Episode 181- What I Learned From Meeting The Dalai Lama

I remember the day clearly I was inside of the offices for the Associated Press in the heart of New York City at Rockefeller Center, and as I was leaving the office to go home, I was giving my photo assignment for the next day and my editors said to me, you better buckle up. This is going to be a big one. It turned out that the Dalai Lama was in New York and I would be spending the day with him and the next day he’d be teaching 100 Buddhist monks at the Roseland Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan. Now at that point, I didn’t know nearly as much about the Dalai Lama and his history as I probably should have in 1998 the internet was just starting to boom. So I got home, I got to do a little bit of research and learn about this incredible man and then I got the rare opportunity to listen to him speak and watch the faces of these monks as they were mesmerized by his words and his message.

And then the madness of leaving the ballroom and then him walking through the New York city streets and me backpedaling with my camera navigating the bustling streets of Manhattan while trying to make great images of the Dalai Lama. And as I thought about recording this podcast, I haven’t seen any of the pictures that I shot since 1998 unfortunately, so much of my work has been archived in the AP directory and I really need to get ahold of them so I can have so many of these pictures that I shot. The upside of photographing these assignments is you get to be there as history is happening around some of the most influential and famous people in the world. But the downside is you don’t get to listen as intently as you wish you could because you’re working. But it was fascinating to listen to the spiritual leader of the Tibetans as he led the strategy of the peaceful resistance to the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

But one thing he said that I remember that I took note and I stored it away for future use as he talked about what was going on in China and in Tibet and what their struggles were and what they were learning and he said this, the enemy is a very good teacher. I can tell you this at 26 or whatever age I was when I heard that I did not understand it. Like I understand it today and what’s funny is I’ve had that written my notes for years suddenly do eventually look back on, maybe write about, and now I’m doing a podcast about it. But what I didn’t know when I started doing a little bit of research is that that quote by him is all over the internet in terms of inspirational quotes. So I guess I wrote down a good one. But I think as a culture we need to start embracing this mindset.

I think the worst thing that you can do is to block out the words of people who disagree with you. Now, I’m not saying you have to have them in your life and be friends with them, but you’ve gotta be able to hear it. One example of this is politics and buckle up because this next year is going to be a doozy, but another one is race and race relations. And judging by the little bit of news that I consume, it seems to be dying down just a little bit in terms of so much of the toxic race relations we’ve seen in the media over the past couple of years. But when that was red hot in the news, you saw a lot of people blaming each other and pointing fingers at each other and a whole lot of people talking, but not very many people listening. That’s what I want to talk about.

A guy named Daryl Davis. Davis is a black man, a musician who plays the blues and one night when he was, he was at a bar called the silver dollar lounge when he was approached by a white man who told him how much he enjoyed his music and they start talking together about the origins of blues music. And this guy says the Davis, you know, there’s the first time I ever sat down and had a drink with a black man. So Davis asked him why, and the guy said that he was a member of the KU Klux Klan. And Davis started laughing because he didn’t believe it. And lo and behold, this guy pulled out his wallet and pulled out his Klan card. And when the guy went to leave, he gave Davis his number. He said, call me when you guys are back in town playing.

And Davis had an idea. He saw that a seed was planted and right then and there he decided to write a book and he was Davis’s crazy idea. He was going to meet and sit down and talk with Klan members throughout the country and ask them in person and face to face in real conversations, how can you hate me if you don’t even know me? So the Klan at this point was his enemy. It was an enemy of his culture. But Davis didn’t go in with hate. He went in with knowledge, he studied as much as he possibly could. And his first impression on the Klansman was that he was knowledgeable, that he had done his research and they appreciated that they might not have liked them immediately, but they had respect for him because he learned about their belief system and their organization. And once the enemies got talking, he used that knowledge to get them to start thinking a little differently because it turned out with all the studying that he did, he learned a lot more about the clan.

And even the Klansmen did. And what he learned, which is so great, is that if you spend five minutes with your worst enemy, you will find that you both have something in common. And through these conversations they had deep, meaningful, and often testy exchanges, but he used his wit and his knowledge and his heart to try to understand the way that they felt. He said clearly that he didn’t try to convert them at all. He just wanted to learn. And he learned that as they started having these conversations and they started resonate a lot more in common than they thought. They began starting a friendship. And there’s a lot of talk about Davis and about how he converted 200 members away from the clan, but he says he didn’t convert them. He said that they saw the light and converted themselves. So I want you to think about this, whether it’s race or politics or your family, screaming at people and calling them names and being righteous will never make somebody change their mind for your benefit.

In fact, it will probably push them further the other way, and trust me, I’ve done this enough times in my life to see that righteousness does not work, but being that politics is going to be such a hot button issue this year. If you’re a staunch conservative or died in the wool liberal instead of blocking, mocking and degrading people that don’t think like you, maybe you can try doing what Davis did. Sit down and talk to them. Listen, ask them questions. Let them ask you questions and see what happens. See if you don’t get somebody to understand your side a little bit more, maybe you don’t convert them, but what you might see is that they’re really not much different than you anyway, and even though your enemy could be your best teacher, they might not even be your enemy. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.

Episode 180- How Will Your New Decade End?

So here we are, a brand new year and a brand new decade and some people are waking up today with a giant headache and others are going to be waking up with a giant goal because the beauty that a new year is, it’s a complete fresh start. All the struggles, the failures of the past, the past year, even the past decade, they’re gone. They’re history, it’s all new. It’s all possible. It’s all right in front of us and I’m already hearing people talk about what are you going to get done in the next 10 years? What will life be like for you 10 years from now? And I love that question because it’s a question that we asked ourselves years ago when we were struggling. I was in a job that I didn’t want to be in. We didn’t have much money and we had little kids and Elizabeth and I sat down and we decided what we wanted life to look like 10 years from now.

But you might be surprised to know that it had nothing to do with how much money we were going to have or what our career would look like. We talked about what we wanted our life to look like and the number one word that we used was freedom, freedom of time, freedom to control our schedule, freedom to travel when and where we wanted and financial freedom. Other goals were more specific than that, but I’m giving you an overlay of what the vision was that we came away with. But I’ll tell you what we didn’t do. We didn’t set specific goals that we wanted to achieve career wise. And I know there’s people that will disagree with this, but I’m so glad we didn’t because our goals weren’t about a certain amount of money and if we made it about a certain amount of money, we have probably done work that we didn’t want to do to achieve that goal.

And we didn’t set the goals specifically about what type of work we were going to do either. I know some people will find that odd. I’m going to explain why in a second. So what I’m seeing now as this new year in this new decade begins is a lot of talk about specific things that people are going to accomplish in the long term. I’m going to talk to you today about why think that’s a mistake, because if you set a goal for your business where you want to look like in 10 years, you’re basing that on the way the world looks today. But I want you to think about the way the world looked 10 years ago. If you look around outside, it almost looks the same, but from a business perspective, it’s completely different. The iPhone only came out 13 years ago and it’s changed and transformed the way we do business.

Can you imagine, right before the iPhone came out or Instagram or Twitter or LinkedIn and even bigger Facebook, can you imagine setting a really big longterm goal before you knew it was going to happen? So by setting such a large, longterm goal, you are quite often setting yourself up for failure and disappointment because it’s going to change. Your business is going to pivot. If you stick by it, you’re going to have to be so inflexible to make it happen and what you’re going to do is you’re going to miss out on so many new opportunities because you need to stay on path to achieve this goal, which is irrelevant. And Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft said it really well and he said most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what can do in 10 years. So I challenge you to scratch the 10 year goal.

For me, I do that aside for a handful of things. The few goals that I want for the next 10 years, will it be as healthy as I possibly can to continue and grow, to have more time and financial freedom and to keep developing and nurturing my relationship with my wife, our kids, my friends, clients, and all the new friends and clients that are going to come into our life over those 10 years, if those are my goals now, everything that I work on, all the short term and longterm goals that I’ll set would be based around those things. What that does for me. It gives me flexibility. It gives me freedom. It allows me the possibility to pivot because I’m doing something now that I love, but in a year and a half from now, I don’t love it as much anymore, but my goal is to make this bigger and bigger.

There’s going to be a conflict and what that conflict is going to come to disappointment and confusion. So I want to give myself the freedom and the flexibility to pivot when I feel like pivoting. And I also want to give myself the possibility to do things that are not about the money. So if I have financial freedom and I have time freedom, if I so choose, I could spend a year, we’re about only work is writing a book. If I want that, I crave that freedom more than anything. If I wind up speaking onstage to thousands and thousands of people and that’s a result of these other things, then so be it. That’s great. The strive just for that to be on stage in front of all those people is not my goal, at least my longterm goal. But what’s beautiful about this freedom and this flexibility is that it allows you to set a lot of awesome short term goals.

And I had the pleasure to meet Tim Ferriss from the four hour work week a couple of years back and a bunch of us got to ask him some questions and one of the questions was asked was how he sets goals. And his answer inspired me and not only went along with the lines of thinking that I was already going, but it helped me shape it a different way. He said he doesn’t have longterm goals. He sets two week goals and six month goals in an article is published for entrepreneur magazine. He says he was told at one point your goal should be two crappy pages per day to write. And that’s it. If you hit two crappy pages, even if you never use them, you’ve succeeded for the day. So for him, setting the bar low for daily activities is a key part of his goal setting strategy.

What it does, it takes away the fear and the pressure of having to do a massive success. So he takes these short term goals is two week and these six month goals, he breaks them down to very small, almost simple daily goals. He sets the bar very low in terms of what needs to get done each day, but he makes sure that gets done and that momentum and that confidence propels them forward to do more and even more and to the pickup speed. So as we start this new year, I want you to look at what you’re going to achieve in the next two weeks, more than the next 10 years. What is it that you can do daily over the next two weeks? That compounded will lead to that goal that might be achieved in six months that you can repeat consistently, that will allow you that even thinking about it, to have that life in 10 years that you can only dream about today and don’t do it.

So many people will do, which will say at this point in 10 years or a year from now, I’m going to do this and not do the daily steps that will require you to get there. Because most people by mid January or early February will have already given up. They’ve already quit and they’ll go back to just accepting life for whatever it gives to them, and I truly don’t want that for you. So happy new year, happy new decade. I couldn’t be any more excited for this fresh start. I’ll be back with you tomorrow with the second show of the year.