HEY DRAGON! TAKE THE WHEEL!
Here we are, drifting into the Year of the Dragon. This is a big deal to me because I’m a Fire Dragon myself, and we only pretend to care about this astrology stuff when it pertains to us. I mean, let’s be honest, isn’t astrology just a simple way of saying, “Yeah yeah, let’s talk about me for a while,” or the subtle asking, “Hey, what time were you born?” so you can later speak to that person with undertones of, “I know your deal.”
My challenge to you and myself this year is, can you take your own advice? Year of the Dragon is a great time to consider building this habit because Year of the Dragon is an excellent time to tune into leadership, what that means to you, and whether you can recruit, define, discern, support, and embrace leadership.
A big part of Dragon Qi is leadership.
What do you think makes a good leader?
I will say that when I ask this question, people usually start with a list of keywords and projections. Ex. Kindness, compassion, empathy. These words are great and all, but honestly, they’re empty. It’s like reading a supplement label of an herb that’s “Good for vitality, energy, and overall sense of well-being.” Okee doke, but I need my poop to be normal again and my jaw to stop clicking every time I say, “Jean shorts,” so, like, does it help with that?
We all want our leaders to be kind, just, compassionate, fair, empathetic, or inclusive. Until our lifestyles are threatened, how would you want them to take care of business? I am not concerned with an answer to this question; I ask us all to consider these words and ideals and ask if they are projections, intentions, or demands of others and not ourselves.
I have taught kids now for about twenty years. They are the best metrics for knowing if you are really walking your talk. I remember early on, seeing a teacher telling kids they couldn’t wear jeans to her dance class, as she was standing there wearing jeans. I suggested to her earlier that she might not want to say that. However, to her, I was just another member of the patriarchy trying to tell her how to do her job when, to me, I was empathizing with the kids. The kids did what I would have done at age six if someone wearing jeans told me I couldn’t wear jeans. They just revolted, lost trust, lost respect, and she quit after a couple of weeks. First graders will let you know through pure chaos or love if you are in integrity or not. You have to teach them diplomacy and how to use their words.
So, the first leadership challenge:
Train your integrity by aligning your thoughts, words, and actions. Become the leader you want to follow. Become the partner you want to be with. Most of our life’s work will be to align our thoughts, words, and actions. The simplest way is to journal, but if you know me, you knew I was going to say that.
Step 1: Become aware of your thoughts, words, and actions. Many of us have no idea what we are really thinking about because “what is constant isn’t conscious.” Autopilot, scripts, and loops are very easy to fall into. I mean, really view yourself. The two best times to do this are when you wake up and when you go to sleep at night. Use consciousness as the book ends to your day. How are your thoughts when there is nothing external to react to?
Step 2: View your day, your habits, and your conversations, and be sure to view them from a nonjudgemental place. For decades, I have been consistently recorded over and over. Video and audio as a performer and musician, there has been a lot of footage on and off stage, and it was tough to get over the ego and vanity of thinking I sounded like crap or thinking that I just looked “weird.” Most of the time, when people are recorded and hear or see themselves, the first thing they will mention is, “I hate my voice.” We start with a judgemental lens of ourselves. I would insult myself and hope that someone else would compliment me, or if I would be hard on myself, another critique wouldn’t be that bad. Stunt performers and athletes would do this a lot. After a take or if they have a slip or mess up a little, they will act out and get mad at themselves, in a way to say to the director or their coaches that they knew better, they were so stupid, they screwed up. All in an attempt to hope to get soothed instead of critiqued. As if they were saying, “Take it easy on me, coach; I already beat myself up.” I would then wonder why I didn’t look our sound as good as everyone else in the recording.
Then something happened that was actually very helpful and quite cool.
I got over it and just accepted that this is how I sound and look, so like, whatever, I guess.
I was able to view myself as if there was a camera on all the time, and then the judgment became direction and an actual helpful tool. For example, when working with great actors and artists, they consistently ask for “notes” to improve. When the director says “cut,” they will watch the footage and ask, “Do you have any notes?” Good directors will give feedback as if they know the actor can do it; they may even try some other ideas because they are all working towards a successful and excellent final product. Fighters will watch their competitions with their coaches, military operators will film their drills, and it’s all to get “notes” and the next steps. Because you are working with yourself to become a better version of yourself, talk to yourself like you know you can progress. I can’t tell you how often I tell people you are training for two moments when you wake up in the morning and lie in bed at night. What goes through your mind? Some days, you just want to tune out and watch some TV because viewing yourself might not be what you want to view at the moment, but there is power in watching your fumbles and shining the spotlight on your shadows.
Asking a director or the coach for direction and coaching is pure humble empowerment. The best artists have something that many of us, especially me, were lacking. They were so resilient it seemed like they couldn’t be shamed or humiliated; they just weren’t afraid of it. They were practicing a piece of advice that I always give, but I wasn’t taking it in this context.
The advice is: Got to stress, go to wisdom, you don’t want it to come to you. If stress comes to you, you’re probably being ambushed.
Of course, they can be shamed and humiliated, but by asking and walking toward the critique, they were a part of the conversation and empowered. They loved their art but also loved getting feedback that would help them get even better. Sure, it can be hard to watch yourself or be critiqued, but when you get helpful advice and another chance to do better, wow! That’s the path to greatness. Below are a few examples of some of the insights I got through filming myself and then learning to view and observe myself through more constructive lenses. Maybe this can also help you see yourself from a broader and kinder viewpoint.
- I saw that I was a pleaser, and my conversations were centered around being liked or seen.
- I saw that although I was teaching and leading classes, I was actually performing and trying to entertain more than educate. People would come to a class and end up sitting through my one-person show and interacting in the process. Although it might have been a little fun, and they would get a decent workout, viewing my misalignment was vital in stopping being a pleaser and entertainer and start letting my students learn, find joy in struggle, share, and take time to integrate.
- I saw that I was afraid of silence unless it was scripted as a meditation.
- I saw that I could be a little intense and used metaphors that were so high concept and specific to my life that no one ever knew what the hell I was talking about, or they were turned off because humor is subjective, and my inside jokes were so inside, only I was in on it.
- I also saw that I was better than I thought, and how I viewed myself was stuck in the same lens as when I was a child. Back when I was awkward, shy, afraid, angry, and didn’t feel good about myself. One viewing of my movement made me realize that hard work pays off, and now it’s time to work on my internal self so it can catch up to my external discipline. I was pretty damn good, and I needed to be humble enough to admit it. False humility is arrogant, and putting myself down was fishing for compliments and a bit needy. No mas!
- I saw that I had a lot to share and give, but I was tired of defending and proving myself, so I would begin to speak or demo something authentic and hesitate because of doubt. I would fear speaking my insights or experiential wisdom because I felt unqualified due to a lack of formal education.
- I was angry because no one would believe me unless I could beat them up or display my abs. I was sick of proving myself and explaining myself, and then they would shut down because I was too aggressive or condescending towards people who mistook strength for power.
- I was bitter because my masters were right; trying to promote personal responsibility would tire me out, and selling vanity and ego were the only times I could make a living, and I think it did more harm than good. My heart hurt because I was supposed to love people by enabling vanity and ego, which are not loving. How the f@?# do you empower people by feeding their hungry ghosts and false idols of worshiping youth, beauty, and fear? The part of you that lives and gets stronger is the part that you feed. As a teacher, I feed your spirit and personal responsibility; abs are a byproduct of good, loving decisions.
- I was dropping “truth bombs” that didn’t need to be dropped because I now realize we all know these things; the challenge is integration and simplification. You know to breathe, you know to exercise, you know to hydrate, you know to meditate, you know when you are eating “junk,” and you know when you are escaping. The challenge is not feeling shameful and spiraling into escapism because you know when you know better or not, justifying the act of ignoring your wisdom through ego or fooling yourself. You can’t, even though we all try, YOLO!
These are just some of the lessons and helpful insights I slowly gained by learning to view without judgment. My internal coach was beginning to be a great resource instead of another reason to train and excel out of fear and judgment. Intensity and overtraining are for the young and resilient, and all the effort should one day evolve into effortlessness. Time and experience have taught me that the things that protected us in our youth will often harm us later in life. Learn to put down the intensity and evolve to grace and efficiency. You’re not a baby rattlesnake; preserve your venom. Be mindful of your inner voice.
The break up with myself
There used to be a time when I would try to convince myself that I believed in myself, but then I was going through a moment of rejection by a woman who was way out of my league. I could tell she was trying to let me down easily by saying things like, “Of course, I believe in what you do.” Then I realized my inner voice was also high-class and out of my league, and for most of my life, I talked to myself like I was trying to break up with myself because I knew I deserved better. My thoughts were powerful; my words were elegant, and my actions were not keeping up their end of the deal.
80s metaphor: Spray yourself with wisdom
Critique and advice is like being sprayed with a hose. I remember being a kid out riding bikes with my "at risk" friends in Florida on a hot day, and we would cool off by going into a yard, turning on the hose, and taking turns drinking and wetting our heads. There was always one d!ckhead kid who needed to squirt everyone. It was annoying and never felt good; however, when it was your turn at the hose, you would spray yourself down, and it felt great. This is like advice and critique. It’s easier to take when you’re hosing yourself down with it. Plus, you learn to trust yourself and stay in the process because we are never done with our evolution. When you get stuck, and you will sometimes, ask someone for another point of view. Yin & Yang is a process and a cycle, not a fixed state.
Step 3: Practice becoming one step closer to aligning thoughts, words, and actions. This is not a problem to solve; it’s a step toward a goal.
Enjoy this path of constant unfolding, and always respect the rules of nature. If you are one of the rad premium members or a private client, you know these. If you want a one-on-one session, get on my schedule here. I will never leave you hanging; I don’t hook you with shallow memes; those are always free. The work, the time, and the process are where the magic is. Remember these rules because you are nature.
- Never hurry, accomplish everything: Respect the subtle speed of compounding interest.
- Nature doesn’t have problems; it has imbalances.
- Nature is never in balance; it makes corrections and steps towards balance. Use the seasons as a guide—spring, summer, fall, winter. You can’t have all of them at the same time. You’re part of a cycle.
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