Splinters in My Mind

Morpheus: Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something.  What you know you can’t explain. But you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is trinitybut it’s there, like a splinter in your mind driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?


Neo: The Matrix?

At this time, I’m unbelievably grateful for a series of events that have brought me to questioning and learning about the nature of our reality in ways I never thought possible.  There have been recent experiences that gave me the final shove, but when I look back I can recall a number of ‘splinters’ of nagging observations that just didn’t make sense in my life that I parked somewhere in the depths of my mind to be a reminder that things just aren’t how they are sold.

As a kid, I never questioned much (as I recall) – I went along with things.  I hated being late and rushed, but otherwise, I went along to get along.  I was the middle of a family of five kids, and felt alone sometimes, which is normal right…

When I was in high school, drinking age varied by the various states and provinces around us.  The US went to a standard drinking age of 21 nationally during my high-school years, while my home province went to 19, and our Maritime provinces were 18, with Quebec at a nominal 18.

I remember being disappointed when parents deferred their judgement on what an appropriate drinking age would be to the local laws –  this seemed arbitrary.  It made no sense to me that when a province changed their drinking age from 18 to 19 that a friend’s parents changed their view on what age was appropriate to match.  Wasn’t it obviously an arbitrary line in the sand drawn by an arbitrary organization of people who don’t know your children or the situation.

Early on in my adult life, I realized that the ‘elite circles’ of country clubs and high-priced condominium complexes are comprised of the most miserable people on earth, second only to older regular church-goers.

Likewise, I could see from my early jobs in large companies that those that rise in the ranks of the company tend to be more miserable than those that do not.  It always seemed to me that higher-ranking, meant bigger higher-profile headaches:

  • I could see that men’s ambitions were often driven by competition with their peers or the ambitions of their wives – and with each promotion, the man felt more and more disconnected from his own family
    • Many of these people never seemed to be satisfied, always comparing with the next rung in the shallow-ladder (you can always be out-shallowed)
    • Couples often seemed to be striving to ‘belong’ to an elite social club they thought existed, if they can just break that next level in the social hierarchy
  • When I was in Southern California, going into the office on Saturday morning was an epidemic – as was staying late at the office a few times a week.  This always seemed to me to be ‘daddy issues’ (or more often issues of ‘the boss’, combined with ‘we all have to suffer together’) – some deep self-loathing, that was only appeased by taking action one believes would be approved by one’s parents:
    • I thought ‘does no one ever re-think the values they were taught as children?’  Or, are we all driven largely by ‘childish notions’ that were drilled into us as kids…
    • My parents’ generation were products of a ‘The Great Depression’, and ‘WWII’ and had a very different mindset towards livelihood and life

My logical conclusion was to travel until I could find some meaning outside my corporate existence to come back to, and travel I did.  Immediately, once I made this decision, life insights started to bombard me:

  • The first was that complete strangers were by far the most supportive of dramatic personal change, and actually no one that was currently in my life was – I had to go alone
  • I did have a couple of friends from other cities to get started with.  I was immediately in love with the idea of roaming freely on a low budget, meeting people of like minds.  This experience literally began at the equipment store, and the the gamedeparture terminal of my local airport.  It reminded me of Michael Douglas in ‘The Game’ – once the game is on, his entire life perspective immediately shifts.

After the vaccinations and jetlag wore off, I quickly became more in touch with flow in my life than I ever had before.

The friends I was making, and experiences I was having were just clicking, with synchronicities abound.  It was an incredible luxury to mentally check out of ‘the matrix’ for six months and be open to an additional 6 if my interest/money allowed, and luckily it did.

When I look back now, I can see what’s so empowering about this choice.  The prime ‘currency’ of adventure travel is naturally, adventure.  This completely shifts your mindset from a workaday grind to openness, awareness, music, fun/joy, connections, laughs, etc.  And, the fact that the name of the game is ‘shoestring’, only helps in this regard.

I eventually returned and embraced corporate work-life with gusto.  I felt so lucky to have had this experience, and was committed to living the rest of my life with this zest.  I met my wife, and we decided what better honeymoon for two wander-lusters than a long global journey.

On our last destination, we re-emerged in the ‘first-world’ in Australia.  We were absolutely gob-smacked with how the perspective on global events at the time (post 9/11) were shaped by the news channels our friends were tuning into.   I had exchanges with old friends and family members that absolutely blew me away in terms of differing views on what was actually happening in the world.

Once we re-settled in California we swore to ourselves we wouldn’t fall victim to the ‘programming’ of the news channels and would stay tuned into what ‘was really going on’.  Before long, Arnold was elected governor and GW Bush was re-elected and it was all just too much to take.  We quickly left the USA for what we thought would be more enlightened pastures (Sydney).

Australia politically, wasn’t any better.  I realized that the strife the US had been through internally for the past century had actually caused them to ‘grow-up’ much more in many ways than Canada, Australia or UK, despite some of their choices.

In my first week in Australia, there were ‘race riots’ that started in our small beach town (Cronulla 2005).  This was so counter to any experience I had had in this town or with imagesX7C430CQAustralians to this point, I was shocked.  Curfews were imposed, and police on horseback were dispatched to patrol the beaches.  

 

I’ve come to believe that a lot of the splinters come from personal ‘programs’ that have been downloaded to us sometimes explicitly by people we look up to, but often more subtly in ways we don’t even notice.  These programs are obviously flawed on their face, but for whatever reason we cling to them for dear life, and try to sustain the myths:

    • The ‘husband/wife’ program – once I get a life partner, I’ll be happy.  Backward compatible with ‘girlfriend/boyfriend’ program.
    • The ‘kids’ program – once I get kids, I’ll be happy
    • The ‘house’ program – you get the idea…
    • The ‘retirement’ program
    • The ‘grandkids’ program (see ‘kid’ program)
    • The ‘golf/tennis/bowling/bridge club/boating, etc’ program – once I join the club, break the milestone, get the locker, get the friends, etc, I’ll be happy

If these don’t work for you, don’t worry there’s still the whopper of all time…wait for it…:  ’The Afterlife’ program – let’s just put in time here in this waiting room of life, running on our self-imposed rat-wheels until our sacred spiritual experience comes along after we die.  hmmmm…

One of the biggest programs running these days seems to be the ‘don’t talk about the programs’ program.  Don’t question the goods we’ve been sold.  Just keep your head down, be grateful that you have your health and you’re not on skid row.  Don’t contemplate what you could be.  Whatever you do, don’t ever bring up anything serious or contentious.  And above all else, never lose your cool (someone will download you the ‘anger management’ program).  

I’m as guilty as anyone in this regard.  We talk about the latest gadgets or the latest Netflix series, and that’s about as deep as it gets.  To diverge from materialistic ideals will only create contention, and we just can’t have that.  

We steer away from contention even in our own households.  I think this is because we just don’t have the language or the logic to articulate the contradictions.  We’re the fish still in the water, needing to talk about the water.

Mike Babcock, the new head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs this year was asked about his outlook on the future of the team (they finished dead last in the NHL last year, btw):

babcock

“It’s a funny thing.  My outlook for the future is 100% dictated by my outlook on the night.  We have a good night, we have a bright future.”

Which I apply to life as the quality of your (fill in the blank …retirement, marriage, next relationship, next job, etc.) is 100% dictated by the quality of your awareness or ‘consciousness’ on the day.  

So, how to raise awareness?  I’m afraid the answer isn’t get the iPhone7 or watch Netflix.  Nor unfortunately, is it drink a six-pack, or get a six-pack for that matter.  If it were, we’d all be levitating by now.  

It seems to me, you have to first snap out of the programs.  Second, acknowledge that the quality of our experience is shaped by the level of our awareness.  And then, realize that our awareness is shaped by our knowledge & understanding.

So, how to raise my knowledge?  Both Max Spiers and Mark Passio “Get as Offended as You Like” (www.whatonearthishappening.com/)  have said ‘make your own personal truth the number one priority in your life’.  Light your fire with the topic that lights you up and feed that flame with knowledge (books, and networks) that take you on your path to understanding.  But, you have to go alone.

Most of us are graduates or masters in our fields, with 10-30 years experience in our professions.  It has been a very humbling experience for me to realize that I’m actually in Junior Kindergarten in understanding the truths that surround me.  But alas, I’m finally in the right school…

stack-of-books-images-clipart-panda-free-clipart-images-NzH2Cp-clipart

 


Heavy Metals

It was April 20, 2015 – I had just come back from an epic Dubai April Men’s Hockey tournament, and returned to work the previous day. I was tired on my first day back, but on the morning of the 20th, my life would turn upside down. I experienced what felt like some kind of minor stroke in the office, but I had enough wherewithal to walk myself across the street to the Emergency Room.

The nurses in Emergency quickly took vitals, concluded I was over-reacting, and were cold and dismissive. I tried to reach my wife by cell phone, and was aware that my cognition (brain function) was severely reduced. The nurses had security remove me from ICU and return me to a waiting room (I wasn’t able to stand on my own, so didn’t heed their direction the first time). Luckily for me, an Emerg doctor took my case seriously, ran a gamut of tests and called in Neurology.

The doctors were stumped, but saw enough in the tests to admit me for the week. Neurology took over the case and continued to run a number of scans (MRIs, EKG, light tests, audio tests, etc.). One of the MRIs came back with spots on my brain consistent with MS, and consistent with some of the motor function (twitching) experiences I had at the onset. I would learn much later that the contrast agents for MRIs, and the radiation from the multiple scans only make matters (symptoms) worse.

chronic bread butter

By Day 4, Neurology was convinced I had early onset MS and ordered a lumbar puncture (‘spinal tap’). I refused. MS made no sense to me. I was a 48y-old man. Besides, except for some digestive issues and fatigue, my health was excellent prior to this episode. I was sure I was just depleted of some essential mineral from recent travel/hockey and wasn’t about to risk my spinal cord to pursue a diagnosis that would take weeks (to be sent to Mayo).

interns

I was then labeled AMA ‘against medical advice’, and abruptly discharged with no diagnosis. Luckily, my family GP in the US was following my case via email through the week, and directed me to get on a plane and get to Boston Lahey pronto. It took me two days to gather my medical records and fly.  But, in less than a week from the original onset, I was being attended to by top neurologists in a top US medical facility.

The Boston neurologists had more time, more focus, and better facilities. They ran a series of tests and scans and recognized the original spots for the MS diagnosis, but after a week dismissed MS and Epilepsy from the possibilities. This was a big relief until I realized this was the end of the line for my diagnosis. It was now up to me to try and find another explanation: Infectious Disease (recent travel to Borneo)? Leaky Gut (digestive issues preceded the onset)? Some other urology/kidney function condition?

I arranged to see the Gastroenterology experts, and had an Upper GI scope done. I was diagnosed with an ‘LA Grade A Esophagitis’, which is one or more minor mucosal breaks for which I was prescribed Zantac. Infectious Diseases was booked-out until July, and Urology had no insight, but wanted to operate on an old stricture.

I knew the Esophagitis was related to the digestive issues, so eliminated it as a possible cause, and never took Zantac. I was running out of leave-days and out of paths to pursue, and only feeling consistently worse.

A cosmic chain of events then led me towards my eureka findings. In my last week in Boston, I happened to stumble on an incredible TV series called ‘Diagnose Me’ about Functional Medicine. There were wild cases of strange illnesses re-enacted, with Dr Mark Hyman commenting on Integrated Functional Medicine and how seemingly unrelated symptoms can be explained.

Then, on one of my last nights in my hotel, I received a call from a family friend telling me that his wife had been suffering from Lyme Disease for more than a year, and I really should see a ‘Lyme Literate Doctor’ while in Boston.

I explained that I had looked into Lyme disease initially on WebMD, but the symptoms didn’t seem to fit. I did have it tested at Lahey and the results were negative. He advised me that false negatives are common and the popular understanding of Lyme disease is far from the reality.

alternative remedies

I quickly found Dr. Jeanne Hubbuch who ran a series of tests including Lyme, but I had to return home to the Gulf without any results or answers. Luckily, on Dr Hubbuch’s website, I discovered Biological Medicine and the Paracelsus Clinic in Switzerland. I stopped in Zurich on my way back to the Middle East and was able to visit Dr Rau’s clinic in Lustmuhle. I couldn’t see a physician at that time, but picked up his book ‘The Future of Natural Healing’, and immediately put myself onto the Rau Alkaline Diet.

By the end of May, I had the ‘smoking gun’: A positive heavy metal toxicity test from a top lab in the USA. I was toxic with Lead, Mercury, and Cadmium as well as Gadolinium (MRI Contrast Agent).

metals results

My Heavy Metals Results, Drs Data May 2015

The Rau diet, Natural Healing book, QS Scientific, and the SupermanDiet Detox helped get me through the summer without any further sick days, until I could get back to Switzerland.

Biological Medicine teaches that your system can handle a certain level of toxins, but once your ‘barrel tips’, any number of physical symptoms can appear…eventually leading to any one of many possible related chronic illnesses and ultra-sensitivity to all toxins. My ‘barrel’ tipped with most of the common contributors:

toxic barrels

  • EMFs (electromagnetic radiation – wifi, cordless phones, smart meters, etc)
  • Dental History (root canals & infected wisdom teeth extractions – mercury amalgam fillings are a big contributor here, but I was lucky enough not to have them!)
  • Toxins (mold, pollution, plastics, etc)

Parasites are also considered a significant ‘co-factor’ known to thrive in a toxic system (see ‘Monsters Inside Me’).

Since July, I have visited Switzerland’s Paracelsus Clinics four times, and followed their recovery plan:

  1. Detoxification (including dental)
  2. Intestinal Health and Bacteria (diet alkaline/hypo-allergenic)
  3. Upbuilding/Regeneration of the Immunity System (blood/liver)
sorry

“We’re very sorry.  We’ve tried everything.  We’re going to have to put you onto a natural remedy that is 95% effective.”

I am happy to report that I haven’t had a sick day in a year, and have returned to my favorite pastime of playing men’s ‘beer league’ hockey. I would estimate I’m at 80% of optimal health, but with knowledge and support now on my side, should be better than ever within a year.

dubai buds

Men’s Hockey Team, The Dubai Buds Wulfpack May 2016


When She Rains, She Pours – Adventures in Independent Consulting

To err is to wander and wandering is the way we discover the world;  and, lost in thought, it is also the way we discover ourselves. Being right might be gratifying, but in the end it is static, a mere statement. Being wrong is hard and humbling, and sometimes even dangerous, but in the end it is a journey, and a story. Who really wants to stay at home and be right when you can don your armor, spring up on your steed and go forth to explore the world? … To fuck up is to find adventure: it is in that spirit that this book is written.
— 
Kathryn Schulz (Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error)

One of  biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make, I learned a few weeks ago from an experienced and successful entrepreneur on Ted-Talks, is getting attached to our business model and shopping it around looking for a market.  In fact, we should be doing the opposite.  We have a set of capabilities, and certain access to a market, and our focus should be to adjust our business model (or value proposition) until we hit the sweet spot of the market.

Upon reflection, it’s funny we seem to get fixated too quickly on the most flexible element in the equation:  the model.  Our capabilities, and our access are much less adjustable, but we tend to try to bend our market instead!

After following John, the expat life coach, and a number of other independents around the globe while collaborating directly with many more, I’ve begun to recognize some patterns of challenges we all face together, albeit independently.

The first and most poignant, is John’s observation that to thrive in the environment we’ve set out to manage, we must ‘get comfortable with self-doubt’.  I’d suggest further, that when you consider entrepreneurship overseas, your self-doubt doubles again!  After all, you’re now operating in a foreign environment, with a thinner support network, while navigating a myriad of invisible cultural boundaries in the process.

Besides this inner challenge, there are a number of common obstacles we all face in one form or another:

  1. The Feast or Famine Syndrome (aka ‘When She Rains, She Pours’) – There is very little margin between not having enough work, and having more you can deliver on.  Many of us target mid-to-large sized organizations, with long selling cycles (i.e., famine).  When the skies open, they want the work of five senior consultants done yesterday!       Remedy:
    • Build a loose syndicate of affiliates you can trust and pull together on a project-basis.  Unfortunately, not unlike ex-convicts, independent consultants are slow to trust other independent consultants!
  2. A Tendency Towards Delivery Over Selling (aka ‘hand-to-mouth syndrome’) – Partly due to the ‘want this delivered yesterday’ environment, and also due to our conscientious need to ensure high-value for our clients, we tend to focus exclusively on the quality of the delivery and the satisfaction of our current client.  Economically, this often makes sense, but it can create a cycle of restarting marketing and selling efforts over and over again, at the completion of each large-scale engagement.                                                                                         Remedies:
    • Leverage social networking (a low touch means to keep your network active)
    • Get better at partitioning your time with your clients, to ensure your business gets built in parallel with theirs
  3. A Tendency Towards Selling over Marketing – Often due to our tactical nature towards an ROI for our time invested, we tend towards one-on-one business development rather than one-to-many business promotion in our downtime.                             Remedies:
    • Commit to a Marketing calendar and budget at the beginning of the year
    • Seek out, qualify and incentivize other access points (other channels) to your client-base on the front-end to promote your services for you
  4. Long Sales Cycles (building trust, understanding, and opportunity) – Unless we have our one-to-many Marketing approach well-tuned to our niche, our Sales cycle includes a long dance of getting to know one another, building trust, and identifying developing opportunities.  Remedies:
    • Partner for Scale and Speed (e.g., ‘Big 5’) – The big players are more likely to be able to understand your value proposition and promote it as a new value-add to their client-base.  This can expedite the sales cycle through a trusted channel for the end-client.  Beware of ‘assimilation’ here, where there’s value, there’s risk of being absorbed!
    • Timing is Everything – Offer time-sensitive incentives, to stage delivery, and smooth your resource requirements and sales efforts throughout the year…easier said than done…
  5. Attitudes Towards Consultants (Tends to be ‘Religious’ – Believers vs Non-Believers aka ‘The last thing we need around here is someone who knows what they’re doing’ syndrome) – Despite the most compelling service offering, many client contacts are reluctant to promote consulting services internally.                     Remedies:
    • Focus on the big decision-makers (ideally C-Level) for all client interactions
    • Focus on risk-takers – Look for renegades who see the value of your offering, and are willing to promote and create urgency internally
    • Focus on the missing in-house capability, or capacity, or focus that you can bring to bear

The obstacles are many while the challenges keep us on our toes.  We’ve got to manage our internal resolve, while riding the changing tides.  We need to constantly be willing to revisit our value proposition, and adjust our model if it’s not hitting a chord with our market.  Our challenges are there to be overcome.

I wouldn’t have it any other way…

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

– Thomas Edison