Tuned into Headspace, ten minutes in a state of zen, he opens his eyes, and looks at his latest iPhone and finds a scratch on it, the next thing he says, “It doesn’t matter.“
That’s Steve Ware, who started his career as an IT Consultant at IBM, where he worked for close to three decades. Always a brilliant child, who was first class with his studies, and just about equally good with everything else, whether it was dance or sports.
When he went bowling, he’d beat just about everyone he played with. And that just goes to show how well he was able to apply himself to every task or responsibility.
But there was a problem, not with him, but with what he had learned.
As a child, he was told, that he is going to be given a report card. Now, a report card is only meant to judge one’s abilities, one’s competencies in a certain area.
And that, one’s inability to perform well at a given task, doesn’t reflect on them as being less capable.
It’s like judging a poet, for his inability to paint. That would be quite naive.
But the people who read it, including the ones who created it, often, read it all wrong–mistakenly of course. They had no idea what they were doing. But they told Steve, that if he didn’t perform as per the predesignated standards, he’d be labelled less competent, or even a failure.
And so, Steve got a false belief that his self-worth depended on the report card.
Now, he had to ensure, that the piece of paper always had something nice to say about him. Or, the consequences would be shame.
And this false belief, stayed with him as he grew up, and in a way, it caused him unnecessary anguish.
But no matter which school you go to, you can’t escape the school of life. And when the time is right for you to learn a lesson, life teaches it to you.
Now, it was Steve’s time to learn a lesson. And the lesson was about to shatter his beliefs, and deliver him into freedom.
Just as he was about to complete his degree, he got a fever. Not any normal fever, it was glandular fever. It totally knocked him out, and he couldn’t appear for his final exams.
He was already employed with IBM at that time, and managed to complete his degree, just as he was on his way to recovery.
With his degree taken care of, at the age of twenty one, IBM offered him an opportunity to go to Belgium for a four-week intensive course. His body wasn’t ready yet, but he thought he’d be able to make it, so he went.
And in just two weeks, he saw that it was getting too much for him, and that he couldn’t carry on with it, so he decided to get back home.
Now, he had gone there with the thought, that he will complete the course, and ace at it, just as he was used to doing all the time. But what happened, wasn’t what he had expected of himself.
I failed, I didn’t complete the course, I’m a loser he thought. Enough, for him to feel ashamed, and self-critical.
It’s funny how the report card works, you get to feel exclusive, special, whether in a good way or in a bad way. But it never fails to reward you. To give you a label, to give you an identity.
Steve, for a change, had had his reward, in the self-criticism, the shame and the blame.
And that was enough, for the spiral of negative thoughts, to start weaving their dark, ugly web.
I KNEW I wasn’t well, I should have never gone.
I could have avoided the pain associated with calling myself a loser.
If only, I never went, or if only, I had completed the course.
How could you Steve, how could you.
Oh the voices, oh, they cried out in pain, and now, to ease the pain, all that Steve knew was to fall back on the other Steve, with a better report card.
He tried to shun the voices, by telling them, he wasn’t a total failure, that he had some good to his name, that he had his past wins to fall back on.
And lo and behold, the winner Steve, asked the loser Steve to get the hell out of there. He tried to create a wall with an identity called, the winner.
But little did he know, that the wall of safety was built on the shaky foundation of external circumstances, that will always come to challenge that image, and that the very image that he is trying to protect, would turn him into its slave!
As time passed, he was carrying the weight of being a fake. Trying to protect the false identity, working hard for it.
And oh, those voices, from the other Steve, they were sneaky, they kept paying regular visits, and each time, he had to explain to himself, that he had his wins to counter the loss.
But, just as he had reached his late thirties, a long time after that Belgium trip happened, those memories, the loser Steve, got back with a vengeance.
And this time, it appeared as if it had no mercy for Steve. Vicious, hateful, angry, critical, shameful, and pathetic, that’s what the loser Steve was all about.
Steve always thought, he was the one using his mind, but, his struggle with the mind, had caused it to go into its own petty world, where it was no longer interested in taking instructions from him.
It was only interested in multiplying its misery, and kept howling in pain, and in need of more pain, for that is the only thing it knew.
Goes without saying, Steve wasn’t sleeping all that well, his mind was obsessed with being fearful, obsessed with shame. The very identity that Steve in his ignorance had created, was now trying to claim a right to exist, at Steve’s expense.
The truth is, the winner Steve who tried to appear nice to him, wasn’t all that nice after all, it was only the other side of the same coin.
The winner and the loser, the two identities were at war.
He then reached a point, where peace is all he wanted. And was willing to give up all his wealth in exchange for it.
All this while, life knew what was going on with Steve. But it waited for the right moment to make its presence known.
And that call for peace, that was a prayer. And just as an answer to that prayer, in the midst of all that chaos, he felt inspired to give meditation a go.
So he picked up his iPhone, and downloaded Headspace. He then tuned into a guided meditation, that took him in a state of relaxation, and where, for the first time in his life, he felt free!
And just as he opened his eyes, he found a scratch on his iPhone, something that was a part of his false self image, the winner, who wanted things to be perfect. But this time, he just looked at it, and said, it doesn’t matter.
Seeing the benefits of meditation, he continued doing it more regularly.
And as he did, he learned that he didn’t have to struggle with his mind, he learned that he didn’t have to fight with it, he learned what every student of life eventually learns, that he isn’t someone with a report card.
His earlier life was all about him, all about his rewards, but now, having found his true self and the freedom in it, he no longer sees the need for any reward from the world, he no longer cares about being good or bad, being a winner or a loser, and with no identity to protect, he is also free from its slavery!
Steve, was a free man. And it felt so good, he said to himself, this is better than going to Vegas, this is better than owning a Ferrari, and perhaps, this is better than any reward or recognition you can get in the world.
As far as Steve was concerned, heaven on earth had been realised.
Steve was a changed man.
His colleagues started noticing the change in him. They saw that he was more cheerful, funny, clear headed, and even more productive.
What’s up with you Steve? We sure can see that something’s going on with you, you seem much more happy and relaxed.
Steve then told them about his experience with meditation, and his new-found mastery over the mind. He told them how he knew what to do, when any thought came to bother him.
To simply notice it, and say goodbye to it.
Powerful stuff they thought. The effect was clearly visible on Steve. And the next thing they said, further helped him steer his life in a whole new direction.
“Can you teach us?” they said. And inspired by those four magical words, Steve went to Oxford University to learn how to teach mindfulness at the workplace.
He came back with an eight-week programme and started teaching it at IBM free of cost, in his spare time.
Little did he know that it would turn out to be the only corporate approved mindfulness programme in his company.
Rave reviews started pouring in.
In fact at one point, IBM was considering making teaching mindfulness his full time job.
But, that didn’t happen. And he lost his job during COVID-19.
With little savings, and a small redundancy compensation, he had no idea what he should do next. Having served IBM for 28 years, he was now starting to think of a life that was a little different.
I am qualified to be a mindfulness teacher at the workplace he thought. Why not make that my profession.
But that meant not getting another paycheck, a scary thought, but he was now the master of his mind, and soon saw through the unintelligence of worry.
So he tossed out that thought, and started his own venture.
And has since successfully completed several mindfulness programmes for both small and large organisations. They all feel like hiring Steve was a great decision, and that it turned out to be quite beneficial for them and their employees.
Less stress, more fun, better productivity, and burnout? Does that word even exist anymore? Not for Steve’s clients.
Want to hire Steve? Be sure to send an email or connect with him on LinkedIn today!
Enjoyed Steve’s Story? Here’s How You Can Help
Steve’s story teaches us, that we never have to fight with the mind, for fighting with the mind would be akin to being on a hamster wheel. It appears like you’re making progress, like you will reach the end of thought through thought, but all it does is keep going in circles, getting nowhere.
A master of the mind, just does one thing when faced with a troublesome thought, he just drops the thought! There, freedom finally delivered.
Please consider sharing this life changing story with as many people as you possibly can, it’s perhaps the best gift you’ll be giving anyone. The gift of freedom!
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