A friend of mine is friends with the Dalai Lama. My first thought while she was telling me this in the “Peace World Cafe” is this: I am two degrees of separation from the Dalai Lama.
Then she said what she felt was special about the Dalai Lama. “When you are with him, you feel that he loves you the the way a mother would love a newborn baby.”
My mother dropped me when I was a newborn but I’m sure it was an accident.
But I thought about what Patty told me. I try to do it. When I meet people I try to imagine that I am their mother (very difficult) and that I care for them the way a loving mother would care for them.
And then I usually hate them again. But I keep trying to get back to mother. Mother / Hate. Mother / Hate.
I sometimes hear things like that about other people. For instance, a friend of mine works in Bill Clinton’s office in Harlem. She says, “when he is talking to you, you feel as if nothing is more interesting to him than you. He is totally absorbed in you.”
She was saying this to describe his charisma and the effect he has on people.
I’m talking with Dan Harris later today on my podcast. He wrote a book, “10% Happier”.
One thing he mentions in the book is that people who meditate a lot use the word “I” less. They took a bunch of people who were expert meditators and recorded all of their conversations for a week. The idea is that meditation increases empathy for others. I believe this and yet…
I use “I” a lot. All of my blogs are about “I”. I screwed up badly, I lost my family, I lost all my money, my home, my jobs, my my I I me me…
Many expert marketing writers tell me that you’re supposed to write about “You” more than “I”. For instance, “YOU CAN LOSE WEIGHT IN TEN WEEKS!” as opposed to “Here’s how I Lost Weight”. Chris Brogan once jokingly told me, “you do it all wrong!”
“More conversions. More clicks,” people tell me and I agree with them. Over 600 or so blog posts when I’ve tested using “you” versus “I” in a blog post I do get more clicks.
Often when I wrote a story about myself that I think is really good it gets much less clicks and shares than when I write “10 Things…”, etc .
Nothing wrong with that. The reality is that everyone, including me, is motivated by self-interest.
But who is smart enough to improve others? It takes years of effort for me to even improve myself. And often I slip. I might get angry. Or scared. Or stop exercising for awhile.
Many times I can use the techniques I describe in my blog (“the daily practice”) to quickly recover. But sometimes it takes longer.
It’s unavoidable to slip. It’s what being human is about.
So I’m going to do a list.
1. IMAGINE EVERYONE YOU MEET IS YOUR CHILD
…and you want the best for them in life, even if they are crying and screaming and being annoying.
It’s ok if it doesn’t work. You can’t be everyone’s mother. But I have found that I see people a little differently when I use this technique and it works.
I always remind myself, “it’s just practice”.
2. TRY TO LEARN ONE THING.
Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, does this technique when interviewing someone for a job. If he knows he’s not going to hire them he tries to find one thing he can learn from them so “this way the meeting is not a total waste of my time”.
3. GET THE STORY.
Everyone has a story locked inside of them. Be a detective. Get the story. This helps to focus so you can do “B” above.
People ask me, “how can I find a mentor”. Your mentor is everyone around you. Without a single exception. Find out what each person is meant to mentor you about. Even your children.
4. The ONE Technique YOU NEED TO KNOW to Listen.
(see, I used “You”).
When someone is finished speaking, wait two seconds before “taking your turn”.
Most people jump right in, or even interrupt. But sometimes people talk, then gather their thoughts, and have more to say.
Once they gather their thoughts, the next thing they say might be the gem you were waiting for. So give the courtesy of two seconds. Wait.
5. WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY, BE QUIET.
When a cat is not feeling well, it often finds its little hiding place and then stays still and quiet until it’s feeling better.
Doing this, as opposed to reacting to the anger, might save you and all of your relationships a lot of grief. For me, this is very hard: anger is like smoking a massive dose of crack. It floods your body and comes out like a fire hose out of control.
Here’s one way I try to do this:
Anger is really a form of fear. You get angry at someone because you are afraid they are stealing, or rejecting you, or they’ve touched on some insecurity you have.
Like, if someone honks at me, I might get angry, but the reality is I’m such a bad driver I don’t even have a license (suspended) and I shouldn’t be in a car anyway.
So when I get angry, I ask first, “what am I afraid of”. If I’m angry at Claudia, for instance, it might be because I’m afraid (my insecure self comes out) that she doesn’t like me anymore.
This helps me to be quiet and think a bit rather than stupidly fuel flames. Or not think at all! Since over-thinking is what got me angry.
6. AVOID FEAR OF GOING BROKE.
I’ve been broke. Not once. Not twice. Not three times. But many times. I’ve lost two homes. Blah blah. I’ve written about all this before.
This will sound totally stupid and I’m almost embarrassed to say it.
But let’s say something bad happens with my finances now. Suddenly I get into that post-traumatic stress thing where the trauma of going broke floods back into me. “I’m GOING TO GO BROKE AGAIN!” I suddenly think even though it might be totally irrational.
Here’s what I do. I hit myself. I hit myself right in the chest and say “Abundance!” I don’t say it in a law of attraction sort of way. I think the Law of Attraction have cost people a lot more money than it has attracted.
But I do it to remind myself of two things:
- out of the past 1000 times I’ve predicted poverty for myself, it’s never really come true. Even my worst case scenarios (losing a home) turned out to be ok for me.
- saying “Abundance” reminds me to be grateful of things in my life. A lot of articles talk about the benefit of gratitude. I will add just one thing that most articles don’t mention.
Don’t be grateful for the same things each day.
Practice creativity with your gratitude. I’m grateful for the black hole at the center of the universe that created it and still left a tiny piece of itself deep inside of me, in all of the empty spaces. Thank you Black Hole.
Someone asked me, “do you put a number to it when you shout ‘Abundance’?”
And the answer: never. Because money is just a side effect of Abundance and not true Abundance. There are many side effects to Abundance.
7. USEFUL / NOT USEFUL
When someone writes a bad comment about me, on very rare occasions, I respond. Has anyone ever responded back – “you are totally right, I am sorry.” ?
In the history of the Universe. So my initial response back was almost never useful.
And yet, most of the day, we fill it up with not useful activity (news, bad TV, gossip magazines, negative chatter, etc).
We can’t help it. There are actually many evolutionary reasons that we are attracted to gossip, to scary situations, to bad story telling, to anger, to fear.
But evolution is over. This sounds like a stupid thing to say. But a mere 10,000 years ago we were running from lions. Now we aren’t. But nobody has told our DNA that yet.
So all day long we sit and stare at a computer screen and we go through a thousand iterations of fight-or-flight (and then the resulting adrenaline spikes) without even moving. And then…heart disease.
It’s like we are mugged all day long and we don’t move.
Some study has said that the average human thinks 50,000-60,000 thoughts a day. I don’t know how they measure this.
But let’s assume the 80/20 rule holds here. That means, 10,000 thoughts are actually useful and have a positive impact on your life and the other 40,000 thoughts are not useful. Practice noticing which thoughts are useful and which aren’t.
The Dalai Lama is an expert at meditation. But meditation is practice for Useful / Not Useful. He is probably very good at it. For instance, he has said that he forgives China for invading his homeland. Why does he do this? Shouldn’t he hate China with all his heart?
No, because that would not be useful. Useful is trying to find a common ground to have conversations with China so Tibet can start to have more open communications with the outside world.
8. BE STUPID.
Someone the other day asked me how I invest. I don’t invest. I look for people smarter than me and see how they invest and sometimes I piggyback.
I said, “everytime I thought I was smart, I lost money.” When I predict things and they come true it’s usually because I was lucky.
I happen to think I am a very lucky person because I hang out with people who are smarter than me and kind enough to share their wisdom with me.
I don’t think I am the only one who is stupid. I think just about everyone is smart at one or two things, but thinks they are smart at 1000 things. This is why I don’t argue with people about politics. I might have my opinions. But I know when they argue with me, it’s just a waste of time. One of us, and I don’t know who, is incredibly stupid on the matter.
If I always take the view “You’re Right”, it saves me a lot of grief.
There’s a superhero in the “Legion of Substitute Heroes” called Kid Psycho. He can move things with his mind. But everytime he does so he loses a year of his life. This is why he is only a substitute hero. Only for emergencies.
I know the more tense or useless thoughts I think (“I’m SMART so I’m going to argue about this!”) the more I will age.
In fact, you can measure age not by years but by the number of useless thoughts you think. We only have so many in a lifetime, and then we die when we hit that number.
I figure I can add a good ten to twenty years of my life just by reminding myself that I am stupid most of the time.
9. DON’T CREATE PROBLEMS FOR YOURSELF
Pick the list of your top ten problems in life. Maybe you are overweight. Or addicted to drugs (or a person). Or afraid to ask for a raise.
It’s very very hard to solve a problem. To go on a diet. Or to get over an addiction. We don’t really know how to do it. “It’s our best thinking that got us here” goes the saying.
That means all of your thoughts that you have had from your birth until now has gotten you to this very point – the point where you have all these problems.
For me, that’s 46 years of thought. It’s too much to change. So today I look at what my little problems are. I list them and try to solve them. It’s a little easier that way. I get back to thinking useful/not useful. I assume I’m stupid.
It’s hard to solve the big problems because you think, “well, what’s one more donut? It won’t kill me!” And you are right. But one more donut will cause a little problem later when you think, “ugh, why’d I eat that donut”.
So I focus on the little problems that are easy to solve. The big problems will work themselves out.
10. DON’T TRY TO BE SOMEONE YOU AREN’T.
When I try the Dalai Lama technique my friend Patty mentioned, (Picturing everyone like a mother might picture a baby child) usually it’s too hard for me.
That’s ok. I tried. I’m not the Dalai Lama. Far from it. I’m not even Bill Clinton. I’m James (honorary Colonel of Kentucky) Altucher.
I’m trying to do my best.
Someone yesterday asked me how I want to be remembered 100 years from now. And I think she thought it flippant when I said I don’t want to be remembered.
Many people are remembered for the horror they caused future humans. I’m fine living today and enjoying it if I can.
I honestly hope 100 years from now I’m just gone from the dream/nightmare of living in this world.
Maybe I will be on another planet where I finally get born from the test tube they created me in.