Episode 9: Masami Sato of B1G1 on the power of small and how business can be the vehicle of positive change on a massive scale

 

For more about B1G1, visit the website here

Serendipity, mentorship, Russell Brand and Rich Roll

Serendipity struck again at the weekend. It’s bizarre to me how often things happen just when we most need them to happen.

On Sunday, after a quick grocery shopping sprint and obligatory sweet treat Sunday stop-off, my nine-year-old and I stuck our heads into the bookshop to pass half an hour until the parking ticket elapsed.

I caught sight of a slim hardback with the unmistakable face of Russell Brand.

Brand is someone who has interested me greatly for some time. I didn’t care much for his various trysts or dalliances (reading his writing since then, it seems neither did he) but the breadth of his intellect probably first caught my attention during a remarkable Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman in 2013.

Since then, I’ve dipped into his book on recovery from his drug addictions, and when I saw his new book, entitled Mentors: How to Help and Be Helped, it spoke to me deeply and personally.

I have been grappling with the necessary challenge of mentorship over the past few months.

It has been a challenge on both sides of the coin: on the one hand my need for mentorship, and the requirement for me to erode my ego and pride to allow that to happen; on the other hand my calling to become a mentor for others, and the requirement for me to let go of my fears of being an imperfect role model or dispensing the wrong advice to the wrong person at the wrong time.

These fears are real, because everything’s on the line here.

But these fears must also be overcome, because my capacity to help others will be reduced to nothing if they’re not.

Listening to the latest Rich Roll podcast on the way into Dublin city on Monday morning, I realised with vivid clarity that Rich Roll has been mentoring me from afar these past two years or so.

Rich is an extreme endurance athlete, who follows a plant-based lifestyle, lives in California and formerly was a high-powered lawyer specialising in entertainment law.

I am none of those things.

I’m very proud that I managed two half-marathons last year and learned to swim. I’ve been trying to eat more plants, and mostly succeeding. I live in rural Ireland and I’ve been in court three times in my life and don’t have any aspirations to go back there anytime soon.

And yet there is so much about Rich Roll that I can look up to and aspire to follow.

He hit his rock bottom at 40 years old, when he realised he was overweight, out of breath after climbing a flight of stairs, and on a surefire path to an early grave.

I hit my rock bottom in my late 30s, when I realised that I was overweight (this came after several years of ridiculing the body mass index as phoney science, and a little quiet and gentle persuasion from a nutritionist); that I had struggled with self-worth issues for at least 25 years, which led to its inevitable financial chaos and regular bouts and deep depression; and that I was on a surefire path to several more decades of continued suffering, if an early grave did not intervene.

I’ve written about Rich’s two interviews with Dr Zach Bush (here and here), and his conversation with Guru Singh about depression, and I encourage you to give them a listen.

This piece is about Rich in general, though, not the contents of any particular show.

Rich has shown me paths and options that I would never previously have considered.

He has shown me another way to live life.

He has, at least in part, inspired me to start my own show, the Life Well Lived podcast, where I speak to guests every week about navigating the challenges of life and becoming our best selves in the world.

He has inspired me to consider my eating habits, and the interconnectedness of all our choices to our health and our environment.

He has, from his California base, led me to the Happy Pear boys Stephen and David Flynn, who just happen to live and work about an hour’s drive from my house, but who I’d never really paid any attention to before. (The Flynns, incidentally, or perhaps not incidentally at all, make an important cameo in the Russell Brand Mentors book…)

He has demonstrated that humility is no barrier to global impact.

Rich has become a mentor for me, from afar, through the wonder that is the Internet.

I think back to my 11-year-old self. It’s just 30 years ago, but it’s like another universe. I remember the amazement I felt when my mother might bring a kids magazine home with the weekly shopping, with stories and puzzles and the strange place-names of the United Kingdom, which was just a boat trip away but seemed so faraway and exotic.

Now, after what seems like just a few blinks of an eye down the road, I can find myself led and guided and inspired, every week, for free, by a man in California who I’ve never met.

And I know also that I can find such mentors in many places, in real life and on the Internet, if only I am open to the possibility that I can be helped and that they might be able to help me.

I’m thankful that for all the negativity on the Internet, and there is an unsurpassed amount of negativity, that it is also a conduit to making life better, for individuals and humanity as a whole, in ways that we are surely only beginning to consider.

(I’m thankful also to Conor Devine from Belfast, Ireland, who first alerted me to Rich Roll, and who is also on his own journey to transform and inspire the world. Read about Conor at his website here.)

Opening a door that floats in the sky: Finding the flow state

When was the last time you found yourself in a flow state?

A time when you were just lost in the act of doing, blissfully unaware of anything apart from that which you’re doing?

If you’re fortunate, you will experience it often, but if you’re like most people, there are perhaps a handful of occasions in your life that you can remember such a sensation.

If you’ve given any thought about what it might be to live a happy, fulfilled and meaningful life, those occasions warrant some attention.

Happiness, fulfilment and meaning lie much less in the things we have or the things we aim to get, and much more in the acts of doing and being.

Yet the unfortunate truth is that so much of so many of our lives are spent on those rails, getting paid for doing stuff we don’t like so that we can buy stuff we don’t want.

Sooner or later, we make the realisation that life does not need to be like this, and the beauty of such an awakening is that it rarely comes too late.

In fact, it usually comes at just the right time, right when we’re ready to embrace it.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Cheek-sent-me-high) is a noted psychologist who rose to prominence for his work on the flow state.

It’s described by some psychologists as “the state of effortless attending”, while in Csikszentmihalyi’s 2004 TED talk (below) he talks about the “completely engaging process of creating something new”.

That’s probably my favourite description. The completely engaging process of creating something new.

But there are others.

In the specific example of a composer he had interviewed decades previously, Csikszentmihalyi quotes a composer whose

existence is temporarily suspended … his hand seems to be moving by itself.

He goes on to cite a poet who described the flow state as:

opening a door that floats in the sky.

And in the context of the workplace, he quotes Masaru Ibuka, the co-founder of Sony, who said his idea was

to establish a place of work where engineers can (1) feel the joy of technological innovation, (2) be aware of their mission to society and (3) work to their heart’s content.

(I don’t know about you, but that type of company is one I’d love to work for.)

One of my favourite YouTube channels is The Nerdwriter, which produced a short video essay on the flow state.

In his interpretation, he says,

The key point is that flow is possible in so many areas of experience — art, science, sports, at work in business or law or medicine — but its vital prerequisite is an extended devotion to craft.

Bruce Lee, in his book about martial arts philosophy, The Tao of Jeet June Do, urged readers to

The shape of water.

The temporary suspension of existence.

Opening a door that floats in the sky.

Creativity.

Craft.

However it can be described, it appears to be a central component of day to day happiness, but perhaps the most wonderful thing about flow is that it’s not just ephemeral, happening by magic when we least expect it and disappearing until its next surprise visit.

In Csikszentmihalyi’s research and modelling, he points out that the flow state can only be achieved when a high level of challenge is matched by a high level of skill. If the challenge is high and the skill is low, we get anxiety. If the challenge is low and the skill is high, we get apathy.

Flow is the place we can aim for, by setting a challenge and in an area where our skill level is high.

In daring to rise to that challenge, we find our flow state, when all consciousness of existence seems to just float away.

In that moment we can work to our heart’s content.

In that moment we can become fully immersed in something that matters, even if it’s just for ourselves and one or two people around us.

In that moment we can be fully happy.

And, I suspect, allowing ourselves to experience that moment of flow state fully will increase our level of future happiness too.

Here’s Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk:

I am all of these people

At any given time, depending on who I’m with, I am one of these people.

  • A lover to a phenomenal woman who has suffered plenty but loves him still.
  • A father to two young children, and trying not to screw up the biggest responsibility of them all.
  • A business owner, trying to figure things out, edge stuff forward and deliver work that delivers value for clients who bring positive energy to the world.
  • A reader, because words assembled into sentences matter more than almost anything.
  • A writer. (Books in the works: 3; books published: 0. Hoping to change that score this year).
  • A host of a podcast about navigating the challenges of life, becoming our best selves in the world and ultimately, healing unhappiness.
  • A person who loves speaking, and wants to do more of it, because he’s found that the best speakers make me see the world differently.
  • A self-experimenter.
  • A self-developer.
  • A friend who would like to be a better friend.
  • A traveller who has only just realised how essential travel is.
  • A sports lover, but only when there’s a history and context and where everything’s on the line. (Watching Tom Brady’s quest for a sixth Super Bowl ring ticks all the boxes).
  • A credit risk. (On the ropes since 2009, met the canvas once or twice, but hanging in there, and planning on paying every cent back).
  • A mental health risk.
  • A conscientious worker, but never again a 9-to-5-er.
  • A runner. (A slow runner, but he’s the only one in my race, so that’s okay.)
  • A wannabe triathlete.
  • A learner swimmer.
  • A talker.
  • A learner listener.
  • A big guy.
  • A skinny guy.
  • A web guy.
  • A man. (One who loved the inclusive power of Colin Kaepernick but hated the divisive crudeness of Gillette.)
  • A digital marketer. (Who wonders if in 20 years’ time he will be labelled by some people with a term that doesn’t exist now? He hopes so.)
  • A perennial student.
  • A brother who loves his siblings, even if they don’t understand.
  • A son who loves his parents, and would love to make them proud.
  • A feeler more than a thinker. (He thinks about everything, but he feels his way into all important decisions.)
  • A creator (so says Wealth Dynamics, and he agrees).

I am all of these things.

Maybe tomorrow or next week, I might leave all these behind and become some new things to new people.

As Eric Thomas, ET the Hip-Hop Preacher, says:

I am.

I am whoever I say I am.

I am.

Four truths for today

I am Shane Breslin.

I am here.

I am here, and I am breathing.

I am here, and I am breathing, and I am here to make a difference.

The heartstopping beauty of a genius at work

From Tom Brady to Velazquez to Virginia Woolf, the innate human capacity for genius and the witnesses to its expression, is endlessly beautiful.


I realised something important over the past few days.

My mind was a little addled, my head overwhelmed, my email inbox overflowing in that intangible but all too real digital way, and various projects full of undone to-dos.

It’s only the third week of January, but I needed a break. To put it more accurately, my head needed a break. My brain had been in overdrive since the Christmas holidays, thinking of the ways to keep all the plates spinning and avoid any breakage and move forward into 2019 and beyond on the right path. (Because I had spent too many years drifting aimlessly down the wrong ones…)

I started thinking about movies. In the past the cinema was often the break my head needed when the overwhelm rose up around me.

Not any film, though.

There’s a huge problem with movies right now, which the excellent short video essayist The Nerdwriter talks about in his YouTube video, The Epidemic of Passable Movies. (Aside: the Nerdwriter is great for thought-provoking 10-minute diversions into pop culture and the arts — some favourites: how Emily Dickinson writes a poem, how Donald Trump answers a question, the psychological phenomenon of being in a state of flow)

But every so often, for whatever reason, through some collective wizardry and alchemy in direction and writing and editing and performance, a film lands that delivers exactly what I need it to. (Everyone’s different: you will likely have some category or subset of movies or art or books that delivers just for you.)

And I realised this.

The movies that speak to me, the movies that uplift me and connect with me in a way that stays with me for decades, are almost always about the concept or character of genius.

I loved Shine, but I listened to film reviewers who told me that Geoffrey Rush’s standout performance was the most notable factor.

I loved Good Will Hunting, but I told myself it was the perfectly pitched script and the origin story of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck that did it.

I loved The Hours, but I thought it was the four interweaving storylines that grabbed me.

What I think now, though, is that genius is the common denominator.

It’s genius that lights me up.  It’s genius that resonates with me at a level much deeper than basic understanding. It’s genius that makes me appreciate the time spent standing in front of a Velazquez in Madrid, or Tom Brady to Julian Edelman at 3rd down and 10 in overtime, or Leo Messi’s two-touch-control-and-goal at the World Cup.

And here’s what I really think about genius.

Genius is about way more than just the small handful of people who excel at the level of greatest of all time.

We all have our own individual genius.

It is born within us, and the best we can do is channel it and allow its expression. The paradox of genius is that it’s absolutely of the self, but it is designed to be witnessed by others.

So many of us take our genius to the grave, because we cannot find a way to express it, and that saddens me greatly.

We do that because we’re afraid of failing.

Or we’re afraid of being judged.

Or we’re afraid of succeeding.

That fear is to be recognised, welcomed and challenged.

We must try to meet fear, greet it, and defeat it.

It starts here.

Episode 8: Nutritionist Orla McLaughlin on food as medicine, the confusion around diets, the gut-brain axis and working with autistic children

 

For more about Orla McLaughlin’s work, visit her Health By Orla here

The joy of tennis

I’ve watched tennis for years, and always loved it.

When I was 10, I laughed at Henri Leconte.

I listened to my dad tut-tutting about John McEnroe.

I fell madly in love with Steffi Graf and Gabriele Sabatini.

(Yes, both of them.)

And I wanted to be Stefan Edberg.

I lost the Sampras years. Federer brought me back. Then Rafa Nadal became my hero.

For the way he plays. For how he ekes everything out of himself. For his humility.

And for refusing to accept that the way things are is the way they always have to be.

I’ve wanted to play tennis for so long, but I never did.

I had never played, so I thought I never could play.

But last week I joined the local club.

It’s silly, but it scared the hell out of me.

Entering a new place, where everyone else seems at home and you’re not, is not so easy.

At least not for me.

The first night – club night, mixed doubles – was enjoyable but a bit uncomfortable.

I wasn’t sure which side of the court to be on.

I didn’t understand some of the lingo. (“Short deuce”, “ladder league”)

But I started.

And I went back.

And I made some progress.

As Tony Robbins​ says:

Progress equals happiness.

Even if you’re not where you want to be yet.

If you’re on the road, if you’re improving, if you’re making progress, you’re gonna love it.

You’re gonna feel alive.

What thing have you always wanted to do, and never done?

Painting? Hill-walking? Ballroom dancing?

I encourage you to say hell with all the reasons why not.

Life is short.

Just do it.

You might just feel alive.

That’s how it’s working for me.

We probably don’t need more information

By default, we often believe we need more information.

More knowledge. More courses. More qualifications.

We probably don’t.

Information used to require a significant investment.

Think back to the World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica. They cost a gazillion to produce, and a pretty penny to buy. Now we have Wikipedia, which trumps every other encyclopedia in the history of humanity, and is free.

Now we have Google and YouTube and phenomenal courses for a few dollars on Coursera or Skillshare or CreativeLive.

In the past, the news media gave us information tomorrow for a fee. These days, we can have almost all of it right now, for free.

We probably don’t need more information.

We probably need more action.

We probably need more accountability.

We probably need more trust.

We probably need deeper relationships.

We probably need better focus.

We probably need to produce better work.

(And if we really need more information, then we’re in luck. Whatever we need, we can have it. In many cases in seconds, and for free.)

 


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The definition of sacrifice: an alternative view

So much about so many things is just the way we choose to look at them.

Take sacrifice.

For most of us, most of the time, sacrifice seems like something negative. Bad. Painful. Something to make us grimace.

What if we choose to look at it another way? What if we choose to see the definition of sacrifice differently?

If something is important enough, we will find a way not to let it go.

If something is not, then it’s no sacrifice at all to remove it from our lives.

The origin of the word “sacrifice” owes something to “making sacred”. I like to think of it that way.

 


Sign up for the daily email

If you like to receive Shane’s daily blog on living a life well lived as an email straight to your inbox every day, add your details to the form below. (There are checkboxes for Shane’s weekly bullet points and longer monthly newsletter too. Check them to receive everything.)