“Do Your Work, Then Step Back – The Only Path To Serenity”

Hello dear reader,

It’s been quite a while. I know.

As I said to some of you not too long ago, I backed off from this blogging thing because I’ve been really bummed out by what’s going on with the incomprehensible (to me) behavior of some of the humans here in the US, and in the world. It’s been a lot to digest, and I’ve been fruitlessly searching for a container big enough to stuff it all into.

And, since that plan hasn’t been working, I decided that I needed an attitude adjustment instead.

Now, before you decide that my solution was a bit extreme, think about it: The co-pay to see the shrink at Kaiser is $35 per visitnot including the meds.

But here I am. I’m back. Honestly though? That’s mostly thanks to your encouragement.

I admit that it’s already difficult enough for me to let go of the way things “used to be”, (even though, goodness knows, they were certainly far from perfect). But with all that’s going on these days, way harder is my ongoing struggle to let go of the way things “need to be” (code for the way Michael needs them to be). In that department, I’m not even close. This is a real biggie for me. What about you?

If I ever hope to accomplish this, one of my big attachments that I need let go of, is my reaction to the ignorance of others.

THEIR ignorance (while I KNOW), has this amazing ability to make my blood boil. Tell me, do you enjoy being angry?

At a daylong retreat I recently attended, a teacher named Adyashanti said these words to us, which I jotted down to think about:

       “The more we know, the less awake we are.

        The less we know, the more awake we are.”

 These words do seem so counter intuitive, don’t they? As he explained them, our  “ego state” (which we totally need BTW, to successfully navigate every single day in our “conventional life”), is defined by: “I KNOW”. I KNOW = security through knowing – through being SURE.

I have this expression: “Show me a man who’s sure he’s right, and I’ll show you a dangerous man.”

Of course, at its most contemptible, horrific extreme, this ego state of ours can even create terrorists. Terrorists know things for certain, don’t they? Indeed, so certain are they, that they are willing to murder innocents, even children, in the light of day, on TV, without the slightest feelings of guilt or remorse, blow themselves up in the process – and even proudly seek credit for it all.

Actions like these are completely beyond yours’ and my capacity to comprehend. In this context, the question “why”, has no meaning whatsoever.

But leaving the murderers aside, what I’ve got mostly in mind are those day- to-day ideologues…those crazies out there whose agendas drive me nuts when I read or watch the news.

Two familiar examples: I am a hugely fortunate 74 year-old straight man in the 48th year of a happy marriage. It’s not likely that I’m gonna be needing an abortion anytime soon, nor a marriage license permitting me to marry another guy.

So why is it that the actions of those who want to undo Roe v Wade, put Planned Parenthood out of business, or refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, upset me so much? In purely personal, practical terms, this has absolutely nothing to do with me.

Might one of those “dangerous men who are sure they’re right” (that I referred to above) possibly include me? I’ve always thought of myself as the least dangerous person I know.

But, many smart, caring, good-hearted people are equally mystified by me. Can you imagine that? They are just as certain that they are right, that I am wrong, and that it “should” be their way.

Psychology professor Richard Alpert, (after getting kicked out of Harvard along with Timothy Leary for turning their students on to LSD), went to India, studied with a Guru, and came back a few years later, wearing a bed sheet, and calling himself Ram Dass.

He’s been another very important teacher in my life. He says lots of wonderful, memorable, useful (and sometimes funny) stuff. One such gem was: “everybody’s shoulding on me”.

So, if I can’t change what HAS happened (or is happening), I can at least try to let go of the “SHOULD” and “SHOULDN’T” part. Can’t I?

If I can manage that, then maybe I can change how I think and feel about events, and from there, decide if there’s anything that I can, and want to (NOT “should”) do about them.

If I want to have a calm and peaceful mind and life, and take care of myself, I need to do something about all this, but what? Well, let go of course! But what does letting go mean here? Must I let go of caring? Of course not!

 Letting go here, means moving from “WHAT…ever” – which basically means: “screw it, we’re doomed”, to some other understanding.

 Saying “WHATever” is NOT letting go. There is anger, aversion, and “I don’t care”, in “WHAT…ever”, which actually is the opposite of letting go.

 And, most importantly, letting go does not let me off the hook from supporting, and doing, what I can about the issues I do care about.

 What’s different now though, is that now I’m able let go of needing things to turn out Michael’s way, and, of needing to be here to see that they do.

 There is big freedom, and peace of mind, in doing this…big!

So then…how?

Well, certainly not this way:


Nor this:


This may be getting a wee bit closer, although I couldn’t resist inserting, into the corner of the photo, some essential advice from Lao Tzu, to every one of us potential ”masters”, from the (Stephen Mitchell) translation of his 2600 year old treasure of wisdom, the Tao Te Ching . Have a peek.

My ongoing responsibility then, is best articulated by yet another fundamental teaching from my same good buddy, Lao Tzu. Ta-da!!!

“Do your work, then step back – the only path to serenity”

 Practice Tip

I recently listened to the podcast of a presentation offered by Dr. Cornel West, author, philosopher, social-justice activist, to a group of youngsters at the University in Winnipeg in Canada.

I was struck by how perfectly his words sum up why we must let go of “the way it needs to be”, let go of needing to see the fruits of our actions, AND, that when the world seems like a giant mess, and we have no idea when, how or even if, we humans will get our act together, we still have an obligation to do what we can to move things forward just the same.

I wrote down some of Dr. West’s words, which I’d like to share with you.

And while you are considering them, have a listen to a very similar message on the same topic from Leonard Cohen, someone to whom I owe so much – all those countless hours of pleasure AND learning – which I reckon makes him one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Thank you, dear Leonard.

(BTW, the usual caveat: If you are reading this in your email, links to media sometimes don’t work. If that’s so, click on the title of this post, which will take you to my site, where the links will work.)



I don’t think that hope is predicated on the future getting better. That’s optimism, not hope.

 As a human being, I am going to live a life of integrity, honesty, and decency. That’s what I’m called to do.

 Whether any consequences may flow beyond that, which make the world into better place, is beyond my control.

 I don’t believe there needs to be a direct connection between me – or anyone – trying to be a decent person, and somehow decency itself becoming more pervasive in the world.

 In the long run, if we lose, we lose…there are no guarantees.

 Even so, I still want to be a person who fights against the wrongs in the world…Period!

 I agree with the words of Anton Chekhov:

 In the end, it’s just a matter of bearing witness, and speaking your truth.”

                                       – Dr. Cornel West


 So now my new plan is to keep trying to get to this way, and be in this place.

When my sweet bride who proofreads all my posts (she is soo good at seeing the typos that I miss) saw this photo, she suggested this would make a perfect 2018 New Year’s resolution for me. What do you think?

That’s about it for this time, dear reader, and so, until our next meetup, please take care of, and be kind to, yourself.



PS: Just got this email from Barack (whose foundation I support). Remember him? I’ll bet you do. Read it. It’ll make you feel better. I’m sure of it. Here’s the link:




























About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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