The Ego Climber

I found this quote almost 21 years ago when I was 23 years old. It was written well before that , but it so accurately described my sense of urgency at the expense of living in the moment that I almost thought Robert Pirsig wrote it for me. I think it is a beautiful description of a tension we all experience at times, and for me it is a reminder that my goal is internal and within reach.

I’ve had different favorite parts at different stages in my life. Currently, I think my favorite part is that I realize what I want is all around me.

Thanks for reading and sharing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be here. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.

By Robert M. Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


You Are Where You Should Be

Sometimes I am dazzled by outcomes. Who doesn’t feel a sense of awe from time at the winner, the champion, the best?

Then I realize that the outcome is too narrow a focus, and as a performance psychologist, coach, and father, I remind myself, “It can’t be all about the outcome. It’s about the process. If the process isn’t solid, the desire outcome won’t be reached.”

Then I realize even the process is too broad of a focus, and I have to get narrow again. When I narrow the focus from process, I find myself in the moment.

We can only make plays in the moment. We can’t go back in time and get a do-over, and we can make plays before the opportunity exists (meaning we can’t make Friday’s plays on Thursday). When we focus too much on outcome or process, we are always somewhere and sometime else, not here and now in the moment.

One of the keys to making the play is to be alive in this moment, understand what is possible, and act on it in an attempt to make the play. While it’s quite normal, even beneficial, to get caught up thinking about outcomes or processes, I do not recommend staying there too long. After all, the past doesn’t exist anymore and the future never arrives in the present. We only live in now, and it’s always now on the ride between Thursday and Friday and every point after. When our thoughts focus too much on the past or future, we lose some influence over what we can do now.

Being alive enables you to use energy to do work, such as thinking, acting, and feeling. You need not seek things to set this energy in motion. It’s always on, always keeping you alive, always ready at a moment’s notice.

So instead of seeking things to ignite your inner fire, realize it is already on fire, and get to work using that fire’s energy and brilliance to make plays. As you make plays, you may realize you connect to some things more strongly than others, but don’t be confused about how this works. There is no outcome that will set you on fire, and you do not have to be set on fire through a process. You are alive and on fire right now in this moment. There’s nothing else needed to make the plays of your life. Trust that you are where you should be, and make a play.

 


“Be where your feet are.”

– Nick Saban


 

Finding the Light of Love

The third key in making the play is to be alive. In this week of connecting to the light inside of us, I think it helps to think of this light as love (and there are good reasons why it makes sense to think this way, including the hot rush of adrenaline we can get when doing something we love). It doesn’t matter what type of love, it’s simply a loving, warm, thought and feeling. This love could be used to connect with another person or it could be used to build something out of wood and nails. The medium doesn’t matter. The love behind it is what drives it all.

If you think of love, it’s one of those things that never really runs out of supply. We think it does. It seems like it does. But if you find someone who is very loving, they will tell you that the more we love others and the world around us, the more love we have in reserve when we need it. The tank is always full no matter how much we use. In fact, it seems like using love in the tank fills it with even more love.

If you can’t find it for a moment, relax. It’s not lost. It never goes away. It’s only temporarily hidden from your view. Be confident that no person and no thing, not even you, can dull your love.

Love is in you and your world even when it appears to be gone. Other emotions are connected to love in ways we rarely consider. When feeling anger, we are energized to defend something we love. When feeling fear, we are scared we might lose something we love. When anxious, we are fearful about what may or may not happen to something we love. Surprise and disgust are sudden distractions from, or even toward, love. Happiness is warm love. Love is the fire. Love is the burning passion. It’s like our sun. It’s the fuel for life, and it’s always burning bright no matter what the emotional weather. It’s all love in various disguises.

So here’s a question to ponder: What do you want to get done? Do you want to point people toward having a good day? Do you want to coach a team the best you can? Do you need to solve a mechanical problem?

Whatever the plays of your life, find the love, connect to it, and use its energy to be alive and make the play.