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Monday, September 26, 2011

Success & Recognition, Actual & Virtual

It's incumbent upon me to report on success on my blog about success. Don't you think? I do. So please don't think I'm tooting my own horn just for the sake of it, my tens of readers, when I report to you that I've received a special mention AND a blogger award in the last few days.

The blog-o-sphere, which is still a huge, amorphous tangle to me, is full of very supportive people giving each other awards. These tend to be from bloggers with not enormous lists of followers to other bloggers with miniscule ones, so we know that we aren't all standing on different mountaintops spitting into the wind. We're actually spitting onto each other.

Okay, poor analogy. On to the recognition part. 

First, I was  listed as a Funnarchist blogger by my faithful and definitely-not-related-to-me commenter Scrollwork on her blog. Once my head deflated enough to fit back inside the house, I realized I wanted to thank her. But just as I was preparing to do that, I received the following award from Andrea S. Michaels, all the way from her blog  Wordy Living in Belfast, Ireland.  That was pretty cool. Especially since I love Tana French novels.

So this award comes with some rules. Here they are: 

  1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post.  
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass this Award along to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it.
I bristle at rules, but I'll give it a go. 

Thanks and thanks again! 

I'm a lapsed reform jew with Buddhist tendencies; I'm short and short-tempered; I eat something chocolate every day; I love a good Spoonerism; and everything else you need to know about me is in my blog--and quite a bit more.

Rule three poses a problem. I don't have a list of fifteen blogs to recommend, so I will work on that. I've got a good start from Rachel Harrie's Writer's Platform Building Campaign. I don't even know how I stumbled upon that one, but I did.  In the meantime, I can pass this on to two bloggers who are friends, Lena Roy, who is sharing her experiences as a first time YA novelist and writing teacher on her blog at; and Reyna E. for her recent post at her blog Quickly and Slowly

So, thanks, readers! I will continue to strive to deserve recognition. Recognition is a hallmark of success. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Scofflaws, Karma, and Success

I've been reading about karma a lot lately. The mystical-spiritual success folks like Deepak Chopra and Florence Skovel Shinn (more on her later) are big on it.

One aspect they're particularly keen on is choosing your words carefully, so you create good karma. Right speech, in case my tens of readers aren't up on Hinduism and Buddhism, is part of the Eightfold Path to enlightenment. For Chopra this is all about creating an intention that can then grow into the perfect success you crave. He suggests writing a list of your desires, which you look at before meditating, before turning in for the night, and first thing in the morning. Stating what you want plants the seed. Time, and your rapt and focused attention on the present, takes care of the growth and blooming.

Shinn is more about getting the right prayer to Jesus Christ (oy) and having your wish granted out there in the world right now. For example, she talks about a client who was broke at Christmas time and who needed cashish. F. S. Shinn told this woman to act as if she would have the money by buying wrapping paper and ribbon, meanwhile saying a prayer. Dubious, the woman left. She did as she was told, and that very evening, upon returning home, discovered a check in the mail from a distant relative.

Deepak Chopra is a little less definitive about wish-granting. He clearly has a thorough knowledge of karma. In fact, he cautions that once you plant your intention, you have to let go of trying to control how and when your wish will be granted. This is his escape clause to his otherwise pretty astonishing assertions of our personal power to attract "abundance" to ourselves. Karma may cause this abundance to occur in a profoundly different way than we might have intended. Or at a different time.

Say, in another life?

So how bad is it that I lost my temper on the phone when some poor telemarketing person interrupted me, deep into my list of desires, to ask for the scofflaw who used to have my home phone number? I didn't mean to. It was just that I was so deeply concentrating that the call really got to me. In fact, the number of calls I receive for this debt-ridden, possibly ill and elderly man named Joseph Addario (this is a common name, so I mention it without pointing a finger at a particular scofflaw) has dwindled from several a day, two years ago, to one or two a month, usually.

You may ask why I didn't change my number two years ago. And I considered it, but when I learned that phone numbers become available for reuse after only 30 days, I figured I'd be just as likely to end up with a different scofflaw's former number, so I stuck with the scofflaw I knew.

Yesterday I recognized the number on caller id as one that had been calling for a few days, annoying me. So this time I answered, preparing to give my long-winded explanation and ask them to remove me from their call list; but I just wasn't as nice as I could have been. I asked them to remove my number a little louder than I meant to. As I mentioned, I was deep in thought. I was considering the implication of adding "screened porch" to my list. Should I ask to be able to add it on to my house? Or would it be better to simply ask for a screened porch -- once I relinquish my attachment to the way in which my intention for a screen porch manifests (Chopra word), I will be able to see the good, perhaps, when I am forced to sell my current house and move to a small shack--with a spacious screened porch attached.

I hope Joseph Addario is having a good day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Many Heads, Much Success

I really enjoyed making fun of Noah St. John last week, but there was something original he said that made me think. At least I think it's original. I haven't come across this exact thing anywhere else yet.

He points out that all the success lit and inspirational speakers tell you you've got to believe in yourself first, before you can succeed.  You have to trust yourself, you have to believe in your goals, you have to think postively about your abilities, and then everything good and wonderful will rain down upon you. This is frustrating, St.John says, because many people have the hardest time of all believing in themselves. If you're in a crappy job, or an abusive relationship, or you want to change careers and become a movie star, you're probably feeling pretty bad about yourself as your starting point.

What you need, he says, is a couple people who believe in you. He calls them "loving mirrors" and "safe havens" because they reflect the good they see in you back at you. You need them in your personal life, just to know you're a decent person with a right to have dreams (loving mirrors); and you need them professionally, where they know what you're capable of and urge you on, despite your efforts to undermine yourself (safe havens).

If you find a couple of these people, whose judgement you trust, then you can believe in them. And finally, after you believe in them and their belief in you, you can believe in yourself.

It now occurs to me that once I attended a lecture about literature and psychology. The speaker talked about the Hero's Journey, as described (long before Noah St. John) by Joseph Campbell. A crucial part of the journey is meeting a mirror for yourself. Someone who believes in you and helps equip you for the trials ahead. And actually, the best thing about this lecture was that the speaker told us that the movie Strictly Ballroom depicts this journey, so we watched it afterwards. If you've never seen it, you should, you really should.

But I digress. St. John's point is apt, as far as I'm concerned, even if it is cribbed from Joseph Campbell. We need other people to help us do our best work. And actually, when you put it like that, then everyone else I've read agrees. Benjamin Franklin started his Junta so he'd have a group of people to bounce ideas off of. Dale Carnegie says that Thomas Edison had a coterie of gentlemen who helped one another develop their ideas. Napolean Hill goes so far as to explain the phenomenon that two heads are better than one using the analogy of radio waves and our brains as receivers.

Or, as Ruth, a lovely older lady I once worked with, shocked us all one day by singing, in the middle of Technical Services at Cabot Science Library, "People, who need people, are the luckiest people in the world." Ah, Ruth. She loved to treat herself to a pizza at the Cambridge House of Pizza, and she always asked them to bake it extra long so it would be really crisp.

So, when one of my friends from college who seems to believe in me, suggested forming a monthly group with another woman, so we can be accountable for our writing projects, I leapt at the arrangement.

Do you have any loving mirrors or safe havens?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Form Your Success?

The library didn't have Deepak Chopra's Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, so I browsed the shelf where it would have been and came across my latest instruction manual,  The Secret Code of Success: 7 Hidden Steps to More Wealth and Happiness, by Noah St. John. It's one I hadn't heard of, but I took it anyway. The cover was new and shiny, and it brought me into the 21st Century.

Overall, let me say, it's a very easy read. Lots of short sentences. Colloquialisms. Bolded words. Much space around paragraphs, and a few charts with titles like The Scales of Success and The Iceberg of Consciousness. 

The first third of the book explains why typical "shelf-help" books fail us, my tens of readers. They tell us to set a goal, to think positively, to say affirmations, to act on our goals, and if we fail, to try again. All these steps, according to St.John, are behavior-based, and are therefore doomed. The problem? While we may consciously want to change something, our subconscious is much harder to convince. Our subconscious holds us back, because it contains all kinds of fears or reasons or beliefs we are unaware of and that we must change. 

We say all these affirmations, a la Jack Handy. Every day in every way I'm getting better and better. I'm pretty, I'm talented, and gosh darn it, people like me. You know the drill. An entire industry (self help) is built on affirmations, or positive thinking. Or superstition. Whatever you want to call it. Thousands of bookshelves can't be wrong, can they? Louise Hay wrong? I'm okay, you're okay, wrong?

Okay. Fine. I'll buy it. My subconscious wants me to fail, so I fail. Maybe. So what do I do? Noah St. John will tell me. 

After many fluffy pages, we get to his 7 Hidden Steps. There's a nice pyramid graphic to illustrate them. (Allusion to Steven Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, but I'll get to that another day.) I am ready. 

But first, I have to do a bunch of exercises. Filling in the blank stuff, with easy questions to answer like, what 5 things hold you back? Or, what is your deepest wish?


If this stuff were easy to figure out, I'd have sussed it already. And I've had a lot of therapy. 

But never mind. Skip ahead to the first step. Ready? Here it is: Afformations.

Yes, you read it right. Not affirmations, afformations. afFORMations. 

These are totally unlike affirmations. Really. Because affirmations are statements, and afformations are QUESTIONS. Oh. Okay. And St.John drops in the Latin roots of both words to point out the difference. Affirmation derives from affirmare, to make firm; while afformation is from afformare, to form. 

Get it? To form.  So he says the idea is to form positive questions based on what you want. The question is supposed to assume you have what you want. For example, How is it that I am so happy?  Or, Why am I so rich? Or just look up at that list of affirmations above and turn them into questions: Why am I so successful? Why does everything I do turn successful? Easy-peasy.

Throwing in the Buddhism principle of watering the seeds of intentionality (where, oh where have I come across this before? Why, in every book on success I've read, as well as in lots of excellent Zencasts), he says you have to ask positive questions to plant those positive seeds in your unconscious. 

I hate to break it to anyone who's reading Noah St. John as a first foray into the world of success self help, but this sounds an awful lot like pretty much everything I've read so far, except Benjamin Franklin. 

It did make for excellent dinner conversation last weekend. A glass of wine each, and the husband and I were compiling our Afformations as quick as we could think of them. Why was it so easy for me to hit number one on the New York Times Bestseller List? How is it that I am having lunch with Tina Fey tomorrow? Why am I appearing on Jon Stewart next week?  Why am I eating dinner dressed in thousand dollar bills? Why am I surrounded by vats of money? Why am I so successful I am bathing in vats of money? Why did I choose to scrub myself with thousand dollar bills instead of saving some of them for my children's college funds?

That was last weekend.

Ahem. I'm still waiting.

Maybe I'd better read Noah St. John's step two.