Sunday, April 25, 2010

We are what we know!

In today's blog I want to introduce you to some powerful and influential thinking tools, and then link and combine them to make what I think is a profound distinction that is probably one of the most fundamental understandings for enhancing life I know.

All knowing is doing
"All doing is knowing and
all knowing is doing"
 Humberto Maturana

According to Dr. Humberto Maturana, an influential Systems Theorist, Biologist and Philosopher, all true knowing involves action. You don’t really know something until you can use it. This is the difference between knowledge and information. Facts are merely data you have available and don’t translate into true knowing and skill until you can use them. The key to wisdom and knowing involves using your knowledge to create positive change in your world.

The importance of understanding that “all knowing is doing” is in ensuring you stay out of the trap of thinking that data and information equals knowledge. Knowledge involves integrated understanding about using data in ecological ways -- about intentions, actions and consequences of the data. Knowledge is powerful, but only when it involves successful doing. The saying “with a little bit of knowledge we’re dangerous” is a reflection on the difference between facts versus an integrated mastery of knowing.

To support happiness and meaning in your life, ensure you put knowledge into action. Apply your learnings to your life and the lives of others. Make a positive difference and integrate your experiences through self-reflection and a focus on feedback and choice.

We are what we do

"We are what we do"
Robert Ornstein

Dr. Robert Ornstein, a noted Psychologist and Neuro-Scientist, makes the point in his many pivotal books, that we become what we repeatedly do. Our personalities and identities are influenced by repeated behaviour and experience. The insight from Ornstein's work and research is that we are made up of a 'multi-mind' of relatively simple and autonomous processes -- a society of mind -- that is created and influenced by our actions and experiences in the world; by what we do. Our actions modify the neural networks of our brains and create lasting 'parts'.

According to Ornstein: "We think our conscious mind, 'the self', is in control, but in fact it is a small isolated part of the mind, sometimes called into play by consciousness, most often on the sidelines. We have many minds that shift into place, and 'we' are not the same person from moment to moment, not the same 'self' at all". Our self is in large measure generated by what we do and what we learn to do. The import of this deep insight is that we need to be careful what we do, since behaviour alters and influences the mind in lasting ways. We also need to learn to communicate and negotiate with the various parts of our multi-mind in order to guide and direct our lives. I'll blog more about this in coming entries.

Now lets combine and link these thinking tools

If it's true that 'we are what we do'  and 'all doing is knowing and all knowing is doing' then it is an obvious extension that:

"We are what we know"

Read that again... 'we are what we know!'. Surely this is a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious), but let's examine this and it's import in detail, as it has deep links to the notion of Life Enhancing.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.

We are what we know!

This statement claims that our identity, our sense of self, who we 'are' is entwined and determined in large measure by what we know. Our knowledge, learning, skills and processes of 'knowing' make us who we are. Our knowledge and knowing changes the structure of our brains and the connections in our neural patterning systems.

Extreme cases such as 'wild children' - feral children who have been brought up by wild animals, or who have been locked away with no human interaction for the first several years of their lives - show how crucial the early years of learning are on the formation of the human self.

According to Wikipedia: "Feral children lack the basic social skills which are normally learned in the process of enculturation. For example, they may be unable to learn to use a toilet, have trouble learning to walk upright and display a complete lack of interest in the human activity around them."

The evidence shows that wild children are never able to be fully integrated into society or be taught and socialised to become 'normal'. As we grow up, in the normal social and cognitive world of our society, we learn what and how to act and operate. We learn norms of behaviour and appropriate responses. We learn myriads of skills that form our unconscious competencies. And we learn the stories and roles that define us.

At the heart of this, what makes us human are the underlying processes of languaging and learning - the embodiment and instantiation of knowledge and knowing and how we bring this forth in the world. As the field of NLP highlights, each of us operates, not off the world itself, but off a map or model of the world - a reality tunnel, that is a deleted, generalised and distorted representation of the world.

Through the active process of 'knowing' - exploring and expanding our models of the world - we come to 'be' more, we expand our identity and the scope of operation of our consciousness. We get more life and are able to do more enhanced living through increased knowing.

When looked at from this perspective, it's obvious that 'we are what we know' and therefore knowing is life enhancing. The more you learn and know, the more you can be and do in the world. Knowledge really is power.

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
Martin Luther King, Jr

Ignorance is NOT bliss, Ignorance is Dangerous

Let's for a moment look at the flip side of knowing -- ignorance, self-deception and stupidity. It might seem obvious, but ignorance and stupidity are dangerous. They can kill you. At the very least, they severely impact your success and happiness.

If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy people?

Ignorance is NOT bliss! Ignorance is risky and dangerous. Ignorance can kill you! Lack of knowledge, stupidity and deception of yourself and others are all life denying and serve to diminish meaning in your life.

Some of the dangers of ignorance are:
  • You can’t prepare
  • You can’t see what’s coming
  • It limits your choices and power
  • Amplifies consequences
  • Leads to more mistakes and greater costs
While most people would agree with this, nevertheless, the majority of people are largely ignorant of the most important things and processes in their life. They don’t know how their mind, brain and body works. They don’t know how they unconsciously generate their own reality and happiness. They don’t know the enemies to their success and happiness. They can’t even articulate their values and core beliefs, let alone improve and refine them for greater success in their life.

Such ignorance means they end up living average and unhappy lives. They make stupid mistakes that cost them peace of mind. They bounce from failure to failure in their relationships, finances, careers and health.

The outcome of this blog

This blog and the skills you’ll gain from following and reading it are designed to combat that ignorance. The outcome of this blog is to bring forth awareness, expansion of knowledge, and the development of new skills and mastery. Knowledge and choice provide power and control. By instilling in your unconscious mind a desire for learning and a passionate move away repulsion from ignorance and self-deception, you will make an incredible and life enhancing difference to your happiness, your life and the lives of those you care about.

Law of Requisite Knowing

Remember the ‘Law of Requisite Variety’ from previous blog entries? This is a mathematically provable theorem from Systems Theory that says that the element that has the most requisite variety or flexibility will be the controlling element of a system. This can be summarised as the thinking tool: Choice = Control. What this means is that if you want more control in life, you have to have more choice and flexibility.

There is a sister theorem to this known as the ‘Law of Requisite Knowledge’. This related theorem states that as the requisite variety and complexity increases in a system, you need more knowledge about which choices to use in order to control the system. What this is saying is that in any system, to gain more control you need both more knowledge and flexibility. You need the choice to act along with the knowledge and skill to act appropriately.

What these theories tell you is that knowledge and skill are incredibly important for control over your life and your environment. Learning and knowledge increase your power in life. Ignorance is dangerous and life denying. Wisdom and knowledge are the keys to creating life enhancing happiness, joy and meaning.

Thinking Tools – Requisite Knowing:

Knowledge + Choice = Control
We are what we know!

Knowledge Provides Choice and Power

In summary: To enhance your life, you need to fill yourself with a desire for knowledge, wanton curiosity about the world, and an ever increasing store of wisdom and skill. Knowledge brings freedom, choice and control. We are what we life enhancingly know!

So inspire yourself to learn and do more. Never stop learning! Read more books. Take up short courses. Become a voracious learner. Share your knowledge by teaching others. Write a blog. Research continuously for new and life enhancing knowledge and skills on the internet. Connect with other learners.

Make knowledge, learning, wisdom and understanding the highest values in your life, and they will enhance your life immeasurably.

Want to learn more, get a copy of my book: Avoiding the Enemies to HAPPINESS!

life enhancing great wishes,

Highly recommended books by Humberto Maturana:

Highly recommended books by Robert Ornstein:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Creating Empowering Beliefs

"Belief is Power. The power to create. We create our reality simply by what we agree to believe.”
Ray Dodd, The Power of Belief

As you know, Beliefs are powerful and life enhancingly important. This week's blog entry continues with our short excursion into the process and skills of believing and how to change limiting 'beliefs' into empowering ones. Remember from last week's blog that you don't 'have beliefs', instead you do the process of believing and the keys to the structure of this are submodalities.

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Limiting and negative beliefs and attitudes are life denying. Many of these are unconsciously installed by our culture and the micro-culture of our family. They are often so ingrained and unquestioned that at first you may not be aware of them.

Have you ever travelled overseas to another culture and noticed how many strange and unusual customs there are? The inhabitants of that country think their customs and beliefs, their societal and cultural norms and practices, are totally sensible and normal. Yet, to your eyes they can appear crazy and non-sensical. Well, guess what, a traveller visiting your world would find your customs and beliefs equally weird and wonderful.

This is not an issue when your beliefs, values and generalisations are life enhancing and support meaning and happiness in your life. However, your beliefs and attitudes often don’t fully serve you. They are habitual patterns, mostly performed outside your conscious awareness, and can undermine your happiness and peace of mind. It’s vital that you become aware of these life denying, unnecessary self-imposed limitations and learn how to replace them with empowering alternatives.

The fields of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) have generated a lot of research on limiting and negative irrational beliefs and how they become automatic and streamlined into unconscious strategies that limit your ability to cope with life. Such negative and pessimistic thoughts and self-talk can occur when you are under stress and can cause emotional and physical reactions.

The following is a list of typical negative irrational beliefs. Take a look through and mark off those that you indulge in:
  • In order to be happy, I have to be successful in whatever I undertake
  • My happiness depends on my performance
  • I must be accepted (liked, approved, admired) by all people at all times
  • I just can’t be happy without love
  • I should always be able, successful, and on top of things; if I'm not, I'm an inadequate, incompetent, hopeless failure
  • Happiness is having everything I want without giving up anything!
  • When things do not go the way I want and plan, it is terrible and I can't stand it!
  • I am hopeless and worthless
Think about and list any negative believing you have been doing in your life or that you have used unconsciously to limit yourself. Now let's turn those around and replace them with empowering believing that's more life enhancing.

Creating Empowering Beliefs

To replace limiting and unsupportive 'beliefs' -- unsupportive believing -- you can’t simply get rid of it; your unconscious mind resists change that takes something away. Instead, you have to replace old beliefs with new ones. This is quite easily done using submodality shifts so that you zoom away the old beliefs, and zoom in the new ones.

First, generate new positive beliefs that you like the idea of having. Create a list of powerful supportive ideas and beliefs. Attitudes of success. Then use the following 'New Belief Generator' process described below to install the new beliefs in place of old negative beliefs.

Here is a list of empowering beliefs garnered from the field of Cognitive Psychology to get you started:
  • I am a worthwhile person and I deserve and can easily achieve happiness
  • I give myself Unconditional Self Acceptance
  • Happiness is a skill that I can learn and continue improving in fun and powerful ways – I am a happiness master!
  • I can wonderfully embody attitudes of happiness and success
  • I am an Optimist and can easily cope with setbacks
  • I see setbacks as challenges that bring new opportunities and learnings and that I can overcome
  • I am a fallible human being and I forgive myself and empower myself to realise that even when I don’t get what I want I can still live a worthwhile and happy life
  • There is no failure, only feedback; I learn from my mistakes and get satisfaction in overcoming obstacles
  • I have High Frustration Tolerance, and know I can experience happiness as a choice, even when my preferences aren’t being met
  • I am a worthwhile and happy person and I know it!

The real key to amplifying and owning a new belief is to make it bright and big and bold. Fill the belief with colour and movement, so that it engenders fantastic juicy feelings. Add music and surround-sound to the image. Really amplify and enhance it. By repeating this process a minimum of three times you’ll create a new pattern of believing in your life and your unconscious mind will continue to embody the attitude in powerful ways.

New Belief Generator
  1. Picture and think about the belief you want to change. Elicit the submodalities of this image. Notice its size and position, distance and brightness. Is it coloured, is it focused, does it have a border or is it panoramic? Is it still or a movie? Write down the submodalities to use later in the strategy.
  2. Think about and picture something you really don’t believe. Something you just cannot believe at all. Elicit the submodalities of this ‘Don’t believe it’ belief. Write them down.
  3. Create a new, more empowering belief. You may not totally believe it yet, but decide on a belief you’d like to have. Write it up in bright bold colours. Refine it. Make it impactful in its wording and description.
  4. Now, take the image of the belief you want to get rid of and zoom the image off into the distance, getting smaller and smaller, then bring it back but to the size, position and other submodalities of the ‘Don’t believe it’ image. Repeat this process 3 to 5 times. You may have to do this whole process with an ‘as if’ quality. Not everyone sees the images in their minds eye with total life-like quality, and it doesn’t seem to matter for the effectiveness of this technique. You’ll find it will work, even if you are just imagining all this happening.
  5. Take the image of the new positive belief, and starting with it way in the distance, ZOOM it in to the submodalities of belief. Zoom it in powerfully, and as it comes in, closer and closer, make it bigger, brighter, bolder, more colourful and any other changes you’d like to see. Make a ZOOMING or SWOOSHING sound as you zoom it in. Repeat this process 3 to 5 times.
  6. Put this whole process together. Take the old negative belief and zoom it away in the distance. Bring it zooming back in to the position and submodalities of ‘I don’t believe it’ and as quickly as possible then ZOOM in the new positive belief to the position and submodalities of total belief.
  7. Lock the beliefs into position by hearing the sound of them ‘Clicking’ into place. Make a sound of a solid clicking sound in your mind or even with your voice out loud.
  8. Break state by looking around the room. Repeat steps 6 and 7 from 3 to 5 times. As quickly as you can.

Up to you

Ok, it's up to you now. This blog has given you some key life enhancing ideas, beliefs and processes to use and explore. Empowering beliefs can really make an incredible life enhancing difference to your world.

Believe this! You create your reality through what you choose to believe. So choose life enhancing and empowering beliefs now.

Want to learn more, get a copy of my book: Avoiding the Enemies to HAPPINESS!

empowering wishes

Using Your Brain - For a Change: NLP - Richard Bandler

Change Your Mind-And Keep the Change : Advanced NLP Submodalities Interventions

Belief Busting with NLP Unpacked (Audio CD)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Believe This!

"Belief is Power. The power to create. We create our reality simply by what we agree to believe.”
Ray Dodd, The Power of Belief

Beliefs are powerful and life enhancingly important. Beliefs, attitudes and values organise your behaviour and direct most aspects of your life and psychology. As Henry Ford said “whether you believe you can, or believe you can’t, either way you’re right”.

Another way of putting it is that ‘Achieving starts with believing!”. So it’s important to understand how beliefs work and then choose empowering and well-formed beliefs that serve you to enhance your life delightfully and wondrously.

Beliefs also largely set or constrain your freedom -- freedom to think, feel and act. So as part of our ongoing exploration of freedom, we'll take a short detour into beliefs and the underlying process of believing. Today's blog will be the first of a two part journey into believing.

So what are 'beliefs'?

Beliefs are generalisations or rules that you’ve come to accept as true about yourself and the world. Beliefs show up as stereotypes, prejudices and mindsets. A large number of your beliefs and attitudes are outside your conscious awareness. It takes work and insight to bring them to conscious consideration. There’s much research to show that large differences can exist between your espoused or conscious beliefs and your operating beliefs, your ‘beliefs-in-action’. This is the crucial difference between what you say and what you actually do.

Why aren't we taught this?

Given the importance and power of beliefs, you’d think it would be something you’d be taught at school, something that society would encourage and educate deeply about. But I bet you've never had a class called ‘Empowering Beliefs 101’. Well, let’s remedy that here and now.

Since knowledge is power, let’s learn about the process of generating and changing 'beliefs' and how the process of believing influences your unconscious mind and the minds of others. Let's examine your limiting and negative beliefs and mindsets and provide you with an NLP technique you can use to install success strategies for tracking and overcoming self-imposed limitations and replacing them with wondrous and supportive beliefs and attitudes. Sound useful and interesting?

Beliefs 101

One of the first things to understand about beliefs is they don’t actually exist! Yes, that’s right. You’ve never seen a belief. Ever. You’ve only ever seen the process or behaviour of believing. Think about it.

In NLP, the word ‘belief’ is what’s called a nominalisation. A nominalisation is a verb, or doing word, that has been turned into a noun, turned into an object or ‘thing’. Language is powerful. It’s how you do most of your thinking, your communicating. It’s how you organise, filter and make sense of your world. It’s a very powerful representational system. And like any powerful system, can be used appropriately or misused.

We typically use nominalisations to fix an ongoing process into a static object so we can get a handle on it, to talk about it. But in doing this, we distort our reality and if we’re not careful we end up mistaking our map for the territory. This distorting can lead to un-sane (not totally sane) thinking and behaviour, creating problems in our lives.

Belief as a disguised verb

Since beliefs are NOT objects, we don’thave’ beliefs. Instead, we do a process of believing, and this process for most people is done outside of conscious awareness. It’s done with unconscious competence. You can’t hold a belief in your hand, or sit it on the table; you can’t go buy one from the shopping mall. So you don't have beliefs, instead you really do the process of believing (or disbelieving). And this process is a skill and has a structure.

How do we do the process of believing?

The process of believing involves forming generalisations from experience or learning them from other people, from society, family and friends. NLP has shown that when you ‘believe’ a generalisation, you unconsciously use a set of submodalities with it. Remember, submodalities are the sub-components of each of your sensory modalities. For example, visual submodalities are elements in your internal visual experience such as how close your pictures are, what size they are, where they are located in your visual field, whether they are focused, black and white, colored etc.

Let’s do a practical demonstration of this. Think of something you strongly believe in or that's an important 'belief' for you, and picture it or some representation of it in your mind’s eye. Notice the submodalities of the picture. How big is the picture, where is it in space, how far is it from you, is it coloured or black-and-white? How clear or focused is it?

Now, think of something you don’t believe and notice the submodalities of this. You’ll find some very big differences between the submodalities of what you believe and what you don’t believe.

Now just for the moment, perform this experiment. Take the image of what you believe strongly and shift the picture to have the same submodalities (size, position, distance, colours, focus etc.) of the thing you don’t believe. Now notice your subjective experience. If you’ve accurately changed the submodalities, you’ll typically find that it no longer seems quite so believable. Even though the content of the image is the same, when you picture it with different submodalities, it changes how you think and feel about the belief. It changes how you are ‘believing’ the generalisation that you are picturing. [Now make sure you put the belief back to where it belongs, back to it's original set of submodalities.]

How amazing is that! It’s so so simple to change a belief… to change ‘how’ you are believing.

What can you do with this?

Ok, so what can you do with this knowledge? Well, for a start you can begin to become aware of the submodalities of your various 'beliefs' -- how you are doing believing of the generalisations that organise your mind, perceptions and ultimately your life.

You can then consciously choose which beliefs support you and which you want to change or replace to enhance your freedom and your life.

Changing and revaluing beliefs is simple and powerful and one of the most fundamental processes you can do to enhance your life.

In next week's blog entry we'll explore typical negative and disempowering beliefs gleaned from the field of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and provide you with a powerful NLP technique for installing new more empowering beliefs.

So until then, start noticing 'how' you are believing. Increase your focus and awareness on the submodalities of your internal processing. Submodalities are how your unconscious mind encodes meaningfulness and are key components of the operating system of your mind. Explore them and play with them.

Believe this, you are truly free when you are able to control and master your submodalities and your processes of believing.

wishing you life enhancing believing,
smiles, Grant

Using Your Brain - For a Change: NLP - Richard Bandler

Change Your Mind-And Keep the Change : Advanced NLP Submodalities Interventions

Belief Busting with NLP Unpacked (Audio CD)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Freedom - part 2

Interview with Thomas Sullivan

Today's blog entry continues our exploration of 'Freedom' and its importance for enhancing a person's life by engendering attitudes that support it and beliefs that motivate it.

In this entry, I've interviewed Pulitzer prize nominated author Thomas 'Sully' Sullivan for his thoughts and advice about freedom.

Sully represents a wonderful exemplar of someone who has transcended the norm, is creative, generative, and lives a life of choice and empowerment, both through his actions in life and through his many and varied writings.

As noted in a recent online review of Sully's work: "His writings celebrate the individual and freedom".


To back this up, I recently finished reading the awesome 'The Phases of Harry Moon', the opus for which Sully received the Pulitzer nomination. In Sully's own words:
"TPOHM, is very much about rendering impossible things possible, first in inner space, and then in one's performance on the stage of life."

Whether you are reading Sully's wonderfully crafted stories, his lyrical monthly 'Sullygram' newsletter [], or his daily tweets [], you'll often find him x-country skiing at midnight, amongst a moon-light reflected field of snow crystals, or paddling on a nearby lake, revelling in the freedom of life and nature. Sully makes the most of life, living it with passion and sharing freely with those of us who appreciate these values.

So I'll leave you now in the capable hands of Sully as he contemplates the questions I proposed about freedom, what it is and how best to create it in your own life.

Q. How do you define freedom? What is freedom for you? Why do you think its life enhancing and important?

At this point in my life I define freedom as having choices, top to bottom.  Not just choices in what I do, how I use my time, where I go, how much I spend, what I eat, what I wear, the car I drive and so forth; but choices in how I think and who I spend time with and what is worth my attention.

It is a much more nuanced state now than, say, when I was a teenager, because I am much more aware of prerogatives now.  In fact, I have become more of an existentialist in this regard -- existentialism being defined (or mis-defined) by me as an awareness of prerogatives.

Another critical aspect of freedom/choice for me is that I'm relatively free of fear and guilt.  I don't mean the fundamental kind of fears that secure our physical well-being, or the healthy guilt that gives us empathy for our species.  I mean the utterly useless and cowardly fears and guilt that drive us toward conformity, make us serve the opinions of others, and force us underground in conflict with ourselves.  Those are the enemies of freedom.

For me, freedom is almost too central to be called life enhancing as if it is a mere add-on to one's fundamental state.  It is a core need, and the tolerance for freedom and the degree of need are distinguishing differences among people.  Can one exist under total control and virtually no choice?  Yes… but that's tantamount to being on life support with no brain waves.  Freedom is the difference between living and just existing.

Q. How do you motivate yourself to stay free and overcome the limitations and expectations of society that attempt to constrain your freedom?

Wow.  Life's dynamite question.

But how to answer in less than a book?

Okay.  A little perspective 101 here: we all give up some freedom/choice to gain security.  Laws are just such a social contract (e.g. I'll give up my freedom to rob you for the security that you won't rob me).  So that's a given.  What I want to focus on here aren't the constraints on freedom that protect body or property.  Rather they have to do with one's personal control, movements, expressions and the interactions of relationships.

When we make mental, emotional or spiritual representations by our words or lifestyle choices they carry implications for the society or individuals around us that can range from threatening to affirming.  They can create bonds or alienations, friends or enemies, the beginnings or endings of love.  And, since those words and lifestyle choices are indicators of our thoughts and feelings, they are subject to interpretation and appearances.  Hence, our complex psychological interactions based on social pressure, mores, values, intimidation, manipulation, denial, façades, etc.  It is impossible to live completely free of that.  (Come up for air, Sully!)

Like I said, all of this is just context for framing an answer here.  So when you ask how I stay free, the reply is that I dodge most of the part that is social/relationship pressure and hypocrisy by daily re-connecting with what I think is honest in life.

Yeah, nature is a huge source for me -- a model for truths.  Not just crazy things I do with recreation, but what is there to be discovered, analyzed and celebrated.  Nothing helps me sort through the vanities and ulterior motives of man better than the cycles and strategies for survival in nature.  I also believe that when you stand true to your own heart/mind/soul you get the best outcomes long-term for yourself and the world around you.  You can't get that by living lies with no escape, no sanctuary.

Many people suffer lives of quiet desperation, sincerely believing that sacrificing who they are for appearances that fit their circumstances is the correct and noble thing to do.  It never honors their circumstances, and it seldom fools anyone in the long run.  And if it does the latter, well, then you’ve fooled someone, but you've also fooled yourself.  Maybe that's all right in a comfortable existence.  It's not all right for me.

The truth will set you free, as they say, and truth is very emancipating to me.  Being fooled is antithetical to that.  So I'm constantly struggling for personal honesty and greater insight.  Self-honesty is ever a work in progress, but I think I do relatively well with it.  We can do that within ourselves because we have absolute control.  Not so with the externals.  There you have virtually no control.

I have less tolerance for being fooled than most people.  I have a greater need for control of my life but I absolutely don't want to control anyone else's, because controlling someone else exposes me to being fooled.  In fact, my first reflex when trust is demanded of me is to give the other party every opportunity to betray it, because I’d rather know up front that I lost something than find out in slow motion over lost time that I never really had it.  I guess that's just an acid test -- a way to simplify and make that part of life I can't control self-regulating.

If you have to ask for something that comes from the emotional bonding part of social interaction, you will probably never truly get it, because you have just cued that person(s) to give it to you.  Demands, soft or implied, are never as satisfying as what comes to you intuitively or voluntarily.  Hey, is that an effective way to handle insecurity or what?  (Or maybe it's just a way to intensify the best things in life…shhh, just sayin’.)

Intensifying passions really is my conscious motive and has been since I was a teenager.  Another way to put it is that I place a very high priority on honesty for anything seriously close to me (but shameless dishonesty from anything that is not close to me is no problem!).  So you see how freedom depends on control for me and control, in practice, depends on keeping things simple (yeah, right), and the whole thing depends on honesty.  Honesty is sort of the nutrient.  Without it, even the potential for growth is not possible.  (Say goodbye, Sully.)

Okay.  I’ve snuck up on a conclusion.  I try to live as honestly as I can.  There.  A simple answer with a lot of complex premises!

[Note to self: if Grant Soosalu ever asks a question like this again, feign amnesia.]

Q. What advice do you have for people with regards to freedom, choice and flexibility?

Hurry up and outgrow your crippling fears and guilt.  The sooner you get there, the more fulfilling and happy your life will be (and the less unhappiness will become ingrained).  Wait too long and you may find yourself old and enslaved by the habit of negative thinking.  It takes a little courage.  But the end result will be that you'll have shed two things that controlled you -- fear and guilt -- and those, my friends, are the two biggest steps toward freedom you'll ever take.

Whether or not you let the world see your self-honesty doesn't really matter.  It's always nice if you can find relationships and environments where you can be your honest self, but if you can't, at least find a private sanctuary with no façades.  Every day.  Control, honesty, choice: all related and all essential to freedom.  Eat your heart out, if you think I'm going to say more than that.  I went long on the last question.

Q. What beliefs, attitudes and values do you live and embody that support you being free and allow you to live the wonderful life that you do?

This is going to sound like a contradiction, but the most enhancing thing I get out of freedom is the potential to sacrifice it for some cause or someone.  That is not so much altruism as it is romanticism.  I am a romantic idealist.  This is my yellow brick road to the most perfect world I can have.  Whether or not I actually get to exercise that romantic potential, doing so would be the ultimate free choice.  So the more free I am, the more I have to offer by such a sacrifice.

I've given myself heart-and-soul to causes several times in my life; I've taken a child wholly into my life twice; I've found true love once.  Those were ultimates.  But if none of those things had happened, I would still want to be a person who could have done them.  That kind of enhancement is what my life is all about.

Depth of feeling is my drug.  Such Uber-Passion kickstarts energy and imagination.  It's not for everyone; but maybe it should be.  And again, it doesn't necessarily have to be exercised in order to yield rewards.  It's having your thoughts and your feelings honed that matters.

I think most people yearn to be more honest in their thoughts, to be fearlessly open and free, but are afraid of what they might lose.  Their secret dread is that the truth will expose them as unworthy.  I see this every day in the way that people react.  And I don't mean this as something I should get credit for, but strangers open up to me almost instantly.  It’s as if I’m a non-person, some not quite human free spirit who spouts poetic fantasies and therefore doesn’t count.  I don’t know how to explain that except that maybe they see the freedom in my thoughts and want desperately to believe it will allow me to understand them without judgments or shock or disrespect.

Q. In your writing, how does the leitmotif of freedom inform your work and the characters and themes in your books and stories? And how is this reflected in your own life?

It is almost always there in my work, implicit in an abundance of free-spirited characters who search for truth, but the market is driven by mostly thing & event plots rather than idea & emotion characters.  So my thrillers tend to run on adrenaline in physical situations.

But for the reader who wants deeper internal conflicts, I like to think my characters fill the bill, particularly in that they are often struggling for control of their lives and with self-honesty -- truth seekers, if you will, reaching for the courage to live their convictions.  Control and self-honesty, as indicated in my prior answers, are the bedrock of freedom for me.

Other than my Pulitzer Prize-nommed THE PHASES OF HARRY MOON, most of the mainstream/contemporary/literary fiction I’ve written remains unpublished.  But in that languishing body of work you would find the subject of freedom/control/self-honesty to be front and center.

Perhaps my magnum opus in that regard is a book titled H.E.R.S. & H.I.M.S., which almost went directly to film after it failed to attract a publisher.  Its political incorrectness made it ultimately too risky at the time when a major Hollywood producer (who had 18 films, including one blockbuster to his credits) was interested.  The novel’s candid assessment of modern marriage would probably still offend either gender.

And another unpublished novel of mine, very much in the free-spirited theme, is DRUMMERS ON GLASS, which E. P. Dutton once purchased for hardcover.  When they demised their entire trade division temporarily, the contract got caught up between two imprints for a couple of years until I finally asked for and received a reversion of rights.  I have not gone back to market with that one because I’ve been publishing thrillers, but its unfettered and eccentric characters are very much what we’re talking about here.

PostScript: What a diabolic interview!  That man behind the curtain is Grant Soosalu, who concocts the most telling inquiries into the most intriguing (and relevant) subjects.  Thanks for that, Grant, and for having the courage and insight to chase down the elusive keys to positive living.  You enlarge the available world.

best wishes, Sully

And for those interested in reading some of Sully's books: