Friday, August 13, 2010

Of Angels and Demons

It is a peculiar thing amongst humans that we embody both the demon and the angel.
We see in the stories of fallen politicians, civic leaders and philanthropists that otherwise 'good' people may have very dark sides.

In fact we all have the dark that matches the light. That is the balance of the human psyche, and those claim to not are simply fooling themselves (poorly) and attempting to fool the rest of us with a facade of a saint that is a sallow one when compared to the rich tapestry of humanity.

We all embody both the potential for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and we struggle and battle to live the life of an angel, and sometimes succumb just a little to the devil.

That is the way and it is another call to action and a reminder to, in the words of Philo; "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a great battle..." and for us all, at the very root of it, the battle is the same...

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Richness of Exploring....The Value of Wandering

For some reason, while sitting on a bus in Vancouver, BC; I was thinking about a book that I had perused at my sister's house some years before...

Perhaps it was because I was just about to move back to New Zealand for the summer, to start a new chapter in the book of my life that this book came to mind...

In any instance I thought of that book that I picked up from my sister's coffee table (it's a real 'coffee table' type of book, so that at least is apt...)
1000 Places to See Before You Die has vignettes of many places around the world that you absolutely must least in the authors opinion...

I may have looked over this book after returning from 9 months or so of wandering in South America, and so my perception of another's wanderings was perhaps tempered by my own, and I must admit I have since not so much as glanced at the book; but at the time I flicked to the pages on that particular continent and needless to say I was underwhelmed by what was shown!

Flipping through those pages I was at least a little struck by the preponderance of tourist traps and travelers 'hot spots' included; many of which I had visited...and many of which were the more banal experiences of this vagabond.
It is of course just opinion, and I have no desire to beat up on the book - because I'm sure for author Patricia Shultz the places are indeed 'must sees' and for many others I'm also just as sure this is true.
But, and I finally get to my point, it does show that when we place too much credence in the opinions of others, and do only that which 'should' be done, we can miss out on so much of the wonder in this world.

The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.
~ Gilbert K Chesterton

I remember sitting in a cafe in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City with my good friend Jason, enjoying a cup of Vietnamese coffee (the type with sweetened condensed milk....yum!). There was a young woman sitting just across from us at another table and introduced herself, and very quickly asked if we had been to any bars, cafes and hotels as she was a travel writer for a travel guide (she didn't mention the name...) and needed to give some recommendations in her write up for the city. We both (myself and Jas) thought that was pretty funny, as it certainly looked to us that she had been sitting in that cafe for many hours and we wondered how much she had been out exploring...or whether she had simply asked other travelers what their experiences were. Now there is nothing wrong with getting the opinions of others, but there is a point when if you want to grow, learn and evolve you have to actually do! 
And if you're writing a travel guide, or section thereof I think it'd help to know more from personal experience! (And I'm not suggesting that she didn't....but....)

A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.
~ John Steinbeck

Anyone who has done any amount of travelling knows that guide books are a prime example of this. Some places that are derided turn out to be gems, others that are highly recommended (like the dirty, squalid, rundown shack in which I stayed in Tucaman, Argentina) are in fact veritable crap holes (excuse me!) and some not mentioned at all provide the wonderful memories that will last a lifetime (like the cafe in which I sat sipping Sangria on the banks of the river in Hoi An whilst petals fell like snowflakes from the flowers of vines that provided a canopy over the outdoor patio, on which a sign proudly displayed 'Not in the Lonely Planet!).

There is not much more gratifying in this life than wandering and stumbling upon places, people and events that are truly magical for you, and it matters not if those same events are magical for somebody else. They are your treasures.

Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.
~ Benjamn Disraeli

I am reminded of another book, now in the retelling. Lent to me by a great friend in Vancouver, it is The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. It tells ostensibly of a journalists journey into the Australian heartland to research the 'song lines', Aboriginal songs that describe the land, the people and history of the great country; and becomes a winding and marvellous allegory for the beauty and wonder of traveling, really travelling, when one wanders, learns and lives out the grand human imperative of being free in a very literal sense.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel, read only a page.
~ St. Augustine

There is a time too, to return home, or to put down roots and sit with your memories and apply what has been learned on the road, always in the knowledge that life is a process, and the road is always there when you need it.

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.
~ George Moore

Monday, August 02, 2010

3 Years in Vancouver...

I began the way it ended....over a few drinks with my best mate.
What started as a whim and a fancy, and an idea honed by the sharp dullness of a few pints of the amber stuff ended as a beautiful resignation of those years spent wondering, learning and growing beyond measure.

My time in Vancouver was defined by the amazing people that I met. I said to my crew when I decided to leave that we have been a part of something special...and we really had.

I could not think of a time or place when I would be so surrounded by motivational and inspiration people.

The time in Van was one of experiences. Joyous and wonderful experiences.
One can lament what could have been, what wasn't and what is lost...but at the end of the day it is the joyous experiences of a time spent with amazing people, growing and connecting that makes this life worth living.
And this I had, and have still in the connections I made, connections that will last a life time.
In some ways the role play of sweeping dichotomies that was my life in Vancouver made the questions of who I am, what I do and why I do it harder to answer. After all being a bouncer, a strength coach, a nutritionist, a Naturopath...a Reverend and pastoral counselor, and some time roadie for a rock band can be a mouthful and ultimately confusing for all involved in the conversation....but at the same time the answers for me are clearer than they have ever been.

Thank you to all the shining lights who made my time in Vancouver a fantastic one. And although I will be back there is of course some sadness in changing bases because we know that those loving, smiling faces are not just in the next room or a short walk down the road.

But in our hearts they remain.

  Love and blessings always,

    ~ Cliff

Bookmark and Share

Will You? ~ A Poem by Cliff

Will you still lay beside me now that what was is no more?
Will you take a chance, that it all wasn't chance,
that we belong,
and I may do right...
Where so often all I have done is wrong?

Will you - just like the cliché - tell me everything's going to be alright,
while you hold me tight, and we both know
 that we don't know
but stay and believe it too?

Would you stroke my hair like you did that night,
caress my that I might just believe it too?

Will you walk the path,
hold my hand, never to leave,
with this knave, this thief, this wolf in the dark...
and take a risk to forgive, the flights, the fancies...?

Will you stand next to the fire and warm yourself,
and be burnt?
And weather the storms that gather, that carry me away from you...never for long,
but never to stay, except at heart
an eye for you?
The genius that destroys, the failings of this little Prince?

Will you?...

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Business of You!..The Lost Element of Craftsmanship..

“Are you working for your money?....or is your money working for you?...”
“If your business won't last without you're not in business!”
“Are you in business....or merely self employed?...”

I'm sure you've all heard these, or similar quotes spouted by business 'gurus' for as long as you've been in practice/business. And I guess that if you're anything like me you've at least wondered about how you can turn your training, coaching or health 'practice' into a 'business'....

But are these models even valid for what we do in the health and fitness industry?

There are of course many practitioners who in some way replicate what they provide in some way through products, certifications, books, DVDs and education systems. But there are many, many more who are content with being GREAT practitioners, working with their clients and affecting them personally on a day to day basis.

Many in the business world look at this as a negative situation. The idea of being paid for time is seen as an anathema as you always have to 'be' there in practice, and you are only paid for your time....

I can understand that if you make high tech widgets that you may not necessarily want to be there all the time, but as practitioners in the health and fitness industry are we not in the enviable position of actually doing what we love for a living?
That being said we don't actually need to separate ourselves form what we do! I believe whole-heartedly that the point of an objectively desirable life is to be happy. We create that happiness by spending our time on joyous experiences. Of course we also need money as a conduit to achieve certain (not all) of those joyous experiences and what we do in practice, because we love it, is a 'win-win' situation of having a joyous experience...and being paid for it!

Not only is this concept a powerful one for life balance, but also from a purely business standpoint.
Think of all the notable and successful people that come to mind when you think of our industry.
I think of names that I have been associated with over the years, people like Paul Chek, Charles Poliquin, Pavel Tsatsoulline, John Berardi and others. All of whom began as consummate practitioners and who built their businesses around them. If you think of many of the names that you associate with success in the industry would you be more likely to immediately think of the persons name, or their business?
Would you even know then names of their businesses?

Being a 'tradesman' is looked down upon in many circles, and being a 'businessman' is lauded. But why is this? Have we lost the respect of the 'craftsman' who plies his trade in the creation of things of superior quality? Is this because in our throwaway consumer culture quality of goods and services is becoming and rare commodity?....

I remember as a young personal trainer and nutritionist talking with an exercise physiologist friend of mine. He asked what I was currently up to, to which I replied “Mainly doing nutrition....I still do a bit of training on the side...”

One of my mentors – a very successful trainer, overheard this and took me aside and said “Cliff you don't do personal training 'on the side', you are WAY too good a trainer to put yourself down like that. What is wrong with being a GREAT trainer?”
And you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with being GREAT at anything, no matter what it is! If you love it, do it.
And there certainly is nothing wrong with loving what you do, and wanting to do it each and every day!
As Max Erhmann states in his seminal poetic treatise on life “The Desiderata” - 'Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time...'

We seem to have lost the idea of 'craftsmanship' and along with it the ideal of 'mastery', and while there are ample avenues available to replicate our skill sets through informational products, or create more highly leveraged income through other product sales, the fact remains that if we truly LOVE being in practice and if we love what we do, why on earth would we want to get away from it?!
The disparaging paradigm of being 'self employed' as not being good enough (a la Kiyosaki and others) becomes moot when you aren't really working for your money, but are involved in a process of making both yourself and someone else happier!

People often crave the freedom of having 'more time' to themselves, only to realize when given 'more time' that they have little to fill it with. This is a problem with not having found joyous experience in life, not one of not having enough time!
We see this in ample evidence when people retire. They often find themselves, after years of toiling in often unfulfilling careers, that when finally given the chance to sit back and relax and do some of the things they have always wanted to do that they are either to tired, sick and exhausted to do it or they don't know what they should do with their time!

I have read, re-read and have recommended the book 'The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss to many of my clients. It is to my mind one of the best books on creating time effectiveness and having more time to do the things we love. However I think many people take the wrong message away from this book and others like it. The goal is not to simply work less! The goal is to do more of what we love and what we enjoy in life. This is the real goal of creating a business 'of you, for you'.
As people who work one-on-one with others we probably don't have the financial option (not immediately anyway) or the inclination (because we love what we do) to severely minimize the work hours that we do to this extent.
But we do have the power to reduce our time cost on other extraneous things.
The message though can become lost, so I'll re-iterate it.
  We need not work less, we need to do more of what we love!

I took an extended holiday several years ago. I was able at the time to live off my investments and writing and so I felt remarkable 'free' from the compulsion to have to be working. But I soon realized after several months away that although I was having the time of my life (and would continue to do so for well over a year without re-entering my practice!) that I missed dealing with my clients one-on-one.
I realized that my purpose in this life is to be of service to others and fundamentally that what I (and all other practitioners) do is to make people happy! We may provide different conduits, and different aspects of this, but at the end of the day what we are providing to our clients is the means by which they improve their lives...and therefore become happier!

Growing up my father always told me “Cliff, I don't mind what you end up doing in life...just be the best!” He really did not care what I ended up as. If I were to be a street sweeper, he simply wanted me to be the best street sweeper that I could be. If I were to be a lawyer, entrepreneur, billionaire, he simply wanted me to be the best that I could be.

In our industry so often we ARE our businesses, and this is a positive, not a negative. It is an industry of personality and interpersonal connection. My clients are attracted to me for me. They want to receive nutrition, health and spiritual coaching from me, and I want to spend time working with them. There are many other things I could be doing in life, but I 'choose' to spend my days working with people, in person, in lectures and through my writings.
There are some though who are better served  by another practitioner because of their own particular path, and because their journey to health, performance and happiness is better connected with that person.

What we can do for the business of ourselves is to create mastery in what we do. To realize that our craft, our trade, is also our art. It's our expression, and by living our craft as well as we realistically can we are not only facilitating the health and happiness of our clients, we are also creating it for ourselves!

Bookmark and Share