Career Coach Zac Swartout | Two Wolves

Where Your Passion and Purpose Meet

(778) 554-5946

A grandfather told his grandson, "My son there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, integrity, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth."

The boy thought for a moment, then asked, "Grandfather, which one wins?"

The old man quietly replied, "the one you feed."

 

So (that) what?

Key Takeaway: don’t bother reading Top 5 blogs. They are all the same. Instead always ask yourself, “I’m doing all this so that what?"

 

Confession time: when I first started coaching I signed up for  all the news and blogs I could gather on coaching, personal development, leadership, and team development. So far in 5 years it has netted me one interesting conversation and an untold number of blogs that start with “Top 5 Things You Can Do to Fix Your (self, life, relationship, money, brain, dog, etc.)” that have added 0 value to my life.

I find myself racing immediately past the preamble to the actual “Top 5". Without fail its always the same kinds of things: “meditate, sleep more, eat 0 sugar, delete whatever app you are using to read this article, etc."

Every single one of these bloggers seems to be missing the point. What they are offering you is a possible solution to your problem. Great. Now you have a list of 5 solutions. 5 solutions that guaranteed you will never use again after a month. They hold no larger purpose than being a set of functional tasks with a limited number of results. They are short term fixes for a problem.

If you want that…awesome. Knock yourself out. A problem/solution mindset however, doesn't often offer any way of creating meaning. It offers first a perspective that everything worth engaging with in life is a “problem to be solved”, and second a bunch of advice. Problems and solutions aren’t necessarily a “bad” way of viewing the world. But is that mindset one that gets you out of bed in the morning? 

One of the core aspects of people is that we posses will. Our will is what motivates us to engage in activities, relationships, work, and so on. Will is what causes us to get out of the bed in the morning. But what makes my will rise?

Meaning.

A question to ask yourself is, “I am doing all this so that what?” Its more of a mantra than anything else - a way of remembering oneself. In sailing its a north star. In yoga its a drishti. In navigation its true north. "I am drinking my second cup of coffee so that what?" "I am going for a run right now so that what?" "I am writing this blog right now so that what?"

This question helps you to pause and take stock of the purposefulness of your actions in any moment. You'll notice pretty quickly how much of your life you spend on irrelevant automatic tasks.

“I am on Facebook now so that…I don’t have a great reason. Ok time to shut this shit down."

The hard part is remembering to ask yourself this question but you'll find the more you do it the more it helps you to break that pattern. This allows you to make another choice. It allows you to conserve energy for tasks that are have your will rise - that create a larger meaning and context for your life.

“I’m writing this blog right now so that…I can try to more clearly connect with an audience who wants to become more aware of their intentions, actions, and choices to become more conscious humans. I believe strongly those people can help make the world a more beautiful, fun, and meaningful place."

I can feel my will rise already. And from this will I source energy to create something more fun, beautiful, and meaningful.

So give it a try and let me know what you think. 

On Men's Work

As some of you may know I am a member of the ManKind Project, BC. The Mankind Project is an organization that works to support men to become more accountable, mature, emotionally aware, and compassionate. Growing up in the twilight years of the 50s male I am no stranger to the terms "be a man", "stop being a fag", and "that's not how men should act". I am more aware of the emotional damage taking this on had on me.

This past weekend I participated in an MKP New Warrior Training. As a staff person I acted as a go-for (you know go for this, go for that), security guard, human walkie talkie, and anything else that was needed to support men to begin their journey into Men's Work. This story isn't about that weekend. I'd rather tell you a story about the profound affect this weekend had on me. The only word that comes to mind is tectonic.

Having not spoken to my Dad in a while, I hopped on a call with him earlier this week 2 days after my weekend. I carry much hurt from the early years of our relationship; especially around his anger and fear for anyone non-white and/or non-hetero. This led to a painful coming out as bi-sexual in 2012. But back to the story...during our conversation he (as he is wont to do) fell into an old pattern of his: blaming the world for his fear of it. Instead of railing against him (as I am often wont to do) for calling another human being "illegal" (his soap box topic for the day was immigration reform) I stopped.

As with the men so many times this past weekend, I remembered to close my eyes and breathe when things got heated. And in that space I made a different choice. Instead of meeting his anger with anger, I met him with love.

"I love you, Pop," I said. "And I feel incredibly sad right now. No one is coming to kill you Dad. No one is coming to hurt you. Not people of color, not the government, not Democrats. No one is coming. Look around you. Is anyone hurting you? Or Mom? Or my sister? You don't need to be afraid anymore."

"But..." he stammered.

"Pop is this the kind of man you want to be?"

He fell silent.

"Is this the legacy you want to leave?"

I felt something stirring inside me...anger now. "Because your grandson - my nephew - is coming Pop. He's coming in January. And he's coming full of love and light and wonder. And so I ask what kind of a grandfather do you want to be for him? Do you want to show him how afraid you are of everything and everyone? Or do you want to be a man of integrity and love and compassion? When you are gone, how do you want him to remember you? I can tell you how I remember my grandfathers: old, bitter, angry, sad, and afraid. So I'm going to ask you again: what kind of man...what kind of grandfather do you want to be for him?"

"...I don't know."

"I know Pop."

I went on to recognize him for exposing me to men's work and Robert Bly many years ago. But that he'd left that behind for Fox News and conservative blogs. "When was the last time you worked on yourself?" I asked him. He couldn't remember, he said. It sounds like its time, I said. He agreed. He committed to looking into men's groups in his area, and seeing if there is anything coming up put on by Mosaic, another men's organization he remembered. I told him that sounded perfect and that I loved him.

"Love my Zac-ie," he said.

So I am here, tears in my eyes to thank the men of MKP. And men everywhere willing to face their shadows. You strong, fierce, loving, courageous, beautiful men. You gave me the strength to love through anger and hurt and rejection and hate. This is why I do this Work. And this is why I will continue to show up. Because I commit that my legacy, my lineage of angry white men dies with me.

5 Years Sober

This blog is about remembering.

Its about remembering why I am here.

Why am I here?

I'm here because on January 9th, 2010 I almost died.

But I'm rushing here. Let me back up.

2008 was a banner year for me. I was a young, hard working, equities trader working at a small, boutique investment bank in New York City. I was making low six figures. I had a triplex apartment in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, a stunning girlfriend that was half artist, half porn star. I had it all.

Until the following things happened in no particular order: I witnessed the entire, global financial system melt down in front of me for weeks from a front row seat. My girlfriend cheated on and then left me. I quadrupled my already substantial alcohol habit to help me sleep. I realized I woke up every morning at 5:45 am anxious, exhausted, and miserable about what lie in the day ahead.

That summer, I watched a BP oil rig blow up in the Gulf of Mexico and spew oil for 2 months. I slogged into the office every day to the unwelcome sight of the 'Spill Cam'. For those of you that don't watch CNBC, it was a camera that sat on the top of the oil well. For those 2 months it transmitted the seemingly unending stream of oil flowing from this giant well. I knew the absolutely wrongness of what I watched, but had no way of reconciling it. Mostly because all the incoming client calls I received never expressed more than a passing concern. No, they wanted to know how to save or make money off of every conceivable angle of this story. Meanwhile there I sat, staring blankly at the tv. It was like I sensed something was wrong but I couldn't hear it yet.

On January 6th 2010 at 5:45 am, I came to from a 3 day bender of cocaine, ecstasy, and alcohol only to discover myself with $9000 less money in my bank account and no happier in my life. Shocking discovery, right?

I lifted myself slowly off my couch, my hands trembling slightly, and turned to see a dinner table big enough to comfortably seat 4 covered in empty drug bags and vodka bottles. "I should be dead," I heard a voice saying somewhere inside my foggy head.

3 days later, when one of my friends offered me a beer I figured,

"Sure why not? You deserve it, it’s been a hard week."

So I took it. Slamming back giant, soothing gulps to quiet another voice softly begging in the back of my mind. An hour later back at my apartment with yet another beer in hand I sat on my same couch. This time covered in sheets so I didn't have to explain all the stains to my friends.

"Zac..."

There was that soft voice again. I took another slug of beer. But this tasted different. It tasted foul. Not like skunked beer - that never stopped me before. This was different.

"...Zac...you don't have to do this."

I sat for a moment staring blankly into the erratic, flashing light of my tv.

All at once a giant eruption of bile come shooting through my chest up into my throat. My whole body felt sour. It was like I was gagging on my own smell. I looked down at the beer in my hand and choked back vomit.

"Ugh," I blurted, sticking out my tongue. I stood quickly and ran to the sink to dump out the rest of the bottle, tossing the empty into my overflowing recycling.

"You ok man?" my friend asked, glancing up briefly from the TV.

"Yea I think I'm getting sick or something," I said, wiping my hands on my jeans as I flopped back down on the couch. But I knew this was different. A switch had flipped that I didn't want to flip back the other way ever again.

Five years ago I began to remember who I was. I know now that soft voice was the me when I was 18 or 8, I still can't completely tell. We all lose something when we grow up. Some idea of our own validity we lose under a pile of our parents or teachers shoulds and have-tos. I lost the ability to wonder about what I could do and who I could be without becoming horribly afraid that I might fuck up and fail. It was like I had become disconnected from myself, and everything and everyone around me. I lost the sense of who I was.

Around this same time I sat in a bar with a friend I had known since the 5th grade. We shot the shit about small things, catching up. Until a question suddenly found its way out of my mouth.

"Do you have a dream? Like, of what you could be?" I asked.

"No," he answered swiftly and certainly, like he was waiting for the question.

"Are we the first generation to not dream?" I wondered.

What followed was a sad, meandering conversation that left me feeling as though it was ok not to have a dream. I realize now that disconnection I felt was this same disconnection. A lack of my own sense of self and what it means to be me, here, now.

So this is the beginning of my journey. Back into the light of my dream.

What is yours?

Uncovering Tiny Desires: My Approach to Coaching

"It isn't normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement."

- Abraham Maslow

Coaching helps you to figure out what you want and supports you to create it.

Pretty simple, right? Not quite.

Throughout the coaching process I will ask you many times (hopefully at least once a session) what you want, who you want to be, and what that person wants to do. What I ask you to do is create an image in your mind. An image of yourself living as you wish you could.

In fact, take a second to close your eyes and do that now. Take maybe a breath or 2 to help your brain settle in. 

Perhaps a small question to prompt you:

If time and resources were not a concern, what would you do with your life? 

Ok so now that you have the blurry outline of an image let's move on because we are far from done. 

In my experience, rarely will you have an epiphany and then all is solved. In fact, that's just the beginning - an opening to being able to articulate a wish. A wish for something you can barely put words to but you know on a gut level. This wish is precious to you. Like a new seedling, it feels susceptible to every element you can imagine. And all you want is to keep it alive.

Think of a coach as someone who helps you to figure out how to help that seedling grow. The only difference is the coach knows that this seedling's life cannot be extinguished. It needs water, light, and sun certainly but it cannot get any smaller. This water, light, and sun take the form of imagination, action, and reflection. I serve to support you feeding your wish with energy and help it to manifest. 

The next question you might ask is, how do I know this is truly what I want? Like entrepreneurship or science we start with an idea of some kind, or a vision we want to test. The only way to verify it is to test it through our own experience. Through testing you come to some kind of realization about what approaches your truth (we are dealing with human intuition here, it’s not an exact science). 

Once we have made some discovery, we use it to approximate our next action and so on. Make sense? It’s really an iterative process - at each point along the way we are tracking tiny desires hinting at what you truly want. These clues serve to evoke the resonance of your internal tuning fork. William Stafford, author and poet, speaks of this process as a “taking in your hands the golden thread”:

“It knows where it is going and the role of an individual is one of following, not imposing.  Those who are wise place it in their hands and gently follow where it leads.”

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, when you begin to explore your wish the universe often conspires to send positive signs and opportunities your way, letting you know you are on a resonant path. As Hindu philosopher Sri Aurobindo says in his book The Mother, 

"There are two powers that alone can effect, in their conjunction, the great and difficult thing which is the aim of our endeavor, a fixed and unfailing aspiration that calls from below and a supreme Grace from above that answers."

In essence, my approach helps you to become more self aware, and therefore more aware of what you want and who you want to be. The onus lies on you however.  I have no idea what you want. Only you can know that. But fear not, this uncovering process we can do together.

So what quiet question has you burning? What slow hunch has you struggling to still your mind?