1500 People Ain’t Peanuts
That’s how many folks took the time and energy to share the quote below with friends and loved ones and colleagues after it was first posted earlier this month on the FB site, Wild Woman Sisterhood.
Like most quotes that achieve popularity, it is rather a simple truth expressed here. It still impresses me that in the era of huge avalanches of quotes and other information coming at us, 1500 people felt this one struck enough of a responding chord within them that they wanted to share it. I have no idea who did the artwork, but he or she deserves a lot of credit for framing the quote in an impactful, visually striking way.
When I say this is going mini-viral, I mean that it is nowhere near as widely distributed as the latest cute cat video, or PSY singing his heart out and flapping his arms off, or any number of Internet sensations of the moment. To me, however, it signifies that I have a lot of kindred spirits out there. If I were to invite five of these folks to dinner each night, it would take ten months to dine with all of them.
I have had larger quantities of people I’ve reached in my life. Moneylove sold two million copies in paperback over twenty-some years, and many of those people passed their copies on to friends as well. When I was writing gags for Bunny Hoest and her Howard Huge cartoons in Parade Magazine, some 80 million people got smiles from my sense of humor on a Sunday. When I was a guest on Oprah’s show when she was just on in Chicago, some 8,000 copies of my book, Men On Women, were sold in local bookstores, and most ran out of copies. So I’ve experienced bursts of this kind of widespread acceptance, and the numbers don’t really matter. When I did my stand-up act at the intimate Purple Onion club in San Francisco, and about a hundred people were laughing out loud, it felt like I had captured the world.
Sometimes it does seem as if everyone everywhere is keeping score. My basic rule of thumb, however, is that if I can have a positive impact on more people than I can squeeze into my bedroom, then I am doing well, going viral, leaving a thumbprint on the world. Pass it on.
Refreshingly New–Is That You?
For many years now, I have used the transition from one year into another as a time for self-assessment, renewal, and basically pondering and reflecting on what the year just left behind meant to me, and what I genuinely want for the year ahead. I do think a lot of folks lie to themselves about these things, or at the very least are wearing blinders and only looking at a narrow sliver of their past and future reality. One only need look at the cultural tradition of making New Year’s resolutions to find many examples of this.
Rather than promises I may or may not keep, for this changing of the year I intend to be more honest with myself about what I truly want. This always involves other people, as self-sufficient as I like to often think I am. So I will look at what I asked other people for in the past year, and whether I am willing to upgrade that in 2013.
I also intend to upgrade what I ask of myself as I move into a new year, and in one month move to a new country, Panama. I like the word “refresh” in conjunction with the idea of newness. Like refreshing a page on your computer, I think we all need a bit of refreshment. With words as with ourselves, we often narrow their meaning, looking at just a sliver of their full and varied original definition. In addition to having a drink or snack, refreshment means getting new mental or physical strength, vitality, or energy. This was the original purpose of having that snack or drink, to restore one’s self to a fresher state. Now it often leads to a nap. Of course, a nap is a great way to refresh.
New ideas are also a great way to refresh. So it might be useful to explore what new idea you willing to activate or take on in your life in this exciting new year. I do hope you are planning to have it be exciting, not just another 12 months of marking time.
Just the sound of “twenty thirteen” has a sort of bouncy ring to it, a feeling of exuberance. What are you going to add to your scene in 2013? Moving to a new country, I cannot even begin to imagine all the newness and refreshment I will encounter. New friends, new weather, new living accommodations, and perhaps the most impactful of all: learning and speaking a new language. Brain researchers say learning and speaking a new language is a powerful tool in keeping the brain young.
I usually find a new year goes better for me when I have a clear intention to learn or do something entirely new near the beginning of that year. You don’t have to emigrate to accomplish this, but you do have to take some definite action, and have some definite intention. And whatever you do, have a happy new!
My Contrarian Favorite Day of the Week
I love Mondays. I realize this puts me at odds with a lot of people who bemoan the arrival of the first workday of the week, marking the end of the weekend. But when you think about it, if you have found your true purpose in life, and are lucky enough to be doing work you love and feel is worthwhile, then you should celebrate returning to it. And, of course, if all of these things are true, there’s a good chance you are not on a 9 to 5 Monday through Friday schedule. Personally, I have never had “normal” working hours, starting from my first job as a radio announcer and disc jockey at the age of 19, when–as is normal for the newest employee at a radio station–I had a weekend shift. So the circumstances of my life have dictated that I do not hold on to the old stereotypes about Monday being a time for gloom and sluggishness and the depressing blahs. I just posted this comment on Facebook today:
One of the big factors in my being joyful and triumphant most of the time is that I always see Mondays as a wonderful day for rest, reflection, and new beginnings. If you are holding onto old beliefs about Mondays being dreary and blah and “oh how I hate to go back to school or work” emotional memories, your week has a tough slog to get going with positive momentum.
I seem to have gotten into a ritual concerning Mondays, in that I see it as a rejuvenating day, a day to build up creative momentum and energy for the coming week. A day to celebrate anything positive that is happening in my life. I would suggest that if you did some research among those people who have a positive, uplifting, happy view of Monday, you would find people who are pretty content with the way their lives are going. What does your attitude about Monday say about your life and your perception of it?
And don’t get me started on how much I like Tuesdays!
My Facebook Posts Live On
I realize that for most people, the short comments and insights and discoveries we share on Facebook have a very short shelf life. But I use at least some of my posts in a different way, as a sort of journal of my passing thoughts and conceptualizations about prosperity and living a well-lived life that I may develop into longer pieces at some future date–whether for my audio club, blogs, workshops, or even future books. It’s a way to remind me that my brain, my subconscious mind, is my most obedient servant, even when I ask it for a simple one-liner to share with my FB friends. This blog post is going to allow me to slightly expand on three recent such one-liners.
The beliefs inside your head are not written in stone, but rather in neurons–which are definitely mutable.
One of the great achievements for humankind in the past century is the realization that we are not imprisoned by our preconditioned or preconceived notions about the ways things are or the way things have to be. We have the capacity to change our path at any given point. This is precisely because whatever is imprinted in our brains can be wiped clean, replaced, expanded and improved. I was pleased and even surprised at how much positive response this sentence received from all over the world.
If most of your desires involve money, chances are good most of your worries will be about the same thing.
If most of your desires involve money, chances are good most of your worries will be about the same thing.
I am often asked, as you can imagine as a prosperity teacher and author, about people’s money issues. I have found that time and again, when someone has serious concerns about money, it is in direct correlation to how important and vital they have made money in their life. Money being confused with prosperity or even success is similar to sex being confused with love. Just as beliefs about the positive impact lots of money will have on one’s life are often totally wrong, so too are the fears about what the lessening or lack of money will mean in terms of results.
I recently coached someone who had a net worth of about three quarters of a million dollars, but thought she was in financial struggle because she thought she would have a lot more at this point in her life. She actually was worried that, though in perfect health now, she would become debilitated and have to enter a private care facility that could cost up to $100,000 a year and didn’t think she could afford that, as her parents lived into their nineties and she expected to be around at least that long. So many firmly held beliefs in that one, I could hardly sort them all out. It took a long time to actually convince her that she could afford to take a nice vacation trip and let go of some of her stress.
What you do in the world may not be nearly as significant as what other people get from what you do in the world.
Even I have to ponder this one for a while, as it just popped into my head from some unknown but much appreciated source. We sometimes get so caught up in what we are doing and how we are doing it, that we forget it has an impact on others. As I plan my first Moneylove workshop in twenty years in San Francisco, and will be doing others in some major cities around the world in 2013, some former workshop participants are coming forward to tell me how their lives were changed for the better in sessions they attended 20 to 30 years ago. This is very, very gratifying to hear, but it also serves to remind me that the way we each leave a thumbprint on the world is not by the monuments we build to ourselves, but rather to the ideas, solutions, and passions we inspire in others.
How Rich You Feel Is How Rich You Are
So I was thinking this evening about the word “prosperity” and all its nuances and ramifications. I realize that as I’ve gotten older, my personal definition has evolved. If you asked me now if I had ample prosperity in my life, I would give you a big Yes! But if you were a stickler and only went by the dictionary definition of prosperity as “the condition of being successful or thriving, especially economic well being,” you might disagree. I much prefer the Wikipedia definition: ”Prosperity often encompasses wealth but also includes other factors.” I’m big on other factors. Although I do like as well the word “thriving,” which is defined as steady growth or flourishing…and “flourishing” means, according to Merriam-Webster, “to grow luxuriantly.” A sort of cascading assortment of word definitions, but appropriate I think as prosperity has so many layers.
For me, my Yes! would be predicated on the feeling that I now am luxuriating with a sense of creative satisfaction, adventure, good health, good friends, and new areas to explore—such as my career in stand-up comedy, and possibly moving to Panama next year. But frankly, for various reasons, my actual material wealth is probably at it lowest point of my life. That will likely dramatically change in the next year or two, and I am comfortable, well fed, and wake up almost every morning with one of my favorite descriptive terms, “robust expectations.”
What led to all this ruminating on the subject was a question I asked myself. “What were three moments in your past life when you felt the most prosperous, happy, free, and in charge of it all?” My answers surprised me, at least the ones that first popped into my head, which are usually the most important ones. So I suggest you ask yourself this question and see what your answers tell you about your own definition of prosperity, of success, of thriving and flourishing.
Maybe the one answer that surprised me the most was a moment that occurred while I was an inmate at Folsom State Prison. I had just been accepted to work for The Blind Project, a little known (I was at Folsom 18 months before I even heard about it) department located down a back hallway in the prison hospital. Only 30 inmates were employed at what was considered the most desirable job in a prison anywhere in the world. The reason was that it was challenging, it was not at all like most prison environments, we were all treated like human beings, and we got to help people on the outside by translating college courses into Braille, recording books on tape, and close captioning college videos for the hearing impaired–rather than contributing to the prison industrial complex itself. We had private showers at work, as well as private bathrooms–both unheard of in prison. We also had a lounge that featured a toaster, toaster oven, microwave, and refrigerator–also extremely rare for inmates to have access to. I mostly recorded books, sometimes to order for a blind student with a special request. Yes, I would call that a feeling of prosperity indeed. Oh, and I also got a relatively high pay number for an inmate, $48 a month (most inmates earned $18 a month for forty hours a week).
None of my answers involved situations that improved my financial status much. Another moment was doing a twenty minute workshop version of my one man show at The Marsh in San Francisco. Still a third was the most recent, getting much louder laughs than I expected doing a seven minute stand-up set at The Purple Onion in San Francisco–from a mostly twenty-something crowd. It was a free performance, a show to celebrate my graduation from the San Francisco Comedy College, and the pleasures it provided were multi-layered. There was the fact that I didn’t have one ”uh” or “um” or “you know” in my performance, and I even got laughs from pauses that were not punchlines–just playing off the rhythm of the audience. I didn’t expect those, and am not sure if I made them happen in some way, or they were merely happy accidents. And there was the satisfaction that I had finally gotten to do something I had aspired to since I was a newsman at NBC Radio in the early 1970s. That I did it and did it well, and received acknowledgement for doing it well, was a magnificent experience I couldn’t have bought for a million dollars.
I’ve said that money can’t usually buy happiness (though I have bought a couple of cats in my life that dispeled that old adage) but happiness can buy money. What I mean by that is that when you are happy, people are attracted to you, and more likely to enjoy giving you money for your ideas, products, services, and skills.
Prosperity is a totality of experience and money is just one part of it. Love and friendship, being free to express yourself creatively, being appreciated for what you say or do in the world, vigorous energy and health–all of these count just as much toward a sense of well-being, and often more so. And there’s not one of them I would trade today for a hundred million dollars, or a beachfront house with a car elevator.
Spot Checking Priorities
From time to time I find it useful to take a look at my priorities in life, a spot check or snapshot if you will, to see if I am on a path that is bringing me creative satisfaction and a sense of well-being and accomplishment, not to mention acknowledgement and some form of applause from the outside world. All of these, I believe, are essential qualities in a life well-lived.
While I’ve been very pleased with the response to my recent stand-up comedy performances at San Francisco’s famed Purple Onion, and am committed to pursuing this further, I have also continued to put a lot of creative energy into producing my audio programs for the Moneylove Club. Maybe the positive feedback I get from doing these, and the good feeling I receive from producing powerful new prosperity content, isn’t quite as big an adrenalin rush as I get from a roomful of people laughing at my comedy–but it comes close.
Coming back into the world after twelve years in prison (details in the Appendix of the Moneylove Manifesto, which you can download free by clicking on the cover photo in the righthand margin), with a determination not to put energy into marketing, means I have not yet reached a significant number of the two million people who bought Moneylove to let them know I am alive and well and filled with new ideas and strategies and concepts to take the original prosperity consciousness material to new heights. I always planned to eventually start doing lectures and seminars on the subject again, but this has been on the Back Burner as I focused on the audios, my blogs, my stand-up, and a prison memoir that I hope will be as funny as it is insightful and uplifting.
Here’s how I described the Back Burner strategy on one of the Moneylove Club audios:
Choose what you want to focus your primary attention on and put it on the front burner…and everything else goes on the back burner…you aren’t giving it up, but putting it somewhere where you can keep an occasional eye on it without letting it distract you from your main focus.
The idea of doing seminars and talks on new Moneylove ideas has been simmering on the back burner and is now ready to bubble up. A number of people have asked me when I am going to resume this activity. One extremely successful entrepreneur friend of mine suggested I need to get out there and hustle to build a demand for my public appearances and individual coaching sessions. But I am not going to do that, it’s not how I want to spend my time, and I now consider myself a very rich person because I am free to wake up every morning and choose how I want to use my time. This is true prosperity in my not-so-humble opinion, and I definitely am not ever going to give it up. But I will let folks know that I am now available, and if they have the energy and the audience, we can probably work out an arrangement that will allow everyone to have fun, build prosperity momentum, and make some money at the same time.
Here’s the bottom line, and perhaps you will find it instructive in modifying the way you do your own business–if, that is, you would like it to be better or more in some way. I will put the information out there, and ask my readers and listeners to give me their suggestions on how to achieve my goal, which is reaching more of the people who already have had a positive impact on their lives through my ideas. If it doesn’t seem to be happening in some happy and organic manner, then it goes back–back to the Back Burner to simmer some more, or maybe just to sit with the flame turned off. Too much other stuff is bubbling up to spend much time with projects that aren’t flowing into fruition. And if you have any great ideas or offers for me to consider, email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Comedians as Philosophers-in-Chief
Earlier today I posted a thought on Facebook saying that we can often find great wisdom coming from our great American comedians. I mentioned that I had featured Moneylove Club audios in the past year focused on the thoughts and ideas of such great thinkers as Albert Einstein, Ray Bradbury, and Steve Jobs, but felt some of our comic minds had some powerful things to teach us as well. Mark Twain, Will Rogers and George Carlin come immediately to mind.
Why is this important or significant when discussing prosperity consciousness? I think it is because the broader vision we have of the way things are, the more we can make our own lives the way we would like them to be. And to ignore or neglect the wonderful comic minds out there is to leave a gap in our knowledge. I’ve often gone on about my belief that reading fiction is just as important to development of a successful life as reading nonfiction, because novelists are among our most perceptive observers of the human experience. For most of us, our success and satisfaction in life is largely based on our relationships with other humans. Comedians and comic writers are often our keenest observers of the way things are, though sometimes we have to dig beneath the laughs to find the pearls of wisdom.
Take Henny Youngman, Please
Master of delivering that quintessential American comedy form–the one liner–Henny Youngman, was actually born in Liverpool. He enjoyed the fact that he originated from the same city as The Beatles. I got to know him in the 1970s, along with his wife of sixty years, Sadie, and even wrote some gags for him. But Henny wrote much of his own material, and in fact started out working in a New York City print shop, where he wrote and printed a number of cards featuring funny one liners.
He was, in his own way, quite prosperity conscious. Henny made a lot of money in his 70 years of nonstop performing, almost never taking a day off or a vacation. But he loved it, and he also loved coming home to Sadie, with whom he led a very quiet life off the stage. He died in 1998 at the age of 91. I’ve thought of him often as I begin my own career as a fledgling comedian. He actually encouraged me to do this many years ago, when I was a newsman at WNBC Radio in New York. I had a glorious time as his guest at the large table at the Stage Deli, perhaps the most famous hangout for comedians in the world.
But I digress, and back to my original point about the insights available to us from our comedians. This post was inspired by some ruminations I had on the subject of longevity, which was the topic of my 1981 book, Psychological Immortality. These musings were inspired by an old joke of Henny Youngman’s:
“A doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill, so he gave him another six months.”
At first glance, this may just seem to be a silly gag. But I see it as a powerful metaphor for the power of the human mind to affect even our lifespan, the whole premise of Psychological Immortality. It reminded me of my father’s diagnosis of lymphoma, when he was given six months to live. But the doctor did not tell my father, he only told 17-year-old me and my uncle Herb. And I firmly believe that it was because he wasn’t given this death sentence that my father survived another productive seven years, at the time enough of an anomaly to be written up in at least one medical journal. This gave me an early indication of the power of the human mind, and led directly to my concept, as presented in my book, that what we believe about how long we are going to live does have a physical impact.
I’m at a point now when rationality dictates that I have more years behind me than ahead of me. But when I wrote Psychological Immortality at the age of 41, I declared that I plan to live to 150, and was already planning my birthday party for that occasion. My belief and affirmation of the idea that I still have many vital and creative years ahead of me allows me to feel comfortable venturing into new knowledge and even a new career as a stand-up comedian. My fellow students during my recent classes at the San Francisco Comedy College were mostly in their twenties, as were the audiences when I performed at the historic comedy club, The Purple Onion. Yet, I got hearty laughs–a pretty invigorating experience.
When I studied very long-lived individuals who were still very vital and creative and productive for Psychological Immortality, I found a major factor was their willingness to explore new fields of endeavor and new areas of knowledge. I strongly assert that this not only leads to a longer life but a much more prosperous one. And not having a built-in cutoff visualization for life at 70 or 80 or even 90, allows us to keep going strongly forward with youthful enthusiasm and those all-important robust expectations.
NOT NEARLY AS BAD AS THE DOOMSTERS PREDICT
For at least fifty years now, so-called futurists, analysts, and economic forecasters have been predicting financial collapse that hasn’t happened–pretty similar to all the predictions wackjobs have been making about the end of the world. Sure we’ve had setbacks, most notably in 2008–but that fiscal maelstrom wasn’t really predicted by the doom and gloom crowd who thought that tax cuts, two unfunded wars, and an unfunded huge prescription drug entitlement combined with rampant deregulation of the private sector was a good way to manage the economy. They got their comeuppance, but are trying to blame the inevitable results on mismanagement by the incoming administration.
At some point, truth will tell. However, with the 24/7 news and information and absurdity cycle we now live in, sometimes it is hard to sort the truth from all the other flotsam and jetsam clogging up the pathways to reality. As part of our own discernment process, I think it may be time to start labeling bursts of news and information as either “good” and “bad” or “relevant” and “insignificant.” One example each from my very personal such list.
GOOD–Obama’s coming out now in support of gay marriage.
BAD–More Americans leaving the workforce and not even looking anymore.
RELEVANT–The loss of up to $5 billion by JP Morgan Chase.
INSIGNIFICANT–The $100 billion valuation by Wall Street of Facebook.
Now, I’m not intending to go into detail about these choices, just to use them as examples of how I decide what to focus on in the limited amount of time and space we each have.
But in terms of our financial future, each of these pieces of news can be viewed in very positive and optimistic ways, whether they seem so or not at first glance. For instance, how bad can the overregulation of the private sector by the government be if JP Morgan Chase has enough capitol to smoothly weather the huge loss caused by bad choices in high risk hedging activities? And how bad can the business environment be if they have this kind of money to play with and this kind of loss they can suffer without collapsing? While the ordinary working American may be dealing with lots of financial challenges right now, this JP Morgan Chase story shows us that corporate America is doing just fine, better than ever in fact–and the Facebook IPO is another strong indication of the strength of the markets in spite of all the negative prophecy rampant in the land.
I think we need to stop using words like “Bad,” “Troubling,” “Failing,” to describe the economy, and use more accurate adjectives such as “Changing,” “Challenging,” “Paradigm Shifting.” For example, it is widely acknowledged that one of the reasons for higher unemployment is that the U.S. in particular has its highest productivity ratios in history. We are producing goods and services at the same level we did in 2007 with 5 million fewer workers. This is the kind of transformation in efficiency that needs to be addressed. It was discussed in futurist Alvin Toffler’s 1970 masterpiece, Future Shock, but few people paid attention. Even today, his analysis and suggested solutions make more sense than most of what is coming out of Washington and the business community.
Here’s something that has always been true in America: When things seem at the worst, there are always people for whom the challenges faced will bring out their best. Maybe we each need to decide if we want to ride on or ahead of the surging wave, or fall back and drown.
Bad Programming From A Doo Wop Hit
It was 1957 and the Silhouettes put out a song destined to make rock and roll history, GET A JOB. It was a catchy doo wop song, meaning it contained lots of sha na na, dip dip dip, and mum mum mum vocalizations, with very few actual lyrics such as:
Every morning about this time
She gets me out of my bed a-crying
‘Get a Job’
Every morning about this time
She gets me out of my bed a-crying
‘Get a Job’