Andrea Jacques Talks Wabi-Sabi Wisdom, Balance and More on Find Your New Normal

By Andrea Jacques
In July 13, 2017

Watch Kyosei founder, Andrea Jacques, on the Find Your New Normal broadcast with hosts Dave Williams and Sheila Schultz

Andrea begins with the origins of her new book, Wabi Sabi Wisdom. The story starts in January 2016. With six books in the works — an overwhelming amount of draft content — she was inspired to finally release something, imperfect as it might be, by a close friend.

One month after making a promise to that friend, Andrea and the Kyosei team hit the publish button.

The funny thing was that, at the time, Wabi Sabi wisdom wasn’t one of the six books Andrea had already drafted. None of those felt quite right, and, after all, the theme was “imperfection.” Instead, she turned her attention to a curated and revamped collection of pieces written for Japanese magazine Tokyo Families.

The conversation then turns to the subject of Wabi Sabi Wisdom’s memorable cover: a broken cup rejoined with seams of gold in the Japanese kintsugi style. This strikes a chord with both of the hosts, who see it as a metaphor for overcoming crisis.

Watch the rest of the broadcast for discussion on balance, impatience, becoming stronger from dealing with crisis, and reframing expectations.

Get Wabi Sabi Wisdom in ebook or softcover on Amazon today!

 

Below, see a rough transcription of the interview.

DAVE:

And once again, it looks like the red light is on indicating we’re recording, so I’m assuming we’re broadcasting. Hi everyone, I’m Dave Williams, your host of the weekly Find Your New Normal broadcast. Those of you that have been following us know that this season, the third season, has been a lot of fun. We’ve been really talking about what are the issues that people have to deal with when they’re in a state of crisis and can you move yourself to living in the moment instead of really bouncing back and forth between the past and the future while you’re struggling with what should I do next and ask yourself a variety of questions.

Every week I’m lucky to have a wonderful co-host, a personal friend and someone who’s helped me dealing with stress because, as you know, I’m a cancer survivor. And went through months and months and months of searching for peace and I was lucky enough to find my good friend Sheila Schultz.

 

SHEILA:

Hi Dave! My name is Sheila Schultz and I have a business called A Quiet Mind. I’m primarily focused on stress management and I help people through tough transitions in life, whether that be a health crisis, a relationship crisis. I met Dave a few years ago as he said as he was going through a health issue, and we’ve been together ever since in one way or another. I’m really excited about this season on the show as we focus on living in the present moment and talk to guests about how their businesses and their lives have created a need for living in the present moment.

 

DAVE:

We do like doing that, and I welcome all of you in the audience whether you’re watching us live or watching us on a replay. I see David Bennett’s here. Hi Dave, good to see you. We’ve been getting a lot of great comments on your participation a couple of weeks ago. That replay is getting a lot of traction. We’re so grateful to you and you’re here.

We’ve got another special guest today, a person who I am going to say is my newest friend Andrea Jacques. I met  Andrea just a couple of months ago. I stumbled across her book through one of the advisors on the Find Your New Normal board, Alan Smofsky, a good friend of mine, was helping me talk about what an authentic life is and he had mentioned a friend of his in the healthcare field who was a Canadian and very few Canadians get to come onto our show. We seem to be all down south, but I reached out to Andrea because I had bought her latest book, Wabi Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for Living an Authentic Life and I was really inspired by it! I wrote notes, and read the whole thing in a weekend. It was just one of those special books, so I reached out to her and said “Could you join us on our show, because I think you’ve got a message that will resonate with our audience.”

As a way to quickly introduce her before Andrea comes on, she’s got a strong experience in the corporate arena helping individuals find purpose in their life and authenticity in the workplace and has also spent time in Japan and has brought a set of philosophies that have been blended in with western culture. I guess that’s why we have that wabi-sabi framework that I know we’re going to draw out of her today. But she has this practical sense, years of experience, she’s a great author. We’re going to tell you more about her book later. It’s something that you should have on your bookshelf. She’s also a coach and a trainer. Let me introduce Andrea to the audience, tell us what you think you’ve been doing and what your message is for us.

 

ANDREA:

Thanks Dave, you did a great synopsis of what I do.  I work with individuals and organizations to help them understand what it takes to thrive. Thriving for me happens in the context of kyōsei. In Japanese, that means “synergy” or “symbiosis,” living and working together for the common good. For me, creating a kyosei world, is about creating a world where everyone wins. So all of the work I do, whether I’m working with individuals, large organizations, small businesses, is all about helping them understand the mindsets, the tools, the systems, the skills, the knowledge, the attitudes that it takes to really be part of creating a world where everyone wins. Where it’s not about tradeoffs, where its not about compromises. That doesn’t mean it’s always sunshine and roses. Part of it is understanding that life happens. So being able to thrive, in good times and bad, doesn’t always mean its easy or comfortable.

 

DAVE:

And I think your message is not about perfection. It’s the imperfection which caught me off guard, because those of you have been watching me through the seasons know that I’m always trying to rifle in for understanding and structure and… your book caught me off guard that there was beauty in the imperfection and that was something that I hoped you’d expand on for us today.

 

ANDREA:

So how the book came about, that’s kind of a crazy story. I’ve been working on books for a number of years. I was trying to count. I’m pretty sure I have six books in progress, not counting Wabi-Sabi Wisdom that’s published. Before I even started writing Wabi Sabi Wisdom I had these six books on the way. This January we were out for my husband’s birthday with some really close friends of ours and my friend Lori Ann was talking about a book that she’s writing, about her lessons in life. And she said “oh yeah, a lot of people are offering to help me and edit it for me, but I keep saying no.” I said, “Really, people are asking to graphic design or edit your book for free and you’re saying no?” And she says “You know what, it’s my words, it’s my grammar mistakes, it’s how I think. I don’t want anybody to change it. I’m just going to put it out as I am.” And I was simultaneously inspired and ashamed. I thought, of all these six books that I’ve got, literally hundreds of thousands of words, they’re ready to do a final draft and editing. But for whatever reasons, I want to make them perfect. And I said, “You know what, I need to be more like you. I need to just finish one of my books.” And she looked back and said “Yeah, you do.” [Laughs]

So Lori-Ann is one of these amazing people who just does it. She doesn’t care what other people think. She decides what she wants and does it to her own standards. Who cares about anyone else? I said, “I bet you I can finish one of these by the end of the month,” and she says “You’re on!”

That was January 5th, and January 26th we hit publish on Wabi-Sabi Wisdom. Now the interesting part about that was that Wabi-Sabi Wisdom was not one of those six books I had partly written. So I sent out two of the books that I thought were closest to being finished to a couple of friends for input. And I said I needed it back by Friday. In those five days, I thought, I need to do something else, I can’t just sit around. Suddenly, I had this idea. I’d been writing for Tokyo Families Magazine, published in Tokyo, for about 7 years now. All of the articles have a sort of Japanese theme. And I always thought it would be fun to have a Japanese kanji and a little chapter about that concept.

So I got out all of those articles and pasted it into my writing program and thought “whoa, I’ve got 100,000 words of articles here.” I started reading them and thought, “these are pretty good. Not perfect, but… good enough.” And suddenly wabi-sabi, which is a philosophy of finding the beauty in imperfection, popped into my head and I had this visual of exactly what the book should look like.

So I talked to my husband about it and he said “Oh yeah! I know exactly what the cover of the book should be. There’s something called kintsugi, which is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold. Because Japanese tea ceremony pottery is very expensive and its these wonderful unique artifacts so when it breaks they would repair it with gold lacquer. That’s what we need to have on the cover.”

So that’s basically how Wabi Sabi Wisdom came to be.  And so yeah, that idea came up… it was probably January 6th or 7th. Less than 3 weeks, basically. And let me be clear, people. I had all of those articles written but I had to go through 100,000 words and pick 40,000 words that went into the book. Then I had to edit, and re-wrie, and edit again – which for any of you out there who are writers, you know that the editing is more work than the writing. I had to put aside everything else. My house didn’t get cleaned, my child ate a lot of pizza. I didn’t exercise. I had to make choices. My life was not perfect, but I was very focused.

 

DAVE:

And it was a great output. That image is a great symbolism for the message we’ve been having in this season. As a cancer patient, one of those things that I stumbled across years ago was that image of broken pottery because I was concerned with all the scars. And the image was… if you can think of those scars as being filled with gold, you’re even better than you were before. You’re reassembling the beauty of who you are and so don’t worry about that image. You have a different way of looking at yourself. Not as a broken, scarred individual. I think so many people in crisis have that issue… whether it’s a divorce or a disease or burning down the house. A sense of brokenness, loss, a suffering as you get your head wrapped around the next thing to do. And that’s where Sheila’s wisdom has come through so often. What do you do Sheila, when you’re in that state?

 

SHEILA:

I love hearing this, Andrea. First of all, I started off in the corporate world and I was really organized. I wouldn’t say I was really type A, but I liked things to be just the way they should be. And I also work with a lot of clients just on basic stress management. People in the corporate world who never feel like they… they’re disappointed. They never feel like they do it as well as they want to. So that thing you that you said that really brought it into our theme is that when you were working on that book, you were focused. You were in the present moment, diving into that book, not worrying about the outcome. Your focus was not the end-point, which is most people live and the way that most of us in the corporate world are trained. You know, here’s the goal and how are we going to get there. And I feel like we really lose the joy of the process when you do that. So here you just gave a beautiful example of writing the book. You had all of those things in mind and you just want to make it perfect. And then you threw that idea out the window and said, “You know what, I’m just going to sit here and do this the way that I should do it.” You were focused, completely mindful. Things still got done. Your children didn’t starve. But you were focused and you end up producing something that you never could have imagined if you were focused on a target. That’s wonderful.

 

ANDREA:

And I think it also happened at a time in my life where I had been working on many books… there were many reasons to not finish them. This links to Dave, talking about crisis, and how we embrace imperfection and find our calling and purpose in crisis. I published the e-book on the two-year anniversary of my brother passing away from cancer. And we found out that he had cancer only a month before he died. He died very suddenly. That really sent me for a loop. And his wife just passed away a year later, unexpectedly on what would have been their 20-year wedding anniversary. In between there, my mother had moved from Calgary to Vancouver, she was planning on living with us for two months while she found a place… then we learned about my brother.  What was going to be a 2-month stay ended up being 9 months of my mother living with us a in a 2-bedroom condo. I had a breast cancer scare in between there and a very badly botched biopsy that caused a lot of issues.

I came through this period where I gave myself permission to not think about finishing any books for a year or two, but at the same time this crisis of all the death around me was making me question “how much time do I have left? What am I going to do with this time? What’s most important? What are my priorities?” And certainly in the major grief portion I wasn’t in the position to do anything about it. But yet, in a strange way, I guess because partly it’s my natural inclination and what I teach people is to always seek the purpose in everything. I learned a lot about letting go, and one of the chapters in the book is about that. A couple, actually. About life and death and moving from crisis to calling.

It came to the point where I thought am I going to step out there and really live my life and really be who I am to be and do what I am to do. If I am going to die in a few weeks or a few months, would I feel complete? My answer was no. And all of this was going on in my mind when I went out for dinner with my friend, and I was really thinking about how I was using all of the challenges in my life (and we all have challenges) as excuses.

 

DAVE:

And along with that concept, you had mentioned it was a question of recognizing being out of balance and getting aligned. In the book, you outline that there is a process that we should be aware of when we recognize being out of balance and trying to be aligned again. Can you share a little bit of that, because that was really something that I was writing notes on.

 

ANDREA:

Yeah. Well, I don’t love the word balance or saying that we’re out of balance. Because we actually are in balance. We may not LIKE where we’re balanced at but we are in balance. Everything around us — our mindset and our lives and the people — are always attempting to maintain this equilibrium, this state of balance. So what like to aim for instead because I really believe intent has such an amazing power to create. I like to teach people to aim for something called Life-Work Integrity™ which is a state of alignment between who you are and what you do in all areas of your life and work. So that state of wholeness rather than balance. Wholeness and joy and energy and vitality and purpose and impact. That’s really what Life-Work Integrity is about. And yeah there’s a process for it, that I’ve worked with individuals and organizations over the years. For individuals, I call it Life-Work Integrity and for businesses, Business Integrity™.

The easiest way to understand it is this: think about a bicycle. When you’re riding a bicycle the back wheel of the bicycle is your needs, right. And for most people, you’re pedaling as fast as you can to try to meet those back-wheel needs and that’s what’s pushing you forward. These might be safety and comfort, belonging, food, clothing and shelter, but also things like money and power and status and achievement and things like that. The front wheel of the bicycle is what I call your passions. So just as the back wheel of the bicycle drives the bike forward, the front wheel of the bicycle is required for steering it. The passions are what has the power to steer the bicycle. So these are things like your values, your strengths, your purpose. I call them the four Core Passions. Your Passion for Being, your Passion for Doing, your Passion for Giving and your Passion for Creating and Achieving. And so that process, when you have your hands on the handlebars of the front wheel and THEN you’re pedaling to meet your needs, balance happens naturally. And you’re automatically… if you’re conscious about it… meeting your needs. You’re going to go further faster and have more fun (and avoid going around in circles) by having your hands on the handle bars.

 

SHEILA:

Mm. That’s great. We’ve been discussing so many similar topics lately but to say that one of the things we talk about is crisis and how that affects us and how that changes that. It’s so important for me to let people know that they don’t have to have the crisis to do that. In other words, in many cases it does drive us forward and gets us that authentic place. You all of a sudden lose your concerns about the little things in life and you’re more willing to be authentic. We talked about … it’s just time to strip naked and I don’t care what people say and this is who I am. And I feel compelled to do this because prior to the crisis maybe we were trying to please people. We were trying to do what they thought we should do. Most of us, at least in this culture, tend to do go in that direction rather than finding that purpose, finding that reason why we’re here. But suddenly, when you are faced with decisions and you gave yourself that scenario. What if I only had a month to live, like, your brother or your sister-in-law… what would I do? And sometimes it’s not your crisis but something very dear to you that pulls you in. Just this last week, I’ve had some things going on in my life to. It wasn’t me, but it does make you pause and say, “Okay, let’s realign and look at the situation a little bit differently than I did prior to this week.”

 

ANDREA:

And I think sometimes crisis finds us. But I think part of my realization around the end of last year was that I was really doing a lot of introspection around how was I creating crises in my own imagination. [Laughter] But you really realize that… I work with my husband by the way, he’s my business partner … so you can imagine that there are all of those things that you can turn into crises when you’re working with someone you’re that close to (and we’re wonderfully different people). And you know, just looking at the demands of being a mom of a young child and all of these things, I realize: “Wow, I’ve got all kinds of excuses for why I’m not prioritizing this.” And I already have clarity on that front wheel!

The challenge with the majority of people out there is that they just don’t have that framework or that formula. They don’t have someone to facilitate that process of discovering that front wheel. It becomes easy for those excuses to come in. “I can’t because my husband… or my parents wouldn’t support it, or I don’t have the money or la la la la.” When you get clear on what it is you’re here to do and choose what you want to do and who you want to be, that intention will … the strategies come after that.  I always talk to my clients about this. They won’t pick a vision to work towards unless they know how to get there.

 

SHEILA:

Yes, yes, I’ve seen those exact people.

 

ANDREA:

Yes. I say no no no, you’ve got to pick a side. First figure out something that you really want. Then the rest is strategy. To me, strategy is easy. It may take a while. I’m not saying you’re going to get there instantly. But first you have to decide where it is you want to go because it’s going to be different if you’re packing to go on a ski trip than if you’re packing to go on a beach vacation. So the strategies to get there are different.

 

SHEILA:

I think the thing that I run into is that people don’t want to make a mistake. That stalls them. I say, you know what, let’s forget about the work part. Let’s play with it like a game. We’ll test it out, not for real. Even though it does end up being real, because that’s when your creativity comes in. When your stress levels slow down and you’re just enjoying it. That’s when the really good stuff comes out and you go, “I just came up with a fabulous idea for a business that I never would have thought of if I had tried.”

 

ANDREA:

Right. Exactly. When people are worried about picking the wrong thing and making a mistake I always tell them to imagine you’re dropped in the desert and you don’t know which direction to go so you look at the sun. And maybe you know that there’s a village off in some direction and you go down in the sand dune and you’re heading in the direction. And you’re going down and up and down and up. Suddenly, you come to the top of a sand dune and you see an oasis off in a certain direction and you say, “That’s where I want to go” and you go down and up and down and up. And you lose sight of the destination along the way. And when you’re near the destination, you come on top of another dune and you look over in another direction and see two camels and a tent, but over in a different direction is a skyscraper, and you head in that direction. But you couldn’t see the skyscraper unless you started heading toward your best guess. That helps people not being so afraid about picking their thing.

 

DAVE:

But if you’re on that bike and the purpose is steering you in one of those new choices that you see ahead of you and you’re pedaling as hard as you can, there seems to be a need for a third force that keeps you balanced because if you’re pedaling too hard or not hard enough and you’re choosing these different directions, you could tip in one direction and in my head that’s where that surprise crisis that’s coming in that’s taking you off of that journey that you’re on…. What do you need in order to right the bike and realign? As you said, you don’t like this concept of balance, but I’m still sensing that I’m on that vehicle that moves in a direction and I’m now toppled. How do I pick myself back up and get back on with my life? I like this idea of, well, you find acceptance in the imperfection of where you on. As Sheila says, you’re living in the present moment. Fears of the past and future and your worries all diminish as you come to accept where you’re at. How do I now get back on my bike and realign and move forward?

 

ANDREA:

Oh, I have so many answers to that question [Laughs].

 

SHEILA:

Oh me too!

 

DAVE:

Read this book! And get your mind going in a thousand directions. It’s not structured. She actually tells you at the beginning “read whatever you want whenever you want.”

 

SHEILA:

That’s my favourite kind of book…”

 

DAVE:

It’s a colouring book! You’re just moving all over the place. I thought… I gotta talk to this person, she’s got me going here!

 

ANDREA:

[Laughs] So how do you right the bike? So I guess step one is to stop and ask, “Why did I fall off?” If we’re using the bike metaphor you ask, “Did my pantlegs get caught in the chain? Was I wearing flip-flops instead of bike shoes that clip into the pedals?” So when you start to get curious about how you ended up laying in the ground at the side of the road, then you can start looking at why you fell. I always start with asking people. Do I have systems? Do I need to upgrade some of my systems in my life? My equipment (which could be habits, mental systems and habits, mindsets)? Or it could be just things like looking after our health. For some people, it’s those baby steps like “gee, do I actually get out and get any exercise? Do I have a mindfulness practice and a way of coping with stress in my life? Am I surrounded by toxic relationships and people around me that are draining my energy? Is it them, really? Or is it me? And it’s a hard journey to go through, like, is it really me?

I’m blessed, and I guess it’s the kind of people who are attracted to this kind of work. They are very accountable and they are very much (and I’m sure you find this as well) they’re very into looking into their own accountable story. How they’re a source, how they’re a cause for creating their life. People who aren’t there yet probably need a different program.

 

SHEILA:

[Laughs] I agree. Because there’s a whole range, right. People who have never even considered this way, people who are somewhere along the journey. But I love this whole bike analogy. Dave will attest to my answer… which would be “I fell! How cool is that?” [Laughs]

 

DAVE:

The way I reacted … what do you mean that’s what….

 

SHEILA:

It’s only because I’ve fallen so many times that I know what comes after that. I understand. I would do the same kind of thing… then that curiosity… so okay, now I’m on the ground. So what does this mean for me? Now look at my options. Now I have lots of different options. Maybe I wasn’t going in the right direction. Maybe this gives me pause to think “maybe I’m supposed to be going in the other way.” It’s only because I’ve seen so much of it in my life and in so many clients’ lives that we’re so afraid of falling off the bike. We instantly want to right it again and my message is always “let it fall, because it’s falling for a reason, and that’s okay, and you will get through it. You will get back on, and whether you go another direction or whether you’ll change your tire or whatever it is, you’ll get there but you needed to fall of the bike if you did.

 

DAVE:

You also need to believe that you can recover. That for me is my stumbling block. As Alan is saying in the chat box, we have to get to a point where we ask that question “Why did I fall?” If you don’t’ ask that question, there’s lots of reasons why you’ll continually fail and you have to have certain skills and courage to deal with those issues that you found. Because Andrea, as you were listing off, here’s all the reasons why… that’s true… me I went back to a sense of overwhelm that there are 20 reasons why I fell and I don’t even know how to deal with one of them. And it took me literally years ‘til I could start to get that courage and skillset that Alan’s talking about that said I can find comfort in the imperfection and not look for the complete answer, just take those baby steps on one of those issues. Move yourself to a state of peace and have a clearer mind at that moment and start to learn some new skills such as stop worrying about why you got there and what’s going to happen in the future. Just deal with the blessings and the moment of gratitude that you have today and until I could just take that first step of finding every day a list of elements that had occurred that I was grateful for I couldn’t even begin to attack that checklist of all the reasons why I fell or even have a clear enough mind to come up with the mind of how to move forward.

Rationally, it sounds very simple. But practically, I struggled with this. I can say to all those watching, you will, as Sheila says, get to the point. You will find a way out of this forest if you believe that’s the journey you’re on. And not just concentrate on the wounds that you have if I’m falling off that bike. You will find safety, you will find comfort. You will realign and move forward to some pretty exciting adventures.

 

ANDREA:

Absolutely. The falls are there to wake us up. When my brother died, you know, certainly there was a period of numbness and there was the grief. I was simultaneously feeling completely dead inside and also in a strange way, feeling more alive. You know, when you physically hurt yourself, you know you’re alive. You can feel the pain. It wakes you up. It breaks you out of your life, that was just going along, comfy as it was, and it makes you go “okay. Well. Now I’m broken, now I’m this cup, broken in pieces. And I’ve got to put myself back together. How can I put myself back together in a way that’s more beautiful and celebrates the strength that comes from this fall, from those lessons? And if we come back to the bike, you know, how can I build my frame stronger? How can I make my wheels… ready for off-roading? What is it that I need to have the experience that I want in life.

 

SHEILA:

Right!

 

DAVE:

And you have to celebrate it. As Sheila says to me, you have to celebrate that little success at that moment so that you can build on top of that. You can’t say “well I did it, that’s fine” and move on. You really have to stop, be in the moment, be grateful for what you’re learning, be grateful for the challenge that you’re overcoming. And suddenly, you start to get a new skill set. And the next thing that you’re dealing with on your list is not as daunting. It suddenly is more manageable. You can do something more than you ever thought. As you said, if you got through the storm, you’ve learned a lot through that hurricane. And now the next hurricane, no big deal, I went through that, I can do that.

Sailors learn that. Get me out to see, get me through the storm, because I’ll learn everything I need to learn and it’ll be fine. The first time, you think you’re going to drown, but every time you succeed, you celebrate your success. Your realignment moment moves a little closer and that next item on your list is so much more manageable.

 

ANDREA:

And you know, I have to say something here. What’s occurring to me is that a lot of the self-help literature out there would say “you get stronger and strengthen the power of your conscious mind and you’re going to have this wonderful fantastic life….” The implication is that bad shit is never going to happen to you again. And that’s just not true.

 

SHEILA:

[Laughs]Oh no.

 

ANDREA:

People want instant change and to get those instant results and they want to guarantee that these horrible things aren’t going to happen and they’re never going to have pain again. The reality is, especially as we get older, more pain is coming. More people are going to die. You know, more people I love and possibly even myself are going to get sick. You know, I don’t know (and you can’t predict it) I mean, for my brother one month to prepare. For my sister-in-law… it was instant. I mean, no warning.

Things like that happen. That’s part of life. So this is part of this embracing the beauty of this wonderfully imperfect life that we have and these wonderfully imperfect people that we are. We’re not always going to deal with it wonderfully. We just keep learning. And that’s the fun.

That’s the rollercoaster that scares you to death and you know, but you’re there. You’re enjoying the ride to the best of your ability.

 

SHEILA:

You know, that’s really the basis for an awful lot. It’s really rewiring our minds. Because we have this idea of what life should look like and feel like. And it’s really delusional. It’s just not possible. Of course, when something terrible happens, our mind tells us we just want to get back to our little story where there’s no pain and suffering. But it was never there in the beginning. So much of my work is helping people to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Getting to appreciate things for their imperfections. Not putting a label on things so much. Not looking at something and saying that’s good and that’s bad. I’m going to avoid this because that’s not the direction I want to go. Just being able to allow things to be what they are and appreciate them for what they are. Knowing that everything here is in perfect order. We already are in balance. We feel in balance but we really aren’t. So it’s kind of getting past that belief system that we have that life should look the way that I want it to look, or else I’m going to be upset with it.

 

ANDREA:

Balance doesn’t necessarily mean easy.

 

DAVE:

I don’t want to fight or suffer or face pain. It’s very discomforting… I don’t like it, I don’t want it. Okay, I gritted my teeth, I coped with that. Now go away, I never want it again. That’s certainly what I was taught life is all about. Now I have learned that that’s not what life is about. As Dave Bennett is saying in the chat area, “The more we grow, the more the universe throws at you.” It’s a universal principle. You’ve got to get to a point where you understand that life is a series of challenges that allow you to test your mettle. To learn new things, to get new skills, to do things that you’d never do without that moment of adversity. And yes, it’s not fun at the moment. And there’s things that maybe when you’re going there, at that moment, you don’t want. But as soon as you start to manage it and accept it and say “where is the gift in it,” you look back at all those moments in your life that were painful, had suffering, and suddenly you look at them totally differently and say “man, I’m a better person for having gone through that.” And look what I can do for the other people that I can interact with. Look what I can do for my friends and my family. Look what I can do when the next level of challenges come to me, because I now appreciate the skills that I have. It sounds strange, but I’m grateful now when I wake up and through the day, I see “there’s something I have to deal with.” I don’t panic. I don’t go into a stress/anxiety state. I say “what am I supposed to learn, what’s the lesson in this? How am I going to handle it? Today, what am I gaining from it?” It becomes a very stressless way of living your life. But you have to look at it differently.

 

SHEILA:

I think that’s exactly it, Dave. Looking at it differently. So when you fall off that bike and you feel that you’re out of balance… I feel like we’re so focused on our lives being very myopic. So we’re looking through a very small vision, saying I fell off the bike. That’s a bad thing because I must be out of balance. If you step back, you’re seeing that you are in balance and there’s something much bigger than you and the bike and gravity.

 

ANDREA:

Right. Yeah, well maybe you fell off because you know… I have this memory of cycling in France, of going down the French Alps and I was speeding down this back of the mountain. 70 miles per hour or something and it was scary but exhilarating. Well, I could have hit a rock. Does that mean I’m out of balance? No! It just is. That’s life. And then, you know, there is a point where we can overanalyze everything. You know, “yeah right, that happened” and pick yourself up. I think also its important to understand Dave’s comment about the more we grow, the more the universe throw at us. I’ve had tons of experience in my own life and with the people I’ve worked with, that when they really decide that they’re ready to find out what they’re here to do, they get tested. There’s these little things that will try to pull them off path and say, “you don’t really want to go there.” I think instinctively we know that as we become a bigger container, more stuff comes. As we become stronger, the winds start blowing and that makes us stronger and stronger still. I think that there’s some fear in stepping out and playing big because we all sort of know, we suspect there’s something more. But it’s fun!

 

DAVE:

You have to define that you’re going to grow. That was a concept that I didn’t grasp. I existed. I coped. I dealt with life. I wanted to achieve certain goals. I went and did them. In reality there was no sense that I was growing. I really didn’t look at myself in that term at all. It was only when I stopped coping with my challenges and started to learn how to strive and thrive in that challenge that I started to sense that I’m different. There’s something that happened. It’s like I went to the gym and did 20 repetitions for 10 weeks. I’m stronger now. I’m looking at life, and life is giving me an opportunity to grow in a multitude of different directions. And I’m starting to think maybe that’s a life principle. Just like I know that the sun will rise and gravity will keep me on the earth. That part of the reason for my existence is to grow and to develop to be better today than I was yesterday. And I’m finding that in so many aspects of my life, but it took a major life crisis for me to settle down and say what the heck is going on. I get that I’m on a bike, that I have needs and power to move forward. I’ve gotta have a purpose or direction to move towards. I may have adversity and challenges. But really, why is that all there? So that I can grow, and so that I can develop and so that I can experience life to a greater degree. When I experienced life as a 4 year old, it was totally different than when I was an 18 year old, than when I was in my 30s. And now I’m thinking, look at the way I experience life in its richness. It’s amazing because I changed my mindset on what it is that I’m here to do.

Once I got into growth, it changed everything.

 

SHEILA:

Alan is asking a question about people who don’t want to grow. Should we just leave them alone? Is that okay? I completely understand that, but my overall feeling is that something much bigger than us wants everything to continue to grow. It’s the process of moving. You look at nature. The leaves fall off the trees. In spring, the bugs the grow. So growing is a natural phenomenon. We may not want to grow, but I know personally at that point in my life when I was very very comfortable and I was no longer growing, the universe showed me that I needed to grow. So you can say that you don’t want to move forward and you can be comfortable for quite a long time and have the illusion that everything is just fine and this is just the way life is, but then I guarantee something very large is going to happen and… my goal is always to help people become aware of that and to start living more fully and more of a rich life before that happens. And then even if it does happen, they are already in the flow of things. And they say “oh yeah, this is a process and this is part of my growth and evolution.” And so much a part of something bigger than me.

 

ANDREA:

Absolutely.

 

DAVE:

And we can stop and we can always sit down in our paths. And as Alan is saying, we don’t judge those people and their lack of desire to grow today. It may happen later in their life. It’s living your life authentically as you see the world around you in a calm, stressless, peaceful way so you’re not in a state of anxiety and stress. And you will find that if you can live in the moment, you suddenly ask what you should be doing today. Maybe today is not the day to grow. Maybe today is the day to get my merlot and a nice cheese bread…

 

SHEILA:

That’s a great day!

 

ANDREA:

I think Alan’s saying… I’m a huge advocate for growing. But there are too many people who just don’t want to grow too. This goes back to being curious about this mindset. So we like to grow. Maybe other people aren’t there on that journey. But if we look at nature for instruction. There are some things that grow and there are rocks. I mean, you know, so … I can’t remember who said this but I’ve heard this a few times from a few places: “What if everything and everyone in our lives is just acting the way it is for the purpose of our enlightenment? What if those people who we are surrounded by who don’t want to grow are only there so we can grow? Because that’s what we want to be. What if they’re a tulip bulb and they’re in hibernation right now? That’s okay. What if they’re bamboo? I always talk to people about “slowing down to speed up.” And bamboo can take basically four or five years and you don’t see anything above the surface. Then, all of a sudden, boom, in a few hours or a few days, it can shoot up four feet, all at once. I think impatience is a real disease… and I have it big time.

 

DAVE:

…defining growth… perhaps more of defining or acknowledging change. Because falling off the bike, dealing with life, is going to change you. In some way, it’s going to change you. Even with your analogy to a rock. A rock will change with its exposure to the water and the wind. Maybe it was once a large rock, now it is a pebble. And there’s new value as it changes shape and form because now it’s able to be in the garden or its large enough to support a tree. And you as a human being as you go through these life moments that we’re calling an opportunity for growth, it’s a way of adapting to the value of the change that you are going through. It’s up to you do decide what are you going to do in this moment that you’re going through. And certainly, sit down and take a deep breath and be calm. But, as we’ve been saying, get your paper out and start a list. What’s happening? Where’s the end value of this? How am I going to live the authentic life that I had in mind? How’s my new self going to interact with other people? There’s so much going on for you to sit back, take stock, and figure out in a peaceful, gentle way “What am I going to do in this moment?”

 

SHEILA:

Well, yeah, I think you really hit it on the end there, Dave. To me, growth doesn’t have to mean movement, action. Growth could mean “I’m going to give myself permission to lie on the couch today and do nothing.” That’s growing for you, because if you’re a type A personality who’s never taken a day off… you’re growing by the fact that you’re saying that you’re going to stay in your jammies and lie on the couch all day long. It’s a definition thing. There’s a lot of ways to look at it, but its adapting to change and having a new mindset to see things in a slightly different way and making a decision, a change, in you in some way. Whether its becoming more relaxed or going out and doing things. Both are growing.

 

ANDREA:

When it comes to growth, I think the important piece to understand for our own growth is cultivating discernment and being able to look at things around us and events that are catalysts for our growth, and being able to say “is this an acorn? Is it a tulip? Is it a bulb? Is it a small rock? Is it a big rock?” Alan and I were out and talking at dinner, with a bunch of people passionate about workplace transformation. And those people hadn’t taken my program. We were all talking about how we only work with the people who are ready and wanting to grow. If we want to create a better world, transform the world and transform our lives, part of that is understanding “let’s stop wasting our energy trying to slam our bike into that boulder, just go around!” And you know what, you might think, well, all the leaders and all the organizations, the toxic leaders, they’re the boulders! They’re the problems. Well, guess what? What’s keeping you there? Leave!

I think that’s what’s happening a lot in life, in relationships, with people you work with or with people around you in your life. It’s your choice to stay. And that discernment is important. I’m not suggesting by any stretch that we just give up on people because there’s a lot of growth opportunity. But I’ve personally been guilty of staying in relationships too long because I wasn’t respecting and honouring and didn’t want to see what I was dealing with, who I was really dealing with. Because it was going to be painful to stop being there. You know, and just like, giving people too much the benefit of the doubt. And I questioned that for many years, when I came to realize that for me, I do eventually come to a point where I go, all right, I’m done with that.

I always ask myself, am I finishing this as I want to start a next thing? Whatever situation it is. By that I mean that I always think about, so have I really learned what it is that I feel like I need to learn? Have I got that sense of completion? Am I finishing this relationship or experience or whatever it is in the integrity of the energy of who I want to be? That I want to bring to the next thing? Because I believe that if we have unfinished business we just put it in our little backpack and we carry it along with us and we unpack it and we go, “Hey, here’s my  stuff, let’s play with this some more because I’m not done with this enough.”

 

DAVE:

And that’s a great segue because we’re right at the top of the hour. So it’s the perfect way of finishing this conversation. The way we usually do this, Andrea, is pass it back to you to say what are the main takeaway points that you had in mind for all of the audience today and those that will look at the replay if they have a pen in their hand, what would you hope they would grasp from what you had shared. I got 3 pages of notes from the last conversation and another page today. So what is it that you would hope that we would all pick up from your wisdom today.

 

ANDREA:

I guess to appreciate that life is beautifully imperfect and that YOU are beautifully imperfect and to stop wasting so much energy wishing that it could be otherwise. And also to understand that the more you invest time to contemplate who you are, to be curious about that front wheel of your bicycle, to strengthen your ability to hold on to the handle bars, the easier it’s going to be. The more FUN it’s going to be. It’s like the questions that Dave sent me about, how you get off the roller coaster. You get off when it’s done! Then you go walk around and you rest for a bit, and you get on another ride. And you get off when it’s done. When you really know who you are you can make choices about what rides you want to get on and what you want to get out of them. It all comes down to getting clear on “why am I here?” The big question in life. “Why am I here? What do I want to stand for?” and cultivating the courage to live in integrity with that.

 

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