Have you ever noticed that when people give advice, they often seem more animated than usual? Sometimes their posture even improves, or they assume a more self-assured attitude. They make statements like, "I'll tell you what your problem is," or, "this is what you have to do..." If you make the dreaded error of disagreeing with their brilliant insights, you may find that this only furthers their resolve in convincing you that their points are essential to your wellbeing and survival. As the unloading of wisdom continues, you may eventually begin to wonder: am I really the one you're trying to convince?
What if a vast amount of the advice that we give is actually advice for ourselves? What if we miss out on much of our own wisdom because we are so busy offering it to others? Is it possible that our animation as "advisers" arises from a yearning to convince ourselves that our various insights are true? Might we seek to prove the validity of our own wisdom by trying it out on test subjects around us—those people closest to us?
I've been writing a self-help book for about three and a half years now. I'm in the industry of giving advice. It's only in the last few weeks, however, that I've fully engaged the magical art of following my own advice.
The seed crystal for the book came late one night while I was in a state of semi-sleep. I had been lying there for a while, pondering all the biggest and most exciting life-discoveries made in 40 years on earth. Dream images began to blend with my waking thoughts. An idea popped into my head, and I was tired and delirious enough to seriously consider it. What if reincarnation really happens? I thought. What if we come here to Earth one lifetime after the next?
Whether or not there is any validity to the concept of reincarnation, on this particular evening in a near slumber, I simply decided to run with it for a little while. I imagined writing all my most valued life-discoveries down in a book. That way in my next life, I might by chance stumble upon this very text sometime in my youth, and could avoid having to reinvent the wheel all over again. Given a little jump-start at the outset of my next journey, perhaps I'd avoid spending decades floundering around before truly appreciating the extraordinary gifts with which I—and all human beings—are born.
I was just about to fall asleep, and had to force myself to scribble some notes about this wacky idea before I lost the train of thought.
The next morning, I found the following words on a note pad beside my bed:
Owner's manual on being human.
Develop the concepts.
Fit pieces together in the simplest way.
Brush my teeth.
Write the book.
Create an international publishing sensation.
Get this stuff out to kids and adults everywhere, including my next-time-around self.
In reading the list, I chuckled to myself much like an adolescent in sheepish embarrassment for having taken things a bit too far. Within twenty minutes, however, I found myself at the computer writing what would soon become the Forward to the book (which was presented in the previous article entitled: "What Is The User's Guide To Being Human?"). Terribly goofy though the initial inspiration might have been, the deed was done just the same. From that moment forward, I set out to write a book that would help people better understand themselves and their natural-born capabilities.
At this point, I became a full fledged "giver of advice." I combed the isles my own life experience for the most valuable insights and techniques that I had discovered or learned from others, synthesizing them with a body of global wisdom on the nature of life and personal development. As I spent more and more time investing myself in the book, I had less time for actually applying the material in my own life.
Fortunately, something happened a few months ago that allowed me to regain access to my own advice. I set out to create an institute, intent on presenting the material to people the world over. My close friend Sue Bryan and I sought potential collaborators. We drew a terrific team together, and are currently one-and-all going through a year-long course based on the book.
In facilitating this course, I decided to simultaneously participate as a student along-side my colleagues. The intent was to experience first hand the potential value of the program. The result is that I have forced myself to take my own advice. Each day, a part of me feels as if I am discovering the various techniques for the first time—even though I've used every one of them at some point in my past. Perhaps this freshness arises because I am making use of them in a new context, one unique to my current life-circumstances. In so doing, I uncover new layers of value and insight through everyday action.
We're three months into the program now. I find that the more I follow my own advice, the less time I spend giving it to others. I've grown more accustomed with simply sharing my various little moments of folly and growth, ignorance and insight, and trust that others will draw from each story whatever might be of value to them. Similarly, I've widened my eyes to wisdom all around me—evident in the actions and stories of those who cross my path.