An Inspirational Week

July 27th, 2010 by Steve Pavlina

I spent last week in Santa Fe, NM for a Transformational Leadership Council retreat. These TLC retreats are held twice a year, and this is the third one I’ve attended. It was also the largest, with about 80 members (out of a total of 114) present.

The atmosphere at TLC is like a big family reunion. It’s a place where people who are doing transformational work can come together to help and support each other both personally and professionally. Sometimes business deals happen, but the main focus isn’t transactional. It’s about caring for each other, supporting each other, and helping each other grow and improve.

We meditate together each day, we sing, we dance, and we do fun and sometimes silly activities. We share many laughs and hundreds of hugs. We help support those who are going through rough times. We share our best ideas on how to accelerate the healing of this planet.

We also pool our knowledge and skills to help each other in a spirit of cooperation. For example, at the January TLC retreat in Puerto Rico, I did a presentation on building web traffic. It was rewarding to see that six months later, a number of TLC members had already applied those ideas to reach more people with their positive messages.

On top of that, we do a lot of deep introspection. We push ourselves to grow as human beings, to become more aware and to recognize new truths, to become stronger and more courageous, to connect more deeply and to become more heart-centered, and to more fully step into our missions to help create a better world.

One of the most important elements is that we do this away from the public eye, sans fans and critics alike, so we can keep the energy very positive and loving but also honest and real.

For me, going to TLC is like taking a weeklong spa day for the heart and spirit.

Immersion

Imagine spending a week with 80 transformational leaders, many of whom are the top experts in the world at what they do. Some are fabulously wealthy. Some are deeply insightful and brilliant. Some are very loving and compassionate. Some are incredibly fearless.

You can informally walk up and ask anyone there about anything, and they’re happy to share their best ideas as if they’re your brothers and sisters.

Some of them have been doing this kind of work longer than I’ve been alive. They know all the best methods and processes and whatnots. They know the places where fear, denial, and falsehood love to hide.

Being at TLC is like going to a place where everyone has X-ray vision, so by default you end up walking around naked the whole time, even if you think you’re wearing clothes.

If you speak something other than your truth, you’ll get called on your B.S. But you don’t get judged for your foibles. You just receive more unconditional love and acceptance. The focus there isn’t on fixing ourselves or transcending what we believe to be our faults. It’s about integrating the various parts of ourselves into a complete whole.

The atmosphere at TLC is similar to what you’d find at CGW (especially on the third day of CGW). My ego would just love to credit the brilliant CGW content, but the content is only part of it, and arguably not the most important part. Many of the shifts have more to do with being around the energy of so many conscious people. It can be difficult to define or explain those shifts afterwards, but they’re extremely potent, and they can send one’s life spiraling off in new directions. Every CGW and TLC have had that kind of effect on me. In such an environment, much of the B.S. we tell ourselves simply burns away, and new truths finally have the chance to be seen and heard.

For example, when people at CGW see how their lives could be filled with so much more love and connection, they cannot return to doing soulless work on Monday morning; the utter foolishness of that approach is too obvious to ignore, so they quit that same week and quickly transition to a path with a heart. They finally see that on the heartless path, they were already living without that which mattered most to them, so there was nothing more to lose… and everything to gain… by letting it go.

TLC has a similar effect on me. It’s not really the content we share that’s the biggest element. The content does help, but the bigger shifts have to do with being bathed for several days in the positive energy we create. We could gather with no formal plan or structure, and it would still have a transformational effect. Great content just makes it that much better.

Many TLC members recognize that working on ourselves and working to create a better world are inherently the same thing. Healing the world is a journey of self-healing. We are teachers because we are lifelong students, and teaching is one of the fastest (and most intense) ways to learn.

That’s why I wrote 1000 articles and a book… and why I do workshops that turn out differently each time. By giving thoughts and ideas form and expression, I deepen my understanding of them. If I knew how an article was going to turn out before I started writing it, I wouldn’t need to write it. Everything I share and express is a growth experience for me; otherwise I delete it before it’s done and never post it.

Intensity

Every time I’ve gone to TLC, I’ve returned home feeling like a different person. At times the TLC experience can be like drinking from a fire hose. Occasionally I have to spend some time walking around by myself just to internally process the shifts that occur.

Before attending TLC this time, I was already in a really good place. I’d just finished an amazing Conscious Growth Workshop a couple days earlier, so I was still enjoying that post-workshop high, feeling incredibly grateful and happy and super motivated.

The first couple days of TLC were a bit of a letdown, energetically speaking. It usually takes a day or two for the energy at TLC to amp up, just as it does at CGW. It was great to reconnect with so many friends, but on Day 2 I started feeling bored and listless. By the next morning, I was actually feeling grumpy, and when I turned within to ask myself why, I realized that part of me felt that I really didn’t need a “vacation” right now and that I’d much rather be getting some real work done. Going to this particular TLC seemed like an unnecessary indulgence when I had so many other things to attend to, both personally and professionally. At this particular time, I didn’t want to be on a retreat. I wanted to be advancing. I was already renewed and energized when I got there.

But I still had several more days there, and I didn’t want to be fighting with myself the whole time, so I acknowledged and accepted that feeling and the message behind it, applying a process that was a blend of Genpo Roshi’s Big Mind method and Hale Dwoskin’s Sedona Method. (Both of them were at TLC.) This process took only minutes. In fact, I did it while taking a shower, so it didn’t even take any extra time.

Almost immediately, the grumpiness and boredom vanished, their message received. By realizing that I wanted to be active and productive rather than taking time off and restoring myself, I shifted my focus and saw that I could use TLC to get some actual work done and to make it a productive experience, instead of treating it like an unwanted break. This might seem obvious in retrospect, but it wasn’t obvious to me at the time.

With a better attitude, I launched into the third day of TLC with a lot more motivation and passion, and this energy carried me through the rest of the week. I spent many hours connecting with people I wanted to get to know better, and I deepened some existing connections. I picked up ideas for improving CGW, and I got advice for growing my business. I found several new potential joint-venture partners. I learned new methods and techniques.

I also shared a lot of advice to help others, especially with blogging and traffic building. And I recorded a few videos to help members promote their work.

And I had a lot more fun since I was congruent about wanting to be there.

I took the exercises seriously and worked a lot on myself too. It’s too much to explain in a blog post though. (That’s a B.S. excuse, but I’m hoping you’ll buy it for now while I do more inner work on it and build up the courage to share it.) Suffice it to say that I went through some huge emotional shifts related to my past. One morning I woke up in my hotel room, and all I could do was cry for about an hour, struck by some realizations I’d been repressing for most of my life. Pretty frakkin’ painful stuff. I’m still not sure I’m ready to deal with it yet, but I have to practice what I preach. Sometimes it annoys me that I teach courage.

There was another attendee who arrived later in the week, and her needs were practically the opposite of mine. She’d been on the road for a few weeks, and she was feeling worn down. She came to TLC for renewal and rejuvenation, and she got that.

Authenticity

One thing I love about TLC is that the people there are very authentic.

One thing I hate about TLC is that the people there are very authentic. (That isn’t a typo.)

As much as you might think you’d love it, hanging out with dozens of highly authentic people for a week is tougher than it sounds. That kind of experience shines a light on your own authenticity issues. You may even come to see that the pursuit of authenticity is yet another form of self-delusion.

Many people have asked me how on earth I can publicly share certain aspects of my life on my blog, such as I wrote about in the article Share Your Shame. The underlying assumption is that if people knew the real truth about you, you could be socially ostracized. Your friends and family would shun you. You’d be cut off, abandoned, and tossed aside for being unworthy. In the end you would receive less love.

But the truth is that the exact opposite happens. Initially there may be some tumult, but the long-term outlook is extremely positive.

When you learn to love and accept all parts of yourself, especially the parts you’d rather keep hidden, then you attract a lot more authentic love and support from others. Instead of being shunned, you’re welcomed and invited and included.

We all have these dark parts of ourselves that are difficult to accept and integrate. But your secrets aren’t secret at all. People can see right through you. They just aren’t telling you about it because they can see you aren’t ready to deal with it yet.

Your inner shame is far from unique. We all have similar issues. Only the details are different.

My friends in TLC have plenty of dirt on me. It’s not like it’s a secret.

They know I separated from my wife last year, that I went bankrupt, that I used to be a thief, that I’m into D/s, and so on. And it just isn’t a big deal. In fact, all that stuff is more like a badge of honor. During the awards ceremony one night, I joked that I was hoping to qualify for the most recent divorce award.

The truth, however, is that my issues just aren’t particularly striking or unique. It’s practically a truism that the people there have had to go through some serious challenges at one point or another, such as divorce, loss, addiction, financial scarcity, abuse, and more. It’s a pretty common pattern that a TLC member’s life has been a roller coaster of ups and downs, as opposed to smooth sailing all the way.

The stuff that really tugs at my heart is when these loving and compassionate people have to deal with things like the death of a spouse or a drug-addicted child. And they ultimately process those experiences in ways that allow them to become even more loving and compassionate, even though they have every reason to justify becoming resentful and bitter.

People sometimes ask me, “Is so and so the real deal?” And having met these people behind the scenes, I have to say yes again and again. These people pour their hearts and souls into their missions, and I respect and love them immensely. I feel honored to be included in this group.

The Challenge of Being in the Public Eye

One of the reasons TLC is so important is that doing this kind of work can be very challenging, especially when you’re in the public eye. The exposure to criticism can be brutal at times. It’s really helpful to have a group of supportive friends you can turn to, get bandaged up, and go back out into the world again.

These people aren’t superheroes. They’re very much human. When they take a beating, it hurts them and slows them down, but in the long run, it also makes them stronger and more compassionate.

I can’t say I’ve encountered anyone there who does this kind of work for the money. If such a person exists, I’ve never met him/her. Even the ones who teach about wealth and abundance seem to be primarily motivated by the love of the work and the desire to contribute. The truth is that it breaks their hearts when they see people suffering from lack, and they want to do what they can to alleviate suffering and spread more happiness and abundance.

I think if you got to know the people behind the scenes as I have, you’d feel immensely grateful for them. Even when they’re dealing with major personal and professional challenges, they just keep giving, giving, giving. Maybe their contributions aren’t perfect, but they do the best they can.

What you may not realize is that these people question everything they do. They question whether they should use certain Internet marketing techniques, or if the methods would be manipulative. They wonder about how they can help more people. They wonder how they can be more impactful on each person they connect with. They wonder about what to work on in themselves so that they may become better teachers.

For all the criticism they receive, they are their own harshest critics. If their critics actually knew the personal standards these people hold themselves to, it would make those critics cringe and say, “Whoa… go easy on yourself.”

Of course this is something I had to learn as well. I spent a good 10 minutes today casting unconditional love at Tony Robbins. He isn’t a TLC member, but it became clear to me that he too must be doing the best he can.

Inspiration

I realize this is a rambling article, perhaps a bit too stream of consciousness, so let me get to the wrap up portion.

This was a mind-blowing week, but one element in particular was especially mind-blowing.

About halfway through the week, Joe Vitale gave a talk on inspiration. I first met Joe and his wife Nerissa at the July TLC in 2009, so I’ve known them for about a year, but this is the first time I saw Joe speak. He was simply brilliant.

Joe and I have something in common in that we are both content machines. He’s authored 52 books, for instance, and he’s constantly giving birth to new products. I haven’t been working in this field as long as he has, but I’ve authored a respectable 1000 articles in less than 6 years, which is enough to fill about 25 books… not to mention getting one actual book published as well.

Joe explained how he creates his content, which I recognized as essentially the same approach I use. When an inspired idea comes to me, I act on it almost immediately. I know that I have about a 48-hour window — maximum — to write and publish that idea. Otherwise the energy is gone. Trying to create that same content later is possible, but it’s much more difficult and takes a lot longer.

The experience is like catching a wave. I might wake up one morning and get an idea for a new article, and I know I need to grab my laptop immediately and let it flow through me. In those situations I can write nearly as fast as I can type, without having to pause to think.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s a real wave and what’s just a minor swell, but this calibration gets better with practice. When you catch the wave and stick with it, it has sufficient energy to carry you all the way through to completion of whatever it is you’re creating, as long as you’re willing to put most other things aside and stick to that wave like glue. Again, it’s like surfing. If you stick with the wave, you can ride it all the way to shore.

Well… as Joe continued to speak, I realized that he does something I don’t. He uses this same method for acting on business ideas in general. I haven’t been doing that. I only use it for content creation, and the vast majority of that content has been in the form of free articles.

Joe, however, also uses this method to conjure up new products, workshops, events, business deals, and so on.

That’s when I gave myself a mental slap upside the head.

Duh. Duh. Duh.

For some stupid reason, I’ve been managing the rest of my business in a much more left-brained fashion. I get inspired business ideas all the time, but instead of acting on them immediately and riding them like the time-sensitive waves they are, I toss the ideas into my inbox for later processing. Then perhaps a week later, I’ll consider each idea carefully and integrate it into my to-do list for future action. But by and large, by the time I get around to them, if ever, that wave of energy has long since dissipated, and trying to start those projects is like pulling teeth.

Consequently, the content creation aspect of my business has always been super easy for me. I know I’ll never run out of ideas there. But the rest of my business changes much more slowly. My website, for instance, has essentially the same design as it did 5 years ago.

Very quickly I got the idea to do a 30-day trial of acting on inspiration almost immediately whenever it hits me, whether it has to do with content creation or some other idea. I decided that I wasn’t going to wait, so I kicked it off while I was still at TLC. To be honest, I really don’t care about the exactitude of the 30-day stretch for this trial, but today was Day 4.

This is new territory for me, so it may entail some hidden risks. I know it works on the content side, but I can’t predict what will happen as I apply this to the rest of my life. In order to begin this trial, I had to remind myself that worst case, I probably can’t screw things up so badly in 30 days that I can’t repair the damage later if necessary. Because the potential benefits are so great, I’m willing to take this risk.

30 Days of Inspired Action

The same day I heard Joe’s talk (Friday), I was in my hotel room at around 8pm, and a stray thought popped into my head. I got the idea to put up an eBay auction for a 60-minute consultation, as I shared in my previous blog post. I began to ponder it, and my initial inclination was to jot down the idea and then consider it when I got back to Vegas the following week.

Then I stopped and smacked myself and said, “No… you have to catch this wave now and see where it takes you. Don’t just let it pass.”

So I dove into immediate action. I wasn’t sure how far I’d get with it, but I started by checking to see if my old eBay account was still good. I hadn’t logged in since March 2001, but the account was still there. I haven’t used eBay in a very long time, so it took me about 30 minutes to create the listing and make it live, something an experienced eBayer could have done in 10 minutes or less I’m sure. Then I spent another 20 minutes writing a quickie blog post about it, and that also fed to my Twitter and Facebook pages.

Imagine that. Less than an hour after getting the idea, it was already up and running. If I’d written it down instead of acting upon it immediately, I could have wasted that much time just pondering whether or not I should do it.

A few minutes later, I was Skyping with Erin, and I told her what I’d done. She loved it. Then she checked on the auction and told me I was already up to $51. I said, “You’re joking… it hasn’t even been up for 10 minutes yet.” But she wasn’t joking. By the time I went to bed, it had reached $132.50. The next morning it was at $425. Today it hit $1000, and there are still 3 days left till the auction closes. I can’t predict where it will end up.

If you want to see what it’s up to now, you can visit the auction page. The auction officially ends on Friday, July 30, at 9:28:29 PDT.

The next day I told Joe about this, and he loved it. I told other TLC members about it as well, and throughout the rest of the conference, people would check in with me to see how the auction was going. I think they were just as curious about it as I was.

One morning at breakfast a fellow TLCer asked me, “So what are you up to?” I started telling him what I’d been doing, and he said, “No no… I mean, ‘What are the bids up to?’”

Some people have asked me what this means. Does it mean I’m going to be doing paid coaching and consulting? Does it mean I’ll do more eBay auctions?

Honestly I have no idea. It’s not part of some grand plan. This was pure impulse. I’m simply going with the flow of an inspired idea and riding it to shore. I can’t say when the next wave will arrive or what it will look like.

This wasn’t even an idea with an intention behind it. I wasn’t intending to make money with it or anything. The motivation for this idea was sheer curiosity. I want to see what happens when I act on these sorts of ideas immediately, without trying to analyze or understand them first.

In order to be true to this 30-day trial, I can’t think and plan ahead. If I schedule a bunch of stuff in advance or try to plan things out, I’m at risk of not being able to ride those waves of inspiration when they come.

One thing I find very interesting is that from today through the rest of the trial, my calendar is completely blank. I don’t have a single scheduled appointment at all — no interviews, no meetings, nothing.

There are still some events coming up, including my son’s 7th birthday and some potential travel, but none of it is in the form of a fixed appointment, at least not yet.

I did have an appointment to meet with someone Wednesday morning, but it got bumped to today, so it’s already done with. And I would definitely say it was an inspired meeting.

I’m used to having a flexible schedule, but it’s pretty unusual to have such a huge block of time with no scheduled appointments. I should at least have a radio interview in there… or a workshop… or a scheduled phone call… or something. But no — it’s totally blank. Is that just a coincidence? I can’t say. But this is an ideal time for me to conduct such an experiment. I could even extend it well beyond the 30 days, especially since the next CGW is still 3+ months away.

A Sample Day

As a typical example of how things are going with this trial so far, I’ll share how today went. I woke up at 5:30 this morning, and immediately my mind was racing with thoughts of writing this blog post. I didn’t originally plan to blog about my TLC trip, but the inspiration was there, so I had to ride it. I went straight to my computer and started writing, which was effortless.

After 3 hours of writing, which passed in a blink, the phone rings. It’s Erin inviting me to go to breakfast with her. I realize that I’m starving and could use a break anyway, so I accept. While at breakfast, I got some inspired ideas related to our separation. Instead of pondering them and hashing them out a bit more, I shared them with her immediately. That turned out to be a wonderful thing, as it sent us down a path towards resolving some tricky practical aspects of our separation. Erin and I both leave happier, with a commitment to taking some specific actions that should make life easier for us both.

From breakfast I drove to Starbucks to meet with a British military intelligence officer. I didn’t have any particular need to meet with him other than the fact that he expressed interest, and my intuition gave it a green light. We ended up having a fascinating 2.5-hour conversation. I learned a lot that I didn’t know about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. After a couple hours, the thought occurred that many of my readers might be interested in hearing what he had to say, so I asked him if he’d be up for an interview. He agreed. It turned out that doing an interview would be a win for him too because he’s about to enter a phase of writing and publishing his own ideas, including starting a blog.

By the time I got home, he’d already sent me some article links that we discussed. I haven’t had a chance to read them yet, but I quickly wrote up a forum post to keep riding that wave. I wanted to see if there was interest in such an interview and if people had specific questions. It looks like there is indeed interest, so I’ll compile some questions and send them off to him when I feel inspired to do so.

I wasn’t feeling any major waves of inspiration this afternoon, so I ate lunch, processed some communication, and handled a few minor tasks while watching the movie Pulp Fiction.

Lately I’ve been getting a number of synchronicities associated with the film Inception, which I haven’t seen yet. I thought maybe I’d go see it this evening, and I saw there was a 7pm show at the local IMAX, so I “planned” to hit that show. Whoops.

But around 6:30pm when I was thinking about leaving, I realized that I just didn’t feel inspired to go see the movie, at least not yet. I was starting to feel a mild pull in a different direction — oh yeah, I still wanted to finish up and post the blog entry I’d started in the morning. So I decided to skip the movie and go with the writing wave. You’re reading the result.

While I’m writing the final section of this post, I hear a text message come through on my cell phone, but I don’t check it till now. It’s Rachelle asking about Skyping tonight. That feels right, so as soon as I’ve posted this article, I’ll flow into that next. I haven’t had dinner yet, but I notice I’m not hungry.

There’s another IMAX showing of Inception at 10:20pm. If I go to that show, I’ll still have 30 minutes to Skype, but it would keep me up till 1am. I can’t predict whether I’ll see it tonight or not. I’ll have to wait and see if the energy of the moment is pulling me in that direction.

As I was typing the last sentence, my laptop tells me I’ve got 9 minutes of battery power left. Time to go plug it in.

This is going to be a very unusual 30 days. I have no idea how it will turn out. I can’t even say how much I’ll blog about it along the way — that too will depend on whether I’m inspired to do so.

In any event, you may see some rather erratic behavior from me in the coming weeks. I’m extending this trial across all areas of my life, both personally and professionally. It’s a 24/7 commitment with no breaks except those that occur naturally as the inspirational waves ebb.

I’m excited about this. It’s going to be an interesting 30 days to be sure. Wish me luck! :)



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