The Concept of “Deserve”

When you really examine the concept of what it means to deserve something, you realize that the word “deserve” describes something that exists only as an idea.  There is no such thing as “deserve” in the real world.

Those who cling to this concept are constantly bewildered at the seeming contradictions between people who are good yet penniless and suffering, and people who do many wrong and harmful things yet are enjoying wealthy, rich lives completely at the expense of others.  Clearly there is a human need somewhere in our psychological makeup to explain why this happens, but what purpose does it serve?  Here’s how it can be holding you back from succeeding.

Imagine yourself completely broke.  You’re thinking about your situation and then you ask the absolute worst questions you could possibly ask:  “Why me?  What have I done to deserve this?”

Even if we disregard how egotistical it seems to assume the universe has singled us out for punishment, the assumption is that we either deserve to be punished by living the life of a homeless tramp or at the very least have been deemed unworthy of wealth.  Either one of these ideas is killing our wallet.  It might even be killing us.

It’s been said that we accept the life we think we deserve.  That alone should illuminate the problem for you – it means that we don’t really live the life that’s right in front of us and all around us, we live the life that’s in our head.  We can pass up some amazing opportunities because the concept of “deserve” has led us off track before we even started out.  Do you deserve the love of a good person?  Do you deserve a million dollars?  Do you deserve to have your volunteerism appreciated?

Perception “Deserves” some Examination

The idea of being deserving of something isn’t based on reality.  It’s based on perception.  When we see people who are genuinely interested in being honest, trustworthy, loving, and providing the best they can for their families and humanity in general, we would all agree that they are deserving of good things in their lives in return.  They don’t deserve to suffer house invasions, carjackings, random industrial accidents, or ant infestations.  But notice how subjective the concept of “deserve” becomes when we are asked what those people actually do“deserve”.  Does living a good life mean we deserve unlimited financial wealth?  Biological immortality?  An endless string of gorgeous lovers?  As outlined in The Right Question, much of our success begins with what we don’t want and what we already know, not what we do want, and here’s another example of that.  We know what a good person doesn’t deserve, but we start to avoid eye contact with anyone who asks us what that person does deserve.

How about you when you’re angling for a promotion?  If you’re in the running with two other people to be chosen head of a design department, what happens when somebody else gets the job?  One of the first things we do is to examine whether that person actually deserves it or not.  This is a self-defense mechanism which you must stop in its tracks, because you don’t need it.  Besides, it is precisely at that point where we are being pulled off topic.

The fact is…

The fact is, if we’re going to use the concept of “deserve”, it doesn’t get us any further ahead to think about whether the person who won that plum assignment deserves it or not because the fact is that they got it.  You might deserve to win the lottery after selling your house to buy tickets, deserve to win the contract after submitting a great bid, deserve an apology from someone who has wronged you, but the fact is that you’ll either get those things or you won’t.

As soon as you throw out the possibility that you might or might not deserve something, your path becomes a lot clearer.  Now you can concentrate solely on the amount of work you’re doing.  You can focus on the process, the system, the procedures necessary to succeed, and waste less time thinking about the “fact” that success will glide on over to your door because you “deserve” it.  You either make costly mistakes along the way or you won’t.  You should make mistakes, because they’re great teachers and can be a lot of fun, but “should” is another hypothetical and basically useless concept like “deserve” and I’ll cover it in a later article.

Now that you are spending less of your mental energy thinking about the fact that you “deserve” a new Ferrari, you can spend more of that energy thinking about ways to actually obtain it.  The obvious side benefit of this is that you also remove emotional traps such as frustration.  When you think you deserve something but don’t get it, there is often a component of emotion that clouds any further thinking, making the problem worse.  If you apply for a loan and are refused, there is often an emotional element that chimes in such as resignation, maybe even depression, but you either get the loan or you don’t.  If you’re refused, when you go back to the drawing board you may find that approaching your loan application from the perspective of the lender instead of the borrower illuminates a crucial design flaw in your proposal that you hadn’t seen before – and if the lender hadn’t noticed it either, it may have cost you tremendously down the line.

“Deserve” Isn’t Emotional

We need to learn to apply our emotions as selectively as we do our words.  The next time you hear someone talking about who “deserves” this or that, you can participate all you like in the intellectual exercise, but keep in mind that the person in question either got what they “deserved” or they didn’t.  That alone is evidence that the concept of “deserve” is an entirely human creation.  Bad things happen to good people, but wonderful and truly awesome things happen to them as well.

Striving towards being a person who deserves success and love is a noble and beautiful and worthwhile pursuit.  If we all tried to be better people so that we could be more deserving of a better life, what a wonderful world we would have – even better than the one we’ve already got.  But living by that maxim alone is only going to confuse us when things go wrong even though we’ve tried our hardest to be good people.

The concept of “deserve” isn’t an emotional one, but it can trigger emotions.  Don’t let that happen.  Don’t let anything distract you from the procedure necessary to achieve your goals.  Remember, to live the life of your dreams you must become the person who could have that life.  I am sure that person is a loving, genuine, humble and inspiring individual – one who “deserves” success, and has also actually achieved it by asking the Right Question.

Way of the Weekend Warrior

Think of all the great things you’re going to do with your life.  All the wonderful, fun, enjoyable and rewarding things you’re going to dive into that leave you breathless and exhausted at the end of the day, ready to get up the next morning (when your body’s ready, not to a pesky alarm) and do all over again.

Instead of just letting those images go by, let’s grab them and start to wonder, When am I going to do them?  This year, at all?  Next year?  Am I ever going to do these great things I keep thinking of?

Now the natural inclination is to wonder, “Wait a minute, why aren’t I doing these things now?  What’s stopping me, why don’t I go after what I want?”

Instantly you’ve been pulled off track.  Now you’re into the realm of thinking about “why” instead of taking action.

Let’s face it, daydreaming about how wonderful life could be is often a lot more enjoyable than working towards a version of that life that we suspect isn’t going to be as great as our daydreams.  We don’t have to be Einstein to see that for the average person, dreaming about owning a mansion straight out of Downton Abbey is a heck of a lot cheaper than actually trying to buy one, and a lot less hassle than moving into one and ensuring that there is enough staff to keep it clean and keep all the occupants fed.  Naturally, you’d have all your family and best friends living there, or at least dropping in a lot; never mind the fact that hardly any of them have the same interest you do in even visiting old mansions let alone packing up and moving into one.

When it comes to the dreams you have for your own life, what about those?  What about your current house?  For many, it’s more fun to think about what it would look like once you’ve renovated it than it is to actually get out your tools and start work.

“Why don’t I start work on that cabinet refinishing?  Why aren’t I writing that book?  What’s stopping me from buying an old car and entering the weekend races?”  All these questions are, in my view, diversions from actually doing those things.

In The Right Question, I spend a bit of time discussing the Instinctive You.  I think that anytime you’re avoiding doing something that will potentially reward you in some way, it’s the Instinctive You at work somewhere.  If you really want to know why you’re avoiding these things, all you have to do is ask the Right Question.  Asking “Why is it that I spend my spare time in front of the TV instead of designing that app, researching that book, or designing that site?” isn’t really the best question you could be asking, simply because knowing the reason why isn’t necessarily going to get you off the couch any faster than not knowing.

It’s been said that knowledge is power but that’s not the whole story.  Knowledge isn’t power.  A hammer flying through the air doesn’t know anything at all, but it sure has power.  Ask anyone who’s been hit by one.  The power of a tool rests only in its use, and the same is true of knowledge.  Knowing why you’re wasting your life isn’t necessarily going to get you any closer to doing anything about it.  In fact, more often than not, all it’s going to do is give you an excuse to continue *not* doing anything about it!

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this in action, especially when it comes to medical diagnoses.  Think about how many times you might have seen someone behave a certain way and reject any offers of help.  Then when a diagnosis comes in from a doctor, it serves as an excuse to them that they were right all along to refuse help, and it’s the reason why they can’t do this or that or the other thing.  They’re going to live unfulfilled lives but they’ll gladly take your sympathy, because ultimately in their mind it’s easier to dream about having a great life than actually working towards one.

However, as far as I’m concerned, they couldn’t be more wrong.  I disagree that it’s easier to dream than to actualize.  I’ve been all the way from poor to rich and made a stop everywhere in between, and I can tell you, living a wealthy life is every bit as great as you imagine.  Not having to set an alarm ever again – unless you’re getting up to catch a plane, of course – is a rare and wonderful privilege, and the reason why not many enjoy it is because not enough people apply the Right Question.

Allow me to suggest that you try the following experiment:  Imagine your life without television, without checking your phone for messages every two minutes, without distracting yourself by eating or whatever else you’re doing that’s dragging you under.  Imagine how long you could survive without these things while you do something you really want to do instead.  Imagine sitting at your computer to design your site or app or write something, instead of pointlessly surfing and wasting time. Imagine being outside and tending the garden instead of just wishing beautiful things would grow.

Mark some time on your calendar to actually live like that.  Even if it’s only one day.  For some people, that’s a lot.  Make it three, four days, a week if you like, but be careful not to set a goal that sounds great but which you secretly know you’ll not be able to achieve.  Setting yourself up to fail is what the Instinctive You is good at, for reasons explained in the book, so don’t let that happen.

If you work a regular work week, I’d suggest you design your weekend around this concept.  Leave the television off, and set your phone to airplane mode while you do something you’ve been meaning to do, or something you secretly enjoy.  Get out your guitar, your app builder, your painting, whatever, and actually do it.  Not just for an hour, either.  Live like that for the whole weekend.  When you’ve done some work on your project, relax for a while.  Stay away from the tv.  Then imagine what else you’re doing in your ideal life, and do that.  Then imagine something else, and do that.

Believe me, at first this will drive you batty.  You’ll be so far out of your comfort zone it’ll make your head spin.  I know it sounds weird, but living the life of your dreams *for real* will make you feel like Alice in Wonderland.  Even in your own living room, things will seem different.  This is because in order to live the life of your dreams, you must become the person who could have that life, and you’re spending the weekend learning just what that person is like.

Additionally, you need to get a feel for what it’s like to work towards a goal instead of just dream about it.  They’re two totally different things.  When we daydream about how great life will be once we’re rich, our imagination completely, totally, unreservedly skips over the actions we’ll be taking to both get there and stay there.  There are a number of reasons for this, but if you’ve read The Right Question you’ll realize they don’t matter.  We can speculate all day long about those reasons, and at the end of the day, it’ll be bedtime and we’ll have wasted another twenty-four hours.

At the end of the time period, check in with how you feel.  Don’t do it before then!  During this time, the Instinctive You will try and convince you that you’re wasting your time or will in some way try and drag you off track.  Don’t let it happen.  Remember, the life of your dreams is going to happen to you if it happens at all, so make sure you take control of your thoughts and feelings.

When it’s over, you can go back to your routine of watching television and surfing and playing video games.  But I guarantee you that in the back of your mind you’ll be thinking about what you’ve learned about yourself – what kinds of actions you’ll need to take in order to break out of your life into the one you want, and you’ll never be the same again.

If that’s what you’re afraid of, ask the Right Question and relax.  You’ll be fine.

Pretty soon we’ll discuss how wise it is to love the life you already have, but that, as they say, is another story.

Faith and Evidence

It’s tough sometimes to justify not spending whatever extra money you have on indulgences when you could be investing it in your own business or project/s instead.  Your future is exactly that – the future, out there in Somedayland where fantasies and antigravity suits exist.  That fast food lunch is now, and that new cd or download is now, and… well, you get the idea.  In all of this are our thoughts about how we’re going to get ourselves into the life we’ve been dreaming of.  But when our faith wavers, it all seems so far away.  And once we start thinking about how far away it seems, all the things we’ve tried in the past that haven’t worked out come around for attention too, and before we know it, we’ve diverted our energy and time away from our desires and into the immediate present where this current idea suddenly doesn’t look so promising either.  Stopped in our tracks by the fear that the life we want might never come, we give up and ask why we even bother.

If you look at the history of nations, companies, groups of any kind at all, you’ll see this pattern repeat over and over again.  Sooner or later there comes a time when even the most successful of them forget what got them there, and they start thinking only of what’s five minutes ahead of them.  There are many reasons for this, but one of them is quite simply faith.  Both a lack of faith and too much of it can cause the same effect for two totally opposite reasons.

Lack of Faith

When we don’t believe that we’ll ever really be able to live the life of our dreams, a number of things happen.  It starts with a loss of focus.  Where once we honed in on our ambitions and acted as though we absolutely knew that they would be realized, now we are easily distracted by more temporary temptations.  So without us even noticing, we begin accepting that state as normal.  And because we accept it, that automatically means that we don’t feel that we really need our dreams to come true anymore.  It’s true that we don’t need our ambitions to be realized before we’re happy, because an unhappy person won’t be any happier when they’re a thousand dollars richer or two pounds thinner than they are now, but the loss of focus and drive means that we lose the things we would have gained along the way towards our dreams – the experiences, the friendships, the good times we knew would come had we accomplished our goals.

What we do next sometimes only makes the problem worse – we look for evidence to support our faith.  We look for signs that all this effort we’ve been putting in has been worth it.  Is our bank account any healthier, or are we?  Do we have a wider network to draw from, is our influence any greater, are our skills any sharper?  Have we lost any weight?  Are we, in one word, better?

Asking this on a day when we’ve just paid a lot of money for car repairs or eaten two desserts after a huge dinner isn’t the smartest strategy.  And the fact is, there is always somewhere to put your money other than into your fledgling enterprise that’s one day going to pave the way for your dreams.  Therefore, many times we don’t even see these temptations for what they are – something that takes away from our dream.  This in turn means we lose faith because we don’t see the evidence that what we’re doing is working.  So we allow even more temptations and distractions to erode our discipline, and we lose more faith as a result, and the cycle continues.

Too Much?

So far we’ve only been discussing what happens when we lose faith, but the flip side of that is an overzealous approach that disregards any enjoyment of the present because it is sacrificed in the name of the future and ignores the reality in the present.  And the problem with the future, of course, is that it’s always in the future.  It’s equally dangerous to live on faith.  Too much faith minimizes our actions by casting them in a light that renders them ineffective – we feel that nothing we do will alter the course of our advancement and success so it doesn’t matter what we do.  Obviously this is ineffective, for a goal achieved is the result of action.  And we can only take action now.  We can’t do it in the future because the future only exists as a concept.  In this way, having faith that everything will work out just fine means that we might as well do nothing at all.  But we know that’s never going to get us where we want to be either.

You don’t need faith (but it sure is nice)

Faith is rendered completely unnecessary when you do what’s required to reach your goal.  You don’t need to believe that your dream will come true, you just need to do what’s required to get there, and it will come.  As long as you behave accordingly, the energy and time you devote to your diet, business, blog, service, or whatever, will pay off.  But even that is difficult to understand without an illustration of how this works.

Nature relies on this concept.  Nature would not exist at all if it didn’t simply go ahead and do whatever’s necessary to live and reproduce or propagate.  Plants and animals don’t need faith because they just do what needs to be done.  They have to do it this way, as they have no options.  They can’t clutter up their actions with self-indulgent analysis, they just go ahead and grow.  Have you ever seen grass or a plant growing up through a crack in the sidewalk? That required no faith at all; it just went ahead and grew there.

I’m a poet at heart, so seeing life in unlikely and harsh places stirs the romantic in me.  I love to think about how the hardy little plant tries its best and struggles in adversity to overcome the risks of being driven over or tread on, but the fact is, that’s called anthropomorphism, a long word meaning humans ascribing human characteristics to a non-human entity.  I love plants, trees, animals, I even love rocks.  And when I’m surrounded by the beauty of nature I do absolutely treasure it.  But I have respect for it because it understands the Question better than most people do.

Asking the Question on a daily basis sets you on a path that doesn’t even need faith in order for you to succeed.  Faith ends up being a wonderful addition to your daily thoughts, but it isn’t necessary.  Faith, with or without evidence, becomes something you can think about in your spare time if you like, but you’ll notice that it does nothing to bring you any closer to your ideal life.  You either act according to what the Question teaches you, or you don’t.  Either way is okay, but at least by using the Question you’ll know both where you are and where you want to go.  That means you can never get lost.

If you assume that your success is coming from your faith, I would urge you to examine what is actually bringing you closer to the life of your dreams.  Faith is nice, and it helps warm our hearts when things are tough, but taking action towards our goals is the only thing that actually gets us there.  Using faith to keep you focused is great, but it’s been your actions that have brought results.

Either way, whether you’ve given up and lack faith or have found yourself coasting on all sizzle and no steak, it’s nice to know that simply learning and using the Question provides all you need.

Purpose versus Reason

In The Right Question, I go into some detail about the fact that searching for your reasons – in other words, trying to discover “why” you’ve failed or “why” you might succeed – is a waste of time.  This may lead some to conclude that I’ve dismissed the idea of having a purpose in the first place.  But having a purpose and a reason are two entirely different things, as a few simple examples will illustrate.

Let’s say you’re in bed.  It’s three in the morning.  The dog starts barking like crazy, and you wake to find the room full of smoke.  Within minutes the smoke alarm goes off.

You’ve got a pretty compelling reason to get out of bed.  Your reason is to either discover the source of the fire and deal with it, or if you’re the timid type, to hurl yourself out the door.  Either way, you’re not going to stop and think about your reasons, because in this case they’re pretty clear.  The reason is because where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and you don’t have any interest in dying from either.

Now let’s say you’re in bed at three in the morning and you’re unemployed, broke, your spouse left you, your dog ran away, and the lender is foreclosing on the house.  Many people who have been in similar situations have not felt any compelling reason at all to get out of bed.  This is a stressful situation, one that tests self-esteem, willingness and resolve.  It’s tough to get out of bed when it seems that there’s no reason to do so other than to waste another day pointlessly surfing the internet or playing video games or lying on the couch staring out the window.

The difference between looking for a reason (a “why”), and having a purpose, is night and day.  I have no problem with a more mystical or religious approach to living (a la The Purpose Driven Life) but I’m all about results, and showing you how you can get them in your life today.  Mystical methods can make you feel great, but once you’re done the book your life is still exactly the same as it was before.  I want to help you actually advance, not just feel good about a bad situation.

Purposes Inspire

Imagine you’re a pilot shot down over enemy territory.  The force of the ejector seat breaks a bone in your back, and when you land you break a leg.  You’re captured and beaten by the enemy, and forced to spend the next seven years as a prisoner.  You’re in solitary confinement for four of those years.  You are regularly beaten and tortured, kept in the dark for years at a time, and are told that your family is dead and your wife has married another man and speaks ill of you.  With all this against you, you’re going to need a lot more than a reason to not just end it all by cutting yourself with whatever rusty metal object you can find lying around.  You’re going to need a purpose.

This is exactly what happened during the Vietnam War to Admiral James Stockdale.  He made it out and became an inspiration to generations of people because he found a purpose in his life – to inspire others to resist and show them it was possible to be strong in the face of a tyrannical enemy.

The same can also be said of Viktor Frankl, who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning.  A prisoner of the Nazis during World War Two, Frankl decided that the one thing that his captors could never take from him was his choice to remain alive, to make his own decisions in his mind.  The prison guards could beat him, break his bones, pull out his teeth, but could never make him decide to think anything other than what he chose.

Your circumstances may be nowhere near as trying as the above two examples, but the point is the same.  Even if you’re in danger of losing your house to foreclosure, in the middle of a divorce, while unemployed and estranged from your own children or parents, you are still in complete control of the choices you make in your own mind to decide upon your purpose, your overall ambition to continue on through it.

Power is Choice

If the distinction still isn’t clear, think of it this way:  A reason is more of a temporary and specific motivator in a given situation.  A purpose will clarify those reasons and elevate your conduct so that you can better choose your reasons, in alignment with your dreams.  Out of all the words that the Right Question could be, it’s worded the way it is because it takes advantage of the subtle differences in language to paint exactly the right picture for you.  The reason you fill the tank in your car is because it’s running out of gas, and the purpose of that is to get where you want to go.  Purpose helps you remember that filling the tank might be more expensive than buying a bus ticket, but you are in control of where you go, how fast, and when.  In other words, having a purpose allows you to choose your reasons.  And because power is all about choice, having a purpose for your life gives you a tremendous amount of power.

A common complaint about self help and motivation and success books is that they encourage the reader to expand their material success and make more money but they avoid the issue of what happens next.  It’s easy to come up with reasons to want more money – you’ll be able to travel, buy a nicer car, a bigger house, all the things we commonly think of that will make life easier – but it ignores the fact that there are equally compelling reasons to stay exactly where we are.  We love the familiar, and the unknown is frightening.  Let’s face it, if you suddenly had another six figures in your bank account and you were able to pay off your mortgage with it, a large part of you would be sitting around saying, “Now what?”  This is because a large part of your life, a constant part of your daily thinking and a consistent motivator, is suddenly gone.  And now you have to replace it with something.  If you don’t believe me, think of all the people who die within a year or two of retirement.  With nothing else to fill the space in their lives that was occupied with paying the bills and working, down they go.  They had a reason to live but no overall purpose, let alone a desire to ask the Right Question.

Here’s a link to a short video of Viktor Frankl giving a talk in 1972:http://www.ted.com/talks/viktor_frankl_youth_in_search_of_meaning .  In it he demonstrates how it’s noble to be idealistic about humanity in general, and how a higher purpose for us all can lead us to achieve what we’re capable of.  I suggest you apply this to yourself.  Ask the Right Question in the context of creating a purpose for yourself.  It isn’t set in stone, it doesn’t have to be eloquent, but it should give you some satisfaction that it’s in line with who you know yourself to be at this point.  It will also help you when confronted with trying circumstances.

Remember, to live the life of your dreams, you must become the person who could have that life.  And no matter what your circumstances around you are right now, the person who could have your ideal life has a purpose.  It doesn’t have to be grand and magnificent.  You don’t have to set “saving the world” as your purpose.  It’s enough to want to be loving, a good parent, to make a difference to animals or your favorite charity.  But your purpose must make sense to you and be compelling enough for you to choose good reasons that will propel you towards your ideal life, and once there, keep you going.  If you choose to pursue material abundance, you won’t be asking “Now what?” when you’re writing the last check to your mortgage company and packing your bags for a celebratory holiday.

Besides, you’ll always have The Right Question in the back of your mind to help you out.

Oh Great, a Dead-End Job

I know, I know, work sucks and we all wish we could have a private income from some slick investments and not have to think about a job.  For some people (the future you, for instance) that’s reality.  For everyone else, not so much.

Let’s Get You a Job

I want to quickly walk you through the process of getting a job.  The examples in the Right Question are pretty simple ones, but that’s only because I want you to fully understand the basics of how to use it.  It is just as applicable to any other situation you could encounter, but I use mowing the lawn and doing the dishes because if you can’t master the basics, you’ll have a much harder time understanding the fundamentals of any other problems you’ll encounter in life.  Many of the people who have enjoyed The Right Question are those who have felt that nothing in life was working, and self help in general was not helping at all.

However, even if you do like your job, you might as well pick up a few ideas from this article, right?  Okay, let’s get started.

Any time I see someone avoiding a task, the first thing I wonder is, What’s that person afraid of?  In fact, for a long time I used that as part of the Right Question but eventually dropped it because I integrated it into the final version.  But let’s see about getting you a job.  Not a personal assistant to a film studio exec, unless of course you’re qualified for that or at least creative and driven enough to get that position, but something that will pay your bills and get you out of the financial mess you’re in.  You’re building a launchpad, something you can fire your rocket from, but unless it’s your dream career it isn’t the actual rocket.  It’s what’s going to keep you fed and pay your bills as you sleep well at night knowing that you’re covered.  Now you can spend your spare time actually working on your goals instead of fretting about where you’re going to come up with the rent.

At almost every stage of the job application process there is an opportunity to rationalize your way out of it.  Right from the start, even just browsing the classified ads or wandering the streets looking for Help Wanted signs, you’re learning a lot about yourself by the kinds of jobs you’re willing to even apply for in the first place.

You need to pay your bills.  You need money to survive; that’s a basic fact of life.  Some people understand this and some people don’t.  You may not believe me, but that’s okay, all I’m asking is that you trust me for a second here.  The ones least likely to believe me are the ones who have a job but hate it.  When the bills pile up and you turn your phone off because creditors keep calling, that is for many people worse stress.

If you think of a job as a car, and you live in the middle of nowhere, you can live a perfectly decent existence without one as long as you can forage in the bush and trap the occasional squirrel.  But if you want to go somewhere, not having one can be a real pain.  It can make the difference between survival and death.  You can get from the middle of nowhere to your destination in a smelly old beater as long as you do at least the minimum required to keep it going.  If you think of your job as a car, keep that job going; feed yourself, at least you’ll have the stress of bills and mortgages taken care of.  We’ll look at the stress it creates in a minute.

But Your Job is Not Your Job

I want you to understand this basic idea:  Your job isn’t really your job.

What I mean is, the job you get at the restaurant or the trucking company or the engineering firm or whatever isn’t your job at all.  Your job has now become in fact two jobs.

One is to keep the job you applied for and got.  Whatever it takes to keep that job, you keep it as long as the checks don’t bounce.

Your other job – your main, overriding job – is to keep your mind focused on your dreams.  That’s your job.  Viewed in that light, sweeping floors or stocking shelves or designing products is something you do in order to build your launchpad, nothing more.  It isn’t meant to build your rocket, so if you know that one day you’ll be lying on a beach with a private income then it doesn’t really matter if you’re flipping burgers or smelling armpits for a living.  If you’re paralyzing yourself with indecision over the job you should get as an excuse for not actually getting one, and in the meantime the bills are piling up, it’s time to look at why that is.

In other words, it’s time to ask the Question.

Your Job In Life

I cringe when I hear self help authors tell you to quit your job.  Coming from me that might sound odd, because I’m all about living your dreams, and nobody knows better than me that living your dreams means not working for someone else unless you really want to.  So let me explain.

Your number one job in life is to live the life you want.  From the moment you become aware that there is a life out there that you want to have, your job is to live it.  But too many people are so far behind in their progress toward that life that they aren’t even at the stage yet where they’re confident enough to go for it.  And there isn’t much out there for the everyday person who feels shut down and who lacks the confidence to even try for this.  If it’s confidence you need, then we need to build your launchpad.  We need to get you to the stage where you can handle whatever comes your way when you do ditch away and rise up as the paragon of early retirement.  We need to lift you out of your depression and off the couch and away from the tv.  Then we’ve got something we can work with.

If you look around, you’ll see that most people are living pretty ordinary lives.  The odd moments of excitement float around here and there, but in general they’re working at banks, supermarkets, restaurants, poultry farms, paving companies, bookstores and so on.  If any of these people quit their jobs and hitchhiked to Borneo they’d have a heck of an adventure but a huge mess when and if they returned, not to mention a lot of quizzical looks from Borneans when they’re sick with a rare tropical disease and can’t pay for a doctor.  So yes, by all means, quit your job and do what you love, but not until the launchpad is ready, okay?  Otherwise your rocket won’t have a place to sit and it will fall over.  It’s happened too many times.

Besides, what if you actually like your job?  I feel bad for all those people working at a job they really do halfway enjoy and are constantly being told by self help authors that they’re unimaginative wage slaves.  Who are they to judge you?  Ask the Question and you’ll see exactly where the holes in this way of thinking are.

So anyway, back to your job search.

If you’ve thought about what kind of job you’d like to have, and sketched out some requirements, it’s time to think about what the Law of Attraction might be doing for you here.  I present an explanation of it in The Right Question so I won’t go into it here, but basically once you have drawn out a map of what you want and what you are qualified for, don’t forget that there is often a great deal lost in translation between your wants (or fantasies) and your needs.  You’ll get your needs filled if you put in the request, but the true talent lies in knowing a good thing when you see it.

Like I said, it’s easy to rationalize yourself away from applying for jobs that in fact would be good ones for you to have.  “So-and-so worked there, and they said the manager’s a jerk.”  “Sounds like an okay job but the hours are too unpredictable.”  “I’m awful with people, I could never be a waiter, who cares how big the tips are.”  On and on you can go, making up excuses for not pursuing what might turn out to be a perfectly decent way to pay your bills and build a launchpad.  By the time you’ve “looked for a job all day”, be honest, have you actually sent out a lot of resumes, or just combed through a lot of ads over your coffee?  It’s okay if that’s all you did, but let’s see just where you are before we think about where you’re going.  This is an especially important step to avoid confusing yourself later if you still don’t have a job in two weeks.  “I applied for lots of jobs and there’s nothing out there” is a common lament over a venti latte, but if you can’t be honest with your espresso-sipping sympathizer at least be honest with yourself.

As always, just think about your situation and ask the Right Question.  You’ll discover and decide exactly what to do from that point.

Now you’ve built your launchpad, a stable place where you know your bills are paid and your leisure time belongs to you and you alone.  Great.  So far I’ve recommended that you get a job, any job, to pay your bills and build your launchpad.  Now it’s time to look at the stress created by getting a dead-end job.

Dead-End Job Stress?

Understand this:  A year is going to go by whether you and I like it or not.  Compare one year from now with your bills paid and your free time put toward construction of your rocket versus a year from now of taking handouts and trapping squirrels.  Nobody I know who works at gas stations or convenience stores or a million other dead-end jobs really loves it there.  I’ve only met one guy who did, at a sandwich shop in Canada.  He was ecstatic about everything but wasn’t on any kind of drug.  So I suppose there are exceptions.  But the economy runs on people who are building launchpads yet who don’t use their free time building their rockets, and I don’t understand why (if you’ve read the Right Question, you’ll know it doesn’t matter why).  You and I are working at this from the launchpad straight on up through the design and launch of your rocket.  That’s what the Right Question is for.

You want the life of your dreams, right?  Okay.  Launch that rocket from a sturdy place.  One year of putting your leisure time towards an enterprise that you love is often more than enough for you to be able to do it full-time, and it’s at that point that you really take off.  So yes, a dead-end job creates stress because you feel like a dork in that uniform, or you hate the commute, or you wish your boss wouldn’t hit on you, or your friends tease you.  One year from now, you will be a heck of a lot closer to living near a beach than they will be, because they have the attitude I’m going to describe right now.  You, however, are going to avoid it.

People who work a job they hate feel the stress of it, and they immediately begin to make terrible mistakes.

Because their job is unfulfilling, they feel they can spend their free time goofing off and doing unproductive things because they’ve somehow “earned it” for putting up with a job they dislike.  Is this ringing any bells?  Working a dead-end job you hate is something you WILL get out of if you apply the Right Question to your life.  You have earned the money to pay your bills, and that’s great, but you have not earned the right to waste your leisure time.  That will come in six months or a year from now, when you have reached the point where you can spend an hour a day on your business and the rest of your time helping out in the community, or lying on a beach, or planning your next vacation.  Maybe you’ll make a million overnight, maybe you won’t, but either way, your dead-end job serves the purpose of removing financial stress so that you can build your launchpad.  That is all it’s for.  It is a tool, a resource for you to use to become the person who could have the life of your dreams.

Because as you know by now, the life of your dreams is going to happen to you, if it happens at all.

We all know that dead-end jobs feel like an awful waste of time.  And they can be, unless you recognize that every single thing around you can be a handhold that you can use in some way to build your launchpad and construct the rocket that’s going to lift you out of the life you have into the life you want.  Have you ever seen the movie Flight of the Phoenix?  That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about.  There is a way out but it requires… well actually it requires the Right Question.  Spend your free time working on a way out, not lamenting what you don’t have and what you can’t do because your job traps you.  It frees you to build your escape plan.  To keep yourself focused, ask yourself the Right Question ten times a day if you have to.

You’ll lift off, I know it.

The Listening Deaf

When you were a teenager (if you aren’t one now), I’ll bet you stood on the edge of several pretty major decisions, wondering what to do.  And no matter how many adults chipped in with their advice, whether you asked for it or not, you probably went ahead and did what you wanted anyway.

Teenagers aren’t the only ones guilty of this.  Some of us carry this entire way of thinking into adulthood.  Myself, for instance.  We’re what I call the Listening Deaf.  We hear that other people are saying things, but really, we’re just watching their lips move and nodding.  Let’s face it, not everybody has something interesting or original to say, and when they do, it isn’t always something we want to hear.

Think about a date you’ve been on, or an occasion when somebody told you that you’re a “good listener”.  You may indeed have been really listening, or you may have been staring at the table and keeping your eyes open to avoid falling asleep.  Either way you ended up a hero.  I’m pretty sure that some of my most beloved friends have been squinting hard at me in what I thought was concentration and what might very well have been an effort to keep their contacts from falling out.

Either way, the point is that we all like to be heard, but there isn’t always somebody around to talk to.  The great thing about the Question is that you can get the right answer from the one person whom the gurus have been telling you all along already has the answers – you.

I realize that it sounds pretty silly when you hear “You have all the answers inside you” when you’re wandering around wondering where your next meal is going to come from.  I know it sounds absurd to tell somebody that they just need to relax and feel the universe flowing through them when what they really want to know is how they can pay the water bill.  This gap between two ultimate truths is exactly why I wrote The Right Question.

You’re always around to talk to, so why not open up a conversation with yourself?  “Hey, self, why aren’t you doing something about that huge pile of laundry?  And while you’re at it, why aren’t you working on that invention?”  That kind of thing.  The best thing to do, of course, is to ask the Right Question, but you knew I was going to say that.  After all, you might not have been watching my lips move, but you knew where this was going to end up.

I would strongly caution you to listen to yourself.  Don’t be the Listening Deaf when it comes to answers you do have.  Using the Question will give you the power you need to zero in on exactly what is going on around you, and how to change it.  All three parts of the Question have a reason; in fact, each word.  Honor the answer you get, because it will be original and it will be exactly the right answer.

What other kind of answer could you get when you ask the Right Question?

The Simple Life

Do you know how it is that large zoo animals are trained not to break loose and rampage through the streets?  I’m no expert zookeeper, but I’ve heard the old saw that elephants can be kept from running away as an adult by the same thin rope that held them as a youngster.  The reason for this, so it goes, is that once the elephant figures out that it can’t get away when that rope is there, it gives up and doesn’t bother trying anymore.

I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that you can keep cattle in a pen by a similar method.  I used to live in a small prairie town and ended up knowing a thing or two about this.

Before the days when electric fences could be run with solar power, the farmer would have to run power to the fence from a nearby shed or house.  Obviously this could get a little inconvenient.  But farmers are a lot more innovative than most people give them credit for.  In this instance they noticed that if an animal contacted the fence a couple of times while it was electrified, it would avoid it from that point on even if it didn’t have power to it.  In short, a couple of zaps was enough to keep the cattle from challenging the fence again.  Moreover, the animal would keep others from making the same mistake.  The upshot, as you can guess, was a much lower power bill for the same result.

If only our bodies worked the same way!  We could do a really good four-hour workout and that would be it for life.  No more health club memberships, a one-time visit is all we’d need. As we all know, however, things just don’t work for us humans quite that way…or do they?

If you’ve read The Right Question, you’ll have learned that I’m into results.  You’ll have learned that I’m very introspective, but when it comes to helping you change your life I am strictly business and that means we don’t stand around asking why, we rev up that mower and get the grass done.  But this topic does have some interesting angles we can explore.

You’ll also know if you’ve read the book that it’s the simplest things that can trip us up just as much as the most complex.  In fact, complex operations of any kind at all can be systematically reduced to a series of very simple steps.  I love simplicity.  Leonardo da Vinci, one of my all-time heroes, is credited with saying that simplicity is the highest form of sophistication.  Even if it wasn’t he who said it, we’re pretty sure that Einstein did say that if you can’t explain your idea to a six-year-old you don’t understand it yourself.  So let’s put on our da Vinci beard or Einstein wig and look at the simple things, and take it from there.

Is there something nagging at you that you ‘want to do someday’, but you haven’t really started on it?  I’m not talking about tackling the ambitious lifetime dreams here, I’m talking about simple stuff.  In the book I use the analogy of washing the dishes, but here, let’s read a book.

I love books.  I’ve got over a thousand, and would have double that number but I know enough about my life to understand that I don’t have time or space for any more.  (This is where I’ve implemented the rule of the Front End and the Back End, which you’ll learn about by reading The Right Question if you haven’t already).  Some of them are old textbooks which have been superseded by much more modern knowledge, but I still hang onto them.  When I open them I feel like I should be blowing the dust off and adjusting my fedora before I hold them up to the candlelight.  So let’s say, just for a bit, that you fancy yourself as the kind of person who wants to read more.  You have the time, but you just…well, you don’t.

Now a six-year-old comes up and asks you why.  Why don’t you read more, dad?  What’s stopping you, grandma?  And you think, Good question, sweetie.  Why don’t I?

Now you’re in Right Question territory.  I never give the Question away in the blog, that’s for those who buy the book only, but you’re getting close to the kind of thinking that moves mountains.  One simple concept at a time.

Now’s the time to use the Question and figure this out.  Just the first part of it will probably do.  What do you need to read, anyway, besides a book?  A comfortable place to curl up.  This might mean a cozy wingback chair, a papasan, or a huge cushion on the floor.  You’ll need lighting.  Do you have a lamp that you can read by?  I mean, having a book is only part of it.  For some people (e.g. yours truly) reading is almost a ceremony.  Is there some tiny little ingredient that’s missing from your overall idea of what it will be like when you do this certain thing?

Now that same inquisitive youngster asks why you don’t practice your guitar as much as you say you’d like to.  How are you going to answer that?  You wander into the room where you keep it, but you don’t seem to take it out of its case.  Is that because you don’t have a tuner?  Does it need strings?  Are you avoiding putting strings on because you don’t know how, and it hasn’t occurred to you that you could learn?  Maybe it’s in the wrong room entirely, and instead of keeping it behind the reading chair you might want to bring it into the den.  Perhaps you are a beginner, and you’re at the point where your fingertips still hurt when you play.  Maybe somebody told you to give up because in their opinion you just aren’t very good.  Well, that’s okay, they’re probably the same kind of people who might have brought the Costa Concordia a little closer to the island, and we all know how that turned out.

These are all things that the first phrase of the Question will identify for you.  It never ceases to amaze me how often we are tripped up by these simple, ordinary things.  I’m reminded of how the US government spent millions of dollars to come up with a pen that could write in zero gravity while the Russians spent a dollar on a box of pencils.  I have a Fisher Space Pen now, and pencils too, and I like them both.  But the pencil writes when it’s been left in my cold Jeep overnight at the ski hill, and I gotta be honest, the space pen sometimes doesn’t.

If you can solve your problem by just using the first phrase in the Question, great.  Those seven little words are magic, aren’t they?  And you haven’t even used the rest of the Question.  Well, no mind.  It’s there when you want to use it to clean out the fridge, and again when you want to make your first million.

Fears and Other Fun Things

What are we all afraid of?

Many people spend time on the verge of taking a great leap, but never seem to get up the courage to do it.

Hollywood movies would have us believe that people reach a moment where they take a great leap and leave everything behind.  Sometimes this is literally a huge jump, swinging from a rope over a chasm or something, and then our hero is suddenly unafraid of heights.  But you and I both know it doesn’t work like this.

More accurately, I think people view relatively small steps as large ones, and that prevents them from taking those steps.  And it doesn’t matter how many people tell them it’s no big deal.  To them, it is a big deal.  To them, that small step is huge.

Well, that’s okay.  To get the right answer, just ask the Right Question, no matter how big or small you think the next step is.

It’s different for everybody, but paralysis comes from the belief that something bad will happen if we get or do what we want but at the same time, we’re also afraid that something bad will happen if we stay where we are.  I think everybody has both of these fears working on them most of the time.

If you do an internet search on the most common fears, you’ll find that without exception, they are things that we can’t control.  Public speaking.  Flying.  Snakes.  Heights.  Elevators.  The list is endless, and they all have one thing in common:  We can’t completely control them.

I used to know a helicopter pilot who would stand on the skid of a helicopter as it hovered fifty feet off the ground in a high wind, with no safety harness.  But he wouldn’t climb a ladder.  He trusted the helicopter because he could control it, but he found ladders to be wobbly and unpredictable.

So it would be more accurate to say that we’re afraid of things that we think we can’t control.

This is one of the biggest reasons why the Question is so powerful.  It immediately brings into focus things you can control, so you’re better able to manage your life.

Fears aren’t rational.  Phobias, extreme fears of something, can’t be argued away by logic.  They can be completely erased, but not without a little effort.  And one thing that psychiatrists and counselors get asked by their clients every day while curing phobias is, “What will I fear instead?”

That’s an indication that the person in question is so used to being afraid that it doesn’t matter much what they’re afraid of, as long as there’s something.  Because that’s comforting.

Let’s take a quick look at what will happen if we don’t get what we want, and what will happen if we do.

Fear of Failure

This is what many people are quite sure they’re afraid of.  It’s pretty easy to describe why we might be afraid of failure.  Our friends might get an odd satisfaction that we tried climbing out of the cage only to fall back in.  We’ve spent time and money and other resources along the way that now seem wasted.  We’re embarrassed that we were once all fired up about this goal or dream, and now that it’s come crashing down around us and we realize it’s never going to happen, we feel like a fool for even wanting it in the first place.

It’s also pretty universal to be afraid to be mocked for trying.  Let’s face it, we don’t live in a world where trying but not succeeding is very well regarded.  Fear of being ridiculed for dreaming big in the first place can be pretty powerful if we let it.

Being afraid of failure is an easy fear to paint a picture of, at least on the surface.  It might go a lot deeper than this, though.

For example, you might be afraid of failing in business because you’re worried that it will only reinforce your image of yourself as a loser, or someone who isn’t worth a better life.  In this case, you’re concerned that your emotional and mental health might be at risk if you fail.

Or perhaps you’re worried that you’ll fail when approaching that attractive man or woman you have your eye on.  You know what everyone says – they can’t reject you if they don’t know you, they can’t reject you unless you want something from them, just move on, all those things – but you just can’t seem to shake it.

Would it help to know that everyone feels this?  Whether they admit it or not, in fact whether they even know it or not, everyone’s heart rate increases and breathing gets shallower when anyone does anything out of their comfort zone.

The ones who seem unafraid are ones who just do it anyway.

In other words, without even knowing it, they’re asking the Right Question.

One thing that has helped me in my quest to overcome fears is to redefine what a fear means.  I explore this in detail in the book, but I’ll give you an idea about it here – things only have meaning in a context.  If you frame what you call failure differently, it might not mean failure at all.  Make sure you know the difference between your own definitions of “not getting what you want” and “failing”.  Most of the time, they aren’t the same thing at all.  What we now call “Trial and Error” used to be called “Truth or Error”, but every result you get is truth.  Some results get you closer to what you want, and some don’t, but they’re both truth.

Fear of Success

It’s a little more difficult to describe why we might be afraid to succeed at something.  After all, you’re looking at the pictures in your mind of everything that’ll be great once you reach this goal or live this dream.  Once your life is the way you want it, you’ll be happy, alive, awake, and everything around you will be better.  You’ll have lots of money, friends, a successful business or your dream career with great prospects, and the man or woman of your dreams.  What is there that we could possibly be afraid of?

Well, the world we live in doesn’t seem too enthusiastic about success.  We hear stories every day about how students who achieve great marks lose them to those who don’t score as high.  The harder you work, the more money the government takes.  The more you beautify your property, the more property tax you pay even though your municipal government hasn’t lifted a finger to provide you any more or better services than it did before you did all that work.  People who become successful are subject to scrutiny, suspicion, and mistrust no matter how many people they provide jobs for.  It seems like you just can’t win, either way.

So which is it?

I believe that of these two fears, more people are afraid of success by far than those who are afraid of failure.  Sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely true.

At least when you fail after any attempt to improve your life, halfhearted or otherwise, your life is basically the same.

You get some immediate temporary relief in the form of sympathy from your friends (who may have been pretty nervous at your attempt to climb out of the nest and fly).  They rally round you and agree it’s tough to make it in this world, and you’ll go out for coffee or a drink together and everything will be the same as before.  You’ve failed, but it’s not that bad, you’re at least not really any worse off.  You might have a huge loan to pay back, and that can weigh heavily on you, but you’ll find a way to do it, and you’ll have experience under your belt and some stories to tell.

Success, however, means that your life will change.  And the worst thing about it is that you don’t know exactly how it will change.  In other words, you’re afraid that it will suddenly become beyond your control.

Despite how clearly you’ve imagined it, how many hours you’ve spent meditating and visualizing how your life will look once this dream comes true or this goal is reached, the fact is that you don’t know precisely how your life will be different.  And I would bet you that if you spent enough time thinking about it, you’d admit that it’s terrifying.

Why is this so?

Mostly it’s because we don’t know who we will be once our lives are different.

Let that sink in for a second.  Read it again.

Remember what I’ve said about having the life of our dreams?  I said that in order for us to have the life of our dreams, we must become the person who could have that life.

Right now, chances are you aren’t the person who owns the beautiful villa on the tropical island.  Perhaps you aren’t the one married to the person of your dreams.  You aren’t driving the car you want, and you aren’t respected in your field.  In fact, you might be living in a rented inner-city apartment with no car at all, trying to decide if you can even afford to go to school.

Your life right now is frustrating and you are denied what you want by things beyond your control.

But it’s familiar.  And keeping things familiar requires no effort on your part at all.  It’s easy.  You’ve become rather good at it.

And even though success seems pretty great, tempting, and wonderful, aren’t there people waiting to accuse you of not caring about your friends on the way up?  Are you going to be seen as a terrible, greedy, uncaring and manipulative swindler?  Deciding who you’re going to take for that trip to the tropics when you make your first million is just like what you went through when you were figuring out whom to invite for your seventh birthday party.  Some will be left out, and others are going to show up and be cake hogs with no manners.

Instead, ask the Question.

It’s easier to succeed than to fail.

When I say that it’s easier, I don’t mean that you won’t face challenges, obstacles, and problems along the way.  I don’t mean that all you have to do in order to have a successful business is to put a sign up and wait.

I mean that in the long run, it will cost you far less to make sure you succeed than it will to stay in your comfort zone.  Staying in the unsatisfying life you have will cost you more than you can possibly imagine.

And if you really believe that it requires no effort on your part to stay where you are, think about this:  When you finally do reach the end and remember what your dreams were, you’ll have spent so much time protecting your comfort zone and letting your fears decide how you lived that you’ll never reach that shore.  Regret comes with an enormous price tag.

Are you prepared to live with that?

There’s an old saying that it’s lonely at the top.  The inference is that once you’ve succeeded, you’ll be alone because so few people really make it.  Everyone will want something from you, decisions you make will affect a lot of people who won’t be happy with what you decide, and that it won’t be worth whatever you had to do to get there.

I’ll admit that, as Anthony Robbins says, the bottom’s more crowded.  But at the top are quality people who understand the struggle you’ll have been through.

What does “at the top” even mean, anyway?

Let’s say you’re trying to kick a habit or addiction.  You couldn’t care less about material things, for whatever reason, but you want to get rid of a drinking or drug or smoking habit or addiction.

In your case, the people at the top are those who have already done it.  For you, the top is when you can say no in the face of temptation.  You’ll be able to say no even if your partner is into it, your friends, everyone.  You’ll be at the top when you can refuse even when you’re down and that chemical seemed like your only friend.  And you’ll know others who have been there.  If they can do it, so can you.

At the top of your career in real estate, for another example, are those who have been able to find great people to work for them, and carved out a niche for themselves in an area that they dominate.  They saw that people needed help finding a certain kind of property, or maybe they just decided they’d move to a city or country or climate they preferred, and decided to help others achieve their dreams of finding a place to call their own.  At the top you’ll meet these people and you’ll learn from their experience, you’ll share stories of amazing properties you’ve seen and the people you’ve met along the way.

For every reason to fear your new life as a success, there are unlimited reasons to embrace it.

But what if your struggle is more personal than that?  What if you are depressed and have trouble even getting out of bed in the morning?  What if your goal isn’t to have a new car, to travel the world, or to swim with the dolphins, and instead you’d consider it a victory just to be able to clean your house and smile once a day?  There’s nobody at the top there except you, even if you do manage to run the vacuum.  Success for you means being able to leave the house without being afraid.

I could rationalize with you, show you the logic that you’re alone whether you sit around crying all day or get busy and get something done.  I could use reason to illustrate what you should do.  But ultimately you’re in the same position I was in years ago – it didn’t matter what anybody said, what the gurus told me.  There was just me in my life.  And there’s just you in yours.

Just ask yourself the Right Question, and you’ll always get the right answer.