Monday, August 17, 2009

Consistent Messages – The True Source of Inconsistency.

For the Musings-in-a-Minute version of this blog, please click here.

I noticed a sign on a cemetery gate as I drove by it the other day.  In large letters it read “VISITORS ONLY”.

As I read it, I thought “well, there are only two types of people of interest here”:

  • The people who stop by to pay their respects are just visiting and have no intent of moving there permanently … at least for now.
  • The people who are buried there have no intention of leaving.

So who does the sign apply to?

I laughed and drove on.

I was buying a package of gum yesterday when I observed two signs about cigarettes on the wall behind the clerk.

One sign said something along the lines of “We have created laws for pricing and minimum age requirements to ensure fair, healthy access to these products”.

The other sign right beside it said something along the lines of “You should not smoke because it is dangerous to your health.  For help quitting, call this number”.

Both signs were authored by the same government.

One sign promoting healthy use and access to the product – the other telling you to avoid it before it kills you.

As I was leaving a supermarket today, I noticed a sign that indicated that plastic shopping bags were 5 cents each.  The sign said “We charge 5 cents because we don’t want you to buy plastic bags - they are bad for the environment”.

The manager was there so I mused “If you don’t want people to buy the plastic bags, why not discontinue them altogether or charge $1 or more per bag?”.

The manager replied that they didn’t want to make the cost of the bag prohibitive as this would upset the customer.

I acknowledged this but pointed out the wording on the sign and said “but if you REALLY don’t want us to buy the bag, make it painful, expensive or impossible to get”.

The manager replied that this would make it difficult for customers who really want the bag to get one.

When I said that I understood this but then noted that the sign said “we don’t want you to buy plastic bags”, the manager suddenly remembered that he had a price check to do.

One sign with an interesting conflicting message:  “We don’t want you to buy plastic at all but if that makes you unhappy, we will relent and give you as many as you want”.

How about products that give us incredible amounts of “stuff” for nothing.

  1. Clean anything with no effort.
  2. Preserve any food with no effort.
  3. Cut anything with no effort.
  4. Lose weight with no effort.
  5. Expand your brain with no effort.
  6. Make unlimited money with no effort.

That’s right – act now – think later.

Or worse - don’t think at all – you might notice a disconnect in the message or the intelligence behind the message.

We laugh at the infomercials and think how silly people are to buy such products.

We laugh at the inconsistency or humor of signs that we read that weren’t intended to be funny.

But perhaps if we look inward, we might stop laughing.

For just as the classic infomercial offers something that is often less than authentic, can we claim to be any more authentic when presenting ourselves personally and professionally to others? 

Do the signs that we project make sense?

Do we say one thing to one group and something else to another group?

Do we say one thing to someone but inwardly say something else to ourselves?

Do we loudly trumpet for or against a cause but then secretly practice the complete opposite?

Do we portray ourselves as being in control and on top of our game when we live in fear that our weaknesses (which are in fact perfectly normal) might be discovered?

When it comes to inconsistencies, it is easy to find examples of them in others.

I wonder though if the greatest inconsistencies that we see are in fact mirrors of inconsistencies within ourselves.

Maybe when we notice someone being inauthentic about a specific message they are projecting, perhaps our observation is a reflection of our own inconsistent projection of that message or a variation of that message.

Maybe when we feel ourselves get in a knot about consistency of message, we are in fact in a knot about an internal inconsistency that needs to be corrected.

It is easy to observe, laugh and muse at the inconsistency of many things and people in this world.

But before we do this, let’s make sure we are consistent with ourselves and the message we promote to ourselves and others.

Now if you will excuse me, I have some inconsistencies to iron out.

Yours in service and servanthood.


For the Musings-in-a-Minute version of this blog, please click here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Shadow Effect – The Inner Demon That Enables or Disables Our Life

For my Musings-in-a-Minute about “The Shadow Effect”, please go here.

I have seen a lot of self empowerment movies over the years, including the modern classics such as “The Secret”, “What the Bleep” and others. I enjoy and have been impacted by books such as the classic “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale and the powerful “Leading at a Higher Lever” by Ken Blanchard. They were all interesting, fascinating, positively disruptive and informative in their own ways.

However, when I watched “The Shadow Effect”, my personal definition of who I am and how I came to be was shaken to the core.

The Shadow Effect”, like some of its contemporaries, sports an appealing cast, including Debbie Ford, Deepak Choprah, Mark Victor Hansen, Marianne Williamson and others. Many of these people are the current global leaders in the spiritually uplifting, motivational writing genre of authors.

The movie is based on the premise that each one of us has a shadow side to our life, a darker, potentially disempowering side that was formed early in our childhood through a number of less than positive experiences (at least as perceived by the child). This shadow plays a key role in determining your thoughts and actions through your life and therefore, many of the results in your life, both good and bad.

It’s not like some movies that suggest that if you think bad things, then bad things automatically happen because of some cosmic or karmic process. It is based on the medically accepted fact that any disabling thoughts in your mind will produce disabling actions. For example, if you grew up with a lack of self-worth in your life because you were constantly criticized or perhaps were abused, the shadow that results will cause you to not try as hard in life as you are capable of, since somewhere buried in your psyche you have the belief that you are not worthy of greatness anyway. Disabling thoughts produce a disabled result just as enabled thoughts produce enabled results.

This is also not a movie that you can just watch – watching will be insightful but not transformational. However, if you use the interactive version of the movie as I did and honestly perform the exercises that it presents, I think you may find the results profound.

There is a statistic that 85% of what is spoken to the average child before they reach the age of 5 is based upon things that they shouldn’t do or that they have done wrong. While children need to be taught, they are often not taught in a manner that is constructive. The destructive lessons create a shadow for many of us.

Try as we might to believe that we have no shadow, the movie posits that in fact everyone has one. Deepak Choprah notes

“If you don’t believe you have a shadow, then you are pathological”.

After watching the movie, I reached out to a number of people in the psychiatry, psychology and therapy industry and they confirmed that everyone has a shadow.

That’s not to say that everyone is disabled by their shadow.

In fact, that’s the point of the movie, the notion that once you have named your shadow, that it can be used to enable your life instead of unknowingly allowing it to disable your life. There is a great quote in the movie that sums this up perfectly:

"Our shadow - either we are going to use it or it is going to use you".

The shadow is a necessary component to create what Robert Fritz, the author of “The Path of Least Resistance” refers to as structural tension. Without this structural tension, pushing or pulling us internally and forcing us to grow as a human being, we would not have the internal motivation to grow, learn and produce the results that we are capable of.

The movie provides powerful information from experts in the space of understanding the origins of the shadow and how to bring it out into the open. It also contains compelling examples of people’s shadows and how, once they learned what their shadow was, they used it to make an incredible difference in the lives of many. If you aren’t weeping (or at least a little misty-eyed for us big, tough guys that only cry in private), then I would suggest that you need to get back in touch with your inner spirit.

I have been on a personal quest for authenticity lately and this movie arrived at a moment when I sought tools to help me explore my inner being; who I am, why I do what I do and what produces the results I produce (both good and bad).

And so I followed these exercises as recommended and the result was profound. My shadow stood out – stark, naked and in all its raw power. I was able to clearly define what my shadow is, what it’s source was and what feeds it to this day.

Of real importance to me, I was able to recognize it as the source for all the positive and negative results in my life, since it had formed the basis for my decisions and choices, which in turn have produced the majority of the results in my life. A lot of the inner turmoil that I had experienced in my life could now be traced back to this previously undefined negative energy.

The result of performing the exercises was so powerful that I promptly wrote a long note to my family and my closest friends. In this note, I was totally transparent and authentic about what my shadow looked like, how it came to be and how it impacted my life to this point (the good and the bad).

Having named the elephant in the room, I now have a chance to proactively embrace my shadow, to use its effects and its power to enable me to make better choices for myself and others.

How is this done? You’ll need to watch the movie to find out.

I will say this. To name and embrace your shadow takes a lot of courage. To not embrace your shadow is up to you but to not do so perhaps reduces the phenomenal potential of your life and with that, perhaps your sense of purpose, happiness and contentment.

Do you have the courage? I believe you do. I also believe that you deserve greatness in your life.

Embrace your purpose, your gifts and the lessons from your life.

Watch this movie and be prepared for a new journey in your life.

To purchase a copy of the movie, go here.

To watch it online, you can find it here.

Yours in service and servanthood.


For my Musings-in-a-Minute about “The Shadow Effect”, please go here.