Friday, September 08, 2006

Are You A "Crocodile Hunter"?

Earlier this week I heard that Steve Irwin, better known to millions as "The Crocodile Hunter", died in a marine accident while filming a TV show.  To many people, this sounds like the punchline of a joke; the first question out of their mouths is "Was he eaten by a crocodile?"  But for me, the story has an entirely different connotation.

I've never seen one of his shows, so my previous impression of this guy was that he was just some suicidal idiot.  But this week I read an article about his life and death that put things in an entirely different light for me.  Things said by his family, friends, and co-workers that made it clear he was neither an idiot nor suicidal, but just a guy who was passionate about his life and what he was doing.

They told how he always, always, always wanted his crew to keep on filming, no matter what might happen to him.  He acknowledged the possibility that he might someday die on-camera, considered it a fitting end to his career, and made sure that everyone knew he would want the footage of his death -- however it happened -- to be aired.

Now, I guess to some people that still might sound idiotic or suicidal, but not to me.  When I heard that, I went, "Wow, how many people have a job that they're that passionate about?"  Hell, just sitting here typing this right now, it brings tears to my eyes thinking about it.  Do you have something that you're truly putting your all into?  So much so, that you aren't bothered by the idea of dying, because you'll die knowing you did everything that you could, everything you were here on earth to do?

This is really the essence of what my blog is about.  Live your dreams, or die trying.  We are all going to die...  but how many of us have really lived?

What are you afraid of, anyway?

And the thing about living is this: it involves risk.  In Steve Irwin's case, he not only had the risk of getting eaten by crocodiles, but also the risk of what everybody would think of his crazy idea for a TV show!  I mean, let's be honest: most people fear public speaking more than they fear death, so I personally think it takes more courage to risk being thought an idiot by millions, than it does to jump in a river with some crocodiles.  The crocodiles might be dangerous, but they could never be as malicious as human beings can be to each other!

You see, crocodiles don't know how to be critical.  They don't know how to be negative and discouraging.  You have to be able to think, to do those things...  which is a big reason why smart people tend to have lousy lives!

Unfortunately, because smart people are also better at rationalizing things, we tend to take the lousy lives that we ourselves create, and make ourselves into heroic martyred victims.  We look down on those we see as "dumb and happy" or "blissfully ignorant", while feeling superior because we know how terrible the world really is, in so much better detail than those poor deluded fools who only think they're happy!

But our trust in the intellect is severely misplaced. To a smart person, the world revolves around thinking, and people act according to reasons.  But this is a lie, lie, lie!  It has been the single greatest cause of suffering in my entire life, and the odds are that it is for you, too.

When I was 13 years old, I wanted to live in the woods and be a hermit, because people were just too damn crazy.  When I was 18, I had several close calls with homelessness and I seriously contemplated suicide.  Ironically, my realization that I couldn't go through with it -- despite having what I thought were excellent reasons for doing so -- was perhaps the first really big hint in my life that reasoning wasn't everything it was cracked up to be!

Trust Your Feelings, Luke!

You see, the truth is that our feelings control our actions.  The process goes like this: thoughts lead to feelings lead to actions.  If you leave out the feelings, all you get is thoughts and no action.  And this is why, the smarter you are, the more your life will tend to suck.  Because for life to not suck, you have to actually do things.  And to do things, you have to have more of the feelings that lead to doing, and less of the feelings that lead to being stuck.

But smart people usually think that reasons should be enough, and so they don't understand why they can't get themselves to do what they think they should do, or to stop what they think they shouldn't. (They also wonder why they can't get anybody to buy their oh-so-perfect products that should "sell themselves"!)

I'm not pulling any punches here, because I have thought and done all of these exact same things myself, and I was being a fucking idiot.  I wish somebody could have gotten that across to me a lot sooner, so I could have had more years of not being such an idiot!

Many years ago, I read a movie review by a science fiction writer, who griped that the Star Wars movies were "anti-science" because Obi Wan Kenobi tells Luke to disconnect his high-tech aiming equipment and "trust his feelings".  At the time, I agreed with the writer, but now I'm not so sure.  Maybe using your feelings isn't the best way to aim photon torpedos and such, but there is absolutely no better way to aim your life.

But when you only think about how your life "should" be, you will tend to focus on how what you have, isn't really what you want.  At best, you'll maybe try to figure out how you can maybe squeeze a little of what you like, into the way that things currently are.  In either case, you will feel bad, but conclude that that's just how things are, so of course it makes perfect sense that you feel bad!

Learn To Use The Force... of Feelings

So if you don't know how to use your feelings, you'll take your bad feelings as a signal to stop and do nothing, when they are really a sign that you need to take action.  If you're using your feelings correctly, you'll realize that when you have a bad feeling, it doesn't mean that life is bad, it means you're doing the wrong thing.  Specifically, you'll know that you're thinking about the wrong things.

And when you learn to use your feelings correctly, you'll realize a bad feeling means it's time to change your thinking.  To stop thinking about what you don't have, or how difficult it will be to get it, or what you think you have to settle for instead of what you really want.  And to replace those thoughts with new thoughts about what you do want, and how good it will be to have it. And then you'll get different feelings.  Ones that will lead you to take action, instead of just thinking about how bad things are.

Now, I don't know what kind of feelings prompted Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin to go mess with crocodiles on a regular basis...  heck, I'm not sure I want to know!  But I do know that if you don't learn to use your own feelings as a way to guide your thoughts, your life will continue to suck a lot more than it needs to.

Two years ago, when I started this blog, one of my intentions was to use this as a vehicle to help people who had the same kind of problems I did, while I helped myself.  And in some ways, it has succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.  I've "upgraded my personality" in almost more ways than I can keep track of, and am finding my life more satisfying than ever.  I've even sold 68 books so far, which I can honestly say is more than I've sold of any other product I've created, ever!

But I don't feel like I'm really fulfilling my mission yet.  There must be tens or hundreds of thousands of people out there who need to know how to do the same things that I've been learning here, but who have never even heard of this blog.  There's still so much I need to write, to speak, and to teach.

I've been implying for a long time now that I want to make this work my new direction, my next career after software engineering and consulting.  But I haven't really nailed down what form it will take.  After a lot of research and learning this year, however, I'm fairly certain that it will be through creating courses, workshops, and coaching programs to help people live richer, more rewarding lives.

If You Feel It, You Can Repeal It

And that's why I'm giving the Banish Unwanted Feelings Forever workshop next weekend.  It's my first, and I don't expect it to be perfect.  That's one reason I aimed it primarily at the people who had already bought books: I figured that they've already shown enough interest in my work that I can trust them to be patient during my first foray into directly teaching and coaching in this kind of setting.

Ironically, however, more new people have bought the book in order to attend the workshop, than existing book owners have signed up to attend it yet!  Go figure.  I guess it just goes to show that people value things more when they have to pay for them!

Or maybe, it just shows that I haven't done an adequate job of explaining why you should sign up for the workshop, even though it's my first and won't be perfect.  So I'm going to take another whack at it.

As I've said so many times before: mostly life is about having "a feeling in a situation".  And for most of us, there are situations that we get into that produce strong feelings of guilt, fear, despair, anger, helplessness, anxiety, nervousness, shyness...  you name it.

And once we get into these states, it can be very difficult to get out of them, because your thinking tends to be governed by what you're currently feeling, making it harder for you to shift your thoughts to where they need to be.  And so your thinking leads to even more of the same feeling.

A "Delete" Button For Bad Feelings

But what if you could change how you feel, almost instantaneously?  And at the same time, prevent that feeling from ever coming up again?  Can you even imagine what your life would be like?  Instead of being stopped by your feelings, you could stop them!

And in truth, you don't even need to get rid of all bad feelings.  All you need is to remove the automatic feelings that block you from getting the things you really want in life.  The fear that stops you from talking to that interesting person...  the anxiety that keeps you from finishing your thesis...  the frustration and discouragement stopping you from dieting or working out... the despair that keeps you from even trying to set goals, let alone achieve them.

Every year, millions of people spend billions of dollars to try and make their bad feelings go away.  Not just on antidepressants and anxiety medications, but also on clothes, food, alcohol, cigarettes, and whatever other kind of distraction will temporarily take their attention away from how crappy their lives ordinarily feel.

That being the case, I would have thought that people would be lining up down the block to get in to this workshop, especially since it's free.  But that was just me being a complete idiot again.  Logically, you should all be lining up down the block.  But emotionally, a free workshop isn't worth anything at all.  After all, how much could it be worth if I'm giving it away?

How do you put a price on the life you want?

So, I'm both disappointed and relieved by that.  Disappointed, because I really wanted to offer a special bonus for the people who bought my book, and it's unfortunate that the majority of them have not taken advantage of the offer.  Relieved, because I always knew intellectually that offering training for free was not the best way to help people to change.

Actually changing your life (as opposed to just reading or thinking about it) requires a certain level of commitment, because that's what your emotional brain responds to.  So now I know from experience as well as theory that giving away help for free is like giving free advice: i.e., a waste of time.

So now I'm going to do what I should've done in the first place, and put a price tag on the call.  It's now going to be $299 per person - an absolute rock-bottom bargain, since you're going to be able to get personal attention and assistance from me, in learning a skill that will literally start changing your life immediately and permanently.  (The decisive folks who've already signed up or ordered a book, of course, will still get in for free.)

And, to be fair towards those who have been meaning to "get around to it", I'm going to hold open the "free" status just a little while longer.  If you already have the book or just ordered it, you need to get your fax in by Monday morning.  If you don't have the book, you need to get your order in by Midnight, Friday night (any time zone).

If you ordered the book this week, don't worry about including your serial # on the sign-up sheet; I'll take care of that for you.  Go ahead and fax your registration in now if you want a line reserved for you on the conference.  If you already have the book, and aren't sure you can make the time, sign up anyway, right now, just so you don't miss the chance to get in.

A Second Chance At Life

There are much worse things in life than being eaten by a crocodile or stabbed to death by a stingray.  Steve Irwin could have lived a life of "quiet desperation" instead, never daring to try something different, never following his dreams or his passion.  No one would have known him, and few would have mourned him.

So, you get a choice in life.  Do you grab a crocodile of adventure by the tail, take a risk of being bitten, but grab the big rewards that go with big risks?  Or do you turn your back on life, to be eaten slowly by a crocodile of regrets and despair?  Either way, you're going to die.  It's simply a choice of how you want to spend the time between now and the moment of your death.

I can't guarantee you happiness, and I can't guarantee you success, but I can guarantee you this one thing: your life will not get better if you do not act.

Now, I know that some of you believe that your dreams are gone or unreachable.  And maybe you find it hard to believe me when I tell you that you can still have them.  But I have been where you are.  Maybe not in the exact same circumstances, sure.  But in my life I've been lost and without hope -- even suicidal -- and deep down I always believed that I would never "be somebody".  I never used to stand up for myself, even though I often stood up for others.

In fact, I'll tell you a little secret: one of the things that's kept me going through some of my darkest hours is this: in my heart of hearts, I always believed that there was a reason for the things I was going through, and that I needed to always pay close attention to how I got through them.  Because some day, it would be time for me to teach those things to other people, so that they could have better lives, too.

And that day is here, now.  And I am here to tell you I made it through those times.  I survived... and I will thrive.  And you can as well, if you want to.  If you decide to.

And if you do decide to, I'll be here to help.