I was scared to death. Wayne Dyer was going to come on my podcast.
I read about ten of his books. I watched five or six of his PBS specials. The man has sold over 150 million books. He's inspired millions. He's already given hundreds of interviews. What could I possibly ask him? I wanted to be ready. I didn't want to ask the same questions everyone else was asking.
I watched other interviews with him. I even spoke to his daughter about him.
"You have to interrupt him," Claudia told me, "or he will keep on talking." So probably the first thing is: I learned how to interrupt people.
Afterwards, the guy who did the audio for the podcast said to me, "That was unbelievably inspiring."
And then he quit his job.
Wayne Dyer has worn many hats. He's been a therapist, a professor, a writer, a PBS fundraiser, to many a spiritual leader. To me he is the ultimate "Choose Yourself-er."
He started out dirt poor, an orphan coming out of foster homes. He went to school, got his PhD, became a professor, and was so loved by his students he reached tenure by age 35, meaning the school had to pay him for the rest of his life. It meant he never had to worry about a job or money again. He was set.
So what did he do then?
He quit his 100% safe job. Everyone said he was crazy and begged him not to.
He had written a book, Your Erroneous Zones, and it failed in his eyes. It had sold 5,000 copies. When a book sells 5,000 copies the publisher typically wipes their hands clean (they have made a tidy profit) and says, "Ok, on to the next one."
But that wasn't good enough for Wayne. He didn't want a publisher to choose whether he was a success or not.
He bought out the rest of the inventory of books from his publisher and put them in the trunk of his station wagon. With his nine year old daughter sitting next to him, he drove all over the country, from bookstore to bookstore, begging them to take his books.
You choose yourself one choice at a time. You choose yourself every day. You choose yourself with all of your fears and hopes mixed together and nobody knows what's going to happen.
But if you do it with a sense of mission and a belief in your vision, what happens may not be what you expect, but you will never say, "I wonder what would have happened?"
He has sold over 100 million books since then.
Here's 13 things Wayne Dyer told me that I learn from every day:
1. Do work you believe in so much you'd go to jail for it.
When Your Erroneous Zones came out, it was banned in all of the countries behind the Iron Curtain. So Dr. Dyer smuggled copies into Prague. That’s how much he believed in the message he was spreading.
2. Look at your life from a distance.
Dr. Dyer grew up in an orphanage — an incredibly hard experience, and one that many people might not be able to overcome. But difficult experiences are what sculpt the soul. Now he's thankful, he told me, for those experiences.
3. Go to the people.
At the beginning of his career, someone told Dr. Dyer, “The only way to reach everyone in America is by getting on a nationally syndicated TV show.”
At first he was rejected by the big shows, so he packed his car full of books and drove across the whole country to connect with people face-to-face. Today everyone wants to go viral. They want the internet to make them an overnight success. But sometimes you just need to work insanely hard and go to the people. One at a time, face-to-face.
"Viral" often is a disease you want to get rid of. But "connection" can lead to lifelong benefits.
4. Arrange whatever pieces come your way.
He said everyone today is so eager to blame their situation on the stock market or the economy. But whatever meager resources you have, make it work for you. Find a way to move forward.
He said that since he was 9 years old he’s never been unemployed, even if it meant he had to carry bags of groceries at the supermarket for a nickel. The key to an enriched life is having a burning desire. Wayne says that you must “have an inner flame that, no matter what goes before you, never flickers.” This desire will enable you to seize every opportunity and create the life you want to live.
5. Always take responsibility for your own life.
Wayne says that If something isn’t working in his life, he always tells himself, “It must be because I haven’t used enough determination or I haven’t been fearless enough or I haven’t been willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.”
He never lets himself make any excuses. He can’t control external factors. He can only control himself.
6. Leave yourself open to whatever comes up.
On June 26, 2013, Wayne announced to his whole family that he was done writing books. He explained in great detail why he felt like that chapter of his life was done.
Then, on June 27th, he started writing his next book! He had 100% intended to be done with books, but when he felt the urge to start writing that morning, he embraced it. Rather than resisting and forcing his own plans, he accepted what came his way and let it direct him.
7. We are "doomed" to make our choices.
There are somethings that we can’t change. Our hardwiring, our bodies, our physical limitations. But within that framework we have the power to make choices. We choose how to use the resources we are given.
Improving (or not improving) 1% a day is not even noticeable. That's why it's so easy for people to say, "nothing is happening" and inadvertently cost their lives 1% a day. Focus on that 1% improvement and everything changes.
8. Find your life's purpose.
You might be saying “OK James, a bunch of these lessons are about following your purpose, but what if I don’t know what mine is?!”
Wayne asked “What’s the difference between good and God?” The answer is “o”. Not just "oh" but "zero."
So whatever makes you feel good, whatever energizes you and lights you up inside, that’s God. That’s God telling you that that’s what you are meant to be doing.
I don't believe that anyone has one purpose in life. And I don't like attaching any one religious philosophy to contentment in life. But I like the idea of taking that "zero" and filling it up, if only for today, with something you love.
9. Sell your cleverness and create a sense of awe.
Life is a gift. Don’t let your ego get in the way of fully experiencing and appreciating it.
When we were kids, we laughed and asked question. When we're adults, we cry and shout answers. Sometimes it's good to feel like a kid again.
10. The dying often wish they had the courage to live the life they wanted, rather than doing what others wanted of them.
It’s hard living the life you want. It requires determination and strength and wisdom and fearlessness. You only find the alternative waiting for you on your deathbed.
11. Enlightenment is about personal connection.
I don't mean enlightenment in an intangible way, with no connection to the real world. Too many people try to scam with that word.
"Enlightenment is all about improving your relationships. Being more loving with your spouse. Being more patient with your children. The quest for enlightenment is about improving your daily life in real ways," Wayne told me.
12. There are three ways to enlightenment.
- Suffering: reflecting on pain in the past and learning from it
- Being present: learning from what you’re going through right now
- Getting out front: being proactive rather than reactive
13. There is a secret garden within us.
No matter what happens in the world around us, no matter what happens to us, there is a place inside of you where you are 100% in control of what happens.
"Maybe you can’t control the terrible things that happen to you, but you’re in control of how you respond," Wayne said.
You’re in control of your feelings and your own happiness. That’s not to say that it’s not incredibly difficult, but the point is that NO ONE ELSE has the power over your mindset. "Inside your chest, you are sovereign."
I was sort of in a glow after the interview. I was excited. I felt like doing a podcast was the right thing. I wasn't sure until then.
Maybe most of all, I learned from one thing he said to me towards the end:
"Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make the thing that excites you come true. Are you fearless?"
I'll be honest: I don't know. Sometimes it's very hard. Sometimes crisis hits and you can't move. I think that's ok. Sometimes you have to take a rest to re-energize.
But I have a faith that his final words to me are the trick:
"Come from a place of compassion and love".
If you're interested in listening to the rest of my talk with Wayne, check it out here.
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