Pi’s Model of Excellence

I was fortunate enough to go and watch The Life of Pi in 3D on the weekend. I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down to watch this enchanting tale. I had not read the book and found myself trying desperately to avoid all the rave reviews so as not to spoil my experience. Honestly, I’m glad I did because it is one of the most extraordinary films I’ve seen in ages! Ang Lee is a master cinematographer, bringing Canadian writer Yann Martel’s epic novel to life with finesse and style, leaving you breathless as you are swept away on Pi’s adventure of life of time. The complex and emotional journey is like a dance synchronised with the swells of the unforgiving ocean and is seemingly narrated by his conversations with God. And by the end of the film even though your heart is sad, your spirit is awash with hope.

If you’ve not watched the film, don’t read any further as I thought I’d take this opportunity to explore one of the themes expressed. In doing this I will potentially spoil the experience for you. Go watch it. Seriously, it’s a fantastic film that will touch the sternest of cynics (even if they don’t’ admit it publicly, they will inside). But come back when you have, because as always, I’ve included a ‘tool’ for you to use, if you need it…

There are number of incumbent themes that author Yann Martel chooses to outline in his novel and Ang Lee does a marvellous job in his adaptation on covering all of them. For me however, the manner in which ‘faith and religion’ is discussed is particularly interesting. I found it amusing and heart-warming, and at the same time intellectually stimulating.

Who do I believe?Coming from a staunch Christian background, I was able to identify with Pi, the young Indian boy from Pondicherry in his love for ‘God’ and his unwavering faith through adversity. The difference is, while Pi tells a tale that makes you want to believe in God (or at least try and find some sort of faith), my tale is somewhat more cynical. I lost my faith along time ago. No, correction, I lost my faith in religion a long time ago.

None-the-less, here is the story of a boy who from a young age is raised as a Hindu, but comes to follow Christianity and Islam as well and all at the same time. Humorous, yes, ridiculous? No. If you look a little deeper, Pi seeks to ‘love God’ and uses the best of all three religions to do so as only a 12 year old boy in his ‘infinite’ wisdom can.

This idea had me playing ‘riddle me this’. Why had I never considered this concept growing up? Or even now as an adult. My stance over the years has grown to one that simply asks – which religion is ‘right’?

And then I remembered something, it’s called modelling.  No not Gisele Bündchen and Elle Macpherson sauntering scantily clad across a catwalk – but rather the concept of modelling people and behaviours. Modelling is about finding and replicating strategies that successful people are using. The world is full of successful people and if you listen to some of them speak, you will see they all had role models on which they based their success on. Think about it. Why would you reinvent the wheel? If someone is already successful at doing something that you want to do, why not learn from that person?

Pi did this perfectly if you look at it in context. He examines more than one model of faith, found elements that attracted him and replicated these as his own. The outcome was that through his perilous journey, the one that challenged him and become his ultimate test – his faith (based on all three religions) was unwavering.  So, here is a challenge for those of you who hopefully already have set some goals for 2013. Now, why not try and find someone who has already accomplished these goals. If possible, ask them some questions. If you can’t, research their materials, their books, and their website, who knows you might find an email address for them. Even if you don’t, look for any information that links your goals to theirs. Be open to new ideas, as you might expect, they are going to be different to yours. And finally, just try it!  If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.

Let me know how it goes.

Changing Lanes

It’s human nature to find a cause to the effect.  And speaking of cause and effect, I thought I’d share with you a little insight on how 2012 panned out for me. I was tasked with making a decision that would affect my future.  Dramatic, well no, not really or so I thought in April. It was a simple choice of: apply for my visa now or apply at the end of the year and turn it into a Christmas holiday with the family.  I chose the former, I mean who wouldn’t? Especially me, it’s been two years since I’ve seen my mum and dad, my sister and niece and I haven’t even met my new nephew yet.  Not to mention my old school friends – it’s been too long since I’ve felt the warm embrace of mama Africa.

How was I to know that the UK’s immigration policy would change and that my decision to apply at the end of the year would effectively mean I cannot continue my life here in London past the 26th of January 2013.  And just like that my life has been turned upside down.  Everything I had been working for has been disrupted.  The plan I had in place now requires a serious rethink.

Rail CrossroadsIn pondering how I could have ‘planned’ better so that this could not have happened I am faced with an iron clad reality:  “The best laid schemes of men and mice go often awry” (Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse, 1786).   The best of plans can, and often do fail.  And well that is life, isn’t it?   We plot and plan and this becomes the driving force of our life.  But when it doesn’t work out, we become frustrated, disappointed and all that drive withers away.  The plan is marked as failed, and for most of us it’s a simple equation of failure = fear and so to avoid further failure, we adopt the ‘Que Sera, Sera’ approach:  “What will be, will be.”

If you’ve read my past posts, you will know that I don’t buy into that!  As I’ve said, I’m very much the captain of my own destiny and believe that in order to succeed we must learn from every situation.  And the lesson I have learnt is to have more than one path to my destination.

I am a huge believer in the power of setting goals.  I believe they direct us, they give us purpose and they make our journey achievable. When we set goals for ourselves, it gives us something to aim for and if you know what you’re aiming for, you are more likely to succeed.  Imagine you are asked to shoot an arrow… if there is no target or nothing to shoot at – how would you succeed?

“If we have no goals, we have no destination and subsequently there will be no journey.”  Dinesh Joseph

While goals need to be fixed (so we know what we are aiming for) plans need to be fluid.  When we create fluid plans, we are naturally more adaptable and instinctively start to seek solutions rather than problems.  Instead of obstacles we see challenges and by engaging this type of mentality, we increase our chances of meeting our goals.

Looking back, it would be easy to say I got it wrong and as a consequence my life path has been dramatically altered.  However, I’m optimistic and I am looking at this as an opportunity to redefine my ageing plan (seven years old to be exact).  And while my goal has not changed (completely), my plans to achieve it have had to be adapted.  I am looking forward to my new journey.

Wish me luck, 2013 is going to be a great year!

Status quo

Christmas is done and dusted.  Bring on New Years!   And, as we all know, New Year is a time for those well-to-do resolutions, the ones that last a week, maybe two – but before you know it, they are gone and our well meant intentions have evaporated and we are back to living in our daily bondage.  Have you wondered why that is?  Or have you just accepted it to be a truth and kept the status quo?

Well, there you have it my friends, the answer is always within your reach:  You’ve kept the status quo.  So in an effort to keep you inspired and make those resolutions stick this coming year, I thought I’d share a quote with you that’s got me excited and charged for 2013.  However, proceed with caution, the following is not for the faint hearted.  He tells it like it is and it’s a strong tonic for some.  Ready? Okay lets go!

“Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

-Bruce Lee

I love this quote!   Bruce Lee is telling you like it is – limits are self imposed.  We create limits and once we do, they take over lives.  The scary thing is, we are all so blind to this kind of behaviour that it becomes common place in our lives and we perpetuate the cycle of ‘status quo’ without even realising that we are in fact affecting our entire lives.  As I said, we create limits.  But the worst part of all of this is when we start making excuses to justify why we create these limits!  This is what is referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Very simply:  You start believing your excuses and accept it as your reality.  And this is most common during New Years.  We have the best intentions (for example losing weight) but a week in, we feel challenged so we create an excuse.  ‘It’s too cold in the mornings to go to the gym or go for a jog, I’ll do it after work’.  After work arrives and another excuse ‘oh its’ been such a long, hard day at the office, I’ll do it in the morning’.  And so forth.  Once you’ve said it to yourself enough times – ‘its too cold in the mornings and I’m too tired after work’ – that is what you believe.  It’s not an excuse anymore, it’s your reality.

Remember what I said in my first post (Shadow Shibari) – the first step to making a change is becoming self aware.  We cannot fix what we do not know is broken.  But now you KNOW.  You know that the next time you start making excuses for keeping the status quo, you are limiting yourself and that by believing your excuses, you are creating your own reality.

Ask yourself – is that really the reality you want to be living in?  You really are the master of your own destiny. Change the status quo.

Shadow Shibari

Our daily bondageGiven the world’s sudden obsession with 50 Shades of Grey,  it sparked a train of thought that led me to arrive at the following question: “is bondage actually the ultimate act of freedom?”  This question got my creative cogs spinning and so I began to do a bit of reading and research.

Some of you may be familiar with the word Shibari.  For those of you who aren’t, the word Shibari has incorrectly come to mean an erotic form of Japanese rope bondage in the western world of BDSM.  Shibari is a noun and literally means ‘to tie’ or ‘to bind’.  There is very little reference as to why such a bastardisation occurred, but from my understanding it is a classic case of ‘lost in translation’.  Japanese as a language uses context specific words with particular meanings ascribed to them whereas in English, meanings can be assumed and words assimilated to have various meanings regardless of the context  The correct word to use is the adverb Kinbaku. It is the most accurate and contextually correct word to use when referring to bondage.  Its literal meaning is ‘the beauty of tight binding’ and its recognised ‘father’ is Seiu Ito.

I guess you are wondering what on earth an inspiration blogger is doing talking about bondage.  Sit tight (if you’ll pardon the very wry pun) and I shall attempt to unravel what I’m getting at.

Bondage is a component of submission.  True submission requires you to relinquish control of yourself.  You let go of your fear and insecurities, and you derive pleasure from being absolutely free from decision.  What an amazing concept, don’t you think?  To be able to put yourself in a frame of mind where you are secure in yourself,  free from worry and doubt, in a mode where you actually allow yourself to receive pleasure because there are no obstacles preventing it.  Amazing.

My question to you is, how do we emulate this mindset without subscribing to the world of BSDM?  How can we model this feeling of freedom and release ourselves from our daily ‘bondage’ (work, stress, debt, anxiety, insecurities, etc.)?

In the realm of inspiration and motivation, the first step in transforming our lives is to become self aware.  To become truly self aware we need to face who we are at ground zero; we need a clear perception of our personality, our strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions.  But very often the path to self awareness is in the shadow of our daily bondage.  And hence the reason why I’ve called this post ‘Shadow Shibari’.  So how do we slip the ropes of our Shadow Shibari?

Well, the experience of reading through this article should hopefully have got you thinking.  And if you’re thinking, you’re on the right track.  Becoming self aware is a process, an evolution of the self.  You can only become self aware if you make the decision to explore the real you. Take a moment and reflect on this statement:  The REAL you?  Do you know who that is?

In time, I will post a series of articles that will take us on an interesting path of self discovery.  But in the meantime, here is something to help you begin your journey.

Write out the following on a piece of paper:

  1. Describe your best self in 3 words – have fun with it, think about your top 3 most positive qualities. How would you ‘sell’ yourself to someone in just 3 words?  Once you have your 3 words, use a thesaurus on each one and find alternative words for yourself.
  2. Describe your worst self in 3 words – be brutally honest with yourself.  The key here is to dig deep and not list what you have heard others say, but what you know to be your worst self.  Challenge each of these traits.  Where did they come from?
  3. If you were allowed to change one physical aspect of yourself – what would it be? Remember to write out why you want it changed? Reflect on what you have written.  Do you want to change it because of the way you feel in front of others? Examine this feeling.
  4. What is your goal for 2013?  Be very specific. Detail how you are going to achieve your goal.
  5. Write down 5 things that you are truly grateful for.

Put the date on the top right hand corner of the paper, then fold it into a neat little square and put it somewhere safe (not too safe that you forget about it).  Put a reminder on your phone or in your email to check your list in 3 months time.  Do the list again.  Have you changed?  Is your goal still on track?  Are there 5 new things you are grateful for?

One of the keys to unlocking self awareness is to understand that it is a continuous process that never ends.  It’s like the tiny snowball that gets bigger and bigger as it rolls along.  The more you understand yourself, the more you want to understand yourself.  Dig deep, you can only better yourself.