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I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.

Fritz Perls

Last winter I took part in a training for coaches and facilitators, to which we arrived from many countries. Polish, Czech, Austrian, Dutch, Hungarian, Israeli, British and lots of different cultures.

It was great to learn together with people from so many cultures, and I really enjoyed trying out every tool right away. The bravest could immediately volunteer as facilitators.

One of the exercises was to present a topic important to us, and convince other participants to sign up for a small group discussion about this topic.

I was among the 6 brave ones to put ours forward for the group to choose from. I recall feeling a mixture of anxiety and excitement, waiting to find out if mine would be chosen or not.

Well, nobody picked mine. Nobody. Nadie. No one.

I was quite disappointed, as I thought that the topic I brought would be interesting for the others. But no…or maybe it was, but not right then and there.

I felt really lonely at that moment. Standing in front of about 40 people, and not one person choosing what I had to offer.

Just before these discussions started, we received an interesting instruction from one of the trainers. She said, that nobody should be afraid to use the “LAW OF TWO FEET”, if we realize halfway, that we’re not that interested in our chosen topic after all. She encouraged us, that we have two feet in order to be able to move on.

First, I too joined a small group, but after a while I felt this was not for me after all. So, I applied the Law of Two Feet, and I left. I found a lovely spot on some empty mattresses in the biggest training room, that was almost empty at the time. So, I lay down and started just gazing up at the ceiling.

A little while later an Austrian girl joined me, then an English guy, and a Hungarian girl. They too lay down on the other mattresses and for a while we were just gazing together.

Then, all of a sudden, a really interesting conversation started between the four of us, which had to end only because the rest of the group came back.

We talked about all sorts of stuff. About work, cultures, trainings, the big issues of life, and so much more. One topic came after the other, and it was really interesting to hear what everyone had to say about them, especially through the glasses of other cultures.

It was really amazing!

While we were talking, they asked me how I was with the fact, that my topic was not chosen by the big group. I told them, that at first, I was really sad, but now, that we have this spontaneous conversation going on, with some great topics, I’m really happy.

Half-joking, I added, that I already learnt that if in one given moment, your topic is not the chosen one, then instead of using the Law of Two Feet, apply the Law of Mattress. This law entitles you to not have to join others, but instead to go to a place that’s attractive to you, where you can let the stress out, and to give yourself permission to not meet any expectations at that very moment.

You can choose to loosen up, and perhaps a new kind of openness will give way to something good and unexpected. Moreover, even people you did not expect to talk to earlier, might come up to you to start a conversation.

Thanks to the Law of Mattress, that spontaneous conversation was so cool, that it went on long after the training, at some local cafés. With one of the four, we actually started talking about a couple of special coaching programs and we might start a collaboration, that inspires both of us.

If at the time I hadn’t stayed alone, and hadn’t allowed something unexpected to happen, we might have never found out, that we share similar views on a lot of things.

The other day I was working with one of my clients, who was preparing for a job interview abroad. He was very nervous, and brought this huge list of topics, that he wanted to talk about during the interview, so as to sell himself.

He was really anxious to be able to say something, that would make a certain company choose him. He wanted only this job, only this company.

I heard it in his voice, the tone and the rhythm, and also due to the masses of topics he had prepared, that he was way too nervous about the whole thing.

I wrote about it earlier, that an important meeting, or negotiation will be successful (and this view is shared by experts too), if we let go of what we think we are expected to talk about, and instead prepare to show our own expertise, knowledge and our real personality.

If we insist, that an important meeting is a life-and-death issue, and we think that too much is at stake, we will not be able to act naturally, and due to serious stage fright, we might not be able to create the impression we want to.

If we can be at ease, imagine that there are no high stakes involved, and without the huge burden of having to achieve something by all means, then we will be more likely to be able to say something that will be appealing to the other person.

It can of course happen, that it won’t be appealing to the person we had in mind, or who we think is our only chance. But the question is, do we really want to work with everyone? Do we want to share our knowledge with absolutely anyone, or do we want to give our name to all kinds of collaboration?

What would happen, if we would not concentrate on just one job, or one particular cooperation, but instead on find one, that’s a good fit for us? Where we find similar values to ours, and we don’t need to throw in all sorts of tricks to be able to catch attention.

We often choose certain companies, employers or even business partners because others choose them. Or because they are famous, and we think that they will be ideal for us.

However, this is not a guarantee for anything.

I mean really, so what if that specific position won’t be ours? If we are not able to sign a contract with that certain company? If we are not able to start a cooperation with the partner we have in mind?

In most cases nothing will happen. Great collaborations happen when we show up, we are transparent about our own needs, and these match the needs of the other partner. I have considerable international experience to back this up.

All these circumstances can be revealed only if we listen to the other person, and if we have the courage to talk about what’s important to us. If we are able to take part in the conversation not by copying someone else’s information or attitude, but showing up as we are.

Many people will question this, and will keep on clinging to one specific opportunity. But if I think back to how I was offered jobs in different countries, to how I signed contracts with some of the world’s biggest companies, and to how my biggest business successes were created, then all I can think of is this “no high stakes” way of doing things. In most cases, I said to myself: what’s the worst thing that can happen, if I don’t get this contract?

We have a lot more opportunities than we think, but when we focus on just one possibility, we fail to notice the others. We cannot know, when we go for a coffee with a stranger, just because we’re interested in their story, or when someone ends up next to us on an empty mattress in a training space, that this person could be the one to offer us a great opportunity next time.

To me the Law of Mattress means this: I can step a little further from the thing I am clinging to. Instead I can discover a new place, where I might find new inspiration, and where I can be who I am, without having to stress about it.

This is what I wish for you too.

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