- a catalogue of recent findings -
for years now, chef’s table has served as a primary source of inspiration for me. it remains my #1 favorite tv series ever created to this day + that is not an easy list to top.
this show is quite unlike anything i’ve ever seen before. it is highly unusual for me to watch anything more than once, but i have seen every episode of this show several times over.
without much effort, i am able to find more to notice + more to learn with every viewing. this is because the experience itself is so total: the style reveals itself in layers.
if you’re unfamiliar with the show, every episode showcases a different chef. each chef is recognized, in one way or another, to be among the very best in the world.
but the story of every chef is a world-unto-itself, and every last component of the presentation is meticulously crafted to match + communicate that individual world.
cinematic style, music, color, set + landscape, culture, mood: all adapt in service of the story being told + all enhance its telling. every piece communicates in some important way.
all i can really say about this show is: PAY ATTENTION. truly, pay attention to every last detail; then let the story take you where it will. allow yourself to experience it, fully.
since chef’s table is a netflix original series, all episodes are fully available + easy to stream via that source. season trailers are available for easy viewing here:
these are some of my very most favorite episodes:
Volume 1, Episode 2: Dan Barber
Volume 1, Episode 3: Francis Mallmann
Volume 2, Episode 1: Grant Achatz
Volume 2, Episode 2: Alex Atala
Volume 3, Episode 6: Virgilio Martinez
Volume 4, Episode 3: Jordi Roca
a few days ago i received a notification to update the mailchimp application on my phone. i didn’t think anything of it until after the update had completed + i noticed that:
the iconic colors of the mailchimp logo (brown monkey in a blue cap) had completely changed to a much more simplistic + conspicuous black-and-yellow.
the following day, i received an email from the mailchimp team describing a recent brand update. when i visited the website, it had been completely transformed.
now, this is a website that i frequent - a website that has maintained a very specific sort of brand presence for many years now. and yet, just like that: it was new.
this update fascinates me because of what it so overtly demonstrates: audacious flexibility, pioneering vision, minimalist precision, boundless creativity, and more!
here is a company devoted to providing branding tools for small businesses leading the way by unmistakable example: the company itself becoming a view of what is possible.
there is something of “practice what you preach” in this recent update: its message extends beyond the brand itself. somehow i can feel that it applies to me + my work, too.
the message is bold + provocative. it says:
think outside the box; be fearless; be yourself, but let your-self be flexible;
do what you do on purpose + do it well + totally + do it with precision;
be conspicuous; lead by example.
but this is just the tip of the iceberg. there is so much more to be uncovered here through careful observation. if you become the detective… if you become the child, you will see.
the page that i’ve linked you to will teach you about so much more than just branding: it will teach you about your life. it will introduce you to yourself in a whole new way.
pay close attention to words - words like grounded + playful + expressive + refined. allow them to lift off of the page. allow them to take root inside yourself.
allow them to update you.
pay close attention to what i’m sharing with you here as well: this is the very key to the castle of visionary learning, the very key to making ordinary findings magical.
ego vs. higher self
a recent interaction with a client inspired a whole new articulation of my own perspectives on “ego,” a common topic + frequently vilified aspect of our humanity.
the client described a recurrent struggle within himself between what he referred to as his “ego” + his “higher self,” assigning negativity to ego + positivity to the higher self.
here are some excerpts from my response:
in considering the topic at hand, i am struck by the importance of defining terms. using this topic as a perfect example: what is meant by the term "ego"? this is one of those words that tends to be understood differently by every individual who makes use of it. every one of those unique definitions contains a whole complex of unspoken assumptions. for instance, i would intuit that, for you, the idea of "ego" is tied to an assumption that ego = unwanted. my own personal understanding of "ego" is quite different. i would define ego as personality: as a complex of personal stories. If we understand consciousness to be one undifferentiated whole, then this idea of "ego" would refer to a single focal point of awareness + would include each of its various expressions. by removing ego from the rigid duality of good vs. bad, i no longer experience it as separate from spirit. additionally, i free it up to the influence of my will: it becomes something that i can direct + make use of rather than something that i need to escape-from or "transcend." TO SUMMARIZE: the way that we define certain terms makes a difference not only for how we understand them, but also for how we can make use of them. and these definitions are pliable. when a term can be redefined to introduce the variable of choice, we achieve a special sort of freedom by allowing space for new decisions. we become functionally responsible for the term rather than leaning on subconscious assumptions.
let's consider my re-definition of ego within the context of RED + GREEN [RED/GREEN a fundamental wayfinding resource unique to the WS:H work, where RED is experienced as limiting while GREEN is experienced as expansive]. based on this new perspective, ego itself becomes NEUTRAL. rather than being RED by definition, it's specific expression becomes a matter of CHOICE. in other words: how ego (my personality) expresses depends upon the choices that i make. where it exists along the scale of RED + GREEN is a matter of personal prerogative. breaking it down just one step further, if ego = personality, and personality = a complex of internally-held stories (stories about myself + about the world), then the unique expression of my personal ego is dependent upon the sort of stories that i tell. a deep, experiential understanding of this is precisely what provoked the creation of narrative design - a foundational pillar of the WHOLESYSTEM HUMAN work.
there is [another] connection to make here: the connection between ego + spirit. based on our new definition of ego, we find ourselves making a new assumption: we can now assume that ego is inherently animated by spirit. just like that "single focal point of awareness" is not distinguishable from its source, the ego is not distinct from spirit. another way to think of this: spirit is the most-true nature of ego. in this regard, the GREEN expression of ego would indicate that the ego is operating from its greatest-possible truth, whereas a RED expression would indicate that the ego has blocked itself off from the flow of what is most natural to it (this of course manifests as every flavor of trial + discomfort). recognition of this eliminates the need to understand "evolution" as a way of "transcending ego". it honors the value of individual expression, retains the power of choice, and reimagines "progress" as the movement of ego toward the most natural expression of itself.
these distinctions matter. this is why:
when we paint a term like ego into a dualistic corner, we unwittingly relinquish our power to an assumed context. by allowing ego to become neutral, we become empowered.
when we define something as "bad" or "unwanted," we tend to want to escape-from or "transcend" it; but look closely: this is an inherently RED attitude! see how tricky that is? by making ego something to-get-away-from, we have backed ourselves into a corner of reactivity as we "struggle" to "release ourselves" from "the clutches" of the ego (sound familiar?). to the best of our ability, we want to refrain from doing this. instead, we want to consider how adjusting our perspective (on any subject) can introduce new areas of choice or possibility. this is precisely what we've done here.
finally, my personal experience of "spirituality" has been relatively... underwhelming. “spirituality” has a unique way of wicking important topics right out of their appropriate contexts by levitating them to the realm of CONCEPT rather than grounding them solidly in EXPERIENCE. for this reason, even the term "higher self" has an unfortunate ring to it for me (which is why i have chosen to use big self in its place). my intention is not to a-scend or tran-scend or go-up in any way (i'm not interested in "going to heaven"); my intention is to deepen experience + to expand (what i'm really interested in is identifying how heaven manifests every day down here - on earth).
today’s playlist is called GROOVE. it features a growing collection of pleasant compositions that quite naturally + reliably evoke a visceral sensation of rhythmic flow.
groove represents a softly energetic experience that often makes sense for me while writing or while out on a walk. it also makes for a perfect easy-listening background.
this is the sort of music that spontaneously animates your body: you can feel it in your bones, a satisfying pulse. (expect to catch yourself unconsciously tapping along.)
i enjoy the up-energy of this tone most during productive hours + while driving with the windows down. i also depend on it to stimulate momentum if i’m feeling a little low.
this playlist is organized through spotify + is FREE to follow via the button just above or by clicking this link. i hope that you’ll enjoy it as it grows.
obligation + desire
there is a critical gap in productivity that exists between obligation + desire as driving forces. in many cases, this gap seems impossible to bridge.
where a sense of obligation can leave us feeling utterly drained of energy, the feeling of desire actually generates energy: it is self-perpetuating, creative, and productive.
i’ve known this for quite some time (in fact, much of the WS:H work is focused on these very distinctions); but recently, i happened upon a whole new approach in this area.
all along, the question has been:
if obligation depletes productive energy + desire generates productive energy, then how do i achieve desire from a position of obligation?
in other words:
how do i move deliberately from obligation to desire?
(this important question has powerful implications in every domain of life experience. it’s a question that i’ve been chasing around for some time.)
let’s begin by considering obligation + desire from a functional standpoint. how do they individually express? what are their core qualities? what are their effects?
you can imagine the two as opposite ends of a spectrum: with obligation on one end + desire on the other. you can imagine a sliding scale between them.
you can hear obligation arising as statements such as:
i have to…
i know i need to…
i should probably…
you can hear desire arising as statements such as:
i want to…
i can’t wait to…
i am excited to…
these statements are personal + familiar. even just reading them as examples provides a very visceral sense for the amounts of energy contained in each.
the obligatory statements are bankrupt + unproductive (RED) while the statements of desire are vigorous + proactive (GREEN). think about it:
you can almost hear the audible sigh of unwillingness in obligation. i imagine a slumped figure wearily dragging itself up from seated to standing.
you can practically feel the excited clap of hands in desire. here i imagine a forward-leaning figure enthusiastically springing from its seat.
SLIDING THE SCALE
so how does one shift from obligation to desire? is it even possible to authentically turn a lethargic statement like i need to… into a more active statement like i want to…?
this is really a question of how to take deliberate control of that sliding scale between the two expressions; so what we’re looking for is a process…
… and that is precisely what i found in the form of a single, simple (endlessly adaptable + perfectly actionable) question. honestly, it took me by complete surprise. here it is:
why would i want to…?
seems too simple, right? let’s consider the very example that led me to the question itself: an email from my dad, asking for some help with his website.
my persistent thought (after sitting on the email for two days) was: “i really need to review my dad’s email.” but this story just didn’t feel quite right inside of me:
i didn’t want to need to; i wanted to want to.
so i asked myself: why would i want to do this for my dad? immediately the question initiated a whole stream of very authentic, heartfelt responses:
i would want to because i love my dad;
i would want to because i love that my dad even has a website to be excited about;
i would want to because of how good it makes me feel to support my dad + my family;
i would want to because of how i’ve always wanted to provide value for my family in meaningful ways;
i would want to because of how good it makes me feel to know that i am even capable of helping in this way;
i would want to as a way of saying thank-you to my dad for all that he’s done for me;
and so on.
within a matter of seconds, my need-to had fully shifted to a resonant, authentic want-to. i was able to address the email in question from a new position entirely.
in fact, it was a whole different quality of person that eventually managed to address that email and, in the end, the activity was extremely satisfying + enjoyable.
i felt great about myself; i felt such appreciation for my dad; i felt sincere appreciation for the opportunity to support my family; i felt electric with productivity + inspiration.
all this from a single (obvious!) question.
all because i had known better than to attempt taking action from the position of obligation. all because i was determined to act out of desire, in full awareness of its implications.
in the end, it all came down to a question of driving force: was i willing to be bound by a sense of obligation or would i proactively seek out the momentum of authentic desire?
obviously i chose the latter + happened upon an elegant, authentic, and simple means of achieving it as a result. the only question now is: what will you choose?
this finding is right in line with our previous discussion on the functional distinctions between motivation + inspiration, which can be accessed for further exploration here.
life [is] a path at the edge of uncertainty: you don’t grow on a secure path. in order to grow and to improve, you have to be there a bit at the edge of uncertainty.
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