Several times a week, I grab a copy of  Seminar in a Sentence, a little book I published a few years ago that contains some of my favorite quotes. When I was tracking down a half-remembered bit of wisdom today, I reread the introduction to the book and decided to share it here.

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Although I don’t know when I began collecting quotes, I do know that I learned about the power of words early in life. As a student at Trinity Lutheran School, I began memorizing Bible passages as so as I entered first grade.

As I got older, I discovered that these words I’d committed to memory often came in handy when I was confused or frustrated. They also could be used to win arguments with my younger siblings.

When I was a bit older, my hardworking Aunt Marge advised me to memorize beautiful poems, “So you can recite them to yourself when you’re scrubbing the floor.” That bit of advice both surprised and moved me. Seeing her working hard to care for her two daughters, I often wondered what lovely poem was on her mind.

More beautiful words entered my life when I chose English as my college major and, later, taught English to reluctant high school students. However, this was more an exercise in appreciating fine writing than it was in taking those words to heart.

It wasn’t until I began my journey of self-discovery that I found myself startled, encouraged and inspired by the words of others.

How did that author know I needed to hear those very words? Were there universal truths that could be revisited over and over again and make an impact every time?

I didn’t really care what the explanation was. It was enough to know that despite distances of time and geography, there were others who had thoughts that touched me and, frequently, lighted my path.

When I began writing myself, it seemed natural to include quotes from my growing collection. I also noticed that although I never intentionally memorized these words—not even my favorites—they often had lodged in my memory and would show up in the most casual of conversations.

One day a quote-loving friend and I were talking about the power of words. I said, “I think a good quote is a seminar in a sentence.”

I still think that and urge you to start your own collection, if  you haven’t done so already. They will be at your service when you need a quick seminar.

Here’s the quote I was searching for today. It’s from C.S. Lewis and has been a favorite of mine ever since I first came across it.

Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection.

If you want to get warm, you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water.

If you want joy, peace, eternal life you must get close to, or even into the thing that has them.

They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.

If you are close to it, the spray will wet you. If you are not, you will remain dry.

Like millions of people, I tuned in for the Beatles Tribute on CBS. It was a lovely evening, but it wasn’t  anything like my evening attending a Paul McCartney concert several years ago. It was magical from beginning to end.

You probably have memories like that, too, when you found yourself in the same room with someone you’d admired from afar. That is not an experience that can be duplicated by technology.

As much as I appreciate the gifts of technology, I often wonder if we’re forgetting how powerful it is to have real contact.

Back in the nineties, the independent adult ed movement began to take off all around the country. The timing was perfect for me as I was beginning to teach my seminars on creative self-employment.

These programs filled a real gap, making it possible for busy adults to spend a few hours—rather than committing every Tuesday night for six weeks—gaining some useful information and ideas.

I loved the programs because most of them were small businesses run by a tiny staff that usually included the owner. I also loved the people these programs attracted—curious lifelong learners who were equally excited to have this option to explore new ideas.

Sadly, these programs began to disappear. Sometimes the overhead was too high for the income being generated. A few owners tried to cut their costs by moving their catalogs online, instead of spending thousands on the print catalogs.

That didn’t work very well, either, and I think I know why.  Catalogs are for browsing and often deliver unexpected prizes. Hmmm…making a living without a job? Wonder what that’s about. Think I’ll sign up and check it out.

With online catalogs, you pretty much need to know what you’re looking for in advance.

But that’s not the only reason I feel sad that these programs didn’t survive. We lost something really valuable, something that happens when we make the effort to put ourselves in a room with others exploring the same subject.

There’s another dimension added to our learning when it’s gotten person-to-person. We might even make a new friend, have an insight, get a question answered that only happens through personal connection.

Or as C.S. Lewis so eloquently  pointed out,  “Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, peace eternal life, you must get close to, or  even into   the thing that has them….They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.  If you are close to it, the spray will wet you ; if you are not, you will remain dry.”

As anyone who’s started a business knows, doing so invites an avalanche of unsolicited advice. Obviously, we need advice from those who have experience and information that can help us.

How can you sort the wheat from the chaff?

Rule #1: Consider the Source

The most important thing about receiving advice is that you know your source and trust them.. We’ve all probably allowed false advice to influence us. Sometimes it happens because the advice-giver sounds authoritative and so we look no further.

At other times, maybe out of laziness, we accept negative or discouraging words as an excuse for not giving something a try.

And sometimes we just don’t know if the advice is accurate. (This is a particularly new and thorny problem caused by the Internet where advice is posted but not edited or verified.)

Keep in mind this advice from the Persian poet Rumi: “When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from someone who has never left home.”

Rule #2 : Get a Second Opinion

While too many opinions or too much advice can serve to confuse, if you’re exploring unknown territory,  serious research is in order before setting out.

Get advice from people who know what they’re talking about—and then get a back-up opinion or two.

Rule #3: Make the Most of It

When you ask advice of another person, your initial role is to be a quiet listener or to ask clarifying questions. Whether or not you act upon the advice is a matter for a later time.

When you’re trying to make a decision or need information so you can proceed with a decision you’ve already made, seeking outside input is just part of the information-gathering process. Sifting comes after you’ve got all the information collected.

The world is full of teachers, experts and amateur advisors—with varying qualifications. Finding the right ones to help you learn what you need to know so you can move forward in your own life is not to be taken lightly.

The experience of others can save us time, add deeper insights, prevent us from making costly mistakes. Ask only those who can help, not hinder, your success.

Rule #4 Look for the Lessons

Pay attention and notice what others are doing.  Or just remember this advice from C.S. Lewis:

Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm, you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet, you must get into the water. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into the thing that has them…They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you; if you are not, you will remain dry.

My mailbox has been getting some truly spooky messages lately. It’s not the first time, of course, but I’m still startled when I get one of these cries for help.

The scariest of these messages goes like this: ”I think I want to start my own business. What should I do?”

I also shiver when someone asks, “I want to write. What should I do?”

No, these aren’t zombies asking the question, but they send chills down my spine because they remind me that too many of us are lacking some basic tools—tools that could get us pointed in the right direction and keep us heading that way.

The next time someone asks, “What should I do?” I’m going to send them this list of answers.

° Start an investigation. Do your homework. Head out to the library. See if your community has resources that can be of help. As Jim Rohn said, “If you wish to find, you must search. Rarely does a good idea interrupt you.”

° Make space. If you’re going to start a new project, you need to make room for it. That frequently means you must first clear out some space. Frequently, that requires spending your time on things that don’t serve your true goals.

“What I discovered,” says architect Sarah Susanka, “is that when you make the time and space for what you long to do, everything else shifts to accomodate it. It never works the other way around. If you wait until there’s time to do what you want, you’ll be waiting until your eighty-fifth birthday.”

° Listen to informed sources. Seems so obvious to me, but I’m astonished at how often people take advice from people who don’t know. The more you investigate, the wiser you’ll become about who has the information that you can use.

° Learn to synthesize. Adopting and adapting in order to produce something new is a time-honored tool of the creative spirit.

If you’re growing a business, that means paying close attention to the things you like and don’t like as a consumer and asking yourself which policies and procedures you will integrate into your own enterprise—and which you’ll consciously avoid.

° Break your goals into 90-Day Projects. Give your projects a theme. Immerse, don’t dabble.

At the end of 90 days, evaluate and decide if you’ve accomplished your objectives. If not, decide if you are up for giving it another 90 days.

° Remember this: “Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection,” writer C.S. Lewis pointed out. “If you want to get warm  you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water.If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.

“They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you; if you are not, you will remain dry.”

Throughout our Joyfully Jobless Journeys we’ll need help. New goals require new information, new ideas, new connections.

Don’t hesitate to look for it, but also realize that the ultimate responsibility for making your dreams happen is in your hands.

Happy Halloween!

 

When a man in one of my How to Support Your Wanderlust classes told us that he was interested in writing travel essays, I asked him what it took to be a successful writer of travel exposition.

Without hesitation he said, “You can’t be a good writer without being a good reader.” I’ve heard many other successful writers say the same thing.

On a road trip, I happened to hear John Tesh’s radio program. He had e-mail from a 15-year-old boy asking how to make it in the music business. Surprisingly, Tesh didn’t suggest more practice.

He said his best advice was to listen to great music everyday and study what other musicians do.

In a fascinating appearance on the OWN’s Master Class, Simon Cowell talked about his early days working in the music business. Cowell said he was a sponge soaking up the advice of those around him who were more experienced.

This advice seems so obvious to me that I’m always surprised to discover that everyone isn’t an enthusiastic student of success. When I ask participants in my Establish Yourself as an Expert seminars to name a favorite expert, I am often greeted by silence.

When I edit manuscripts, it is often apparent that the would-be writer is not an active reader.

Would-be entrepreneurs have never had a conversation with someone who is successfully self-employed about how they got started.

Years ago, Timothy Galway wrote The Inner Game of Tennis and cited studies that showed that players could noticeably improve their game by watching great players in action.

Galway suggested that our subconscious minds absorb useful information and details without our even being aware of it.

So where do you want to succeed? Study those who have done what you want to do.

Absorb the lessons of success, not failure.

Be a keen observer. Identify with excellence at every turn. It will make a huge difference in your ultimate results.

The amusing Quentin Crisp once noted that it’s no good complaining that you really wanted to be a ballet dancer if you continued to spend your life as a pig farmer.

C.S. Lewis said it a bit more elegantly: “Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water.

“If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them.

“They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very cente rof reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you ; if you are not, you will remain dry.”

 

Successful writers are, of course, also entrepreneurs. Shaping words and ideas and sending them out into the world is their way of honoring their calling. Here are five insights that apply equally to any personal endeavor.

Consider every path carefully testing it in whichever way you feel necessary, then ask yourself, but only yourself, one question: ‘Does this path have a heart?’ The path that has heart will uplift you, ease your burden and bring you joy. The path with no heart will make you stumble, it will break your spirit, and finally cause you to look upon your life with anger and bitterness. ~ Carlos Castenada

It has taken me three decades to unlearn the impulse to be practical.  Just imagine what you might have accomplished if only you’d been encouraged to honor your creative reveries as spiritual gifts. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

You can only be truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money the goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing, and do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you. All the other tangible rewards will come as a result. ~ Maya Angelou

Don’t get stuck with where you have not succeeded. Go on to something else. You don’t know what will unfold. None of us has as much time as we think. ~ Natalie Goldberg

Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, peace eternal life, you must get close to, or even into   the thing that has them….They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.  If you are close to it, the spray will wet you ; if you are not, you will remain dry. ~ CS Lewis