Buy Your Ticket to Bombay Today¡

My dear colleague Dr. Okokon Udo and I have been thinking lately about what it is that pulls us forward in big steps toward the vision that we have for what we want to create in our lives. There are many things, we thing… but an important one is being willing to “buy your ticket to Bombay.” And so, that ‘s the topic of this installment of our collaborative writing effort.

We just bought another pair of tickets to Bombay for ourselves! We have set a series of events in motion that will pull us forward toward a joint vision we have, especially in the moments when we forget, when we don’t know how, and when we’re convinced it is impossible. That’s the point of buying tickets to Bombay.

W.H. Murray was a Scottish mountain climber, and a human being who knew a lot about creating something extraordinary from any circumstances. During World War II, he spent three years in prisoner-of-war camps in Germany, Italy, and Czechoslovakia. While imprisoned and using whatever scraps of paper he could find, he wrote the first draft of his book, Mountaineering in Scotland. After it was discovered and destroyed by the Gestapo, he responded by starting again in spite of being near starvation.

Most famously, in 1951 he climbed Mount Everest. Imagine the world in 1951, and the prospect of climbing Mount Everest! The path was not yet known, there was no such thing as Gore-Tex, and certainly no cell phone. It was a venture that seemed impossible, but that was part of a clear vision and dream. His famous quote is often missing what has become, to us, the most important starting line. Here is the quote in its entirety:

… but when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money— booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

True confessions. we’re often lazy.

We get scared and get convinced that we shouldn’t take risks.

Probably most significantly, we get anxious about our security and, well, comfort. We have learned that left purely to our own devices, we would often prefer to stay warm and cozy on the couch rather than venturing out into the snow storm. But, in our heart of hearts…. in that part of us that is most alive, vibrant, and connected… the truth is that we LIKE snow storms.
Our sense of what is potentially possible for us and the life that we want to live… the impact that we want to have… the fun, the adventure, the love, the intimacy, the challenge… has always been bigger than our current reality. For many years the dreams that we held inside and would barely dare to speak, too often remained just that — dreams. Too often, after not mustering the courage or chutzpah to take risks, our security and comfort, over time the dream would dim and fade, eventually dulling itself into a subtle regret.

Ugh. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

Somewhere along the way, we learned about “booking our passage to Bombay.” One of those times for me was about 7 years ago when my good friend from Colombia, Sonia, said to me: “I want you to come teach a coaching course with me in Colombia….“ At the time, it seemed very far out of my comfort zone. I said to myself, “isn’t that where people were being
kidnapped? Shouldn’t I focus on clients in my own backyard?”
And yet, listening more deeply, I could hear the rumblings of desire – a longing to stretch himself, to go beyond what he thought he could do, and a gut-level sense of YES, this is right. And so, before planning the course, before knowing who would be there, before knowing whether or not I could afford it, before the doubts became too rigidly fixed in his head…. I called American Airlines and booked my ticket to

As Murray says, in that moment providence moved too. In that instant my entire frame of reference shifted out of the space of doubt and fear within the context of I CANNOT DO THIS, to eager nervous excitement in the context of OH MY GOD IM GOING TO DO THIS.

For Okokon, it was almost eight years ago, when he finally decided to quit his secure executive non-profit job in search of a yet undefined call to finally commit to what his late father referred to as being an engineer of souls. At the time the pay and benefits were excellent, he was the primary breadwinner of his family at time when his wife had just completed graduate school and was without a job. The risks were extremely high at the same time that the conviction was strong. So he did what he normally would not do. With everything at stake including three young children to raise, acting on his coach’s searching question – “what are you afraid of?”, bought his ticket to an uncertain future as a coach, public speaker and consultant.

Today, I bought another ticket to Bombay. At 4:00 today (January 20), I dropped my application in the mailbox for admission to the Process Work Institute graduate program in Conflict Facilitation and Organizational Change. Okokon is also “buying this ticket to Bombay” —  his application is in process will follow in the mail soon….  (Hmmm…. Another lesson about how to pull ourselves forward toward an unreasonable vision is probably to align yourself with powerful allies — more on that in another blog!).

There are soooo many reasons for us to NOT do this.

  • We cannot afford it, and we don’t have the time.
  • We both have way too many academic credentials and do not need or want another one.
  • We promised our spouses that we would never go back to school.
  • We already know a bit about facilitating conflict. We could go on.

Those are all real. And yet…. if we listen more deeply, we can hear other rumblings. There is something I and my partner Sonia aspire to. We want to go directly to the most wounded segments of Colombian society — the parts that have been brutalized by the civil war, those who have wielded the weapons of violence, and those that have been victims.

Okokon on his part will be a cheerleading partner on my Colombia quest while responding to the call to lean into the ever present religious and ethnic conflicts in Nigeria and the divisive challenges and conflicts in Turkey. It feels scary even as he thinks about it but this is not a matter of whether he will but how soon he can get going. He first experienced the brutality humans unleashed on each other during a thirty month civil war and again during several brutal religious conflicts that claimed thousands of innocent lives. The goal is to get to the systemic causes of conflicts in the first place and help the different sides explore and find other ways. And, he can count on me as his cheerleading partner in Nigeria.

In all of these efforts, we want to find ways to create reconciliation where it seems impossible and bring forward the essential part of humanity however far beneath the surface it has been buried. From where we now stand, those feel like incredibly audacious and ridiculously uncomfortable thing to aspire to – it is way outside our comfort zones. We know, too, that left completely to our own devices, we most likely will shy away from taking bold action to make those dreams real.

We also know that if we put ourselves in the Process Work Institute program (which requires solid fieldwork) it will give us a structure that will absolutely make this work real, however much kicking and squirming we might do along the way. There is something powerful about listening deeply to our heart’s most unreasonable and audacious desire. To hear those rumblings and then ask ourselves: “What could I do that would pull me forward on this journey even when I want to back-out?” And then, on faith, buy your ticket to Bombay.

We know that when we “buy our ticket to Bombay” and it stems from that place of desire, it is an act of creation – and it feels so different from reacting to life’s circumstances. It feels to us like the distinction that Robert Fritz makes between creativity and problem-solving. He says: “There is a profound difference between problem solving and creating. Problem solving is taking action to have something go away – the problem. Creating is taking action to have something come into being – the creation. Most of us have been raised in a tradition of problem solving and have had little real exposure to the creative process.”   (Fritz, Robert 1989. The Path of Least Resistance, page 31).

There is a passage from the KJV translation of the New Testament which states that “faith is the evidence of things not seen” (Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 1). It is akin to Senge’s notion of “presencing” — of feeling into the future that is unfolding and giving it room to come into being. We want to become ever-more able to listen to the heartbeat of what our soul longs for — for the future that is eager and ripe to unfold if we will only allow it to do so.

And so, we ask YOU:

  • What are the rumblings in your soul that you can barely hear, that have you almost lose your breath if you dare to listen to them?
  • What would be YOUR ticket to Bombay? What would be the bold action that puts both of your feet solidly on the boat in a way that makes it much more difficult to turn back?
  • What do you know about audacious goals, and going after them?

With love and gratitude —- Art and Okokon

~ by Art on January 23, 2010.

4 Responses to “Buy Your Ticket to Bombay Today¡”

  1. I was looking for this quote from Leadership and look who’s blog popped up? Love u!

  2. I was looking for this quote from Leadership and guess who’s blog popped up! Love you!

  3. Art- Just what i needed to read- thank you. I left inspired and understanding the art of challenge again- i am looking for my tickets!! I WANT MY TICKETS!
    Love that you use your own story to teach also. Hope to see you soon. I’m still swimming and its your fault. L- Denise

  4. Wow! How inspiring to read your post, Art! I love both of your “quests” and want to be your champion and resident cheerleader!

    My ticket to Bombay (thanks for asking!). To RUN the Nike half marathon in the fall. ..10 minutes/1 minute (10 minutes of running to 1 minute of walking). I refuse to judge this as too small. I tend to readily GIVE myself to larger initiatives that serve the world and neglect those that serve ME. So, I’ll attend to this one and declare it here. . .oh, and I want my sister Deigh to be with me. I long for even more connection to her and this will be a solid vehicle for me.

    Thanks Art (and Okokon!).



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