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Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

April 23, 2014

nothing-changes-until-you-do-pintrest6I have a tendency to take myself a bit too seriously at times, especially when I get stressed, irritated, or scared. I’ve noticed that sometimes these feelings not only make me less effective in dealing with a difficult situation, they actually cause the difficulty itself, or at the very least exacerbate it. I also find that in these moments of taking myself too seriously, it’s easy for me to become self-important and to think that the weight of the world is on my shoulders (which is often a bit of an overreaction and almost never helpful). As my friend Theo and I like to say in jest to each other from time to time, “Do you have any idea how important I think I am?”

When we take ourselves less seriously, we’re able to see the humor in situations, find the silver lining when things don’t go the way we want them to, and navigate through the ups and downs of life a bit easier.

When I was up in Seattle for a speaking engagement a few years ago, I saw just how important finding humor is. I’d flown in the night before the event and was scheduled to speak early the next morning. When I got off the plane I was hungry, so I decided to grab a piece of pizza as I waited for my bag. A few months prior to this, I’d taken a bite out of a frozen strawberry and cracked my left front tooth, which had originally been damaged when I was playing baseball in high school. Due to the initial injury, coupled with the trauma of the frozen strawberry episode, I ended up having to get my front tooth removed, and I was in the process of having an implant (i.e., false tooth) constructed for my mouth. This process actually takes a number of months, and in the interim I was given a non-removable temporary tooth so that I wasn’t walking around with a big hole in the front of my mouth.

As you can imagine, this posed some challenges, both in terms of eating and in terms of self-confidence. I’ve long struggled with issues of insecurity related to my appearance, so all in all this tooth problem was pretty traumatic for me.

Anyway, there I was in the airport in Seattle eating my pizza and, although I’d learned how to maneuver my food around the temporary front tooth (since I couldn’t really use it to bite with), I took a normal bite without thinking about it. The next thing I knew, I looked down and the tooth had fallen out of my mouth and into my left hand. Although it was a nice catch, I immediately panicked and thought, Oh my God, it’s 7 p.m. and I have to speak at 9 a.m. I’m in Seattle and I now have a missing front tooth. What the heck am I going to do?

With the tooth in my pocket and my mouth shut tight, I got my bag and made my way to my hotel as fast as I could. I was pretty freaked out. Thankfully my dentist, Shaya, happens to be a friend of mine; we went to junior high school together and she’s really cool. I was able to call her that night and tell her what happened. She told me not to worry and to put the tooth in some water to soak. After that, I needed to find a drugstore and call her back from there. Luckily there was one just around the corner from my hotel. I called Shaya back as I walked into the store with my heart racing. She directed me to find the aisle where there was denture adhesive and told me which one to pick out. I followed the instructions on the box and did what Shaya told me to do the following morning—basically stick the false tooth back into my mouth using the denture adhesive. While it wasn’t something I’d ever done before (and never thought I’d do in my life), it seemed to work and looked okay, although it felt really weird and made me talk with a little lisp.

I took a few deep breaths, said a prayer, and made my way down to the hotel ballroom. As you can probably imagine, I was quite nervous as I stood up in front of hundreds of people to deliver my keynote speech that morning. Being nervous before and even during a speech wasn’t new for me; however, being specifically worried that my tooth might fall out of my mouth or that I might spit it on someone in the front row was definitely a new and odd experience.

As I was speaking, I could hardly pay attention because I was so preoccupied with my tooth, how I sounded, and my fear of what might happen. So after about 20 minutes, I had the audience pair up with each other to discuss something related to what I was talking about—I often do this because it allows people to relate their own experiences to some key theme of my speech; it also gives me a moment to catch my breath. On that particular morning, I really needed a moment for myself. As I was watching everyone talk, I thought, This situation is so ridiculous that it’s funny. I hope my tooth doesn’t fall out, but if it does, these people certainly won’t forget me or my speech anytime soon. Plus it would make a great story. I laughed to myself, gathered the group’s attention, and went on.

While I decided not to let the audience know what was going on inside my mouth (and my head), I was able to embrace the ridiculousness of the situation and not take it so seriously. Thankfully, my tooth stayed in my mouth and the speech went well. I was able to make it back home and then back to my dentist’s office the next day without too much humiliation. A few months later, I got my permanent implant, and, thankfully, I don’t have to worry about my tooth coming out anymore.

There are clearly times in life and certain circumstances that are genuinely serious. However, far too often we add unnecessary stress, pressure, and negativity to situations with our attitude of “seriousness.” One of the best things we can do is laugh—at ourselves, at the situation, or in general.

I got a call from Michelle a few years ago and she was laughing pretty loudly on the phone. She had a funny story about the girls she wanted to share with me, as she often does. This one was pretty good and quite poignant.

Samantha was four and a half at the time and Rosie was two. It was late summer and Michelle was just trying to run some errands and she had to take the girls along—not a big deal on the surface. But keep in mind that this involved a two-year-old. As anyone who has ever dealt with a two-year-old knows, even the simplest thing can become a major production, and that’s just what was happening with Rosie. She was going through a phase where she did not want to get into her car seat.

Michelle got the girls dressed, out the door, and to the car that morning; however, when they got into the car, Rosie threw a big-time fit—screaming, yelling, flailing her arms and legs, and throwing her body on the floor of the car—all to avoid her car seat. These types of fits can be challenging to say the least, and when they happen out in public, there’s an added level of embarrassment and helplessness that can kick in, which was happening for Michelle that morning. Even though Michelle had quite a bit of experience with this, she said she was incredibly ineffective that morning in dealing with Rosie, and she found herself getting more and more frustrated.

At that particular time, with Samantha being four and a half, we were starting to teach her certain things that were appropriate to her age. One of the things that Michelle had been talking to Samantha about just the day before was what to do in case of an emergency and how to get help if she or someone around her needed it. So Samantha was sitting there quietly in her booster seat. She had buckled herself in like a “big girl” and was waiting patiently as Mommy and Rosie struggled through this conflict. Samantha, sensing Michelle’s frustration and escalating panic, decided she wanted to intervene and help out. She calmly turned and said, “Mommy, I can go inside and call 911 if you want.” As soon as Michelle heard this, she burst out laughing. She said she could hardly control herself and thought she actually might pee her pants. In the midst of her laughter, she stopped paying attention to Rosie for a moment. Once she gathered herself and calmed down a bit, she turned around to find that Rosie had crawled into her car seat and was ready to be buckled in.

As Emily Saliers from the Indigo Girls said, “You have to laugh at yourself, because you’d cry your eyes out if you didn’t.”

Laughter is actually important on many levels. Clearly, it helps shift our perspective and alter our mood, but research shows that it also has quite a positive impact on our physiology—relaxing our muscles, boosting our immune systems, releasing endorphins and decreasing stress hormones, and increasing blood flow to the heart.

I’m not advocating that we laugh ourselves into denial or avoid dealing with the serious aspects of our lives—as we all know, sometimes laughter can be used as a way of deflecting, or in other unhealthy and harmful ways. However, being able to bring lightness, levity, and laughter into our lives and relationships in an authentic and healthy way is one of the best things we can do to take care of ourselves and keep things in perspective. Teeth will fall out, kids will throw fits, and all kinds of frustrating things (both big and small) will occur in your life—find the humor in the situation and your outlook will change.

This is an excerpt taken from Nothing Changes Until You Do, by Mike Robbins, with permission. Published by Hay House (May 2014) and available online or in bookstores.


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Watch More Sunsets

April 16, 2014

A few weeks ago I led a weekend workshop at Esalen. It was wonderful! On Saturday evening after our dinner break, one of the workshop participants suggested that we delay the start of our evening session so we could walk out on the deck and watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean. We did and it was spectacular.

This sunset watching experience reminded me that I don’t often watch the sunset. There are so many incredible, amazing, and beautiful things happening around us all the time – if and when we choose to pay attention to them. In this week’s video blog, I talk about how we can take more time to “watch sunsets” in our lives all the time.

Feel free to share your thoughts, insights, or questions about this with me and others on my blog.

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Create Miracles Now

April 9, 2014

My friend Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book, Miracles Now, has had me stop and think more deeply about my own relationship to “miracles” and also how to create more of them in my life on a daily basis. As Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” This is so true!

In this week’s video blog, I explore this idea of miracles and share a few things you can focus on to create more miracles in your life.

Feel free to share your thoughts, insights, or questions about this with me and others on my blog.

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You Are Enough

April 3, 2014

I had a powerful conversation with my counselor Eleanor a while back about insecurity. She said to me, “Mike when you’re feeling insecure, it’s important to understand which aspect of yourself is feeling insecure. The child within you is asking, ‘Am I getting enough?’ The adolescent within you is asking, ‘Am I good enough?’ And, the young adult within you is asking, ‘Am I doing enough?’ Your insecurity often comes from one of these three places – erroneously thinking that you’re not enough.” Eleanor then said, “However, the wisest part of you, the ‘spiritual adult’ within you, answers these three questions by simply saying, ‘Yes!’”

In this week’s video blog, I explore these three questions and how we can let go of our thoughts and feelings of not getting enough, being good enough, or doing enough… ultimately remembering that we are enough just as we are right now!

Feel free to share your thoughts, insights, or questions about this with me and others on my blog.

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Let Success Chase You

March 27, 2014

I recently read Wayne Dyer’s new book I Can See Clearly Now, in which he said something that had a profound impact on me, “I’ve never chased success…success has always chased me.”  As I’ve thought about this over the past few weeks, I realize that not only have I spent much of my life chasing success, the idea of letting success chase me (i.e. allowing it to show up with ease) is a complete paradigm shift from how I often operate and how we are mostly taught to create success.

In this week’s video blog, I explore this idea of letting success chase us and invite each of us (myself included) to let go of our attempts to control success, and instead to allow it to manifest through trust and faith.

Feel free to share your thoughts, insights, and ideas about letting success chase you here on my blog.

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Trusting the Synchronicity of Life

turn in autumnMarch 6, 2014

(For this week’s audio podcast, click here.)

I just finished Wayne Dyer’s new book I Can See Clearly Now, in which he recounts many of the pivotal moments of his life, the lessons he learned, and how he “can see clearly now” the meaning, purpose, and synchronicity of it all.  I loved the book and got so much out of it.

With my 40th birthday last month, I’ve been in a deep process of self-reflection and have been looking back on my own life and all that has unfolded in the past four decades.  I, too, can clearly see all of the amazing synchronicity that has led me to where I am at this moment.

Reflecting back on our lives and seeing how everything has happened for a reason is an important and powerful thing for us to do.  It’s also essential, although often more challenging, to trust that things are unfolding now and will continue to do so in the future, as they’re meant to.  As Steve Jobs talked about in his famous commencement speech at Stanford in 2005:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.”

I had a profound “connecting the dots” moment on my birthday last month.  I went out to dinner with my wife Michelle, my sisters Rachel and Lori, and a few friends.  Lori pulled out a piece of paper and said, “As a way of honoring you on your 40th birthday, it felt important and appropriate for me to bring this and read it.”  She then began to read from a list of 40 life lessons called “Life According to Ed Robbins,” our father, who died back in 2001.

As she began to read from this list, I was both touched and a little confused.  After she got through the first few items, I stopped her and asked, “Lori, where did you get that?”  She stopped and looked at me, equally confused.  She said, “What do you mean, where did I get this?  I got it from you – you wrote it when dad died, don’t you remember?”

Amazingly, I had no memory of writing it.  But, apparently after my dad died, I made a list of some of his key philosophies and lessons, as a way to remember, honor, and memorialize him.  Even more amazing to me than the fact that I didn’t remember writing it (I actually have a pretty good memory in general and especially for stuff like this), was the nature of what I wrote.  So much of the advice on the list, which came from my father and what he taught me and all of us, is similar to the core themes of my work – particularly the book I just finished writing.

My father and I had a complicated relationship.  He and my mom split up when I was three, and by the age of seven he was in and out of our lives as he struggled with severe bi-polar disorder.  This was very painful for me and our entire family, as you can imagine.

Although he was able to get well by the time I was a teenager, our relationship remained challenging for many years and we never had a “traditional” father/son relationship.  Although I did learn many things from my dad, I have found myself at times over the past twelve years or so since he died, especially in the past eight since becoming a father myself, hanging onto this “story” that my dad didn’t teach me a lot of things that I wish I’d learned about life, manhood, marriage, fatherhood, and more.

I also find myself wishing he would have gotten a chance to meet his granddaughters, to see me as a husband and father, and also to see the work that I do.  He got very sick the final year of his life, which also happened to be the first year of my business, so he never got to see me speak and never got to read anything that I wrote (at least not in the context of the work I do now.)

However, reading this list of life advice and reflecting back on the lessons he did teach me, I’m not only struck by a deep sense of gratitude for what he taught me, but I’m also blown away by the way in which he influenced my life and my work, even more than I’d realized.

Below is the list, which contains a few inside jokes and references to funny things my dad did and said, but also contains a great deal of universal wisdom which I think you’ll appreciate.  I feel honored, grateful, and humbled to share with you:

Life According to Ed Robbins

  • Speak from your heart
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve
  • Be passionate and outspoken – do not let anyone stifle your expression
  • Have love be your top priority
  • Give kind, positive feedback as often as you possibly can
  • Remember that you are not your accomplishments – you are you, and people love you for who you are, not what you do
  • Remember that it’s okay to cry, in fact it’s good to cry often
  • Hugs and kisses are beautiful and greatly appreciated
  • Be grateful for your family and always stay connected with them
  • Make sure you “kiss and make up” after a fight
  • Cheer loudly at baseball games and always stand up when someone hits one you think might go out of the park
  • Stand up for the people that you love and be willing to fight for them, if necessary
  • Root for all your local sports teams – even if you have more than one team from the same sport near where you live
  • Drive slowly and carefully
  • Wait for all lights to change before crossing the street
  • Talk to strangers
  • Appreciate the beauty of where you are
  • Never get off the phone with someone you love without saying “I love you.”
  • Before saying something rude or contradictory, first say “with all due respect…”
  • Laugh loudly and often
  • Do not be afraid to get fired up, passionate, and raise your voice when necessary (and even sometimes when not so necessary)
  • Take lots of photos of people you care about and keep them organized
  • Save things that are important to you
  • Be romantic and remember important dates, experiences, and events
  • Sing the words to songs that you love
  • Read the newspaper and know what is going on in the world, in sports, in entertainment, and more
  • Have an opinion on everything!
  • Be willing to admit when you made a mistake
  • Forgive yourself and others
  • Be kind and loving to yourself first
  • Tell the truth
  • Stay true to yourself
  • Appreciate people
  • Remember that it is okay to swear sometimes
  • Remember that it is what’s on the inside that counts
  • Remember that it’s okay to feel down and to feel scared
  • Remember that people are the most important things in life
  • Remember that there is no need to rush when you are eating, driving, or doing almost anything
  • Remember that money is not that important
  • Remember that you can bounce back from anything

I love this list and his advice.  Both because of the simple and important wisdom of it, but also for what it represents – the synchronicity of life.  My 40th birthday has been an opportunity for me to heal, learn, grow, celebrate, reflect, dream, forgive, accept, and much more.

How about you?  As you reflect back upon your life and all the twists and turns it has taken up to this point, can you see how everything that has happened is interconnected?  As you do this, can you also look around at your life right now (and even out into your future) and trust that all of the dots are connected in some beautiful and magical way, even if it may not be abundantly clear in the moment?

Trusting in the synchronicity of life isn’t easy or even all that encouraged – most of us have more experience with worry and control.  Unfortunately, not only do worry and control not work, they end up sabotaging our experience of life and damaging us in the process.

It takes a great deal of courage and faith to trust in the synchronicity of life.  And, when we’re able to do so, we give ourselves the opportunity to enjoy life, celebrate the full experience of it, and learn, grow, and evolve along the way.  This trust is not a guarantee that everything will work out perfectly, there’s nothing in life that we can do which will guarantee that.  However, when we trust that life is unfolding as it is meant to, we’re able to get out of our own way, liberate ourselves from unnecessary suffering, and experience the beauty and depth that life has to offer.

Feel free to share your stories of synchronicity and/or how you practice trusting the synchronicity of life here on my blog.

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Are You Living Your Resume or Eulogy?

February 27, 2014

I had the honor of both attending and speaking at the annual Wisdom 2.0 conference in San Francisco recently.  The event was great, and one of the highlights for me was listening to an inspiring talk given by Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post.  In her talk she asked us a powerful question, “Are you living your resume or your eulogy?”

Her question gave me pause and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit ever since.  In this week’s vlog, I talk about why it can be challenging for us to focus on what truly matters and why we’re often caught up in our desire to “get ahead” (aka focus on our resume.) I also offer some suggestions about how we can keep things in perspective, focus on what’s most important to us and stay connected to the kind of impact we want to have in the world (aka our eulogy.)

Check out the video below and feel free to leave a comment about how this relates to you and your life here on my blog.

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The Importance of Receiving Appreciation

February 13, 2014

My 40th birthday was amazing! I received such beautiful blessings from so many people in my life – it was exciting, wonderful, humbling, and a bit overwhelming. As touched and honored as I was (and still am) by all of the appreciation I got, I also noticed there were moments when it was challenging for me to fully receive the appreciation and let it in.

How do you feel about receiving appreciation? While most of us enjoy being appreciated, it can actually be challenging and vulnerable to receive the love and gratitude that others have for us at times.  However, receiving appreciation is one of the most important things we can do to empower ourselves, the people around us, and the communities in which we engage.

In this week’s video blog (aka vlog), I talk about why it can be difficult to fully receive appreciation, and how we can expand our capacity to do so. Feel free to leave a comment about how this relates to you and your life here on my blog.

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Appreciate Your Age

February 6, 2014

Because of my 40th birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about this milestone and also reflecting on age in general.  40 seems like a pretty big and important number, although it doesn’t feel how I thought it would feel.  When I was younger, 40 seemed pretty old to me.  Now that I’m here, my perspective has changed quite a bit.

Given our cultural obsession with youth, beauty, productivity, status, and more – as well as our ego-attachments to where we think we should be at certain ages in life – it’s easy to get caught in the traps of comparison, self-criticism, or disappointment in regards to the number of years we’ve been walking around on the planet.

In this video blog I talk about how we can embrace and appreciate the age we are right now, regardless of what the number is.  Feel free to leave a comment here on my blog about how this relates to you and what you do to appreciate your current age.

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Stay in the Present Moment

January 30, 2014

Staying present is a simple concept and something many of us know about, however, it’s much easier to understand than it is to practice.  I’ve been recently noticing my own tendency to either reflect on the past (with a sense of regret) or think about the future (with a sense of worry), neither of which are all that helpful or healthy.

What if we stayed in the present moment, embraced it, and chose to live our lives there as much as possible?  We could eliminate lots of needless suffering, stress, and anxiety.

Check out the video below where I talk about how we can live more of our lives in the present moment.  Feel free to leave a comment here on my blog about how this relates to you and what you do specifically to stay present.

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