Holy Shit!

In the book Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud shares a very simple and effective way to create success in any area of your life.

He says that there are three things we need to do in order to grow, flourish and be successful.

Our lives and businesses are just like the rose bush. We may have a lot of really good strategies, products, activities, relationships, or ideas that we’ve poured our resources into. But if we pruned some of the good stuff back, we would enable the best parts to get all that they need to thrive, making our businesses and relationships even more productive and happier.

holy-shitThe book is outstanding. Henry’s take on how we do this? You have to make decisions about what to prune by asking the following questions:

1) What is “good but not best?”
2) What is “sick and can’t get well?” and
3) What is “long since dead?”

I’ve got a slightly different take on it now. My grandparents used to have a rose garden.

Like a rose bush, in life, you first have to get rid of anything sick or dead. You have to get rid of anything that is not going to become the best. Then, you have to nourish the best.

When I explained Henry’s model to Sarah, who works with me, she said what about the manure… Surely that’s the most important thing for roses to flourish?

Seeing the truth in her question I immediately thought, what a great point! Where does putting shit on roses play a part in our lives?

I saw my grandparents do that religiously. It was clearly very important to creating a ‘perfect’ rose garden.

I responded by saying that she was absolutely correct; this completes the truth and metaphor for me. In order for us to become the best we can, we have to go through suffering and pain. Like roses, we need some shit to really thrive.

I instinctively said to Sarah that “it’s the suffering and shit we go through that informs our gift to the world.”

Perhaps after all, holy shit really does exist.

I’ve found myself reacting to the shit that life has thrown at me as a burden, something I wish I didn’t have to deal with. I’ve hated having to go through much of it! But it’s there. The Buddha said that suffering is a part of life. Go one further and as Gene, my mentor would say, suffering has a purpose.

We need to prune but we also need manure to nourish, grow and experience beauty and the true depth that life has to offer. To take Henry Cloud’s questions – which by the way are brilliant – to another level I’d ask…

roseWhat’s has been or is your most significant pain or suffering?

What painful lessons have you learnt or are learning that could help others along their path?

What has to be true for you to commit to sharing your learning with others in ways that profoundly open up and enriches your world and theirs?

What’s the next simple step you could take right now, to begin moving towards this vision and calling today?

For me, I’ve experienced excruciating emotional and physical pain – through having a broken home and a broken back.

That’s where I now get to use the ‘shit hand’ I was dealt in life – to embrace the ‘gift in disguise’ that it undoubtedly was – to grow, flourish and to use NLP Coaching help others to do the same.

This is done by helping others go through similar shit – until they realise that it’s the very fertiliser that they need (and probably don’t want) to make sense of their pain. It’s their gift from and to the world.

Ultimately it’s the difference that makes a difference we were put here to make. How cool. And paradoxical.

Like a rose, we were all born to be beautiful, but we need to prune what isn’t working or isn’t the best. And we get to grow from the shit put upon us by life.

Spring Shoots

Beyond The Clouds



I’ve been supporting some people through very challenging times recently. At the same time, I have also been experiencing some very real challenges; more emotional and psychological than anything else.

Sometimes, no matter the process or the theory, the challenges just keep mounting. The clouds just keep descending and so I, or we, have to take a new perspective in order to make sense of our experience in the world.

Yesterday, as I was walking back to my hotel room, I was reflecting on the seemingly unavoidable suffering in the human experience, of how remarkable, but how scary and unsettling life can be at times, and then I thought of it in another way:

Just as there are seasons in nature, we also have seasons in life.

Some of us are in winter right now. It can be a dark, cold and unforgiving place. A place of confusion and seemingly eternal suffering. It can appear that there is no end to the darkness. Even when we have one of those beautiful crisp clear days we get in the UK, in a flash we can be plunged back into the gloom and depths of winter; the sun hidden from sight again for days on end.

Spring ShootsHowever, just because we can’t see the sun doesn’t mean it’s not there. And the clouds do come and go, eventually. This is the truth. Eventually, as surely as autumn turns to winter, winter in turn releases its grasp on us and we find new shoots and life in the hardened and seemingly desolate ground beneath us.

In the old days (and perhaps still today) people used to pray for protection and guidance through the seasons, especially the long dark winters. They’d build fires, gather with others for love and support, or hunker down and hibernate until the inevitable thaw returned and their job of planting for a new season and harvest was upon them.

They would light fires, tell stories of hope, come closer to one another to share physical and emotional warmth through the challenging times. Squirrels would have buried nuts to keep them going through the winter; bears would be underground sleeping through the worst of it and all around, nature would find a way to survive and make it through to the new season.

We all have our winters. It can seem like it drags on, indeed we can make it drag on ourselves, but ‘this too shall pass’. I know there is a great deal more to my winter. In fact, there’s a great deal more to life than we can ever imagine.  It’s there for all of us – beyond our thoughts – no matter what season we are in.

It can help to see past the seasons, beyond the clouds and up into the unfathomable reaches of the Universe. Thinking about how vast the Universe is and how small I am, how small we are, I find it humbling and somehow comforting to know where I live. I sometimes have this experience of zooming back in from the beauty and enormity of space.  All of a sudden I have a very different sense of myself and my connectedness to the cosmos. I can trust  the clouds in my thinking will pass in time, and gain a whole new perspective and sense of purpose in my life.  I hope you can too!

Universe beyond the clouds