island c: the unimagined possibility

This blog is about the importance of seeing further.

About the things we know are possible for our clients that they might only have inklings of for themselves.

If you’ve followed my work at all you know all about my metaphor of the journey from island A to island B. You can watch a video about it here.

I wrote about it in a recent blog post about figuring out your platform.

Imagine a young man on an island (which we’ll call Island A). It’s not that great a place to be. But, it’s all he knows, so he goes about his days. Then he starts hearing that his is not the only island in the world. That there are other islands. At first he doesn’t believe it, but the more he visits the docks and meets these visitors the clearer it becomes. It’s true. And then, one day, he hears about a particular island (which we’ll call Island B). And his heart leaps. He wants to go there.

Of course, he needs to get a boat to go there.

But there are so many boats to hire! Which one to choose?

Your business is a boat. It helps people like this young man get from Island A where they’re struggling with some problem (i.e. set of symptoms they don’t like) to Island B where they have the result they want (i.e. something they’re craving).

But I’ve recently realized that there is something beyond Island B.

For simplicity sake, let’s call it Island C.

If Island A is the pain they’re in now and Island B is where they want to get to, then Island C is what we know is possible for them that’s even beyond Island B.

There’s the pain they feel. There’s the thing they’re craving, but the thing they’re craving only goes to the limits of their imagination. Our cravings take us to the end of what we know but no farther.

“The greatest personal limitation is to be found not in the things you want to do and can’t, but in the things you’ve never considered doing.” – Dr. Richard Bandler (Father of NLP)

Generic Examples . . .

Island A: I’m lonely. Island B: I want to date someone. Island C: we fall in love and say, ‘I never knew I could feel this way.’

Island A: I’m sick. Island B: I want to be healthy. Island C: we cleanse, do yoga, start juicing and say, ‘I never knew I could feel this way.’

Island A: I’m broke. Island B: I want to to be able to pay my bills on time and have money left over. Island C: we do the work needed to handle our money and say, ‘I never imagined I could feel so at peace and proud in my relationship to money.’

Island A: I’m full of angst and depression. Island B: I want to feel good again. Island C: we get deep into our personal healing work and one day wake up saying, ‘I feel so beautiful and light. I feel so at peace.’

Island C is what might be possible in the life of ONE person that they hadn’t previously considered. This i different than the bigger cause we imagine which is what we envision for our whole community or the world (though they are likely connected).

Island C is the place you got to in your life that you never dreamed possible before. But now you’re here! Amazing.

Island B is a promise. Island C is a possibility.

Island B is the result they imagine, it’s what they’re craving to the extent they can articulate it.

Island C goes beyond this into articulating their most deeply felt inklings. It offers up the hope and the possibility that it could be even better than they craved it to be.

Real Life Examples:

Claudia Bolli from Edmonton imagines yards not just as things to be landscaped (Island B) but sees the possibility in them to become sanctuaries for people. It’s a vision most people wouldn’t hold for their yards.

The world of permaculture looks at dessertified and salty soil and sees the potential for an oasis.


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The Authentic Man Program is San Francisco sees beyond the possibility of ‘better communication’ with women or skills to ‘pick them up’ to the deeper possibility of authentic relating and seeing our interactions with others as a path of spiritual growth. They lift up the possibility of a level of realness and authenticity in relating with women that most men would never even consider.

My colleague Ari Galper works with a lot of sales people who are (secretly) terrified of cold calling (Island A) and their best hope is to learn some tools to make it less painful, or to have ways to pump themselves up to make it through it or some better ‘closing techniques’ so they can make more money (Island B). But the assumption is that it’s doomed to be painful. Ari lifts up the possibility that cold calls can not only be effective but feel wonderful and respectful for both sides.

In October of 2011, I met Jon and his wife Peggy at Pun Pun (and organic farm and sustainability center) in Thailand. While most people living in the city (and hating it) dream of maybe making more money in their job and having life be a bit less hard – Jon has the notion that more possible – life can be easy.

Many people struggle with type II diabetes (Island A) and they hope to live a normal life (Island B). Gabriel Cousens had created a protocol that might his entirely heal it through nutrition (Island C). Healing or curing Type II Diabetes is just not even on the radar of most people who struggle with it.

Most non-profits struggle with funding. They scrape by, get money from government, foundations and corporations and it’s stressful to deal with the politics, red tape and lack of money (Island A). They would love to get a bit more time to get all those funding proposals in and host a few really sweet fundraising events. Terry Axelrod of Benevon proposes something a bit different: the possibility forever ending the chasing for funding by creating a system for individual giving campaigns that works so seamlessly that it’s never, ever and issue again. Your mission could be not just ‘better’ funded – but fully funded.

Most people work at a job that isn’t really their thing (Island A) and dream of one day retiring and doing what they really want to do. Work hard, retire, have an amazing lifestyle (Island B). Alex Baisley suggests that you might actually be able to have your dream lifestyle much sooner than you’d think. He suggests that if you start with your ideas for an amazing lifestyle you can then back your business and projects into that and start living your dream lifestyle right now rather than down the road when you’re 65. Even further he points out that you might just make more money doing the things you love to do and living the lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of living.

Mark Silver suggests that every act of business can be an act of love.

Edmonton’s The Chocolate Doctors suggest that chocolate can be not only a guilty pleasure but a healthful one when it’s made raw.

Lynne Twist sees fundraising not as the shitty job to be avoided in the world of fundraising but as one of the most beautiful and sacred jobs one can perform – a job that actually be a part of healing the world (not just a job to fund the work that heals it).

Challenge Day sees bullying not as something we should just cope with but something that can be transformed. They believe high school can be more than tolerable but actually a beautiful experience.

A man I met in Calgary worked with men who’d been devastated by divorce. Most of them would hope for things to be neutral – but he believed you could actually create a better relationship with your ex than you had when you were together (whether or not you ever got back together).

Whereas many activist men carry shame for being a man (Island A) and their dream is to be a better ally to women (Island B) David Hatfield offers a deeper and richer possibility – that we can not only support our sisters, but that brotherhood is a constant possibility. That being a man is something to be celebrated not something to be ashamed of.

TED talks are full of people sharing possibilities you’d never even imagined before. We leave watching a TED Talk uplifted and inspired. Full of hope for what’s possible. We’ve seen something new in the world.

So many people suffer emotionally (Island A). Byron Katie has the point of view that our suffering comes from our thoughts. And that when we question them we can not only cope – but that we can really truly be at peace and live in the moment.

Many progressive white people feel guilty about being white (Island A). Martin Prechtel suggests that there is an indigenous heart of humanity and that it is possible of reclaim it. Even for white people.

Island C is your provocative proposition – your potentially outrageous idea of what might be possible in the life of a single person (e.g. that marketing can be done in a way that doesn’t feel gross, that you can parent without being too permissive or too authoritarian, that you might be able to heal your depression without drugs etc.)

Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t just working for the end of racism (a large enough goal) but the creation of the beloved community. His vision was about a culture – not an individual – but it’s the spirit of it. He saw further.


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Sometimes all people know is that they are craving relief from Island A. Relief from their pain. Sometimes it’s really hard to see beyond that.

Island C is the thing people might have inklings of but would never imagine. It’s not on the menu to order. It’s the new wonderful idea that we bring into the world. A tiny thread reweaving the world into wholeness. And isn’t that a wonderful idea, that you bring not just a new person but (at least one) new possibility into the world with you. A possibility people may never have considered before. A possibility you are able to share because you’ve lived it into being.

People only know the solutions they know. They don’t know what else is available. They yearn for more but can only fit that into what they experience or know of.

But you see further than they’re able to.

I wrote a week ago in a blog post (paraphrasing something I’d heard Caroline Casey say),

When your community looks into the mirror that reflects the current world’s woes and feel such despair and overwhelm from it – we wave our hands and the mirror becomes a window through which they can see what’s possible. And, with another wave, that window becomes a door and we invite them through.

We’re telling people a new story about their lives that they’ve never heard before – or not heard for a long time. The true stories of what is possible. Of what we can be.

We call the new world into being with the eloquence of our words and our living.

Caroline Casey says it so well,

“Better to create prophecy than to live prediction. What makes us passive is toxic. What makes us active is tonic. This is the difference between predictions, which make us passive, and prophecy, which is active co-creation with the divine.”

How to Figure Out Your Island C:

Try answering these questions and see what comes up for you.

  • What do you know is possible that most people don’t?
  • What’s the secret you know?
  • What is the possibility you want to wake up in the heart of the world?
  • What is a result or reality you currently enjoy in your life or in your projects that most people would never even imagine is possible?
  • Thinking of your potential clients, complete this sentence, ‘you might be intrigued by the possibility of . . .’
  • Most of my clients want __________ but they don’t realize they could have __________.

Considerations and Caveats:

Island C could become the land of hype and false promises. It can become the land of shattered dreams. Don’t do that to people. Don’t offer up something you haven’t personally experienced. Don’t tell them you can guide them to the mountain top when you’ve only ever been half way (and no one else has never made it).

It’s important to speak both to the possibility and the limitations; the opportunities and the challenges. The beauty of the promised land and all the work it takes to get there.

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