In this tribute to Wayne Dyer, I am reminded of how much he encouraged people to find their passions and serve a purpose. I am reminded how he used to ask people in the audience, “How do you decide what to do with your life?” As I first step, he asked people to push aside their doubts and fears. His point was simple. Too many of us live our lives based on those negatives, not on our positives. He wanted people to search for their passions and talents, unlock those passions and talents, and share those passions and talents with the world. He was constantly encouraging all of us to be successful.
To Wayne Dyer, the word success had a different meaning than what we find in most of society. He was not focused on wealth, not achievement. His definition of success came from one simple question: How much are you serving the world? How much are you contributing to the world? He often summed up his perspective with a simple observation. We come into this world with nothing. We leave this world with nothing. So, life cannot be about getting. Life has to be about giving. How wealthy are you? The answer is independent of money. It is dependent solely on how much you have given to others. We are rich by what we give. We are poor by what we take. That is good advice for all of us.
Wayne Dyer liked to encourage people to go against the grain. Why? Because all of his own personal happiness came from going against the grain. Going against whatever was expected. He used to love calling himself the scurvy elephant. That nickname developed because he misheard one teacher talking about him. The teacher had not described him as a scurvy elephant. The teacher had described him, in his class, as a “disturbing element.” And Wayne was a disturbing element. He did not seek approval or support from others. He tried to satisfy his own assessment of himself, basing it again on how much he was learning, growing, and contributing to the world around him.
When you go against the grain, you often have to become a disturbing element. Wayne liked to tell the story of how one teacher asked him to submit a book on leaves. Since he already knew leaves, Wayne wanted something harder and more educational. The teacher refused to change the assignment. Wayne would not budge, asserting he would waste his time learning something he already knew, so the teacher gave him a “D” for the class – a “D” for failing to submit a book of leaves. Years later, when Wayne Dyer was a professor in college, can you guess who was his student? It was his old teacher who had given him that “D”! As Wayne used to joke … well, his prior teacher sure put together one of the most extensive leaf collections, ever seen in college, for his psychology class assignment.
In truth, Wayne Dyer often compared life as a work of art. The key was not what you did for a living. The key was what you stood for. The key was your values and beliefs. He liked to repeat the story of one of his final examinations for becoming a psychologist. The final exam listed just one question; and you had to write an essay to explore the answer: Who are you? But you could not answer the question with any biographic facts. Where were you born? Where did you go to school? What were your earlier achievements? You could not use any of the facts. You had to describe who you were as a person, separate from all of those extraneous factors. He encouraged everyone to take that same test. Ask yourself: Who am I? And then construct a life, a work of art, which portrayed your essence as a human. In a way, he wanted you to move from the external world to the internal world. He knew we lived life from the inside out. He knew, that to be happy, you needed to be good on the inside, not just good (or attractive) on the outside.
Within this framework, Wayne Dyer preached a philosophy of focusing on what you wanted, not focusing of those “things” you did not want. He wanted people to delete their negative thoughts, doubts, and fears and instead focus their thoughts – and their conversations – on their positive hopes and dreams. He wanted each person to cultivate those dreams, nurturing them to a larger and larger role in the person’s life. In that context, he preached the importance of doing what you love … and loving what you do. How many of us can say that is true for us and our careers? Not that many. Wayne Dyer encouraged everyone to change course and create a new path if you did not love your daily work and your daily life.
With that framework, there is one other important cornerstone for Wayne Dyer that is crucial for establishing a rewarding life. It was the ability to belief in yourself – or belief in some force that was even bigger than yourself. He did not think there was a lack of abundance (or a lack of opportunity); he felt that there was a lack or resolve. If each of us could focus on the positive and build more of those positive forces within ourselves, he felt everyone could achieve a high level of satisfaction and happiness. When anyone struggled, he recommended turning to God – or whatever you wanted to call God. He felt that the connection to that life force was one of the turning points toward greater happiness. And he often encouraged people to create a connection with God in a personal manner, on their own, not through a church or a temple of a synagogue. He often said, “If you don’t create a temple in your heart, you will never find your heart in a temple.”
As I will address in the next blog, Wayne grew more and more spiritual as he grew older. But there was another starting point for that process. He felt that too many people were waiting for tomorrow to be happy. It was like working your whole life, waiting for retirement. Wayne Dyer was strongly against that approach. Each person needed to focus on the here and now. Each person needed to focus on the present, not the past and not the future. As part of that transition, each person needed to more away from the philosophy of more. If you were always chasing more, you would never focus on the joys that you already had. You would focus on tomorrow, not today. So, to pay tribute to Wane Dyer, just focus on today.
Just enjoy today.
Just contribute today.