The thread linking back to my youthful searching now came back to me. I had left this behind as I had moved my focus onto career and family. On the way I had been seduced by fame and recognition, moving away from my personal journey in the process.
Of course none of this happened in a clean way. There were no sudden shifts—except for enforced closure of companies and leaving home. There was an intermingling of ways of living and attitudes to life that ebbed and flowed through my life. I had glimpses of the future alongside periods of facing a blank void. I was never clear about where I was going but I did know that I was moving forward, away from my destructive past.
During my latter period as a director of a lighting design company and a board member/President of the IALD, I set out to learn about leadership and working with others. I started learning about personal development with Tony Robbins and quickly moved on to join his Leadership Academy, alongside studying in his Mastery University. My initial motive for this was to get better at my job. What actually happened was that I got better at being me.
At this point the various parts of my life were completely separate so people in one area knew nothing about people in another. The people I met at Tony Robbins events had no idea who I was or what I did outside of this events. I was able, therefore, to simply be me and be a sponge for whatever came my way. This ability to shrug off the weight of my past was a relief and a revelation to me.
I quickly learned that leadership started with how I was as a leader in my personal life. This was a shock for me as I has assumed that it was just about how I influenced and worked with others. This was just leadership with a name tag, not the kind of leadership that inspired people. I started to learn to re-assess how I behaved and what I expected in life. As I moved into living and working on my own I had plenty of time to look at my behaviour and re-calibrate myself and my behaviour.
I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy.
At the Leadership Academy event we spent some time in teams playing games that were intended to help us discover our own personal leadership style. As teams we were given tasks and left to work out how to best achieve them. These were classic team building games with the added twist of exploring leadership styles. There was the inevitable clash of personalities as people vied with each other to be the leader in a particular activity. I stepped aside from this as I had experienced this for many years in my working and personal life. I sought another way, I explored how else I could get the team to complete the tasks.
What I discovered was the ability I had to step back and look at the whole activity and how people were performing. I let go of the need to be in charge and was quite happy to let people take control early on. What I quickly realised was that they often did this because of their ego’s demands for attention. Sometimes they were good at leadership, but often not. Team members would argue about solutions and tactics, focusing on small, particular areas of the task. I developed the habit of looking at what was happening and seeing where elements that people were organising were not linking up. I sought out the black holes in the solution. When I saw these I filled the gap to ensure the success of the team. My job became about supporting others and ensuring that their chosen solution worked. I avoided proposing my own solution.
In one game we had to get a ball bearing round a large space by passing it from person to person along short wooden sticks with grooves in. The team quickly organised who was doing what and people started to pass the ball along the line. It soon appeared that there was a problem in the passing of the ball from one stick to another. I saw a solution which was simply to be at each change-over and us my stick to stop the ball from falling off. I was not involved in the actual passing of the ball but I significantly speeded things up by keeping it in play.
I came to see leadership as something that you could do from behind, something that you could use to empower others. It was a shift for me to move from a desire to control to an empowering, supportive role.
This involvement with the ideas of Tony Robbins and the letting go of my need, or desire, to control started to lead me back down a spiritual path, one that I continue to follow today. I was introduced to the Oneness University based in India. This was a collection of Dasas, young Indian monks, who helped people get in touch with the energy that was available to them and find a new way to live. This was in no way a kind of cult but was a continuation of the personal development ideas explored by Tony Robbins.
There were two simple concepts that I learned, that together altered the direction of my life. They were simple ideas that together challenged everything I thought and felt.
The first was how to manifest, or attract, the future that I sought. I was moving along the road of mapping out what that future might be, but I struggled as to how to achieve it. I was taught that moving forward involved three distinct steps, each one as important as the other.
The first step was to envision what it was that I wanted. I needed to be clear about this and look at it in very specific terms. It was important to see the end result and imaging what it would feel like to be there, in whatever I situation I was aiming at.
Secondly, it was necessary to put in the effort to achieve whatever it was that I wanted to manifest. I may not know all the steps needed to go along the road but it was important to make every effort I could, sitting back and expecting the result to appear would not work.
Lastly, these two steps were balanced with divine inspiration. This was the step that was out of my control was the essential step in creating my future. This required an attitude of mind that was open and trusting and believed that divine forces were at play. This was a difficult part to accept but was crucial.
Even the most ordinary thing you do is also part of a Divine Plan.
Seeing the balance of the three steps was critical in my seeing a new future ahead of me. This will become clear as I take these steps in future chapters.
The other concept involved a deep shift on my part and was difficult for me to accept, at first. It was simply to learn to sit with whatever emotion was happening within me, especially if it was trying dominate me. I was used to fighting with my fears and emotions and dominating them. What became apparent was that this only encouraged them and made their effect worse. Living with them and accepting them as part of me ended up having the effect of them lessening their hold on me.
I was looking at a life beyond work, a life diving into the depths of my soul. This was what I had always wanted but suppressed. The future was calling me.
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—Photo Credit: Flickr/Carey Rose O’Connell