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How To Think Like Leonardo DaVinci

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Interview Notes From The Show:

Pedram:

Alright, we are back and we are live. Welcome back to the Urban Monk. I am back in studio, we’re trying to get our wiggles out. We had a bunch of prerecorded shows that we were working through and now we’re in our new iteration which is essentially, here we go. We’re live, I get to share my guests with you, and we get to hang out here on Facebook and do it. So it’s good to be here. We’ll do a series of shows this next few weeks and then we’ll tuck in for the holidays a little bit. This is how we’re gonna roll in 2017, so. My guest today, former pro juggler who was on stage juggling with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, Fifth Dawn, and Aikido. Super interesting guy and is into the stuff that I’m into, so I’m partial to, you know, the work that he’s done. Author of a book talking about the seven things Leonardo da Vinci can teach you about creativity, Micheal Gelb. I’m excited to talk to him because this is a time, right now, the time we’re sitting in, where there’s all this constraint on all of us. There’s so much, like, challenge and stress culturally and the political climate, and all that. And I think it’s time to unpack a little bit of our creativity, and get into our humanity and have some fun today. So, Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael:

Thank you so much, grazie mille.

Pedram:

Oh, man. So you juggle a lot of things, more than just batons. I mean, you’ve been a student of life for a while. You have been doing keynotes in a lot of the conscious capital movement stuff, that’s how we met, is I’m making this movie about conscious capitalism. You were highly recommended as an individual to talk with and consult with, and I just loved your story. I said, hey, you know what? The movie’s gonna take a while to come out, let’s hang out on the show. So give us a little bit of your background, if you will.

Michael:

I got to tell you about a really poignant, intense moment that happened early today. I’m writing this new book. It’s called “The Art of Connection”. It’s about the seven relationship building skills that leaders really need now, and one thing I love about writing a book is it’s a great opportunity to dive into a subject, to really learn something. I mean, to me the writing process is also a process of inquiry. I’ve been teaching the art of connection, I’ve been teaching creativity for many years, I have seminars on it. But I don’t just take for granted everything I’ve been teaching. I’m really thinking about it, I’m deeply meditating on it. So, what I do almost everyday when I start writing, is I pretty much read the whole thing just to see how it’s hanging together, to see how I can improve it, to see how what I’ve learned in thinking about what I’m writing about may have changed what I wrote yesterday, or last month, or six months ago. So there’s one line that I wrote, I have a chapter on resolving conflict and obviously I take an Aikido approach, is learn to understand who you’re having a conflict with and what are the underlying, the fundamental feelings and needs of the other sides. Cause, see, one of the classes of principles of conflict resolution is, first of all, don’t make it worse. And another principle is, look to the fundamental feelings and needs that are involved in causing the conflict rather than people’s positions. Try to get to the depth of it. Anyway, I have a whole chapter about this. I’ve been teaching this for years. And in this chapter I wrote, when I first started this, I wrote it in this chapter, something to the effect about how I was motivated to study this and begin my exploration of this because when I was a teenager, these are the words I actually wrote, “The world seemed divided into two opposing camps, “and there was a sense of tension, and conflict, and anger, “and fear dominating the landscape.” And I thought to myself, there has to be a better way. We’ve got to learn to think more creativity, we’ve got to take a more creative approach to our differences than I saw people taking around me at that time. And then I’m reading and I said, like, whoa! Here we are again. Jeez. So this is a universal truth, but, wow. It’s really the time to think deeply about how we can be more creative in the way we approach differences and difficulties.

Pedram:

Yeah, and especially now a days. I mean, listen. There’s so much polarity, there’s so much duality out there, and you’re a student of Daoism which talked about this offline. And, you know, coming from a position of duality, you’re always going to maintain duality. And so, it’s either our argument or their argument, and, you know, we’re right. They must be wrong. Or, you know, obviously if you supported so and so, then you’re part of this gestalt. And so, how does one take a unifying, creative stance on this to rise about this kind of polarity consciousness and really start to go into a place where we can creatively look at solutions that are for all of us?

Try To Understand The Underlying Feelings Of The Person You're In Conflict With - Michael Gelb via @PedramShojai

Michael:

Well, you know, the first principle for thinking like Leonardo da Vinci is curiosita, curiosity. It’s the driver of all creativity, improvement, and change, and you just framed the question so beautifully. It is to contemplate that question, hold that question with you every single day. It is that question of how do I find that unity, how do I find that oneness? How do I find peace within myself first? And then, if it does… I’ll give one piece of practical advice, is just don’t make anything worse, for starters. Don’t make anything worse, and then hold that question, the one that you just posed, how can I find that oneness within myself? And of course then, there’s lot of good guidance on how to do that. You know, part of what you and I are aligned in is we’re doing everything we can to try to give people resources to find that sense of connectedness, whether it’s looking after your health and wellness, whether it’s being mindful in your diet, whether it’s making sure to exercise. All of the principles of self care become that much more important when you’re under stress, and for many people this is a very stressful time.

Pedram:

Yes, it is, it really is. So now, I’m curious. And so Leonardo is walking me down this path here. So we’re taking the da Vinci all chemical path to opening up my creativity in this, and then we sit with this. We think about where our position in this is, we think about, you know, what the contrarian position of this would be. What would be the next step?

Michael:

Well, I’m telling ya… Now, I don’t know if you’ve just read everything I’ve written and you’ve integrated it, and you’re perfectly guiding these questions to make an ideal flow from one principle to the next. But the next one is dimonstrazione, which is the term Leonardo actually used to his students when he said you must learn to think for yourself. And, wow, is that important now cause so much thinking is now predigested. People are being inflamed one way or the other, and the sense of really being able to contemplate disparate points of view and look for what underlies them, and what’s your real thinking. You know, George Bernard Shaw said, “People hate thinking. “They’ll do almost anything to avoid it.” He said, “I’ve made an international reputation for myself “by doing it once or twice a week.” So, find intelligent representations of points of view that may not be your own and listen with an open mind before you say you really thought things through. ‘Cause most people aren’t thinking and they’re just doing what William James called rearranging their prejudices.

Pedram:

That seems to be one of the bigger challenges with our contemporary issue that we’re sitting here with is, you know, a lot of news is coming out now talking about the flavor of media and how depending on what camp you were in, the information that you got, your Facebook friends, everything was kinda shared within the same gestalt. And so, this is what they’re doing, and this is how we feel. And so, it’s become this kind of battle for the minds of men and women in a way where it’s been kinda, you know, Alex Jones calls it this, but information wars, right? And so, it’s really the question of where you’re getting your information and who you believe, versus thinking on your own which is challenging. It’s hard to even know facts! Like, I saw something today that’s like, oh, well, no, Trump won the popular vote. Well, what’s the answer? Right? Like, where is that answer?

Michael:

And, you know, it’s weird ’cause like in Leonardo’s time, there wasn’t enough information. Now there’s too much. And either way, the challenge is dimonstrazione and really demonstrate it for yourself. Think it through for yourself. If you’re just talking to people who only agree with you, you may not be getting the whole picture.

Pedram:

Yup, and there’s so much energy behind it now that the vitriol has kinda booted up where it’s almost like, you know, this must be how people felt during Civil War too, you know? It gets so heightened that at a certain point, it doesn’t matter. As soon as someone is dissenting with your opinion, then they’re obviously, they’re a lunatic and they’re wrong, and they’re either against the establishment or, you know, one way or the other. And so, it’s hard to have a conversation, let alone independent thinking if it’s crowded our there. And so, we slow down. We learn to think for ourselves after we’ve been curious and we’ve sat with this. And so then where does Leonardo take us from here?

Michael:

He takes us to the third principle of sensazione, sharpening your senses. The popular term for this today is mindfulness, but Leonardo wrote about it 500 years ago. It’s amazing. 500 years ago in Tuscany, Leonardo said that the senses are the ministers of the soul. But he also said that the average person looks without seeing, hears without listening, touches without feeling, breathes in without awareness of aroma or fragrance, eats without tasting, and talks without thinking.

Pedram:

Yeah, I met that guy.

Michael:

Right? So, we need to model the kind of consciousness we would like the world around us to have and paradoxically, in a time where there’s so much ugliness being spread around, it’s a really important time to remind yourself of what’s beautiful. I don’t know if you saw the super moon last night, I went out and did a little super moon meditation. That savoring the joy of living, even in the midst of difficulty. As a matter a fact, especially in the midst of difficulty. Seeing the beauty in the people in your life, your partner, your children. Looking for that soulful quality in the people that you meet, looking beneath the surface. This has always been, going back to Plato, one of the great secrets of artists is the artistic way of living is to look for beauty in the face of difficulty. This, Leonardo would tell us, this is a time where art and the artistic consciousness is more important than ever before.

Pedram:

Amen, amen. Well, and it’s also a rally cry back to our essential selves. I mean, really we’re in a position now, it’s like, if you’ve been in the delusion that someone outside is going to fix your problems for you, it’s probably a good time to have a wake up call. You know, there’s this sense of agency that I think has been taken out. You know, healthcare. Forget about it, you know. You just go to the doctor and they’ll fix it, and that’s become like a resource and an energy suck. The banking sector and all theses different kind of top down institutions that have really grown to become corrupted and are creating our global challenges, and our American challenges to be very specific, these are all places where we’ve given up agency, in my opinion, and we have lost our sense of individuality and our sense of personal power. And so sharpening your sense, it seems that entire media gestalt is all about letting that go, right? I’m here to be entertained, I’m here to forget. I’m here to, you know, just have a good time. And that’s the opposite of the great men and women of antiquity were teaching, and to this day. I mean, if you want to be present, you will be a player. If you’re not gonna be present, than you’re just gonna be told where to go and how to vote, and where to spend your money. Amen, brother.

Yeah, man. So, listen. I think that my listener base in particular is very, very interested in seeing a better world. And so what I’d want to do is help judo flip whatever energy is out there right now into what the great master Leonardo would have given us as advice. So I love the fact that you are his agent here, you know, standing in your time machine and helping us with this. And so what would be, after sharpening the senses, what would be the next principle?

Michael:

Yes, the next one, it’s a beautiful word that was coined by art critics to refer to the hazy, mysterious quality in Leonardo’s paintings. The word is, in Italian, is sfumato. And what it means is going up in smoke. It refers to a core principle of the creative which is the ability to maintain a sense of perspective in the face of the unknown. And people’s sense of certainty, of the order of things, has been traumatically upended. It’s a time of, it’s actually always a time of uncertainty. We have an illusion that we can count on tomorrow being like today, and so on. But wild, dramatic change can happen at any time to any of us without any warning. And my clients who work at organizations have, some of them, have been waiting for things to settle down over the last 30 or 40 years and of course, that hasn’t happened. The people who’ve done the best who I have mentored over the years are those who have that sense of agency. They don’t think that they have a job. They think of themselves as entrepreneurs even if they happen to have a position in a big company. It’s that sense of taking your own power, your own creative power. That’s what Leonardo’s calling us to do. And you got to do it most especially when things feel chaotic and uncertain, you know? If you think about the Mona Lisa, the most famous work of art in human history, what is she smiling about? Well, she sees the flux, that there’s constant change, and yet maintains this little sense of smile which tells us she has some perspective. Anyways, it amazes me, we talked about Daoism earlier. One of the most ancient and simple Daoist practices is the inner smile. I mean, I want people to try it now. Sit like Mona Lisa. Upright, poised, and then imitate her famous smile. I did this exercise with a group of gifted children ages eight to 11, and the kids were so into it. You should see how intense they were sitting there smiling like Mona Lisa. And then one of them says, “She’s got a secret.” And another one says, “Yeah. “She knows that everything has an opposite.” And the kids start saying opposites like boys and girls, day and night, good and bad, life and death. I ask my average corporate group. I say, “What is she smiling about?” A while ago somebody said, “I read in the Wall Street Journal that the famous smile “was caused by a dental problem.” Mona is like the Western equivalent of the ancient symbol of Yin and Yang. And we need to find, I mean, it’s the time to find one’s center, to find the core, to breathe in literally to your own central axis. I mean, here’s a practical exercise people can do right now, is align around your vertical axis, soften your eyes, soften your jaw. Have that little Mona Lisa smile, and breathe into that central axis, breathe all the way into your belly. Let your lower belly expand, let your lower ribs expand, your lower back. Keep your little smile, keep your eyes soft. So if you want to be centered, breathe into your center and remember to refresh that inner smile. Then you can access your creative thinking, and that brings us to the next principle which is arte/scienza. Balance art and science, logic and imagination. You know, one of the things that’s missing is logic, reason, analysis. Think things through. I mean, it’s not a time of great rationality. It’s a time of crazed emotionality. So access reason, access logic. Avoid jumping to conclusions. And then, yes, intuition and trust your gut. But you’re not really- if you haven’t analyzed things, if you haven’t gone and practiced dimonstrazione to really think things through and get data from different sources, and constantly be seeking out reliable sources and checking your sources.

There Is Too Much Polarity And Duality In The World - Michael Gelb via @PedramShojai

I mean, you know, the internet is an incredible blessing. You can get unbelievable wisdom from all over the world and the great masters of every tradition, and the best music, and every kind of resource. But the default setting is vile rubbish! So, you know, the Onion had a headline a while ago already, it said “Lowest Common Denominator Plummets”. So, you’ve got to be vigilant and really focused on getting to deeper truth in the midst of all the garbage. And you know, right now I’m writing this book so I’m doing all this research, and yeah. I’m doing a lot of it on the internet but I actually am checking to get to the real source. For example, every quote that I use. ‘Cause, you know, one of the quotes on the internet is “Most of the quotes on the internet are true,” George Washington. Right? So, use your intellect, use your reason. Be rigorous, and disciplined, and intuitive, and playful, and childlike together in harmony. Leonardo was a master of that. I mean, he’s incredibly disciplined, logical, and detailed in his writings, and he’s wildly playful and artistic. Freud wrote a book about Leonardo. He said, “The great Leonardo continued to play as a child “throughout his adult life, “thus baffling his contemporaries.”

Pedram:

You know, and he has been around in all of the popular literature as the guy. I mean, he is one of the most famous thinkers of all time, period. And, you know, there’s a reason for that. And the inventions, and the art, and you know, just– He touched so many different disciplines, it was ridiculous. And so, for us to be a modern day Leonardo da Vinci means something.

Michael :

That’s my vision. I’m telling you, that’s why I wrote the book, it came out in 1998, but it’s universal principles. And, you know, he lived in a time of great chaos, great uncertainty. He left Florence– We think of Florence, and Tuscany, and, oh, how wonderful! The Medici, the golden age of art. There were huge scandals that led him to leave when he was a young man, he went to Milan, lived there for about 17 years, was driven out by a French invasion, was a refugee, went down to the Vatican, worked for the Pope for a while until the Pope’s brother who was his patron died. Then they didn’t want him there because his ideas were too outrageous. He went back to Florence, they thought he was too old, and Michael Angelo was the big new rock star in town. Thank god he wound up back in Milan for a while, and then he spent the last few years of his life as the advisor to the king of France. So his life was by no means, he did all this amazing creativity. The Last Supper, the Mona Lisa, his inventions, his philosophy. All of this, his anatomical drawings which are still used in medical schools today 500 years later. He did all this in a time of tremendous difficulty, uncertainty, and chaos. We can’t even– You know, we still– Our world right now is a piece of cake. We’re still blessed with unbelievable abundance. We still have all kinds of mechanisms in place that we can leverage to bring out the best in our world. He didn’t have any of that! None of that!

Pedram:

Yeah, he was able to produce so much masterpiece level work. And so, what is it about that uncertainty, that when someone embraces, can actually bring out the best in them?

Michael:

Well, you see, that’s the thing, is innovation. Nova means new. But what people forget is that means you have to let go of the old. Well, we’re in a time of a letting go of a lot of what has been old. Some people cherish some of what’s been old, some people cling to it. Some people want something new but it’s a something new that we vehemently disagree with. So what is the something new that we can create together that is creative, that does a better job of meeting the deep needs of more people? You know, leadership is about meeting people’s needs. It’s about understanding, they’re empathizing with their feelings, seeing what’s going on that’s causing their feelings or leading them to have those feelings, the stimulus for those feelings, then seeing the needs that are underlying the feelings and figuring out what are they asking for and how can we meet more needs in ways that are creative and positive? So, right? You know, people are doing the best they can but their ideas are somewhat limiting, and they are sadly tribal. There’s still this primitive mind set that says there’s just limited resources and they have to be distributed to me, not you. That you’re threatening me by being there and having your needs, instead of us thinking how do we take into account more people’s needs and do it more elegantly, and intelligently without– The problem with politics is everybody has a predigested notion of how you meet those people’s needs, instead of really– We need fresh thinking now about how to meet more people’s needs, whoever they voted for.

Pedram:

Amen, man. You know, I was just up in Massachusetts. I was up at the Kripalu Center teaching and on my way back, the guy that was driving was showing me the town and he was like, “We used to have iron ore over here, “we’d make our own artillery for the Army. “And then GE had a plant over here, and you know, “it’s all gone.” And I go, “Well, what do people do?” He like, “Eh, you know, little tourism here, “but pretty much everyone left.” And I said, “What’s up with that?” And he says, “Pretty much all the northeast, “it’s pretty much all–” So I’m like sitting there driving through this rust belt, if you will, that’s way bigger than what people make it out to be, and sitting there thinking– And so now, the dialog is, well, it’s China’s fault. China took all the jobs. And so the question, really, it’s a big question but if these jobs mean us manufacturing more stuff that the planet and the landfills can’t take, I don’t know if that answer is a long term win answer. It’s, you know, yeah, people need jobs but what do we need to make? What is the actual solution to an economy that’s based on consumption and how can we get creative to say, okay, hold on a second. We don’t need to make more shit. So what is it that we actually want this world to look like, and now’s a really great time to look at that.

Michael:

Well, that’s right again. So we come right back to curiosita. Those are the kinds of questions we need in the public forum, and getting… You know, here’s something heartening. I still strongly believe the vast majority of Americans have fundamentally similar values in terms of respecting human rights, in terms of wanting to facilitate a world that allows people to be successful, and to create a better world. This is an optimistic place. It was founded on optimism, founded on people who thought, you know, we’re gonna leap humanity forward with the notion of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And if you look at the big trend of things, that has been so. With all the, you know, the nightmare of the Civil War, the overcoming slavery. You know, slavery was the law of the land not that long ago. Women were not allowed to vote not that long ago. In the big picture of our evolution, we are moving in a direction that is in aliment with the shared vision that the geniuses who created this experiment, and we are a crucial point in this experiment now. So, we need to be asking those questions. We need to know how to think creatively. We need to be engaging in dialog, not just battening down on our positions and demonizing the other side, which ever side you’re on. It’s not gonna help. It’s just not gonna help. It’s gonna make it worse! So look to the needs, look to the fundamental feelings, and then look for new solutions predicated on intelligent questions like the one you just posed.

PEdram:

Well, and it’s a big question because it really makes us look at what the hell it is we’re doing as a species beyond an international community and nation. But you know, what do we actually need? We need food, water, shelter, you know. Some form of fuel. You know, at that point then, you don’t need as much stuff yet everything is geared towards that. And so, I mean, to me I see it as a wonderful opportunity to look at the fundamentals of what we call our economy and what drives this whole damn thing and say, okay. This is obviously not working for millions and millions of people, and it isn’t about half the population being wrong and crazy, right? That doesn’t make any sense. It has to do with the system, and needing a dramatic rethink. So, we need to balance logic and creativity, as he said. Then where else, like, how would Leonardo walk us through this? What would the next step look like?

Michael:

Yes, well, the next step is corporalita, balance the body and the mind. So we mentioned earlier how this is a very important time for self care, for eating well, for remembering to exercise, for moving, for doing everything you know how to do and learning more. It’s great, you’re such a wonderful resource for helping people have practices that really work because, guess what, the mind and body really can’t be separated, no kidding! Leonardo knew this some 500 years ago! So you know his Vitruvian Man that we see everywhere? I saw it recently, it was a logo for a yoga studio. Yeah, Keelers use it, Nutraceuticals use it. Why? ‘Cause you know what Leonardo was saying in this drawing, which by the way was an illustration for his friend’s book and his friend was writing a book about architecture called “Divine Proportion”, and the idea is that the divine proportions of the human body are the perfect template for building structures, that we are a microcosm of the macrocosm, that we are a symbol of the entire universe. We embody the entire universe. So if you want a harmonious, beautiful universe out there, create a harmonious, beautiful universe in here. So, I mean, this is my greatest passion, is just learning these practices myself. That’s how I got into Aikido, that’s how I got into Qigong, that’s how I got into tai chi, healing. You know, I’m always studying, learning, practicing this everyday, and now’s the time to really practice this!

Pedram:

Now is the time to be practicing this. And to your point, you know, you want as above so below. You want harmony outside? You cannot achieve it without harmony inside, and really, I mean, our culture doesn’t really speak to that. Our culture wants binge watching Netflix, and there’s a lot of things one can do with their time that are not necessarily watering the inner garden. And so there needs to be a fundamental kinda rethinking of how we align with ourselves ’cause the pharmaceuticals haven’t worked, and all that. And so, I mean, we’re preaching to the choir here. A lot of my students do this work all the time, you’ve been doing this for a very long time. Look, you know, I stumbled on tai chi. I was a scientist at the time, I remain a scientist. I would not have continued if it didn’t give me tremendous value, peace, calm,, and clarity, and energy, and all these wonderful things that came from just doing these practices. I was like, you know, damn! What is that, right? I mean, it’s there, it’s been there for 6,000 years. It works, you know. Check it out.

Michael:

Check it out, big time. Big time.

Pedram:

So you have to be of sound mind and body, and you have to come from that kind of mental, spiritual, physical health continuum in order to be able to play this game, says Leonardo.

Michael:

Yes!

Pedram:

And so along that line then, you are balancing the intellect with the imagination, you’re balancing your inside and your outside. So you’re becoming a whole person, really. And then where would he take us to kind of bring this home?

Michael:

He brings us home with the seventh principle, connessione, everything connects to everything else. So be a systems thinker. Look at the big picture and the details in harmony. Lot of people are good at seeing the big picture but they lose track of what’s in front of them. A lot of other folks are just caught up in what’s right in front of them, especially when there’s constantly having their emergency buttons being pushed by the media is in our world today. You know, all these things come together. What questions are you asking everyday. You want to change the world? Change your questions. Think for yourself, dimonstrazione. Contemplate beauty on a daily basis. Keep your smile in the face of uncertainty. Recognize that it’s an opportunity for something new, and creative, and positive to come forth. Integrate logic and imagination. Have a practice and practice it everyday, now more than ever. And then look– Creativity is, it’s making new connections, it’s seeing things you haven’t seen before, it’s finding new opportunities. So we have a tremendous chance to do this now, and Leonardo’s a magnificent guy.

Pedram:

Wonderful. We’re gonna go to some studio questions here. I know your dog’s having a field day out there, you might want to let someone in. Yeah, I’ll gather a couple questions. All good, all good. So yeah, just read the question and then I’ll phrase it to him.

Sean:

Um, so we have a question from MK. She says, “How do we stay in balance when we try to touch “the other side, and when they’re so closed and angry?” So probably a really good question for today’s political climate. How do we touch the other side of our circles or do we just hope that if they’re not receptive, it just becomes a pebble in their pond, or something, or it creates a ripple effect?

Curiosity Is The Driver of All Creativity, Improvement, And Change - Michael Gelb via @PedramShojai

Pedram:

Got it. So to summarize again, how do we…

Sean:

How do we stay in balance when they try to touch the other side?

Pedram::

How do we stay– So MK is asking, how do we stay in balance when we try to touch the other side and they might have a much more kind of aggressive stance, and she’s trying to bridge across? Go ahead.

Michael:

Yeah. Here’s the thing, you might lose your center. It’s not a question that you won’t lose your center. Somebody might really just freak you out and piss you off. The question is– Actually, they can’t really freak you out and piss you off. They can only be a stimulus. You’re in charge of your response. So if you first of all get that idea, you’re in charge of your response. They can do stuff you choose to respond to in a particular way, but get that you’re in charge of how you respond and you may not be happy with the way your respond because people, you know, we use that language, people say it presses my buttons. You might lose it. How fast can you get it back? So, don’t… I know this is the Urban Monk, but don’t expect to be a fully realized monk in dealing with conflict and difficulty. But if you just have the question alive, and if you’re practicing– See, you have to practice everyday. You have to do something. Do your Qigong, do your tai chi, do your mediation, go to Aikido class, go to your yoga class. Just do something that’s nurturing that alignment around the still center every single day so that you can get back to that faster. And a lot of this is physiological. If you have a little smile, you won’t freak out as much. If you keep your eyes soft, you’re changing the physiology, you’re changing the biochemistry in the moment. If you make your posture upright and breathe all the way into your belly, you’re shifting out of that stress fight flight response and you’re making your physiology more conducive to supporting a more empathic response. And remember, the key to this is– I’m not saying that you have to like what somebody says that sounds really aggressive but if you can keep your center, you might be able to see the fear and the pain that’s driving that person’s aggression ’cause I’ll tell you, that’s what it is.

Pedram:

Yeah.

Michael:

It’s hard to see. It takes profound inner strength that we all have to cultivate to be able to see that when it’s right in your face. But if you can begin to look for it, if you can begin to– And by the way, being empathic, here’s the thing people miss. If I understand you fully, I get where you’re coming from, doesn’t mean I have to agree with you. Right? You know, listen. Check this out. “When things go wrong, you don’t have to go with them.” Guess who that’s a quote from? This may be one of those wacky wrong quotes on the internet.

Pedram:

Who said it?

Michael:

Elvis! Oh, god. So, yeah. So get that you’re responsible for how you feel. People that do stuff, it’s a stimulus. But you’re responsible for your reaction, that’s what responsible means. You’re responsible. So find your center, look for the feelings and the needs, and then see if there’s some way to figure out a creative response. And by the way, don’t just do this with the person who’s in your face from the opposite point of view as you. Try this with your kids. Try this with your spouse, try this with your boss. Try this with your colleague who you have a little conflict with ’cause when we have these big conflicts, it’s really hard to practice this. You gotta practice this everyday. You know, I recommend the work of Marshall Rosenberg, “Nonviolent Communication”, more important now than ever before. I’m trying to make it accessible to people, I’m writing about that in my new book and it suddenly became way more relevant.

You Must Learn To Think For Yourself- Michael Gelb via @PedramShojai

Pedram:

Yeah. You know, there’s this quote that says, “The only thing I can’t tolerate is intolerance.” What would you say to that because that’s where I think a lot of people on the Liberal side– So a lot of people are like, okay, it’s gonna be fine, it’s gonna be fine. And then like John Oliver came out last night and just went at it again, and it’s just like, no! These are hard lines, you know, these are battle lines because we fought too hard for this. So what would be the da Vinci way of kinda looking at this type of polarity?

Michael:

Well, you know, I mean, there are times when you do have to fight and then sort it all out later. I mean, I can’t– You know, if somebody’s breaking into your house and trying to kill you, there may not be time to consider– It’s like my old, my kung fu teacher, we used to play this game called mugger’s alley and we’d set up these various mugging situation and when it was your turn, you’d have to be the citizen walking along and the muggers would jump out and get you. And you had to try to use your self defense skills to defeat them, and usually you died. Now the teacher was really good so one time I was the mugger and he smashed me into the ground. He used to love to like pretend he was handcuffing you. So he was sitting on my back, my face is smashed into the ground and he’s handcuffing me, and he says, “Why were you mugging me?” And I said to him, “Because of my deprived socioeconomic “background.” That made him laugh enough that I was able to escape.

Pedram:

I saw a meme yesterday that I loved, I loved, I loved, and the master was working with the student and the student says, “See fu, you keep talking about peace “and nonviolence yet you’re teaching us how to fight. “How do you reconcile those?” And his answer was, “It’s better to be a warrior “in the garden than a gardener in a war.” Right? And so, you know, it’s really about the preparedness and the willingness to stand your ground and hold a line, but really understanding that no one wants that, no one wants that. Everyone wants peace. But, yeah, to your point, there are places where you do have to hold the line and there has been– I mean, look, the Nazis did do their thing, right? There has been a history of things kinda coming and going and so, again, we’re in very interesting times. And I for one feel like America has a really good opportunity to grow through this and come together, but you can’t come together in the same broken system, right? It’s time to have a creative rethinking of the whole thing and how we do what we do, is what I’m hearing here as well.

Michael:

Yeah, and part of how we got to this place is a lack of this kind of empathy, the dismissing of a lot of people’s– Yeah, there’s a dangerous extreme which if given free reign, would be… We’ve seen this is history plenty of times, it’s not a pretty sight and we have to be vigilant about that. In the meantime, we need to look for common ground with the majority of people who are still decent people who share fundamental values. And I’m not saying that’s easy, but that’s what the greatest leaders have always done and leaders don’t have to be, especially in the world today, they don’t have to be formally anointed by the system, whether political system… We have the opportunity for people to arise as leaders in their community, and you start by just meeting the terms of how you are treating people everyday. You know, if you think you’re gonna make the world a better place by going and burning down something that is a symbol of the other side, that, I’ll tell you, is not gonna make the world a better place.

Pedram: Think again, yeah.

Michael:

That’s gonna make it worse. The first principle is don’t make it worse, don’t make it worse.

Pedram:

Yeah, and you said something in there that’s just so powerful, in that it is on every single on of us to step in and make the world a better place in ourselves and in the world around us, and that’s really, I think, the call to action here. This is the beating of a drum that is not the external war but the internal war. It’s like, what is this whole thing about and how do I reexamine this whole thing called life. Why am I working so hard to spend my money on things I don’t use? You know, why, why, why, why, why, right? And so, if we can go and unpack what Leonardo said about this, you have to sit with it. You have to be curious. You have to look at it with creativity and logic, and I just love having a framework for this and I think that this has been a very helpful conversation. So when is this book, the book that you are writing right now, comes out when?

Michael:

It’ll be out in September, September 2017. I’m gonna hand it in on January 7th, New World Library is my publisher. They did a previous book called “Brain Power: Improve Your Mind As You Age”, which I wrote to celebrate my 60th birthday! That was four years ago.

Pedram: Do you remember what’s in it?

Michael:

Yeah, part of what’s in it is, your brain is designed to improve with use and the only question is, what’s the best way to improve it? And it turns out– Like, my memory is getting sharper. Marshally, it would be easier to have messed with me than it would be to mess with me now. So, you know, my intention is get stronger, get clearer, get more centered, be more resourceful, and empower myself to be of more service to others. ‘Cause you learn, that is the secret of happiness, is connecting with other people, caring for other people, enriching their lives. You know, you want the secret to life? That’s the secret of life. Connect with your inner self, connect with others, think creatively about how to make the world a better place, and apply the seven da Vinci principles.

Pedram:

Love it, love it. Michael, I love your work, I love what you’re doing and the stance that you’ve taken here, and it’s nice. I mean, we need framework. We need a better filter through which to digest reality in a world that’s so chaotic. And so without these sorts of filtration mechanisms, it’s really easy to say the sky’s falling and wait for someone to fix it. But we need tools, and this is a powerful tool. How can people find you?

Michael:

MichaelGelb.com, G, E, L, B. MichaelGelb.com.

Pedram:

Beautiful. Man, I want to thank you for your time. This has been great. You know, one of these days we’ll get to hang out in a New York area, and there’s a lot more to come on this prosperity project. I think, you know, you’ve got a very strong voice in this, and so I’m looking forward to working with you on that as well.

Find Peace Within Yourself First - Michael Gelb via @PedramShojai

Michael:

Thank you so much, my pleasure.

Pedram:

This has been great, thank you. So thanks for being here. This has been live, obviously we’ve taken a few questions from our audience on Facebook. Let me know what you think. I’m gonna be actually going live in, what, about half an hour? ‘Bout half an hour, we’re going live again with another guest. Usually we don’t do two a day, but it’s just the way things stacked up this week. So if you’re around, stick around. I’ll be back in a half an hour on this same Facebook page and let me know what you think, and I’ll see you next time. Thank you.

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