Whose Path Are You Holding a Torch To?

You can’t just sit in a corner and perfect yourself.

The only way you get better is by contributing to your fellow humans.

As author Ben Sweetland once remarked, “You cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own.”

THE QUESTION IS: Whose path are you holding a torch to?

Today we’re going to explore a collection of practices to help your flame grow brighter:1. Witness people’s lives. Nobody wants to look back and feel that their life was just a series of small incidents. They need proof. They need your eyes. Because without witness, their lives go unnoticed, unaffirmed and misunderstood. Sounds existentially agonizing to me.

To be a better witness, start by being a better mirror. Affirm the value of people’s accomplishments by constantly asking them, “How did you do that?” This allows you to become a stand for people’s greatness. And it gives them a front row seat to their own brilliance. Plus you might learn something cool.

Personally, I like to use the platform of writing to do so. Whether it’s online via social media or in print in my columns, whenever I feature someone in my work, it’s a form of witnessing. And I always send them a copy when it’s published. How are you being sensitive to people’s visibility needs?

2. Indulge people’s humanity. In the seminal book, Story, Robert McKee makes a powerful point about our species:

“The majority of the world suffers short, painful existences, ridden with disease and hunger, terrorized by tyranny and lawless violence, without hope and that life will ever be any different for their children.”

I don’t share this passage be a downer. Rather, to suggest that what your customers need is reminder of how alive they truly are. Something that highlights their humanity.

Consider the billion-dollar fitness industry: People invest countless hours practicing yoga, lifting weights and taking Zumba. But they don’t enjoy doing it as much as they relish being done with it.

What they buy is the experience of walking out of that studio two hours later, feeling more alive. What do you sell?

3. Preserve people’s story. When my friend Stacey Wehe suffered major scarring on her voice box after oral surgery, she lost the ability to speak. After an unsuccessful string of doctors and speech therapists, there was no doubt: She needed an outlet to share her story.

She founded a storytelling non-profit called The St. Louis Ten. Over a year later, hundreds of people gather each month to share and listen to each other’s stories. I’ve only attended a few times, but the event is nothing short of amazing. (Watch my story here!)

Bottom line: Human beings are lonely and want to be listened to. Each soul is laden with its own story to tell. And anytime you can give voice to people’s experience, you add value to their lives – and to the world. Your mission is to build that platform, step back, watch people’s legacy shine. After all, how your story lives on is the truest form of life after death. What stage are you providing?

4. Petition people’s plunge. The greatest gift you can give someone is to throw them over the wall. To compel their commitment. To challenge them to push their chips to the middle of the table and play for keeps.

I remember the exact moment this happened to me: I was working full time as a furniture salesman, doing my writing and publishing on the side. After a nervous presentation at a Rotary Club, the president – a ninety year old retired surgeon – approached me with the following advice:

“Stop selling couches. You need to become a speaker.” That was a gift. That was a shove moment. And was an interaction that made my path brighter. I took his advice and never looked back. Who do you know that desperately needs to be disturbed into action?

5. Excavate people’s crazy. Everyone is a geek about something. But sometimes people need a little push, a little permission, to let the geek come out and play. Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt put it beautifully:

“To geek out is to spot something that makes an emotional, irrational connection to your soul. It’s the extraordinary piece of something just slightly different than what’s considered to be standard fare.”

What’s more, geeking out is an emotional and spiritual release. It’s when people become the best versions of themselves. And if you can respond to that experience with respect, affirmation and gratitude, not only will people love you for creating a chance to geek out – you may even learn something too. After all, approachability is not about being the life of the party; it’s about bringing other people to life at the party. How many passion finding questions are you asking people?

REMEMBER: You cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own.

Make that flame grow bright.

Whose path are you holding a torch to>

For the list called, “31 Questions to Turn Your Expertise into Money,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011-2012!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

The Art of Vomiting

This is how I start everyday of my life:

Wake up. Jump in the shower. Brush my teeth. Throw on my cozies. Fire up the laptop. Put in my headphones. Open a blank document. Vomit.

Yes, vomit.

For the next twenty minutes, I purge. Every thought, every impulse, every complaint and every frustration dancing through my mind, I puke onto the page.

And anything goes.

No stopping. No editing. No audience. No boundaries. And most importantly, no thinking. Just pure confrontation. Listening to myself and rendering what I hear.

Then, once I’ve emptied my heart onto three pages, I save the document, recite my invocation and go to work.

This is my ritual. It’s the first thing I do, every day of my life. And I never miss it.

THE COOL PART IS: Since I started my daily vomit eight years ago, life has never been the same.

Creativity comes easier. Stress dissipates faster. And clarity arrives quicker.

Sound worthwhile to you?

If so, consider these ideas for mastering the art of vomiting:1. Give yourself permission. Boundaries are saviors. They reinforce our integrity, preserve our values and protect us from dangerous situations. But when it comes to creativity, every artist needs a space without circumference. A private container of safety where judgment can’t enter. And a structureless venue where ideas can run free without the scrutiny of readers, critics, editors – and, most of all, yourself.

That’s why vomiting is so essential to your creative practice: It’s the only place where you’re completely free. Nobody is going to see what you wrote anyway. You can be any version of yourself you want. That’s how vomiting works: It liberates you from the tendency to edit, which later pays off when it comes to the real work. And simply by risking honesty in private, it starts to become easier to live your truth in public.

But you have to give this time to yourself. You have to believe that you deserve this gift. Otherwise you’ll never steal the time to pull the trigger. Are you willing to get up twenty minutes earlier to create this space?

2. Patiently wait for the right water. When you draw a bath, it’s never hot right away. You have to let the cold water swirl into the drain for a few minutes first. Eventually, when hot stuff starts to pour out, you plug up the drain and ease yourself in. Until then, you have to release the water without committing to it. Otherwise you’ll fill up the tub with the wrong stuff.

Vomiting is exactly the same way. The point is to purge all the crap out of your system first thing in the morning: Yesterday’s fight with your mother. Last night’s bizarre dream. That annoying barking dog from next door. Just puke it all out onto the page. And keep doing that until the hot water shows up. Even if you feel like a negative, whineybag.

Because about maybe fifteen minutes later when the real meaning starts to manifest, you know it’s time to stop vomiting and start creating the real work. Without this necessary release, you’ll never dig deep enough beneath the surface of life’s bullshit to find the art that matters. Are you bathing in the wrong water?

3. Vomiting is the gateway to self. Writing isn’t just my occupation – it’s my religion. And here’s what I mean by that: The word “religion,” comes from the Latin religio, which means, “to link back.” The way I see it, your religion is the one thing in your life that every other thing in your life links back to.

For me, it’s writing. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t know what he thinks about something until he’s written about it. And that’s the next advantage of vomiting: Clarity. As Julia Cameron explains in The Artist’s Way, “Only through writing do you discover what you know. But writing also teaches you that you never write just what you know – you write what you learn as you’re writing.”

Ideas come to you and trigger other ideas. Thoughts crystallize and connect with others, and the combination produces a compound: An insight. You catch up on yourself. You find out what you like and don’t like. And you examine and metabolize the different elements your experience. What will vomiting teach you about you?

4. Watch for the blood. During a recent mentoring session, my client shared his biggest writing struggle: Coming up with topics to blog about. This is extremely common. More than he realized. And I told him that if he wanted to find new material on a consistent basis, he should try vomiting.

That’s where a lot of my best ideas come from. I’ll be puking onto the page one morning and unintentionally write something that stops me in my tracks. Wow. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Do I really feel that way?

Nine times out of ten, yes. I really feel that way. And what I’ll do is open a new document, extract and export that one idea – save it – and then finish puking. It doesn’t happen every morning, but it certainly occurs enough for me to know how to leverage it.

And that’s your challenge: To create a process for extracting those little drops of blood. Because if it scares you, it’s honest – and if it’s honest, it’s worth sharing. Are you listening to the unintentional music in your life?

5. Create a daily ritual for emotional release. Feelings weigh a ton. And if you never let them out, they’re going to find a home in your body. I made that mistake years ago when I got so stressed I had to be hospitalized. Three times. In six months. Yikes.

Fortunately, I took up vomiting. It gave me the perfect outlet to vent, bitch, complain, freak out and express every ounce of negativity running through my veins. Which was a challenge, because I’m such a positive person. But it all goes back to permission. And amazingly, once I would finish my three pages, I physically felt better. I got all the negativity out of my system. And my stomach cramps settled, my mental pressure released and my overall posture relaxed.

No wonder I never miss a day: My health depends on it.

Look, I don’t know what battles you’re currently fighting. But I do know that life can knock you on your ass sometimes. Next time you find yourself curled up in a ball on the floor, scoot over to the toilet and let her rip. Your body will thank you. If you keep these feelings bottled up, where will it lead?

In conclusion, I’d like to share a list of my favorite synonyms for vomit:

Barf mulch. Blow doughnuts. Bow to the yuke of earl. Chunderchunk. Fertilize the sidewalk. Impromptu protein party. Retching liquid vowels. Spray chum. Whistling carrots.

God. I’m twelve years old.

REMEMBER: Vomiting is the gateway to value.

If you want creativity to come easier, stress to dissipate faster and clarity to arrive quicker, learn to let it out.

When was the last time you vomited?

For the list called, “15 Ways to Out Learn Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011-2012!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

What Rituals Are You Known For?

I’m obsessed with rituals.

Always have been.

And I attribute much of my ability to stay focused, grounded, sane, fueled, connected and on-purpose – both personally and professionally – to the rituals I practice on a regular basis.

That’s just me. I’m the kind of person who can commit myself to something that matters, as long as there’s a ritual involved.

HOWEVER: There’s a key difference between ritual and routine.

Routine is the action.
Ritual is engaging in a conscious practice of mindfulness before taking the action.

Routine is the execution of ideas.
Ritual is the ceremonial acknowledgment of the importance of your ideas.

Routine is the activity.
Ritual is the intentional, purposeful and meaningful experience you layer on top of the activity to make it more worthwhile.

As Edward de Bono once said, “Ritual is a way of affirming that you belong. It’s a definite act of defiance that most people are not prepared to make.”

ASK YOURSELF: What rituals are you known for?

If you don’t have an answer to that question yet, perhaps these thoughts will convince you to install a few new rituals into your life:1. Rituals dispel tediousness. By introducing a purposeful moment of mindfulness, you amplify meaning. You excite yourself about entering into a process. And discipline becomes a victory unto itself. After all, it’s not just about preparing yourself to do something, but feeling the experience the thing provides.

That’s how to create a sacred container around the action. It makes you feel more alive. And turns a mundane act into a memorable experience.

For example, every day when I sit down to write – even if I’m not especially in the mood – I honor the creative process. The ritual is a combination of mindfulness breathing and spiritual invocation, something I learned from Eric Maisel’s Ten Zen Seconds.

The cool part is, no matter how tedious, unspectacular or monotonous my daily writing routine is, I can always count on my ritual to enhance that experience. How will you prepare yourself to slog through what matters most?

2. Rituals preserve and release control. Rituals create an act of control in a moment of chaos. They build the spiritual foundation needed to relieve anxiety. And they provide a sense of structure, even when the rest of your world goes to hell – or is about to explode.

For example, before walking on stage to give a presentation, I always disappear from the room for about fifteen minutes. Not because I’m nervous, but because I need time and space to get into the zone. Here’s the ritual:

I go into the bathroom and practice a combination deep breathing, mediation, affirmation and visualization, while listening to a selected playlist of inspiring music.

It lowers my blood pressure, relaxes my pulse, oxygenates my blood, excites me about the upcoming performance and privately allows me to “get into character,” even though the role I’m playing is myself. Once that ritual is complete, I own the stage and the room is mine. How does ritual positively affect your control tendencies?

3. Rituals reinforce the why. The more you remind yourself of why you’re committed to something, the less likely you are to back out. The more you introduce yourself to the meaning of what’s happening, the less likely you are to lose motivation. And the more you infuse your process with a sense of deep purpose, the less likely you are to begrudgingly go about the activity.

As Joseph Campbell reminds us, “Ritual prevents people from wondering, ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’”

That’s why I take time each morning to revisit a few of my lists: Affirmations, goals, personal constitutions and the like. They fuel my why. They reinforce mattering. And they put my mind in touch with what I’m about to do. Your challenge is to craft a ritual that helps you dive deep into the motivation behind the path you’re taking. How will you focus your intentions?

4. Rituals build awareness. I’m not big on measuring. In fact, I think what can’t be measured, matters. However, there will always be certain things worth quantifying. For example, a ritual I began last year was to weigh myself on the same scale every Sunday morning – then to write down my weight on a yearly graph.

Not because I wanted to lose weight — although that did happen. It was more about controlling my portions, curbing my addictions, maintaining a healthier lifestyle, keeping myself accountable and confronting my bodily truth – and having quantifiable proof thereof.

Depending on my diet each week, this ritual can be exciting or depressing, surprising or consistent. But it’s always confrontational. And that’s why I love it: There’s no place to hide. Interestingly, after practicing this ritual for the last eighteen months, I’ve stayed in my target weight range, fit in my clothes better and even become more comfortable when I’m wearing no clothes at all. What measuring rituals do you practice?

5. Rituals are tools of communication. First, they communicate with yourself. That you’re worth giving this moment to. Second, they communicate with the divine. That you’re willing to honor the beauty of the present moment. Third, they communicate with other people. That they’re worth pausing for.

And fourth, you communicate with the world. That it’s worth slowing down and paying attention to. That’s what first attracted me to yoga: The practice of namaste, or, “the spirit in me honors the spirit in you.”

That’s exactly what you communicate when you ritualize your life: Honor, spirit and respect. And even if nobody notices but you, the accumulation of those daily rituals will slowly begin to unravel a deeper significance in your daily life. What do people think when they hear your life speak?

REMEMBER: Routines are nice, but rituals are necessary.

They turn tedium into meaning.
They turn duty into celebration.
They turn disconnected events into an ongoing story.

They preserve the sanctity of your being.

Life without ritual, isn’t.

What rituals are you known for?

For the list called, “15 Ways to Out Learn Your Competitors,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011-2012!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

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