Defeating Saber-Toothed Financial Tigers part 2: Three Steps to Calm Confidence

Posted on February 5, 2009. Filed under: Original articles, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

(for part 1, click here)

Many of us recognize America has been operating out of integrity. Hypocrisy, fraud and lies have been the order of the day at the highest levels of government as well as corporations. Our financial systems both reflect and drive this widespread disrepute. 

But, by the vigor in our recent vote for change, we have put our foot down. No more. We are ready for integrity. 

Our clarity of purpose in this choice will determine the extent and the depth of this financial crisis. 

Fortunately, even as the darkening clouds loom, we have a palpable sense now of having taken back our government. As promising an energy as Obama radiates, he can only follow the trail we clear. We are the change we’ve been waiting for. Our own determination to make sure that real change actually takes place will be the measure of our generation. 

Big time change

To a certain extent, however, the tipping point has already been reached. Change is upon us, big time. Exposing and disposing of all the corrupted financial rot will mean coming to grips with one heck of a lot of change. Pillars we’ve been leaning on, striving for, or expecting to support us, will give way. Big banks and corporations will fail. More fraud will continue to be unearthed — I doubt we’ll even be able to take in the true extent of it.

Saber-toothed tigers lurk around the bend... or do they?

Saber-toothed tigers lurk around the bend... or do they?

The consequences of the upending are looming as large as a saber-toothed tiger, ready to devour us around the very next corner. 

The key question becomes how we respond to these collapses and revelations? 

Many will agree with Arianna Huffington, this is a mad-as-hell moment. Do we allow the rising fears, anger and outrage to run our lives and force our decisions? To lead us into violence or into despair? 

What can a person do to avoid being sucked into the panic?


Three steps to gain perspective and avoid screaming

The effort of gaining perspective is a large one — one I’ll be addressing all this year. We are in the middle of a time of great change, no one seems to have the answers, and the future is shaping up to be a lot different than we expected. There’s a lot on our plates. 

Below, I touch on three critical steps you can take personally to release some of the fear that can eat away at your energy and throw you into panic mode. 


Step 1: Recognize it’s a transition to integrity

First of all, decide for yourself that this time is a transition to integrity. The rot simply has to go. To establish integrity, we need to hold our noses and dig up the rot. The fraud-based systems we’ve been used to will have to be completely transformed or jettisoned. Thieves have made off with the loot and set fire to the house as they left. Yes, someone’s going to have to go after the thieves, but that’s not going to save the house. Much of it will just have to come down.

What the new systems will look like, we don’t presently know. Most current “experts” won’t have the answers — they identify too strongly with the current system. And I wouldn’t count on those who got a chunk of loot from the old fraud to be too happy about the changes underfoot. Don’t count on them for solutions. As Albert Einstein noticed, “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

On the bright side, nothing brings sides together better than a shared sense of not knowing what the answer is.

Indeed, we need to let go of what we think we know. It is only this energy of humility that will bring the inspiration for new answers. 

Coupled with humility, we need to stand firm in demanding integrity throughout the new system. If we aim to deliver integrity, chances are good that what we create will be a vast improvement from what we have now. 


Step 2: We are enough to face the unknown

It could be just a CGI saber-toothed tiger from a bad movie.

It could be just a CGI tiger from a bad movie.

Second, unpack your fear of the unknown and examine it for a moment. The unknown is frightening because somewhere inside virtually every one of us, there’s a firmly held belief that we are not enough to handle what’s around the corner. 

A well-programmed voice in the head tells us we’re not prepared, we won’t know what to do, we won’t have the resources … ultimately, that we’ll die a horrible death, bankrupt, alone and unloved if we go around the corner. AAAHHH! We quake imagining the kind of saber-toothed tiger that we’re absolutely certain is just over there

But if we examine this fear, we realize we don’t know for sure whether what lies ahead is actually a saber-toothed tiger. It could be a rock in the shape of a tiger… we could easily go around a rock. It could be a shadow of something we encountered in the past, say in 10,000 BC… we could walk right through a shadow. 

It looks like there's something in your paw

It looks like there's something in your paw.

Even if a dangerous predator does sit out there, maybe it will be fast asleep by the time we walk by. Maybe it will go after someone else. Maybe it’ll be a bad pouncer and miss us. Maybe we can calmly saunter past it while it’s looking at a bug. 

Maybe we’ll hit it at exactly the right place with a marshal arts move we learned in high school and knock it out, if it does charge.

Or … maybe it’s roaring because it has a hurt paw.

Tigers aren't so scary after all.

Tigers aren't so scary after all.

Or maybe we can charm it with our charisma and he’ll become our buddy. Hey, we could have a saber-toothed tiger pet!

By imagining alternatives, we can coax ourselves into realizing, hey, we may in fact be enough to face whatever lies ahead, even if we’ve never experienced it before.

So instead of spending time and energy imagining the worst, cultivate a calm confidence that you are enough to manage whatever comes. Let go of any thoughts that tell you otherwise. 


Step 3: Don’t leap to the future, stay in the present.

Third, bring yourself into this particular moment. What in this moment is the problem? 

Suspense is all in the perspective.

Danger can also be a matter of perspective. It only looks like she's high off the ground.

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

Almost all fear is future oriented: the anticipation of future doom, future harm. The dread of getting to the corner and facing the imagined saber-toothed tiger freezes us and chills our bones. 

The actual danger lies in the future, but by anticipating it, we experience the doom right now, long before the consequences have materialized. 

We become so afraid, the tiger may as well sink its teeth into us now because, internally, we’ve already decided that’s what’s going to happen — we can feel our flesh ripping apart and the blood spurting! Internally we’re already going through the very doom we’re trying to avoid. 

So what happens? We can’t act, we lose clarity, we panic, we don’t know what to do, we make rash decisions. We’re stuck. 

Albert Einstein recommends, “A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.” 

Our expectations and judgments color what we see in the world. Some say they even create what we see in the world. 

To reduce fear, take yourself out of the mode of judging what is, and instead put yourself into the mode of simply observing what is. As the wise master turtle Oogway says in the delightful film Kung Fu Panda:

Shifu: “Master master, I have… uh, it’s very bad news.” 

Oogway: “Ah Shifu, there is just news. There is no good or bad.” 

Do your best to see what’s happening as simply news, not “bad” news. (For the advanced course, try and do this when you’re watching FoxNews.) 

Begin to let go of anticipated doom. Perhaps there will be bridges that need to be crossed at some point. Keep your focus on the now. 

Ask yourself, “Am I safe right now, in this moment?” Do you have food and a roof over your head right now? If you feel safe now, can you let that feeling of being safe expand?

If you feel unsafe now, can you coax yourself to let go of that feeling of being unsafe, just for a moment? You have the ability to hold onto feelings, or let go of them. See if you can let go of the feeling of being unsafe. 

Also start to let go of judgments about the circumstances you find yourself facing. Can you allow things to be different from how you think they are? Can you allow things to be different from how you worry they will be? 

Above all, let go of beating yourself up for being in whatever predicament you are in. Can you let go of blaming yourself? Can you let go of blaming others just for this moment?

Can you allow yourself to feel you are enough to handle your current circumstances, whatever you are facing, in this moment?

Use the three exercises to defeat your own saber-toothed financial tigers. As you may have realized, the most important saber-toothed tiger to defeat is within ourselves.

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Defeating Saber-Toothed Financial Tigers part 1: Ready for Integrity

Posted on January 27, 2009. Filed under: Original articles, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

In the events since my last blog article, it hardly seems the same country. We cast a triumphant vote for change that resounded around the world. We’ve been buffeted by the opening waves of a mighty financial storm. And a great weight has finally lifted from all of us with Obama’s exuberant inauguration a week ago. 

As I washed dishes between inauguration events, it hit me, deja vu-like: Obama has the character I’ve been expecting in a president since I was a small girl. Eloquent, visionary, sensible, compassionate … the kind of humble aspect but powerful purpose I saw, even as a youngster, in Lincoln and Washington. 

Ah, no wonder I’d been so upset with every other president — they were not up to my inner standard, not even close. Finally, we have someone I’ve been expecting all along.

A sense of matter-of-factness enveloped me. Okay, now we can get to work. We’ve got a bunch of stuff to do. 

And, just like that, it is possible to move freely. With Bush Co gone, it’s as if we’ve each suddenly lost, oh, I don’t know… 400 pounds. Whew! Feeling much better. (And why oh why didn’t we shed that dead weight long ago!) Fortunately, it’s not a moment too soon. We’re going to need to be as light as possible for what’s ahead.

Each news broadcast this winter has revealed yet more stormy news — the bailout hasn’t done anything to help the crisis, the banks and the Fed aren’t going to tell anyone where our money’s gone, foreclosure numbers are even worse than stats show, the SEC is corrupt and has let fraudsters like Bernard Madoff (former chairman of NASDAQ no less) run billion-dollar Ponzi schemes unmolested for years, while they shook down petty street urchins instead.

Buying a Lexus will help your depression.

Buying a Lexus will help your depression.

Interspersed with the latest news truckload to dump onto the festering garbage pile over the holidays were relentless commercials pimping a bow-tied Lexus or diamond earrings: Spend every penny this Christmas as if nothing is happening!

Talk about a complete lack of clue on the part of these companies. As far as I can tell, the only reason massive protests didn’t materialize was that, thanks to our lifelong consumer-behavior programming, we actually beat ourselves up inside when we can’t follow the bouncing ball, instead of telling Lexus where to stick their shiny red bow.

Well, at least there was that cheery $5 footlong Subway jingle to brighten things a smidge. 

How does a person keep herself from sinking in the face of this sobering bombardment? What’s a person to do? 

That’s the subject of my book, Heal the Money, and it’s what I want to address this year in this blog. 

First, a deep breath. There’s a lot to unpack. 

What we’re starting to see is the rot at the foundation of our system. We’ll be seeing a lot more rot this year. It’s going to be very disturbing — kind of like seeing a wreck on the highway. Do we stop and try to help? Do we just keep going? Do we get mad about the disruption to our plans? Do we get pissed off at the idiots driving 90 miles an hour while texting who caused the pile up?

But the truth is our financial system has been rotten for a long time. The flowing money has been hiding it. 

Just as with Madoff’s scheme, the critical part of the game has been to keep the money changing hands, so no one’s the wiser. Stop the flow of new takes, and, as with Madoff’s scheme, the gig is up. 

The latest derivatives portfolio is industrial sized. Please move along.

"We've lent some of it. We've not lent some of it. We've not given any accounting of, 'Here's how we're doing it,'" said Thomas Kelly, a spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, which received $25 billion in emergency bailout money

This need explains the real reason why the bailout was so “urgent” in September — it was a frantic attempt to keep the money moving. The last thing the people at the top of this garbage heap want is for the people below to stop what they’re doing long enough to take a big whiff.  

This pause in the flow of money will uncover just how much fraud had been driving our supposedly robust economy. 

Unfortunately, our beliefs that our financial system as it was structured would have supported us into the future were an illusion — it would never have stood the test of time. So the time has come for us to find that out. 

Now at last we can clear out what is rotten and build new foundations that can support us where we’re going. 

At the same time, we need to come to terms with the likelihood that most folks have been basing major life decisions around this corrupted rotten system — relying on it for their future — so how are we going to react when what we’ve known collapses? 

Ah… I believe that will be the greatest test of American character we have ever faced. 

I believe we are ready for this test. Within all the chaos, is a gift, if we allow ourselves to see it. The gift is a return to integrity. We are ready for integrity. 

So much of what has happened in this country does not align with its true purpose. Far too many dealings, even disastrous wars, have been based on hypocrisy, fraud and lies. We know it. We’ve finally rejected this path. By voting in such great numbers for the very ideas of hope and change, we have collectively chosen not to continue the old ways.

We are ready for integrity. 

But that also means there is a shakeout upon us. Our choice will likely upend the current system from top to bottom, and many will need help to keep centered. We will need to keep urging the system to transform toward integrity, without letting the exploding fear of change sink us. I do believe by holding firmly to our nation’s purpose, we will create a system that will be far better than we can know right now. But as with every creative process, there is a descent into the unknown, and it is frightening. That’s where we are. 

For the next step in letting go of fears, see the next article to come: Defeating Saber-Toothed Financial Tigers part 2: Three Steps to Calm Confidence

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