THE UNIVERSAL MAN – EP 23 -THE ZONE

In this week’s episode Pricey interviews Grego about The Zone.

PRICEY: The number of times I’m chatting with you, and you’ll talk about a zone. You’ll say, “When the guy was in his zone”; “When actually I was in the zone”. And obviously that’s a really important thing. What do you mean by a zone?

I’ll tell you a story to start this off. I remember I was coaching rugby at GPS Premier Rugby in Brisbane many years ago. And I was hanging out with a coach guy called Matt Pini who played for the Queensland Reds and Italy.

And one of the wingers from GPS ran down the touchline, did an amazing step or two, dived over in corner, scored this incredible try. And he was a goal kicker. And he’d been having a bit of an off few weeks, but he walked back, put the ball on the tee, and never for a second looked like missing. He just put it straight over. And the reason was, he was in the zone, and he was in the zone as a result of his run, as a result of him playing to the absolute peak of his ability.

So zone is when you are operating at the peak of your ability, where the challenge matches your skill. It is where you have full attention to the external world, so you’re having to operate at your peak. You’re responding to the external world, both physically and mentally; fully aware and fully engaged. Zero distraction. Right, is it important?

PRICEY: Hold it. Just before you get into why, I think I’ve actually experienced that. I know I’ve actually worked with a large group, and every now and again, I will have a difficult group. I will be the actual facilitator, and I find I go into this thing where I’m totally focused, but not only am I totally focused, I’m trusting my skills. I’ve almost got this gut-level skill, I’ve been in that space, I know what has worked, I’ve got attention on them. I’m not worried about the ego, and whether Damien’s gonna stuff up, I almost zone in. I narrow in on the audience, I’m trusting my particular skills. It comes from deep within, and all of a sudden, it’s almost as if … It’s a weird feeling, like I’m focused, I’m there, and I’m in the zone. And it’s fantastic.

Greg Layton: That’s a beautiful example, and I have those sorts of experiences when I’m coaching as well. What you also find is things like time will slow down.

There is a set of neurochemicals that get released. I won’t sit and go through them, but basically this is like a cocktail of awesomeness that goes into the body. That’s why you get this wonderful sense, or a real sense of good feeling afterwards: adrenaline, oxytocin and serotonin are streaming through your bloodstream. They make you feel great; they’re really good for your immune system and your body. The thing is, there are many different types of zone or flow, depending on what you’re really good at … it may be playing a musical instrument, or playing in a band. You might be public speaking or coaching. Let’s say you’re an engineer, and you’ve got this incredible piece of work in front of you, and you’re just totally immersed in the design, and you’re using every part of your skill to absolutely nail this job.

Right, and you’ll have this great sense after … You might come out two hours later and go, “Wow, that was fast. Gee, I enjoyed that.” You might have some good music going as well, so there’s a rhythm to it, there’s a focus to it, there’s a biochemical part to it. It is incredibly good for you.

PRICEY: I actually had an experience. I was at a dinner a week or two ago. And the man who the move Mao’s Last Dancer was made about was giving a talk. And he got up, and he didn’t have one single note. He spoke for about 40 minutes, but you felt there was an energy there. Now, I’m sure he’s given that talk many, many times. But I didn’t feel as though he was just going over the same old talk. I felt he was listening to us, he was trusting his own self. We were the total focus of this particular man.

GREGO: In those moments, you are so in tune with your skills, that they happen without you thinking. And that’s one of the things about the zone is … you know, sometimes … like perhaps when you’re facilitating, you’ll say something, and you’ll go, “Gee, that was quite good, where did that come from?”

PRICEY: Where did that come from? Yeah. I’ve actually had that.

GREGO: Or if you’re a surfer, you’ll be going along and something tricky will happen on the way. You’ll do a move you didn’t know you could do. And so what they discovered, there’s some amazing work done around the field of extreme sports, and the way people operate under intense pressure. So very highly skilled, extreme sport athletes. And what they discovered is when they’re in the zone, there’s certain brain waves are flowing, right? And the brain wave that is responsible for incredible insight in the world, the gamma wave, only fires when you’re in the zone.

PRICEY: You know, one of the things I’m thinking here is, I’d imagine if you work hard, and you worked hard on the actual skills, and you’ve practised the actual skills, and you’ve got into a pattern of using those particular skills, and you’re trusting your own actual self, in the zone, another deeper level of skill or awareness comes up, which you didn’t know you actually had.
GREGO: Exactly. That is exactly what happens, and often if you see … The easiest one is on the sporting field; you see somebody go … They do something, they go, “That was magic.” The utmost skill, the best thing you ever seen. The athlete never planned it. Like it was just totally in the zone. Often they’ll look back and go, “I can’t believe I did that.” Like, “I don’t even know where it came from.” Right? That’s what happens in flow and in the zone.

I think the thing to remember here is, there’s many, many different types. It’s worthwhile doing for a number of reasons. One, because you’re mastering your craft, and you’re doing something to the best of your ability. Two, the biochemical response that goes through the body is fantastic for your mental health and your physical health. Absolutely. You should be doing it for that reason alone.

Which I actually have a theory that’s one reason why athletes really struggle after sport, because they’re in the zone, multiple times every single day. Every single time of the day, they’re … three or four times a day, they’re releasing the biochemicals into the body that are responsible for their mental and physical health. All of a sudden, they get switched off, ’cause they’re not going to training any more. Right, so that’s one reason I think they struggle with life after sport. And they go into the corporate world, and they’re not getting any flow at all, ’cause they’re not experts at what they’re doing just yet. So what this … zones occur when you’re doing something you’re generally an expert at. Or you’re good at, not an expert. You’re good at.

PRICEY: And just very quickly, Greg, like that zone, and you just threw in the word “flow”.
GREGO: Same thing for me. I think the two can … So the two are generally interchangeable, in my definition or this one here, where you go in flow, or you’re in the zone, or you’re in the moment. That’s what we’re talking about here at the moment.

PRICEY: And really part of the key to it is to actually trust you. You’ve worked hard, and in the trusting, an energy is released. And in the trusting, you’re almost a celebration of you.
GREGO: Yeah. So I suppose the key thing is how do you do it, right? Because when I’m working with people and I go, “Let’s look at their schedule over a week”, I’m looking for how many times they’re getting in the zone or in flow. Most people in their professional life … to be honest, a lot of the time, particularly when they get into senior roles, it can be zero times a week, right? And that’s not good. It’s not good for your mental health, not good for your physical health. We need to be able to find something. Maybe you go for a morning ride, and during that morning ride, like it’s a good course, you’re a 100% pushing yourself … A ride where you float along and do nothing doesn’t do it. There’s gotta be moments where you’re fully committed. And I think that’s what I’m talking about here; it’s not something where you’re half in, right? You’re all in.

PRICEY: Yeah, so you’re really committed, you’re all in, you’ve worked hard, you’re back to your own self.
GREGO: Yeah, you’re using your skill to the best of your ability, or you’re using your energy to the full of your ability. So do that any number of ways you can, right? So I don’t care what hobby it is. It could be anything from chess to painting to musical instruments, to rock climbing, running, cycling, swimming, walking. Probably not walking. I think walking is a level below that. More meditative rather than full zone, because it’s not complex enough, right? So this is what we’re talking about. Something that really gets you moving.

PRICEY: I’m fascinated by what stops us getting into a zone? What are the things in our day-to-day that we just don’t get into this beautiful, special space?

GREGO: Well, I think a few things. First and foremost, the number of distractions and chaos that are going on our lives, and we prioritise work or another email, one more thing over going and experiencing the world, and doing something. Or let’s just say … as I said before, I gave the example of an engineer or an architect building or creating something, and using all that creative spirit and expertise they’ve got. They do that, but they leave their email on, or they’ll leave their phone on, so they’re constantly being distracted.

So it’s almost that you’ve got to create a bubble. We’ve spoken in previous episodes about meditation. It’s a bit like this as well. You’ve got to create a set-aside time for 100% attention. And when you don’t do that, that’s when you don’t get it right.

The second thing I think, is … I know a lot of people that don’t get in the zone very often because they have stopped mastering something. They’ve stopped doing something as a hobby for the purposes of doing it. Just for the fun of doing it. So maybe they don’t learn tennis anymore, maybe they played as a kid but they don’t anymore. They don’t paint anymore, they don’t do something for the sake of doing it, and pure pleasure of doing something to the best of your ability.

PRICEY: To me Greg, one thing that I’m finding too is, I think that zone is linked to a thing that you are passionate about. It’s an area of your life that you’ve got genuine energy for, and you’ve got some natural skills in. You’ve got passion for it, but you need to hone those skills, you need to deepen that.

GREGO: That’s right, you know and that’s when you see … you know there’s the old story where there’s nothing worse than listening to the best guitarist in the world play guitar, when they don’t want to play. It’s horrible. But then also the person who wants to play guitar, they just love guitar, but boy can they not play a note. It’s just terrible you know. So they’re playing terribly but with passion. When you can put the two together, the passion and the skill, or the passion and the talent, that’s when you get something that’s really, really high quality. But when its missing, one of those two items are missing, passion or talent, then you know you get varying response.

PRICEY: Greg, what do you think is going on when you’ve seen a great tennis player or someone such as that, and for the first set they seem to be in the zone, the timing’s there, they’re focused, they’re playing some fantastic shots, and then all of a sudden, half way through the second set, something stops?
GREGO: Yeah, well normally what happens there, is their mind shifts out of the present. So, they’re thinking about results, they’re thinking about either something which just happened, which was a point they lost, or a game they lost or something that went wrong. Or they’re in the future thinking “Oh my God. I’m going to lose this game on Centre Court, in front 10000 people in the stadium, and the 15 million that are watching.”

So as soon as attention leaves the present, that opens the door for all sorts of things. Fear, ego, all that kind of stuff. So one of the ideas, and if you look at a Federer and Nadal in tennis, one thing that you will notice, is that they are always very, very present. Nadal has all his funny little mannerisms that he does all the time, to keep him in the present. He’s very deliberate with that. Federer has other ways. But if you’re going to go out and play a game of tennis, one of the things that you should try and do, is say to yourself, “I’m going to play this as in-the-moment, ‘in the flow’ all the way to the end. I’m just going to be patient. I’m just going to play the next shot, the next shot. Every single point. Every time my brain starts thinking about something previous or in the future, I’m just going to can it. Come back to just the next shot.”

PRICEY: So, we’ve got a huge link between the flow and awareness, and the choice for the present moment, and to stay in that zone.

GREGO: Exactly. Yeah, the zone is you’re 100% ‘in the moment’. There’s no future, there’s no past, you’re just responding to what’s in front of you.

PRICEY: So within that zone, there’ll be times when it’s pure and you’re just taken away, but then you’ll be distracted or something will happen … back to my example before, when I was working with that particular group, sure, that twenty minutes, half an hour, forty minutes one, really in the actual zone, then I might lose a bit of confidence or someone says something left field, I almost have to then reset it, and then focus again, and then get it going again.

GREGO: Yeah, that’s right. And so another method I suppose to maintain that is, from a coaching perspective, is put your attention back on the audience. So, an external attention as opposed to an internal attention, helps. If you’re thinking all about you, and you think about, like you said, like Nick Kyrgios who is pretty famous for having a bit of a tiff at the moment. He makes it all about him, not about the tennis. Not about the game, not about the shot, and when the attention is internal, that’s when you start thinking future, past, one of the two, so what we’re talking about is external attention in-the-moment, and then you’ll stay in the zone.
It’s exactly the same about the engineer who’s sitting down, or the architect creating something, where’s their attention? On the design.

PRICEY: You know Greg, I’ve actually had that particular thing happen to me. When I’m in the middle of working with a group, and someone will ask me a left-field kind of question, and sometimes with a bit of anger or a bit of hurt, and if I then in that zone, then choose to focus on them totally, and on their energy and their hurt or anger or whatever the particular thing is, I get that zone back.
GREGO: Exactly, as soon as you make that moment about you, then you’ve lost that little conversation anyway. So the zone is … lost what I was going to say. What else, do we think?

So Pricey, just one more thing I open the door on is, hacks. How do you get in the zone more easily, more often on a week-to-week basis, when you’re super, super busy? Now one of the things I try and do, is in-corporate the zone into my existing life as much as possible.

So if I’m going to get fit, I try, and get fit in the zone. So if I go to the gym and do a workout, I do a highly intense workout, so it requires full attention, lifting weights and all kinds of crazy stuff so that I’m in the zone, in-the-moment, right.

I try and play a bit of tennis or golf, so it requires all my attention. I’m in the zone and I’m loving it. I try not to do stuff like that, where it’s just hit and giggle. Most of the time I make it pretty serious if I can. Not as far as massively competitive, but allowing me to enjoy the zone.

I might go for a rock climb at lunch, right, and do it with a mate and we swap back and forth a couple of times. At least to get in the zone where’ve you can.

PRICEY: So this part of the zone which is kind of a stretching, the zone will stretch you beyond the skills which you think you’ve got this particular moment?
GREGO: Exactly.

PRICEY: And I think over this next week or two, I’m not going to go out there looking for the zone, like I’m looking for some Yoda figure, but I think it’s just about giving it my very best, best shot, but trusting me and giving it my total attention to that which I am passionate about, and know that the flow will come.

GREGO: It will come, absolutely. Remove all distractions. Give yourself that bubble to do whatever it is you do, to the best of your ability, and then try, and dial up your hobbies, re-engage those things, pick up the guitar again, whatever it is for you, and knock it out of the park.

 

“The unreflected / unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

Why this topic?

We live in this crazy world of noise, rush, schedules, busyness, deadlines. Sometimes in the midst of all of this we can feel lost.

It is that treadmill feeling. So many of us really want to find a method or time to just stand still, breathe in deeply and get balance and focus back.

What is meditation?

It’s a space of stillness, a space of calmness, a space where in the midst of busy-ness and noise, you can be at one. We could call this topic stillness – or oneness – or being. Meditation in its hundreds of forms is the way to achieve this state.

Many people confuse this topic with being like a Buddhist monk sitting cross legged with a ramrod straight back for an hour each day. Sure, for some that works, but ultimately each person has to find their way to achieve or access their inner peace.

This  is about finding your space or pathways to stillness and peace often in the midst of the rush and noise. So we are talking here about YOUR way to access your inner pool of stillness, quiet and strength,  sometimes when the pressure is off and sometimes in the midst of chaos. It is your doorway to being centred regardless of what is going on around you.

What does it mean?

Meditation means to think, to reflect, to consider. In the modern day, what we’re really saying when we talk about meditation is creating a space where those things happen very naturally and to the best, highest level. We live in a time when there is so much noise and rush, so often with our egos running our lives, we’re busy, busy, busy. There’s a real danger that in the midst of all of that, we don’t find the little space to slow down, to be still and that means we can lose our sense of self.

What we want to achieve here is to find OUR way to listen inside, to hear the deeper message that can only be heard when you are still and quiet!

How do we become aware of the messages in the midst of all the rush of life and learn from them?

So for us ‘meditation’ can be anything from the one hour sit in the early morning accompanied by breathing exercises and mantras to the ten second breathing, centring focus on nature or body sensation just before your next meeting and everything in between.

But the results are the same or similar. It’s that clarity that you can get from the deeper wisdom that you can unlock when you meditate, and listen not just to your own voice, but the world around you and inside of you.

Longer forms of meditation

One of the great benefits of longer forms of meditation is that they give you more space, a chance for a rhythm to develop – of breathing, of increased awareness, of gently going beyond distractions. The longer meditation form invites you to wait silently and patiently and listen for the wisdom. That’s the real benefit of meditation. That actual wisdom will often first come in a gut feeling. It is as if you get an intuition, you get still, you’re silent, you’re calm. And that’s when you become aware of the gut feeling. That’s where the little whisper voice, the little image comes and you’re not going to hear that, you’re not going to feel that if it’s go, go, go rush, rush, rush.

The inner wisdom comes in its own time – not yours. And it comes when you are not waiting for it as an end in itself; it comes when you create the inner space for it to be heard or felt. You don’t have to be sitting cross legged either. For some it is the long walk – run – surf – it can be the quiet sit with a long piece of music or engaged in some form of art. The medium is not set in stone – the only litmus test is what works for you.

Discipline here is vital though. Like every form of skill development you need to work at it and it will take time to develop. Part of that discipline will be to find the time and the place that works for you. For Pricey who travels a lot he will often he meditate on a flight. Many people find early morning suits them. Some people have their favourite place. Some light a candle, others use gentle background music. Again – it does not matter – the only litmus test is what works for you.

Short Sharp and focussed

But often it’s the small times that can be the most effective. Particularly in the modern world, where most of the guys who are listening to this can’t find an hour a day to meditate. Sure some of us go through patches where we can meditate daily for an hour – fantastic. But what are ways that work in this crazy busy world? Here are some, but again, find what form or combination of forms works for you. You will find that all of them in some way have silence in them; that is one of the common treads. In all meditation forms in some way there will be;

  1. Silence
  2. Deliberate Aware Breathing
  3. Sense Awareness
  4. Distraction aware – then let go.

Distraction will always be there; expect it – but not as a battle to be won but as a friend to walk with. When you become aware of the distraction, you become aware of the actual monkey mind, all the methods in one way or another have that awareness and then a letting go. From the letting go you will learn to ‘fall deeper’ into awareness or silence or stillness. You will be in awe of the effect – not matter how short your ‘meditation’ time is.

Some methods

The five to 15 minute reset

You are in the middle of a busy day – phone going hot, emails like a reversing beeper. You plan for it, you close the door, turn the phone off and switch off the computer. Then:

  1. Take ten long slow breaths. Pause – look around you.
  2. Close your eyes and take ten long slow breaths again.
  3. Become aware of your body sensations – don’t try to do anything about them – just become aware of them.
  4. Then a final ten long slow breaths followed by a minute of just sitting in silence.

Mini sensory meditation.

Simply close your eyes and go through your senses. Firstly listen and become aware of all the sounds around you, feel your breathing going in and out, breath in deeply the scents of the day, open your eyes and take in the beauty around you. This mini meditation works best in a small park or by a river.

Breath Meditation

Just breathing and in fact being focused on your breathing, and so as you breathe soften your vision, so you’re not focused on anything in particular.  Softening means open peripheral vision, nice softening in the vision, and then just breathing.

There’s a real trick to the breathing. It’s called the Circadian rhythm and essentially it’s how many seconds you breathe in for, how many seconds you pause, how many seconds you breathe out, and how many seconds you pause. So there’s a cycle, there’s those four steps. Now the key is that the cycle should be as even as possible, so if you breathe in for two seconds, and pause for one, then breathe out for two seconds and pause for one. Then breathe in for two, and pause for one. And also when you breathe in make sure it’s an evenly smooth breath. It’s got an evenness to it, and when you breathe out, it’s also even, not rushed.

The methods just named take the energy away from the noise and rush and busyness (and often ego) and channel it back to your inner true self.

The Power of NOW

Pricey is a big fan of a guy called Eckhart Tolle who  talks about the Power of Now. The power is to be present in the NOW, in the present moment wherever you are to find a space of awareness. And all you have to do to access your inner wisdom and voice is to be aware. As simple and yet as difficult (and yet as profound) as that!

See if you can become aware for ten seconds without distraction – then later that day twenty seconds. Try to do it three or four times a day – just BE in the present moment but be there AWARE. You will be in awe of the results.

Nature meditation

When you can get out into nature. Not only is it good for your mental and physical health, it WILL bring you into the present moment and aware. Greg recalls being at Victoria Falls, the enormity and power of the falls just blew him away. When you lose yourself in the beauty and the amazingness of nature it is a powerful thing and a great doorway to an inner awareness beyond ego. Nature, whether huge like Victoria Falls or small like a flower can truly gift you with a greater sense of self.

e. Loving kindness

This one may surprise people but often to deliberately choose random acts of kindness can bring you into greater self-awareness, balance and wisdom. It is a mindset / heart set. It is choosing a bit of a state of saying, right I’m going to drop all the hate in my life, I’m just going to forgive people and love them for who they are, and be kind.

When this happens so often the stress and the troubles of life just fade away and you are left with peace and a smile on the face!

Ego aware

Come into the present throughout your day and this time be aware of that little ego voice that sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear. The ego’s whispering in our ear, and the ego loves fights, it loves us versus them. So when I become aware, almost step back from the ego voice as if I’m someone else observing it. So there’s this Damien, and he’s fighting all these battles and he wants to beat that person, win and lose and all those sorts of things. I’m stepping back, I’m aware of it, I listen and then I just observe, and often when I observe, the gut feeling comes up, that wisdom voice comes up and I can see what is really going on – which then takes away the power of the ego.

Presence

The fruit of everything we are talking about is presence. As you begin to live more in the now, be less reactive to ego, able to discipline yourself with greater periods of silence and awareness, this will all lead to presence and to its cousin gratitude.

As you become more aware and less responsive to ego you will grow to value yourself more but also value life and be grateful for all that you are and have.

The Science backs us up Meditation (small or great) like exercise trips the mind into a different space. When you go back to being more present more neuro-chemicals are released. During meditation the release of neurochemicals have been proven to really drive good health, improve your immune system, slow your heart rate down, have an incredible effect on your entire health and well-being.

Pitfalls

A lot of people have tried meditation in some form and feel that they have failed. Why?

1. Monkey Mind: Monkey mind are those hundreds of constant little words or ideas or thoughts that pop into your head and just drive you crazy. There is no other answer here other than to know that they will come and then – quietly, simply, without a fight – let the idea / voice go and come back to centre. So if you doing a breathing exercise and a little thought just pops in your head, you get distracted for 60 seconds, hold, just come back to your breathing, and don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s okay, everybody goes through that – everybody does it. Just come back to centre. Keep coming back to centre, it’s almost like the brain has been so distracted for so long, that when you try and focus on one thing, for a set period of time, it likes the attention and so it gets distracted by anything, so just keep coming back to centre, and keep coming back to centre, keep coming back to centre, and you’ll work it out.

2. Waiting for ‘the voice’ – waiting for ‘the wisdom’ the bolt of lightning – the voice from heaven. This is the sure recipe for disaster. If you are waiting for the ‘answer’ or whatever that is the surest way to ensure it does not come. You’re waiting for the voice, you’re sitting there, you’re doing one of the things we’ve just been saying, and you’re waiting for the deep wisdom voice that’s going to say the most profound things. Yoda’s going to appear over your shoulder and say something profound, “Damien and Greg, the Force is with you!” And you know, and so you’re sitting there, and at the back of your mind, deep within you, you’re waiting, waiting, waiting and that becomes the worst thing. So go into, be in the space and don’t expect anything, just be in the space. Trust it – when it is meant to happen – it will.

3. Wrong time, the wrong location. It is important to have a set time and location where you will not be interrupted. You don’t feel like you need to rush anywhere else, you can dedicate yourself 100% to right now. For some it’ll be the start of the day, others will be at the end of the day, others will be at lunch time, and you just go for that slow walk around their block. Find your space, your particular time.

Key to all this though, it’s like any aspect of our lives, we’ve got to have the discipline. It’s like any technique or skill it needs to be worked on. You know you’re there, when you’ve got a rhythm – when there is a pattern and it is you.

The result

In the end, the feeling that you’re going for, or the experience that you’re looking to create is a sense of oneness, oneness of self, oneness with the planet, a real sense of self and of calm and clarity in the midst of the busyness of life. When you come out of your meditation time – in whatever form it takes you will feel like you’re more in control, calmer and happier!

“We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

 

What do we mean by The Devil’s Apprentice?

Several times on Universal Man we have talked about the Wolf Pack – that group of men that we choose to associate with who lift us to our best selves. But life is never perfect nor is any group of mates. Often amongst our group of mates is that one guy who, for whatever reason, drags you down. They are the negative voice, the wet blanket, the one who for whatever reason always reaches for the lowest common denominator to bring everyone with them.

This is the Devil’s Apprentice and you might well go ‘way back’. They can be someone who has been a mate from your childhood or teenage days, but they have never grown up, they have never graduated into adulthood. Have you been in that scenario where over a couple of drinks on a Friday afternoon one of the group just lowers the standard through the crass joke, the bad timing, the inappropriate call and you shake your head? What were they thinking? You get the feeling they’re doing it on purpose to get a rise out of you or the group.

Perhaps the joke was funny when you were 18 and perhaps your group bonding depended upon that wise crack, when you were strong in your pub crawling, party animals days. But now you have moved on, you still have fun, you still know how to have a good time it is just that the fun more authentically reflects where you are in life now. The sick joke now grates on you, it is no longer funny.

The memory that the Devil’s Apprentice recalls, “Hey what about the time we …” you have moved on from long ago; you’re not proud to say it’s a cool thing anymore. You have grown into adulthood, you have worked hard to become the man you now are and now this bloke wants to drag you down to be your worst self.

Sometimes this person has a significant power over and influence within your wolf pack and ironically you can find yourselves as a group doing things and laughing at things that actually no one, other than him, finds really funny or really wants to do. But to name this is difficult. You can come across as the wowser, as the “I’m above you now” holier than thou type.

Why is it so hard to call it for what it is?

The Devil’s Apprentice and you probably go way back and if you don’t you certainly share quite a lot of history. Perhaps you knew them from school, you played footy with them and shared some adventures over the years. And here you now are aged 30 or 40 or whatever and they are there in their faded old school football jersey remembering what you did at school parties or some win on line from your teenage years. Often bringing it up at the most inappropriate time. That shared story has a power. There was a bonding way back then that has lasted you all these years. You have shared some good times and you have shared some difficult time; and that for men means so much.

So to ‘move on’ can seem almost like betrayal. Choosing now to ‘move on’ from the Devil’s Apprentice can feel like a denial of your shared story. But life moves on, you move on, you grow and change and normally your mates, your wolf pack move and change with you. So ultimately to now NOT move on could also be a betrayal; a betrayal of your journey into a sense of manhood that can authentically engage with the questions and issues beyond pimples and one night stands.

Some will say that you are not being loyal to that mate, but it is a false sense of what loyalty is, it is a loyalty to a lesser you, to a lower standard; certainly not to the call to be the best you, and the best ‘us’, that you and we can be. The Devil’s Apprentice is almost certainly a former version of yourself and that is why this journey is so hard.

The Peter Pan Syndrome

Often our mate – our Devil’s Apprentice is caught in the Peter Pan syndrome. They’re living out their youth for the rest of their days. But we all grow older and that is gift. We grow wiser from life’s struggles and that too is gift. There is nothing sadder than the comb over old man lining up to get into the night club surrounded by the younger men he still longs to be like.

Other faces of the Devil’s Apprentice

The Devil’s Apprentice can often, ironically, be the ultimate professional. They can have a great career, professionally and from a skill set point of view, have grown. But their sense of self has not and their growth in emotional maturity has not paralleled their professional growth. They can be manipulatively emotionally intelligent but it is an intelligence bounded by immaturity. They know you well. They know how to bait you, they know what strings to pull to get the reactions from you. They know exactly what to say to guilt you out, to get you there, to remind you of your own faults or your own faults from when you were younger. But you have moved on from playing those games. You don’t need those ego driven games from your teenage years or early twenties years.

What makes the Devil’s Apprentice?

Our friend has faced life’s challenges and run away from them. Our friend has found it easier to live by yesterday’s camp fire stories rather than finding new ones. The labels of the past are so strong and so comforting, that the pain of growth into something and someone new is too hard. And so, over and over again, as you and the others have grown and changed with time, they have stayed put. They are the odd man one, they are marching to some music you have long since moved on from. 

The big challenge – the hard call

So you are faced with a huge challenge. If you are going to really grow and be the Universal Man that we are trying to be, the Devil’s Apprentice can be one anchor chain that just drags you back. You look around you, the Wolf Pack as a whole, your mates and supports, have all moved on as have you, but this one member has not. So what do you do? It is not that they are a bad person. It is just that in terms of where you are in life they are not the person to accompany you (and themselves) to an ever deeper sense of who you are now.

Sometimes the answer is to still have them as one of your mates but to change your inner expectation of the relationship. They are still the mate you enjoy having a beer with but you know, within, that they are not the person you look to for the deeper more mature level of support and challenge; and that is OK. You can still have fun with them, great, but don’t look to them nor expect them to help you grow to the next level of who you want to be.

Other times you may just need to move on in one way shape or form. Become aware of the effect on the group and if some of your mates agree that this person is holding you back, then approach them personally and invite them into a different space. If they can’t or won’t go there, this is OK, but you move on. Maybe you don’t catch up as often. Maybe you don’t go out again after you have already gone out for a meal and some drinks together. Maybe you just limit the context of your catch ups with them.

With all of this you have to change YOUR inner perspective. Sure you give them a go, sure you support them to grow but if they choose not to that is their problem; don’t carry their baggage with you.

That kind of permission to move on, in whatever way you choose to do it, can be so hard. The first step is to know that it may be difficult. In our culture we’re loyal to a fault. We will back a guy no matter what, no matter what he’s done. But that is ok to some extent but there comes a time when what they do or have done is NOT ok. So as true mates we maintain the highest standards. Our role, as a true mate is to help them grow.

It is so easy to get caught in the spiral downwards with them. Your mate has had a bad day, a bad week, and when you were 18 you got on the piss. Your Devil’s Apprentice looks to you to do that pub crawl, yet again. You are faced with a choice. Do you wake up 24 hours later knowing that it was crazy and that neither you nor him are in any better space because of it, or do you invite him to move on to a better space or do you, after you have tried this several times make the tough call and ‘move on’ – period?

You are not judging them as some sort of lesser person and you are respectful of their journey. It is just that it is not the journey you want to be walking at this point in your life. You are just knowing what you are in your life right now, where you have come from and where and who you want to be.

It is a choice not to give them power ‘over you’ anymore. They may not consciously think they are exercising power over anyone but they are. It is a choice you make in this space. I’m not giving you power. I’m not giving you the power to compromise who I wish to be. If you go on that particular journey and you do it in an authentic way you’ll come out the other side with a great sense of freedom.

When you’re in those moments and they (the Devil’s Apprentice) hold all the power, that’s when you get weak. But when you choose to march to your own drum you claim the power back in the relationship. You always have a choice no matter how many of the wolf pack are bleating like sheep. You can always opt out with respect and integrity and take a different path towards where you want to go.

Part of us wants to be the person who will help them grow. And sure, we all do our bit in that area. But often the person who will most invite us into a space of increased awareness and self-growth will come from outside of our immediate circle of friends; a mentor more than a mate. When the student is ready, the master will appear and very rarely are you the master for any friend of yours. That’s just not your job.

Lessons to be learnt

In the middle of all of this there are some great life lessons. If you can chat this through with another mate, go for a run – do whatever it is you do for some personal introspection – then reflect on what is it that is making you uneasy in this relationship? Often there is something in your relationship with them that you are now uneasy with and when you can name that – you can engage in great growth from that point of increased self-awareness.

Core Values

Central to this journey is your increasing awareness of what your core values are. It is about your values, your standards and the direction you are going. You now know – and we mean really ‘know’ what you believe, what you value, what you want and who you want to be. How much are you prepared to compromise this as you grow older and hopefully – wiser?

Stay legendary

Pricey & Grego