How politics help…

…to speed up the process of de-institutionalising.

Today I came across a blog by Umair Haque on HBR Blog Network (http://bit.ly/on7eEo) about the question if America is giving up on its future.  As he states:

“Washington’s bogged down in games of brinksmanship instead of practicing the art of leadership. Hell-bent on running each other into the ground — instead of running the nation — America’s so-called leaders are sending us into what wonks are calling a “policy-induced recession.””, Mr Haque continues and quotes Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (http://read.bi/nP5JvF).

In his Liberty Medal acceptance speech at the National Constitution Center on September 22, 2011, Dr Gates says:

“I do believe that we are now in uncharted waters when it comes to the dysfunction in our political system — and it is no longer a joking matter…we have lost the ability to execute even the basic functions of government, much less solve the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. Thus, I am more concerned than I have ever been about the state of American governance.” (you can read the entire speech at http://bit.ly/nBH4ig)

To me that is spot on and I’m pleasantly surprised in a way to hear this from a leader from the establishment. And this process of political leaders being hell-bent running each other down is not only taking place in the USA of course. In many countries around the world that have some kind of democratically chosen government the same process takes place. Whether it’s Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, UK, France, just to name a few. Polarisation seems to be the only possible way forward, obviously not for the nations the politicians are supposed to serve but at least for the contenders for political leadership functions themselves. Political discourse has degenerated in a superficial and course debate with the sole aim of slandering the opponents. A different view is not only different; it is bad as is the person expressing that view and all those who agree to that. And yes indeed, I covered the theme in my novel The Glass Dome as well. I choose to believe that the challenges we are facing are from a different order. To me it seems as if something rather large is happening and is inviting us to take a step back, try to see what wants to manifest and gain a different understanding. Indeed: finding solutions on a different level than where the current problems have been created. And yes, sure, that will lead to a radically different outcome. It looks to me as if the political system as we know it in our democracies is starting to come apart. (For dictators there’s even less hope as the Arab Spring has demonstrated.) I do not know exactly how the new leadership will look like but I would imagine it being non-hierarchical and distributed with those individuals meaningfully contributing to that based on the temporary match between what any given situation requires and the talents they have. And that would be a radical change from where we are now.

But it also seems that pressure needs to rise more on us before a critical mass wakes up and has the courage to start living that in-radix change, which in my view will be a step in the direction of the destiny of mankind. From our current political leaders no such thing can be expected, trapped as they are in their fixed scenarios. Focused on trying to keep the current system in tact, while at the same time accelerating its decline. Victims of their own roleplay which should make all of us careful not to become victims of that as well. I don’t hold all the answers and I choose to believe that no single person does. We’re past that era. Collectively we do, however and I’m very interested in seeing how we can connect and mobilise that hidden, yet unmanifest intelligence and wisdom we all carry, while ensuring each individual’s freedom.

Let’s wake up to a meaningful way forward! There’s interesting work to do.

Many blessings,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

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How do you do it?

One of the questions I get asked on a regular basis is how to connect with your personal destiny. And most of the time that question coming from busy executives, managers, professionals and what not, as a rule this question  is followed by the desire to get a few practical tips.

Of course.

We wouldn’t want to waste time in our lives that are governed by the back-to-back appointments in our diaries. We only take the shortest and fastest way forward to serve out goals. In my naivety I used to say when I started working with this concept that there is no such thing as a quick, three-step approach to finding and living one’s destiny. I believed that one had to suffer and work hard in order to get connected to it. Nowadays I see that a bit differently. I still choose to believe that there is no way to living the life you are called to without actually embracing it. Yes, I too can see this is an obvious statement. Nevertheless I consider it to be true. What I no longer believe is that it requires suffering and hard work to get there. Well, in most instances, that is. There’s hard work involved when you get to recognise you are your beliefs. Not only do we have beliefs, we are the stories we have created about ourselves and the world we live in. And keep creating for that matter. It may take a while before you’re comfortable with that and that’s perfectly alright. It may then take some more time to work on those as you sometimes need to get over a certain threshold to start engaging yourself in a conversation with your beliefs.

But that’s not for now; back to the question: how do you connect with your personal destiny?

The first thing I would consider is that you need to get out of your normal routine and to find some silence. In his book,  ‘Soul Mission, Life Vision’, Alan Seale calls this finding your point of stillness. Personally, I like that description. There are probably a great many ways of finding that. I would like to share a way that seems to work pretty well for most people I have worked with, as it does for myself. First of all: find a chair on which you can sit comfortably, preferably with your back straightened. Make sure you put both your feet  stable on the ground. Your hands go where they are comfortable, probably in your lap. Now close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Most of the time our breathing is rather superficial and fast, preparing our body for action. That’s not what we’re looking for here. So start breathing calmly through your diaphragm. When you use your diaphragm (as babies naturally do) your belly moves out a bit when you inhale. That’s because the lungs push the diaphragm downward. So calmly take a deep breath and try to have your lungs push the diaphragm downward a bit. When you exhale, the opposite happens: your diaphragm will gently push upward, pushing the air out of your lungs. Why don’t you try this for a bit? And please, don’t panic if it doesn’t seem to work right away. When you’re very busy at work your mind may fire all kinds of thoughts relating to your busy schedule. That’s fine. Let it do so. Just maintain your position in the chair as described and return to the ‘belly’- breathing. On the one hand it is a simple exercise, which you can do everywhere, anytime. On the other hand it’s difficult because you’re not used to it. It probably will take a bit of practice to get accustomed to it, but, hey, that’s where the saying ‘practice makes perfect comes from. A singing teacher once told me that when adults join her classes they are so not accustomed to using their diaphragm that the first few lessons, much attention is given to this as it is a prerequisite for singers. Just allow yourself the time to get used to this rhythm. It’s up to you how long you wish to continue this exercise but once you’re getting into the rhythm, you may notice some effects other than feeling awkward. Perhaps you will start noticing the silence as it is. Perhaps you find this relaxing. I would be very curious to learn what thoughts start surfacing and how they’re different from your ‘normal’ day-to-day thoughts. It may seem as if something else is trying to speak to you: your intuition. Once you get to this stage, you’re getting in the district of finding your calling. It’s the first step, albeit a valuable one.

Good luck trying it!

Many blessings,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

The Very Reason…

Since I don’t know when, I’ve been aware that there must be a reason why I came into existence. Yes of course, my parents were involved in the process but the biological part is not what I’m referring to. What I mean is that I choose to believe that I have a calling. There’s something in this life to which I’m called. As a matter of fact: I’m not the only one,  we all have a calling, a higher purpose, a personal destiny. Or a soul mission as my friend Alan Seale beautifully labels it. (You may want to check out his much acclaimed book “Soul Mission, Life Vision” http://bit.ly/pnjEuY )

Almost every time I bring this up during a lecture or a workshop, I ask the participants if they agree to this and if so if they could come up with the names of a few people who live their calling. Typically they will come up with names like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela. Obviously these were and are great people, influencing a great many of us around the globe. What I find peculiar is that hardly anyone of the participants really believes he or she has one too. They may have a mental understanding of the concept which leads them to think “Yeah, right, makes sense to me. Sure, I have one too”. But they can’t imagine ever having a life based on this. It’s impossible for them to conceive a life where their higher purpose is the guiding theme for them in whatever they do. Dealing with the daily exigencies of modern life they hardly find the time to ponder on this thought let alone to explore the route to connecting with their calling. So they choose to believe that having a life based on your personal destiny is a privilege for a few great minds. And for the rest it is probably a luxury to which one can put one’s attention after the more basic needs in life are met.

However, it is the principal reason for our very existence. Our personal destiny is about what our soul wants to express and therewith allow to manifest that which wants to manifest in our life, contributing to our life and to our environment at large. When you look at it from this angle, you may wonder why only a few people have a clear understanding of their personal destiny.

Now suppose it would be the other way around. Instead of telling yourself you have no time for this, or that this doesn’t seem to be serving your immediate needs, suppose you could listen to your innermost voice that expresses this calling. Suppose you would. How would that affect your life? What would be different from the life you’re having now? What would you be doing? Why would you be doing that? What would you have stopped doing? Why? I would like to invite you to stay with this for a bit and play with these thoughts.

How do you like that outcome? How does imagining a life based on your personal destiny make you feel? Most people would state they kind of like the picture of how their life looks like and how it makes them feel. Many of us will refer to this as a state of peacefulness. But also ‘happiness’ is often heard, as are terms like ‘fulfillment’, ‘meaningfulness’ or ‘joy’. It has something to do with knowing who you are and with being happy with that (as opposed to fighting this by wanting to be somebody else).

Now let’s take this a step up. Suppose an important part of all men and women on our planet would live their calling. Let’s be bold and say that we’re talking about the majority of all people. One of the first things to observe is that none of our individual callings are conflicting with another. None is better or worse, they each have their own contribution to make. People living their calling often tell me it feels so natural to them that it almost feels as if they have no other choice. Obviously they do have one but it shows how powerful connecting to your life purpose is. They tell me they feel they are connected to something which is bigger than just themselves and their personal, short-term often material desires. Without feeling they are making a sacrifice, they contribute to making the world a better place for all, however small their contribution might seem. So they most definitely don’t retreat to some far away desolate corner of the planet. They don’t seclude themselves from the rest of us. On the contrary, they choose to engage and co-create the future with others in an ever-changing universe. Without proselytizing, without preaching, without imposing their ideas on others.

Without knowing exactly how our planet would look like if the majority of its inhabitants would follow their calling, I know for sure that the outcomes of that would be different from what we have now. With no need for judging others, fearing others or fearing having not enough for oneself it is fair to assume that there would be more room for sharing what is available, more caring for all on the planet, more freedom, more space for a shared, global consciousness. A growing awareness that indeed we are all one and that separation is an illusion.  A wise old
friend once told me that people who live their personal destiny bring peace. I love this statement and it resonates deeply with me.

What about you? How do you think the world would look like when more and more people start living? Let me know! Post a comment and let’s get a conversation started. Let all of us know how you would see the world different than it is now.

Thank you! Many blessings,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

 

Almost there (3 and last)

OK, here’s the last part of the writing process. Just to recap: I managed to embrace the idea that I’m an author and have started to learn to recognize that whenever I surrender to what wants to happen great things happen right away. A great starting point for the period that followed, finishing the revised second edition of the manuscript. Several friends had given great feedback on the first draft and soliciting their feedback was quite scary at first but morale boosting when they actually told me in detail what they liked about it and how it resonated with them. But OK, I had revised the first draft and now it was time to send it out to a different audience.

As it is in English, I had given it some thought how and where to find a publisher. The UK seemed to be my best bet and quickly I found out that publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. That’s the role of the literary agents. They act as a buffer for the publishers and their task is to separate those manuscripts that they believe have commercial potential from those that they believe that don’t have that. And from the sheer numbers of manuscripts that are being sent out each week alone, that makes a lot of sense. After having researched the agents I made a list of some 20 of which I thought they might be interested. It was actually great fun studying what each of them wants to receive in order to be
able to judge whether or not my manuscript is something they would want to work with. Or in other words: to make the decision whether or not they would represent me. In spite of all the warnings about the unlikeliness of finding representation at all I felt confident enough to start sending off whatever it was each of them requested. What I hadn’t expected is that they would react at all (as some of them had mentioned on their websites). By far most of them wrote a mail or a letter, giving me the impression they had actually looked at the material. Which means that real agents had read something I had written as they would read something real authors would write! And although no one felt they could offer representation it boosted my self-confidence enormously and further amplified my belief that the novel would be published. What I had not anticipated is how fast that would go. Half June I got a mail from Shaker Media that they would be delighted to publish the novel. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the mail. At first I read the words ‘unfortunately’ and ‘I’m sorry’ which sounded as a standard rejection. However as I re-read the mail it said “I’m sorry that I can’t continue reading your manuscript as, unfortunately, you only sent the first 50 pages. It should be
clear by now that we would be delighted to publish ‘The Glass Dome’. “ I nearly exploded for joy. Immediately I though back of what JK Rowling wrote in the 2011 Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook about seeing this message from her agent about wanting to read the balance of her manuscript. ‘The most magical words I have ever read’ as she had put it. And boy, could I relate to that!

What I thought would follow was a week or two (at max) of calmly going through the manuscript. Yeah, right. What really followed were six weeks of intensely working round the clock completely revising the manuscript. I had gotten some feedback in January about some weaker parts in the story. I could understand that feedback but, strange as it may sound, I couldn’t see it back then. But now I saw it and I radically changed most of the second part of the story while improving the first part. Then there was the cover design, deciding on the size of the book, the colour of the paper, the quality of the paper, page layout. contracts, what not. A very intense period at the end of which I had a sense of achievement and….. a feeling that I was not sure if anybody should actually read the story. Fortunately that feeling vanished in seconds after it had surfaced 🙂

As we speak, the book is being produced and should be ready for distribution sometime in the second week of September. One of the great things of working with Shaker Media to me is that we’re co-creating the success of the novel. It’s not that they take it out of my hands and I just sit and wait what happens. On the other side, there not one of those printing-on-demand suppliers either. It is an interesting mix of a traditional publishing house and modern printing and distribution techniques. I’m sure our relationship will intensify over the coming months and I’m looking forward to that.

Having (almost) finished the writing and production phase a new phase has started: getting it to the market. That’s going to be an interesting experience in itself but as it was with finding a publisher: I’m fully confident many people all over the world will just love to read it. So, yeah, by all means: if you want to pre-order your personal copy, with a personal dedication just drop me a message. For now, I’ll be engaged in marketing the novel and…..starting to write the second one, which will be related somehow to The Glass Dome. Stay tuned!

Love and Blessings,

Geert

www.geerthofman.com

Almost there (2)

As promised, I would tell you a bit more how the writing process continued after I had accepted that I am an  Author 🙂 Somehow I had always  said that before the year 2010 was over, I would go into some kind of retreat and review what I had gotten so far in order to come up with the first version of the manuscript. It must have been clear from the outset even to me as an unexperienced writer that it would take more than one version of the manuscript before it would be published. So mid-november I was ready for that and some funny synchronicity happened. Friends of mine had offered space at their place somewhere high in the Swiss alps. Unfortunately they had to come back on their offer, which I fully understood. Several other options were presented but I just felt it had to be the alps where I would finish the first version of the manuscript. Upon checking flights to Zürich I noticed a bargain right at the day I needed to fly out. I booked it without knowing where to stay. This is not a normal thing to do for me as I would have checked out everything around the trip before booking the flight. After having researched several sites for holiday homes I found a place in Saas Fee. It listed as most expensive compared to various alternatives but it just felt right. So on the eve of the trip I talked to the gentleman renting this place out and confirmed I would be there the following day. Without any deposit or credit card data given whatsoever.

On my way to Zürich I started doubting the whole thing. Basically it was ludicrous to spend scarce money on a flight and a holiday home. Why couldn’t I just stay home and do this work in the hotel in Hannover? Still feeling far from sure that this was the right thing to do I boarded the train at Zürich Airport to Visp. It was only after an hour or so on the train that I started to surrender to the situation. After all it was all sunk cost now and if I had felt so strongly about reviewing the manuscript in the mountains, it would make no sense to chicken out now. By the time I arrived in Saas Fee I had started to feel a bit excited. It was stone cold, the village was covered under a thick layer of snow which gave it something idyllic. After only a few minutes the home owner arrived with his small electrical car. He was as excited as I was, probably for different reasons as he must have had some doubt if I would show up at all when we spoke on the blower the night before. Upon arriving in my room I knew that I would be perfectly alright there. He had put in a bigger desk as I had told him I would come to write and not for skiing like everybody else. As I put the printed manuscript on the desk, he looked in awe at the pile of paper and said that I was obviously serious about working. After I had unpacked the rest and made the place look a bit like it was my home, I went out to get some more of that crisp mountain air. By now I was really excited and I couldn’t believe I had quite different thoughts about this small venture. And this got stronger……

The next day I started working at 10 am. If I would go through some 30 pages per day I would be through by the end of my stay and that would be fine. That turned out quite differently…. At the end of the first day, towards midnight I had worked through 165 pages of the manuscript. Totally in flow, obviously. I decided to stop in order to stay in a kind of regular pattern. One thing had become very clear though: taking the trip to Saas Fee was the best decision I could have made.  And all the other considerations were limiting beliefs manifesting. Weird but true. Needless to say that after the 12 days I felt happy and confident with the first version of the manuscript that would leave the seclusion of my private working space.

My biggest learning here was that I need to create the context which I need for an optimal result of whatever I’m undertaking. Rather than settling for something far less facilitating and then kind of stagger on, on the basis of will power but in the absence of flow. And as before, synchronicity occurs right away. Quite a powerful learning! What is a way for me to get to that place is, given my intention, to allow things to happen. I clearly got some learning to do there but I’m working on that. So yes, me too, I’m still haunted by stories that I have created myself from time to time and that keep me from doing what I should be doing. In techno-terms: limiting beliefs. So, uhhh, Motto of the day: Away with limiting beliefs! 🙂

Obviously, a few other things took place before I got to the end result and I’ll share those in part 3. Stay tuned! Love and Blessings, Geert

Almost there (1)

Phew, it has been quite a process. I mean writing my first novel ever ‘The Glass Dome’ (www.geerthofman.com/glass-dome). It started with an idea sometime back in 2009 and it took the encouragement of the participants of a workshop I was attending to actually start writing on it. Of course, I had a notion about what I wanted to write about but somehow it turned out to be extremely difficult to get into a flow of writing. I could be very disciplined and sit at my desk with the file opened. But staring outside or reading whatever popped up on my notebook screen or playing the odd game wasn’t really productive. And although I didn’t allow myself to go do other things (which I might have done as well) nothing much happened. From an interview with Paolo Coelho I learned that he ‘suffered’ procrastination as well. Having planned a day of writing at his desk, the first thing he needed to do in the morning is go into town for a coffee and to have a peek at the papers. And then of course he would run into someone he knew, get engaged in a conversation, probably have lunch and return home sometime late afternoon.

After having suffered more than just a few unproductive hours sitting at my desk, I found out that I got quite productive while working at other places. For instance, one day I worked almost six hours straight in the SAS lounge at Brussels Airport. The train from Hannover to Amsterdam vv turned out to be a good spot as well. There have been hours while flying, in restaurants, hotels, benches in parks, you name it. The most peculiar experience probably being sitting behind the steering wheel of my car, frantically typing during two hours I had in between two meetings. And finally I found a place in a hotel in Hannover where I would regularly go to. That created an atmosphere of going to the office. Although the restaurant was anything but quiet, I spent a good deal of my writing hours there at “my” table. Still, the flow I experienced was relatively short-lived and somehow superficial it seemed. This changed one morning in September 2010.

As I walked from the parking towards the lake entrance of the restaurant I peeked in to see of “my” table was free, as it usually was. I felt relieved that on that day too it was waiting just for me. Seconds later however as I opened the door and walked in, I saw somebody unpacking his notebook and installing it on “my” table. Within a second I was raging with anger. How could this be possible? I just checked seconds ago and the table was empty. Where did this man all of a sudden come from? Was he real or just a creation of my imagination? Was it one of those quantum particles popping up in my life? Anger subsiding I took place at the only other table with a socket for my notebook’s charger, still looking at the person at “my” table. One of the waitresses was patiently waiting until he was done unpacking and installing so she could put his can of coffee on the table. Recognising me, she looked at me with a smile, probably feeling amused that there was someone else writing at their place as well and having the same coffee as I normally had. It caused the man to look up and to address me. He suspected I did the same as he did. Which would be writing on a report or so in between two appointments. When I told him specifically came there to write, he giggled and asked if I was an author then. What followed was anything but pleasant for me. Well, at least for a minute or so. You may not believe this but I wasn’t able to answer the question. Thoughts raged through my mind trying to come up with a suitable answer. “Tell him you’re a coach, executive coach, senior consultant, manager, director, ceo, whatever.” After what seemed an eternity to me I managed to say “Yes, I’m an author.” My heart pounding, my breathing more like panting I felt anything but calm but still a bit better than before now that I had said it. He laughed and came to my table to give me his business card. We exchanged a few friendly words and when he got back to his place I felt enormously liberated. It was as if something had opened up and as if that enabled energy to flow where it previously could not flow. It was the first time I publicly declared that I’m an author. And I felt good about that. Well, I allowed myself to feel good about that. Before this incident I would say that I’m an executive coach and also writing a book. I did not allow myself to feel good about being an author. It wasn’t that I forbade myself saying that. No, no. It was buried so deep in a maze of beliefs that the thought never would surface. therewith subconsciously marginalising the importance of this project for me in spite of the synchronicity that would occur whenever I managed to work on it in flow, where I would allow the things to happen, that wanted to happen.

So what I learned from the writing up until that moment is that:

  1. It’s really OK to find or create the context  I (know I) need for writing.
  2. It’s really OK to say that I’m an author, (and actually being one) as it’s really OK to say I’m an executive coach. One doesn’t exclude the other and they should not, at least not at this moment. Apparently I held an enormous set of intricate beliefs about being an author that prevented me of getting in flow.
  3. Synchronicity occurs whenever I stop blocking what wants to manifest. In other words: writing the book is not so much a personal ambition for me. It’s much more a way of expressing what I am already expressing in my work as executive coach. So in a way it’s the same energy wanting to become manifest but only in a different way. Allowing that to happen creates flow and hence great possibilities. Blocking it creates frustration and anti-flow.

I will continue this story to share the remainder of this process in a few days. Shortly, the novel will go in print and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. So yes, there is a happy end to this story.

Hello world!

Hello World,

Yep, it has gotten to me to: this need to make publicly known what’s on my mind. In more than 140 characters that is. So, for the moment I’ll just see how this looks like out there in the open.

Catch you later!

Geert