Tips for Fishing and Living # 45

Tip #45:

“Fishing tournaments seem a little like playing tennis with living balls…”

                                           Jim Harrison, Just Before Dark, 1991

 Some people are more content being on the sidelines as spectators watching others play the game. Sometimes people come all suited up, yet still remain seated on the bench waiting for someone to call them into the game. Being in the game – either, on the court, on the field, and actually playing – is qualitatively different than being a spectator.

Certain things can only be learned by being in the game. Running up and down the court gives you an entirely different experience than watching from the bleachers. There are things one discovers only by playing. Out there is where you ascertain valuable understanding about the game, and about yourself that comes from being a full participant. Practicing and playing in scrimmages isn’t the same as having actual game time experience. Of course you know I am speaking literally here, and also metaphorically. While what I am purporting is true of sports, it is also true and quite applicable regarding one’s life.

It’s not even about winning or losing; it’s about giving your all, and letting it rip!  It’s responding to the call to live life to the full. It’s also about not just surviving; it’s how to thrive. An old film called, Defending Your Life, was about an imaginary place people went after they died to be evaluated as to how well they had lived their life. The measurement of a successful life was this: How fully did you live out your life by taking on everything you dreamed of; or did you hold yourself back due to your fear?

Wisdom and grace seem good indicators of a life fully lived. Wisdom isn’t the result of mental effort, or is it gained automatically from life’s experience. Experience will not make us wise, that is unless we process our experiences consciously and with humility. Wisdom is more of a way of being. It’s a way of being whole, as well as, living fully open to a knowing. It is a kind of knowing beyond rational thought. This kind of knowing has to do with those Aha moments. Breakthrough moments!

I find it is often the highly intelligent, well educated people who have the greatest difficulty gaining wisdom. Their intelligence becomes less a resource and more an obstacle. They rely too heavily on their cognating mammalian brain to figure out things, and to make sense of things. Therefore they have difficulty trusting their intuition – their inner gut – all because things seem too illogical or counter-intuitive.

Prayer sometimes helps. It helps, that is, if we pray more than some rote exercise. If we use prayer to open our hearts and minds in order to get out of our ego, we have a chance of gaining wisdom. Otherwise our mind is too cluttered with stuff we already know leaving no room for anything new. The ego operates out of fear and anxiety. So it fills our mind with cognitive thoughts that seem logical and reasonable. But this doesn’t enable us to be open and/or vulnerable. The ego is so cunning. To become vulnerable and self-giving requires a surrendering. To do this we must be willing to be in an intimacy with the divine Lover. This is why sometimes it takes a major life difficulty or some serendipitous event for us to be willing or desperate enough to surrender to something new – and something beyond our own intelligence/thinking.

I have an old friend who loves to say, “There is a God and I’m not her.” Too often it is our over-reliance on our thinking that has us neglect our heart and our body. By heart, I am not saying just our feelings and emotions. The heart has to do with our capacity to perceive our own divine purpose and beauty.  Back to thriving vs. merely surviving. Questions such as: Who am I? Why am I here? What are my gifts and talents for? Such important questions usually don’t come in the beginning of life. They start showing up later on, and if so, we are fortunate.

We can divide our life into two stages: the first half of life, and the second half. The first half is primarily about establishing ourselves and getting into one’s independence. Eventually, with grace, comes a movement into the second stage. If we are ever to grow and mature into a deeper level, here is where it will occur.

The second half is where we can begin to recognize all of our life issues having to do with our spirituality. If you are in any kind of crisis it’s safe to say you are in a spiritual crisis. This is where we need greater harmony of both our head and heart. Each is required, but the balance of the two is key. Also a grounding in our physical and sensory body is what makes this second stage so essential for our development.

Some people dislike thinking of life, their life, as something that can be reduced to sports. They complain that this diminishes life. Of course this can be true. Metaphors take us only so far, and of course, have limitations. We can, however, draw upon a metaphor in useful ways. They can help us get out of our stuck ways of thinking. We can draw from the sports arena to make applications in our life in several ways:

  • To create a winning environment. See how great players lead themselves and their team mates to be at their best.
  • Learn how great players set goals and take stands. They go about getting agreement from others to also take stands, whether it’s to win the division title or set a vision for extraordinary play.
  • Watch as they tap into each player’s contribution. They attract others into their vision and incite fun in the process of the team drawing upon everyone’s talents.
  • See leaders knows that the greatness of each player is what the vision-conversation is designed to achieve. They know that each person needs to make his or her unique contribution, and to do this a winning culture must be developed.
  • Copy from excellent coaches who focus on strength rather than weakness. They do not coddle complaints or excuses.
  • Learn how great players and coaches focus on their own functioning. They will ponder how they may have failed to play to a high level or failed to coach in a way that caused the team to fall short.

Sports as a metaphor can prove useful by helping us not take ourselves quite so seriously. With any sporting event it’s easier to see it as only a game. Win or lose, you come back the next day and try to do better. It’s not the end of the world. You know you are more than any one game. We’re interested in what we may learn a particular day to help be better tomorrow.

In life, too often we do take ourselves way too seriously. And here’s the thing: As I have stated before, seriousness is a red flag for anxiety. I’m serious! We need a sense of humor. The best predictor of the strength of any business lies within the quality of its leader. Leaders lead; managers manage. Managers might even manage with particular skills and techniques mustered together from workshops and seminars, or MBA programs.

It’s not that these skills aren’t niceties; it’s just that these don’t mean much when, say, the MBA-laden staffer is as anxious as a loon or as spineless as a garter snake. The end result will be an anxious or spineless organization. This is also true with businesses, organizations, married couples, and also with sports teams.

Things like courage, persistence, vision, clarity, and a sense of humor are what will carry the day. This fifth characteristic – a sense of humor – is so vital that when left out we can’t even get to the other four characteristics. We get bogged down and our courage falters. We become bulldozers and our persistence lacks a necessary flexibility. Then our persistence fades we allow our resolve to weaken. Without some humor our vision gets muddled and/or we become pushy, or worse, autocratic. We become dictators. True leadership is about being well differentiated.

Self-differentiation cannot be cloned. It isn’t a skill.  Leadership is a way of being, having everything to do with being a clear and mature individual. Leaders – what I define as our personal calling to growth – requires being as creative and imaginative as poets, sculptors and playwrights – maybe even more so. Otherwise we can end up thinking what we are saying and doing is real. We start thinking that what I think is “the truth.” Then our work and pursuits take on a seriousness, even a deadliness that spells d-o-o-m!

Keep this up and you’ll eventually kill off your business, your relationships, and a life worth living. Life is not a dress rehearsal. At the same time it can be viewed as a game and benefit from it with such a standpoint. The trick is to play in life by taking life seriously while not taking ourselves seriously.

So here’s an old reoccurring theme: The need to slow ourselves down in order to become reflective and contemplative. I don’t care how you do it, but do it we must. Fish, pray, play golf or horse shoes, journal, or do anything that works for you.

If you choose writing as your method allow me to propose some ideas:

  • Try taking 20 to 30 minutes each morning to free-write anything that is on your mind, or weighing on you, or that you can’t sort out. You may find some clarity on a specific action(s) to take that will likely release the burden or heaviness you’re carrying. You can jot down thoughts to take action on later and thus become freed up a bit.
  •  Write about things that are going well, as well, and specifically things for which you are grateful. Maybe they’re not 100% perfect but they may be going in the right direction. By cultivating gratitude you’ll grow in your body, mind and heart. As you express gratitude you’ll become more open to receiving more of these things. Gratitude is will make you more aware of the blessings you already do have, as well as, foster more.

 NOTE: If you want to further develop a daily practice of journaling, get The Artist Way, by Julian Cameron.