Friday, November 18, 2011

Thank Google It's Friday!

Ages ago, I posted a Friday "Best Of" ... a collection of inspiring and amusing things I had dug up, stumbled across and received over the past several days. At the time I think I envisioned it as a weekly thing. Turned out it wasn't. Oh well. But here are some gems (in my eyes) anyway. Not a bad collection for one week!!

People often ask me why I am always happy. Those who know me well know that my circumstances are not always the source of my happiness, as I have certainly had my share of challenging times. THIS is how. Truly. By keeping myself always - ALWAYS - surrounded by ideas and images like these. It works. Honestly :) 

Watch whatever ones grab your interest and skip the rest (or try them on anyway - you never know!!)

1. Benjamin Zander's TED Talk "On Music and Passion"... (Thank You Charlie Regan!) 20 minutes
"Benjamin Zander has two infectious passions: classical music, and helping us all realize our untapped love for it -- and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections."

(My Note: Even if you do not enjoy classical music - especially if you do not enjoy classical music - please do this. This guy is so much fun and wonderfully inspiring. You will be left with an awesome sense of beauty and wonder and possibility and gratitude (not bad for just twenty minutes!!)

2. Pretty Lights (electronic music phenom) DJ'ing a spectacular mix of 7 Led Zeppelin songs. 6 minutes.
Pretty Lights live in his home state, Colorado// 
PL played sets at The Fillmore in Denver, CO on 8-12-11 and at the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO on 8-13-11. 
RadioEditAV filmed the shows and edited this video to the track, produced by Pretty Lights. The song is a PL version of a Led Zeppelin remix. The track samples pieces of 7 Led Zeppelin tracks collaged together and then reflected thru a prism of Hip-Hop, Classic Rock, Downtempo, and Dubstep.
For more info on Pretty Lights shows and to download the track for free go to
and all PL albums are available for free at

3. Damien Walters - Parkour/Gymnast extraordinaire!! (Thank You Elise Maguire!) 3 minutes

4. Seth Godin on "Curiosity" at Nick Askew's Soul Biographies ... 3 minutes

5. A magnificent Dilbert ...

6. Thank You Karen Lorah Johnston Waite :)

7. "Validation" - an amazing 20 minute movie about the power of being kind to people and sharing good energy! (Thank You Heather Ann Bolestridge!)

8. "The Butterfly Circus" - a 20 minute movie about seeing the strength, beauty and value in everyone - even when they do not see it in themselves. (It has disappeared from my Facebook and I have gone blank on who sent it to me ... will correct this asap!) 

9. A simplified guide to being happy ...

10. A beautiful essay that resonates so clearly with my worldview ... (from
Click here to die young and happy

You do not have to run a marathon while you're 39 weeks pregnant and then make national headlines when you give birth a few hours later. Aren't you relieved?You do not have to swim to Alcatraz or run the stadium stairs 100 times at 5:00 am every morning like some sort of fitness maniac, bitching and groaning and oh my God my calves. You do not have to join some sort of exercise boot camp, sweat your ass off in yoga five times a week, hit the gym and pound the weights and crunch those abs into submission.

Hell, you don't even have to eat better, get more sleep, smile more or quit whining about the state of the world all the damn time, though that would probably help.

You do not have to do much of anything at all, oh flaccid and notoriously sedentary American, but maybe perhaps think about once in awhile getting off the couch and walking around maybe 15 minutes a day -- 15 minutes! -- to add actual years to your life, lower your risk of cancer and heart disease, improve all sorts of deleterious health situations that plague the typical American citizen like ditzball insanity plagues a Republican presidential candidate.

Did you know? Have you heard? It is, after all, the latest advice, the most recent health study that says if you'd just please get off your ass and amble about for just a few minutes and hey gosh maybe take a single flight of stairs once in awhile, well, you'd be adding years to your life. Years! You! Imagine!

Is it not good news? Many Americans love infantile, vaguely insulting medical information like this. Minimal work, maximum benefit? I barely have to do anything at all and I can say to hell with real exercise and caring much for my body in any real and thoughtful way, and my doctor will still praise me like a parent praises a child who drank a big glass of grape juice without spilling any on the rug? Awesome. Someone put this in pill form, and we've reached nirvana.

Oh how far we have fallen, no? To arrive at this surreal point where health experts are actually reduced to begging all of western humanity to just, well, be vertical, to merely be mildly ambulatory for a handful of seconds every day, with the promise of some extra pudding and all the crossword puzzles you can handle when you finally hit the retirement home. USA!

But let us not be overly unenthusiastic. We are, after all, always desperate for an iota of good health news, something to allay the fact that we're getting fatter, more narcotized and less healthy far faster than anyone can fully measure. No wonder doctors are trying everything short of offering cash and some free porn if we'd just make the slightest effort not to die enormous and violently ill by 50.

And hey, at least we're not as bad as the Brits, right? Didn't they just win the award for fattest and least healthy first-worlders on the planet? You bet they did. What, you thought America had a chokehold on that prize? You took one ugly swim through, say, and said enough "Oh my Gods" to satisfy a year of feeling depressed about the state of the nation? How cute you are.

Me, I've never understood the idea of longevity, the strange utopian need to figure out all sorts of little 15-minute tricks to help you stave off illness and live to 100, to extend life and push the boundaries of human physiological endurance to the ultimate degree except to say wow, 100, that's a lot of years, look how amazing, look how brutally we can mess with nature, just before keeling over in a heap of dusty bones and sepia-toned sighs.

Nevertheless, every day comes a new study, a fresh hunk of painfully obvious data that says if you inhale ten pounds of potato chips or smoke a pack a day or seethe in rage at stoplights to the point of excess flab and rotten perspectives and madhouse stress, you are shaving valuable years off your life. Years! You!

I am nonplussed. I do not understand this angle of approach, the half-hearted promise of being slightly less miserable if you'd just cut out a things that are obviously horrible for you and add a few things that are so easy a stoned puppy could do them. I am stupefied and saddened to the core that the information is not more delightfully literal, more electrically enlightened, more of a divine roundhouse kick to the head of the collective consciousness.

"Look, forget reducing your chance of heart disease," the doctors should be screaming aloud, slapping us awake, whispering to your wary and overburdened soul. "Never mind the thing about how walking will help prevent cancer, improve your basic blood flow, maybe shave off a few pounds. What are you, a child? Isn't this obvious? Get over it.

"And while you're at it, and to hell with the hateful Puritanism that underlies it all, the vile voice that says the body is ugly and the flesh is sinful and it's all a pathetic, shameful thing to be ignored, or heavily medicated, or glutted beyond recognition and finally rejected like so much animal meat. This way misery and conservatism lies.

"Instead, let us hereby amplify the idea that we get a terrifically short ride on this pale blue dot, and hitch it to the deeply mystical notion that your body is actually a wildly sacred container to be cherished and celebrated like a goddamn roller coaster bumper car funhouse temple of wow.

"Can you do that? Recreate yourself anew every single day and feed your core with all manner of joy and bliss, wine and movement, sex and moan, sweat and heartbeat and taking the stairs two at a time because the stairs actually prefer it that way?"

Or perhaps we should put it the other way around: Despite what you hear, despite endless tips and tricks, there is simply no way life is merely about the avoidance of disease and pain, about minimizing your odds of heart failure and not destroying your liver by 40. It is not about doing the absolute minimum to stay afloat in the human fleshboat just long enough to decay into a puddle of anger and resentment and WTF happened to my spine.

Look. Of course you don't have to run a marathon, burn a million calories, leap up the stairs. Of course it's not about just getting off your butt for a few minutes a day to add years to your life. This much is a given. This much is only the top layer. This much is for amateurs.

The larger advice is simple enough: Relish so tremendously, so irresistibly the fact you exist, the fact that you can feel your heart beat through your clothes, the fact you get to actually be in a body for a short, hot run... be so goddamn electrified by this astonishing fact, that you can't help but really, really want to do all those things, often all at once. Simple, no?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Wealthiest Man in Toronto

I had a great experience tonight...

Background: I have been coaching a weekly leadership course in Toronto the past few months, and usually spend my meal breaks with the program leader and another coach, two very successful businessman. Both really terrific guys, from whom I learn a lot, and I enjoy our meals together. Naturally, their conversations occasionally turn to their respective companies and investments. At times like these, I often feel somewhat out of my element. While I got clear a few years ago that high finance is not in my baileywick, I have to admit that I sometimes get mesmerized by the figures they are throwing back and forth. 

Tonight: Walking back from dinner, we took the long route to pick up some coffees on the way. I was trailing a few feet behind, as they were engaged in a business conversation. We passed a homeless woman who asked me for change. I smiled at the irony of her not making her request of these two much better "heeled" gentlemen, but reached into my pocket and gave her $5.00

When we got to the coffee shop I said it was my treat (only fair, as one of the other guys had picked up the dinner tab). As I went to pay I noticed an old, poorly dressed woman digging in her shabby purse for change, so I offered to pay for hers as well, of which she was very appreciative.

Halfway between the coffee shop and our destination, there was a busker - playing his guitar and singing. 

He was only moderately talented but had good energy. I would have stopped to enjoy for a minute, but my companions had hurried by. So, I tossed in my last loonie and hustled to catch up. I began reflecting on how different our daily lives are, realizing that they live in downtown Toronto and probably do not even notice these urban characters anymore.

It was just then that I looked up and had my breath taken away by the most gorgeous sight. An enormous harvest moon was just beginning its climb into the cool night sky, and completely filled the space between two skyscrapers ahead of us. Knowing that this was not an everyday sight for them, I pointed it out immediately. We all admired the moon together for a few seconds before they returned to their conversation.

This left me free to walk the last three blocks silently, basking in this lunar magnificence, savouring my coffee, and feeling warm and fuzzy about my little acts of kindness. All told I was out less than $15 (including dinner, so I may have even been ahead!!), and felt that the whole experience was a wonderful bargain.

That is how, with pockets literally empty, I found myself the wealthiest man in Toronto.

(Author's note: In responding to a comment on Facebook I realized that I should clarify that I have nothing but admiration for my two dinner companions. They are actually extraordinary people who really do "get it". I know them both to be generous and appreciative of life, and see them as a contribution in the world.  I don't begrudge them the perfectly valid conversation they were having, and also acknowledge that they can't give money to every homeless person they encounter living in Toronto. My intended expression was simply that instead of feeling like I had less than they do I was able to realize that I actually have more than I need, and that the very best part of the evening (in my opinion) was absolutely free to anyone who chose to experience the beauty of a full, harvest moon. We can all miss beautiful moments from time to time. I am just grateful that I was "present" to something different than they were in this case :)