Starting the New Year early

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My birthday falls on the 15th of December, and it always feels natural for me to start my new year’s resolutions on this day, a full two weeks ahead of the norm on January 1st.  This year, I decided to push it even earlier and start my personal new year on December 1st with this intention: I will walk the dark path guided by my own light.

It felt like no coincidence then to wake up today to a TED email invite to a special subscription to 31 days of Ideas: A good idea delivered to your inbox, each day in December.  I would’ve passed up on the offer if I didn’t see Pico Iyer’s name on the page.  As one of the most quoted writers in my circle of friends, his name feels synonymous to modern monk.  He writes with precision and context on the things that matter: silence, clarity, external and internal shifts.

Sharing his essay about his favorite TED talk (I can’t find it on the TED website) below. Especially relevant to me now as I grapple with the economic realities/necessities of choosing a creative life. Highlights are mine:

The talk that changed my life

By Pico Iyer

Thirty-four years of working in the mass media have taught me one thing: never to trust the mass media. Not because of any hidden agenda or conspiracy but simply because the media is in the business of giving us what we want. And what we seem to want these days is wild gossip, distraction and entertainment ’round the clock. The only way to follow what’s going on in the world is to never pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV, but merely to try to observe it on the human level first-hand, unmediated by screens.

So you’re probably not surprised that I was liberated, blown open, when I heard Ricardo Semler’s TED Talk, “How to run a company with (almost) no rules.” Really, its title should be, “How to live with the exactly right, emancipating rules.” The minute the Brazilian CEO walks onto the red circle and says, as easily as hello, “On Mondays and Thursdays I learn how to die,” I know I’m in the presence of a line of thinking that can change my life.

Mr. Semler’s not young, and melanoma runs in his family, so he has reason to think about the end, perhaps. But as he begins to unfold his vision of how to transform a company — by encouraging workers to come and go as they please — and then extends that vision to our schools, I realize that this highly practical, successful man of the very real world is simply challenging us to think about what’s difficult, and therefore necessary.

I haven’t occupied a company setting since 1986; nothing could interest me less than profit curves or office management. But the grace of Mr. Semler’s talk is that he’s speaking about the “graph” of existence more than of spreadsheets; about making a life as much as making a living. And there’s something invigorating about seeing this wisdom brought to us not by monk or formal philosopher or saint, but by elegant company director in black jacket. Leading a good and considered life, he shows us, need not be incompatible with laboring in an office block.

As those of us lucky enough to listen to the talk live, in a tent on the beach in Rio, heard Ricardo Semler at the end of a long day, after maybe sixty talks over the previous three days, many were stunned by single lines. He wasn’t asking himself, “What do I want to be remembered for?” but “Why do I want to be remembered at all?” He was reminding us that we’re always ready to turn to our work-related e-mails on Sunday evening yet slow to go to the movies on Monday afternoon. He kept taking us back to how “we measure ourselves, as humans,” knowing that such a measure has to do with something deeper than the rocket fuel propellant systems, income-tax preparations and M.I.T. classes by which he’s long gained his livelihood.

It’s the same message that the Buddha and Marcus Aurelius and Montaigne pass along, because Mr. Semler goes to cemeteries even on his birthday, as they might have done, thinking about what he’d do if he had only a few months to live. But he brings such ideas to the boardroom, the bedroom and the classroom, exactly the places where we’re most inclined to overlook them.

And nothing could be more urgent in an age when we spend less and less time addressing what’s lasting and what’s real. We’re always being told, rightly, to tend to our forests and to clean up our air; but we’re less often reminded to try to protect the wild spaces inside our imaginations (where the future will get made) or to clean up the skies in our souls (where toxins can be more poisonous than any external pollution). Even as we’re so proud of filling our bodies with locally sourced, farm-to-table, organic food, we fill our minds with junk.

The world is as full of beauty and wisdom and hope as ever; I’ve seen that everywhere from Burma to New York City these past few months (and, in the past few weeks, in Bhutan and Alberta and Varanasi and rural Japan). Humans are no worse than we’ve ever been, even if we’re not necessarily any better. And the only way we can imagine a better world is by going within. The only way we can make it happen is by bringing that imagining out into the world. Ricardo Semler inspires me as only a wise man can, and he gives me hope about translating his bracing wisdom into real life as only an accomplished master of the corporate sphere can do.

Watch “How to run a company with (almost) no rules”
Subscribe to 31 days of ideas

Tree cutting day

Got to my parents' house today and saw workers about to cut off big branches of this tree, which was overgrown and causing damage to the wall and fence. I've never witnessed a tree cutting before and, not to be dramatic, but I felt a sadness come over me. I asked mom if she talked to the tree first and we gave it our thanks and kindness. I felt the clear sap from the first branch that fell--parang umiyak siya! We collected the branches and made trunk stumps that will be sure to get lots of TLC. Thank you, tree.#tree #down

Got to my parents’ house today and saw workers about to cut off big branches of this tree, which was overgrown and causing damage to the wall and fence. I’ve never witnessed a tree cutting before and, not to be dramatic, but I felt a sadness come over me. I asked mom if she talked to the tree first and we gave it our thanks and kindness. I felt the clear sap from the first branch that fell–parang umiyak siya! We collected the branches and made trunk stumps that will be sure to get lots of TLC. Thank you, tree.

#tree #down

Home and Family

Big hugs to my family who came over to bless my new home today! Thank you for the love always and cheers to merry and golden days here! #family #home #blessing

Big hugs to my family who came over to bless my new home today! Thank you for the love always and cheers to merry and golden days here!

#family #home #blessing

A summer gone

Cheers

Came across this in my drafts, written a year ago…and funny that it seems I’m on repeat this year.

We’re now in month 8 of the year and looking back at Summer 2015 pictures makes me wonder how all of that could’ve happened in just seven months.

Back-to-back heartbreaks, recovery, purging, breakthroughs, identity building, crossing thresholds, birthing.  Seems the tailend of my year of gallivanting has given its final bow and by gosh am I so thrilled to hear the fat lady singing already.   On hindsight I see that I did ask for all of this, and I now move forward in gratitude, always. And in joy.

Of course there are no true repeats, but always, we move in gratitude and joy.  Thank you, 2016.  You’ve been wonderful so far.

polymath in relationships

Montalut Doodles 2013 (29)

I’ve always been most curious about people. They say “I love you” is just another way of saying “I find you endlessly fascinating”. How wonderful, isn’t it?

It just becomes tricky when we find a lot of people fascinating (which is usually the case for most of us)!

what is real?

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Classic question in college philosophy: if a tree falls in the forest, but no one witnesses it, did it still fall?  What is real?

Let’s simplify things and say that yes, it’s the witnessing that makes the falling real.

My follow up question is this: what constitutes witnessing? What does it mean to witness?

Does one witness with the senses–eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin? When we see, smell, hear, taste, touch, is it then that something becomes real to us? Or do we do it emotionally, mentally, spiritually? Is something or someone real when we feel, think, commune with or transcend it? Is it the connection that makes it real? Is to witness, to connect?

Apply this to the modern phenomenon of online dating. Online dating has opened the dating floodgates for previously unknown permutations of relationships. Nowadays, it is possible to have an everyday relationship with someone living thousands of miles away in a different timezone, and with whom we don’t share a real-life context.  It is possible to know someone and still never have met in person. Technology has given us tools to bridge the sensory gap of physical distance through the internet, social media, video calls–you name it. Presence–that space where the magic happens between two people–can now take on a non-physical form.  Or can it?

Her is a movie that presented the possibility of a relationship with an artificial intelligence, a construct. A man falls in love with a voice that talks to him.  Does the fact that the “other” in the relationship is a non-human make the connection (i.e. relationship) artificial?  If the relationship is one-sided, exists in one’s head, is it any less real?  What if it impacts that person’s life for the better, making him a more effective workmate, son, friend?  Is it real then?  One can say the same of faith, which is based on a total surrender to a mystery, unknown, unverifiable Other.  Where does one draw the line between real and imagined?

Stretching this a bit further, isn’t memory also intangible? Yesterday and tomorrow–do they belong in the realm of what is real or imagined?

is the world getting better?

2016.05 Montalut Doodles (6)

This past month, I’ve been called naive.
They asked me where I get my information
TED — all optimistic, ideas and collaboration driven spaces
Is it naive to listen to these conversations over the conversations that comprise traditional news and pop culture?

Does it limit the conversation to a bubble?

Are spirit and science finally meeting?
Is to take a side a limiting tactic? Isn’t not to take a side more costly?

Written in May 2016