Provision #591: Beyond Self-Service

Laser Provision

The poet Rumi once wrote, “Out beyond right and wrong there is a field. I will meet you there.” Today’s Provision moves beyond self-service to that place of self-transcendence. It is not about right and wrong; it is about connecting with others in ways that are life-giving and life-affirming. It is about going beyond the experience of self to the experience of others and the Other. Many have been innervated recently with such passions; if it’s been a while since you felt that way, then I hope you will read on and open yourself to make it so.

LifeTrek Provision


The coming “self-service economy” has been a staple of economic prognosticators for many, many years. The idea is simple: instead of paying people to serve other people we use technology so people can serve themselves. Travel agents know exactly what I am talking about. I don’t know the last time I talked to a human being to make a travel reservation. That’s as true for international travel as it is for local travel. I go to the web and take care of things myself with little to no human interaction.

I’m sure you have replicated many other such experiences for yourself. To mention only a few:

  • Banking through ATMs rather than tellers.
  • Checking out at stores through self-service scanners.
  • Buying beverages and snacks from machines.
  • Purchasing gas or petrol at the pump.
  • Arranging wake up calls in hotels through an automated system.
  • Checking in for flights, hotels, and rental cars using automated kiosks.
  • Listening to music previews at entertainment megastores.

In these recessionary times, don’t be surprised to see new expressions of the “self-service economy” as companies look to cut costs and increase revenue (one interesting study showed that people ordered more from a McDonald’s machine than from an employee behind the counter).

My question is not what the “self-service economy” does to the bottom line. My question is what it does to our self-understanding as human beings. The more self-sufficient we become through automation, the less interaction we have with other human beings, the more we are at risk of becoming demanding, self-centered, and tired. They don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but it happens more often than not.

That’s why it’s important to put ourselves in positions that connect us with other people in passionate, caring, and committed ways. Then, and only then, do we become self-transcending. And that doesn’t just happen; we have to exert ourselves in order to make it so. Examples abound:

  • The recent US election engaged many people with each other in self-transcending ways. We may never know the count, but people behind both presidential candidates took time off from going to school or working other jobs in order to volunteer and/or to work for the candidates of their choice. These people were captivated by the vision of what might be; so they set aside their self-interest in order to work alongside others for a worthy cause. I found every one of those people to be singularly impressive in their commitment, idealism, and vocation. These people were not self-serving; they were serving others and, as a result, they became more fully alive.
  • My own experience of writing Provisions is another case in point. Week after week I put myself out in the world, and I am always blessed by the replies. This certainly doesn’t just happen. I have to make the time, I have to think of you, my readers, and I have to follow the threads of what comes through my process of creation. It may be a virtual connection, but that makes it no less real. Through this platform I connect with others and transcend my own, necessarily-narrow experience. By thinking deeply about a variety of subjects and about your own reader replies, I find myself stretched in ways that make me more fully human.
  • So, too when it comes to special interest groups. The most common include service clubs, spiritual communities, athletic associations, and enrichment groups. It’s less important, to me, what those groups are for you than that you connect with others in ways that call you out of yourself. That’s not always a matter of formal organization; indeed, our best experiences are often delightfully informal. What they have in common is the ability to connect us with a larger and wider interest. Some raise money for charity, others donate their sweat equity, many find their way through support groups, while still others practice disciplines that go beyond the ordinary. Whatever they may be for you, the key is to find them and to do them.

That doesn’t happen, at least not very often, in the “self-service economy”. Self-transcendence requires something deeper. A while back I had reason to contact technical support for a large computer company. My contact was with someone in India, through live-chat and remote-control technology. Now I suppose I could have figured out the answer to my question by reviewing the documentation available on their website. But by having a live interaction with a real human being, I had the opportunity for a rather transformational experience.

Of course we chatted about, worked on, and eventually resolved my problem. But along the way we also chatted about where we were in the world, how we were feeling, and even what was important to us in the new global economy. By the end of the conversation we both agreed that live-chat and remote-control technology gave us an experience that could never have been duplicated by automated systems. We had a real encounter, albeit through the virtual world, that enriched our lives and gave us a deeper appreciation of the possible.

Self-transcendence is like that. When we set aside our own self-interest we move beyond self-service to taking an interest in others, the world in which we live, and the luminous regions beyond right and wrong. That is the place in which I seek to live, and that is the place where I hope to find you.

Coaching Inquiries: What enables you to move beyond self-interest and self-service to a posture of self-transcendence and self-giving? How often do you find yourself in a place beyond right and wrong? Who could join you in that place? How would it feel to be there?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


Thank you, thank you, thank you… As usual, you have delivered some powerful stuff for those of us in the stream, as well as those along the banks of the river of life. I am terribly busy these days, and all too often, the Provisions pile up in my mailbox. However, as I was waiting outside a Best Buy store… patiently waiting for the store to open this morning, I quietly read Provision 590 on my PDA. Upon my return home, I logged on to the site and read Provision 589. Again: good stuff.

As a man of mixed ethnicity, I can tell you two very important things regarding the last election:

1) I am overjoyed that people of color now have a superlative office to which they can ascend.

2) Most importantly, though… I am so very proud of my country in a way that is almost indescribable. Watching the results roll in on November 4th, I was overcome by emotion• tears began streaming down my face… not just because of the joyous, historical moment that was and is… but more precisely• because of the new hope represented in the fact that so many people of this great country no longer hold race as a superlative characteristic. By far, this “little” aside is profound in ways that moves me tears even as I type these few words.

Sure, there are those who will “probably always” see race as a determining factor. However, the election of President-elect Obama provides (real-time) additional strength and fuel for my soul… a soul that has been trounced upon for so long by the extreme right-wing conservatives who advertise Christian viewpoints on abortion, while fueling fires of hate within the wings of democracy.

Indeed, the election of President-elect Obama provides additional strength and fuel for my soul… Having been fed and refueled, I can now go on for another 40 years, hoping, praying, and doing what I have been doing.

As an active duty naval officer, I have always loved and served my country. However, the election of President-elect Obama provides newfound faith in an electorate that has proven its love for people • a love above politics, pride, pessimism, and pundits who seek to divide.

Thank you for the Provisions, which, by the way, is a synonym for food. I am now satiated.


I wanted to comment on what I thought was one of your best provisions: Probably No God? Not only was the title catchy and clever, but the article was timely (in the grand scheme of where we are in our history) and very well written. It really hit home for me as a coach and as someone who has been learning about the meaning of Meaning and Spirit over the last few years. I am not a religious person per se, but I do believe in God and have a very good sense of my spirit and connection with life and what I call the “non-ego” world. 

Your Provision reinforced my understanding of what God really is – forgiveness and understanding. I recently read “The Disappearance of the Universe” which is very deep book. It’s written by a man who discovers and explores “A Course in Miracles” system which has a very interesting take on Life and God. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this course but something tells me you may have heard of it (there are a few prominent students of the course). If you are familiar with it, I’d be interested in your comments at some point…

I am now reading “A New Earth” which you have on your book list. Incidentally, the author, Eckhart Tolle is also a Course in Miracles student and wrote “The Power of Now,” as I’m sure you know. Anyway, I’m not a Course student but found both books very interesting. It seems to me that we are living in a very exciting time – where the thinking on Jesus and his teachings are shifting to a more historical view (The historical Jesus as opposed to the Christian Jesus) of what he may have been telling his followers all along – before religion clouded it all. The authors of the aforementioned books, for instance, see Jesus and meaning through a different light than what has been depicted in most Christian religions. They see him as forgiveness and understanding – as opposed to judgment and punishment. For judgment and punishment are ego-driven, and that’s not what God is… (I’m not trying to say that all Christian religions see him this way). 

I thought your Provision was right on and correlated closely to a new meaning that seems to be taking shape in our world today. It may have taken us a couple thousand years to understand what Jesus was teaching, but I do think we are beginning to become conscious of what his words really meant. Thank you so much for understanding the Understanding. And I love your quotes in the provision • God is not the problem, God on our side is the problem. That may be the simplest way to explain the world’s problems, and how we can co-exist with one another moving forward. 



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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