Tag Archives: success

Why Hard Work May Be Needed To Live Your Bliss

In my book Discover Your Soul Template (http://www.amazon.com/Discover-Your-Soul-Template-Intelligence/dp/1594774269). I wrote about “living your Bliss” – following your heart to live the life of your dreams. Using Integrated Intelligence, you can listen to your guidance as you advance confidently towards your Bliss. Yet I would like to clarify a certain misunderstanding which exists amongst some alternative spiritual philosophies.

New Age ‘go with the flow’ philosophies may delude some people into thinking that hard work and ‘deliberate practice’ are not required to achieve success and excellence in a particular field of endeavor. ‘Deliberate practice’ is the intelligent application of repetition in order to improve performance. Let me assure you that intelligence, sustained commitment and hard work will almost certainly be required if you are live your Bliss. The truth is that this is a very competitive world, and that standards of performance and excellence have increased dramatically in many fields in recent years. Certainly, if your goal is to reach world class status, then deliberate practice cannot be avoided.

I highly recommend Geoff Colvin’s fantastic book Talent is Overrated as a good introduction to this topic. It shows that deliberate practice is what often separates genius form very good. Colvin outlines the following features of deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice is hard work. It is not what we normally think of as practice, such as when you strum a guitar for a bit of fun. You have to move out of your comfort zone to perform deliberate practice. That’s not much like ‘Bliss’ at all. So this is where we need to be careful that we do not trip ourselves up with the idea of ‘Bliss’. Living your Bliss does not preclude the possibility of discomfort and a certain degree of sacrifice.

Deliberate practice is designed specifically to improve performance. This means intelligent thought is put into the practice session, so that deliberate and conscious goals for improving performance are met. This in turn requires you to carefully define the elements of your skill that require enhancement, and then go about working at those. Benjamin Franklin, for example, wanted to be a great writer, but realised that his vocabulary was lacking, so systematically set about improving it.

Repetition is common to deliberate practice. Most of the greats in any given field repeat practice activities far more than mere amateurs. This requires great concentration and commitment. It is said that as a boy Don Bradman, an Australian cricketer who had a batting average of just under 100 runs per innings (almost twice as good as the next best guy) used to spend hours hitting a golf ball up against a metal tank using a cricket stump as a bat, just to improve his hand/eye coordination.

To be most effective, deliberate practice requires feedback; and generally speaking, the more the better. You must either find someone who is willing to tell you your shortcomings, or you must make the time to honestly critique your own work on a regular basis.

Practicing something systematically and intelligently is highly mentally demanding. It requires a great deal of focus and concentration. Studies have shown that excellent violinists practice a lot more than those of lesser skill. Generally speaking, there are limits to how long you can practice, however. Sessions of no more than ninety minutes at a time, and totaling four to five hours per day are ideal. Any more than that, and you risk burnout. Mental visualisation should not be underestimated here, as it can greatly enhance performance, as long as the imagined practice is correct and conforms to the requirements of deliberate practice. That means that specific skills are identified, and the imagined scenario is as life-like as possible.

So living your Bliss may require hard work and commitment. A lot of New Agers and dharma bums falsely believe that if it isn’t fun and ‘easy’, then it is not spiritual. Hard work will be a part of the journey if you want to reach mastery in most fields.

The key distinction if you have a genuine spiritual life focus is that your deliberate practice will be done in alignment with Spirit. Your mind will remain present and mindful of intuitive prompts when deliberate practice is required. You will have the advantage over many others in your field in that you will be able draw upon integrated intelligence as you go about creating, practicing and performing. You won’t find this distinction outlined in books like Talent is Overrated, because the idea lies beyond the understanding of most writers and thinkers in mainstream culture and science. The irony is that many performers and artists are very aware of the understanding. So with this final distinction, it is a case of following the practitioners, not the “experts.”


Divine Failure (Diary of a 21st Century Mystic)


Many self-help and new age books and videos teach us about how to become better, to be more successful, better than what we have been up till this point in time. Probably everybody reading this will have read some such books, watched a related video or listened to a teacher who encouraged them to become something “more”. When we apply such teachings and we get what we want, the mind feels vindicated. It feels that it is developing. It feels like it is going through a time of growth and expansion. 

Finally we are getting what we want. We are a success, or at least becoming a success.

But what happens when we do not get what we want? What if the teaching, the program, the book does not work? We might even take sustained action towards certain goals, and put a lot of time and energy into the process. Maybe even years. 

But then there you are. You didn’t make the million bucks; you went broke. The relationship didn’t transform; you broke up (and now you are alone). You turned your passion into a business; and it went bust. Nobody bought your stuff. Now you are penniless, loveless and clueless; with no idea how to make things better. You are heartbroken. Without hope. Without faith in the universe to provide for you. How are you ever going to recover? How will you ever be able to start again? How will you ever recover your belief?

Perhaps you are now thinking that this Marcus T Anthony fellow is about to tell me how to get back on top, how to start clawing your way back to the top of the pile. To become somebody again. 

But alas, no. I am not Anthony Robbins. My teeth just aren’t big enough.

No. Instead of encouraging you to believe in your dream, I am going to tell you the true gift of failure. For whatever you do, and no matter how successful you are, you will eventually fail. How long can you keep your sexy new figure, the one you acquired from six months of slogging it out in the gym? How long will your new house stand? How long will your book keep selling or your new start-up be the hottest thing in town?

Who knows? But one thing is for sure, it won’t be forever. And therein lies the rub. If we identify with our dreams we will eventually suffer an identity crisis when they evaporate.

Your body will eventually run down. Your house will eventually fall (even though it will probably outlive you). Your new book will eventually stop selling. Your new company might last a decade if you are lucky. But eventually it too will pass. What then will be left of “you” if your sense of self is attached to the world of form?

There’s a very powerful video on YouTube featuring Eckhart Tolle talking about this very subject (you can see it at the end of this post). He tells us that failure is potentially a great gift, for it provides a tiny window of opportunity for the mind to accept its fall from “grace”. Not divine grace, of course; merely the mind’s interpretation of grace.

For the mind, grace entails divine intervention such that it gets what it wants. When you wish upon a star your dreams…

Wherever there is mind, wherever there is thinking about an imagined future, there is inevitably an agenda for power and control. There is an agenda to become something special, more than what you are now. 

And wherever there is mind and failure, there is suffering. The greater the perceived failure, the greater the suffering. Look at what I have become! Now I am nothing! All is lost. I am a failure!

But the greater intelligence of life has a different take on things. It is in the “nothingness” that the true gift lies. 

Nothingness is the key to everything. If only you will listen.

When the sense of nothingness arises, just allow it to express itself. If it wants to whine and wail and weep, let it do so. Then after it has had its five minutes of air time, bring your attention back to what is before you. By this I mean whatever is in your immediate field of perception: the contents of the room, the trees beside your car, or the grass you are sitting on. Then tell your mind:

“I hear your suffering, and I feel it. But what you are experiencing is not real. It is simply an imagined future that you have lost, and an imagined future self. I just want to tell you that you do not need to become anything or anyone else. You are perfectly beautiful, perfectly magnificent just the way you are. I love you”. 

Then just sit where you are and breathe fully into the moment, and into the body. Bring your attention into the world of the real – that which is before you. All the rest is just a story that the mind has attached itself to.

The reason I write about this is because recently I have lost a great deal – at least at the level of mind. I left my well-paid job in Hong Kong a year ago, and have been rejected by countless employers since then (my work at Swinburne University entails only a few days per semester). I watched my savings dwindle and my lifestyle contract to the point where even buying a daily newspaper has become a financial issue. I no longer have my own private residence, having been reduced to sharing accommodation with four other people. To top it off, in my personal life I have recently experienced a major personal loss. I am not going to go into details, but let me just say that it is often listed in the top five of life’s most stressful events.

It couldn’t get much worse. Not on the surface.

In terms of externals and emotional props I have been reduced to almost nothing. My experience of these events has ebbed and flowed, shifting between moments of complete surrender and peace, to times of complete despair.

It was during one of those moments of despair that something became clear to me. The life journey is not about getting what you want every time. Failure (as the mind interprets it) is a doorway which can reveal a deeper truth. But to see it you have to develop the right relationship with the mind, and lovingly challenge its insistence that it is in externals that our true nature is found.

It is not.

You also have to see past the values of the modern consumer society, which is very, very difficult indeed. You must also learn to see past the judgments of others, of those who cannot see what you are seeing, cannot perceive the value that you perceive.

Most importantly, you have to forgive – forgive yourself and others for the refusal to embrace the love of being. You must also forgive the world of money, markets and business folk for the failure of your worldly ventures.

And when you get down to it, you may have to forgive “God”. But it is not actually God that is the object of our anger; it is your projection of God, the belief that there is someone or something out there who is required to give you what you want.

“God” is not interested in the agendas of your mind. 

It is in simply being here that we ultimately find ourselves. And when failure arrives, we are often left with nothing on which to prop ourselves.

There is just this. This moment.

In Discover Your Soul Template I invite you (the reader) to follow your bliss and turn your passion into a vocation. I also suggested that whatever you do, that you should ground yourself in presence, and learn to surrender to something greater than yourself. For there is often a price to pay for aligning with your soul purpose. That price may be that you do not find success in a way that the world – and the mind – appreciates. There may be periods where things do not work, where things fail to materialise – and we “fail”.

There may be times when nothing is happening. Nothing.

There’s not much happening for me right now. Who knows what is going to happen next or whether things will ever get “better”? I sure don’t.

Still, all is well.



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