Monthly Archive 2018-01-30


The Perfect Map

What is the single greatest source of missed opportunity, frustration, anxiety and stress? Here, we explore this through the power of storytelling.

Sit back and tune-in for a Zoom-Out fable: ‘The Perfect Map’

‘The Perfect Map’

– A Zoom-Out Fable

Once upon a time there was a king who lived in a beautiful palace filled with treasures. In his early years, he would run around his palace, his heart filled with joy and delight at his surroundings.

His favourite sight was the ceiling of the great hall which was breathtakingly high and painted with beautiful imagery that appeared to constantly morph before his eyes. And at night the ceiling revealed it was encrusted with magnificent shimmering jewels and faintly glowing patches of gold and silver leaf.

But over time the king started to take his palace for granted. He would stride through the great hall and no longer notice its magnificence.

One day he summoned his chief courtier for counsel. The king had decided he wanted to go forth and explore his wider kingdom.

The courtier agreed, “A king should survey his kingdom and the gifts that it bestows my lord”.

The king replied, “I shall prepare to go out at once, bring me the map of my kingdom, the whole of my kingdom!”

“Erm, no such map exists my lord.”, the courtier sheepishly replied.

“Then make me this map at once! The map must be perfect in every detail! Nothing should be omitted and it must be completely accurate!”, insisted the king.

“But my lord…. I mean yes your royal highness”, the courtier thought better of resisting the king’s demand.

The king’s finest cartographers toiled for months much to the impatience of their ruler. The kingdom was surveyed with meticulous precision. The most precious parchment and pigments were used for its construction.

Finally the map was ready and rolled out before the king on his dining table as he ate, such was his eager anticipation. The king was most pleased and didn’t finish his meal. He was so keen to break free of the confines of his palace and reap the rewards of his wider kingdom.

At first the king was thrilled to be setting out. The sense of freedom. The new sights and sounds. The fresh smells and sensations. But before long, things started to deviate from his expected plans.

As he entered a grand forrest he saw that the trees were much more densely populated than depicted on his map. This made for much tougher passage. “Who put all of these extra trees here? To thwart my advances!”, the king deplored. No one was around to hear him and the trees did not respond. The king very soon gave up and back-tracked out of the majestic trees.

At one point on his journey, a short distance off to his left rose an impressive waterfall and at that instant the sun’s rays spawned a stunning rainbow in the engulfing mist. On the map, the river was depicted but the cascade was not evident. The king therefore passed by oblivious, never glancing in its direction.

Another time he came across a river that was much wider than the one on his map. And to add insult to injury the river was flowing in the complete opposite direction. “Why does this water flow in the opposite direction to my travel?, the exasperated king retorted. The water did not respond.

Each day, something about the world would differ from the map and exasperate the king. “What has gone wrong with this world!”, the king demanded. “How can I be expected to enjoy life and fulfil my dreams?”

He often came across fellow travellers. They would invariably suggest he update his map and compare with their own. But the king would not listen. How dare they! Did they not realise he had the one true map? Perfect in every way.

Once, the king got completely lost. He became desperate. His precious map was held closely and firmly. Meanwhile the world it seemed was out to thwart the king’s desires. “Why does the world not conform to my map?”. He grew increasingly disillusioned with his kingdom. He protested at the world and tried to change it, so that it conformed to his map. But to no avail.

One day the king was walking along a coastal cliff top. With an overwhelming sense of frustration and disillusionment, he stopped in his tracks and at the top of his voice declared, “What a dreadful and treacherous kingdom I inhabit, what is the point of being king of such a domain?” With this, the king removed his precious crown and cast it into the sea.

The waves swallowed the crown without judgment, pity or empathy. It sank without trace but still with the flickering prospect of being at some time retrieved.

And the king clung to his map for the rest of his days cursing and kicking back against the world.

Rob Aston, London – 19 Jan 2018

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay


Bill Hicks Zoom-Out – “It’s Just a Ride”

I was recommending some comedians to a friend the other day. As well as being entertaining, comedians are natural perspective-shifters – they show us funny ways to look at the world. I’m particularly drawn to those comedians, often self-deprecating, that poke fun at the less glamorous or darker aspects of human existence, so recommended George Carlin, Marc Maron, Louis CK.

It was then I remembered Bill Hicks. A friend introduced me to Bill Hicks the best part of 20 years ago and I’d not watched any of his material for a long time. This prompted me to jump on YouTube and watch Revelations again. His seminal performance at the Dominion Theatre in London 1993. Who can forget “Goat Boy”?

I watched it for pure entertainment value.

And then, as he dons his dark coat and hat to close the show he asks:

“Is there a point to my act? I would say there is. I have to.”

His answer is his famous “It’s just a ride” monologue – full transcript below – but don’t just read it, hear it from the man himself – it’s beautifully Zoom-Out-esque. See how many Zoom-Out Principles you recognise.  Bill Hicks is a honourary Zoomologist for sure.

Full transcript – Bill Hicks “It’s just a ride”

You’ve been fantastic, and I hope you enjoyed it.  There is a point.  Is there a point to all of this?  Let’s find a point.

Is there a point to my act?  I would say there is.  I have to.

The world is like a ride, in an amusement park.  And when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real, because that’s how powerful our minds are.  And the ride goes up and down, and round and round.  It has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud and it’s fun.  For a while.

Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: “Is this real, or is this just a ride?”

And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, and they say, “Hey, don’t worry.  Don’t be afraid, ever.  Because this is just a ride.”

And we . . . kill those people.  Ha-ha!

“Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride! Shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.”

It’s just a ride.  But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that?  And we let the demons run amok.

But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride, and we can change it any time we want.  It’s only a choice.  No effort.  No worry.  No job.  No savings and money.

[It’s] a choice, right now, between fear and love.  The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off.  The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one.

Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, into a better ride:  Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defense each year and, instead, spend it feeding, clothing, and educating the poor of the world – which it would do many times over, not one human being excluded.  And we can explore space together, both inner and outer, forever.  In peace.

Thank you very much, you’ve been great.  I’ve hoped you enjoyed it.  You’re fantastic!  Thank you!  Thank you very much.


Self Pity [poem]


I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.

– D H Lawrence  (1885 – 1930)

Words can be powerful tools for helping us gain a perspective on our perspectives. A perspective on our feelings. Words can help us to Zoom-Out. Once we can recognise and label a pattern of feelings, especially painful or destructive feelings, we can see it more clearly for what it is. We can then treat it for what it is. In the case of self-pity, we can see that in the scheme of the universe, self-pity is not at all helpful. We can let it go.

It’s wonderful how words can preserve and carry “Zoom-Out thinking” down the ages, so we can benefit from perspectives from beautiful minds, like the words above.

Image by gabicuz from Pixabay


Tame the “Golden-eyed monster”

As humans we are endowed with an incredible power. One that we all too often take for granted. The power itself goes unnoticed.  The power itself is not harnessed to its full potential. In fact it often does us harm without us realising. It creates a universe that we inhabit much of the time. We ‘see’, ‘hear’ and ‘feel’ this universe as much as the ‘real’ one (whatever that actually is). We experience delight, joy, intrigue, fear and sadness in its grip.

What is this power?

This is the power of your imagination.

“Imagination is the golden-eyed monster that never sleeps. It must be fed; it cannot be ignored.” –  Patricia A. McKillip

Your imagination will interpret your current situation and project its own version of that reality into your consciousness. It will take you on a trip to a fictional future. A future that will never exist or at least never exist exactly as you just ‘experienced’ it.

“I have suffered a great many misfortunes in my life, most of which never happened” – Mark Twain

In human evolution, this imagination has served us well. It has enabled us to play out “what if” scenarios in our mind and mentally rehearse for challenging situations, possibly life or death ones. However, left unchecked, your imagination can run wild and be ruled by your insecurities, fears and no-longer helpful animal instincts.

Real or imagined?

It’s a well established fact that your brain cannot tell the difference between something that’s real and something imagined (see further reading at the end of this article). This in part is why reading a story or watching a movie can be such a powerful experience. Also consider how memories that manifest in your imagination can stir up such powerful emotions.

The choice is yours

You have a choice. You can take more control of this incredible power.

“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worth while.” – L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Try this quick exercise/experiment:
1. What have you got coming up tomorrow?
2. How are you currently imagining it?
3. How can you improve your imagined version to make it function more effectively for you?

The first step is to notice when your imagination runs in a direction that is not serving you and not contributing to your happiness in the short-term or long-term.

The second step is to acknowledge what is happening and ‘take the reigns’ – you can redirect your imagination. You can imagine something more useful or valuable to your well-being and happiness.

Consider these examples:

Example 1: Staff presentation

Situation: You are on your morning commute to the office. You have a company staff meeting at which you are scheduled to give a presentation.

Your imagination on auto-pilot: You imagine your turn to present and people in the audience wanting you to forget your lines or screw up in some way. You are tense, stressed and can’t wait for the day to be over.

Instead you choose to imagine: Imagine yourself enjoying giving your presentation regardless of what others may or not be thinking. You are relaxed during the presentation and it goes well.

It can also be helpful to recall a time when you have felt and functioned as you would like to in a similar situation, and apply that feeling to the imagined scenario.

Example 2: Job interview

Situation: You are on your way to a job interview.

Your imagination on auto-pilot: You imagine other candidates that are “better” than you going for the interview and how could you possibly compete against them?

Instead you choose to imagine:  Imagine yourself as a unique individual and that you may be the best fit for what these unique interviewers are looking for.

Harness the Power

This takes practice but like any exercise gets easier the more you do it. Your imagination is an incredible force. It can undermine your happiness or if you take control, it can be used to boost it.

Is this something you have already experienced? Is this something you do naturally?

Please share your experiences and insights by leaving a comment.

Further Reading

‘Visualisation Alters the Brain’

‘The Power of Creative Visualisation’

‘The difference between imagination and reality in the brain’

Originally published on – May 2015


The Doors of Perspective

The Doors of Perception is a philosophical essay, released as a book, by Aldous Huxley. First published in 1954, it details his experiences when taking mescaline. The book takes the form of Huxley’s recollection of a mescaline trip that took place over the course of an afternoon in May 1953. The book takes its title from a phrase in William Blake’s 1793 poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

The lines appear at the end of the poem (full poem below this):

From a Zoomologist’s point of view this strikes a chord, since “perception” and “perspective” are closely related.

As Zoomologists, we are on a “trip” to open the Doors of Perspective.

Here’s the full William Blake poem: