The Art of Letting Go

Reflections on an acquired skill. An introduction to future blog posts, with a gentle nudge to create your own approach to letting go.
Letting Go

Logo ThumbnailI’m writing this as I listen to Don’t Call by Desire – it’s on a Spotify playlist made by my dear friend Charlie Ranalli called Retro 80s. There’s a bottle of Glenlivet and a Cuban cigar by my side, and I’m looking out onto the Tortuga Island in the Gulf of Nicoya.

Alex is relaxing in the boat’s main cabin and the crew is taking a break too. I, meanwhile, have made the fly-bridge my own and managed to carve out some much-needed time for myself – which I’m spending freely typing this out on my iPad.

October has just ended and now we’re more than halfway through the 1st November 2020 – it’s been a weird year to say the least. I’ve been looking at this year’s Halloween pictures today – the costumes for which are frighteningly appropriate, given the year we’ve had. I find that originality and creativity really shine through in the midst of adversity, in both surprising and amazing ways.

Santi got dressed up in a blue costume that really showed off his fitness; he and a few other neighbourhood friends went trick or treating in Altos de Nunciatura. Today, we were sent the photos through on WhatsApp and I’ve been having a ball looking through them.

Adri went down the Nintendo route along with the grandchildren who dressed up as Mario and Luigi. She and Nacho are parents to two wonderful little kids today. They took the lift and made several carefully planned trick or treating stop-offs, after which they listened to live music and put a lot of energy into preparing everything.

Now, as I sit here, Leave As I Am is starting to play. Its title speaks to me – and I take it as a sign. In fact, I decide to replay the introductory part again.

Last night, there was a small earthquake here in Costa Rica, measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale. Thankfully, there was no damage reported and we just experienced one more shockwave during the night.

Since then, my lovely Saprissa soccer club was given the beating of the year against Alajuela – there have been lots of tweets and messages talking about the Cueva (what we call the stadium) as the epicentre of the tremor. We lost 2-3 – great news for those who dislike the biggest football club in our little country. But alas, I digress…

I’ve had to relight my cigar. I got distracted with these paragraphs and in its abandonment, the cigar met the same fate as a person without oxygen. The ice in my drink has also melted and I’ve had to take a break to get back to my original writing rhythm. Fortunately, my music is still playing (it hasn’t started decaying like my cigar and ice) and I’m now listening to Journal of Ardency.

Age really does give you such perspective when it comes to temporary and short-lived matters – all the rippling and flowing of the currents of our lives, ever changing and never stopping. I’m trying to reach this perspective, but I’m not having much success – I feel completely enveloped by life’s speedy rhythm.

The breeze caresses my face on this cloudy afternoon. The green tinge of the water is a reflection of the richness of our beautiful land in a planet that’s constantly turning on its axis and travelling around the sun. Life goes on and we’re all still here – you, me, us, them. It’s amazing to think about – and so I turn off my music to feel even more at one with nature.

Now, only the sound of the ocean waves keeps me company. In the background, I can hear a whirring – a by-product of the tinnitus I’ve had for around 32 years now. At the moment, everything is quieter, the cigar is lit again and I feel content.

If I haven’t lost you yet (I hope I haven’t) I’d like to continue by saying this: This Too Shall Pass (the bold lettering and capitals are meant to emphasise the meaning and reality). Even things that seem eternal are actually temporary, and everything that’s infinite is really just a series of final moments and fresh starts.

Should I stay or should i go?

This too shall pass. It’s something I heard Mother Teresa say some time ago, and a concierge at an LA building also said it to me when I was 19. This too shall pass – but if that’s the case, why do we become so deeply attached to things and relationships? Why do we grow so fond of things when they’re ever changing? Should I stay or should I go?

—— ♥ ——

Fast forward a week and life has whizzed by. So many things have happened. Joe Biden is finally the elected President of the United States and while the votes were being counted, my sister-in-law had to go into hospital.

To improve her quality of life, she needed her heart valve changed. When the doctors went in, they found the valve wasn’t in the best state and an unexpected and very delicate situation arose. The operation became more complicated and dangerous because of this, and sadly, Margie passed away on the operating table. All I can say is this: an angel has left us.

Every day we have 1,440 minutes allotted to us to create value, make a difference and develop meaningful relationships.

Life continues on planet Earth (it should really be named Ocean instead, as my friend and brother-in-life José María Figueres says) and we speed around the sun at 107,280 kilometres per hour. But we’re not very good at making the most of the present moment and as such, we feel as though the world is leaving us behind, overpowering us, growing without us, multiplying faster than we could ever keep up with. And, as Margarita Franco reminded me, life is cruelly short.

This is why it makes sense not to attach ourselves to anything that’s not essential. If we take advice from Marie Kondo and her ideas around organizing our homes, we should say goodbye to everything that’s not immediately of use to us.

—— ♥ ——

Fast forward and today is the 1st December 2020. We flew for the first time yesterday since March to Vail in Colorado. (I meant to publish this in November but things panned out slightly differently.)

The point I’d like to make again is that if everything happens at tremendous speed, why do we experience attachment so much? Last August, Martha Debayle published the following on her site: “From the Buddhist point of view, one of the main causes of pain, suffering, conflict and dissatisfaction is attachment.” You can assume, therefore, that letting go of things will bring about the opposite of pain and suffering.

In my experience, when freeing myself of everything that’s not essential, I’ve experienced a sort of intestinal vertigo. I’ve felt an emptiness in my stomach that has actually prompted me to make firm decisions (including getting rid of companies, my office space and even my personal assistant) and in the process, I’ve even let go of symbols of power, status and influence.

Our personal identity is made up of nutrients, toxins, reasons, emotions, fantasies and realities. The art of letting go forces us to recognize all the essential things in life in order to discern which other ones should be cast out. We should get rid of the masks, shields and armour that so many of us hide behind. We have to make ourselves vulnerable and realise that love comes from being authentic – not from prizes, trophies, medals or any kind of recognition.

Society puts reputational and material success on a pedestal and this can easily turn into a breeding ground for insecurity and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) – which then leads to more dependency on work, praise and fame. There are only a few exceptions to this – and even they end up becoming the rule.

You shouldn’t get too attached to a company, institution or organisation. Those who do this end up thinking the world revolves around their bottle of Coca Cola. Then, when they are swapped out in a company restructure, or replaced by someone younger and fitter, they don’t know what to do with their lives.

I think about my friend who worked for DDB for almost four decades. He ended up being made redundant. We met a few times and exchanged a few messages; in fact, the last time I saw him we ate sushi and drank sake at Bal Harbour. Fairly soon after that, sadly, profoundly sad, he committed suicide. Seems like his attachment to the role and the company meant he wasn’t able to survive without it. And we all must learn from each other.

I also know of an heir without any formal education who learned how to manage a business by keeping a simple record on a notepad. Despite many failed attempts, he managed to fulfill his dream – but the thing is, the way he went about it is nowadays an outdated approach. And it seems like he can’t live without his obsolete notepad nor his late father’s company.

I think about those who would die for their jobs – this level of attachment is such that they assume life will be without meaning if they don’t have that particular role or image. They think life was made for working, instead of understanding that you should work to live; not live to work. We must move from a fixed mindset to the much better growth mindset.

Among all of these unhealthy attachment types, few are more damaging than those in relationships. From the bruised woman that can’t get away from her aggressor to the victims living with Stockholm Syndrome, convinced that their lives depend on their captors.

I remember when I flew to Topeka in Kansas to denounce an abusive and offensive client that brought a significant amount of revenue to the business. Instead of being reprimanded, Tribu lost the account a few months afterwards. I thought it would be the beginning of the end, but it was actually the start of us clawing back some freedom and ethical integrity instead.

When it comes to successfully letting go of something, you have to take the route that will still allow you to make your life into a work of art. In my case, I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of my life coach and advisor – an extraordinary psychologist dedicated to helping clients live better. She worked out for many years all my emotional knots, identified my fears, shortcomings, complexes and so much more – proceeding to then tackle each of them one by one.

Through decades of struggle and toiling away at work, I came to the conclusion that I’m not defined by any company. No job role, office space or career path defines me. I’m not defined by any university title, award or recognition – nor by the size of the office, nor the make of the car I drive. I’m not defined by my watch, nor the first-class seat or the last Chess match I lost.

I’m not defined by my past either – and for that reason, if I had a business card, it would have minimal information on it. None of what I’ve mentioned previously defines me, nor does anything I may have omitted. We’re not defined by anything specific – and that’s why it’s difficult to grasp that in the end, everything defines us. But also if everything defines us, nothing does.

Despite being in business for 40 years, I’m not a businessman. After decades in advertising, I’m not even an adman. I used to be a speaker and, although I do miss my role at Radio Mil, being a speaker doesn’t define me either. I’m not defined by the labels people give me, nor the stories they tell about me. Society doesn’t define me – and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve stopped respecting it.

It’s not what we do or what we own, it’s neither the work nor the activity. Who we are is what defines us – our character, generosity and passion. It’s what we are and not what we do. For that reason, it should be easy as pie to just let go of everything that doesn’t define us.

I’m defined by my decisions – the fact I’m a loyal friend, father, husband, grandfather, son and brother. Having learned integrity and living in the present is what defines us – and if we’re absent, two-faced or untruthful, that defines us too. Our values and the way we incorporate them into our daily lives are what really define us. This is what’s so important – but it’s not what we end up getting attached to, unfortunately.

Time flies and everything is constantly evolving. In this bizarre year of 2020, more and more people are dying from COVID-19 – and each day that passes, we become increasingly aware of the death toll so far. With this in mind, do the things we get attached to actually really mean anything?

There’s so much about this on the Internet that I couldn’t even attempt a summary on the subject. ‘The Art of Letting Go’ is the title of many books, essays and talks that are well worth having a look at (there are also many resources available in Spanish).

The crux of the matter is this: the past has happened and the future is yet to happen. As such, the key to making life feel less chaotic, more liberated and more defined is freedom and harmony.

My recommendation to you today is to just let go. For example, family is a choice; not an obligation – and as such, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunties will always be part of that (and the people that fulfill these roles don’t necessarily have to be relatives). Whereas the company you work for, or the business you establish doesn’t always have to feel like a prison or a cage. The prestige granted to teachers and artists could be granted to you in a heartbeat.

Today I’m simply Jorge Oller Alpírez. Whatever that means, implies or presents. For 36 years I was Jorge Araya Alpírez and this period of my life is an amazing part of my being and my story. Yes, while this is a story for another blog post, I once decided to let go my own last name.

I hope I will have the time and desire to also share with you how I decided to let go relationships like a biological father, half-brothers and sisters, some acquaintances and partners. Companies like Tribu, Bosz, :CaMedia, Dipo and Infirma amongst others.

Also things and places like Campus Tribu, land in Costa Verde and a 21-years old family house. Organizations like Cannes Lions or the Openhouse Project, a few unhealthy habits, fixed beliefs and much more. From the big-picture decisions to the small details, like making space in my closet.

I will eventually share how it became crystal clear to me that I had to let go shrines and pulpits in order to find my real self, aligning my time and limited resources with the priorities of my heart. I had to stop talking in order to listen. I needed to step aside from those reflectors dazzling my sight. And for all these findings, I’m truly grateful with my head inclined to God.

As expected in this creative process by design, new margins, roominess and fresh air are opening my life to new possibilities, opportunities and beginnings —from plans and objectives to real space for the gifts of factual truth and personal freedom. As a natural evolution, I’m making meaningful blooms happening in many beautiful ways.

So, whatever our story may look like, in my case, I believe I was what I was in order to be what I am now. I’m convinced that I had to experience my past to get to where I am now. Nonetheless, I highly recommend to always make wise decisions and do our absolute best for a life with fewer regrets. Seems obvious now, but it wasn’t that way before.

If this is the case for you too, I’d like to gently nudge you in the direction of creating your own approach to letting go. I’m positive it’ll be a liberating path and it’ll bring openings, prosperity and happiness.

In conclusion, let me leave you with one final thought: the art of letting go could, in itself, change your life into an actual work of art – one that’s marvellous and truly personal to you.

—— ♥ ——



May God be forever with you.

Be generous, kind and compassionate.

Pray less and do more.

Don’t do as expected. Do as you wish.

Make your life a work of art.

Be grateful and ambitious.

Love. Live. Matter. Celebrate.

Let’s go!

—— ♥ ——

Vail, December 15, 2020.

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