If you are interested in self-improvement—a broad category which could mean anything from focusing on success to spiritual self-expansion to learning new skills—there is no reason it should cost a ton of money to do. Not when there are so many low-cost or free options out there:
This is a topic that may or may not resonate with some of you out there: hoarding and purging stuff.
About every 9-12 months I purge my stuff: my books, records, DVDs, knick-knacks, papers, etc.
To the outsider, this looks like a wasteful, haphazard, and possibly even deranged act of self-negation. Because…this is my stuff. This is my stuff, the stuff I bought, the stuff I (all too often) found fortuitously on the sides of roads. The stuff people—people who were just trying to be nice—gave me.
And now here I am standing amidst a selection of bags and boxes, sorting my stuff and getting rid…of my STUFF!
You ever notice how sometimes certain things in your life seem to repeat themselves? As if you have seen them before? It could be a new relationship that has uncanny similarities with a former one. It could be a particular person you ran into who seems almost like a doppelgänger of somebody else. It could be an illness, an accident, an incident, a coincidence.
Whatever it is, it may prompt the following observation/question within you: “Well, that’s odd. Why is this happening again?”
I have a theory on that. It’s not new. But I gave it a name anyway, just for shits and giggles: re-cycling.
We normally think of our Life Path as going in straight line, from point A to point B:
We’ve been taught that there’s this linear path that starts at birth and hits all the landmarks…school…first kiss…college…first “real” job…new car…and so on. It’s a “straight shot” from your first breaths to life-support at 85.
But there is a second, more ancient theory of Time. What if, instead of being a straight line, your Life Path is more curved—even circular? Time as an “eternal wheel” that keeps going ’round and ’round. Which is to say:
On the surface, this would seem to explain why things seem to repeat itself—the explanation for déjà vu. But if time was really moving in such a pattern…it would be going over the exact same ground. There would be no progress. It would feel as if life was devoid of free will. It would be like watching the same TV episode over and over again (and what if it’s a shitty episode?).
But there is a third theory. And that is, that life is indeed moving forward, not in a perpetual circle…but it is also “curved.”
In this theory, time is moving in a spiral.
And with each “turn” of the spiral, we notice certain similarities to previous experiences, because the Path sort of “folds up” on itself as it turns, with “pieces touching.” For example you’ve lived through 1996 already, but as you move along on the spiral and reach a “turn” at 2006, you get 1996’s influences, because their circular paths are close to each other at this point in the journey.
These turns on the spiral, bringing the influence of one earlier spot to another, are cycles. When you feel you are doing the same thing over again—living an earlier part of your life—you are re-cycling. It’s Groundhog’s Day.
And you are, in a sense, going over the same thing: because time is doubling up on itself. Folding, returning. And so something you experienced six years ago may be echoed in something you are experiencing now.
But you also are not going over the same thing—because you are still moving forward in your Life Path. This isn’t time as a closed circle, repeating literally the same thing. As you move along the spiral to its center, you are evolving (or devolving, depends on your point of view).
What is the purpose of these repeats, these re-cycles? The purpose of them is to learn and relearn life-lessons; experience and reexperience things until you understand. Like refresher courses. Reruns, in a sense. Reboots, like a film based on an earlier film. The same basic premise, and even characters, might be there—but the story’s kind of different and the actors are different. It seems the same, but also, it’s very much different. That’s what it’s like.
Basically, we are going to do it and do it and do it until we get it right. And the idea of “right” is subjective; saying “we’re going to get it right” sounds like “we’re going to win.” But “winning” is not a helpful term or goal. When we get it “right,” we’ll know.
We’ll know because the intensity and duration of the repeating event will not be as much. There still might be echoes, and gentle “replays.” But it won’t be the same amount of angst and immediacy. Not if we process it. Once we process it—and even if the event or person “returns,” in a sense, or we experience that resonance—it won’t bother us. You’ll be cool; you’ll say “ah yes, I knew a person like you, back when. It’s OK.”
And a large part of it is being at peace with it. Rather than saying something is good, and something is bad; this is different, it’s about being at peace.
When you find that deep peace, you know you have found your truth. And I think that the goal of all this re-cycling is to uncover and embrace the truth—to get to a point where you’re at peace with it. When you’ve re-experienced a certain part of your life in a re-cycle, but you’ve still attached so many strong (often negative) emotions to it…you really haven’t learned the entire thing yet. Because if you did, you wouldn’t be holding on to those emotions. You’d have processed it and been at peace.
But instead, it re-cycles. Instead, it goes down one more circle in the spiral.
And so your work continues, until you reach that center.
Go to your desk, or certain bookshelf, or junk drawer.
Consider each item, and check in with yourself quickly: “does this make me feel good or bad?”
Do it quickly, and note the first thing you feel.
If the item in question makes you feel bad in any way, consider getting rid of it.
Example: every time you see that book on learning German, you feel bad. Now, why do you feel bad? Because you spent $20 on it two years ago and you read like 3 pages. PLUS: you told people you were going to learn German. But you haven’t done it yet. And you feel guilty every time you see the book.
So go give the book to somebody else, or throw it away or recycle it or sell it on eBay. You don’t need even that momentary flash of guilt and self-reproach over your failure to learn German—it will sneakily suck the life out of your days, in little micro-bursts of self-loathing. Move on.
Example: that skull-thingie you bought was really awesome back in the day. It’s like a skull-goblet with the words “#$%@#!” engraved on it in fake blood. But you’ve kind of grown out of it now. Every time you see it, you feel your energy slightly deplete; because it just doesn’t give you the kick it once did. You grew out of it. Your tastes changed. But you never felt the motivation to get rid of it. You spent like $50 at Hot Topic for it after all.
Get rid of it.
Example: old pics of you and your ex.
Well, it was a nasty break-up and all that, but dammit you are the sentimental type as well! These photos are irreplaceable! Certainly you can honor the “good old days” and separate that out from everything else, right?
If every time you look at the pics you feel like crap, throw them away. Or delete them from your computer/phone. Because every time you look at those images and feel bad, you are getting a toxic micro-hit of bad energy. And those micro-hits add up.
Now: once you’ve gone through a shelf or drawer or desk using this method, consider applying this approach to other areas of your life and see what happens.
“I received strange orders from a strange source.”
Two of the most popular self-improvement books of all time are Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power Of Positive Thinking (1952) and Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich (1937). In a modern world filled with inspirational works claiming to having found The Secret and The Power of Now, outwardly claiming to provide wisdom from possible extra-dimensional entities, and so on—the works of Peale and Hill seem, to a degree, antiquated and somewhat “square.”
For one thing, they both use the word “God” a lot, and Peale, a reverend, heavily quotes the Bible. They both also express a sort of “chin up, and pull yourself up by the bootstraps, and yay Capitalism” attitude that seems to fairly scream old-school Republicanism—though Peale, who was tight with Nixon, more embodied this quality than Hill (an advisor to FDR).
And so—when people ask me what self-improvement books they should check out, I hesitate to recommend The Power Of Positive Thinking andThink And Grow Rich.
That said, I’m going to recommend The Power Of Positive Thinking andThink And Grow Rich.*
And here’s why—these two books are the most unassuming esoteric texts that ever made their way into the mainstream. After a lifetime of reading mystical & religious writings from around the world and all sorts of time periods, it was obvious to me just getting through a few chapters of each.
Both Hill and Peale discuss such heady stuff as “thought energy,” creative visualization, and flat-out mental telepathy. But they do it within a Judeo-Christian context that wouldn’t freak out the mass audience of the time. Basically—they got that stuff in “under the radar.”
And they do it in the most stripped-down, simple form possible. Some critics of Peale (and they are, admittedly, legion) accuse him of essentially practicing some sort of NLP/hypnosis/voodoo on his readers by repeating the same stuff over and over again. But it also works. It works. The Power Of Positive Thinking is one of the most occult books I’ve ever read, specifically because it is presented as the exact opposite of such and thus seeps directly into your subconscious.
Both Hill and Peale kinda give instructions—rather openly—to go contact a “Presence” outside your mind that will give you advice. And they do so specifically in the context of business/corporate settings—actually telling such high-powered (and, one would assume, rational) people to get in touch with such entities for career tips, ideas for new patents, and so on.
It should be no surprise that towards the end of his life, Napoleon Hill “admitted” he was literally in touch with an extra-dimensional entity called “The Master” through whom he pretty much channeled parts of his books. This is the author of Think And Grow Rich, folks—one of the most recommended business books of all time.
In one passage from another of his works, Outwitting the Devil (which is far more blatantly esoteric), he instructs the reader to contact their “Other Self”: “…you are following orders now, rather than asking questions. Your Other Self will be in charge for the duration of this trip.” Compare this with a line from Peale’s book: “The Presence came finally to dominate his conscious and ultimately his unconscious thinking.”
So all this was way before the New Agey books that would make such a splash on the scene in the decades to come. And yet, many self-improvement books from the early 1900s through the 1950s contained similar vaguely mystical advice. How did they differ from the New Age books? Crucially, they presented themselves as not being New Age or mystical—and thus reached far more readers worldwide as a result. And yet…much of the teachings contained in these tomes are the same as those of mystery schools from thousands of years ago!
Did Peale’s education as a 33° Freemason help augment his Christian studies and create a potent spiritual blend that became one of the bestselling books of all time? Was Hill truly in communication with out-of-this-world entities which may or may not have been related to the Ascended Masters of Theosophical lore?
All I know is that you can buy The Power Of Positive Thinking andThink And Grow Rich for super-cheap. In case you’re interested.
* My caveat, as with any purely mind-based “consciousness expansion” technique, is that you understand you’re dealing with, to a degree, “heavy machinery” here. Just because you’re practicing meditation or creative visualization—as opposed to, say, tripping on acid or invoking your Holy Guardian Angel through high magick—doesn’t mean caution shouldn’t be taken. This is one of the main criticisms of Peale’s work—that he was essentially providing the keys of basic mystical practice to a mass audience who weren’t prepared for it. And that criticism might be true. But the way I look at it is: people are going to “seek” regardless, if that’s their inclination. It then becomes a question of whether you find your info from a Gandalf or a Saruman.
OK, this is one of those life-coaching posts, yadda yadda yadda…but it also has Batman in it! (so hang in there!)
Long story short: if you want to be a success, you need to understand what your “story” is. Where do you come from, where are you going, who are you, and how would that all play out in a theoretical movie about your life?
And who is writing this “movie”? Are you writing it? Or have you abdicated that task to others (who may or may not have your best intentions at heart)?
And what in the bloody heck does this all have to do with Batman, of all people?
Bill Finger was the creator of core aspects of the Batman mythos. You might not have heard of Finger…though the name Bob Kane might be much more familiar. As the prevailing narrative goes, Kane was the creator of Batman.
But actually, if you do the research (and the book Bill The Boy Wonder by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ty Templeton lays the case out so literally even a child could understand), you find out that without Finger, the Batman that we know now could not have existed. That’s how much Finger contributed to the creation of Batman.
But the point of this post is not to argue who was the rightful “creator” of Batman. Instead, I would like to reiterate the concept of Owning Your Own Personal Narrative.
Batman has a “mythos”…but you might be surprised to find out that so do you. You have a mythos, a mythology, a personal narrative…and what you do with it determines a whole hell of a lot about your life.
For example, what if your mythos is: “I’m a loser, nothing ever seems to go my way”? That’s the mythology you present to the world, that’s the mythology you carry within yourself, and that’s probably going to be the personal narrative you will carry to your grave.
Now: that particular mythos might have been foisted upon you by others when you were growing up. But it is still your responsibility to change—and own—that personal narrative.
On the flipside, your personal narrative can be about somebody who defies the popular convention and triumphantly succeeds despite overwhelming odds. So you carry that story like a shield with you throughout your life, giving yourself courage and confidence…and pretty soon others identify you with that narrative. And even if you become a big success, you might still choose to use this “Cinderella Story” as your mythos throughout your career.
What Bob Kane did was immediately seize on the narrative that he was the sole creator of Batman. And everything thing PR-wise he did until the day he died (including the design of his tombstone) reflected that consistent narrative. And that was a narrative that he decided did not include his partner Bill Finger.
Kane was just a “wide-eyed cartoonist who stumbled upon what would become one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century.”
Public figures and celebrities do this all the time. The simple “nerd” from the suburbs who becomes a tech billionaire. The former drug addict who makes a triumphant comeback. The girl plucked from the church choir who performs a concert in a football stadium. These are all compelling stories. We “buy” not only what these people do…but their stories as well.
And this might be shocking to you, but: personal narratives, sometimes, can be “fudged.”
Again we return to the Batman case. Bob Kane did indeed help “create” Batman. But he is hardly the sole creator. And yet, that is the myth that’s survived.
In contrast to Kane, Finger was, by all accounts, a rather humble person who didn’t like to loudly “toot his own horn.” And so, really, it was up to somebody like Kane to include him in a narrative, in a mythos, about the creation of Batman. But that just didn’t happen.
What is your personal narrative? Is it positive or negative? Do you feel that you are in control of that narrative…and if not, could you be?
What is your mythos? How does your mythos and career work together (if at all)?
These are crucial questions that you need to answer in order to succeed and go where you need to go.
If you don’t have answers to these questions…stop everything and figure it all out!!!
(And don’t let somebody else define your narrative.)