The Fear Of Silence

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Sun, 2007-12-23 09:41.
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The bad part about being sick for a few weeks is that it sucks, of course. You fall behind on stuff, you fatten up from the lack of exercise, and people treat you like a leper when you do venture out, dodging imaginary explosions of germs each time you cough into your hand.

The GOOD part about sick for a few weeks is…

… well, there isn’t any good part about it, is there.

Okay. Some health nuts insist it’s good for your body to test the fail-safe systems for a short time each year. Like having a fire drill.

The only folks who “never get sick” live in sterile bubbles in laboratories.

In the real world, your immune system is under constant attack. So the occasional forced down-time of an annual sick-out will — if it doesn’t kill you — make you stronger.

I get that.

However, I have committments I’m not meeting here. And the ONLY reason I’m flaking out is because I can’t TALK. Even a few minutes of conversation brings on the cough reflex.

I’m getting better… but I’ve rescheduled ALL my networking calls.

And that hurts. Because email exchanges simply cannot replace the intimacy and immediacy of an intense, deep phone call or face-to-face chat.

Michele, who is normally not around me during the workday (but has been recently, due to her holiday time-off), really got me thinking about this when she said: “You know, usually when I come home and you’re working, you’re back in your office on the phone… and it’s blah, blah, blah, blah, blah for hours on end. Now, it’s all quiet back there. You must really be sick.”

Now, I’m pretty sure she meant the “blah, blah, blah” part with all due love and respect.

Because all that “blah, blah, blah” has created and nurtured a massive network of geniuses, wizards, wise guys and movers and shakers. I can — and do, frequently — get people on the phone who are unreachable to everyone else… and we share inside secrets and brainstorm ideas that often eventually become the “next new big thing” in online marketing.

I”ve made a pretty penny from my “blah, blah, blahing”, thank you very much.

In fact, now that I’ve been mulling it over… I’d say my entire career as a freelance writer and teacher of copywriting has been split right down the middle: Half of the wealth generated was from writing, and half from talking.


I’m sitting here in my office, staring at the phone.

My cold, ignored, lonely little phone.

I feel like half of my personality and my ability to function has been smacked down.

And once I get my voice back — hopefully soon — I’ve got a list as long as your arm of people just to call back. (Including Schefren, Kern, Pagan, Jackson, Polish, Kilstein, Garfinkel, Deutsch, the Halbert boys, Rodale… jeez, it’s giving me hives just to think about it.)

And another, equally long, list of people to get on the horn to stir up new shit.

Yet, here I sit, broken hearted.

Need to talk, and can’t get started.


All this HAS got me thinking about silence.

Dig it: As great as talking is for working the games of the business world… we also have an innate need to be quiet.

So we can gather our thoughts, yes. But also to engage in the very good animal-habit of “no thought”. Meditation, in other words.

Most Americans HATE meditation. It seems like a waste of time.

It can get you fired at work.

It’s even an INSULT to accuse someone of just “staring at the wall.” You’re gold-bricking it, dude. Slacking off. Mentally masturbating.

Wasting time.

Other cultures, which make great use of meditation, think we’re nuts.

And I agree.

Living well isn’t about always grabbing and devouring and looking for more conquest, like some capitalistic predator constantly on the prowl.

Sometimes, you gotta pause, and go inward, like a kitty cat curled up and staring into space. Not to examine yourself from the inside, like you’re some lab specimen to be dissected and tested and catalogued.

No. Rather, you pause and go inward in order to re-engage with life on a purely animal basis. Get back in touch with your ignored senses of smell, touch, taste, and hearing. (We’re overwhelming “visual” creatures, and living entirely through your eyes makes you a very dull boy after a while.)

And the next step is to shut off your brain, and experience the world with your mouth shut and your overactive imagination wrestled into a closet.

In silence.

Even a few minutes of closing your eyes, running through your senses (identifying each separate sound, smell, and tactile sensation with specificity and deliberateness)… and then briefly capping the constant stream of thought in your brain, so you can relax your tense ass and shoulders and just “be” for a short period… will deliver a new, energizing and even exciting appreciation of being alive.

Most Americans… after shutting off the music, calming down, and closing their eyes… immediately fall asleep.

It’s pathetic. The accepted Type A style of “living” offers exactly two speeds: Full out, balls-to-the-wall multi-tasking… or snoring away in slumberland.

Trust me on this: There is a whole new world of experience and amazing things happening in the space between those two extremes.

Problem is… too many people are forcing themselves to drive through the day as if they’re holding exhaustion at bay with all their might. And the second they “let go”, they mentally collapse.

And, man, that is just wrong.

But I sympathize.

Heck — I’ve known and practiced (half-assed) meditation since I first discovered the wonders that putting a little Zen attitude in your life offers, back in college.

But I’ve never stuck to it regularly. I get distracted. Given the choice of closing the door and going into a “no thought” state for ten minutes… or picking up the phone and knocking another item off my To-Do list… and the evil phone wins almost every time.

So this recent episode of forced silence has actually been… an opportunity.

While you’re struggling to make your biz grow and be “successful”, it’s hard to even entertain concepts like meditation. I know that, personally.

I mean, there are so many urgent things to attend to… and never enough hours in the day.

But here’s something to consider: The arc of a successful entrepreneur follows a very predictable path, in most cases.

You start out frantic. You make mistakes, you learn, you build on minor successes, you weasel your way into networks, you build relationships, you branch out, you push ahead with new ventures and projects.

It’s fun, it’s exhilarating, and it takes your full concentration.

And then, as success arrives with bells and whistles… something happens.

Once you’re no longer working just for money — because, finally, money’s not a problem anymore — there OFTEN is a new problem that arises, out of the blue.

I’ve seen it a thousand times. It’s real.

The problem? It’s a form of spiritual emptiness. The dreaded “What’s it all mean?” question that plagues ALL humans, once they are in a postion to stop worrying about the basics of survival.

And here’s something you would be wise to consider, as you strive for success: Every single super-successful business owner I’ve known… if they have continued to be successful… has ultimately turned their brilliance and drive and ingenuity onto that question of “what’s it all mean”.

When it works, you end up as a very centered, very confident, very satisfied person.

However… most of the time, it doesn’t work so well.

Nearly every consultation I’ve ever done has at least touched on the issues of “why are you even IN this biz?”, and “how will you know when you’re successful?” And very few entrepreneurs and small biz owners can answer those questions.

Usually, it’s the first time they’ve even considered them.

The successful dude who suddenly realizes he needs “more” from life, once the money has started piling up… and who is then successful at finding the right answer for himself… is a lucky man (or woman).

Really lucky.

Why? Because, you don’t just get answers to questions like those by spending a weekend scrambling through self-help texts, or consulting with holy men, or dropping acid.

It pisses off Americans, but you need time to find the answer for yourself.

Lots of time. In some cases, an entire lifetime.

Thus… my recommendation — both to everyone on the jouney to “success”, and also to myself (cuz I’m such a slouch about it) — is to realize that a HUGE part of being successful, once you arrive, will involve meditating and staring at the wall. Getting away from the distractions of busy business, removing yourself from the jet stream of modern life… and finding your own special groove in the universe.

And, once you realize this… it finally makes sense to spend a few minutes every day practicing “no thought” meditation… even before you’ve arrived at your goal of “success”.

To get in touch with your Zen essence, to experience the world calmly and slowly and with grateful absorption… before it becomes a looming problem, spoiling your enjoyment of arrival.

I dearly love my skill at blah, blah, blahing. I’m good at it, and it has served me well through the years.

But the gift of being sick for a few weeks here has reminded me of the other side — the silence of pure existence, and the need to stare at the wall occasionally, engaged in nothing whatsoever.

Don’t fear silence.

Rather, embrace it, and thrive.

Hey — I hope y’all have a great holiday, and I’ll try to post something charming, or at least shocking, just before New Year’s Eve.

Stay frosty,

John Carlton

The Gossip Queen

One Mean Boat

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