35-41: Open your present, Be a good detective, Make a relation-shift, Learn to come from behind, Come to your own rescue, Find your soul purpose, Get up on the right side,
35. Open your present
Practice being awake in the present moment. Make the most of your awareness of this hour. Don't live in the past (unless you want guilt) or worry about the future (unless you want fear), but stay focused on today (in case you want happiness).
"Until you can put your attention where you want it," said Emmet Fox, "you have not become master of yourself. You will never be happy until you can determine what you are going to think about for the next hour." There is a time for dreaming, planning, and creative goal setting. But once you are complete with that, learn to live in the here and now. See your whole life as being contained in this very hour. Let the microcosm become the macrocosm. Live the words of the poet William Blake and his description of enlightenment: "To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower hold infinity in the palm of your hand
and eternity in an hour."
Sir Walter Scott said he would trade whole years filled with mindless conformity for "one hour of life crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks." It's amazing what can be done by people who learn to relax, pay attention, and focus, appreciating the present hour and all the opportunity it contains.
It is said that in America we try to cultivate an appreciation of art, while the Japanese cultivate the art of appreciation. You, too, can cultivate the art of appreciation. Appreciate this hour. This hour, right now, is pure opportunity.
The great French philosopher Voltaire was on his deathbed when someone asked him, "If you had 24 more hours to live, how would you live them?" Voltaire said, "One at a time."
36. Be a good detective
In your professional life, whatever it is, always be curious. When you meet with someone, think of yourself as a bumbling but friendly private detective. Ask questions. Then ask follow-up questions. And then let the answers make you even more curious. Let the answers suggest even more questions. This will motivate you to higher levels of consciousness and interest.
When you prepare a meeting with someone, prepare your questions.
Cultivate your curiosity. Don't ever be at a loss for questions to ask. Most of us do the opposite. We prepare our answers. We rehearse what we are going to say. We polish our presentation, and strengthen it, not realizing that our host would much rather talk than listen to us. If you are in business, you know that when prospective customers contract for long-term services, they want a company that's truly interested in them, that understands them, that will be a good consultant to them. To show a prospect that you are genuinely interested, you must be the person who asks the most thoughtful questions. To convince a company that you understand it, you will ask the best follow-up questions—based on its answers. To convince a company that you will be a good consultant to them over the course of the contract, you will have out-learned your competitors by the inventiveness and quantity of your questions. Your curiosity will get you the business. But you can't just rely on impulsive, on-the-spot questioning. Being prepared is the secret. Preparing your questions is even more important than preparing the presentation of your services.
Indiana's former basketball coach Bobby Knight always said, "The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win." This is not only useful in business. If you are about to have an important conversation with your spouse or teenager, it is very useful to prepare your curiosity rather than your presentation.
When you prepare your curiosity, you always seem to have one more question to ask before you leave, just like Lt. Columbo from the old TV show now showing in reruns on cable. As the character played by Peter Falk, Columbo disarmed his subjects by asking so many seemingly impromptu questions. Like a disorganized but innocently charming child, he would ask about the tiniest things. As he prepared to leave, he always paused at the door, as if absent-mindedly remembering something he forgot to ask. "Excuse me sir," he would say, apologetically. "Would it inconvenience you if I asked you one more question?"
Great relationship-builders ultimately learn that the sale most often goes to the most interested party and the quantity and quality of your questions will measure your level of interest. You might be thinking that this doesn't apply so much to you because you're not in business, or you don't sell for a living. But heed the words of Robert Louis Stevenson:
"Everybody lives by selling something."
In Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Richard Saul Wurman writes about physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi, who won a Nobel Prize for inventing a technique that permitted scientists to probe the structure of atoms and molecules in the 1930s. Rabi attributed his success in physics to the way his mother used to greet him when he came home from school each day:
"Did you ask any good questions today, Isaac?"
By asking questions in your relationships, you are already creating the relationship, and you are already self-motivated. You don't have to wait for the other person to make it happen.
37. Make a relation-shift
Motivate yourself by giving someone else the ideas necessary for self-motivation. You can have any experience you want in life simply by giving that experience away to someone else. John Lennon called it
In most of our relationships we stay focused on ourselves. We're fascinated by how we're "coming off." We're constantly monitoring what others must now be thinking of us. We live as if mirrors surround us.
Norman Vincent Peale used to observe that shy people were the greatest egomaniacs on earth, because they were so focused on themselves. You can see that when you observe the body language of a shy person. The looking down and turning in. The curling-up with self-consciousness—as if surrounded by mirrors. When we shift our focus to the other person in the relationship, something paradoxically powerful happens. By forgetting ourselves we start to grow. I have developed an entire seminar around this one shift.
It is called "Relation-Shift."
Spencer Johnson, author of The One-Minute Sales Person, calls it "the wonderful paradox: I have more fun, and enjoy more financial success, when I stop trying to get what I want and start helping other people get what they want."
If you want to be motivated, shift your inspiration to someone else. Point out the strengths of the other individual to him or her. Offer encouragement and support. Offer guidance in his or her own self-motivation. Watch what it does for you.
38. Learn to come from behind
Progress toward your goals is never going to be a straight line. It will always be a bumpy line. You'll go up and then come down a little. Two steps forward and one step back.
There's a good rhythm in that. It is like a dance. There's no rhythm in a straight line upward.
However, people get discouraged when they slide a step back after two steps forward. They think they are failing, and that they've lost it. But they have not. They're simply in step with the natural rhythm of progress. Once you understand this rhythm, you can work with it instead of against it. You can plan the step back.
In The Power of Optimism, Alan Loy McGinnis identifies the characteristics of tough-minded optimists, and one of the most important is that optimists always plan for renewal. They know in advance that they are going to run out of energy. "In physics," says McGinnis, "the law of entropy says that all systems, left unattended, will run down. Unless new energy is pumped in, the organism will disintegrate."
Pessimists don't want to plan for renewal, because they don't think there should have to be any. Pessimists are all-or-nothing thinkers. They're always offended when the world is not perfect. They think taking a step backward means something negative about the whole project. "If this were a good marriage, we wouldn't have to rekindle the romance," a pessimist would say, dismissing the idea of taking a second honeymoon. But an optimist knows that there will be ups and downs. And an optimist isn't scared or discouraged by the downs. In fact, an optimist plans for the downs, and prepares creative ways to deal with them. You can schedule your own comebacks. You can look ahead on your calendar and block out time to refresh and renew and recover. Even if you feel very "up" right now, it's smart to plan for renewal. Schedule your own comeback while you're on top. Build in big periods of time to get away—even to get away from what you love.
If you catch yourself thinking that you are too old to do something you want to do, recognize that you are now listening to the pessimistic voice inside of you.
It is not the voice of truth.
You can talk back. You can remind the voice of all the people in life who have started their lives over again at any age they wanted to. John Housman, the Emmy award-winning actor in The Paper Chase, started acting professionally when he was in his 70s.
I had a friend named Art Hill, who spent most of his life in advertising.
In his heart, however, he always wanted to be a writer. So in his late 50s, he wrote two books that got published by a small publishing house in Michigan. Then, when he was 60 years old, Hill had his first national release with I Don't Care if I Never Come Back, a book about baseball published by Simon and Schuster. The book was a popular and critical success, and his dedication page is something I treasure above any possession I own:
"To Steve Chandler—who cared about writing, cared about me, and one day said, 'You should write a book about baseball.' "
Nobody cares how old you are but you. People only care about what you can do, and you can do anything you want, at any age.
Dr. Monte Buchsbaum of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York has been one of many scientists conducting research into the effects of aging on the brain. He is finding that it isn't aging that causes a brain to become less sharp, it's simply lack of use.
"The good news is that there isn't much difference between a
25-year-old brain and a 75-year-old brain," said Buchsbaum, who used his positron emission tomography laboratory to scan the brains of more than 50 normal volunteers who ranged in age from 20 to 87. The memory loss and mental passivity that we used to believe was caused by aging has now been proven to be caused by simple lack of use. The brain is like the muscle in your arm: When you use it, it gets strong and quick. When you don't, it grows weak and slow.
Research at the UCLA Brain Research Institute shows that the circuitry of the brain—the dendrites that branch between cells—grows with mental activity.
"Anything that's intellectually challenging," said Arnold Scheibel, head of the Institute, "can probably serve as a kind of stimulus for dendritic
growth, which means it adds to the computational reserves in the brain." Translation: You can make yourself smarter.
"Whoever told you that you cannot increase your intelligence?" asks Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the artificial heart. "Whoever taught you not to try? They didn't know. Flex your mind. Develop it. Use it. It will enrich you and bring you the love of life that thrives on truth and understanding."
Research shows that mathematicians live longer than people in any other profession do, and we never used to know why. Now, in further studies done at UCLA, there has been a direct connection established between dendrite growth and longevity. Mental activity keeps you alive.
Lose your mental challenges, and life itself fades away.
Don't listen to the voice inside that talks about your age, or your IQ, or your life history, or anything it can slow you down with. Don't be seduced. You can start a highly motivated life right now by increasing the challenges you give your brain.
39. Come to your own rescue
After a seminar I gave in Vancouver, Canada, Don Beach, the sales manager of Benndorf Verster, one of that city's top businesses, sent me a tape of a song that he wanted me to hear.
He said it reminded him of what I had been teaching his team about self-esteem. The song was a live performance by the old folk-singing duo, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee. The song is called "Love, Truth and Confidence." It's about how we foolishly chase after love and try to discover the ultimate truth, while ignoring something much more vital to our happiness: confidence. The chorus of the song goes like this: "Love and truth / you can find / any place, anywhere, any time / but you can just say 'so long' / once confidence is gone / nothing matters anymore."
I never knew the true power of self-confidence until I began working with Dr. Nathaniel Branden and his wife Devers Branden. Both are authors and psychotherapists with the Branden Institute for Self-Esteem, and they have provided me with the most powerful insights I've ever received into how I operate as a human being. Dr. Branden's book, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem, is unlike any other psychology book on the market, because in addition to its eloquently written philosophy on how to build inner strength, it also contains a full year's worth of practical, powerful, user-friendly exercises to raise your own consciousness and self-esteem. His sentence-completion exercises are so effective and exciting that if you do them, I can say without a trace of exaggeration, you can get tens of thousands of dollars worth of personal growth therapy for the price of a single book.
Before you assume that Branden's notion of self-esteem is the same as that being bandied about by New-Age educators, you must read his work and listen to his tapes. Most people today think others can bestow self-esteem on us. Such misguided thinking leads to phenomena such as classes without grades and work without standards for excellence. Perhaps you have heard about that Little League group in Pennsylvania that wanted to eliminate keeping score from baseball games because of the damage that losing does to children's self-esteem.
When we confuse pampering and coddling with instilling self-esteem, we really encourage the upbringing of young, sensitive children who have no inner strength whatsoever. When it comes time for such overpraised, underachieving kids to find success in the competitive global marketplace, they will be confused, fearful, and ineffective.
The concepts taught by Nathaniel and Devers Branden are intellectually ruthless and unsentimental. Some of the best ideas go all the way back to Branden's years working with the great novelist and objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand.
The Brandens have taught me how to objectively explore the weaknesses in my own thinking and to challenge the self-deception that was undermining my effectiveness in life.
"To trust one's mind and to know that one is worthy of happiness is the essence of self-esteem," writes Dr. Branden. "The value of self-esteem lies not merely in the fact that it allows us to feel better, but that it allows us to live better—to respond to challenges and opportunities more resourcefully and appropriately."
The two ideas contained in the Brandens' work that have most helped me are: 1) "You can't leave a place you've never been"; and 2) "No one is coming."
I used to believe that I could run from all my frightening thoughts and beliefs about myself. But all that ever did was create deeper internal fears and conflicts. What I really needed was to get all my fears into the sunshine and demystify them. Once I systematically began to do that, I was able to dismantle those fears, as a bomb squad dismantles a bomb. Acceptance and full consciousness of those fears—and the self-sabotaging behavior they led to—was "the place I had never been." Once I was in that place, I could leave. The notion that "no one is coming" was somehow terrifying to accept. The idea that no one was going to rescue me from my circumstances is an idea that I might never have accepted. That idea sounded too much like the final abandonment. It contradicted all my childhood self-programming. (Many of us, even as grown-ups, devise very elaborate and subtle variations on the "I want my mommy" theme.) The Brandens showed me that I could be much happier and more effective if I valued independence and self-responsibility above dependency on someone else.
When you accept the idea that "no one is coming" it is actually a very powerful moment, because it means that you are enough. No one needs to come. You can handle your problems yourself. You are, in a larger sense, appropriate to life. You can grow and get strong and generate your own happiness.
And paradoxically, from that position of independence, truly great relationships can be built, because they aren't based on dependency and fear. They are based on mutual independence and love.
Once, in a group therapy session, a client of Dr. Branden's challenged him on his principle that "no one is coming." "But Nathaniel," the client said, "it's not true. You came!"
"Correct," admitted Dr. Branden, "but I came to say that no one is coming."
40. Find your soul purpose
How do you know what your true life is? Or what your soul's purpose is? How do you know how to live this purpose? The answers to these questions are yours for the taking, but you must seize the answers and not wait to be given them. No one will give you the answers.
One good clue as to whether you are living your true life is how much you fear death. Do you fear death a lot, just a little, or not at all? "When you say you fear death," wrote David Viscott, "you are really saying that you fear you have not lived your true life. This fear cloaks the world in silent suffering."
When mythologist Joseph Campbell recommended that we "follow our bliss," many people misunderstood him. They thought he meant to become a pleasure-seeker, a selfish hedonist from the "me generation." Instead, he meant that in order to find out what your true life could be, you should look for clues in whatever makes you happy.
What gets you excited? In the answer to that question, you'll discover where you can be of most service. You can't live your true life if you're not serving people, and you can't serve people very well if you are not excited about what you're doing.
What makes you happy? (I know I already asked, but the fear that "cloaks the world in silent suffering" comes from not asking that question enough times.)
In my own professional life I have finally found that teaching makes me happy, writing makes me happy, and performing makes me happy. It took me many years of unhappiness to finally reach the point of despair necessary to ask the question: What makes me happy?
I was the creative director for an ad agency and I was making a good deal of money producing commercials, meeting with clients, and designing marketing strategies. I could have done this type of work forever, but my horrible fear of death was my clue that I was not living my true life.
"People living deeply," wrote Anaïs Nin, "have no fear of death." I was not living deeply. And it took me a long time to get clear answers to my question: What makes me happy? But any question we ask ourselves often enough will eventually yield the right answer. The problem is, we quit asking.
Fortunately for me, in this rare instance of persistence in the face of extreme discomfort, I didn't quit asking. The answer came to me in the form of a memory—so colorful it was almost like a movie scene. I was driving at night in my car 10 years earlier, and I was as happy as I had ever been. In fact, I was driving around aimlessly so that I could keep my feeling of happiness preserved and contained within that car—I didn't want anything to interrupt it. It was so profound that it lasted for hours.
The occasion had been a speech I had just given. The subject of it was my recovery from an addiction, and the night that I spoke I was running such a high fever, and I had such a fear of speaking in public that I tried to call the talk off. My hosts wouldn't hear of it.
Somehow I made it to the podium and, probably because my fever and flu were so intense, I spoke freely, without caution or
self-consciousness. The more I spoke about freedom from addiction, the more excited I got. My creativity just soared. I remember the audience laughing as I spoke. I remember them jumping to their feet and cheering when I was finished. It was the most remarkable night of my life. Somehow I had reached people in a way I'd never reached people before, and their own expressions of joy lifted me higher than I had ever been.
It was that memory of that moonlit night, driving in my car, that came back to me 10 years later after I'd spent weeks repeating to myself the question, "What makes me happy?" Now I had the picture, but I had no idea how to act on it. But at least I knew what my true life was, and I knew that I wasn't living it. Then one day one of my major advertising clients asked me to hire a motivational speaker for a big breakfast meeting they were having for their sales staff. I didn't know of anyone in Arizona who was any good—the only motivational speakers I was familiar with were the national ones whose tapes I'd listened to so often in my car, people such as Wayne Dyer, Tom Peters, Anthony Robbins, Alan Watts, and Nathaniel Branden. But Alan Watts was dead—and the rest were probably far too expensive for our little breakfast.
So I called Kirk Nelson, a friend of mine who was sales manager at KTAR in Phoenix, and asked his advice. "The only person in Arizona worth hiring is Dennis Deaton," he said. "He speaks all over the country, and he's usually booked, but if you can get him, do, because he's great."
I finally reached Deaton in Utah, where he was giving seminars on time management. He agreed to come back to Phoenix in time for our breakfast and give a 45-minute motivational talk.
Kirk Nelson was right. Deaton was impressive. He held the audience spellbound as he told stories that illustrated his ideas about the power that people have over their thoughts, and the mastery that they can achieve over their thinking. When he finished speaking and came back to the table where we had been sitting, I shook his hand and thanked him, and I found myself making a silent vow that someday soon I would be working with this man.
It wasn't long after that that he and I were indeed working together. It was at a company called Quma Learning, Deaton's corporate training facility based in Phoenix, Arizona. Although I began with Quma as its marketing director —creating advertisements, video scripts, and direct-mail pieces—I soon worked my way up to the position of seminar presenter.
My first big thrill came when Deaton and I were both invited to speak at a national convention of carpet-cleaning companies. It was the first time I had ever shared the stage with him, and I was to go on first. He was in the audience when I spoke, and I have to admit I had worked harder than I'd ever worked in my life in preparation for this event.
The participants had heard Deaton before at previous conventions and loved him, but they'd never heard me. After my presentation was over, they clapped enthusiastically and as Deaton passed me on his way to the stage he was beaming with pride as he shook my hand. (Unlike myself, Dennis Deaton has very little professional jealousy of other speakers. He was happy for my success. I have to admit that my favorite moment occurred when, after he was introduced, someone in the audience teasingly shouted out, "Dennis who?")
Many people get confused and believe that living their true life means getting lucky and finding a suitable job with an appreciative boss somewhere. What I have come to realize is that you can live your true life anywhere, in any job, with any boss.
First find out what makes you happy, and then start doing it. If writing makes you happy, and you're not writing for a living, start up a company newsletter or your own Web site. When I first realized that speaking and teaching made me happy, I started a free weekly workshop. I didn't wait until something was offered to me.
Whatever goal you want to reach, you can reach it 10 times faster if you are happy. In my sales training and consulting, I notice that happy salespeople sell at least twice as much as unhappy salespeople. Most people think that the successful salespeople are happy because they are selling more and making more money. Not true. They are selling more and making more money because they are happy.
As J.D. Salinger's character Seymour says in Fanny and Zooey, "This happiness is strong stuff!" Happiness is the strongest stuff in the world. It is more energizing than a cup of hot espresso on a cold morning. It is more mind-expanding than a dose of acid. It is more intoxicating than a glass of champagne under the stars.
If you refuse to cultivate happiness in yourself, you will not be of extraordinary service to others, and you will not have the energy to create who you want to be. There is no goal better than this one: to know as you lie on your deathbed that you lived your true life because you did what made you happy.
41. Get up on the right side
Since I was a child, I've always been intrigued with the idea that you could have a great day just by getting up on the right side of the bed. Later in life, during my years as a largely unsuccessful songwriter, one of the few successes I had was with a country rock song that I co-wrote with Fred Knipe and Duncan Stitt. It was called "The Right Side of the
Today my fascination is not so much with the right side of the bed as it is with the right side of the head—or to be more precise, the right side of the brain.
In the 1930s, brain surgeons discovered the different functions of the two halves of the brain while working with epileptics. In 1950, Roger W. Sperry of the University of Chicago (and later of Cal Tech) made the greatest breakthroughs in discovering that dreams, energy, and creative insight come from the right side of the brain, while linear, logical, short-term, and shortsighted thinking come from the left.
The best explanation of how "whole-brain" thinking surpasses left-brain thinking or right-brain thinking is in a book written by British philosopher Colin Wilson called Frankenstein's Castle. Wilson reveals that we have more control over drawing vital energy and creative ideas from the "right brain" than we ever realized. And what stimulates the right brain the most is a high sense of purpose.
If you had to carry a heavy sack of sand across town, your left brain might get upset and tell you that you were doing something boring and tedious. However, if your child were injured badly and she weighed the same as the huge bag of sand, you'd carry her the same distance to the hospital with a surprising surge of vital energy (sent from the right brain). That's what purpose does to the brain. Self-motivation gets more and more exciting as the left brain gets better and better at telling the right brain what to do.