Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Magician's Way

These days I am often asked the question "so what are you reading at the moment?". It's a question that often gets asked of me when I get into conversation with people about books, especially when I mention that I see myself as a bit of a writer and that I have a fiction novel in the works. Truth be told, in keeping with my relentless efforts to challenge myself over the last year and a half or so the majority of my reading hasn't really been in the area of fiction. In fact I've been suffering a bit of a mental overload from studying all manner of non-fiction "how to" books. Books about attraction, self improvement and indeed a bit of card magic too.

It's not that I feel any need to maintain secrecy that these are the food that my brain is demanding these days, but I do feel in a way that saying that I am reading this stuff communicates a feeling of inadequacy so I tend not to advertise it, at least when I'm not around people who are also passionate about their own personal journey. There's no drama or high emotion to this sort of non-fiction either.

Also, I'm told that saying to your date that you're enjoying reading "The Game" isn't going to go down well.

The Game is a good read though, especially the ever-forgotten ending; I recommend it.

In any case my usual answer has been that I'm reading "Time to depart" by Lindsey Davis, one of the Falco detective novels, and then I just hope that they don't ask me how the story is progressing as the bookmark hasn't moved in the last 18 months.

In the last week though I have read an outstanding book that fits into both the category of self help and fiction. It's called The Magician's Way, written by a guy called William Whitecloud, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It was also a bit of a new experience for me because it was the first book I have read on an iPad, an experience I was very skeptical about but I quickly warmed to. It's the same device I am writing this blog post on, and I have to say I'm a big fan.

The book is set in the present day, I think in Australia although it's never placed specifically, and it follows the journey of a man who is having trouble with his job and his marriage in his journey to discover magic, magic not being some mystical supernatural force, but rather a life attitude that can be used to find abundance and happiness in ones life. The details are kept reasonably ambiguous about many things within the book and it is clear that the main protagonist is intended mostly as a vessel through which the author can communicate a set of life principles, which are referred to in the book as laws of magic.

I am very much taken by the idea that magic really is a real force in the world, but that anybody who looks to the metaphysical is looking in the wrong place. No, magic is much more elusive, and yet far more potent. I find myself thinking back to the first few weeks of when I discovered hypnosis, when the boundaries of what I thought was actually possible seeme to melt in front of me. Indeed, I had a similar experience when I started to learn about attraction. In both cases I dared to do things that it had never even occurred to me to do before and amazing things happened.

And what's more, learning magic for a specific purpose has the interesting effect that it spills out into other areas of your life. You start to develop new habits, the world changes, and it becomes difficult to recognise who you were even a year before.

The principles, such as using your focus to create your reality, are all very potent in their own right. For example, if you focus on what your are trying to achieve, your target, you are far more likely to have success than if you instead apply your focus to the goal of not failing.

I tried exercising this principle a couple of days ago when I went out for a ride on my mountain bike. There's a track that I occasionally ride on that features quite deep ruts. These ruts are too deep to cycle in because my pedals hit the sides, so the only way to ride the path is to use the narrow bit of earth in between the ruts. It's quite a psycologically difficult situation to cycle in because it leaves a very narrow path to ride, you feel like you're very high above the ground and putting down your foot isn't going to be easy if you start to topple. So I found the experience of cycling along trying not to fall down one of the ruts in the past has been a fraught one. It could not have been more different from this time, when I mentally ignored the presence of the ruts and instead focused all of my intention on the line that I wanted to cycle. Magic!

The example the book uses, in the first chapter in fact, is a golf lesson. I can relate to a lot of it, especially as I did archery when I was still at university, another sport that depends on good technique, but for which becoming consciously distracted by technique can seriously compromise performance. I of course had a lot of this "focus on the the target and visualise" blah blah when I was being coached, but it wasn't until I read this book that I think I really started to understand what it's all about.

Incidentally, guess what keeps popping back into my mind when I'm trying to go into a hypnotic trance? Yup, I keep trying not to come back up, and guess what happens. I think there's a lot of mileage in this principle for hypnosis too.

Magicians are portrayed in the book as those who not only subscribe to the principles, but as those who differentiate themselves from the majority of individuals by not settling, rather constantly pushing themselves to follow a journey. One of the characters in the book refers to life as a journey to a magnificent palace, but that most people find a liveable hovel by the wayside and are content to make do. It's an analogy I can definitely relate to.

And that's the thing about The Magician's Way. It has this way of reaching inside of you and describing, by metaphor, thoughts and feelings that you may always have had but may never have admitted to anyone, or even yourself, perhaps constructs that are common to most people. Then it addresses them.

So I must recommend Whitecloud's book, it is one of the best reads I have ever come across.

On the day I finished The Magician's Way, reading about a man becoming a modern day magician, I had my own bizarre magical moment. I was stopped in the supermarket by one of my fellow shoppers with the words "Hey magician man!". It turned out this guy had been present when I performed some magic tricks to a group of people on a train, but bizarrely our conversation led me to discover that he actually works in the same Industry as me, and we swapped business cards. Magic indeed.


Time for another one of my observations. This time one about hats.

See, I am rather a fan of hats, but I have in the past been rather hesitant to wear them. You see, there is a certain archetype that I come across every so often, namely the quiet guy in a hat.

Essentially this is the guy who is characterised by being the one who is there, but you rarely hear his voice or his opinion, he is but a spectator to events, in the background, essentially part of the scenery. In short not the sort of person to step up or speak up in order to command any presence, rather he just keeps out of things and lets things be.

So what does he do to express himself? He puts on a hat. Nobody else is wearing a hat, hats are old fashioned and unusual, so this is his way of declaring to the world that he is different, that he stands out. The thing is though, as I see it, nothing has changed; he still doesn't take action, he still doesn't speak out, he's still that quiet spectator, the only difference is that he's now the quiet spectator in a hat. The hat changes nothing, but advertises that the wearer hopes that it will.

This is why I have always been hesitant to wear a hat. I have, for a significant part of my life, been the quiet spectator. I have been wary of the hat because to me it has always been a statement of ineffectual rebellion.

In more recent times, as I have started to demand more of myself, as I have started to push myself to live outside of my comfort zone much more often and I have felt the changes to my character I have stuck to this belief. The hat, I believe, should never be the statement, rather it should only be a trivial symptom of it, an accessory. True change comes from within, not from headwear.

So when I do don my fedora and braces for a bit of blues dancing I only do so for my own enjoyment, and in the belief that now these articles exist in the shadow cast by my outward expression of my character.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Year of Making Love

Disclaimer: Because I have signed a contract with Fever Media, please note that the views expressed in this article are my own. I aim to document the day I experienced in a manner which Fever Media have encouraged from the start.

2012 is the year of making love, or so I am told.

I should explain. This weekend I went to an event organised by Fever Media, a subcontractor for BBC3, that is intended as the kick off to a TV series about matchmaking and the early stages of relationships, called "The year of making love". The premise is that they'd get single men and women to take an online compatibility test, then 500 of each would be invited to an event where they would meet the partner the system had paired them up with.

I have to be honest I am extremely skeptical about the idea of matching people through any kind of science. I think that how to attract and be with someone in a relationship is something you have to learn through experience, through going out, learning what you want and making all the important mistakes. I don't think it's something you can calculate your way to instantly.

That said, there was no way that I could hear about this and not jump at the opportunity to give it a try. Opportunity is the word, because I'm not going to be free and single for ever and so I believe in doing things like this when I can, because I can. If nothing else it would be a fun and interesting day out.

So, Saturday morning found me arriving at the Millbrook Proving Ground for this event, in the knowledge that I would be meeting my "perfect match" that day. Millbrook is actually a site that's mostly used for testing cars, and has featured on episodes of Top Gear more than a few times. This in itself was exciting enough for me as I followed the "follow me" van through a maze of test tracks to an exhibition centre on the far side of the site where the event would be held.

I was half expecting to see Jeremy Clarkson to come screaming past at the wheel of a rocket propelled milk float or something similar.

In any case, I had been told to arrive between and 9am and 10:30am, and I was quite surprised, rolling up in my car at 9:30, that the place seemed so incredibly quiet. Nevertheless, I walked straight up to the desk, got registered, ringed by a band on my wrist like a racing pigeon, and got sat down with some of the other guys who had arrived at about the same time to wait. There were a couple of lads from Sheffield, a guy who'd come down from Birmingham, and another who had come all the way up from Devon the day before.

As we sat and chatted the time away, camera crews flitted between us, selecting people, seemingly at random, to interview either on the spot or to take away and interview elsewhere. Amongst all of this, a lady called Cherry Healey (who I've never heard of before but apparently my Mum's a fan) was also wandering around with an orbital crew of production staff, sound men and cameras, looking particularly glamourous.

The "green" (male) waiting room at 11am. It was still very quiet.

I ended up on camera quite early on, and as it happens completely by accident. Some of the guys I was sat with had brought gifts for their date. One guy had brought a massive bunch of flowers outsized only by the accompanying cliché factor, and also a Manchester United shirt. Another guy had brought a little teddy bear with him, which I thought was a really sweet gesture. So by means of a joke I started looking through my bag for something that would constitute a legitimate romantic gift, remarking that a half empty pack of sainsbury's decongestant tablets, a pair of 3D glasses, a laser pointer a friend had lent me and a small notebook didn't quite measure up.

So inevitably the last remaining item, my trusty pack of cards, came out at this point, and as we'd been waiting for about three hours I decided to entertain everybody with a few card tricks. I was surprised at how well this went down, and even more surprised when a few minutes later a guy came over from another table and asked me to go over and entertain them too. Over I went, as there was no way I would turn down the opportunity to have that kind of fun.

So again, out came the cards and I went into what is, by now, quite a well practiced routine. It was as my tricks at this table started to draw a crowd that it dawned on me that this wasn't going to go un-noticed. I managed to get through a trick and a half before a cameraman and one of the production team showed up, clipped a microphone to my waistcoat and shoved a camera in my face. A little frustrating, because this seemed to scare away much of my audience. They had me perform another couple of tricks and then started asking me whether I would be performing these tricks for my date.

I found it a bit tricky to answer the questions, because I was told not to look into the camera but instead look at the lady from the production staff. This was difficult because firstly she wasn't saying anything, just smiling sweetly at me, and secondly because if I'm honest she was really quite cute. Anyway, I muddled through by saying that I wasn't planning on trying to woo my date with card tricks I was just passing the time and having fun.

By this time the coaches, who it seems were carrying the majority of the contestants, had finally arrived and there was an enormous queue of people waiting to be checked in by the now rather beleaguered looking registration staff. It was clear things were taking a little longer than was expected.

Finally, by about mid-afternoon we were all directed into the studio, which had been set up nearby. Men were seated on one side, women on the other, with an aisle down the middle. The warm up man came on, had us record some canned applause for the cameras, and then the format of the act was explained to us. We would be called up by the numbers on our wristbands to go and stand behind screens to either side of the stage. When it was our turn we would walk out onto the stage to see our partner walking toward us. We'd have 15 seconds to greet them and then we were to walk off stage together up the aisle. Quite a nerve-wracking prospect in a room with a thousand people in it.

Cherry came up on stage to explain all of this to the cameras, complete with encouraged "oohs" and "aahs" from the audience.

The "school disco" seating plan. Men on one side, women on the other.

As I sat there it began to dawn on me how out of place I felt in quite a few ways, I can at least say I'm in my twenties for the next few months but most of the men sat around me were in their early twenties or even teens. They also seemed very outgoing and loud. A lot of them, I gleaned from the conversation around me, were just there because they were desperate to get on TV. I wondered just who was sitting on the other side of the aisle waiting to meet me. I hoped that the matching process was good enough that she was finding herself feeling the same way.

The first numbers were called up, and then the first couple walked out onto the stage and into each others arms, to the applause of the crowd. They kissed each other on the cheek and walked hand in hand down the aisle. Then the next couple, and the next. Things were progressing very slowly, but at least they started to speed up as it went on.

It was with some relief that I observed that most of the couples seemed to suit each other quite well. The few thirty-something guys in suits seemed to be meeting smartly turned out intelligent looking young women. The young ones dressed as though for a nightclub were being neatly paired off too. One guy actually came up on stage having left his shirt behind, and he was paired off with a woman in plastic clubwear, which was a fitting match I thought.

The guy sat next to me could only shout out a verbal diarrhea of how hot he thought each woman who came down the aisle was and what he'd do to her, and then he'd jump up and turn around to declare to the world what he thought of her arse. That got old quickly. I only wished they'd pair him up quickly so he could go away and tell his partner just what he thought of her behind and not us.

The audience reactions in general made the day worthwhile I thought. Couple after couple went up and each got their own response from the watching masses, usually very positive. One guy greeted his match by going down on one knee and kissing her hand, to rapturous applause. Some guys got high fives as they came down the aisle by guys who thought they'd done well. There were even three guys sat ahead of me who stood up and saluted each man who passed them with what they considered a worthy prize.

One guy quietly punched the air in triumph as he led his gorgeous partner from the stage, to the delight of the audience.

On a few occasions the guy refused to take the woman's hand or touch her, which I thought was a shame and not in the spirt of things at all. These couples got boos from the audience, until we were all requested not to. I felt really sorry for the women in these moments, after that massive buildup.

I also thought it was a wonderful statement that some of the meeting couples were in fact same-sex, and the way in which the audience applauded them especially loudly was heart warming.

At the same time as all of this I could feel the tension in the pit of my stomach. It was either that or the fact I'd only eaten a sandwich all day and it was already late afternoon. Numbers were being called out, but some were being skipped. When would they call me? Would they call me?

Then they called out my number and in a blur I made my way up to the screens, the guys on my row patting my back as I went. I made smalltalk with the other guys who were also waiting to go on stage. A technician came over and attached a microphone to my shirt. I mused that this must be, to some extent, what it would be like to be a public figure, to have production people milling around you getting you ready whilst your mind was focused on what you were about to do.

The line of guys stood ahead of me were going up on stage one by one. None of us could see what was going on, all we could hear was the reaction of the crowd as each stepped up to meet his match. Two guys ahead of me there was an uproar from the crowd, something had obviously happened, but I had no idea what. It only served to build up the tension even more.

The guy ahead of me went up and again there was a reaction from the crowd. Gasps, then laughs, then finally a cheer. I still don't know why; I was stood behind the line on the floor still behind the screen with no view of the stage. My turn next.

The host who had been calling out the numbers checked my wrist band number and nodded. It was time.

Eyes closed.


"Couple two hundred and forty"

It's one of those moments where things progress in a dream-like state because there is too much to take in at once. I floated out from behind the screen and out onto the stage. I was looking for my partner, for my first glimpse of her. I couldn't see the audience even though they were right there but I could feel them, the sound of the applause was everywhere and washing right through me.

Then I saw her. She was walking toward me across the stage. Not at all what I had expected, but she was cute no doubt about that. Her smile flew across the stage at me and I could feel its warmth make my own smile widen involuntarily. So this was it, this was really her. And then we were stood there together in the middle of the stage, just the two of us.

I knew what I wanted to do in this moment, twirl her around and step in under my own arm as she came around so her hand ended up on my shoulder. I must have done it a hundred times before but here on stage it didn't work at first. I felt the awkwardness as though it was a buffet from the crowd. Keep calm and carry on. Around she went, her hand landed on my shoulder, I looked into her eyes and said a rather wooden "Hi, nice to meet you".

And then I was leading her down the aisle. I looked ahead but my focus was still on her, I couldn't see the audience who were just feet away to either side.

"I bet you've been planning that all morning" she said.

"Meh, just the last five minutes." I replied.

Then there was the very romantic pause as we got mobbed by two different techs who had the audacity to demand their microphones back. Then we were released from the madness of the studio back into the waiting area where the champagne was waiting.

As I recall this part of the day I recall such a sudden contrast, to go from the whole morning of waiting surrounded by groups of men to being one-on-one with an attractive woman.

We went off to find a sofa to sit and get to know one another...

My wrist band, which I removed after I got home.

I should say a few things about the aftermath.

My experience of the day was awesome. I met some interesting new people, had fun stepping up to play magician on a couple of occasions, had one of the most terrifying and yet exhilarating experiences of my life stepping up on stage, and at the end of it all met a lovely young woman.

I know some of the people who were there, well quite a few actually, have quite vocally gone on twitter an Facebook to declare how much of a disaster the day was. Many were not happy with their matches at all, and apparently after I left things in the studio went downhill as many were left unmatched, people were starting to leave because it was getting late and it had been a very long time since proceedings in the studio had begun. And of course some people had come a long way in coaches only to be disappointed.

I can sympathise with this to some extent, but I am a little bit sick of hearing all this moaning about how bad the day was. I went along to this event because it sounded like fun. I didn't have any expectations of the woman I would meet there, other than being curious to see who I was put with. I didn't pay a penny for the experience, save for the cost of driving there.

That's an important point; ultimately to those of us participating this day was a freebie. I have gone on speed dating evenings and found myself wondering why I paid £30 because not one of the women there remotely interested me. Worse, I've gone on speed dating evenings where I've really fancied just one girl with whom I thought I had really great chemistry, only for her to jump into the lap of the guy who was sat next to me. They're still dating and he's a top bloke too; the bastard.

My point is that these things happen.

Organising an event like this one is by no means an easy task, especially if it's never been done before. But, the organisers got all those people there, sat them in a studio, showed them some live drama on stage even if they weren't able to participate themselves, introduced them to a bunch of new people they would never otherwise have met, and got them home safely. For free.

Is that bad value for money?

Would anything else these people could have done that day made for a more interesting story to tell their mates at the pub?

Anyway, it's all said and done now.

The show is apparently set to go out next year in six, one hour episodes. I will post details here when that happens. Who knows, my bad card trick may even make the edit. Hah!

(For another viewpoint of the day's events, you can read Martyn Standering's story here. He was the guy with the teddy bear.)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

My Sex Robot

Last night I watched a documentary on YouTube called "My Sex Robot". It was about the men who have developed a sexual fetish around the idea of a machine as a sexual companion, or even a romantic companion. I actually found it pretty fascinating to watch, partly because I can relate to it a little myself.

I have been alone for a large proportion of my of post-adolescant life and there have been times where a surrogate partner, if only for sexual release, has seemed like a very appealing idea. The thing is though that more recently I have real trouble seeing quite how a robot can ever meet what it is I truly desire, nor give me the kind of pleasure I get from meeting real women.

The show actually featured an academic who said that there are a lot of people who are lonely and frustrated and having robots for those people can only make the world better.

I cannot disagree more.

What it all seemed to come down to was a question of the self esteem these people have. It was the idea that an artificial partner would be completely incapable of judging or rejecting you. I found this expressed particularly well by one of the men interviewed when he talked about his obsession with shop mannequins. He said that because they were lifeless they wouldn't react, and "no reaction is better than a negative one".

What's missing here is an understanding that it doesn't have to be this way for any of these people. Self esteem isn't a finite resource like oil or gas, or indeed like money, it is one that can be grown and nurtured out of nothing. My own experience of working on my own sense of self esteem has been that as it has grown the world has become a progressively more friendly and accepting place.

People are, for the most part, warm and welcoming. It's extraordinary.

Once you start to get a taste of this different world, one where you can walk up to a group of strangers and they will smile at you, accept you, be interested about you and tell you about themselves, the thought of spending a night in with a robot starts to lose its appeal. There is so much emotion conveyed in conversation with another human being and there would be none of that with a robot that had anything short of human levels of intelligence. But if you could build a machine like that you get into all sorts of ethical questions. If this machine is as intelligent as you doesn't it also deserve the same freedoms as you? Such freedoms would no doubt include the freedom to leave you.

For some reason I am reminded here of that TV series The Outer Limits where every other week the plot was basically: man builds machine; man has sex with machine; machine becomes self aware; man rejects machine; machine tries to destroy the world. A natural story progression.

Anyway, coming back to the issue, as I see it what this hinges on is that there are a lot of men out there who are just unable to connect with women. This is sad, because the guys who want a robot because it won't reject them have no idea just how receptive women really are. Out of fear they are rejecting women before they've even given women a chance to connect with them.

Learning to be an easy socialiser, which is, I think, the linchpin to having attractive women in ones life is not an overnight transition but it is something that anybody who commits themselves to can realistically achieve. It does take effort, but it is worth it.

Likewise the only way to consistently attract the women you want, as a man, is to risk rejection. This is the only way. If you are unprepared to take that risk you cannot expect to reap the rewards of female attention, companionship and, yes, sex.

I really don't think that a futuristic sex toy is the solution all those lonely men out there really want. They are just unaware that they can take steps to become the men that the lonely women (let's not forget them!) want to meet. That or they are too scared to apply themselves to it. Either way this is not something that technology will solve; quite the opposite in fact. What it really needs is the old fashioned low-tech process of learning to love oneself and connect with other human beings.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Raise the stakes

I had a moment recently that in many ways was one of these so called life changing events. Well, that said, it was more one of those moments that brought me to a realisation about my life purpose and my passion.

To set the scene, last weekend I was at Regent's College in London. A friend of mine, John P. Morgan, who I know through the London Hynosis Meets runs a company called The Magnetic Man and asked me if I'd like to go along to his first big seminar. John's passion in life is to help people connect with each other, and in particular to help men connect with women; it's a sort of antidote to the PUA approach to meeting women. I'm really glad I went actually, partly because the seminar itself was inspirational, but also because of something else that happened.

When we stopped for lunch, and we all made our way down the the cafeteria, John suggested to us all that we might take the opportunity to just practice talking to as many people as possible.

This was an amazing exercise. It might sound silly, but because I'd been chatting to some of the other participants about card tricks before the seminar began I wasn't going to be the guy who has said he's a bit of a card magician and a hypnotist and then have to say after lunch that I hadn't gone up and talked to any strangers.

I munched my way through a plate of chicken with pasta in carbonara sauce as I listened to the conversation of the other guys from the seminar I had sat with. They they were talking about PUA boot camps and training afternoons they'd been to; basically workshops to help guys approach women.

Great, I thought, if I listen to any more of this it's going to be far more difficult than it needs to be.

I spotted a likely looking group of people standing in the ever lengthening lunch queue, grabbed a pack of cards, stood up and wandered over.

"Hi guys, I can see you're queuing for dinner, sorry to interrupt but I'd like to show you a magic trick."

They were actually friendly enough, and quite intrigued, as indeed most people are when you wave something fantastical like magic or hypnosis under their nose. I ran through several of my usual basic tricks, thanked them for being a good audience and moved on up the ever lengthening queue stopping another couple of times to perform more tricks. It was a great place to find people who really didn't mind being entertained.

It was as I reached the beginning of the queue that I spotted three young women sitting down at a little round table. Right, I thought, time to try something a bit more intimidating.

"Excuse me," I said, wandering over, "I only have a minute or two but I'd really like to show you a few magic tricks"

They were quite pretty, but a bit young; I'd guess at 18-20 years old. They nodded their interest so I grabbed a nearby chair and, planting it so I'd be sitting with the char back between my legs, settled down to begin my routine.

I started with my favourite opening trick, which is topsy turvy cards. It's quite spectacular really, making half of the deck appear to magically flip over inside the deck. The girls were intrigued by this so I singled out one of them and moved on to another good trick, the poker player's picnic. This is an awesome self-worker of a trick in which the person you're performing to cuts the deck into four piles to discover that all of the top cards are aces. It's always fun to accuse them of having cheated unconsciously and say that you'll never play poker with them.

From the point of view of a magician this is all mechanical. The real magic happened for me with with my next and final trick called Design for Laughter. In this trick the magician appears to have gone horribly wrong but continues unaware of his mistake. I love this trick because it is a wonderful source of drama. This was something I was able to enhance further by using something I'd learned the week before on a creative writing class I've been taking. You see, something that fascinates me is the relationship between hypnosis, magic and story telling. As I see it, a magic trick is in essence a story, albeit a short one, and the same principles apply. Likewise all the best stories have a hypnotic effect on the people they are told to.

So, with this in mind when I performed this trick I incorporated a principle I have recently learned about story writing, which is that one has to build up tension, but do so in stages. I started the trick with a "hey, this should work" attitude, and escalated things over the course of the trick to the point where my entire reputation as a magician was riding on what happened next.

This was when I experienced one of the most profound moments. I was looking into the eyes of the girl I was performing the trick to, right at the moment when the tension peaked, and I saw her eyes widen. I have always found women's eyes to be beautiful and incredibly expressive but this time it was even more so. This time I could tell, I could feel from her, that she was going through a strong emotional experience. The amazing thing wasn't just that though, I was leading her through a strong emotional experience.

Nothing stronger than when I revealed her card showing I was right after all and I got screams of "Oh my god!"

This is why I love performing magic, I love being able to give those kinds of experiences. Not just that though, it's why I love writing, doing hypnosis, telling stories, dancing. It's why I love sex.

About a year ago I decided that I needed to define my raison d'ĂȘtre; I need to know what my purpose in this world is. The shortest version I could come up with was "To create and to share". It might sound like a cheesy corporate slogan, but I think it's true to say that the best moments of my life, the times when I have felt most fulfilled, have been when I have been true to the ideals of that statement.

I cannot wait to see where else it can take me.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Islands of reality

There's a phenomenon I have become increasingly aware of, and which today I put a name to. If like me you are into self development, or rather you find that self development is an inevitable consequence of finding new levels of fun and general awesomeness in ones life, I'm sure this might be familiar to you.

When you become a hypnotist one thing that starts to become eminently clear is that everybody's reality is a subjective one, and is based upon their set of beliefs. This is why, on any controversial matter of opinion, you'll find that everybody is absolutely factually correct. If you don't believe me on this, just ask them.

Where this gets interesting is that people of similar opinions and outlooks will tend to seek each other out, cluster together and, not only that, through their interactions strengthen their own world views. "Everybody I've spoken to thinks the death penalty is common sense", "I haven't met anybody who thinks that a 20mph speed limit is reasonable", "Getting an Apple computer is a huge rip off, everybody I speak to on my PC support web forum agrees on that". We like to be right, and it feels comforting to be around people who we think are just like us and confirm what we already know.

We absorb our reality from the people we spend time with; we soak it up like a sponge just through our daily interactions. We can refer to the people you are regularly around in this way as one's "reference group" and they are incredibly important when it comes to your personal development.

What if up until now in your life you'd always had the same sort of friends, been around the same sort of people in school, maybe university, and in work. What will that do to shape your reality? Granted you won't be exactly like all of these people, but in many respects you are living on the same social island, the same island of reality as them. You will share their limiting beliefs too.

But now we come to you, dear reader, because I hope that you, like me, understand that you are responsible for generating your own model of reality. If you don't understand this simple truism you will find that your model of reality is at the mercy of your circumstances and often dictated by other people, and this really isn't a good thing.

So all of a sudden you realise that this isn't how it has to be, and that if you tailor your model of reality to what you want to do, what you want to be, you can push the boundaries and take your life wherever you want it to go. Furthermore, why not seek out other reference groups to spend time with, people from whom you can absorb beliefs and behaviours you'd really like to have.

This is when life starts to get exciting, but it's not without its challenges. One of the biggest of these challenges is facing what happens when you leave the island to go on this adventure, because when you return things will be different.

Let me give you an example. I recently went to a wedding; the couple were some friends of mine from a long time ago, and of course most of the guests I knew there were friends from that era. I've been at parties with these predominantly quiet and shy individuals before, and I've always been quite comfortably one of the crowd.

This time, however, I didn't want to sit quietly and talk to friends all evening, then maybe get up and dance with the group later. Oh no. After the bride and groom had started the first dance and the dance floor started to fill up with couples I spotted a pretty young woman who was obviously there on her own, walked over and asked her to dance.

I ask lots of women to dance every week. Quite deliberately I've chosen to live in a world where approaching women and asking them to dance in full confidence they'll say yes is the done thing; it's normal. So I was quite able to invite this woman into my reality.

The looks I was getting from my old friends were startling. Nobody knew quite what to make of it, because to them it just isn't what happens.

How the hell did he do that? Can he really just do that?

I could sense discomfort and in some respects I felt as though I'd brought an elephant into the room which everybody was far too polite to talk about.

I was recently listening to a recording of a talk given by a hypnotist by the name of Mark Cunningham and he used a phrase "disturbing the consensual reality" which sums the situation I have described above here perfectly I think. Sometimes it will just shock people, but in some cases it can even cause resentment.

People live their lives inside cages of their own devising. Learning to spot your cages and escape them, I believe, is the best and only way to a truly fulfilling life. At the same time be prepared for the natives to get restless.

Monday, 15 August 2011

"I'm no good at that"

Following on from my last post about magic I feel I should talk a little bit about incompetence.

I am reminded of a comment I once heard one of my favourite songwriters come out with many years ago now. Sharon Corr, who is a solo artist these days but was best known as the violinist from The Corrs, was talking about the business of writing music for the band to play. Whilst I forget the exact wording the pearl of wisdom she conveyed was that the thing about song writing is that when you start writing the songs you write aren't very good, but if you keep writing they do get better over time.

It may sound like the most obvious statement in the world, and yet I think that there is a truism about the human experience here that so many people completely miss throughout their entire lives.

I'm thinking, as an example now, of what most people say when I suggest they try dancing.

"Oh no," the usual response goes, "I'm no good at dancing, I have two left feet."

Well really? You've not danced much or at all before and you are stating the fact that you don't think you're any good at it as a reason not to have a go.

How, if I may ask, would you be any good at dancing if you've never done it?! Really?

As with most things, the people who are good at dancing are the people who have danced, and have danced a lot. At some point in the past they were not very good at dancing, just like you. What makes them different? Well, they stuck with it long enough to become good.

Here's the lesson:

If you want to be good at something be prepared to be very bad at it.

I think it's important to get away from this attitude toward "talent" that seems to be all pervasive in our society. This notion that exceptional ability is a gift that's given indiscriminately to a lucky few, as opposed to a competence that is earned through persistence.

The bad news is that being exceptional doesn't drop out of the sky and into your lap. The good news is that being exceptional doesn't drop out of the sky and into anybody else's lap either. Yes some people may start slightly ahead and have an easier ride due to circumstances and more resources at their disposal, but long term the one thing that will make all the difference is your attitude. With the right attitude you will always have the advantage.

Afraid you won't be a good hypnotist when you try with your first subject? Guess what, you won't be! Keep at it though and soon enough you will.

I am at present enjoying developing my fledgling skills as a magician. I am not a brilliant magician. I have come to accept that every so often my "is this your card?" will be met with a blank look and a shaking of the head. Heck, I had a day a couple of weeks ago where I did four tricks in a row and none of them worked! The one thing I can tell you for certain is that it will happen again, I will fail, and not least because as I improve my skills I will constantly be trying to execute more difficult tricks.

Push your boundaries or they will never move and you won't grow as a person. Don't just do the things you can do; do the things you can't.

"Dancing? I've never done anything like that before and it really wouldn't have occurred to me to try... Sounds like fun! Let's go!"

If you need any more inspiration, take a look at this:
Step outside your comfort zone and study yourself failing