Notes From A Speaker Who Suddenly Can't Speak
Dear Colleagues & Friends,
I've been a teacher, speaker and active outspoken human all my life. Speakers always have a story - and this one just lost her ability to speak.
I do know it is a temporary chapter, thank goodness, but right now it feels like awful eternity. I'm in the fledgling aftermath of a nasty bicycle accident that's left my jaw wired shut for 3-4 weeks, in scary helpless pain not to be suffered by any soul. I thought I’d share some notes from the trenches of trauma, as the nitty-gritty always has major life-lessons and at least I can raise my voice in writing. It feels important to speak not from the light and heights, but from the dark and depths, in real time. I sincerely hope you will find some ideas here to use in your own life, and leadership.
Through the years I've been privileged to work with so many people, applying my knowledge, skills and Aikido principles to helping us all be more centered and discover how to Stress Less & Prosper More. The intention in all my talks and sessions is to bring out our best - our peak performance - as wholly empowered, embodied, empathetic people, parents, golfers, athletes, artists, businesspeople, leaders.
Yet I must say, though I’m a strong Taurus, martial artist, psychologist and 'Excellence Trainer,' this has been friggin' freaky and tough. Through these excruciating endless hours, I have seriously wondered how I’ll make it through, unable to open my mouth, in agony, barely sipping in food or even air. How to peak perform when you’re hollowed out, going through the worst?
In each trying moment, it is clear that I must marshal every shred of strength just to get through this overwhelming ordeal. Finding greatness looks very different from deep inside pain and the challenges of just keeping going and recovering. How often do we say that one's true mettle is tested - in fact required, demanded - not when things are going smoothly, but in the really rough times? A diagnosis. Divorce. Discrimination. Natural disaster. Chemo. Grief. Finances fall through. Employees and kids mutiny. The 2-minute drill to get to the Super Bowl, or not let all that hard work slip away. A global pandemic. Economic shutdown. An accident.
The rubber hit the road for me when my chin crashed hard on the pavement 9 days ago. I was blinded riding into the setting sun, didn't see a speed bump painted yellow and went flying, then crashing, then to the ER, then to surgery, now beginning an arduous recovery, in silence. It happened an hour before I was to chant for Yom Kippur services; a week before I was to be on a panel with the great author Michael Murphy and PGA Tour veteran Bobby Clampett, and play in our 10th annual Golf In The Kingdom tourney at Harding Park; and a variety of upcoming virtual speaking and teaching engagements.
Yes, deep sighs, many woes is me, during COVID no less, and on top of a knee scope just 6 weeks ago. My wife stuck far away in Israel. Loss of opportunities, total losses of income. The whole country a stressed mess. No, I must not let myself count those ways. That is the common default, and too depressing and useless no matter how tempting. Who isn't struggling these days, from a little to mightily? Yet how can I manage, when things feel honestly unbearable??
Hard as this is, I know it is vital to keep reminding myself and believing / feeling / knowing that healing is happening; this too shall pass; everything happens for reasons; and better tomorrows will come. These truths are guiding stars, buoys in the big ocean marking healing bays. It is absolutely essential to have love and support, and to have compassion for self and others. We have to let ourselves be helped, no matter how tough we may think we are or for some reason need to be. Being strong is about digging deep to do our part, while letting go to the course of events and the necessity of giving and of receiving - from helping hands and hearts that grace our lives, in times of crisis and at all times.
Much is said about the attitude of gratitude. It is a high vibration, and cornerstone of positive thinking and attracting the good our way. l believe we need to learn better how to operationalize gratitude, in a continuous multitude of specifics, in good times and bad. Here's a story I like to share, told in the book Happy Money by Ken Honda:
In Japan, a man desperately in debt went to ask for help from Wahei Takeda, a wise wealthy businessman who was the author's money-mentor. Honda says his teacher was the happiest individual he ever met because this man knew the secrets of appreciating what you have, and of ‘enough.’ In his day, Takeda was the Warren Buffett of Japan, earning his fortune on the basis of candy made by workers hearing children happily singing "Arigato" (Japanese for Thank you!) for the treats as they made them. He believed the energy in the thankful little voices went into the candy and gave it a magical competitive edge. Takeda agreed to help the destitute man but said: "First you must go say 100,000 Arigatos." The indebted man went away, completed his assignment over many months, then returned. He bowed and said to the wise wealthy man: "Arigato, I have paid my debts, I no longer need your money."
I love this story, for affirming the relationship between gratitude and prosperity - even when the chips are down or stacked against you. And for giving a simple way throughout every day to be 'woke' to all our fortune, large and small. Sometimes it's crazy hard. Sh.t happens, things are not fair and can really just suck. Yet energetically, the way to cultivate and receive abundance is to express our every gratitude, with a sincere heart, coupled with kindness and generosity. This creates a positive and powerful flow of what I feel as ‘goodness energy,’ that is remarkable and really helps.
I have built up about 40,000 Arigato’s since first reading this story. Let me suggest you set an initial goal of one thousand, said within or aloud, in regular chunks of 25-50 throughout your day. For example, here are some of my Arigato’s, in the midst of the first horrors and agonies of the accident:
1) Arigato, I had my helmet on 2) Arigato, two people heard my wails and rushed over to help 3) Arigato, I could call my friend, who came and took me to the ER 4) Arigato, I was conscious and could get up and walk. 5) Arigato, nothing else seemed to be broken. 6) Arigato, road rash is bloody and hurts, but heals 7) Huge Arigato, my knees are OK, shoulders too 8) Arigato, ER admittance was quick. 9) Arigato, they started a morphine drip asap 10) Gigantic Arigato, no brain problems 11) Arigato, I have health insurance, no kidding what would happen without it?? 12) Arigato, they could scan me head to toe 13) Arigato, the nurses and docs were all very kind 14) Arigato, there's a jaw specialist in Reno 15) Arigato, they gave me an ambulance ride to the hospital there 16) Arigato, I got a safe clean ICU bed, away from any COVID ward 17) Arigato, my Covid test was negative 18) Arigato, I managed to call my brother. 19) Arigato, for surgery the next morning, and such a capable and kind surgeon 20) Arigato, for every bit of sleep that comes over me.
You get the idea. Things aren’t usually so dramatic, but you can feel the productive energy, and relate to awareness of good things going on even in the midst of tough circumstances.
So try the Arigato experiment: Stop several times a day to say 25-50 Arigato’s (or Domo, like a simple Thanks in English). Notice you immediately become present and appreciative, which is a winning combination. With presence, you can grow and smell the roses, and find riches in each moment. With presence, you are there for yourself, deeply experiencing your life and available for its lessons. You are able to reach out, share your empathy and resources, and simply, vitally, be helpful. This truly is wealth.
The offerings of comfort, encouragement, soup, smoothie ingredients, a ride, a foot rub, a journal book in the mail, supplies left on my porch, a clean change of sheets, guided meditations, distance healing, comments and hearts on social media - every one literally means unspeakably much. Every gesture builds incomparable relationship bonds, rooted in genuine felt care, and just when needed most. So much good follows and flows. What else is there really?
We are each responsible to be the leaders of ourselves, in connection with the great power of life we have within, and the power of support and community that we all need. We are all in fact terribly fragile. And we are outfitted with inborn potential for miraculous resilience.
More than ever during these harrowing COVID times, leaders are called upon not just for expertise or acumen, but for empathy and humanity. The same is true for every one of us. What can you give, and receive? How to find and restore hope and flow when you, or another, are crashed? How do you up your game when you're down? What do you do to dig deeper? Where and how, for whom and for what? Good questions for breakout groups, even better for inner inquiry, understandings and breakthroughs.
I sense I'm almost out of my worst woods. Boy do I hope so! So many challenges, learnings and changes lie ahead. How to embrace being up for the tasks, especially when not feeling well? In this battered state, it becomes clear how much is vanity and unnecessary, that doesn't actually matter so much now and won't in the end. It is about our love, presence, and inner and outer connectedness, all along the way.
Prioritize sharing, helping, and the spirit of Arigato. Focus on the meaningful, the rewarding, the caring. And know that none of us is here to get ahead or past others. We are all co-equals, here on this planet to be collaborative and contributing, centered in both our commonality and precious uniqueness and diversity, while asked always to be ready to help and to say: Arigato, Thank You!