viernes, 31 de octubre de 2008

Meeting an Exhibitionist

Something awesome happened tonight!

I've been going through a big crisis these last few weeks. First, my son died. That's a cat. I found him on the street when he was a little baby and brought him up. As some of you may know, I love animals as much as humans, and I was devastated by his death. He's the first loved one I lost, I'm still deeply grieving. Then, I got dumped. Or at least I suppose so, because the guy I thought was the absolute man of my life suddenly just disappeared without any explanation. I don't even know if he's still alive. I guess he is and simply lacked the courage to tell me the truth. Nevertheless, I've been worried, angry, and of course terribly sad. After that, a second cat family member died! I had known her for 24 years, which is almost my entire life. And last but not least, reading Personal Development for Smart People by Steve Pavlina made me realize that most of the goals I had till now were in fact disempowering goals. I'll write a review of the book later, let's just say for now that I suddenly lost what was keeping me going despite of the grief and pain I was feeling.

Needless to say, my mood hasn't been exactly excellent lately!

Tonight I was feeling particularly grumpy and awful. I couldn't sleep, so I decided to go for a walk, and to withdraw some money at the nearest ATM to buy a big bunch of bananas tomorrow morning for breakfast. On my way to the bank, I saw a guy on the street with his penis in his hand. He said "Oh, sorry!" and hid it. He then asked if he could drive me home as a way of apologizing for his indiscretion. I wasn't really present, for I was busy imagining the horrible things I would do to the alleged man of my life if I had him in front of me now, so I did not really pay attention to this guy. I said "No, thanks" and walked away.

On my way back from the bank, he still was at the same place, this time with his pants completely off! He immediately got dressed and apologized. "I'm sorry, I didn't think you'd come back. I'm going to some other place now, to make sure you won't see me again." I found it odd to meet an exhibitionist who's sorry I saw him! So I laughed and told him "Oh, you can stay where you were, I won't come back, I promise!" "ok, one last time then" he said, and demonstratively showed me his (quite impressive) manly attributes. I couldn't help but grin, but deep down I was still feeling grumpy and wanted nothing but go home. When he added "You have very big boobs" I asked him in a not-so-nice way to leave me alone.

But then I suddenly felt bad. I didn't feel guilty for rejecting him, but it suddenly dawned on me how disconnected I had been feeling lately. I was just seeing this guy as an annoyance, something foreign to me intruding in my life without being planned. I was upset at him for disturbing my thoughts and talking to me, and I judged him for behaving strangely in my eyes, for being so different. Separated from me. Someone else. And a weird one for that matter! Bleh.

I realized how disconnected I was! And said to myself "Hey girl, no pain in the World is worth disconnecting from others in such a way." So I turned to him, ready to see him as a valuable human being, a part of me, a spirit. Some people are fond of talking to spirits, but we shouldn't forget that every person we meet on the street is a spirit, too. There are spirits everywhere! I find incarnated spirits very interesting too, not only those without a body. Sometimes I walk down the street, amazed at all those spirits I meet. "Oh wow, he's a spirit! A spirit just said hello to me! Damn cool. And she's one as well. Incredible!" There's so much BEAUTY in people when you can see the spirit in them.

Fortunately I was able to remember in time that this guy is a manifestation of Consciousness just like me. He's me. I am him. I forgot about my judgmental mood and became present to this person here and now. And it was a great idea, I learned a lot.

First I asked him many questions about being an exhibitionist. I was curious about it of course. I asked him how long he had been doing it, how it began, why he does it, how he feels when he does such things... It was very interesting to hear his take on this. As I understood it, the idea that he could possibly be seen gives him a particular kick, he supposes it's adrenaline. I asked him a lot of questions, trying to understand him, and he answered them all very honestly. I was able to get what he explained on an intellectual level, but I admit that I cannot really understand why he likes it so much, probably because the idea of showing myself naked on the street just doesn't do much for me. I guess I'd need to do it myself once to know how it is.

I discovered a very kind and respectful person. He intentionally kept a lot of physical distance between us in order not to make me feel uncomfortable. I found his attitude towards his exhibitionism to be conscious, thoughtful and responsible. For example, he explained to me that he normally never shows up naked in front of women walking alone on the street, because this could scare them. He only does it with people in cars or in groups, because those feel safe. That's why he apologized so much when I saw him: it was an accident. He couldn't know I'm not scared by such things.

We spent three or four hours together, walking through the city, laughing and talking about all kinds of topics, such as pets, parachute jumping, personal development, the raw food diet, motorbikes, or the best way to commit suicide. During all this time, he had his genitals out of his pants, but I barely noticed because it was so natural for him. Around five in the morning I got really tired. He walked me home and we said goodbye. That's the only moment he came across a little shy. We thanked each other and said both that we had a very nice time.

It's only once I was back home that I realized how much this guy helped me tonight. Now I'm feeling loving and connected again. I'm able to see others as parts of me again. I feel closely connected to all other beings on earth, and I can see how the way I feel influences all others. I also have this fuzzy warm feeling in my chest, as if my heart was very big. I can feel Love flowing through me. I feel that I am enormous, big enough to contain the whole Universe. I am everything that is. This is such a beautiful feeling! I'm so infinitely thankful to this guy for giving me this feeling back. I had lost it lately, without even noticing.

Now I regret that I forgot to part with a handshake and to ask what his name is when we said goodbye. I hope I'll see him again on some other late night walk.

My point with this story is that when you're in a state of disconnectedness, meeting an exhibitionist on the street - or more generally someone whose behavior you don't intuitively understand - can be a quite annoying experience. And if you're more prone to get scared than I am, even a frightening one. Which leads to even greater disconnectedness, because you'll feel offended or grossed out, and you'll close off. But when you're being aligned with Oneness, such an encounter can result in discovering an interesting person, in gaining some new insights, or in experiencing connection and closeness with someone you thought was very different from you at first. Building such a bridge is a wonderful blessing :-)

martes, 14 de octubre de 2008

Are You a Scanner?

I realize that I'm talking about my being a scanner or about my scanner's daybook, while maybe most of you don't know what a scanner is in the first place! So let's fix that.

What the fuck is a scanner?

A scanner is the contrary of a specialist. Scanners are unable to choose one single passion or career, and if they force themselves to do so, they suffer (and their productivity suffers, too). Scanners don't have only one field of interest, they have many of them. They seem to be interested in just everything. They usually have many projects running at the same time, and permanently come up with some great new idea. They also tend not to implement their ideas or not to finish the projects they start.

A scanner is the kind of guy who works with disabled children, studies physics at the distance learning university, learns japanese, draws comics and reads everything he can find about archeology. But it's not like having a job and then a few additional hobbies. The difference between a true scanner and a specialist with hobbies is that for the scanner, nothing is a "hobby". For a scanner, all those things he's interested in are equally important and he just cannot focus mainly or spend most of his time on only one of them, which would be required to do it as his career.

The word "scanner" comes from the book Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher. It's a book about scanners and for scanners, to help them cope with life & career without denying the scanner in them. I totally love this book, it has changed my life.

Cyclical scanners vs. serial scanners

Barbara Sher describes different kinds of scanners she identified. The main distinction she makes is between cyclical scanners and serial scanners.

Cyclical scanners have many but stable interests and passions (from 2 to 20+), and they oscillate periodically between all of those. For example a cyclical scanner is someone who starts a painting, then suddenly abandons it to program a computer game. Halfway through the programming work, he goes back to his painting, or starts a new painting. He finishes it, or not, and goes back to program his game. This way he spends his time alternating between programming and painting. In parallel to all this, he may regularly take classes to become a massage therapist.

Serial scanners on the other hand don't go back to a project once they have moved on. They do everything once and never look back. A serial scanner could for example work in a wholefood shop for six months, then quit and take classes in creative writing. After writing a screenplay, or only half of it, she loses interest and volunteers at an orphanage in India for a few months. When she comes back, she starts a business as a self-employed graphic designer. And so on.

Of course most of us are a mix of cyclical and serial scanner to some extent. There are many kinds of scanners out there. What we all have in common is that we hate to pick just one interest and concentrate on it for a long period of time.

What's a "long" period of time is relative. The other criterium Sher uses to classify scanners is their attention span. Among both cyclical and serial scanners, some are able to focus on the same field for a long time, like the serial specialists, who can stick with one career for years till they master it, and then go look for a new challenge. Others switch interests very rapidly. The high-speed indecisives for example always find something more interesting to do after, say, two minutes.

How a scanner ticks

Being a scanner is socially unacceptable nowadays. We are all being drilled to be specialists. As you can imagine, a behavior like the above examples makes it difficult to get a job, to earn a living, or to study. We're often said to be lazy, unstable or weird. In any case we're highly suspect.

That's because most people don't understand how a scanner ticks. When scanners quit, they ARE done. They have gotten what they were looking for, the point is just that what satisfies them is not necessarily what other people would call being done. Scanners all have a good reason to do what they do and to quit when they quit. This reason varies from individual to individual, so each one of us has to find out what keeps him/her going (in both senses).

Some scanners are extremely curious and just want to understand how something works. Once they've figured out how it works, they get bored and quit.
Others get bored and quit when completing the project is only a matter of time and regular effort, but not a matter of developing artful strategies and overcoming challenging difficulties anymore. That's the case for me, for example. When the road to success looks like a highway, damn is that boring. Bye bye!
Some want to discover new things in order to compare, classify and store them in their head like in a big database. I tried out half a dozen martial arts because I enjoyed comparing their tenets and techniques, with no intention of learning any of them in depth.
For some scanners, working somewhere is a way of experiencing other people's lives. They want to know how it feels to be a baker/teacher/accountant/actor, so that's what they do for a little while, but only till they know how it is. That's the reason why I accumulate foreign languages. You don't think in English like you think in German. Learning a new language for me is a way to experience being someone else.

These are some reasons I can identify with, but there are many many more of them. Each scanner has his/her own motivation to do what they do.

Undiagnosed scanners

Undiagnosed scanners are poor devils. I know because I was one of them for many years. When you're a scanner and you don't know that you're a scanner, it's really difficult. You try to pick one thing and stick with it, but you fail. And try again. And fail again. You beat yourself up for being that inconsistent. You think you're lazy. You might even mistrust your own sanity. It can't be that difficult to pick one interest and stick with it, you think, everybody else is doing it too! So why can't you help but switch your major, get interested in things you should not get interested in, and go off-track all the time? Why do you lack concentration like this? How can it happen that you get deadly fed up with your deepest passion at times? You feel weak and completely out of control. When you try to learn discipline and to prevent yourself from going off on a tangent, you get unbearably bored, you suffer, and your productivity drops because you procrastinate like hell.

I switched majors five or six times when I was a student, and left university after many years without any diploma. I studied literature, physics, maths, computer science, law and business, and attended additional classes in psychology, theater, cinema, history, russian, chinese... It was great! I loved it, and learned a lot of very interesting things. And most of the time I wasn't allowed to take the exams because I had failed to submit my work regularly.

I couldn't stand engaging in the same activity all day long, or even every day. This alone would not have been that much of a problem, after all I was talented enough to study only half of the time and still succeed. But I also had the coercive need to ignore my studies for several weeks in a row from time to time, in order to implement other completely unrelated ideas, or to explore some fascinating questions related to my studies that popped into my mind but unfortunately weren't part of the program. This need definitely wasn't compatible with studying.

Before discovering that I'm a scanner, these repeated failures broke my heart. Especially in the case of maths and computer science that I really loved very much. I used to beat myself up a lot for what I thought was a flaw. Now that I know myself better, I can see how being a scanner is a strength and a blessing, not a flaw.

In case what I'm saying resonates with you in some way, don't beat yourself up. Maybe you're just a scanner! Welcome to the Club. :-)

How to get things done as a scanner?

First of all, it IS possible to be productive if you're a scanner. I bet most problems with not completing projects, procrastinating, and so on, stem from a lack of knowledge and/or acceptance of your scanner nature. You lose motivation when you try to force yourself into a specialist's role, when you try by all means to do only one thing at the time and to finish this thing once you begin with it. It's normal that you procrastinate and lose interest then, because this is just not who you are. Working like a specialist is for a scanner a highly ineffective way to work. But if you respect the way you function and organize yourself accordingly, then my bet is that you can very well be productive!

Conventional time management systems aren't really appropriate for scanners. We usually don't implement a project from A to Z in a linear way. We need to do many things at the same time. Working on several projects simultaneously doesn't prevent us from being productive. On the contrary, I've found it to be much more effective. I work more and also more efficiently when I allow myself to freely switch between my projects as often as I feel like switching and to neglect some of them for a while. I usually don't work on the same project on two consecutive days, and I never work on a project for longer than two hours at a single blow.

Barbara Sher developed or gathered from fellow scanners who invented them many awesome organizational tools for scanners that she shares in her book. For each type of scanner there are even particular time management techniques, life plans and job suggestions. I love some of her ideas. Generally, her more right-brained approach inspired me when I planned my new system. If you recognize yourself as a scanner, working with her tools can change your life and boost your productivity like crazy. I highly recommend to read the book. (Edit: a kitchen timer might help, too!)

The scanner's daybook

One tool that she recommends to all scanners is the scanner's daybook. It's some kind of journal to keep track of all your ideas, all your finished and unfinished projects, and of your development as a scanner. My scanner's daybook changed my life!

First, writing in it brought me an incredible relief. At last all those ideas crowding my head got out of there! The anxiety disappeared because I wasn't afraid of forgetting something anymore. The ideas were safe, they were written black on white on the page, I knew they couldn't escape anymore. I got more peaceful. It also was a big relief not to feel the need to implement all of those ideas anymore. I learned to appreciate them for what they are: ideas. I could look at them and think "oh wow, I'm creative, I have so many great ideas!" without getting nervous or thinking that an idea is worthless if no implementation follows. In that sense, writing in my scanner's daybook was a boost for my self-esteem, too.

Second, a scanner's daybook brings many insights. I learned a lot about myself! I thought I was a serial scanner (a sampler), but after journaling for a few weeks, I realized that I'm more of a cyclical scanner (a sybil). Of course I enjoy discovering new things, and I do things that I'll never do anymore. But when I look at all those ideas that I found worthy of writing down, it's quite obvious that many of them are, for example, about doing something creative, be it singing, dancing, writing, designing my own clothes or making sculptures. And many of them are related to personal development: creating PD related websites and eBooks, learning new languages, joining Toastmasters or starting a local PD club. Those I emotionally most resonate with are all about animals in some way: adopting a dog, teaching children how to communicate with animals, having a farm where old or sick animals could live in peace instead of getting killed, and so on. So even though all these projects are very different, it all boils down to only three major areas of interest. Oh wow, this was a big revelation!

Third, the scanner's daybook will help you create your reality and implement your ideas. Since I write in it, I experience many synchronicities related to my projects, even those I don't really think about. Before using the daybook, I had to remember everything and concretely take action on every single project. It was quite tiring. Now everything gets implemented simultaneously and I don't need to remember anything because the opportunities just show up. It doesn't feel like I'm the one implementing my ideas and making it happen. It rather feels like the Universe orchestrates what I write about in my scanner's daybook. I take action not because I decidedly want to but because the opportunity arises and I'm by chance there to catch it. Things just seem to happen and I witness how they happen. It's awesome. The scanner's daybook has a huge creative power!

Goals setting for scanners

If you have many goals, don't tackle them sequentially. Pursue them all at the same time. They will empower each other. Open your scanner's daybook, let your imagination soar and have fun writing everything down. Draw sketches if needed. Then close your book and take the right next inspired action. It doesn't matter to which goal this action belongs. It will all unfold magically :-)

It doesn't matter how many goals you have. You can do it all. Refuse to choose! ;-)

I realize this post is something like a book review of Refuse to Choose!. I'm going to create a new category called Book Reviews and post it in there too. Oh, this gives me the idea of reviewing other great books as well! I already know which ones I'd review. There is this one, and that one... where's my scanner's daybook??


(Edit: the category Book Reviews became the tag book reviews.)

miércoles, 1 de octubre de 2008

Getting Organized

Hear ye! Rose is getting organized! All miracles are possible ;-)

I'm a chaotic and impulsive person. I've always hated self-discipline, schedules, and following rules. I still hate self-discipline, schedules and following rules... but now I need to get organized and productive.


As a scanner I always have many interests and several projects running simultaneously anyway. But lately it has gotten much worse. After defining my life's purpose and my core values, I got many ideas on how to express this message into the World. Then I experienced some more learning and growing. I gained confidence, my doubts faded. Going raw gave me the necessary energy. Eventually all those great projects appeared viable! I got more and more excited about them, and felt more and more pressure to implement my ideas.

But I was too messy to be able to take action efficiently. All those ideas! All those emails! And all those things to do! I felt completely overwhelmed. Most of my energy got lost on desperately trying to figure out what to do next, what to begin with. I was plagued by nagging feelings of guilt, and kept procrastinating out of sheer confusion.

That's why I need to get organized now. I get too many emails and have too many ideas that I want to implement, I cannot insouciantly live for the moment anymore. I know - most people first get productive and then begin to think about their life purpose and all those nebulous things. For me it was the contrary. I never could motivate myself to get productive without having an excellent reason to do so. But now that I have such a reason and know what I want to do, I can learn how to do it. I want to give myself the means to do a great job. So I need to learn a couple skills, and get highly productive!

Managing my Emails

My first step was to figure out how to deal with my emails in a more efficient way. My inbox was always full, it took me ages to reply to some emails, and the whole thing was quite draining. I asked a few people how they do it, and someone told me about the important vs. urgent concept. I think this is Stephen Covey's idea, isn't it?

Now my system is the following: I have five folders called 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

1 is for urgent and important emails.
2 is for urgent but not that important emails.
3 is for important but not really urgent emails.
4 is for emails that are neither urgent nor important.
5 is for emails that need to wait for some date or some event before they can be replied or reacted to.

When I go through my inbox, I move each email to the appropriate folder, unless it's possible to reply in just a few words, like "Thank you very much, I wish you a wonderful day" or "Get lost, you bastard". In this case, I write back immediately. After all emails have been classified, the inbox is empty. Once a day I rapidly skim through all folders to see if some email needs to move to another folder. Then when I have some free time, I go through folders 1-4 and write back, beginning with folder 1, then folder 2, and so on. If I lack time to answer all emails, at least I can be sure that the most urgent and important stuff has been processed.

That's it.

It took me two or three days, but now my inbox and all folders are empty! And I'll never create such an email mess again. :-)

Managing everything else

Inspired by this success, I decided to apply the exact same system to other areas of my life. I use plastic boxes instead of folders, and instead of emails, I work with scraps of paper.

Whenever I think of some task that I need, have or want to do, I write it down on a scrap of paper, and throw this scrap of paper in the "inbox". If I know all the steps required for some project, I write every single step on a distinct scrap of paper, put the first one in the inbox and all others in box 5, the waiting box. Every time one step of the project is completed, the next one gets taken out of the waiting box. Once a day, I check the boxes and if needed redistribute the scraps of paper. And whenever I have some time, I open the first non empty box, and get going.

The good thing is that when I open a box and look at the tasks, I'm free to choose which one I'd like to complete now. This system is not as rigid as, for example, a calendar. I feel a lot more free this way, because even though I pick only something from this particular box, I still can listen to my intuition or improvise depending on my mood, the amount of time I have, the situation... It's much more fun than a to-do list, too. Almost like a lottery! Because of the huge amount of ideas I have, there are plenty of scraps of paper in my boxes. I usually don't remember what is in there exactly, so taking them out and pondering which one I'm going to tackle now is a lot of fun. :-)

Another good thing is that when I get bored with some task, I just put the scrap of paper back in its box, and choose another one. Yippeee! No guilt over not completing a job! This system is totally flexible. I'm free to spend as much or as little time on any task as I feel like to, to switch tasks as often as I want to, and to have as many projects as I'm interested in...

I also appreciate that I can use one single system to manage just everything in my life, be it buying food for the cat, designing my first eBook, or planning my kettlebell training. Such a comprehensive system is a good match for me, because there is no distinction, in my life, between career, hobbies, private life and public life.

The boxes are even big enough to contain letters. So I just put my mail in the same boxes as the scraps of paper.

Getting clear

The challenging part of this management system is that you need to know what's urgent, what's important, and what's not. For me this is no problem, because I know what my purpose is, my values, my goals, my priorities. I have it all together, only the organizational part was missing. I was ripe.

However, I can imagine that if you're not clear about what you truly want in life, or what's really important to you, this system is too foggy. So if you'd like to try it out, first define what urgent means in your world, and what is most important to you.

Big productivity boost

Thanks to this system, my productivity has increased by something like 500% in three days. It feels like playing. I go around with a big grin on my face, loudly claiming "I'm good! I'm so damn good! Yet another completed task! This is so much fun!". To the point that my friend Tom looked at me with a telling mien and observed "Self-praise stinks". :-D

The day I decided to get organized and productive, I immediately ordered a few appropriate books on Amazon. They haven't arrived yet, I guess I won't need them? Maybe they'll teach me some other useful principles. I'll keep you posted, in case I learn something interesting.

I wish you a productive day! :-)