Richard Quest In Davos With Bob Diamond The Unapologetic Banker

English: Richard Quest, volunteering with Habi...

Image via Wikipedia

There was a time when I thought that anybody running a country or a company or organisation was in that position because of extraordinary ability.  I know now that it isn’t true but some part of me is still reluctant to accept it.  For example I just can’t get my head around bankers who have ruined whole economies and got away with it – in fact who still get monumental bonuses.

Richard Quest has interviewed a few of bankers in Davos over the last week, and it’s mind boggling how they rationalize their behavior and that of their kind.  Remorse?  You must be kidding.  Mr. Bob  Diamond of Barclays (sounds like a Charles Dickens character) became chief executive at the beginning of 2011.  In 2010 he was head of Barclays Capital.  That year he got a £6.5m bonus, on top of his annual salary of £250,000, and a long-term incentive award of £2.25m contingent on future performance.  £9m in all.  His staff shared £2.5m.  It’s obscene.

He has said before that he thinks the time for remorse and apology from bankers is over.  What remorse and apology?  The world is still waiting.  When speaking to Richard Quest, he also said that it’s important to take emotion out of the equation.  And he said it with a serious face.  He’s feeling very virtuous as he accepted a much smaller bonus this year – £1.8m in shares and a deferred award of £4.7m in shares and contingent capital – bonds that convert into shares.  It’s still obscene.

And now of course he’s staunchly backing bankers’ rights to be paid well for performance.  But here’s the thing, what do these guys think their salaries are about?  Well, Bob and his kind can carry on living in their bubble but it’s going to burst eventually.  I wonder how any of them would cope if somebody destroyed their private little economies with recklessness and greed.  I doubt it would be by suggesting the guy who anihilated them be paid an obscene bonus.

Richard Quest didn’t ask very pressing questions in his interview, but his attitude to Diamond was sober, fairly disapproving and clearly critical.  Water off a duck’s back, though.  That’s some pretty over-permissive entitlement Mr. Diamond has.  In some ways I envy it.  Survival of the fittest, grab what you can.  I could certainly do with a bit more entitlement than I’ve got.  But his is out of balance, I think, so he’s got to be paying a price at some level.  He doesn’t look like a happy man.

These bankers, even though they don’t behave like it, are still human and are subject to the same laws of cause and effect as we all are.   Greed at some level is fear-driven.  And I hold onto the idea that somewhere inside every greedy, fear-driven bully beats a lonely heart.

Dickens at the Blacking Warehouse. Charles Dic...

Where Dreams Come True

Finding a balance between the reality of circumstances as they are now and that other  reality – where I can go to in my imagination about where I want my life to be – has always been a challenge for me.  If you dream big but you have low self esteem and lousy entitlement, and you don’t know how to deal with the world, there’s always going to be a huge gap between your dreams and the reality of your circumstances.

If you’ve got a big lust for life, a powerful imagination and creativity that demands an outlet, but you’re dominated by fear and you’ve never been shown how to be practical about getting where you want to go, all that good stuff can turn on you.  It did for me.  The result was that I used my capacity to dream as an escape from the reality of my incapacity to do what needed to be done to actualize my dreams, and to avoid the real pain and sometimes nameless, shapeless terror that rises up in me when I do try to be practical.

Some people eat, or take drugs, to escape.  I’ve done that too, and when I stopped I have often used my imagination.  And my thinking brain.  The minute I come up against a challenge, I’m tempted to dash off into the big dream or trying to understand the why of the challenge.  Instead of just being in it and facing it.  The thing that propels me away from the challenge is the same thing that propelled me into taking cocaine, into over-eating.

But I’ve just plugged away to the best of my ability, and in some areas I don’t have to run any more.  With writing, that nameless shapeless terror doesn’t happen any more.  I’m not afraid to write, or to get it wrong, or be blank for a while.  I’m not terrified of rejection; I don’t like it, and of course it creates emotion in me, but I’m just not disempowered by it any more.  I’ve built up quite a powerful capacity to hold onto my sanity and be grounded in my writing.

Much of that is the help I’ve had in rebuilding my self-esteem and entitlement.  It’s allowed me to stick at it and not give up.  But also I’ve had so much unconditional love and acceptance for my writing, primarily on SearchWarp.  It was like a kind of miracle for me.  I never expected anybody to like what I wrote.  I expected rejection or just nothing.  From the first thing I ever wrote there, I’ve had such great response; wonderful, generous comments, people opening their hearts and embracing me, becoming my friends.  How fortunate is that?

I’ve always dreamed big but I used to get lost in that dreaming and the small steps I needed to take to make that dream a reality were too scary.  When I tried, the fear would overwhelm me and I’d run.  Even just sending a cover letter to a publisher was a massive challenge.  The prospect of rejection was so painful – and I kept experiencing it all the time.  Not any more.  This is a big triumph for me and it means I’m free to step out into the world with my writing, and take the risks that need to be taken.  Do those practical things.  I’m not just a dreamer any more.  Big cause for celebration.

Listening to Your Heart, Believing in Yourself, Finding Fulfillment

“But the eyes are blind.  One must look with the heart.”

Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince, Chapter XXV

There was such a great episode on Being Erica last night about choices that seem logical but feel wrong.  We live in a logic-driven world, and there’s something appealing about it, it feels so safe.  But living your life doing the things that seem logically sensible isn‘t always safe.

People who work all their lives at “good” jobs that stifle them, earning safe money, aim for that day they retire and can start doing what they want.  But how many have heart attacks, strokes,   cancer and all manner of body ills by the time they retire?  Because they’ve never lived with joy, never pursued a dream.  They’ve always been practical and logical even when it went against their heart.

Suddenly one day it’s over and it’s too late.  So how safe was it all really?  Denying your heart impacts on your body in a real physical way.   We’re not built to be stifled, we’re built for the expression of joy and creativity.  When we’re out of that mode, our chemical and electrical systems are thrown out of balance.  We get dis-eased.

I was never able to do the safe thing.  It wasn’t something I actively thought about, I just was so sure in some part of myself that things would work out if I listened to my heart.  I kind of jumped off a cliff into life as a young adult.  Things didn’t work out, though, not in a natural way.  I’ve made some awful decisions, taken a lot of hard knocks.

Turns out it’s as difficult and complicated to follow your heart as it is to follow the logical safe route and be happy.  People often say all you have to do is find your passion and then doors fly open for you.  No they don’t, not always.  There’s this minor obstacle called self-esteem.  If yours is depleted, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are about something, you’re unlikely to find success in it until you’ve healed on the inside.  Low self esteem means you don’t trust yourself.

Passion doesn’t make you successful.  Strong self-esteem, good entitlement, believing in yourself – those are the ingredients, I think.   Passion just keeps you on the road, because it gets difficult.  When you follow your heart you’re carving out your own path in life, and that’s a good thing.  But there are no insurance policies doing it this way, and nobody can say to you if you follow these rules you’ll be okay because there aren’t any rules.  It’s just you and your heart.

You have to have a whole lot of faith in the idea that your heart is actually the voice of life guiding you through the quagmire that is your low self-esteem and incomplete consciousness and all the misbegotten things you’ve learned from bad role models.  You have to blindly believe that your heart will lead you to what you need to learn, to overcome obstacles, and that it can guide you in material matters as well as spiritual ones.

We have the capacity to shut off our emotions and hearts and build material empires with our logical ability.  We can have huge wealth, and even stand out above the crowd.  But we’re not really individuals; our wealth is garnered off the backs of others, and fulfillment surely eludes us.

But if we pay attention to our hearts and emotions, and use our logical capacity without being ruled by it, we can have material wealth and find fulfillment.  Wealth comes from people and people respond to personal power, which comes from listening to your heart, healing your self esteem, learning from better role models and risking being an individual.  I’d say it’s at least worth the risk of trying.

Fighting Demons Dragons and Criminals – Entitlement and Protection

It’s funny how the challenges you meet always end up having something really good about them.  It’s pretty much impossible to see it while you’re fighting demons, dragons and criminals.  But when you’re done, and the demons et al are vanquished, then you see.

On Monday I didn’t have to deal with any demons or dragons, but I did have to deal with somebody of a criminal bent.  Criminal in that he promised to fix my car 3 weeks ago and took a R5,000 deposit, saying I’d get my car back in 5 days.  Then it was 10 days.  Then I couldn’t get hold of him.  He wouldn’t answer his phone or return my gazillion messages.

His loyal sister who works for him took my calls but wouldn’t tell me where my car was, and kept protecting her brother.  On Monday I got angry and said I’d go to the police.  She slammed the phone down.  He called and hurled violent verbal abuse at me – then threatened me.   It was really quite terrifying to have that filth coming at me as if I wasn’t a human being.

I flashed back to two experiences.  The 14 year old girl being molested, and the time just before I went bankrupt, when I was in a vortex of unethical men with excessive permission to do whatever they wanted and mow me down in the process.  In both those experiences I had no power at all and no value in their eyes.  None in my own.  And no protection.  Only fear and the most horrible rage that boiled volcanically within, which I couldn’t articulate or let out.

But on Monday I cried a bit at the shock of the abuse.  Then I marched down to the police station.   It was scary to lay a charge, given that he’d threatened me and knows where I live, but I did it anyway.  I wanted a different outcome to being abused.  And I got one.

People always complain about how useless the police are here, but my experience was what I wanted it to be.  Better, in fact.  The officer listened to my story, and called up the car fellow to get his side.  The idiot abused the officer!  Made my case for me.  So now he’ll be arrested tomorrow on 3 counts.  Abuse, intimidation and theft.  Then the police drove me home to make sure I was safe.

It was a horrible experience in one way, but in another I got the protection I’ve always longed for.  And I got to see how I so am not that terrified, powerless 14 year-old or even 40 year-old any more. Back then my inner scream was you can’t do this to me.  But they could, they did, they got away with it and I was powerless to stop it.  I had nobody to turn to for protection.  It was a terrible time.

I wanted to fight my abusers.  To hurt them.  All my focus was on them.  Strangely, I couldn’t fight, much as I wanted to.  I didn’t have the resources or the personal power.  They would have destroyed me.  So instead I got to pay attention to myself, my self esteem, my own lack of entitlement.  I’ve learned to respect myself – and how to fight for myself if I need to.

Suddenly I don’t need or want to fight, and the protection I need is right there.  This time round it’s the protection of the law.  Which I’ve got, with ease.   My days of having no options, of being abused by people with too much entitlement and not enough awareness and integrity – of not being able to protect myself or find protection from my community – those days are over.   Stepping out of history here.

Making Dreams Come True and Maslow’s Hierarchy

Everybody’s got something to say on the subject of making dreams come true.  Meditate!  Don’t think, just do it!  Use your mind!  Be here now!  Follow these twenty easy steps!   Think of something that nobody’s thought of before!  Dream big!  And that’s enough exclamation marks, I think.

The list is endless.  Dream big sounds pretty good, but dreaming on its own doesn’t lead to the coming true bit.  In fact, if you dream big but you don’t know what to do, what actions to take from one moment to the next, don’t know how to get back-up and support, how to deal with obstacles, chances are nothing’s going to really happen.

What stops you from knowing?   So many people say all you need for you dreams to come true is to be passionate and doors will open.  I can tell you from experience it’s not always true.  You need a whole lot more than passion.  You need back-up and support.  And to be able to access that, you need to know you deserve it.  Just like L’Oreal says “you’re worth it”.

If you don’t know you’re worth it, right at the core of you, and you don’t realize it, I think your chances of anything changing in your life are slim.  I was thinking about Maslow and his famous hierarchy of needs yesterday, walking along the beach at the edge of Africa.  Maslow said that when a person is struggling for survival, they can’t even begin to address their aspirational needs.

He was partly right.  Maybe I’m being too simplistic here, but it seems that when you’re struggling at a survival level you don’t have much of an idea that you deserve to be loved and supported and helped so that you can flourish and develop your aspirations and dreams.  And it’s not the struggling that makes you feel bad about yourself.  You feel undeserving and that’s why you struggle.  Well, it’s a catch 22 actually.

Fear jams everything up.   If you don’t address it, your imagination runs riot with every kind of worst case scenario, and the more imaginative and aspirational you are, the worse it gets.  You feel smaller and smaller and increasingly overwhelmed by a hostile world.  It can be emotionally paralyzing.  In fact you end up reliving in a very real and material way, the emotional experience you had as a child, how about that.  No support, needs not being met, being forced to be hideously adaptive, fighting for emotional and possibly even physical survival.

So how as an adult do you get from there to the “coming true” bit about having dreams?  One tiny step at a time is how.  When fear starts to run rampant, you reach out for somebody else’s perspective on you, you don’t let your imagination run riot with worst case scenarios.  You take a stand, you refuse to entertain ideas that blight your outlook.  You stay vigilant.  You do it differently to the way it was done to you when you were a kid.   You start feeling better about yourself.  Of course you do – you’re not letting yourself be bullied – albeit by yourself!  Creativity kicks in, you think of solutions to your struggle.  You start realizing it’s okay to ask for what you need in a practical way, not just an emotional one.  You figure out how to do that.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that being in survival mode stops you from being able to develop your dreams.  I fall in all the time.  But now and then I get a glimpse into a different way of looking at it.  Survival mode reflects your experience as a child, and it highlights ravaged self-esteem then and now.  Back then you couldn’t defend yourself.  This is your chance to do it over.  Defend yourself, stand up for yourself, claim your rights.

Call me a dreamer, but I reckon that’s where the coming true bit of dreams starts taking root.

Foundation for a better life and making dreams come true

I have 2 basic dreams:  to establish myself as:  1) a vocalist/musician;  2) a film script/novel/blog writer.  I wanted to be a musician and writer as a child, but my belief that I was stupid, ugly, uncreative, unlovable and undeserving got in the way.  I couldn’t change those beliefs until I went bankrupt 8 years ago.   In that place of having nothing I faced the truth of my self esteem and what I believed about myself.

I set about doing the inner work I had to, to be able to change.  I also began to sing, play piano and write again.  Gradually, as I changed on the inside, my creativity developed, and my desire and ability to have healthy relationships.  Now I’m rediscovering my mojo, reconnecting with my dreams and people, and starting my life over, with the same dreams but a better foundation.   I’m claiming my life back.

This is what I’ve done on my own so far:

Singing: I’ve developed my voice with some lessons, but mostly on my own.  I have a jazz repertoire of about 100 songs, but I’m developing my own compositions too.   I play piano (classical for my own benefit, and am learning jazz) and acoustic guitar (only have a cheap one).  See my blog of August 24 for more on that.

Writing:  I’ve completed a TV series with colleagues;  I wrote a novel Meeting Robert de Niro (working title) then adapted it to a screenplay, which I got to Robert de Niro (haven’t heard from him, though).   The script ended up being better than the novel, so I need to rewrite the latter.   I’m on the 5th draft of my 2nd script, and have 2 others partially written plus 2 in early stages of development.  I’ve started on a book about my bankruptcy experience, what it taught me and how it benefitted me.  Finally I’ve started a crime novel, which will be the first in a series.  I also write this blog, and post articles on Searchwarp.com

Not having money has stood me in good stead in a way up to this point, because it’s forced me to focus on developing my – music and writing.   I’ve had help for survival up to now, and haven’t needed many material resources but now they are starting to be important for me to take the next steps, as I move out into the world.

Recovery from bankruptcy (to read the story in 6 parts click here) included overcoming my fear of the world, and beginning to earn again.  I  have some work that brings in money, but it’s often not enough to sustain me very well (I live off about US$650 – 700 a month, which includes $400 for rent), and definitely not enough to pay for equipment.

This is what I need right now:  I’ve quoted approximately.
1.         Good quality condenser microphone (Rode M3); US150
2.         Decent guitar (Tanglewood); US$400
3.         Piano overhaul (pads needs replacement); US$500
4.         Good quality digital camera (for my blog, and to earn with iStock);  US$600
5.         Good quality video camera (also for blog, and to earn with YouTube); US$600
6.         More memory for my computer;  US$60
7.         Cost of sending scripts to: Oprah, Charlize Theron, Matt Damon, Jim Carey, Gavin Hood, Sol Kerzner, 5 other US producers, Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Renee Zelweiger.  US$630 – $45 per script
8.         Paper and cartridges for printing scripts and manuscripts US$210 – $15 per script
9.         Decent anti-virus / spyware etc.; US$519
10.         Get my car fixed (service, starter motor, new tires, and rust fixed); US$600

These items will give me better earning capacity, and allow me to take the next steps in moving forward in my two chosen arenas.  I’m looking for help to create a balance in my life between financial independence again and the development of my dreams.

If you have a suggestion, or something you don’t use that you’d like to pass on to me, I’d be so grateful.  If you want to donate some money that will also be wonderful.  Click on the “donate” button and follow instructions.  Choose your own amount.  I don’t get to see your bank or credit card details, by the way.

Thanks for reading this.

Rescue Money Doesn’t Really Work

The topic of rescue money has been on my mind.  You don’t have money?  Hey, the problem is with making it.  It makes sense to say that.  I thought for the longest time that if only I had money I’d be okay.

Which is practically a world view.  But truthfully?  I’m pretty sure it’s the other way round.  If I was okay with myself and had entitlement I’d have money.  I’d be able to earn it doing something that fulfilled me.

So I’ve come to think money is actually a symptom of the status of self-esteem and entitlement.  If you can’t make money, you’ve got lousy entitlement and self esteem.  If you can make money, you’ve got good entitlement – although not necessarily good self esteem.  I know plenty of people who have tons of money and are incredibly unhappy and don’t believe in themselves at all.  So their money doesn’t avail them one bit – in fact, it hurts them, because they use it to try and fill the self-esteem gap.

We all know that.  Yes?

First prize is to go for repairing self esteem, because that’s the whole package, it includes entitlement.  I’m all for first prizes.  Of course, they take the most work, the most investment.

Here’s the thing, though.  Challenges, no matter what they are – money, relationships, work –  are very painful and uncomfortable, and it’s an instinctive thing to want to be rescued out of them.  I’m in an abusive relationship with a man?  If only I could meet someone who would treat me right.  I have a horrible job?  If only I had a good job my life would be better.  I have no money?

Right, I’m flogging a dead horse.  I’ll stop now.

I suspect we want to be rescued when we don’t believe we can make our own money.  You don’t know where your power is, or how to access it.  You tell yourself anything to justify your desire for rescue.   It’s understandable, and not something to be judged and blamed for, but heaven help you if you act on it!

The strange thing is, I never once saw somebody who received magnanimous “rescue help” from communities or make-over shows look as if it made them feel good within themselves, proud of themselves.  They always looked kind of ashamed.  I didn’t get it at first.  I thought what the heck is wrong with them?  Can’t they just celebrate?

Then I thought I’d try it myself.  I thought I’d start a blog and see if people read it and responded.  But I hit something in me.  In my fantasy I wanted relief but in reality I couldn’t get myself to write a blog that said brother can you spare me a dime.

In the end I decided not to do it until I got clearer.   Which thankfully, happened.

I know in my heart of hearts that my own situation isn’t about bad luck and coincidence, it’s about disempowerment.  People behaved badly towards me, but I let them because I didn’t know how to defend myself.  You can live in denial for so long but eventually you’re brought to your knees – not by the world or other people or bad luck, but by your own inability to live life in a way that can let you flourish. That includes your ability to make money in a sustainable way doing something that’s meaningful.

The truth of what you’re not good at doing is not a nice thing to face!!!  Rescue allows you to run from it.  But it’s pointless, because you end up on your knees again.  I’ve seen it over and over, in myself and in other people.  You long for rescue and it’s really painful and hard to see the truth of the part you’re playing, but until you face your truth you don’t start learning how to do yourself and your life differently.  It’s a most unfortunate and irritating reality.

You do have to stay alive, so if you’re not able to make enough money for that you have to ask, have to swallow your pride and face your shame and humiliation.  Have to let people give, so that you can learn to receive.  I’ve had to do that with my mother.   It’s brought me to a clear understanding of the dynamic of my relationship with her, which is useful, but the money doesn’t make me feel good or proud of myself.  It doesn’t even bring relief.

Curiously, I see now that I wanted the anonymity of help from people I didn’t know because then I wouldn’t have to ask my mother and deal with my relationship with her, and because then I wouldn’t have to face and deal with my shame.  The money just kind of rolls in if it’s not a direct, personal thing.   You don’t have to look at your truth, don’t have to be accountable.  Well, that’s what it would have been for me.

I understand why people want to be rescued.  I know that space intimately.  I’ve often cursed the part of me that hasn’t been able to draw a really great rescuer!  Why bloody not?   But actually – akshally – I see it now as a protection.  I don’t want one.   I want my life.

Rescue of any sort never did anything but prolong the agony, and disempower me more.  That which furthered me the most was reaching for therapeutic help to understand my own disempowerment and repair my self esteem and entitlement; to learn a better way of doing myself and life and how to be accountable for myself.

I reckon that if a person’s life keeps ending up in a pit, and they’re reaching for rescue money but they aren’t going to therapy to learn how to be personally accountable, that money ain’t going to go nowhere but down the drain.