A Fishy Tale

July 25, 2005

Here is a well-known story that humorously illustrates why goal-chasing can stop you from enjoying the life you want…now.

An American businessman was at a pier in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow-fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied only a little while.

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked the Mexican how he spent the rest of his time.

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and, with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution.

“You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, senor?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed, and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public. You’ll become very rich, you
would make millions!”

“Millions, senor?” replied the Mexican. “Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

If you found this article useful or interesting, please press the "Like" button and post a Facebook comment below.

Quote from Marshall Field

July 25, 2005

“One of the secrets of not having a nervous breakdown is not having goals.” — Marshall Field, founder of the large Chicago department store chain

If you found this article useful or interesting, please press the "Like" button and post a Facebook comment below.

Quote from Bernando Bertolucci

July 25, 2005

“My only goal is to have no goals. The goal, every time, is that film, that very moment.” — Academy Award-winning director Bernando Bertolucci (“The Last Emperor,” “Last Tango in Paris”)

If you found this article useful or interesting, please press the "Like" button and post a Facebook comment below.

The Voice of Tigger Dies

July 23, 2005

I was saddened to learn that Paul Winchell passed away June 26th. He is best known as the voice of Tigger on the Winnie the Pooh cartoons. For over six decades, he was a master ventriloquist, brining dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff to life on television. He was also an inventor who held 30 patents, including one for an early artificial heart that he built in 1963.

He contracted polio at age 6. In his biography, Winch, Winchell describes himself as a shy child with a speech impediment who was frequently beaten by his overbearing mother. He found sanctuary from his often grim home life by listening to the radio, especially the comedy of ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, whom Winchell began to emulate after buying a book on ventriloquism at age 12. When he began trying out his act on classmates, using a dummy he constructed as a school art project, the socially awkward youth discovered that his talent made him popular for the first time. He found a true passion. And, as he learned to throw his voice, he gradually overcame his speech impediment.

This is someone who truly embraced his “limits” and used them as a source of power. His ventriloquism and voices entertained the world. As he once wrote on his website when he first learned to throw his voice, “Suddenly I had found my place in the sun.” It’s hard to believe that a man who was the voice of Tigger, Gargamel in “The Murfs”, and Boomer in “The Fox and the Hound”, once stuttered.

If you found this article useful or interesting, please press the "Like" button and post a Facebook comment below.

Email from Visitor

July 20, 2005

I received the following email from a visitor to the website…

“I took a Goal Setting course in 1989. I reached one financial goal. Did not reach the others. Since 1989 life often interfered with my goal setting. Many of the twist and turns were painful, however I learned many lessons and because of those experiences my life if much richer. Goal Setting is over rated. Should I enjoy a wonderful Saturday reading and working in the garden or should I get down on myself because I wasted a Saturday by not ‘moving toward a goal?’ I’d rather enjoy just my Saturday. One day I decided to write down the happiest moments of my life. They included swimming under a waterfall, giving a speech in the Boy Scouts, playing the guitar, and dating my girl friend the summer after college. Not one of these happy events was the result of setting a goal!”

If you found this article useful or interesting, please press the "Like" button and post a Facebook comment below.

Create Many Paths

July 14, 2005

I am putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for Goal-Free Living. During the editing process, a lot of material has been left on the cutting room floor. From time to time, I will post some of these materials, starting with this one here. This piece talks about my cross-country trip, and a relatively long non-stop stretch from Atlanta to New Orleans. Eight hours alone in the car. I had plenty of time to think and reflect across vast reaches of land. I turned on my digital tape recorder and rambled some thoughts. I call this “The Road (I Wish Were) Less Traveled.”

On virtually empty two-lane highways, a few cars and trucks move quickly from one place to another. But do the drivers take time to look out the window and see what is around them? Or are they focused on constantly moving from point to point? Where is everyone going in such a rush?

My original objective was to use my drive time as an opportunity to listen to the tapes of the interviews I conducted and to take notes in my digital recorder. But I find my mind wandering during these vast stretches of nothingness. It is difficult to stay focused mentally. And maybe that was a good thing. Keeping busy during a trip is not the same thing as being in the moment. Allowing my mind to wander can in fact be an example of what it means to “be in the moment.” We often try and keep ourselves busy to avoid the thoughts in our heads. But creativity and clarity can emerge when the head is clear. Rather than cramming more into our grey matter, maybe we need time to empty our minds and create space.

In the distance I see a backup of cars and trucks. As I approach, the traffic begins to clog. I quickly go from zipping along at the speed limit to major congestion and barely crawling. How can this be? There were no cars on the road for many miles. I see a sign. “Construction 2 miles ahead.” Traffic slows further as people merge into one lane. This is a metaphor for life itself. We are often moving quickly along the highway of life, then when you least expect it, you hit a roadblock. If you are on a path that does not allow you to deviate, and others are on the same path, you have no choice but to wait in line with everyone else moving towards the same destination. This is what happened with the dot com boom followed by the dot bomb bust. Everyone was on the same highway (the superhighway) moving at breakneck speed, only to find that a speed bump in the road brought everyone and the economy to a screeching halt. What if, instead of designing your life as a highway leading to a goal you’re trying to reach, think of it as an ocean. When I was in Miami on a boat on the Atlantic Ocean, I was amazed at how few boats there were in the water. An ocean of choice stretched out before me. When you have limitless paths to take, there is a comfortable fluidity. There is more pleasure. And as you are on a different path than everyone else, you don’t get stuck in life’s traffic.

When yachting through your “open seas”, use a compass as your guide. Constantly readjust to make sure that you are tracking properly, as winds, rough seas, and other vessels can throw you off course. Make your adjustments in real time, in the moment. Feel free to travel off the beaten path. There are no real destinations in life, despite what you may have been taught from an early age.

If you found this article useful or interesting, please press the "Like" button and post a Facebook comment below.

Embrace Your Limits

July 6, 2005

My Face
A little more than a week ago, I was giving a friend a piggy-back ride. I lost my balance and fell forward on the sidewalk – with the weight of my friend falling on my head. Rather than my hands breaking my fall, my nose broke my fall…and my nose broke in the process. I have a huge gash on my nose and upper lip. A dozen stitches later, I look like Frankenstein’s ugly brother. While waiting 6 hours in the emergency room for the plastic surgeon, I contemplated the coming days and weeks. A time which would be a real test of my ability to “Embrace my limits.”

My looks were my shadow side – one of my limits. We may not want to admit it, but in our society, looks do matter. And I always had a deeply rooted belief that my looks contributed to and were critical to my successes in life. So, throughout my life, I lived in fear of the day when my looks — and hence my success — would vanish. That day is now here. When I look in the mirror I don’t see me anymore. Only bruises, gashes, stitches, dried blood, and open wounds.

A few days after the accident, I decided that I was well enough to venture out into the real world. I wandered down to a local nightclub. Rather than trying to hide my face, I walked in proud and confident. When people asked what happened, I would share with them the story. I definitely was not looking for sympathy. I wanted to be treated just the way I had always been treated. And I was. What I realized is that these bumps and bruises have not changed me in any substantial way. In fact they have freed me. Freed me from a hidden (and unhealthy) vanity that used to drive me at a subconscious level. This doesn’t mean I will no longer care about my looks. It only means that I am freed from the pressure of having to look good.

By recognizing and embracing your limits – the things that have a stranglehold on you – you can free yourself to be who you really are. When you do this, you realize that no matter what happens, no one can take away the real you.

Update September 15. My face is healing quickly and I am almost back to my “original” looks. In case you don’t know what I look like, click here

If you found this article useful or interesting, please press the "Like" button and post a Facebook comment below.