore. However, in pursuit of these bigger demonstrations of power, I think we lose some of the most effective and immediate ways we impact the world.
In my twenties, I was a breakfast waiter at a high-end hotel. My morning customers were businessmen, political leaders and other influential types who started their day with me before heading out for their very “consequential” meetings. When I called myself “just a waiter” in front of a wise spiritual mentor, I learned a valuable lesson. She said, “you are the first person they see in the morning. How they start their day and in what mood can be influenced by you each morning. Never underestimate the power you have that will ripple in places you will never see.”
Huh? That never occurred to me.
Have you ever been surprised by someone who has said, “you may not know it, but you changed my life that day?” We have no idea how many seemingly small gestures we probably forgot that changed someone’s world. A good illustration of just how powerful we are, when we pay attention to the small things, is in the Ted Talk by Drew Dudley called Lollipop Moments. Mr. Dudley was approached by a young woman who related a story about an interaction with him that had happened years before that changed her life. He didn’t remember the interaction, but it changed someone’s life. This was his “aha moment” where he realized how powerful he is, just by living and interacting.
Mr. Dudley’s assertion reminds me of another story that unfolds in a circular manner. Robert Downey Jr. was at a garden party when an 80-year-old lady was injured badly and losing a lot of blood. RDJ swooped in, wrapped the bloody wound in his white linen jacket, calmed and charmed the woman to keep her distracted and was credited with saving her life. Yes, this is powerful and compelling, but it is not the entire point of sharing this story.
Years later the woman’s granddaughter, who was there at the time, saw Mr. Downey at a restaurant and told him the story, thinking he may not remember. He did. She thanked him and said, “that was simply the kindest act I’ve ever witnessed.” And now the point of my story, RDJ’s response to the granddaughter - “You have absolutely no idea how much I needed to hear that today.” We have no idea what he was dealing with but that small gesture, payback if you will, was what the newly sober star needed to get through his day. Superheroes all around.
I try to keep these stories and the consciousness they embody with me every day as I walk through my world. I know I make hundreds of choices every day that affect the world in small but unknowably powerful ways. I’m surely unaware of the ripple effect of these choices, good or bad. But I am aware that another driver letting me into traffic can change my outlook for the rest of the day. When I’m aware, and pay attention, I get a glimpse how powerful I truly am.
I invite you to watch as you navigate your day. Notice how people affect you and how you affect them. Imagine what happens in your wake as you turn and walk away. Think you’re not powerful? Watch. You may be surprised by how much you substantively move the world by getting a cup of coffee or driving to work. Now that you’ve been bestowed with a superpower...
“Have a blessed day and a safe journey...”
Put your sneakers on and go exercise.
Close Facebook and put on a Ted Talk.
That project you've been dreading at work? Clear half an hour, get a cup of coffee, and open it up.
Forget about finishing. Just start.
I know all about procrastination and starting again. I was beating myself up because I kept putting off my workout routine. I had a great one going, then I traveled to Hawaii and California, slowly started getting back on track, and boom…got sick for 3 weeks. This past Monday morning, I decided to just start. On Monday morning I put on my sneakers, got on my elliptical and 40 minutes and and an episode of Mr. Robot later, I was starting to get back on track. Tuesday morning...same thing. Tomorrow, I have no idea specifically what I’ll be doing for my workout. What I do know though is that I’ll put my sneakers on – that will be my start.
My ex-wife has a wooden plaque above her computer that says "You are not behind; jump in where you are." Sage advice from a piece of wood. It makes no good sense to lament what you SHOULD have done yesterday. Forget it. What can you start now?
In his great book, The Now Habit, Dr. Neill Fiore takes on procrastination. The first chapter in the book is so loving and compassionate. He understands that procrastinators are not bad... they’re most likely afraid. Procrastination is protecting you from something, real or imagined (it’s usually some deep seated, irrational childhood fear that a year of therapy can uncover, but let’s not get sidetracked). For me, procrastination often comes in the form of confusion (from A.D.D.) or overwhelm (looking to complete before I even start). Therapy or just start? I like shortcuts.
Lesson 1: Stop berating yourself and take action.
Berating yourself is useless, takes time and just keeps you from starting.
Action is the miracle drug that cures what ails you (unless its exhaustion...then rest, but that’s another post). Fearful? Take action - the rush and relief is amazing. Ask someone who has jumped out of a plane; it’s the threshold that’s terrifying, the waiting to jump. Once they jump, it’s the Geico Pig "wee we weeee" all the way down. Action clears up confusion. It’s amazing how once I start something, I can work my way though the challenges that seemed insurmountable before I started.
Lesson 2: Get out of the door and jump out of the damn plane.
As with everything good, starting is a practice. It’s a habit to be cultivated. We need to train our brain and our body that the initial resistance to putting on our sneakers, touching the keyboard or picking up the phone, is temporary. Freedom is on the other side.
I committed to writing one blog post a week. Today was the day to post and I put it off all day. Then, I put my fingers on the keyboard, looked at a blank page, and check it out - you’re reading my post! I’ll file that away and remember this little victory. After all, have you ever heard anyone ever say, "Oh I am so sorry I meditated today?"
Go start something.
This practice itself is not that difficult. Figure out what you want to do, and do it. Pretty simple. It’s the obstacles life throws at you that will make the journey to taking back your time and attention more…interesting.
Freedom isn’t free, as the saying goes. I’d love to tell you that the world, your boss and your loved ones will welcome your 10s with open arms and a supportive demeanor. It is not that they don’t support you, it’s that they have their own 10s, whether they are conscious of them or not. And we all fight for our own 10s. As I journeyed this road, I found myself in unfamiliar territory, running into situations I hadn’t anticipated. I needed to pick up new tools along the way if I was to take back the reins of my life.
You will need courage on this journey. I do not know where or when your “stuff” will come up, but it will. It may be a tough conversation, setting a boundary, or simply saying out loud, “I want to do this.” It is different for everyone.
For me, asking Earnest (my overextended, really nice, alter ego) to leave the room, and not be the “nice guy” in every situation was like facing death every time. My stuff, not necessarily yours. Just know some resistance and obstacles will come up in some form. Then know, sword in hand, you can and will face your demons – and you are always at choice to move forward when and if you want to. You can choose to back down or move ahead. Be kind to yourself, but choose. Watch your choices, and see what those choices reap. Trial and error alone will propel you ahead. You can’t fail.
I can promise very few things with this way of living, but I promise that you will need to accept risk. As with courage, I am not sure where, but at some point you will need to close your eyes and jump, and maybe not see where you’ll land. It may be saying no to staying late at work, it may be showing your art for the first time, but it will feel like a risk. Go for it, or don’t, but be aware of what each choice costs you or brings you.
Sometimes the only thing standing between me, and what I want, is a conversation I don’t want to have. I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, I am embarrassed, I think they will get angry, I’m being unreasonable. These thoughts are examples of the ones that have preceded important conversations I have had. Sometimes it is only this scary chatter that stands between me – and my 10. It’s fear, so I need to stop and decide which is going to get to be that 10.
It’s true. “No” is a complete sentence. Use it. “Yes, but,” is also a good default response to cultivate. “I will do this for you, but I need _____ in order to be able to accommodate your request,” is a good way of making sure you are leveraging your time and attention in a way that works for you. Often, I do not know my answer right away, so my automatic response defaults to “yes” – and I often regret it later. It is ok to answer with a pause. I have gotten into the habit of answering, “I am not sure, give me a few minutes and I will call you back.” Then I can do my inner work to decide the best answer for me.
Good fences make good neighbors. Clear boundaries make for good relationships. Boundaries are the antidote to resentments. 9 times out of 10, if I am angry, or carrying a resentment, it is because I didn’t set a boundary. You know the people in your life who set boundaries. Chances are, if you have a hard time setting them, you judge them pretty harshly, at least at first – but I bet you respect them. The people you meet with the best boundaries are usually the ones living their 10s.
Love and Kindness
The point of all these decisions is to live a full life, filled with the activities and people that I love. When saying no, setting a boundary or having any tough conversation, love and kindness is always appropriate. It is the tool to ground all the others. The more I treat myself with love and kindness, the easier it is to allow myself to focus on my true 10s. There is a difference between self-care and “being selfish.” Making sure that love and kindness are guiding principles for all concerned, including myself, ensures I can keep the people in my life a 10 while I also pursue what excites and inspires me.
For more on shoring up your toolbox, I highly recommend Steve Chandler’s Time Warrior. Frankly, the journey would have been a tougher road without reading Steve’s invaluable insights and suggestions.
there was just no way it was gonna happen
A genius IQ seemed to be the price to pay for a heartbreaking lack of physical size and coordination. To say my son was not a very good Little League Baseball player would have been kind. Still, ask him what he was going to be when he grew up and the answer never wavered, “a Major League Baseball Player.” The first stop to his ultimate dream, though equally out of reach, was to play on our Elite High School Baseball Team where players move from far and wide to participate in the program. It seemed an impossible goal.
Though he worked harder than anyone on his Little League and Prep teams, his usual position was left center bench. Between the ridicule and the lack of play he endured, I would have quit a few hundred times. Not this kid. He set his sights on the objective and kept his eye on the ball. If you asked his mom or I if he was going to make the team, the answer would be “We would never bet against this kid,” while internally wincing with that heartbreaking parental pain of knowing.
Freshman year, still short, rail thin and more determined than ever, my son transformed before our eyes. Every day after school he hit the weight room and the field as though he knew something nobody else could know. As his muscles grew, so did his athleticism and grace. Still, I would look at the other young men on the team, all taller than me and wonder how I was going to love my son through the biggest disappointment of his life come the inevitable February cuts.
In the parking lot, on a freezing February afternoon I waited. I see kids leaving in tears. I text with my son to find out some news, “Still waiting.” His mom calls me every five minutes; yes we were also caught up in his impossible dream. We hired coaches; we drove to every practice, and turned the garage into a batting cage on the outside chance that maybe, just maybe. Over an hour passes and I sit in my car with love in my heart and fear in my head for my precious little boy. “Jimmy made it, Sam Made it, John left in tears” the texts keep coming... I hate this part of parenting.
Here he comes. I cannot see his face. I jump out of the car and walk towards him. He just nods. Yes! The impossible transformed to the possible turned into reality. We hug, both in tears from joy, and relief.
Four Years later, this brilliant talented and determined young man finishes his final year of Varsity Baseball, holding a trophy after his team wins the Virginia State Championship Game. He is unrecognizable as a muscled athlete, hugging his teammates, a beautiful girlfriend on his arm and about to leave for a prestigious university. Yes, anything is possible.
Another little boy, this one very athletic, charming, and wise beyond his years is struggling in school. My younger son is having a rough time through Third grade. We get him tested, evaluated, judged and labeled. He has several learning disabilities hindering his very obvious intelligence. The “Label” in place, we get the teachers to accommodate his needs; sitting up front, having notes taken for him, a second set of books. Yup, we are good parents, we took care of our kid.
“No Way! I am not going to do it.” He refused to be accommodated. “It’s embarrassing and I don’t need it, I get what I need to do.” It wasn’t the sort of protest of a kid just being difficult. There was a fierce determination that we could not ignore. We said we would give him a chance as long as he accepted the help of an organizational tutor and some extra focus from us. We gave him rope and let things play out.
Astonishingly, his grades improved immediately. His demeanor also improved. He was starting to find the confidence he had lost. Fourth grade ended a huge success and Fifth was equally triumphant. With a little extra help, and a will to overcome, he absolutely “handled” it for himself.
At the start of Sixth grade, we get a call from the school. They want a conference to talk about our son. “Thank you for coming in. We want you to know that this has never happened in the history of our county. Your son has been so successful in overcoming his challenges, we are recommending we drop the Learning Disability Designation.” What? Huh? Is that possible? He had found his creative way in dealing with some very real challenges, showing not only us, but a county panel of experts.
When it comes to my two sons, I am learning anything is possible. Desire, Determination, Willingness Support, and a big helping of Grit can get us further than our limiting beliefs and trepidation would allow. I have learned more from watching them walk through the gate marked “Impossible” than any new age book or talk. I had overcome much in my life, but to watch my sons blaze a trail all their own inspired and humbled me. I had no idea I was going to need their example to fight for my own life.
A few years ago, my marriage had ended and my career was on the express elevator to the basement. Alone in an apartment, I found myself faced with a life threatening illness. Through weeks of high fevers, I lost muscle mass, energy, and the ability to concentrate. When I finally started to get better physically, depression set in, and that made each step forward exponentially hard. I had no idea how I was going to recover and find the strength to live, let alone support a family. I wanted to die.
January came, and somehow I was fortunate enough to land a great new job and hopefully a new start. Though my illness had turned the corner, I still felt terribly weak; my confidence was shot and the depression made any future look bleak at best, I needed to keep stepping forward. I was a dad, my kids were counting on me.
I was listening to the radio, while waiting for another doctor appointment, when I heard Dr. Oz interviewing some crazy ultra marathon guy. He talked about green drinks, alkalizing, and he believed that everyone could run, everyone. Bad knees, no muscle mass, bad back... I can run? I’ll grab on to the craziest things.
I got his book, devoured it and started the painful walk/run of 1 mile per day. Then 2. Then 3 miles of slow jogging while filling my head with self help books and audios of every flavor. I made a decision. It was early March and I needed something to live for. I called the author of the book and hired him to coach me on the phone, long distance. “Do you think I could run the Marine Corps Marathon in October?” “No way, but the following October, sure.” That wasn’t going to work for me; I needed to do something big, now. I looked at what “impossible” goals would get me through the year and made them my sole focus.
• I would run the Marine Corps Marathon in October, Seven months away.
• I would make $1 Million dollars, just in case my health did not come back and my family needed to be cared for.
• I would give $60,000 to charity.
My larger goal was to show my kids what was possible in the face of adversity. They were crazy objectives, unobtainable for sure, but I needed the impossible to break me out of my death spiral and leave a legacy they could point to if they should ever hit rock bottom themselves.
That October, I ran the Marathon an hour faster than my planned time with my kids and my ex cheering me at the finish line. A Miracle! Although it took me two years to make that Million and give away the Sixty Grand, I reached those crazy goals also. In a year, I went from the lowest point in my life to achieving endeavors I never thought possible.
Today, I spend my day opening client’s minds to the impossible. I learned from my kids so I could experience miracles for myself. I learned for myself so I have first hand knowledge to pass on to everyone I meet.
What have I learned? That the biggest barrier between us and making the Impossible - Possible, is us. An unshakable “Why”, a Goal worth achieving, or people we love counting on us, is rocket fuel to leave known lands for places that look out of reach. We may not reach the exact target we were aiming for, but I can promise, we will land further than we ever thought we could. Just ask the three Silverman Boys, we’ll tell you, Go For It!
A client of mine is embarking on a fitness goal, so I decided to support him (and myself) with a new program from Scott Sonnon
. Day One - Ugh. Day Two - Ugh. Day Nine - Still UGH when i put on my sneakers and press play. But I earned those 9 check marks. By the time I finished this morning's workout i felt energetic and flexible....and accomplished.
I need to thank 9 day ago me. Hopefully 1 month from now me will thank today's me. That's how it works. Tomorrow is planted today. Next year is planted today. I learn that every time I start something cool or not cool. The me down the line is either grateful or pissed. And I get to choose how he thinks of me, now. Today. This morning.
Cliche'? Perhaps. True? Hell Yeah. Do tomorrow's you a favor today.
On the shoulders of giants. How did I write a book? A better question is how did I find life, freedom, expression and happiness? Some of these people are words on a page, some I have spoken to, some I have even hugged, but all of them and many more have blessed me with their wisdom and beautiful ways of being in the world.
Alan Cohen’s "Relax into Wealth,” where I learned to let G-d, the Universe, the benevolent spirit that connects us all love and support me.
Steve Chandler’s “Time Warrior,” in which he pulls no punches in confronting our “business,” our lack of boundaries and all the ways we let fears, shoulds, chew at our lives.
Brian Johnson’s “Philosopher’s Notes Journey,” which is an amazing roadmap through he wisdom available to us on the pages of books written 1000 years ago or 6 months ago. Brian offers free podcasts, videos as well as insanely affordable classes.
Jeff Davidson’s “Breathing Space.” The first sane life management book I ever read. Brilliant.
Michael Neil’s “Inside Out Revolution,” Everything is subjective. Everything. Once we learn where the filter lies, we have choice. Choice is freedom.
Brene' Brown’s “Daring Greatly,” Michael Singer’s “Untethered Soul,” A stunning illustration of our inner life. From our inner (pain in the ass) roommate to G-d’s ever present grace.
Pema Chondron, “Any book really,” Fear, struggle, service, joy, she covers it all. A deep spiritual healing hug on every page.
Byron Katie “Loving What Is.” Ask the right four questions, get free. Simple and brilliant.
Eckart Tolle, “Practicing the Power of Now” Buddhism with a German twist but the more I read and listen the more accessible the present moment is for me.
The Dali Lama, Jesus, The Rebbe, and on and on. So many teachers, so much wisdom.
Ask me any time, let me share with you my 10,000 hours in the university of life. I do not have all the answers, but I have some great questions and even better places for you to go seek your own answers.
The Academy of Miracles Podcast 043: Mark J Silverman
Elloa Atkinson led me through one of the most fun and
insightful conversations I have had. We covered topics both practical and deeply spiritual that we hope serves those listening in. Please enjoy and let us know your thoughts and insights. http://www.elloaatkinson.com/mark-j-silverman/
We only own two things in life: our time and our attention. Where we put our time and attention – that’s where our time goes. It’s time to live, whether your 20, 50 or 90. It’s time to live.
I cannot make my fingers type this email. The proposal is due in the morning and my fingers are too stiff and I can’t type.
What the hell am I going to do?
The fear just made it worse. My fingers worked when they wanted and didn't when they didn’t. I would yell at my keyboard, and catastrophise my life until my children and I were homeless, all because I couldn’t do my job.
Then there was walking up the steps and feeling my knees ache or the sharp pain in my wrists as I tried to get up off the floor. Actually, I needed to make fists to get up off the floor. I chalked that up to being 50 with a-lot of wear and tear, but the march to old age was coming way too fast. The physical maladies were piling up while the need for me to take care of a family and keep up with two teenage boys never slowed. “If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred” -Walt Whitman
During this time, my father was in a nursing home in Florida dying from Parkinson's disease, a fate I wouldn’t wish on my enemy let alone this kind and wonderful man. I flew to Florida every three weeks and as I walked the halls I took in all I saw.
The sight of feeble old bodies, wheelchairs, oxygen, and rows of medicines shook me to the core. I felt my own mortality and vulnerability every time I entered the doors. But I noticed something. Most of the maladies that afflicted the people in this building, in fact, that effect most of us, are man made. I saw Coke cans, candy and cookies everywhere. I saw very overweight visitors limping themselves as they visited loved ones. It was here, in this acute microcosm that my research started.
I started looking at my symptoms differently even though I was on a much better than average American diet:
Severe allergies and mild asthma | Severe pain in wrists, knees and fingers | Difficulty typing (unable to at times) | No change in weight, but rings and watch no longer fit | From 32 inch waist to 34 | Debilitating fatigue in the afternoon (caffeine deficiency) | Mild depression.
Like I said, I ate well and exercised regularly, and I thought I was doomed to an early old age. I figured it was just aging and the way things would be, until I started learning. The more I learned, the more I knew there was hope for me. I researched experts in the field of nutrition and found Dr. Chris Ogilvie, a naturopath recommended to me. Chris’s philosophy is simple, “your body will tell you what you need. Let’s eliminate everything but Vegetables and Organic Meat for eight weeks and add the rest back one at a time. His recommendation sounded a bit severe, but my desperation made me game. Nothing like pain, to force a change.
Three weeks later I was down ten pounds, feeling alive and vibrant and the pain was subsiding. By eight weeks I felt so good I had no interest in adding anything back into my diet. It was crazy, but the results were too good to ignore:
Allergies and asthma gone I Pain in wrists and fingers gone | Pain in knees minimal and exercise related | Ring, watch and 32 inch jeans all fit | Fine and dandy in the afternoon | Spirits lifted.
Through trial and error I found that Sugar, American Wheat, Dairy and Lack of sleep were the four horsemen of my own personal apocalypse. A direct correlation between pain or the sniffles and what I ate the night before, gets my attention.
Like any good reformed zealot, I took to the streets with my new found revelations. Unfortunately though, I was met with a less than enthusiastic audience that reminded me of the story told in AA to illustrate the craziness of the human mind.
An Alcoholic is brought before the judge. The judge says, “you have two choices, you can go to jail for 90 days or 90 one hour AA meetings.” To which the Alcoholic asks, “Judge, can I have a few minutes to think about this?”
The pain in my hands, not being able to type or lift myself up off the floor was my ‘bottom’. It took something scary to make me change. Most people I talk to are steeped in the “norm” and do not know what is waiting for them with a few simple changes.
If you’re reading this book, you are probably not new to the “Self Help/Growth” community. You already know that we are not victims of circumstances but that most of our “life situations” originate from our choices and beliefs. The revelation is both uncomfortable and freeing. The “Victim” path is seductive, but when the pain is enough, we are willing to wake up and make different choices. I probably would not have changed if I wasn’t worried about losing the use of my hands. I just wanted to type, and I got relief from life long allergies. Bonus!
As a coach, I use my experience with food as both a metaphor and a real life example for promoting change in other areas. Is the uncomfortableness of unwanted behaviors greater than that of change? It takes work to eat well; it also takes work to change relationships, habits and thinking. All I can do, and all I can ask of my clients is to be aware and chose as consciously as possible to move us to our desired outcome.
Just as the spiritual path has many roads to explore, so does that of taking care of our physical selves. What works for me may not work for you and visa versa. What I do know is that we can do more good, enjoy more, and be happier if we take care of our bodies. I leave you with the words of a wonderful old man I met in passing who said:
“Before 40 our body takes care of us, after 40, we take care of our bodies.” Too true.
This post is a just one chapter in the book, "Unconventional Wisdom"
written by 4 outstanding coaches and myself. Available at Amazon
"Mark, I want to give your book to so many people, the problem is, the people who need to read your book, wont. Can you make short videos covering the topics and insights in the book?" Sure. Only 10s, Episode One - Introduction.