Category Archives: Starting personal development

It is so much easier not to…like so much easier.

staying warmI’m usually a super early riser and I like getting up at 4:00 to 4:30am.  I realize that it is crazy early, but to me it is a very special time of day.  It is like extra time or the day become 26 hours and yet despite my wife’s rolling of her eyes or the “you need to be quieter as you get up in the middle of the night” remark sometime in the mid morning, it still just feels good.  But as of late since I got back to Canada, I’m struggling to get out of bed before 7am.

I’ve not been in a winter this bad in years.  There is a lot of darkness, cold and in general just shitty, stay inside weather.  Granted at 7am, it is still dark out (yaaa Canada!), but I can’t help a feeling of being behind when I do get up at 7:02 (still pushed it 2 extra minutes).  The bed is so dam comfy, the blankets are heavy and warm and the air in the apartment is chilly.  ”Why the hell would I want to get up?” is often the first full sentence that runs through my brain.

So it is much easier not to get up and skip practice.  But like all things worth doing, it is important to push through that resistance and urge to fall back into the easy. That one act of closing my eyes and dozing is in that moment, the easy choice but it will make the rest of my life more difficult.

If I can make that “difficult” decision (#firstworldproblems I know) of pulling back the covers and get up, then so many other things in my day will be easier.

If I do practice, then:

  • I keep my commitment to the tradition and lineage ofAshtanga
  • I sync my mind and body together via the breath and have that feeling of wellbeing all day.  This then makes my interactions with people, challenges, and thoughts, not only more pleasant, but much more honest.
  • I’ve done it and no matter what else I do all day, is not as hard and what is hard is put into a much more manageable perspective.
  • I’ve already spent 90-120 minutes alone with my thoughts and have a good handle on the quality of my mind (i.e. what’s on it for example) before I interact with anybody.  This dramatically raises the quality of my conversations, my ability to listen, and send meaningful emails and messages
  • I keep chipping away at yoga.  Yoga takes time and the more I do it, the deeper I go not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

So yes, giving up in the cold, dark early hours is the easier path in that moment.  But given all the moments in the day, learning how to not give into my primal urge to stay warm and sleep more, creates a much easier and enjoyable day. And yes, the quote by David Swenson always rings out in my head every time I feel myself wanting to drift back into a sleepy haze “I’ve never regretted getting up to practice, but I have regretted not”.  Works. Every. Time

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Book Review: Taking the Leap by Pema Chodron

Taking the LeapIn a word: her best.  I loved the ease and practicality of this book.  I feel that the book gives just the right amount of theory with an equal dose of “how to”.  Some take aways from the book are:

1.  She had a great analogy of how humans are like little kids with a case of poison ivy.  When we feel discomfort, like the itch of a rash, we instantly need to escape from it.  To scratch if you will.  We spend a lot of time trying to escape our reality by trying to scratch our way to feeling better.  And you all know what happens when you scratch the poison ivy rash.

She then takes this analogy further into the Buddhist idea of Shenpa (or getting hooked).  She explains it as feeling discomfort and then spiraling into patters that we desperately try to escape.  It is a chain reaction where something, your thing, gets you and then the kicking in of the pattern you have with dealing with (or not dealing with it in this case).  Somebody says something, an addiction tempts you, a relationship dynamic kicks in…..you know what I’m getting at. They are those moments in life that you really feel that you have no control and watch yourself almost as a third person keep demonstrating the same behavior over and over again

2.  The importance of pausing between stimulus and your reaction.

3.  Be honest with yourself via:

    1. Listening to your natural intelligence,
    2. Show a natural warmth to yourself and others, and
    3. Remain open to people, experience and yourself.

4.  If you can drop your story line of judgement or predictions, this lessens the Shempa…it reduces the ease of which you get hooked or set off and allows you to remain in the present moment.

5.  Meditation is not a striving but a way to relax.  You have what you need already, and meditation is there to help you see that rather than convert you into something better or new.

6.  Make friends with yourself and be OK with things as they are.  If you can make friends with yourself, have compassion for yourself, then you can have compassion for others.  This is demonstrated in 3 steps:

    1. Maitri–loving kindness towards all living beings as well as trusting oneself.
    2. Act from the heart towards others
    3. Put others before you and expect nothing in return.

7.  Tonglen is a practice of taking in and sending out.  The idea of taking in the world around you and giving part of yourself back. It removes the “all about me syndrome”

Those main points are ones that really stuck with me.  To sum up, this direct quote from the hard cover book (p.86) really spoke directly to me after my experiences in Mysore, India when studying at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Center (KPJAYI).  I’ve been there two times in the past year and each time I’ve gone, I can’t believe the level of ego, unfriendliness and self centeredness by the majority of the Ashtanga Yoga students.  All of those hours on the mat and listening to Sharath teach yet they go right back to “I’m the center of the universe” mode after they roll up their mat.  Pema’ writes:

“I’ve known many people who have spent years exercising daily, getting massages, doing yoga, faithfully following one food or vitamin regimen after another, pursuing spiritual teachers and different styles of meditation, all in the name of taking care of themselves.  Then something bad happens to them and all those years don’t seem to have added up to the inner strength and kindness for themselves that they need to relate with what’s happening.  And they don’t add up to being able to help other people or the environment.  When taking care of ourselves is all about me, it never gets at the unshakable tenderness and confidence that we’ll need  when everything falls apart.  When we start to develop maitri for ourselves, unconditional acceptance of ourselves, then we’re really taking care of ourselves in a way that pays off.  We feel more at home with our own bodies and minds and more at home in the world.  As our kindness for ourselves grows, so does our kindness for other people”

That was the big take home.  I’ll be posting up more on Mysore and my experiences there this year but her writing in the above paragraph was my mindset as I walked around the dusty streets of India very perplexed at the overall atmosphere of a so called yoga shala.

You can get her book here on Amazon and I’d be interested to know your thoughts or point of view or how it helped you.

Discovering your passion (and having the courage to follow it)

Big JonJon Laetsch started the blog Jon on Demand: A review of your favorite Blockbusters as a high school class project but ended up growing a successful and very professional website.  He is only 17 years old but writes with clarity, ease and a maturity that is much beyond his actual years.  In a recent interview, he talks about his perspective on movies, life and following your passion. Enjoy.

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Ignite Change (IC)–Your movie blog is very professional and if I didn’t know you, I would say it was from an adult.  What drives you to produce such great quality work and what is your reason behind the blog?

It all started one year ago in my high school Journalism class. Our teacher assigned us all the task of creating a blog of our choice. I reviewed different things like restaurants and music albums until I found my niche in reviewing movies.

From that moment on I reviewed all kinds of movies until I focused on recent blockbusters like “Lincoln”, “Skyfall” and “Django” just to name a few. I never thought that a class project would turn into a hobby.

While working on my blog I am combining two things that I love to do: watch movies and writing. I could not think of a better hobby!

(IC)–How has your taste in movies created your character?  For example, you have a wide range of movies that you like and review.  How do you think this has developed your personality and the type of person you are?

As long as I can remember I have always loved stories. As a young boy I loved listening to them through word of mouth and as I grew older I discovered reading for myself. Through reading my imagination thrived and when I found out that stories could be told visually on the big screen I was fascinated.

I would not say that my taste in movies has shaped my personality but rather the other way around. I feel that my personality has shaped my taste in movies. I am an “open-for-everything” kind of guy and I feel the same way with movies. My taste is very widespread: I have seen action movies like “Die Hard” but also romances like “Love Actually” and inspirational movies like “Salmon Fishing in Yemen.”

It is the diversity of movies that inspires my imagination and lets me thrive in my writing.

(IC)–What bugs you most about the average person’s taste in movies?

I believe that the average person focuses too much on one particular type of genre rather than on the whole spectrum. I think that to fully appreciate movies you have to move outside your comfort zone and try new things. It is like in real life. You win some you lose some but at the end you can always say “I tried” and who knows maybe you will appreciate movies that you thought you would never ever dream about seeing.

Be brave.

(IC)–If you could design a film studies course in either a high school or college, what 10 movies would you include as your curriculum and why?

Although I prefer diversity in movies I would prefer for my film study course to analyze a specific genre. This would enable my students to get a better understanding of the structure and type of movie would help them focus on similar techniques used. When first studying movies, using ones that are all from random genres would not represent a particular path in the course and could lead to confusion among my students.

I would then find a couple of movies that fit well into the genre. For example If I were choose the topic “ Suspense thriller” my top picks of movies to show would be “ The Bourne: Identity”, “Sky fall”, and “Argo” because they all fit perfectly into that topic.

(IC)–What plans do you have for either your blog or career in relation to writing or movies or both?

I have always loved writing ever since my fourth grade English class in the American Cooperative School of Tunis and it was during that time that my relatives and teachers mentioned that I have a very unique and talented writing style. Being young and shy I felt like that was what they were supposed to tell me not realizing that I did have potential.

Since I have been writing my movie blog and my personal blog about recent events from my perspective, I have learned to become more proud of my work and it has really opened my eyes to a new opportunity in life. I feel like writing is something that I can see myself doing in the future and people’s feedback has helped me grow as a writer. Becoming a journalist or an author is something that I am striving for and hopefully my blog will be a good step in that direction. Until then I am going to enjoy my life as a high school student and hope for the best.

(IC)–If you had a friend that was passionate about a subject like you are about movies, and he/she was shy about sharing their knowledge like you do with a blog, what advice would you have for them?  What has this blog helped you with in life, school and understanding yourself?

Don’t be afraid to do something new or try something different if it involves following your passion. People will wonder and many will be surprised that your taking your own path in life because they might follow a path that society has laid out for them rather than following their instincts and listening to their heart. Never forget that the most satisfactory feeling is receiving positive feedback about something that you love doing.

I happen to love movies and I feel that my movie blog is a way of giving thanks to the industry. If five people that read my article about “Skyfall” were persuaded went to the movie because of it that makes all the effort worth it.  Whether it in life or school people see you under a completely different light if they find out that you are doing something that you love and that you are following that passion. Whatever it might be that you are interested in, as crazy as it may be, do it.

And just like Thoreau said, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.”

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Following your passion takes courage, optimism and discipline.  My new book on Amazon (Creating Your Personal Change: How to do it everyday and thrive) helps you not only start in the right direction but keep it up indefinitely.  Click here to check it out.

Designing your future

Roberto Salazar recently left a successful career teaching technology overseas in international schools.  After studying in Spain and returning to his native Ecuador, he has started his own company, Kikenyo, as a 3D graphic artist.  I had the chance to talk with him about what it took to make such a change, what were some of his challenges as well as moments that have made him proud.  Enjoy

roberto photoIgnite Change (IC)–Your new life direction has a lot of changes: countries, careers, working to studying, self employed, etc. How did it all start? What was it that pushed you in this new direction?

I think the number one reason had to be boredom. Once you start waking up in the morning and your realize your day will be very similar to the previous one then you start questioning yourself, “Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life”

When I changed directions I was 33 years old, I enjoyed my teaching job, it wasn’t bad, kids were great, environment was professional but I guess I was simply bored of teaching computers to middle-schoolers. Same questions, similar situations, similar subjects, similar problems. Even though I was able to come up with creative projects and lessons they had to be aimed at teaching 14 years-olds so that limited the “crazy” things I had in my mind.

I changed careers because I was bored of what I was doing and I’ve always wanted to know more about computer graphics so i applied to a school in Valencia, Spain, got accepted and went to study computer graphics related to the 3D world.

IC–What initial fears did you have and how did you still manage to take action in the face of your apprehensions/fears?

That I was not smart enough or creative enough to become a 3D artist, and to tell you the truth I still am (even though I am doing great in my new business). I think creativity is a hard field to delve into, many people are very quick to criticize your work and in Spain I experienced this firsthand with the worst professor I’ve had in my life.

The class was labeled “creativity” and we had to come up with 3 different “creative projects”. Initially I was excited to work on it, and it was hard, but the professors destructive criticism towards my work (and others as well) was crushing. I was scared, disappointed, and asked myself “what have I gotten into now? I’m never gonna make it out in the real world if I cannot make it here in class”.

I soon came to realize that I had to continue, that there was no way back at this point. I didn’t care about creativity, I was more focused on learning the 3D software that I was passionate about so I pushed my horrible experience in the creativity class away from my brain. Eventually there was another creativity class and on this one I scored a 9.5/10 with a different professor.

I think what I want to say is that there will be lots of negative people when you make that career change, and negative people that want to drag you and your ideas down.  This you must ignore and continue with the goal you have in mind.

IC–You spoke in the last question about how you faced fear and a sense of “I can’t do this”, but is there a time in the beginning (or anytime really) that you really felt, “wow, I can do this?” 

I finished my studies in November 2011 and came back to Ecuador to look for something in the 3D world.  I couldn’t find anything right away.  I interviewed with a few companies but no one would call me back so I had to go into substitute teaching because I was completely broke.

Then in February this huge construction company called me in to interview and they offered me a temporary job creating 3D graphics for their engineering projects. I started and have not stopped.

They gave me an opportunity, and I did not waste it. I designed the excavation 3D model of the new Ecuadorian oil refinery. It was a competition between companies of who proposed the best solution to the government and we won meaning my 3D graphics were everywhere in the presentation. It was amazing because then I knew I could do this, I will do this and I am good at it. This was in June of 2012.

I was happy, but I had to keep going so I continued with the constructive sequence of the subway station for the new Quito Subway. This video has been the best I have ever created so far.

IC–You went from an employee to self employed. What’s been the biggest reward and challenge in this?

When I was employed at a school,  I worked on a given schedule.  It was 7 – 3 pm job but I still had to do planning outside normal work hours, but we had months off for summer and other holidays. Now I have to work whenever I need to complete a project.

For example, I was working yesterday, Sunday, until 4:30 pm in one of the offices of this construction company. Sometimes I stay until 3 a.m. rendering the final product and there are days where I an take the entire morning off. I like it, I get to choose when I work and then again, I love creating 3D worlds so I don’t really mind working on huge projects.

IC–What has changed in how you view the future in regards to your work, money and planning?

I think the most important thing where I have evolved is that I don’t have to do it all. Inside the classroom, you, the teacher, had to do everything. I had to teach, discipline students, write tests, grades, create projects, etc etc etc. And I started thinking about this in my new projects but they were so big that I soon realized I needed to hire other people to help me out. And I did. So now I have about 5 people working with me in these awesome projects, and its great. They are amazing artists and I get to bring them together working all in the same direction.

This short experience has given me a vision to where I want to take my company. I am currently building my own studio that will house many artists under my roof.

IC–Hindsight is 20/20 so looking back, is there something you would have done differently? What is one moment/decision/action that stands out that makes you really proud?

Back in November this huge construction company offered me a stable job  (I had been working as a contractor). I declined the job and I at the moment I was scared about my decision because it would have been a great job BUT I am so glad I did it. Since then I have managed to get 2 other huge clients and I get to work in my studio here in my own house, I get to take naps in the afternoon and work in my PJs! Love it!

IC–Last question, if you had somebody come to you in a career that they wanted to change, but were afraid to move into action, what would you tell them?

Of course they have to go for the change BUT plan it. Look for a program that will help you achieve this goal, talk to them, and communicate consistently. Have enough money saved up to help you get there. Choose something you are passionate about, that you are proud of, and that will become part of you eventually.  Do this and you will never look back again into your previous life.

I hope you enjoyed the interview.  If you would like a FREE copy of my book (Creating your Personal Development: A guide to doing it everyday), it is available for the next 24 hours on Amazon without charge.  Enjoy it and please leave a review.  

The importance and misnaming of “failure”

The work of improvement

When I was in high school, I played the trombone. I know, I know, how cool was I?  I was never very good at it but I did play for several years in both the jazz and concert bands.  I tried playing the guitar a few years ago as well, but I’ve come to the realization that music is not my thing.  I’m not saying that I could not have been much better, but it was just the work involved was more that I was willing to put in.

So I made a choice.

I was talking about my experiences with music to a yoga student this weekend who was learning how to stand on her head in a pose called, yes you guessed it, headstand (sirsasana).  She is at the point of learning how to balance on her head with her feet just a little off the floor.  Her next step is to straighten her legs and go into the full pose.

However, like most people, it scares her in the beginning.  To help her confront her fear, I stood behind her to prevent her from rolling forward and encouraged her to straighten her legs and come into the full pose.  She did it reluctantly, it was wobbly and didn’t’ last long. In the end she gave into her apprehensions and brought her feet back down to the mat in a hurried thud.

So why did I get her to do it?

It is important to push into the unknown and struggle  Going up into a tipsy headstand and then coming frantically down is essential to not only define your current limits but to also push them.  Pushing to the point of “what you can’t do”  shows you things about yourself that you didn’t’ know.

When I played that trombone and would try a piece of music much too difficult for myself, it made what I could play that much easier.  It also allowed me to see how to jump from where I was to a next phase.

Pushing is an event, and not a life style

With all of that said, there is a time to push and a time to refine.  You can’t push out of your limits everyday, and it is important that you honor where you are and enjoy your current abilities. But, moving from one step to the next will require you to redefine what you can do and change what you think you can’t.

Time to push yourself

If you apply this to your personal development, think of what you can push yourself into.

Think of what seems impossible and try it.

Could you try:

  • not smoking for 24 hours?
  • not drinking for a week?
  • running 5 out of next 7 days?
  • reading 2 hours everyday?
  • not getting mad tomorrow at work?

You might not reach the goal, but it doesn’t matter.  What ever you try will expand your limits and show you that you can achieve more than you are currently doing.   When you think of it this way, there is no way you can fail.

If you have a challenge that you are wanting to try, try it with a coach.  I hold up your vision and help support you when you want to quit.  There is no end point other than keeping it going for as long as you can.  That is where a powerful coaching/client relationship can take you to your next level.  Get in touch today