Knowing and Doing, How to Make One into the Other

Knowing and doing. I have spent many years learning how to be successful. And for many more years acting as if I was already successful; because after all that is what you are told to do. “Fake it till you make it.” I was really good at faking it. That’s why sales came naturally to me. In sales I was successful, but it didn’t feed my soul. I wanted more. I wanted to do what I saw other people doing. Teaching how to live your life, how to be successful on a soul level. I knew I was destined to do it. But until you are successful at it, who will listen to you? So fake it I did, for years.

During those years I did learn how to actually be successful. But as the title suggests, knowing and doing are two very different things. I knew how long before I did it. I tried to be different and be successful, but I also took big risks, and often I “failed.” It turned out that by failing, I was able to learn things that succeeding would not have taught me. Empathy being one of the things in particular, that serves me now. I understand what it is like to be poor, to be broke and to be “just surviving.” If you haven’t lived it, it is difficult to really understand what it is like.

I also learned that you don’t have to be successful to teach someone else how to be. I know it sounds crazy, but we teach what we most need to learn. By teaching someone else, you have to really “get” the information. Then you have to actually take action to become the thing that you are teaching. I spent many years becoming, but not the way that I had envisioned it. It turns out that this life that we are here to live, actually has a plan that you set up, and then forgot. So it is about remembering that and surrendering to it.  

Surrendering to Your Life

This is not something that came natural for me. It was not natural at all. Surrender means failure, and I don’t want to fail. That was my thinking for decades. I of course did fail, many times. I felt bad for a long time each occurrence that proved that I was a “loser.” I had one period of spectacular losses. But I fought my way back up and got back in the ring for another round. Yet again I tried and failed. Each time I tried something different. I did seem to be learning along the way. I did succeed, albeit temporarily in my new attempts at success.

I thought I was destined to be a restaurateur and worked in that field for 17+ years. I got a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management, I worked for many Fortune 500 companies and I quit or got fired from each one. There’s a whole story about those endings, but suffice it to say, I finally decided to open my own restaurant.

Timing is Everything

In the restaurant business they say it’s all about Location, location, location. But they forgot to mention, that timing is everything. Great location and bad timing means failure. I discovered this the hard way. I bought a pizza restaurant with a great location, and it turned out to be very bad timing, and I lost my shirt. My restaurant was on a main thoroughfare in my hometown. What I didn’t know was we were just going into a big recession and the company right across the street, that had been in business for 100 years, was going bankrupt and out of business. Unfortunately most my customers worked for that company. You can guess the rest. After 4 years of working over 100 hours per week, I lost more than $50,000. It took me more than two years to pay that off.

I had a lot of “victim” stories about the how and why that happened, but I learned something very valuable in doing that. “There must be an easier way to be successful.”  I had to experience that and more to learn the life lessons that made me shift my thinking and my life. I was living my life as I was taught, work hard, and you will succeed. I found out that was a lie. I worked harder than most people ever have worked and I failed spectacularly! Hard work is no guarantee of success. It turns out that I could have turned the business into a success, as I was invited to move it into the Sam’s Club across the street from my location, but by that time, I was burned out and wanted nothing to do with the operations of a restaurant, so I passed.

Failure isn’t Failing

It turns out that failure is a necessary part of success. Without failing, your learning is limited. If you “luck out” and succeed right way, when challenges happen, you are ill equipped to deal with them. If however you fail, you know that you can recover because you have done it before. Dealing with the unknown and chaos is what you learn in the hospitality business. Frankly it’s what you learn in a dysfunctional family. So I was totally prepared for life and its twists and turns. I didn’t realize how valuable my early life and early business life was actually forming the foundation to do what I do now.

Even my writing was something that I developed by first having a curious mind, and being drawn to reading other people’s books. Luckily I was a voracious reader of things that interested me. Then I was forced to write papers for homework and would usually put them off till the last minute. I still got good grades and didn’t realize that others took weeks to write their papers and revised them over and over. Not me. I just typed one final version and handed it in.

It wasn’t until I was in graduate school the first time, when I began writing for the school newspaper that discovered that my writing was not infallible. Since there was a journalism school there, I approached a professor for feedback on my first column. He glanced at it and handed it back to me and said, “This is very trite.” Trite! No one ever called my writing trite! I rewrote it 5 times before I handed it in. since then I rewrite most of my work, but some things, like this, just seem to flow and so I needn’t rewrite it. Well you can decide for yourself.

Have a Plan, But Go with the Flow!

Okay I have sometimes had a plan and other times just been spontaneous. In either case rolling with the waves of reality often give you a wild ride. Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” I certainly can see how God must have had many o good laugh when he heard my plans; many of which either never materialized or ran off the rails. Once in a while they actually worked! When they did I took full credit. When they didn’t I either blamed circumstances or someone else. I finally learned to take responsibility for my life, and when I did that I took my power back. As long as I blamed something outside of me, I had no power. Taking responsibility, gave me power and some control. Total control is only an illusion.

My peace of mind has increased ever since I have learned to go with the flow. I might not want exactly what I had, but I learned to accept it, and then look to see what I could do to shift things. There’s an expression that basically says, you can’t controls the seas or the winds, but you can adjust your rudder and your sails. So to simplify this, you can always shift how you respond to what is, to get to where you are going, even if it turns out that is not where you originally wanted to go.

It’s great to set goals and make plans, and that is often the way to make things become reality. However there is a higher plan for you. You just forgot it. I know this sounds all religious or just woo-woo thinking, but if you look back on your life, you can see a pattern of things happening that you didn’t plan, and yet have led you to where you are now. How meeting someone taught you something that you needed to know. How an event shifted your life’s direction. How shifting your thinking gave you new understanding on how life works. Maybe even reading this is now giving you something that will open a new world for you.

Putting Knowledge into Practice

Knowing something doesn’t mean much unless you put it into practice. Taking action from learning is what we call wisdom. We have the opportunity to learn every day. Many people stop learning when they are young. That is a shame. Life has a lot of learning to offer you, but you have to be open to that in order to actually gain from that opportunity. When you resist the lesson, you get it again but with a lot more intensity. And if you persist in resisting, life will serve up a really intense lesson, and more until you get the lesson. So it is best to get the lesson when it is whispering, and not when it is shouting. It’s your choice.

Putting that experience to good use is easier than you think. It just requires that you pause and reflect on what was the lesson that I can learn from this. That is usually the part people skip, and therefore miss the lesson. Blaming is much easier because then you don’t have to change anything. Change is uncomfortable for most people, and they avoid it at all costs. Change means dealing with the unknown. For most people that is the biggest fear that they have. So the willingness to face your fears and do something different are the keys to making the learning into wisdom.

Start Small then Repeat

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I know it’s an old joke, but quite apropos. You make new habits by changing one small pattern of behavior. I suggest you break your goals down to ridiculously small steps. For example if you want to get your body to be fit again, one small step would be to exercise for one minute each day. It sounds dumb, but in reality it is powerful. You see, your subconscious mind, which runs a lot of your life, including habits, needs to be retrained. Small steps work great for several reasons. One is it is something that you can actually commit to achieving and complete with certainty. And two is that your subconscious mind does not know size. So once you train it to help you with small goals, it will help you with the big ones too! Another feature of this process is a reward. I know it might sound a bit extreme to reward yourself for one minute of exercise, but it is really important to do so. Remember it’s your subconscious mind which 80% was programmed by the time you were 8 years old. So your 8 year old wants a reward. So build that it to the process. You will find that this new behavior will allow you to build new habits and that leads to new results.

Persistence Pays Off

Finally consistent behavior and repeated rewards will give you a new life. Some people will stop this after a week or two. Remember your subconscious mind is watching you. It learns too. It will see if you are keeping your word. The more you do, the more it helps you. The more you don’t, well you get the point. So just like stopping your exercise when you reach a goal is a good way to go back to where you started from, keeping your new behavior going after you reach your goal is the best way to consistently have the real reward that you seek, a new life. It may feel overwhelming at times when things don’t seem to be going the way that you want or need them to go, but believe me, it will pay off. The payoff is sometimes different than you thought you wanted, but often it is more than you could have dreamed of. Remember that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Take that step today and someday you will reach your destination.

 

By John Seeley M.A.

 

 

 

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