The greatest gift to receive is perspective

Twice a week I drive to the South Bay - a two to three hour round trip commute. I spend those hours with podcasts - squeezing in any opportunity to learn. Some podcasts help me strengthen my craft as a coach while others draw me in with their stories.  Ear Hustle is one of my newer favorites. It is a podcast designed to provide a glimpse into life at San Quentin. When I tune in, I broaden my perspective on humanity, find new ways to build empathy, and feel closer to my brother.

On my drive yesterday, I found myself shocked by the wisdom from men on death row. Most people's gut reaction to death row inmates is “what could I possibly have to learn from them?”

A lot.

“It is easy to be melancholy in a place like this. That is easy today. That is not hard to do. My sentence was sentenced to death. I wasn’t sentenced to be reformed. Any acts of redemption or self transformation that anyone makes on death row has to come from themselves. Who am I, why did I come here, and what is my purpose. And so if you can find out what your central purpose is in life, then that not only becomes your anchor but that becomes your alarm clock that inspires you each and every day to get up and want to do something to pursue that mission.”

Any acts of redemption must come from themselves. This is about finding and claiming your own sense of worth - separate from others. So many of my clients struggle to sense how they are doing without someone letting them know. We feel good when someone tells us we have done well. We feel bad when we are not rewarded in a way we deem appropriate by others. Or when someone expresses disappointment in us. Worse still is when people do acknowledge us, but we dismiss what they say because we don't see it in ourselves. These men have to see their own value to embody any sense of value. No one is going to give them recognition. Where might you give yourself recognition today? Where do you see your own growth?

“It starts in the morning. It is the most important decision each and every single one of us make that we take for granted. We chose to wake up happy or we choose to wake up sad. Make that decision. Hopefully, it’s happy. And then from that point on you know I just continue trying to figure it out. Why am I still alive? Why am I still breathing? Why do I still exist? And I think it is not a matter of knowing what that purpose is, it is about the journey and the discovery and understanding what that is. And it constantly changes.”

It can be so easy to see life as happening to us and impossible to see what role we play in our own life. This inmate challenges us to see that everything we do is an active choice. He reminds us that our lives are a series of active choices. Clarity comes from knowing what we are saying yes to and what we are saying no to with each choice. What are you choosing today?

"Being up there - what gives your life meaning?," the host asks. 

"I know the conditions aren’t the best, but it’s noticing the little things along the way that I am more in tune to seeing now than I was prior to getting here."

"Can you give me an example of something good that could happen during the day?," she inquires further.

"It could be something as small as walking outside and feeling the sun on my face. That is just one small little example that again people walk through each and every day without reflecting upon that one single instance that many just take for granted and I guess now because my life is just so slowed down, I can focus on those and it is those little things that make life beautiful."

Many clients see objectively that they have abundance in their life. After all, they are paying for coaching. Yet, day to day, it is hard to see that. It gets lost in the chaos of life. We naturally look to big milestones - a promotion, a relationship change, an upcoming vacation, shipping a product, signing a new client - and feel blank in the gaps between. We need big things to see our abundance. This inmate reminds us that it lives in really small things too. If we are willing to slow down to acknowledge them. Where do you have abundance today?

Similarly, I adopted a new perspective from Jack Kornfield last week. Jack is a renowned Buddhist teacher and practitioner. Tim Ferriss featured him on his podcast recently, giving me the gift of his wisdom.

At one point, Tim asks Jack, “what was the longest period of time that you spent in silence?” Jack’s response, without skipping a beat was. “I spent about 500 days. So less than a year and a half in silence.” Tim Ferris chuckled in the background. I did the same.

Efficiency runs our lives today. We fill the small, rarely available windows on our calendars with anything. 500 days is an unimagined luxury that feels long. Jack found it to be “less than a year and a half.” Imagine saying “I only spent 5 years building a company.” Or “I only spent 3 hours preparing for a presentation.” Or “I have only spent 10 years building my career.” Jack saw a lengthy investment as nominal. Where might an "only" perspective benefit you?

This week’s challenge invites you to find a new perspective. Who inspires you and what perspective might you borrow from them for the week?