Bulletproof Coffee and the Misunderstanding of ‘Resilience’

Bulletproof Coffee and the Misunderstanding of ‘Resilience’

I’m recently back from LA, the home of bulletproof coffee and the location of the first bulletproof coffee shop (Santa Monica in case you were wondering!).

If you don’t know the bulletproof coffee concept, then it’s the brainchild of Dave Asprey and basically it’s great quality coffee blended with butter and an extract of the medium chain fats found in coconut oil. This high-fat drink helps your body release energy slowly and keeps you going until lunchtime.

OK, less about the coffee and more about the concept of ‘bulletproof’…

 

Are You ‘Bulletproof’?

 

The word bulletproof reminded me about resilience; not so much the way I define and experience it, but the way that some people think of it — that idea that you have to let all the bad stuff bounce off you. Like wearing the emotional equivalent of a bulletproof vest.

That’s so crazy. How is it possible not to be affected by things that happen to us? In fact, there’s research that suppressing our emotions is harmful to our physical health.

What resilience, true resilience, looks like to me, is the ability to experience deeply whatever is happening to us, and, at the same time, to know that our experience is transient.

 

Where Does Our Experience Come From?

 

Something I work with my clients on is an understanding of where their experience is coming from and therefore an understanding of what’s real and what isn’t.

We all live in a thought-created reality, which means that none of us experiences exactly the same thing, nor do we see the world in the same way.

You’ll know this to be true if your partner or a work colleague has a serious reaction to something that, to you, looks unimportant. Or you see some people having a serious overreaction to traffic while others see it as an opportunity to sit back and enjoy a podcast or two. Same circumstances, different experience.

And, no matter how bad that experience, it’s all transient. It only looks as if it isn’t when we continue to focus on something from the past, or we continue to create a false picture about the future.

Even the deepest grief is transient. It returns to us from time to time and it can be supplanted by joy and laughter at other times.

 

So, Resilience…?

 

Understanding this is the essential nature of resilience. All our experiences pass, which means we all have a natural resilience.

I think of it like a PlayStation game (comes from living with teenage boys!); every game comes with a reset button. The boys play all out to win but, if they meet an opponent unexpectedly and lose the battle, they simply reset and start over.

It’s the same in life.

Our natural resilience is a reset button; it isn’t a layer of bulletproof emotional kevlar.

 

What Do You Think?

 

What’s your experience here? Have you tried to ‘tough it out’? Maybe tried to convince yourself that you need to ‘be strong’ when the going gets sticky?

How about you forget that approach and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions are coming up for you. Know that — no matter how bad — your experience at this moment is going to pass.

You have the exact same natural resilience as everyone around you because that’s how the system works.

You are resilient because you are human.

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. If you have questions or thoughts about this post or you’re curious about understanding your innate resilience, please message me – I’d be happy to help.

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My Korean Restaurant Dilemma and What It Has to Do with Problem Solving

My Korean Restaurant Dilemma and What It Has to Do with Problem Solving

I’ve been thinking about problem-solving recently and the tendency we have to look to the subject of what we want to resolve.

“I need a solution to this difficult client problem.”

“I need a new business idea.”

“I need to work on my presentation skills.”

 

Here’s the Pattern

 

We look at the thing we want to work on. It seems sensible to us to ‘think’ more about what’s wrong or how we could come up with a new perspective. We make lists; we prioritise ideas, we to try to figure it out.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that the more we focus on something, the harder it can be to get new ideas about the very thing we want to solve.

I know this can look like a paradox, but there’s a gulf of difference between coming up with a new way to tackle the thing you want to solve, and having a completely new idea.

 

Here’s What Happens

 

When we look at an existing problem, we are looking at the problem from only one perspective.

As Einstein says (or whoever said these words that have been credited to Einstein!),

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

 

The Korean Restaurant Problem

 

I was out with some family and friends recently. We’d gone to a Korean restaurant and one of my friends is a vegetarian. We asked for the best recommendation for my vegetarian friend and the waiter pointed to one of the choices and told us we could have that with or without meat. That was it, one choice. Take it or leave it.

Now we could have looked at other variations on the menu, perhaps asked for some new combination of appetisers or something from the menu.

That’s very different to starting over and asking my friend what she would like to eat if she could have the chef make her anything at all.

 

Problem-Solving Versus Innovation

 

Sometimes we need to resolve something quickly and we turn to what we already know. We reduce our options, we tweak and look more intently at the thing in front of us.

When we’re looking for innovation, however; a leap in performance or productivity, or the solution to a complex or challenging problem, this approach will only reduce the choices in front of us.

The truly new ideas, the things that give us exponential results or even eradicate a problem entirely come only from new thinking.

Those solutions can’t be ‘figured out’ because they come from somewhere beyond our conscious thought. They require space, they require emptiness, they require trust in the process of creativity.

 

The Idea-In-The-Shower Moment

 

We’ve all have it — those ideas that come in the shower, when we’re out for a run, while we’re doing the ironing… we know it works, but do we allow it to be our go-to process?

Many people I meet still believe they are in control of this process; that their conscious brain can somehow come up with a better idea than the unconscious, the world beyond what we know and see in the moment.

Ideas need space to gestate, they come from nothing, they come when we aren’t looking. Yet we fill our heads and our time with all the thinking we can possibly cram in about the ‘problems’ we are experiencing.

It’s only when we let go of this, when we value the space, when we actually create space and let go of attachment to the problem, when we allow ideas to flow again and again that we get something brand new.

Am I saying not to worry about things? Am I saying never to try to find solutions to problems? No, not at all. Sometimes there’s an easy fix to a simple problems and a little intellectual input is all we need.

But, when we get those thorny issues, the big challenges that, if resolved, could be game changers for our business, the wider world, or for us personally, then we need to adopt a different strategy.

We need to give over our intellect to the blank page, the space of new thinking. That’s when the wonderful shows up.

And it always does, my friend, because that’s how the idea creation process work. Don’t think you have to ‘do’ anything at all.

With love,

Cathy

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This One’s Above Our Pay Grade

This One’s Above Our Pay Grade

It’s surprising to me how much time I (and most people I know) spend running future scenarios through our mind.

And why?

Well maybe there’s an evolutionary response about being watchful for danger, but in the world most of us live in, it’s simply exhausting and fruitless.

 

Even though I know this, I still engage in it unconsciously.

 

My oldest son, for example, has changed his job a couple of times recently; he can’t quite find his feet and I’m not even sure he’s in the right industry. In quiet moments, in the car usually, I find myself ‘worrying’ about him, wondering what might be next, whether he’s happy, how I can make it ‘OK’ for him. Normal mum behaviour 😉

Because, of course, his well-being is my responsibility, right? I have to protect him from those metaphorical sabre-toothed tigers?

 

Well, no actually, it isn’t.

 

I love my children more than anything in the world. If you’re a parent, then you’ll know that we want nothing more than for our children to be OK; to be happy; to be protected from pain and suffering in whatever form that comes.

If you’re not a parent, you probably have parents and have experienced the other side of parental love. If it appears overpowering, it’s simply based on a misunderstanding of what’s in our job description.

The place of balance is that, no matter how much we love someone, we have no idea what’s next in their life, in the same way we have no idea what’s next in our own. And even if we did, choosing one job over another can’t make someone happy.

No matter what happens to my son in this job or the next, he’s going to be OK. I don’t mean that glibly, in the sense of, “he’s going to get another job and be OK.” I mean that, deep down, underneath everything, he has the capacity to see what’s true, the creativity to work things out, and the resilience to bounce back, even from the deepest pain.

 

I’m not in control of what comes next for him. I don’t even believe he’s in control of it.

 

None of us need strategies for managing the future, none of us need life plans — because ‘life’ has a way of happening to us, of laughing up her sleeve any time we forget this is how it works.

Let’s stop spending so much time and energy thinking worrying about the future; chewing over decisions as if one outcome is more important than another. The reality is that we are very bad at predicting what’s going to happen. Joining the dots in hindsight — “oh I knew that job wasn’t going to work out!” — is simply ex-post rationalisation; it doesn’t make it true.

I can’t create certainty, I can’t control what’s ahead of me (or ahead for my son, or my clients); I can only respond to what’s in front of me right now, do what makes sense for me to do in this moment and, in the next moment, the next piece will fall into place.

Worrying about future outcomes is insidious; most of us don’t realise we’re doing it — until we see that we are and realise how crazy it makes us. Like the dog who’s just realised the thing he’s chasing is his tail, we can instantly step back and relax.

There’s a quote, variously attributed to Mark Twain, Churchill and Michel de Montaigne, the words of which are more true than we realise,

“I’ve had a great many troubles in my life,
most of which never actually happened.”

It IS in my job description to love my son, to love my clients, to love the people around me and to be present for them when we’re together.

It isn’t in my job description to control the future — for them or for me — and, as soon as I let that go, the more present I can be, and the less time I need to spend worrying about things that are well beyond my pay grade.

The day gets a lot brighter when I spend it in that place!

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. Once my clients see this difference, both at work and at home, it changes the basis of everything. It frees them from stress, it enables them to make better, clearer decisions, and it enables them to show up as one of the high performers, always able to keep a clear head and respond strategically to whatever comes up.

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Are You Ruling Yourself Out Before You Know What Game You’re Playing?

Are You Ruling Yourself Out Before You Know What Game You’re Playing?

Today I want to talk about something you might be doing that you don’t realise — ruling yourself out before the game’s even started…

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to tender for a project — something huge, with global impact, working with people I would love to connect with, and getting in ever-so-slightly above my head.

 

What’s not to like?

 

In the moment I opened the email I only saw words that were the things I didn’t do, so I wrote back saying “thanks, but no thanks.”

Later, it struck me, “what was I thinking??!”

I’d assumed it wasn’t for me without even giving it a chance.

What’s true is, yes, there were parts of the project that didn’t look like the kind of work I do. But the person designing the project doesn’t see the world the same way I do, so, of course, she wouldn’t use the same words. She assumes the way to reach the outcome she wants is on the path that makes the most sense to her.

But what does she really want? What change was she aiming for? And maybe something (or someone) a little disruptive could be the answer to her dream.

You see, I’d ruled myself out before I even knew what game we were playing.

How crazy is that?

In this case, I spotted it and I was able to go back and apologise; to explain that I’d had second thoughts, and to please send me the further details. I might pitch, I might not, but I’m glad I gave myself that chance to consider more fully.

 

We can only make decisions one step at a time.

 

The first step is to find out more, the second might be to ask some questions. The right step definitely isn’t to imagine an outcome that’s thirty steps down the line!

So, I wonder if there’s anywhere in your life that you’re doing this? Ruling yourself out before the game’s even started?

Maybe it’s a job, maybe it’s in a relationship, maybe it’s just trying a new restaurant or taking a chance on a holiday destination you’re uncertain about.

Maybe you’ll find that game isn’t for you, or perhaps you’ll find that it can be fun to play out of your depth, and you can bring something new to people who need it.

At least give yourself the chance to find out what the game is before you rule yourself out.

With love,

Cathy

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How Blanket Judgements Close Us Off to Our Potential

How Blanket Judgements Close Us Off to Our Potential

There’s so much talk (and judgement!) at the moment about our political leaders; judgement that is usually negative, ranging from an outright ‘unfit for office’, to a lesser criticism of ‘hasn’t got much of a policy agenda’.

 

Not Always…

 

Earlier this week a politician I’d worked closely with for many years passed away suddenly. He’d retired from office although he was still active in public life, and he died while out cycling near his house.

I found myself deeply saddened by his death and it made me reflect on the quality of a person who’d dedicated his life to something he believed in.

I found myself thinking of him as a rare talent, always one to look at the right thing first and create the political way through that. He wasn’t dimmed by failure, he never let political dogma overtake his humanness, he simply moved on with grace and humour.

We’d travelled together, plotting behind the scenes deals with other leaders; we’d parried back and forth on the ideas behind policy proposals, and I’d briefed and supported him in debates and committees.

I’d also seen him a little shaken after his first heart attack; realising that a certain pace of life came at a cost, one he wasn’t willing to pay. He changed his lifestyle, and I know he had retirement in his eye from that point on.

Ultimately, he was a very human politician, a clever man and a kind one.

 

Emotion Is Personal; Potential Is Universal

 

When we lose someone we admire, it’s a reminder of the potential in all of us. It’s a reminder that our doubts and fears are as unreal and transitory as the dreams we have while we sleep.

To be human IS to fail. It is to get it wrong, to make mistakes, to make a fool of ourselves, to be less than perfect, and to pick ourselves up, shake ourselves off and continue to work for what we believe in.

My sadness will pass, but these human moments can be a reminder about how we’re choosing to live; whether we’re grabbing hold of the chances that are being offered to us, whether we respect life, respect others, and whether we’re open to connecting with the humanity inside everyone.

It’s good to take a moment to reflect sometimes.

With love,

Cathy

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