SA TA NA MA: Infinity, Life, Death and Rebirth


Ahhh Spring!

Every year, like clockwork, Nature does her thing. No matter how harsh the cold or how devastating the winter storms, she draws on some unseen power and regenerates life. Around our house the vegetable seeds are sprouting, fresh leaves are filling the branches of the once dormant trees; insects are spreading the pollen and feeding off the nectar coursing through the stems to the flower blossoms.

This is the rebirth that happens every year and it is something that we can incorporate into our own lives. In order for us to grow and learn, it is important for us to consistently regenerate, otherwise we can easily remain dormant and lethargic. This applies to everything: marriages, relationships, organizations, families and the overall path of our journeys in this world.

SA – Just like Nature, we draw power and energy from somewhere. You can call it what you want: God, infinity, or vibrational or celestial energy. What we call it doesn’t matter, knowing it exists, does.

TA – This energy or power flows through and out of us and helps us create and manifest the events of our lives. We could be starting a new job or rebuilding a long time business, creating a family or forming a new relationship.

NA – However, it is impossible to sustain ever-increasing energy and growth for long periods of time. It is important for us to rest, like Nature, so we can regenerate again. This dormancy is a temporary death and during this time it is helpful to consider the things that we maybe need to change or to let go of so that we can rebuild stronger than before. Nature, again, teaches us this. In the Autumn only the leaves fall off the trees but the core of the tree remains intact and unchanged.

MA – Come Spring, new leaves appear and the core of the tree grows stronger. This is the same tree and yet all that has visibly changed are the leaves. The tree let go of the old leaves and grew new healthier ones.

If we were to perhaps consider our marriage or our relationships, what could we let go of that would allow new growth, new energy? If organizations had the foresight to recreate themselves before a crisis demanded it, how would it change their ability to navigate a constantly changing and uncertain global economy?

If, as individuals, we were able to find the courage to let go of the things that no longer served us (uncertainty, fear, procrastination, judgment, anger) how would that benefit our long term health and well-being?

Life isn’t one constantly upward trajectory, it is an ongoing regeneration. Nature teaches us well. All we need to do is observe and learn.



Perfect Imperfection


The USA Women’s Hockey Team  just after winning a silver medal at the Sochi Olympics

The USA Women’s Hockey Team
just after winning a silver medal at the Sochi Olympics

The French Cross Country Ski Team  just after winning a bronze medal at the Sochi Olympics

The French Cross Country Ski Team
just after winning a bronze medal at the Sochi Olympics


Both of these teams won medals at the most celebrated winter sports competition in the world. Team USA won a silver medal and Team France won a bronze, and yet their responses couldn’t be more different.

One team is celebrating a win and the other is contemplating a loss, and yet the team contemplating the loss won the more prestigious medal. The fact is that both teams won (they both won a medal) but Team USA believed that they had lost because they didn’t get the gold medal they had hoped for.

In the very beginning the Olympic games were never about winning or losing. They were originally created by the Greeks to bring athletes together so they could compete with each other in order to achieve their best results. The word competition is a derivative of the Latin word ‘Competere’. Com means ‘together’ and petere means ‘to seek or strive’. The original athletes in the games strove together to be their best. There were no winners or losers.

Our culture creates the premise that in order for someone to win, someone else has to lose. That premise carries over from the Olympics into our everyday lives and we use the winner/loser language freely.

We strive to win a promotion, win a contract or win recognition for something we deem valuable or important in our lives and when we ‘win’ the rewards are obvious. When we ‘lose’ it’s harder to swallow.

It’s hard to train for years for the Olympic games only to miss the gold by one puck that hit the post of an empty hockey net, or to miss an Olympic medal by a mere 1/100th of a second. It is no less challenging to lose a promotion to someone who has less experience than you or to lose a love to someone else.

To strive to be the best that you can be in all that you do and all that you are is incredibly important, but learning how to deal with loss is probably more valuable to our overall well being.

Perfection is not a constant and that, if it were, life would be dull and spiritless. If we were all perfect then there would be nothing to strive for because it is our imperfection that offers us the opportunity to grow and to learn. The lesson is to embrace our imperfection and welcome it as driving force in our lives so that we can strive to be better.

For the Olympic athletes who ‘lost’ by 1/100th of a second, for the US Women’s Hockey Team who ‘lost’ the gold; they all won so much more. It was simply that, at that very moment in time, they couldn’t quite accomplish what they dreamed of, even though they gave it everything they could.

If they can take that experience and use it as a beneficial learning, then perhaps the next challenge they face will bring them closer to their personal perfection.

Not perfect, but closer to perfect.

Let’s just call it perfect imperfection.


Being in the Now


There has been a lot of focus on “mindfulness” recently. As technology increasingly distracts us from being “present in the moment”, its importance and value continues to elude us. The relentless need to be interconnected 24/7 through email, phone, text, Facebook, Twitter etc. distracts us more and more from being in the now.

 But does it really matter all that much since business, especially, is all about driving to the future, about making the next deal or finding the next customer? Well, in my book, it’s difficult to drive into the future if we don’t take stock of where we are now.

 Life is like a collection of Kodak moments. You can recall those moments once the images are placed in a photo album, or you can be present to the experience at the time the photos were taken. Here’s an example.

 Greg Louganis is an American diver who has won gold medals at the Olympic Games on both the springboard and platform.

 Louganis’ parents attended the world championship in 1982 where their son executed a dive of such exquisite precision that he became the first person in a major international meeting to receive a perfect score of 10 from all seven judges.

 Their biggest regret? That they viewed their son’s shining moment through the tiny aperture of their video camera, and not by being present to see the amazing event with their own eyes. They were interviewed later and expressed such remorse that they had missed seeing their son perform the most incredible dive of his life. And they did miss it. Replaying a video is simply not the same thing as being there and experiencing an event in real time.

 Since the future is, in truth, an unknown, then the present is what we have and being in the present can be a sublime experience.

 Just recently I suffered a terrible case of the flu. Not something that one would normally call a sublime experience and yet it became exactly that for the three days I was completely incapacitated with a hacking cough, high fever and aching head.

 There was absolutely nothing I could do but be in the moment. I made it known that I was out of commission for three days while I healed myself and I relinquished all need to check email, text or phone messages. I simply focused on getting better. I just focused on that one thing.

 In those three days I rediscovered how love and kindness is the nature of my wife, Alexis. I found that I could be my real self – wheezy, red-nosed, disheveled and sweaty from fever – with a close friend who was staying with us. I reveled in the closeness of our dogs who snuggled on the bed beside me. I appreciated the rays of sunshine that warmed my face through the bedroom windows.

 Without any distractions, I was profoundly aware of everything near me and around me and I saw my home, my family and myself in a sublimely different way.

 It is a heady realization to recognize that I don’t have to wait for a crisis to bring me into the present.

 Don’t let your mind tell you otherwise. It is the now that matters. Really.




Learning From India: #3 Letting Go

Thupten Dhonden is a young Buddhist monk who was exiled from Tibet as a child and presently living at Shar Gaden Monastery, Mungod, in Karnataka State, India. My wife, Alexis, and I had been financially supporting him since he was six years old and he is now twenty seven.

Wanting to finally meet Thupten was a major factor in our decision to travel to India last year and in particular, to southern India, where his monastery is located. Although getting to Mungod wasn’t easy, we couldn’t wait to meet him. Shar Gaden was informed of our impending visit to their monastery 9 months in advance. After a lengthy and dusty 6-hour car ride we eventually made it to the Tibetan Lama Camp that supports close to 7000 monks.

We sat expectantly in the waiting room while the only monk that spoke English went to fetch Thupten. Isn’t this amazing? we thought. We are finally meeting Thupten after all this time. We were absolutely thrilled. After what seemed like an eternity the English-speaking monk finally returned, looking very crestfallen and in hindsight I realize, slightly embarrassed. Thupten is not here, he said. We stared at him in gape-eyed shock. Thupten, he said, had been called to a monastery in Nepal to lead puja (religious ritual) because he had become a chanter of great reknown. They needed him, he went, and that was that.


How can this be?

Our entire trip to India had been centered around meeting our monk friend. We had hired a special driver to take us 6 hours into Karnataka State to the monastery, since no trains or planes were accessible. We had planned this monumental trip for over a year and had traveled half way around the world – 10 thousand miles – to visit this very special someone and he wasn’t there! Our response? Stunned surprise and huge disappointment. But this was India after all, and we had already learned that in India things don’t always go as expected.We needed to make our peace with this because, after all, we’re in a Buddhist monastery! If there was ever a place to learn the lesson of non-attachment and letting go, it was here and now.

This happens to be true in our “real lives”. Things we expect or hope for sometimes just don’t happen. Letting go can free us up and allow us to replace what might have been with other possibilities. When the monk told us that Thupten wasn’t there, Alexis and I could have felt angry, resentful, indignant, or outraged. But what good would that have done? It was up to us to let it go and be okay with it, because there was nothing else to do but let it go. That meant taking a few (well okay, many) deep breaths, acknowledging our disappointment and then opening ourselves up to any new opportunities or possiblities that might be available to us.

As things turned out, we ended up spending two days at the monastery anyway. We were befriended by a young man from the UK who had lived at the monastery for many years, teaching the monks English and Math. We spent many hours with Thomas, learning about the monks, monastery life, the Dalai Lama, and Buddhist tradition from a very personal and knowledgeable perspective. We learned so much from him. Much more, in fact, than if we had spent our time with Thupten, who couldn’t speak any English. “Letting go” allowed Alexis and I to trade in a huge disappointment for an enriching life experience.

Learning From India #2: Customer Appreciation, India Style

This is an old tin sign that hung on the wall behind the manager’s desk in a local vanilla distribution warehouse in Kerala, southern India. It’s a good reminder, because many times the customer is seen as an “inconvenience”. That means both internal and external customers.

It’s easy to forget that without the customer your business would cease to exist. How you perceive them and treat them ultimately defines the success of your organization.

Customer sign

Learning From India #1: Need


My wife Alexis and I recently spent an amazing month in southern India. We discovered along the way that it was not really a vacation but more of a journey, the distinction being subtle but quite profound. Here is the first of many things we learned while traveling there:


We had packed one suitcase for the both of us that had contained what we thought were vital necessities for a month in India. It had included clothes, shoes, mosquito repellant, electronic cords, toiletries, and a whole lot of other items that we thought for sure we couldn’t possibly live without.

Unfortunately, British Airways lost our baggage and couldn’t find it for several days. By the time it was finally tracked down at the Delhi Airport, we were 1200 miles away in southern India. It had been impounded by Customs there and the only way we could retrieve it was to fly back to Delhi to claim it, and that just wasn’t an option. Instead we decided to let it go and get over it, and we would pick it up on our way back home to the US a month later.

Initially we were shocked that we would be without all the things that we thought we needed for our travels. Also mixed in with this emotion was a small measure of panic, a dash of annoyance and a pinch of anger. This was a trip of a lifetime and how on earth were we going to survive without all our stuff???

This could have put a serious dent in our experience of India until we realized that all the things that were in the suitcase were just that, simply “things.”

We shopped for some clothing and a few toiletries, which ended up being less than half of what was in the suitcase that we had thought was so essential for our trip. Instead of trying to replace our stash of western stuff we instead bought Indian styles, including shalwar kameez and dhotis. By doing so, we ended up creating a lovely and friendly way to meet people because we were showing respect for their culture. We would never have experienced that had we not lost our suitcase.

Metaphorically speaking, it was an illuminating experience to have traveled all around India without any “baggage”.

It got me thinking about how often we human beings feel that we “need” things in our personal and professional lives. We say things like, “I need this promotion”, “I need this car”, “I need to make more money.”

Although achieving any of these goals would indeed enhance our lives, need is not the operative word here. To me, “needing” things suggests a secret kind of fear that who I am isn’t worthy unless I have the stuff I don’t have.

In reality, replacing “need” with “want” releases us from the fear of lack – of being without. It’s hard to create a feeling of abundance or plenty if we constantly live in fear that we don’t have enough.

As our trip unfolded, we quickly realized that being without our bag in India wasn’t an issue at all. It didn’t get in the way of our loving and enjoying all our experiences. In fact, it became one of the comic highlights of our trip, the story of the miscreant suitcase. We just had to give up being needy.

Qualities of an Effective Boss

In 2009 Google embarked on a plan named Project Oxygen. Their intent was not to create a new app or search engine, but to discover how to build a better boss. They believed that building a better boss was vital to their future success.

 Now, this is a data based organization, so you know that they didn’t slack when it came to finding data to support their findings.

Quite the contrary, the statisticians compiled over 10,000 observations about managers. They spent hours poring over performance reviews and feedback surveys across over 100 variables, looking for emerging patterns in the data.

They synthesized the data, coded it and ended up with over 400 pages of notes from interviews.

You would think that the results would have been startingly revealing and different than anything that has been compiled in the past.

But it wasn’t. The list that they came up with, after all this exhaustive research, that determines “the qualities of an effective boss” was anything but startling. In fact, it was downright mundane and predictable.

These are their findings in order of importance:

  1. Be a good coach
  2. Empower your team and don’t micromanage
  3. Express interest in team member’s success and personal well-being
  4. Don’t be a sissy: Be productive and results oriented
  5. Be a good communicator and listen to your team
  6. Help your employees with career development
  7. Have a clear vision and strategy for the team
  8. Have technical skills so that you can help the team

The list almost elicits a “like, duh” response. But there you have it. Arguably one of the most innovative and progressive organizations in our universe comes up with a leadership mantra that is as old as the hills themselves.

Maybe leadership is this obvious but just hard to learn.


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