Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Gift of Acknowledgment

This morning I was struck by my horoscope that basically reminded me to nurture the current relationships in my life today, to reach out to loved ones, and acknowledge the difference that they make in my life.

It also reminded me of a status update from a member of the Pink Elephant Project Facebook Group named Ashlie that asked:

"What are the things that you think to say but feel you could never actually say?  What would happen if you said it?"

Of course I was quick to throw in my two cents about "difficult conversations" in the context of the Pink Elephant Project and talk about the promise.  To which she astutely reminded me that
"I don't think it's always something "bad" that we don't say... Sometimes it's expressing love or appreciation. I think it but I don't always say it."

While it sounds really simple, upon further reflection I realized that there are many people in my life right now that have been and continue to be incredibly helpful, supportive, encouraging, just simply fun to be around, and who put a smile on my face that I have really not really taken the time to acknowledged in any kind of intentional way.  On the other hand, I can also easily say that the people in my life already know this, and that nothing really needs to be said. They get it already. :)

So I asked myself: what would it be like for me to simply reach out and express that to them?  Would that be awkward, uncomfortable or wierd.... if so why?    For me it really wouldn't feel that way but knowing that I have not been that intentional in doing so makes me wonder...What WOULD it be like?

I know that if anyone that I knew picked up the phone today or shot me an email to just simply reach out and and say hello or expressed gratitude for being in their life  I'd love it!  It would leave me in a place of feeling even more connected and simply just put a smile on my face.  What a wonderful surprise and break in the day it would be!  I can think of no situation that I wouldn't welcome a message like that from anyone.  So why wouldn't I do that for someone else?

I guess really nothing is, other that the fact that I have been consumed with my own life and my own needs.   Its been quite a year for me and from the people that I've been talking to its been the same for them.   If you've picked up the paper lately or turned on the news its been down right depressing.   The message of fear and insecurity continue to inundate  us from every direction we look these days and if we're not careful it can affect even the most positive and conscious people that I know...myself included.   Add in the intensity of the Holidays and all of the logistics involved  and it can really infiltrate our experience, and if not careful, in a negative way.  I know I just got done with a couple of weeks of feeling pretty disconnected and just focusing on getting things done.

For those of you that have been in the flow and in the Holiday cheer...all I can say is Bravo!

For me: today, I'm going to take a spoon of my own medicine to have the Courage and Commitment to Communicate and be intentional in finding opportunities to acknowledge the people my life and the people I come across.   I know the more I look for those kinds of opportunities in my day, the less time I'm spending being consumed over the minutia of my own life.   Plus, knowing how powerful it is to be on the recieving end of a simple acknowledgment, it seems silly for me to not take that practice on all the time, let alone during the Holidays!  Whether its picking up the phone or connecting with someones eyes and extending a warm smile, or simply wishing someone a Happy Holidays, I think it could be the most simple and most powerful gift that I can give others and myself this year!

How about you?   Would love to hear your thoughts!  For now please feel free to leave your comments here or email me directly!  

Wishing you, your family and friends a very Happy Holiday's and a Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

From the heart


As I complete this post I'm reminded of Juan Mann the "FREE HUG'S" Guy.... Video Below If you're feeling the love.... and wait I just received a lovely email from a dear friend of mine Nancy... it just reminds me how important it is to just simply spread the love!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Role of Conditioning in the Roles we Play

"How can we be free to look and learn when our minds from the moment we are born to the moment we die are shaped by a particular culture in the narrow pattern of “me”?

For centuries we have been conditioned by nationality, caste, class, tradition, religion, language, education, literature, art, custom, convention, propaganda of all kinds, economic pressure, the food we eat, the climate we live in, our family, our friends, our experiences - every influence you can think of - and therefore our responses to every problem are conditioned.

Are you aware that you are conditioned?"

From "Freedom from the Known: Chapter 2" J Krishnamurti

It is this awareness, the awareness of the machinery, and the awareness of how this machinery guides our interpretation's of every stimulus, and ultimately how we respond in any given situation that is at the root of the Pink Elephant Project's mission.

Its been over 4 months that I have not written anything on the blog and I have been confronted by the time it has taken to get the community site running, confronted by the project and the willingness of people to engage in the core of the projects conversation, confronted by my own fears of communicating with the people in my life, confronted by my inability so simply BE me, confronted by the measuring stick that have been arbitrarily installed in my life, and as a result felt the need to just let go for awhile.

What I have experienced and witnessed for myself in my relationships with others is the number of roles that I play in my life and how sometimes those roles can conflict with one another. That said in another way is this idea that how I choose to BE in certain situations is sometimes not an active choice but rather a conditioned response based on shame, guilt, obligation, or just simply a fear of not being accepted, acknowledged or loved. I guess at the end of the day its doable and I can say to myself well that's just the way it is. But what I have been noticing for myself is that its just simply exhausting and for me, unsustainable.

As I start to think of all the roles: Consultant, Coach, Father, Son, Brother, Cousin, Uncle, Grand Son, Friend, Acquaintance, Surfer, Skier, Lover, Boyfriend, Confidant, Host, Speaker, Blogger, Writer, Client, Employee, Independent Contractor, Waiter, Founder, Leader, Follower, Entrepreneur.... I can clearly see a fundamental challenge for someone like me. Its not to say there is anything wrong with the roles or that any or all of the roles are mutually exclusive of one another. However, if I take the concept that at the core of the human experience is the desire to be accepted, acknowledged, and loved then for someone like me, my core essence can easily get lost in the pursuit of that acceptance, acknowledgment and love resulting in having to BE and perpetuate a way of being that is not at the core of who I really am. The sometimes subtle or not so subtle realization automatically generates more shame and guilt and the feeling of somehow being a "fraud" gets created. As a result I've notice that there is a greater reluctance to BE self expressed, say whats on my mind, or sometimes simply say NO in certain situations.

I think one of the clearest examples I can think of was in the naming of my company. I took on the name Enterprise Management Consulting, which really wasn't my name but a mentor of mines name that I took on for myself. Why? It was serious, it had credibility, EMC.... it seemed powerful, and if I was going to go after corporate clients... well I needed to be more corporate. After a year of operating with that name and getting powerful new clients and making quite a bit of money, I found myself absolutely miserable. What was happening is that I began to start sacrificing what my core message was which I later declared was "There's a pink elephant sitting in your board room and no one is talking about it....and its killing your company!" and simply molded myself to what the company's needs were. CEO after CEO kept saying well... that's interesting but can you help us with.... To which I always replied, sure and slowly tried to keep bring my message of perspective and awareness to the employees of the company. The strategy worked but again it was exhausting and unsustainable.

I remember that fateful day when my dear friend Jonathan Khorsandi sat with me to work on my marketing material said to me "well...why don't you call it Pink Elephant Partners?" I remember going back and forth with the idea and finally came to the conclusion is that if someone thinks its not serious enough, or someone doesn't get it then I dont want to work with them. What followed next was the Pink Elephant Project... my real calling.

What was is important for me to realize in this dynamic that I have described above is that it's nothing more than a self inflicted dynamic. As I raise my awareness of this innate human desire of acceptance, acknowledgment, and love; realizing that everyone is out there doing the same thing, I can start to pay attention and notice where my self expression is being stopped. The moment I can see that, I suddenly have the ability to ask the question "what do I want?" "what ultimately serves me in this moment?" and finally if I'm not getting what I want how can I make a simple adult request of someone else to actually get what I want.

When I am unable to do that, it is a sign for me to examine what is really stopping me. That's what the Project is about and I look forward to hearing your experiences with this idea.

Post on the blog or simply send an email to shasheen (at)shasheen(dot)com

From the heart,


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Understanding My Own Triggers: An Awakening

So last weekend was the weekend I was supposed to get married. June 13th, Colgate Day, My Dads Birthday and supposedly a wedding. As some of you already know the inspiration for Pink Elephant Project was a product of the failed engagement, knowing deep in my heart that what was missing was the ability to communicate about our differing perspectives on various issues in a productive way. That's not to say that utilizing some totem and a promise would have solved our issues but at the very least it would have eased the shock of the ending of our engagement.

The truth is however the "shock" really wasn't really a "shock."

As I sat there in my bed, single in Santa Fe reflecting on what happened and got honest with myself, it wasn't too surprising that the relationship was over. As a coach one of the major areas that I focus on with my clients is dealing with fundamental perception that they have about the world that typically was created from some kind of childhood experience that shapes the way they end up relating to the world. When I am able so show my client that the way that they are relating to the world is from a made up perspective of say a 10 year old or teenager and when the client finally sees how that has been impacting their life, they are able to finally move forward and experience real freedom.

Well on the 13th it was time to take a bit of my own medicine. I have always known that the time I proudly came home with a 99 on my exam and not having an answer to my fathers question of what I got wrong has haunted me my whole life. His point was simple, the only way you are going to learn and grow is to know what you didn't get right and learn from that. What I made up about that experience was that I will never be good enough unless I got it perfect. Even worse is that if I did get something wrong I better have a good reason for why I did. Now, was that true? Absolutely not. Was that my dad's intention. Hell no. However, from that point forward how I chose to live my life was to be incredibly critical and look for what was wrong in every situation. For years, I would get involved in relationships and crush them before they ever got started because I would constantly focus on the 1% that wasn't right. While 99% was working, I continued to simply see what was wrong and focused on trying to fix it. I can't imagine what it must have been like for the women I dated over the years to endure someone like that! For those of you that had that experience of me I want to officially say...I'm sorry.

The other way it has showed up for me is in my work and the projects that I was on. Operating from the fear that I wouldn't be able to get it 100% right, I would systematically sabotage situations to ensure that I had an excuse for why it wasn't 100% right. In effect it was like training for a marathon for 6 months and the day before the race taking a sledgehammer to my foot and running the marathon anyway. I figured at least if I didn't win I had an excuse to fall back foot really hurts!

So I dealt with that one years ago and while some of that still lingers in the background today I find that its not as impactful as it once was. I can see it now and nip it in the bud before it takes over. In fact I think that what has brought such great results for my consulting and coaching clients is my keen ability to get right to the issue and create effective solutions for them.

On to the next one that really seems to be at the core of what has been driving me to this day. I can remember one conversation with my dad telling me that "My money is for your excellence" and another conversation in my high school guidance counselors office where my dad declared that "If he isn't going to get into a Ivy League school then he should go to a state school...I'm not going support this kind of mediocrity" To my dad's credit I was a handful and at that point I was an entitled, dope smoking, arrogant, pissed off teenager. For the record he did end up footing the bill for 4 years at Colgate University.

Nevertheless what I made up about myself was that I "wasn't good enough," "I wasn't excellent," and most recently what I have noticed for myself is what I really made up was "I'm not loveable." Now was that true? Hell no. Was that my dad's intention, absolutely not. Nevertheless that's what has been running in the background for the past 38 years for me.

To do a little Pop Psychology 101 on myself, it was clear that who I became was a gregarious people pleasing person running around the world looking for a sense of approval and belonging where ever I went and continued to base my value as a human being based on others response to me. While on the surface I made it work for myself with the people in my life, it was also one of the biggest triggers that would get in the way of difficult conversations with loved one and friends. Its clear that I would do anything to avoid criticism or conflict. The thought of someone saying something about me that they didn't like drove me to extraordinary ends to make sure that didn't happen. If it did, it was either Fight or Flight. It made it virtually impossible to have any self expression because everything that came out of my mouth was in the background designed to win others over and make you like me.

What I really didn't see until this past weekend was that what has really been going on for me over the past 38 years is that I actually have been doing is periodically creating situations and circumstances in which I "need" to be rescued or "need" to be helped. WHY? Well if you love me you would help me...

If I'm really honest with myself what the cycle looks like is the following. I start a new project. I get really excited, tell everyone about it and try to get them excited. What operating in the background it "I AM good enough, see... I AM excellent, see... I AM smart enough...see!" I get things done and rely on my god given talents and skills to make it happen. I do it, and do it well; and I make sure that everyone in my life knows that I'm doing it and doing it well. Just before getting to the top of the mountain...getting to the 100%... WHAM! I destroy it! The excuses and the stories kick in and suddenly I'm talking about the unfortunate circumstances I find myself in once again. I then need help, I need support, I need people to come to my rescue to help me through this tough time. Phew! Its exhausting even writing about it! Thank god I'm loveable!

What I didn't see is how this exact pattern was operating in the background of my past relationship. When I met my ex-fiancée I was the President of an incredible Life Coaching Company. A few months later I actually made my role unnecessary as we transition from a big box seminar company to a more virtual coaching company. Here I was again, not knowing what to do and needing to be rescued. Well that's what happened. I got rescued and moved in prematurely with my then girlfriend and started running up the ladder once again. I started my consulting company and actually did quite well and produced incredible results for the clients I worked with.

The ugly side of the story that I can now clearly see is that I did absolutely nothing to promote myself. I had no marketing materials, no website....hell I didn't even have a business card. I just sat back and made the woman that I was with responsible for finding me new clients and connecting me with her contacts and "helping" me get things going. Why? I'm really not loveable and the only way I'll know I'm lovable is if you help me. When she finally had enough and got fed up, that's when all of the fight or flight responses came in for me. I totally checked out. I made it virtually impossible to have any kind of discussion about our future that wouldn't involve me getting defensive or pissed off. While she was trying to encourage me to look to our future together and sat by my side every step of the way, operating from my fundamental misperception, I blamed her for being critical and trying to make me someone that I wasn't. I resisted like hell and instead of having the conversations, I took to working out, going surfing, and escaping. What happened for her is she gave up. Why? Because I continued to operate my life from the perspective of a pissed off teenager!?!?

I've gone through a range of emotions this past week...everything from anger to total resignation and at this point I'm happy to have identified the pattern so clearly and have actually taken the time to sent a heartfelt letter to my ex taking responsibility for how I was in our relationship. We actually really spoke today for the first time in months and it feels good to have come through to the other side of the conversation I had in my head.

I guess this is the point of this post. While I could have continued to be victimized by the "shock" of what happened by getting honest with myself, understanding my triggers, and looking at how I may have been responsible for what had occurred something very powerful happened for me that I know I will be able to take to the next relationships in my life.

As for the Pink Elephant Project...we are still trying to get a community site built that can provide a platform for all of us to discuss how our perceptions are getting in the way of our communications and understanding how those perspectives were created. I'm really committed to connecting with other fellow seekers that have the courage and commitment to communicate who want to share what's possible when one does. In the meantime I figure I've just got to keep the Pink Elephants out of my relationships, continue my journey of understanding what it is that has me stop in the face of those difficult communications, and continue to share with you the insights along the way.

From the heart


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Oh yeah... that's what its all about!

It's 10:00 am in NYC and its pouring on the streets, 5 police cars and 2 fire engines are clogging up the corner of 41st and Lexington, sirens blazing, people running through the streets adeptly navigating their bodies and umbrellas, trading spaces between one another while never trading glances, in what appears to be a highly efficient well choreographed and automated dance. 

I'm late to meet my sister for coffee and I too enter the flow, albeit not as skilled as the hundreds of New Yorkers that seem to have been in training all their lives for moments like these.   Big umbrellas small umbrellas... is he going high or low?  Left or right?  As I try to look into the next persons eyes looking for a sign, I see nothing but focus on the empty space that they appear to be creating for themselves as they move forward. 

I feel alone, disconnected, and find myself sad as I look into the blank faces of my fellow New Yorkers wondering about each person as the walk by.  My mind muses...  are they married, divorced, employed, recently laid off, a mom, a dad, are their parents alive, when was the last time they spoke to their kids?  Lost in thought, I snag a passerby's umbrella then proceed to step right into a running stream of New York's mystery moisture, soaking my foot.   

Finally, a cup of coffee in hand, my sister and I have a chance to catch up.   I reflect on the insanity that I just experienced walking to meet her in the rain and of course she is quick to point out she's got bomb proof knee high boots and a simple yet functional waterproof coat.     

Our conversation quickly moved to the family, at which time I began recounting the seemingly toxic experience that I just experienced with my mother and my father.   As I try to talk myself off the ledge, knowing its simply a matter of perspective, and to simply allow them to be the way they are and the way they are not, I fall into my own trap.   I just cant do it.  I'm right they're wrong.   It just shouldn't be this way...   I'm on a roll... ranting about my parents, wanting to check out, commenting on our completely ass backwards society running around like lunatics trying to convince everyone they are all happy, the Indian cultures obsession with pedigree and achievement, and the overall alienated existence of mankind.   I tell her "I'm done!"  "I'm over it"    I just want to go back to Santa Fe, get back in the garden, coach my clients, work my couple of nights at the restaurant and just get back to basics.   

Its been a frustrating couple of weeks.  The Project has been moving slower than I've liked and I've been to two family events over the past two weeks.  Dropping in to a group of highly educated over achieving Indians obsessed with school, vocation, and marriage is enough to make even the most successful person question whether or not they are doing enough.   Questions of when is it going to be live?  I thought it was supposed to be up a month ago?   Is this going to be your business?   How do you plan on making money? What are you doing with your life?   I try to explain that this project is about service... but that falls mostly on deaf ears. 

At the same time I've been confronted with how difficult it is to actually take incredible creative, intriguing copy, a novel idea, and present it in a web format that is easy to understand and have it be compelling.    The Facebook Group continues to grow and everyone that I speak to is intrigued by the concept.   But what is it going to take to get people to really take this on?  Who is going to be the first group of pioneers that will be willing to share their experience with this?   Does anyone really care about the Courage and Commitment to Communicate?   

My sister begins to share with me how she has handled her communications, making direct requests and refusing to get hooked.    As I proudly sit there in total admiration of my little sister's simple yet infinite wisdom, all of the frustration, resignation, and anger started to melt away.   While I'm now jacked on my second cup of coffee, I feel a certain calm...   Isn't this the whole point of the Pink Elephant Project?!?!  Sharing stories with one another about what worked and what didn't.   

At that exact moment a woman who had been sitting in the corner of the coffee shop comes up to us and gently says to us:  "I'm sorry to bother you but I could not help overhearing what you both were talking about but if you haven't heard of this book, I think you might find it helpful."  She proceeds to hand us a note that says... "Non Violent Communication  By:  Marshall Rosenberg."  My sister and I look at each other in a state of disbelief thinking this never happens in New York.   How bizarre.   As we both get up getting ready to leave and thank this woman for her suggestion, my sister just laughs  "What a perfect end to the conversation!"  and headed off to her next stop.   I took a moment to introduce myself,  let her know that I was familiar with Rosenberg's work and proceeded to quickly tell her about the Pink Elephant Project, as I also had to get going.   

As I walked out of the coffee shop, I noticed the rain had stopped and there seemed to be a certain calm in the air, I caught the eyes and a smile from an older lady that passed me by, and I too had a smile on my face.   

Who was that woman in the coffee shop?  She didn't know us at all.  She didn't just sit there listening to us, she heard us, and she decided to do something about it.    How easy would it have been to just sit there and judge my sister and I?  How easy would it have been to just refocus her attention on to what she was doing?   How easy would it have been for her to just simply go about her own business?   But she didn't.  She chose to participate, make a difference, contribute, share, reach out, and connect.  Such a simple genuine and human act of caring... how  awesome.  

What this woman doesn't know is how much that simple act has impacted me all day!  While I started the day exhausted, late, wet, frustrated and filled with resignation I find myself re-inspired and reinvigorated.  My faith in humanity completely restored.  

The need for the Pink Elephant Project project for me has never been clearer.  There is something about dealing with those difficult conversations that seems to be speaking to much so that they would get up out of their chairs and approach two total strangers to offer a helping hand.   And what about my sister...what started out as a simple bitch session from me turned into a healthy story telling about strategies that work and what was possible for her after being straight, clear, and direct in her communications.   This is the Pink Elephant Project, thats what its all about. 

Glancing at my horoscope for the day, it all seemed to make sense!  Sometimes you've just got to puke out the ugly stuff with a loved one or good friend so that you can let the good stuff come back in.  Thanks for the strong shoulders sis.  

Cancer Horoscope
Go to: Yesterday | Tomorrow

You may be worried about medical expenses that are coming in, but you may find that what you need is not more expensive herbs or medicines, it's a good old fashioned venting session, preferably with a loved one with strong shoulders and the ability to keep a secret. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What are you waiting for? The Courage and Commitment to Communicate

I spoke to a dear friend of mine yesterday who reported back to me that she had used the Pink Elephant Promise and tried to have a conversation about an issue that had been lingering in her relationship for the past 6 months.   When I asked how it went she said that it really didn't go so well and that it wasn't the Promise or even the set up that went badly, but rather  how "right" she felt and how that feeling of being "right" got in her way of having a conversation that created understanding.  

What is so wonderful about this is that the conversation happened, she had the opportunity to step back and reflect and agree to reconvene later in the week.    That's a win in my book and here's why...

There is nothing easy about having those tough conversations.  Tough conversations are not going to be easy, otherwise they would be "Easy" conversations.   The Pink Elephant Project and its Promise is by no means a silver bullet that will resolve the issue at hand but rather a catalyst for brining to the surface what needs to be brought to the surface.

In fact what most people including myself will find is that the first Pink Elephant conversation will actually bring up a host of other Pink Elephants.   Why?  Its because the unspoken and the fear that surrounds the conversation show's up in so many other ways within our relationships.  

These unspoken conversations are like hidden land mines that can go off with sometimes the slightest provocation.  They are responsible for the seemingly random barbs and sometimes passive aggressive behavior or in other cases a slow and gentle drifting away from one another.   Relationships take work and they take a level of commitment to one another to continue to engage one another on a daily basis as well as a commitment to be responsible for ones own feelings and interpretations.    

I know from my own experience the longer you ignore what's been on your mind and pretend you're "fine" with things the greater the suffering you will experience in the relationship.   What is amazing to me is our willingness to suffer unnecessarily and our incredible ability to mask that suffering will all kinds of things: buying things, traveling, exercise, working, food, drugs, alcohol and sex.  What I have come to know from my own life and working with others on this exact issue is that ITS NOT SUSTAINABLE.   It takes way too much effort and work to keep masking the obvious and while we can delude ourselves and have become quite adept in doing so, if we really tell the truth, we end up simply tolerating our lives and the people in it.  I've been FINE for the past almost 39 years and I'm over it!  

Ultimately we all have got to accept that for any given circumstance there are just as many interpretations as there are people looking at the circumstance.   Given that, all we can do is begin to understand what each of our perspective is based, be curious about the others perspective, and start to see where if possible we can soften our response to situations that seem to be different than what we believe is "true."

What it comes down to for me is that I would rather find the Courage and Commitment to Communicate TODAY, face my fear of criticism and rejection, say what needs to be said, and if need be have a series of follow up discussions than sit back, suffer unnecessarily, and quietly wait for the next issue to arise.  

I've heard it put a couple of ways:   You can put icing on a mudpie and pretend you've got a cake but at the end of the day you've still got mudpie. 

Or in the words of my mentor Matthew Ferry:  You can build a rose garden above a sewer and it may look pretty but at the end of the day it still stinks when you get close to it.  

What conversations have you been unwilling to have that if you had it would make a difference in your overall well being today?

I know its not easy, and one of the goals of the Project is to recognize that this is going on everywhere with everyone, it is part of the human experience.  By sharing with one another what is possible by breaking though our own fears and working through the issues rather than pretending they don't exist, we can begin to help each other and keep encouraging each other to find the "Courage and Commitment to Communicate." 

Are you in?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why Community Matters & The Power of Vulnerablity

For those of you who don't know me and for those that do,  I have been on the road for the past 5 months on an extraordinary journey.  On December 3rd I left my life in Corona Del Mar, CA after a sudden and painful end to an engagement.  As a coach and communications consultant I was devastated by the fact that I didn't see the signs, and that I didn't see it coming.    

I had no idea what I was going to do and had no idea of where I was going to go.   I had just completed 4 consulting contracts and one client remaining.   We were going into the holidays, with a troubled economy, fear and insecurity was everywhere.   I didn't have a whole lot of money in the bank and a few thousand dollars in receivables.   Where was I going to go?  Where was I going to live?   What was I going to do?   I was suddenly all alone and not sure what to do. 

The original plan was to go back to NY for the holidays, fly back to California and drive back to NY after New Years and stay with the folks until I could figure out what I was going to do.   What unfolded for me over the last 5 months was nothing short of magical. I found Community.  

I decided to sell everything.  If it didn't fit in my 2002 Toyota Forerunner is wasn't coming with me.   I left my 79 VW Bus and Surfboard and packed my ski's, golf clubs, 2 pieces of artwork, some clothes, a surprising number of shoes, boxes of pictures, some important files, other various memories, my macbook pro, and my Iphone and started heading east.  

This may sound silly to some, but one of the first things I did was change my Facebook status from engaged to single.   It sent a ripple to those that knew me as I had just recently proudly posted an article that featured my fiancée and I in our college alumni newsletter talking about how we were at school together, how we met 16 yrs later and decided we were going to be married on Colgate Day June 13th 2009.   It all looked good online, great story, successful consulting practice, great fiancee, great dog, surfing all the time, living on the water, great sunsets....    

I was amazed by the number of people that I hadn't spoken to in years in some cases over 20 yrs that reached out to offer their support and share a story or two about their losses in life.... i heard about lost pregnancy's, family illness, dogs that have past and other heart wrenching events from some good friends but also from old long lost friends that I had reconnected with online.   Late night chats online, phone calls on the road, and messages back and forth really kept me tethered to something more powerful than anything that I have ever experienced.  I found a greater community.   It was in those people and stories that I found my strength and connectedness.  I wasn't alone and I suddenly I became inspired.   

It was December when it really hit me and I received the inspiration to start the Pink Elephant Project.   I have been fascinated by social networks and the reach of the web, but there was something missing for me in the networks that I was a part of.   What was missing was my participation!  I started off very cautious online, not wanting everyone to know my business and was worried about keeping up the "right" image.  Those concerns started to fade as what I was experiencing and looking for was connectedness.    As I started to share with others, others began sharing with me.   The more vulnerable I was willing to be, the more vulnerable others were will to be with me.   I don't know if it was just the timing and the uncertainty that we were all feeling with the elections, the economy, and our futures or something else but it seems that we were all searching in our own way to make sense out of the current situation.    There was a certain humanity that was being expressed in the emails and chats that I had never experienced before.   There was also a certain generosity and good will that I experienced from my community that redefined what most people would ever think was possible. 

I was on the phone with a good friend of mine somewhere along my journey who basically said... The violins aren't playing to loudly for you anymore... lets see you've been to NYC, Zion National Park, Aspen, Telluride, Durango and Santa Fe over the past couple of months skiing and playing in the mountains... let me give you a little insight to my life.  :)   

I had started on the road January 3rd  on my way to NY and  headed off to St George, UT to visit some dear friends of mine from my days in Alta, UT I hadn't seen in about 10 yrs.  It was lovely, I had a beautiful room right at the mouth of Zion National Park, great food, great conversations, I shared with them my story and they shared theirs with me.     I would spend half the day playing and connecting and half the day working on the Project.  While I was there it occurred to me that I didn't really have to be in NY and that I had such an incredible community in the Rocky Mountains after living and skiing in the Rockies for over 13 yrs.  I knew  that there would be nothing better for me than to stay in the Mountains and work on the project.   After all, I had everything I needed and owned in my car.  I had my Mac Book Pro, My IPhone and a virtual assistant who was turning my thoughts and ideas into organized coherent paragraphs.   All I needed was a place to lay my head down and an internet connection. 

I kept updating my Facebook status and connecting with friends sharing my experiences, the inspiration of the project, and the financial and emotional challenges that came from the break up and being on the road.   I was living a day at a time with no schedule or real plan other than to make sure I was doing what it took to get the project off the ground and take care of myself.   Incredible housesitting and petsitting opportunities seemingly came out of the blue in some of the most beautiful houses in the rockies, free ski passes, comped meals and drinks at incredible restaurants, wonderful home cooked meals, connections with extraordinary people.    This was hardly couch surfing and what I learned about was a new currency.   The whole time I was operating from a place of contribution and vulnerability.  I saw how I could help my friends and they gladly reached out to help me.   

As my housing, food, and skiing needs were being met something even more miraculous was happening with the project.   I had and have no budget for the project.  There was a laundry list of things that needed to get done that cost money.   I needed to get a web presence, I needed legal help, I needed design help, I needed accounting help, I needed fulfillment help, I needed marketing expertise and I just needed to know that I was moving in the right direction.   I started posting my intentions on line in various forums and began connecting with new people that seemed to be interesting.   I kept sharing my vision with others and kept sharing my story from a place of vulnerability.   What I received was nothing short of miracle after miracle from people that I have never met before in person.   The website is about to launch, creative has been completed, expert social marketing and social networking folks have been spending time with me strategizing, friends have been editing copy and offering their guidance and support, events are being scheduled, the totems have been ordered.   What I estimated would cost me $75K to get started has been accomplished by a team of volunteers and family spread throughout the united states and mexico for a fraction of the cost in just a few months.  

Its been 5 months and just 2 days ago I fully unpacked my car for the first time since January 3rd.   The ski season is over and spring has sprung.  I feel reborn and feel inspired as I reflect on the difference I made in peoples lives and the difference they continue to make in mine.   I find myself happily back in Santa Fe and reconnected to my community that I had been a part of for 13 yrs.   Today I also have a new community and a different understanding of what's possible when you decided to put yourself out there and make a difference. 

Resources continue to be a challenge for me personally and the project in these uncertain times but what I have come to know is there is an abundance in this universes and that the universe seems to show that abundance in unconventional ways.    In its latest gift I have the good fortune of helping a friend with some gardening in exchange for a beautiful room in a beautiful home in Santa Fe.  I've got my feelers out for consulting and coaching opportunities and if need be I can always find something to keep me going.  I've just been looking for the signs, doing the next thing in front of me, and standing firm in my commitment to see the Pink Elephant Project launch successfully.   So far so good!  

The Pink Elephant Project is nothing short of an expression of the idea of what's possible when a community of like minded people get together in the fulfillment of a common goal.   The reason why I picked the "Courage and Commitment to Communicate"  is because what the Project is about is not easy.   Its going to take the first group of courageous pioneers to bring the promise into their families and workplace and the commitment to come back to share their story with the community.   When this movement actually becomes a movement it will be because of the community found the "Courage and Commitment to Communicate" with each other and found their power through one another love, compassion, vulnerability and.... SHARED HUMANITY.  

In gratitude to those who have been with me on this extraordinary journey.  Shasheen

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pink Elephant Project Trailer II

another inspiring video by Adriana Ochoa!

Beyond Perceptions: Right Brain Left Brain

The Pink Elephant Project's main objective is to raise awareness about how one's perceptions and experience shapes their interpretation of any given circumstances and also seeks to have individuals reflect introspectively to discover what it is about certain circumstances that has them get "triggered." 

That being said, this morning I received an interesting article this morning from my new friend Maria that suggests that not only do perceive things differently but we also think about differently based on whether or not we are right or left brained.   So on top of our past experiences in life and our filters that we have developed there also seems to be something else at work that has us "experience" the same exact phenomenon differently from one another.   6+ Billion people....6+ Billion interpretations.   Who's right?   :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

For the People By the People

As I sit here watching the sunrise on the Hood Canal looking at the mountains I am present to how this project is not mine but rather the communities.  We are just a few days away from launching the Phase I site and it is so exciting to think about what Phase II will look like.   I have contemplated all kinds of platforms, functionality, design elements, and architecture and have come to the conclusion that what is most important is that the world gets to hear and understand the message, take the Pink Elephant Promise and put it to work in their lives as soon as possible.  The Phase I site will do just that.   What is so refreshing is knowing that what comes next will be guided by the community.  I declare that this project is for the people and will be directed by the people.   

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pink Elephant Project Trailer

By Adriana Ochoa

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clarification: One Conversation at a Time

So its been a week since launching the Facebook Group: "Pink Elephant Project" and it is so exciting to see 207 members have joined half of which I didn't know prior to launching the group.   There is something that people are responding to that I think has to do with the simple idea of "Cant we all just get along."      

What I noticed is that I really didn't create a focus but rather a greater vision of what is ultimately possible when the world has the courage and commitment to communicate.   A discussion post on the group site about religion prompted me to add some clarity of where I believe we need to focus:  

The Pink Elephant Project is committed to creating the awareness that each individual comes to a conversation with their own personal biases and those biases are based on each individual’s experience in life.   Each of us comes to the table with a perspective that seems right to us.   By first acknowledging this fact we can gain some flexibility in how we respond to another’s opposing view point. 

The second step is more self reflective in nature: looking deep within us to discover why it is that we believe what we believe, and why it is that we sometimes get triggered in the face of another’s opposing view point.    When we can focus inward, give up our righteousness, and soften our expression we can communicate with greater effectiveness.  It ultimately comes down to a rigorous self responsibility that allows us to hear and be heard. 

Pink Elephant Project believes that we have to create the self awareness within our most intimate relationships, learn to be responsible for how we are interpreting the world, learn to be curious and be interested in another’s perspective and see how it is possible that another can believe sometimes in the exact opposite of what we believe. 

Its about individuals, not groups, stereotypes, politics etc and fundamentally seeks to assist an individual handle seemingly difficult topics with another individuals.  

By Focusing on one conversation at a time each one of us can make the shift that allows us to hear and be heard.   By continuing to share what’s possible when we are responsible for our feelings,  overcoming our own righteousness, develop a higher level of compassion, and understanding we can help reach the tipping point that will eventually create a more peaceful and loving planet. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

For Profit or Non Profit:

So after some deliberation the Pink Elephant Project is going to be a for profit corporation.   As much as I would like to be able to receive grant money it seems to make more sense growing this community organically and relying on the members of the community contributing financially in exchange for goods and services.   Most of the activities of the project, classes, consultations, publications, and merchandise all fall under "non related activities" and are taxable.   

As the project grows we will set up a foundation that will support children's advocacy organizations and related non-profits that deal with difficult social issues where the courage and commitment to communicate are an essential part of the fulfillment of their mission.  

Here's an interesting article from the NYT:  Social Solution Without Going the Non-Profit Route

139 members of the Facebook Group this morning!  

If you haven't joined...come join the fun!  

Friday, April 17, 2009

Logo & Treatment

This is the logo and treatment that we are using for the project.  

Special Thanks to Adriana Ochoa who had the vision and the talent to take my ideas and turn them into reality.  If you want first class design, a personal touch, speed, accuracy and service that will blow you away check out her agency. 

Facebook Fascination

Well its been three days since I created the "Pink Elephant Project" Facebook group and invited all of my 600 Friends.   What has been absolutely amazing to me is how at least 10% of the 123 members of the group are friends of friends.  My friends join, their friends get notified, and curiosity brings them to the group, they sign up!   

The first evening 48 people, the next morning 62 people, that night 108 people, this morning 117 as of right now 123.   Its become an addiction.  I keep refreshing the group page to see the latest number's.   

The other thing that has been incredible is all of the comments, emails, and calls I've received. People are coming out of the woodwork to participate, help, and contribute.   The website is not even up but people are getting inspired by the story!   

If you're on Facebook, join the group!

Oh wait...124!  

The Story That Started It All

You've heard about the elephant in the living room… 

The Pink Elephant Project is a life-calling of Shasheen Shah, a native New Yorker with roots in India. The project was inspired by the story of Ganesha - a Hindu deity with the head of an elephant – widely revered as “the remover of obstacles”. The Pink Elephant Project believes that what’s standing in the way of people’s true happiness and fulfillment is directly related to the ability to handle important conversations in a constructive way.

A business consultant gifted in fostering dialogue, Shasheen uses his talents to open up lines of communication among individuals within organizations, resulting in inspired management teams, and cultivating innovation and creativity. Befitting a person immersed in the world of communication, Shasheen experienced a life-altering epiphany that led him to the creation of the Pink Elephant Project.

Read on below to experience Shasheen’s story… 

In December 2008 while visiting St. Louis, Missouri, I accompanied my friend Erin to an interfaith center she frequents. Following several hours of meditation, during which I was moved to tears by emotions stemming from a recent broken engagement, I walk into the Social Gathering Room with Erin and encounter an “intuitive energy worker”.

“What do you do?” she asks. “What’s your story?”

Automatically falling into “business networking overdrive”, I begin explaining the services I provide, and how under the umbrella of my consulting company, I’ve essentially been handling the Pink Elephant that’s been sitting in boardrooms across America…and how I’ve been jokingly considering renaming Enterprise Management Consulting, Pink Elephant Partners…

“Oh my God!” She exclaims, waving her hands in front of me while bursting into laughter. “You’re the pink Ganesh…you’re the pink Ganesh! (link to Ganesh, or a blurb) You’re the remover of obstacles…that’s who you are!” 

At that moment I experienced clarity like I had never experienced clarity before, and my entire life made sense. The pink Ganesh is who I had been all these years for management teams, friends, and family though prior to this conversation, I had never recognized it in that context. Of "Indian decent", I had known the statue of Ganesh as a symbol of prosperity and good blessings but never as the remover of obstacles! Suddenly, my life had a renewed purpose and there was rejuvenation of a journey that I have always been on…

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by how the same exact set of circumstances can be interpreted in so many ways. Being first generation East Indian American with East Indian parents, the divide in our perceptions was amplified far beyond the usual generation gap. Given any set of circumstances, there were always at least as many interpretations as there were people. Whether in the corporate world, my entrepreneurial adventures, my time as a ski instructor, or in my relationships with friends, family and significant others, there have always been conflicts present…What I have come to realize is that those conflicts were based on nothing more than interpretations. While conflicts can and have served as catalysts for creativity, insight, and understanding, as well as innovation and inspired solutions, they have also crushed individual self-expression, been the source of resignation, caused us to be complacent and simply tolerate our jobs, our family, and the like. While we continue to be FINE and are capable of DEALING, these unresolved issues in the form of uninitiated or unsuccessful conversations build up like rust on our psyche and slowly eat away at our core. 

As humans we seek acknowledgement and agreement. However, in the face of the 6+ billion people who are all interpreting the world in their own way, it is simply natural that we disagree. What happens then? A schoolchild raises his hand, gets the answer wrong, and is laughed at. A loving spouse brings up a concern and is met with defensiveness. A boardroom executive offers an idea, with the best intentions, and gets shot down… We learn very quickly to guard ourselves and think twice the next time we consider raising our hand and offering an idea. Personally, when I express myself, I can’t stand rejection – or anything less than excitement and acknowledgement, for that matter.

Someone once told me that we are all directors (and actors) of our own screenplay: We run around in our own world and get upset, frustrated, angry, and hurt when the characters don’t follow the script that has been created for them. The problem is we never gave them the script! Given the 6+ billion directors out in the world, all with their own screenplays while simultaneously performing as characters in other screenplays, it’s no wonder that misunderstanding and conflict exists in this world! It’s only natural and human. Thus the inspiration for the Pink Elephant Project. 

As I sat there in front of this woman, my hair standing on end, I was immediately brought to tears with the recognition that all of this had culminated into something so much bigger and infinitely more worthwhile than just the name of my consulting practice. 

Knowing that there was still more that needed to be revealed, I returned to the center the next day in hopes of further enlightenment. At the suggestion of the center’s founder, I stared into the eyes of a particular Buddha statue. What happened next was nothing short of divine inspiration. In unremitting fluidity, the knowledge seized my mind as I lucidly recited, out loud:

“Pink Elephant Partners - forget that! It’s the Pink Elephant Project…it’s the courage and commitment to communicate! Couples, Husbands, Wives, Mothers, Daughters, Fathers, Sons, Loved Ones, even Management Teams, they all need to take the Pink Elephant Promise…that is any time there is something that has been concerning them, something on their mind, or something that they have been reluctant to express out of fear of the other person’s anticipated response, they agree to invoke the Pink Elephant – placing a totem on the table - as a way of letting others know that there is something on their mind…something that they have been concerned about bringing up, or something that they may not know the right way to say it or bring it up. In the presence of this totem, it is agreed that you give that person the space to say what needs to be said, knowing that it’s important to them and that it’s coming from a place of love. It is not meant to be harmful or hurtful, but rather serves as a catalyst for further discussion.” 

As I pondered the symbolism of Ganesh as the remover of obstacles, it was all too perfect! The vision was crystal clear: The Pink Elephant symbol in the home of every family, in the office of every executive, on the desk of every leader, constantly reminding them of the Courage and Commitment to Communicate. The invocation sets the stage and the reiteration of the promise sets context for the conversation. Imagine a world that has the courage and skills to courageously communicate and be fully self-expressed…where creativity, innovation, collaboration, and cooperation are possible; where people feel acknowledged, heard, relevant, known, and part of whole; where solutions can change the world. This world is possible…all from a simple, playful movement called the Pink Elephant Project.