by Brian Schwartz

By the time you finish reading this article, you will see that they key to overcoming an obstacles is to see each one as knot to by untied. The more practice we get at untying the knots we encounter, the less we'll notice the knots we encounter as barriers to overcome.

When you encounter a knot, you have two options: untie it or go around it.

When we come to a knot on the rope (of life), we know it. It's the moment we feel the slightest resistance. The more resistance, the more effort. At a point, it will even feel like a struggle. Everything seems harder when we struggle. By slowing down, we focus. As we take a deep breath, we become more alert and can think with a level head. The more difficult the knot (challenge), the slower we must move to overcome it. The harder we try, the less we progress. When we move too fast, we have to untangle our mistakes. Two steps forward, one step back is the way of the world.

The story of Butcher Ding (a metaphor)

The wu-wei approach to life is to move through the open spaces. The greater our resistance to 'what is', the greater the struggle. Life need not be a struggle.

If life feels like a struggle, its because we are frustrated with our observation of the outputs which shape our experience.

A shift in perspective is to see our lives through the eyes of an observer, rather than a player. To step into the role of spectator rather than participant.

where we don't feel resistance. We seek to avoiding the difficulties that have a tendency to damage our spirit and wear out our blades (bodies).

A woodcarver named Qing

He fasts for 3 days before he begins is work. As a result, he drops any attachment to the outcome (praise for his work). Each day he fasts, he becomes less distracted by thoughts of blame, acclaim, skill or clumsiness. It's a process of losing all external considerations.

Michelangelo is known to have waited until he came across a piece of marble in which he could already see the sculpture, his perspective was then to simply chip away the stone that didn't belong.

Point being that the materials themselves dictate the artistic process.

This is a further validation for The Concept of Everything. The artist is like the blade. The blade is providing inputs into the system (the stone), but the stone is the system and the stone is what produces the outcome, not the cutter!


My wife loves pistachios. She recently stopped eating them because in opening them, she was breaking her nails. I offered a suggestion. When you come across a pistachio that does not easily open, set it aside and go to the next one. Leave the hard to open pistachios to me.

When we force things, we risk breaking them. Something that has broken is an outcome of forcing the system beyond it's limits.

If something does not fit, do not force it. Rather, find a system where your inputs do fit.

My only wish for you is that you are as relaxed at the end of the day as you were when you started it.

You are as perfect at the end of the day as you were when you started it.

<writings tip: you have lots of fat to cut from your writing. These are the discarded scraps that can might be more appropriate for another another dish (chapter). But unless you remove the scraps from the main dish, the main dish won't be tasty. Make your writing tasty by removing the scraps.>

I have a lot of valuable insights to share, but if I don't distill them to their most basic element, they will not be understood.

Mistakes are judgments

Defined as: "an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong." or "to wrongly identify someone or something as."

The word is powerful. The word judgment is in the definition! Thus, to call out a mistake is to cast judgment. Therefore, mistake is one of the words we ought to banish from our vocabulary. Non-judging is a vital skill of developing a mindfulness practice:

Reframe failure

To fail is to see a fault in an action we or someone else has taken. But given our new understanding on how systems work, we can see that pointing blame at any cause creating the outcome is misdirected. The person didn't produce the failure, the system did.

The best we can do is provide new inputs into the system and see if a different result occurs. It's all an experiment.

We can't fix the system either, the system does what it does, the system is in control. If the system we are using doesn't work, we can change our inputs, but we can't change the system. At the source, the system is a matter of 1's and 0's. Ions have either a positive or negative charge. Neutral only exists as an idea.

Thus, to see failure as an output of the system (not the cause, but the effect) is a key concept. Anytime we make an effort, changing the parameters of what we put into the system, we invite failure. We should expect mistakes. No mistakes means we aren't trying.

When I am building a website, I write code, but it's not until I click 'save' that the code is that interpreted by the system. Thus, the outcome while it may be predictable, it not known until the system processing my inputs.

The morning commute

I had a near miss during my usually quiet morning commute. Before 8AM, there's few cars downtown so I had no reason to expect anything out of the ordinary. However this morning, perhaps just to prove a point of how we don't control the outcome, I was almost hit by a car that was flying through downtown and ran a red light. I was crossing the intersection. He didn't even slow down. The result would have been ugly. While you can put yourself others in a safe environment, you are ultimately not in control, no more than I was this morning. The other driver was completely oblivious.

The sandbox

The ukulele class I am teaching is a great sandbox to try out some of these strategies. What 'ukulele power chords' can I come up with to teach the simplest version of chords before introducing the full chords?

It's a great opportunity to illustrate the 'concept of everything.'

The idea is to teach from a point of effortlessness. Introducing small additions incrementally. Putting a change into the system and observing the output. To strum is the input, what we hear is the output. The system is the ukulele.

No fingering is is Am7. What songs can I teach that use Am7? Can I transpose the songs so that 1 of the 2 chords is Am7?

  1. Row Row Row your Boat
  2. London Bridge is Falling Down
  3. Three Blind Mice
  4. Iko Iko

Then incrementally add more songs. The key being to teach the chords of each song, rather than teaching chords without a song.

To see the path from beginning to master. To teach others what we learn is the path to mastery.

I wonder if there is path I can create to incrementally advance as a player one-song-at-a-time ? Meaning, those most basic element 1 chord song, slowly advancing until we get to a 4 chord song, instilling the confidence to play with others.

Remember as well teachings of Landmark and the Merlin principle. The story of the two podiums:

From the podium on which I stand, I am following the workbook. These are the inputs we put into the system. From the podium across the room is a notebook labeled 'The Future.' And it's from that notebook from which I teach. As I open up the notebook labeled 'The Future,' I read these words:

"I have instilled the confidence of the students to play with others. I have taught them 10 songs from which they can expand their practice. I have planted the seed of confidence. Most importantly they have learned that frustration is simply an indicator that they are forcing an output form a system from which they don't control and they see the Ukulele as a system, like any other system in life, that can be understood"

Do I share 'The future' notebook with them at the first class? Do I put the future statement above up on the board so they are constantly reminded of where we are going? YES I DO!

Further Reading