si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Motivations for an Unusual Life

When I was in my mid 30’s, I went with a friend, as you do, to an evening talk by a management theorist (Charles Handy, if you’re curious, a most intriguing writer).

On the way there, my friend casually mentioned that the average life expectancy for people our age was 125-150. This is not including major medical breakthroughs. More on this later.

As my friend continued talking, It hit me – I was going to be alive for another hundred years – not, as I’d previously thought, maybe 30. This is barring accidents, disasters and murder, obviously.

That week, I happened to have been reading an article about global level achievers – people who could free dive the deepest in the world, lift the most weight, run the farthest, and so on. One of these super athletes said “If you eat, sleep, and breathe one thing for five years? You’ll be among the best on the planet.”

This then led to a couple of obvious conclusions:

  1. A hundred years meant I could – if I was suitably obsessive – become a global level expert in twenty different subjects. Or raise five consecutive kids. I had twenty serious chunks of time left in my life to do with as I pleased.
  2. I really needed to sort out my (typical, same as anyone else) emotional junk. I could handle thirty years of being vaguely miserable, but another hundred was way too much.

Around that time I’d also noticed a couple of long term patterns in my life:

  1. My net worth kept see sawing; it’d go up, then down, up even higher, then down again.
  2. Whenever I’ve started companies, they’ve done brilliant work technically, but never made much money.

What makes the second point particularly curious is that I can waltz into someone else’s business and make them stacks of cash no problem at all. I’ve made two other guys millionaires (and would have added a third to the list if he’d used my work. Oh well, his choice). When I make investments myself (not businesses, note, investments) I typically make out like a bandit. 30% in a month or two? Often. 30k in a day? Easy. There’s just something about when it’s labelled a business that hasn’t tweaked for me. Yet.

Given that I’ve always been entrepreneurial, I know I’ll always be starting some sort of venture or other. I started my first business before I was 10, selling toys to my siblings, ha ha, oh boy. But, I don’t want to be 95, working on a startup and struggling for income or broke. It was and is damn important to get these two issues completely sorted.

LONGEVITY AND THE ART OF CALCULATING LIFE EXPECTANCY

Now, the longevity thing is interesting. It’s a tricky one to estimate. The reason being – how do actuaries figure out how long a 30 year old will live? Well, they start with the age that people are dying – currently roughly 80ish – then go back 50 years to see how many of the 30 year olds back then lived to 80, how many died earlier, and so on. It’s pretty basic math.
The trouble with this is, you can only do this once people have actually died – otherwise, uhh, how long do you know they’ll live for? Which means the current estimates of 80 year lifespans are from people born in roughly 1930. These are people who grew up with appalling pre and post natal care, lead based paint on their toys, asbestos in their houses, drove horrifically dangerous cars, plus lived through WWII, the Korean and Vietnam wars etc. Dozens of life shortening factors, none of which existed if you were born 50 years later.

On top of that there’s been massive improvements in healthcare, fitness, nutritional understanding and general lifestyle and safety.

Oh, and of course the baby boomers are retiring – which means billions (literally) being poured into both quality of life improvements AND longevity. These people have watched their parents drooling on themselves in nursing homes and thought “Hell NO!” – plus, unlike the previous generations, they have the cash to back it up. The medical benefits of which will, inevitably, trickle down to everybody else.

There are researchers claiming that the first thousand year old has already been born. Others say if we can survive 30 years, medical technology will have advanced enough to keep us alive another 30. By the end of that, med tech will have advanced enough to keep us alive another 30 years, and so on. This is what’s known as “longevity escape velocity“.

Obviously, all these things are highly debatable, and scientists are continuing to argue.

However, it does make estimating life expectancy all very tricky. It sure as hell isn’t 80 though. Not any more.

Regardless, it’s essentially a moot point. If I’d been expecting to die at 60-70, and suddenly discovered I had an additional 20-30 years of life (let alone several hundred), it’s still a huge number of extra years – time that’s worth planning for and using wisely.

THE CHANGES I MADE

As a direct result of the above discoveries, I radically shifted the direction of my life, including:

  • Moving from New Zealand to Australia to train Aikido with my sensei. In the particular style we trained, he was the highest ranked teacher outside of Japan, and had moved over a few months earlier. I figured, regardless of what it meant for my working career, training with him was a lifetime opportunity I didn’t want to miss. I ended up training with him in Australia for five years.
  • Using EFT (Reiki, releasing, and many other tools) exhaustively on every single part of my life, past, present and future. This massively accelerated my personal and spiritual growth. It also largely removed depression and anger from my life.  I do still get upset or slightly down, on rare occasion, but it’s incredibly quick to clear. Also gone are a myriad of other relatively minor emotional, mental and physical issues. I’ve been thorough.
  • Started healing in a very focused manner on career and money related issues. Hilariously, this also accelerated, for a year or two, how quickly my money disappeared, with the delightful result of basically screwing my financial life over completely. Ha ha ha, oops *facepalm*
  • Made clearing these issues the number one priority in my life, bar none (which has had some amusing side effects on my lifestyle).
  • Decided to make unconditional love, of everyone and everything, my highest purpose and primary goal in life
  • Removed several majorly destructive people from my life (including, at the time, my boss)

AND NOW?

As difficult as it’s been (and, on occasion – eg when explaining to prospective dates why I’m currently 43 and living at home with my folks – still is), I continue to believe I’m doing the right thing. That I have been doing the right thing.

For one thing, it’s resulted in this entire blog. My ability to execute at work is astronomically higher too – without any specific conscious effort on my part. Plus there’s been many other unexpected benefits.

A key question to pull this all into focus – would you be ok with struggling, emotionally and financially for five years, if it meant you could be effortlessly abundant and peaceful for the next hundred? For me that’s been a very easy question to answer, despite any difficulties.

On top of that, I STILL see that investing the time now to get myself on the right track will save me decades of sweat, toil and misery over the rest of my life. Even if, heaven forbid I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I’m a vastly more pleasant, more peaceful, more loving person to be around than I was a decade ago.

As ambitious as my spiritual/healing goals are (essentially – loving peace, aka happiness with no sorrow, aka equanimity), every step in that direction has been improving my life. It’s also been making things MUCH easier for everyone around me. Every step has proven to be a step worth taking, no matter how long this journey ends up being.

As an interesting side note, what all this healing is really doing is unwinding karma (so if there is such a thing as reincarnation, that’ll be handy).

Critically though, it means whatever I decide to do for the next 19 chunks of my life, I’ll be flying higher, faster, further and with massively less effort.

The real question is – where to now?

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    How To Spot A Sociopath

    It’s estimated that sociopaths (or psychopaths as they used to be called) make up anywhere from 1-4% of the population.

    They can be INCREDIBLY destructive to your life, and it can take years or decades to recover (in my experience). So, knowing how to spot and avoid them is a damn useful skill.

    If you have the misfortune to find a sociopath in your life, they will

    • Happily lie to you to about anything and everything
    • Take everything of value that they want (you time, money, effort, self-esteem)
    • Manipulate you in any way they can
    • Completely destroy your life without a second thought
    • Promise you the world (in the future), in exchange for giving them everything they want now

    … all while believing that their behaviour is completely reasonable, and not worrying in the slightest about what they are doing. Once they’ve got everything they possibly can from you, they will drop you by the wayside with no hesitation at all.

    I recently read an excellent book on this subject (The Sociopath Next Door), and have since realised that I’ve known several sociopaths very well indeed, both in my professional and personal life.

    First, a quick explanation. Put very simply: a sociopath has no conscience.

    This means they can do or say ANYTHING, with no regret, no shame and not a care in the world. They’ll lie as easily as breathe. If they get caught in the lie, they’ll double down and lie even further. They’ll take every cent you own and sleep soundly at night. They’ll happily have you working thousands of hours for them, and when it comes time to pay you, they’ll beg off claiming “poverty” or “hardship” (all lies and part-truths, of course). Somehow their needs and wants become the focal point of your time together. Their desires are always the thing you’re working towards – them first, you after. Maybe. (Which of course never quite happens).

    I cannot state this strongly enough:

    SOCIOPATHS HAVE NO CONSCIENCE.

    Generally speaking, they’re incredibly charming people (at first) – after all, it’s a key way to get people to do things for them. Once they’ve got what they want, they will just as quickly disappear… until the next time they want something.

    Where this all gets tricky is, sociopaths are very good at hiding what they are, at least initially. When you first meet them, they may seem “perfect”, charming, witty, and most commonly of all, nice. They have to be good at this. How can they manipulate you if you see right through them?

    The reason they’re good at charming people is, while they have minimal emotional depth themselves, they are highly skilled at understanding other people – their strengths, weaknesses, needs and wants. They succeed in being charming because they know exactly what to say to flatter you or make you feel great about yourself. This is all part of their game. Once they have you convinced that they’re “nice” or “wonderful”, then they can start to manipulate you to their own benefit.

    Of course, once you believe they’re “nice”, it’s a natural tendency to try and “explain away” their aberrant behaviour (violence, manipulation, lies). It’s also normal to try and help them improve their situation (after all, this is what they’re manipulating you to do – pour your energy into helping them). However, notice that they only listen to you when it suits them, and otherwise are perfectly happy to ignore (while placating) you completely. That’s because underneath it all they have zero interest in listening to anyone other than themselves.

    To a sociopath, you only exist as a way to get them what they want.

    So, what are the key characteristics of a sociopath?

    • Very charming
    • Take much more than they ever give
    • Promise the world to get what they want, then somehow fail to follow through later
    • Lack of shame
    • Things are never their fault; blame is always on other people
    • No remorse
    • Minimal emotional depth
    • Near zero empathy
    • Have a very inflated sense of self worth (they’re “obviously” better than everyone else)
    • Strong sense of entitlement
    • Often quite narcissistic
    • Often very intelligent
    • Will hurt anyone in order to achieve their goals
    • Would run over you in a bus if it made them look better
    • Can be needy, wanting you to be there for them whenever they want
    • Know how to make others think they’re the victim while actually being the aggressor
    • Can be very violent
    • Extremely manipulative

    These characteristics do differ from sociopath to sociopath. The more boxes that are ticked the more likely someone is to be one.

    [Obviously only a trained professional can provide a definitive diagnosis – I’m only telling you this to try and help you to protect yourself.]

    That said, there is one key characteristic that every sociopath has: they want you to pity them.

    The reason for this is, pity is the strongest emotional state that instinctively compels us to provide assistance. In other words, it gives them the most power over us.

    Often this pity will be emphasised in the same breath as bragging about some great achievement of theirs (no shame or empathy, remember?)

    Eg, “Oh, this work we’ve (you’ve) done is amazing, but I can’t pay you just yet, because…”

    Of course, they won’t want you to pity them all the time. You will see pity come out if you ever want anything from them (as a defence to not give it to you), or if they want something from you (to manipulate you into giving it to them).

    Another thing to watch for is lying. Remember the rule of threes.

    1. One lie may be a misunderstanding
    2. Two lies may be a serious mistake
    3. Threes lies, get the hell out of there

    Oh, and in this context? Broken or endlessly delayed promises are lies.

    Do not give your time, affection, money or work to a three time liar. Ever.

    What should we do when we spot a sociopath?

    • Get the hell away as quickly and peacefully as you can
    • Do NOT tell them they’re a sociopath. You do NOT want them angry (no conscience, remember? Which means they can and will do ANYTHING in retaliation)
    • Do NOT believe anything they tell you about changing, needing you etc
    • KNOW that they will lie, or try to make you feel sorry for them in order to keep control over you
    • KNOW that they will turn the charm up to 11 if they think it will work
    • Quietly warn others (one reason I’m writing this post)
    • Think for yourself. Sociopaths prey on people who struggle to think for themselves
    • Not all sociopaths are violent but it’s still safest to keep as much distance as possible

    Sociopaths are incredibly destructive to everyone around them. Fortunately, very commonly their lives do eventually implode.

    In the mean time, all we can do is stay aware, stay safe, and stay the hell away.

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      An Odd Thing I Can’t Explain

      I’ve noticed something odd.

      The more I stay in a loving space – particularly when the people around me aren’t – the more douche bags seem to exit my life.

      Let me explain.

      Say someone starts having a go at me online. If I stay in a calm, loving space, most of the time they will simply disappear. Stop talking, block me, whatever.

      A similar kind of thing, often almost as quick, happens in real life.

      Now, on an esoteric level, it could possibly be said that our vibrations don’t match and they find this uncomfortable and so vibrate their way away. You can see a similar thing when shaking sand in a bowl; it will tend to separate out the big chunks from the smaller grains.

      Or maybe they’re just having a shitty time, and they get annoyed that someone won’t assist them in feeling grumpy.

      I’m giving them nothing to push against.

      Maybe it’s a verbal form of Aikido.

      I don’t really know.

      Either way, antagonistic, angry or generally nasty people are continuing to vibrate their way out of my life.

      And I’m definitely noticing that the more of my own crap I let go of, the more wonderful the people I find around me.

      Or maybe they were always that wonderful and I’m only just noticing.

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        Can You Love A Paedophile?

        One of my oldest friends just got thrown in jail, after pleading guilty to paedophilia.

        I sat in the court room for three days, and even though I wasn’t specifically involved (I was just there as a character reference), it was still one of the most intense weeks of my life.

        Now, I’ve blathered on here for years about love, specifically, unconditional love.

        I’ve consciously chosen to be as unconditionally loving as I can (which increases the more I heal, wonderfully).

        Yet paedophilia is generally considered to be one of the most morally reprehensible things a person can do.

        Is such a person even deserving of love, or really, should we chuck them in jail and throw away the key?

        Obviously, people have been very seriously hurt here. Innocent children. With long lasting and major consequences.

        I struggled with the choice I had to make for days: Should I stay in contact? Should I write to him and support him while he’s inside?

        Ultimately though I realised there were only two possibilities that covered the entire universe.

        1. He was actually innocent (and pleaded guilty for other reasons – eg, inability to afford to fight the case weighed against likelihood of a worse sentence if he didn’t plead).
        2. He was guilty.

        If he’s innocent and in jail, then yes, of course he deserves love and support.

        If he’s guilty, then he may not deserve it, but he will certainly need it. Society needs it, if there’s to be any hope for his rehabilitation and not simply coming out of prison in an even worse state than he went in (as happens with such a high percentage of ex-cons).

        This definitely felt like the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make, in terms of loving someone. Angry girlfriends or grumpy siblings or even myself are trivial by comparison.

        And yet, as I write this I realise, I didn’t need to make it all so complicated.

        It’s right there in the name; UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

        My choosing to continue to love him has nothing to do with his actions. If it does then it’s not unconditional, is it?

        However awful his past actions, however many people he’s hurt, however large the damage, I can choose to be loving.

        An important caveat here – me loving him isn’t putting myself in any danger, or hurting me in any way. Being loving doesn’t mean standing in traffic, or otherwise neglecting to love ourselves first.

        Of course, this also doesn’t mean I condone what’s happened. Or that he shouldn’t be in jail (if guilty). But while he’s responsible for his actions (and thus the consequences he’s now living with), I am responsible for mine.

        And, for better or worse, I choose unconditional love, and yes I will be writing to him.

        It never ceases to amaze me how much judgement messes things up for us, in terms of leading a better, more loving life.

        [Sorry, I have been specifically requested not to publicly discuss any of the aspects of the case. Thank you for respecting this]

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          Celebrate The Small Victories

          I recently flew from London to New Zealand.

          To say it was a disaster is an understatement. Although to be fair, I did get home safely, on time and with all my bags.

          I booked this particular flight a year ago. It comprised of two legs, from London to Sydney, then from Sydney to Wellington.

          Less than 24 hours before I flew I discovered (completely by accident) that not one but both legs had been cancelled.

          The Sydney->Wellington leg I’d been shovelled onto a later flight, which meant 11 hours sitting in Sydney airport (instead of an hour and a half).

          The London->Sydney leg was even worse. That had been changed to London->Hong Kong, with no connection between Hong Kong and Sydney.

          That’s right: if I hadn’t rung the airline, I would have been unceremoniously dumped in Hong Kong and left there. No, really.

          Ok, so, I managed to get those two issues sorted. After I waited 45 minutes for the airline to answer the phone (my 5th airline related call in two days) – and a one hour twenty minute call in total.

          When I got to the airport, I went to the wrong gate. There were two flights leaving for Hong Kong at the same time, from different ends of the airport.

          So, I had to sprint to the correct gate as they were already boarding.

          Finally, when I was on the plane the TV screen was broken (plus the one in the next empty seat), so I had 12 hours with only my thoughts for company (Argh! The Horror!). Ok ok, so I have a soft spot for watching movies on long haul flights. Oh, and I couldn’t easily move seats because I’d ordered a special meal.

          The second leg (from Hong Kong->Sydney) the screen was working (yay!) but as a consolation prize the flight attendant tipped a cup of coffee into both sleeves of my shirt (yes, quite some achievement).

          Oh, and of course there was a screaming kid most of the way too.

          Then I had to get a boarding pass in Sydney, which involved asking for directions multiple times (“Just go down the escalator – you can’t miss it!”), and walking around the entire airport twice, only to discover that the night before the down escalator had been removed, and there were no signs. At all.

          The flight to Wellington I sat next a large South African couple who alternated between complaining about everything (including things I would never have thought possible – the accent of the flight attendant?!?) and nudging me. Non stop. For two hours. I was utterly exhausted and had hoped to sleep.

          When I finally arrived, my sister was coming to pick me up. She wasn’t answering her phone and was nowhere to be found.

          To call the whole journey a cluster fuck wouldn’t be too far from the truth.

          The interesting thing though? My reactions:

          • Hearing about the 11 hour layover: a bit gobsmacked, but no real emotion there
          • Waiting on hold for 45 minutes: relaxed and happy I’d decided to get this all sorted before I went to the airport
          • Sprinting for the gate: amused at myself, since I’d been so careful not to sweat before getting on a 30 (now 40) hour flight
          • The TV screen being broken? I took the time to sleep and meditate. Very productive
          • Having coffee dumped down both sleeves of my shirt? Hilarious actually. Apologised profusely, since the attendant felt so bad (for no reason – it was both of us, really, not paying sufficient attention. Just a silly accident)
          • The screaming kid: just sent them love and forgot about it (whereupon they immediately calmed)
          • Walking around the airport twice: a bit sweaty, confused, but otherwise amused
          • The actual layover: cool actually. I decided it would be great (somehow) and it was. Got chatting to a lovely US Marine about the research paper he was writing (discussing the effects of exponential technological advancement on historical warfare theory. Fascinating stuff). He later ended up inviting me out for cocktails
          • The couple keeping me awake was hard, I admit. I was exhausted and struggling to maintain my equanimity. Eventually I got on top of it though and let my aggravation go. I looked over and realised the guy wasn’t intentionally nudging me. He was just so fat he couldn’t help it (even with me scrunched up so far over I was almost falling in the aisle). Unsurprisingly, as soon as I let it go, they stopped complaining.
          • With my sister there was a little aggravation, but really very minor. Not to the point of swearing.

          Now, I have no idea why all these things happened. To have this many things “go wrong” is very unusual for me. In fact, I can’t think of any other time in my life when anything even vaguely close to this has occurred. I do find it interesting that nothing serious happened (lost baggage, delayed connections, plane crash).

          The super interesting thing is – none of them threw me, particularly.

          Historically? This is very unusual. Typically, even a few of these things happening would have made me irritable, angry and generally aggressively petulant. Ask any of my ex-girlfriends from years back *blush*.

          So, maybe the lesson is just this: To stop and enjoy progress that is being made. That even if some things in my life don’t appear to be shifting, in general things are improving. I need to celebrate the small victories. To appreciate the journey thus far, to stop every so often (as a friend once told me) and eat the flowers.

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