April 18, 2005 Newsletter

This morning I read Tom Bird’s April Newsletter in which he describes the success of one of his writing students, Eileen Boris, who has just landed several international publishing deals for her book, Forgiveness: The Ultimate Freedom.  At the end of Tom’s report on Eileen’s success he poses the rhetorical question, “What sets you apart from Eileen?” the answer to which, of course, is “nothing, unless you’re not giving 100% of yourself to what moves you.”

For me, this proves to be a very timely article, because just this week I had my first opportunity to present my book, Teaching Common Sense, to a local organization of professional project managers.  I’ve stood in front of many different groups over the years and presented the theories of others, so the prospect of standing up once again was not a problem for me.  What did create quite a bit of apprehension, however, was that for the first time ever in my life I was standing up to say, “This is my theory.  This is what I believe, and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard before.”  My left brain was working overtime the few days leading up to the speaking engagement.  What if they don’t see any validity in my theory?  What if I get all the groundwork laid to prove its validity, but they don’t find enough substance in my resulting theory?  What if they see it all as just a big letdown and waste of their time?  The adrenaline was pumping more than it had in the entire nine months it had taken for me to crystallize the theory and produce the book.

Still, I knew in my heart that this is a message I was born and have lived to deliver.  I knew this because too often when writing the book I would finish a passage or a chapter, read back through it, and almost not remember thinking it much less writing it.  And I’m no different from anyone else.  When I first starting working with Tom, even though I knew I wanted and needed to be writing, I was filled with self-doubt and reservations.  Tom helped me to overcome all that by having faith in my life purpose and taking one step at a time.  Eventually, over the nine months it took the write the book, it was proven to me over and over that I am merely the instrument through which this important message must be delivered.  So on the drive to the meeting, I had a little talk with the one who’s behind all this…the real author and creator of the message.  “I’m doing this for you.  You know that.” I said out loud as I drove along, hoping no one would look over and think I was talking to myself.  “This is what you want me to do, so I’m doing it.  All I want to do is help people.  Please don’t fail me now.”

I wasn’t disappointed.  Within seconds all the speaking notes I had made to remind me what to say had been discarded, and the words poured forth from my heart.  I could have talked all night.  At the same time, I was watching the faces of the audience.  I watched them being drawn in.  I observed how they studied what I had to say…how they laughed sheepishly when I hit close to home…how they nodded their agreement with and acceptance of what I had to say.  At the break, three different people came up to ask for my help in a particular situation they are dealing with…this before I even got to the part of the presentation containing my personal theory.  I was energized by this initial feedback indicating I was on the right track.

There was one gentleman in the audience with whom I had worked previously.  Unbeknownst to him, he had actually been the inspiration behind the format of my presentation.  Assuming he was characteristic of most of the members of this professional organization, I had thought about him and how he thinks and structured the presentation in a way that I thought would reach him, all the while trusting that the message was sound and that my conviction to it was strong enough to reach even the biggest skeptic.  I received the ultimate validation when he rushed to me after the meeting to offer his congratulations for what he gushingly referred to as “your masterpiece” and “your calling.”  I had never felt more true to myself than in that moment.

Tom asks these questions in his newsletter article: “Why are you holding back?  Are you making excuses about why you cannot give all of yourself to your calling or making excuses why you can't write or shouldn't write or how you're not worthy to write?  Are you allowing life to control you or are you controlling your life?  Are you doing with it what you want? If not, why?  Why are you not moving ahead with the necessary speed?  Do you respond to situations that affect you from the outside world or do you react?  If you’re only reacting,” says Tom, “you are allowing the outside world to control you. If you respond, you see the influences, like Eileen, as creating opportunities—kind of like God speaking to you through the influential activities outside of you that effect you the strongest.” 

Tom’s questions are right on point.  It was only after I stopped making excuses that I took control of my life.  The feeling I had presenting my theory that night and receiving the positive feedback is unmatched by any other experience of my forty-two years…not because it brought me personal recognition, but because it reassured me that I was making a difference. 

I know I’m making a difference, because of the different forms of feedback I received.  In addition to all the positive feedback, there were challenges too…even recommendations for how I should make modifications to my concept in order to resolve some issue or disagreement one person or another had with some minor aspect of it.  I actually spent some time considering those suggestions, and after reading back through those parts of the book, I was struck with this realization.  If my theory didn’t cause anyone to question any of it, then that would mean it wasn’t making them think.  If it wasn’t making them think enough to challenge it or their current attitudes or behavior, then it would be useless to anyone.  If it was just a sweet, palatable, non-challenging message, it would have no power to make a difference in the world.  If I waver and vacillate now, what good am I to anyone?

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, says:  "Make no mistake: the Censor is out to get you.  It's a cunning foe.  Every time you get smarter, so does it.  So you wrote one good play? The Censor tells you that's all there is.  So you drew your first sketch?  The Censor says, 'It's not Picasso.' The Censor is part of our leftover survival brain.  It was the part in charge of deciding whether it was safe for us to leave the forest and go out into the meadow.  Our Censor scans our creative meadow for any dangerous beasties.  Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor."  It’s like the mantra I hear repeated over and over in the small country churches I frequent, “If the enemy isn’t engaging in warfare with you to stop you from doing what you’re doing, then you better reexamine what you’re doing; because if you’re not causing him a problem, then you’re not doing anything!”  I realize now that I will not only receive validation, confirmation and rejuvenating energy from those who positively receive the messages delivered through me, but I will also receive challenges and maybe even attacks.  And now I know how to also draw energy from those challenges as well.

When I wrote this book, I did my research, but then I put all that aside and listened to what my heart was telling me to say.  I wrote what flowed through me, not a regurgitation of what someone before me had said.  And now I won’t change that, for I know it is truth.  Those who would challenge it need only to turn those challenges around and apply them to their own beliefs.  Those who would propose that I change my theory should first question if perhaps I’m delivering the very message they need to hear and internalize.  Tom asks, “How do you speak about your writing?  Is your whole heart into it?  Do you speak about it from the perspective of possibility?  Have you decided, like Eileen, what you want from it, and have you committed to that vision with your actions?”  If my answer to that before Tuesday night was a shaky little “yes,” it is now a resounding “YES!” 

And here’s the interesting part.  You see, I reference several in my book who have influenced me, such as Maslow, Jung, and Redfield, all of whom describe how we can open ourselves to an endless stream of possibilities in this life.  As much as I subscribe to that belief, I’m human and have had my share of disappointments.  In fact, I had just written Tom a few days earlier asking him for advice, since I had yet to receive feedback from the literary agents to whom I had sent my manuscript hoping for more national exposure.  After weeks of waiting, I didn’t know if I should make a follow-up call.  Tom and I had not had time to discuss that question, before my phone rang this past Sunday morning.  It was an agent in New York who finally, after having my unopened envelope lying on her desk for eight weeks, had been compelled to read it.  She couldn’t put it down, she said, and had to call me right away to confirm whether it was still available.  I smiled after I hung up the phone from our thirty-minute conversation.  Why was it that my manuscript lay on her desk unread until after I’d had the speaking engagement?  Why couldn’t this encouragement have come before I had to stand up in a room full of strangers and put my reputation and feelings on the line?  Why was it that she didn’t feel compelled to read it until after my conviction to it had been put to test?  Why was it that only after I had proven my dedication to the message, the doors started to swing open to the possibilities?

You see, we have it all backwards in our society.  We somehow expect accomplishment to precede commitment to a vision.  We say, “I’ll become committed to this vision, if I can first prove that it will succeed.”  But it doesn’t work that way.  Commitment is the prerequisite.  You are here for a reason, and you will never be truly successful until you follow that path, regardless of whether it initially looks promising or not.  But you have to take the first step.  And when you do, you’ll find that the success you were born to experience has been waiting there for you all along.  Tom concludes his newsletter piece with these questions: “What else could you be doing to further your dream - not tomorrow - but right now?  Do you need your writer's block unplugged?  Do you need to get some guidance?  Do you just need to get started?  When are you going to take those actions?”  He says, “The longer you wait to do so, the excuses you may have been using to hold you back will only gain power and momentum and taking any step in the future will only become more difficult.  Are your actions reflective of the importance of your dream?” He asks.  “Are you acting upon any positive guidance you have received to this point?  Are your actions taking you closer to your dream or further away from it?  What are you going to do now, right now, to make a difference?” 

I couldn’t agree with Tom more, and remember this is coming from someone who one short year ago couldn’t have been more afraid to begin.  Don’t delay one more second.  Your life vision is calling you…tugging at your heartstrings.  Don’t die a coward.  You have an important calling to fulfill.  What are you waiting for?  Just do it!