This has been the worst year of my life. So bad I thought I would die, over and over.
But then wonderful things happened. Things that will change me forever.
And nobody really knew because I practiced my own daily practice throughout.
I say this not because I want sympathy. I say it because I’m proud.
I trusted The Force.
Let’s not forget what happens to the people in Star Wars who believe in The Force.
– Luke watches Obi-Wan get killed by Luke’s father
– Luke’s uncle and aunt are killed by The Empire and burned to ashes.
– Luke loses his hand in a fight with his father
– Obi-Wan lives for 20 years by himself. No sex.
– Yoda is exiled after basically ruling the galaxy.
– Obi-wan watches his teacher killed by Darth Maul.
– Obi-wan gets killed by the student he trained. The same student he cut the arms off of and left to die.
– Anakin can’t save his wife
– Princess Leia’s home world gets blown up.
– Rey (the Force Awakens) lives in total poverty after being abandoned by her parents.
In all seven movies nobody has regrets after any of these bad things. Nor do they seem to think good things will automatically happen to them because they “have faith”.
There is simply no other way to live for them. As Yoda says to Luke, “Luminous being are we…not this crude matter.”
So why worry about this crude matter when you can live a life of surrendering to whatever the current moment delivers up to you?
Are we here to always have good things happen? Or to explore the wide spectrum of what life delivers?
So my theme for 2016 is to be a Jedi Knight, as corny as that sounds. What does it mean for me?
SURRENDER TO THE MOMENT
I am always anxious about the future. Or I regret the past. It’s hard not to regret losing lifetimes worth of money.
It’s hard not to feel anxious about the future for me, my family, my loved ones, my friends, because everything is so frustratingly uncertain.
But recognize when those worries come up, and bring it back to right now. What can I do now to best serve the cards dealt me this moment?
Anxiety will only take away energy (the Force) from the current moment and never solve the problems of the future.
I saw this again and again this past year. What a waste it was to ask “Why?” about moments already gone, instead of trusting my own resources for the next moments.
TRUST IN A WORLD BIGGER THAN YOU
The universe , then the Earth, then our species, evolved for 13 billion years to produce you.
And then it’s so easy to think, “thanks guys. I’ll take over from here.”
Trusting that nature, that the work you’ve already put in in life., that the people around you are all your allies (Yoda again: “The Force is my ally”) doesn’t mean that everything will be good.
It just means that everything will be enough. What more do you need if you can then appreciate the subtle beauty that interweaves everything around you. The beauty of coincidence that filters all of the events in your life.
How do you create more coincidences in life? It’s two simple tricks:
BE AROUND GOOD PEOPLE
When I am around people not so good for me, I feel drained. I feel more anxious and upset.
When I am around (for months or years) people who are good for me, I suddenly have more opportunities. I help them and they help me. Over and over. It multiplies in the first year. it compounds in later years.
I never knew this. But now I do.
Now after so many years of being around people who were not so good for me, I see the compounding that happens when I am around people who I respect and love and support and they feel the same as me.
It becomes like my “Justice League”. People I can rely on and who can rely on me to help me change myself and change the world.
It’s ok to make this change slowly. You can’t change all the people around you overnight. I aim for 1% a day improvement.
CREATIVITY EVERY DAY
When Obi-wan was exiled he basically came up with a very complex 20 year plan to bring down the Empire.
You can’t come up with that without practicing your creativity every day.
So every day I do four things:
– I write down ten ideas a day
– I read so that the ideas from one person can mate with ideas I have to create baby ideas that live and thrive. Ideas are the fastest evolving species.
– I try to write or podcast every single day. To stretch out and use my creativity.
– I try to do at least one thing that makes me uncomfortable. Yoda tries to get Luke to lift his X-Wing from the water. Rey finally uses the light saber that scares her.
In the very beginning of the entire series Luke looks up into the stars and is curious about what he will find there, as scary as it can be to go against his uncle, to go against his upbringing.
Curiosity and a wish to expand beyond his horizons takes him on an incredible journey that shapes the seven movies of the series.
Sometimes talking to a random stranger or hitting “publish” at the same second you think “What will people think?” is the way to channel that uncomfortable feeling and make yourself stronger.
Keep a calendar every day. At the end of each day I try to think, “what made me uncomfortable today?” Sometimes I will do nothing. But just asking the question forces my body to recognize those potentially uncomfortable moments when they arise.
And when I feel like the creativity “clicks” I feel it deep inside of me. Like something connected with the world. I feel pleasure in my chest and I feel my brain get a tiny bit bigger.
Improving your creativity 1% each day is what makes a person larger than life. This is my theme for 2016. It’s not a goal, it’s a theme.
For each thing that happens, will it fit my theme? I hope so.
HAVE A SENSE OF WONDER
At the beginning of the entire series, one of the first things we see is Luke staring at the stars, wondering what is out there, what experiences he can have.
Having a sense of wonder, with no regret and often no answers, is the key to exploration and growth.
Often there are no answers. I look out at the future and have no idea what next year will bring. I know that at the end of 2014, I could never have guessed the catastrophes (and good things) that 2015 would bring.
Nor can I have a “goal” and try to control the mammoth complexity of what 2016 will bring.
I can just approach each day with that sense of wonder. That looking at the stars and excited to wait and see how each of them will connect for me.
The Emperor guides Darth Vader to be patient in his search for Luke. Yoda guides Luke to be patient in his desire to learn The Force.
Both the Dark Side and the Light Side emphasize patience.
Too often people say, “I’m 25 and want to be rich by the time I’m 30.”
Why is there so much rush? To buy a bigger car? To buy a more expensive house or watch?
Cultivating patience and a sense of “this is enough” frees up the brain to really explore the beauty around us each moment. Not forcing the future allows us to be more curious about the present.
I never would have guessed all the amazingly good things that also happened to me in 2015. None of them were goals. They were all products of patience.
In February of this year, I was on the board of a company that fell apart due to scandal. I lost more money in a day than ever before.
I found out about it when I was having the great experience of being on the set of the upcoming show “Billions” and watching how such shows were made.
Instead of going home crying when I found out, I stayed and kept trying to learn the artistry of the directors, writers, actors on the show.
And it’s that feeling and that experience that guided my year much more than any money lost.
“We had no idea what you were going through. All we noticed is that you disappeared for an hour and then you were back,” was what one the writers (Brian Koppelman) told me.
Let the moment deliver the experience. Not your much weaker brain that seeks to interpret and get scared and to punish.
I’VE GOT A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS
There is one quote that exists in all seven Star Wars movies.
Someone eventually says once in every movie, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”.
Why this quote?
Because bad stuff happens. No matter how much the universe is your ally. No matter how many good things happen in your life.
Life is up and down. And it is so easy to be disappointed and scared and frustrated when the bad things happen.
“Why is this happening to me?” I asked at least twice this year .And sometimes more than twice as I tried to figure it out.
But I learned only late this year, when really bad things happened, that the key is to not ask “why?”
There is no answer to that question. In relationships, in business, in nature.
“Why?” will seldom solve the problem. And often the answer is so complex that there is no response. Or nobody will want to tell you the answer.
I had to learn each step of the way this past year to keep my expectations as low as possible. And then, no matter what hardship happened…they were always exceeded.
This didn’t mean I had faith they would be exceeded. It simply meant that my expectations were always so low I could always look with wonder at what the next second would bring.
And then inevitably, that wonder by itself would give me a feeling exceeding all expectations.
It’s not bad to have “a bad feeling” if you keep that sense of wonder.
– (from The Force Awakens)
– REY: IS THAT POSSIBLE?
– HAN: I NEVER ASK THAT QUESTION UNTIL AFTER WE’VE DONE IT
Someone who chooses himself doesn’t let the world tell him or her what is possible.
It doesn’t mean to take risks. It means don’t let others dictate what is right or wrong to you.
Every major discovery in life is really a pair. The discovery paired with someone who didn’t listen to everyone who thought that discovery was impossible.
There is not a single exception to this. In arts, science, and business.
Learn from everything. But don’t take a command from anyone. Even Buddha said, “Don’t listen to me. Try this for yourself” about an entire philosophy that billions of people ended up following.
– FEAR LEADS TO ANGER, ANGER LEADS TO AGGRESSION (Yoda) and I will add: Leads to suffering.
Fear has often been useful. It tells you what to avoid. When a tiger is about to eat you. When a person is about to do something bad to you. When you might be making a mistake.
But just using it as a split second tool to avoid the worse things (anger, aggression) by recognizing it and then turning to gratitude or creativity, is the key to surviving the fear. Not the aggression.
– THE LIGHT – IT’S ALWAYS BEEN THERE – IT WILL GUIDE YOU (Maz Kanata to Rey in The Force Awakens).
The one thing that has saved me this year is knowing if I stay healthy, be around good friends, be creative, and be grateful, then each day will be more successful than the last.
Didn’t matter what was happening to me financially. Didn’t matter what was happening to the people around me. I just had to trust my own daily practice each day.
For me, that was “the light”.
Failure is painful. There really isn’t anything good about it.
But realizing it will happen, and then as quickly as possible getting back to “The Light”, has been the only way for me to survive.
When I was a kid I skipped school and waited three hours for “Return of the Jedi” to open up. I then watched it that day three times in a row.
I then had endless conversations with my friends about The Force. I bored them to death.
I’m going to do the same thing about The Force Awakens with anyone who makes the mistake of talking to me about it.
My daughters are with me right now. I’m going to inflict The Force Awakens on them. The main character is a strong young woman so that might entice them to go to the movie.
it sounds stupid, loving the philosophy of a movie this way.
But I do. And it works. And it’s helped me a hundred times or more in my life.
And tomorrow it will help me again. And maybe this year. Because I have a bad feeling about this coming year. But maybe also…there has been an awakening.