You guys know I’m a huge fan of Byron Katie; her books Loving What Is, I Need Your Love: Is That True? and all the other books of hers I’ve read have genuinely changed my life. Not just my life, but the lives of a ton of my coaching clients who’ve let go of a lot of negativity, questioned their thinking, become more stoic, and become forces for positivity and good in the world. If you’re into Stoicism, you will love Byron Katie.
My favourite philosophy of hers is, “Don’t argue with reality. When we argue with reality, we lose; but only 100% of the time”. Great stuff. But this isn’t an article about how great Byron Katie is; go read her books for more on that. This is a story about how YOU are currently having a positive impact on the world, probably without even realising you’re doing it.
Those of you who’ve gotten a lot out of Byron Katie’s books (and even those of you who haven’t), here’s a pretty fucking amazing story I read in her book, “A Mind at Home with Itself”.
Brief backstory: She was ultra depressed, agoraphobic (couldn’t leave the house, just like me during my depression), hated herself, hated her 2nd husband, hated her kids, got so depressed and miserable all she could think about was ending it all and committing suicide.
She finally had a complete and utter breakdown (more like a psychotic break) in 1986, which led to her going to a psych ward. While in there, something else snapped in her and she realised, “Oh shit… I don’t have to suffer. Suffering is optional. I’ve been CHOOSING to suffer all these years, because I’ve been believing my negative thoughts. If I just don’t believe my negative thoughts, I don’t suffer…. Wow.”
She went on to write all the books she’s written, change all the hundreds of thousands of lives she’s changed, helped me and all my friends, quite a few of you guys so far, and I’m sure you’ll pass on her wisdom to others. Pretty amazing stuff.
But here’s the amazing part of the story… Actually, I’ll just post her story so you can see for yourself what’s amazing about it. Here’s the part where she had the breakdown and went to the psych ward:
“One day in February 1986, just before I checked in to the halfway house, when I was in so much mental pain that I didn’t believe I could bear one more breath, things came to a head. For no particular reason I started screaming, and I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop screaming and thrashing around on the bed. [My husband] Paul and [my oldest son] Bob, came in and held me down, to keep me from hurting myself. The suffering got more and more intense; it was beyond what I thought was bearable, with no way out, no end to it. I felt it was beyond what anyone could endure.
They were holding me down, and I was very frightened. They were too—they were panicked—and one of them began making calls to try to find a doctor who would talk to me on the phone. He kept calling different hospitals, different doctors. “What can we do? Will you talk to her? Is there someone there who can talk to her?” They were desperate. Finally, somewhere, in some state, in some city, they found one person who said he would talk to me. He was a psychologist on a psych ward.
They put the phone to my ear, and I experienced love coming from his voice. I felt that he genuinely loved me and wanted to listen. My screams became quieter, and I could hear him. I don’t remember what he said; it was probably something like “I hear you. I understand. You must be hurting very badly.” But whatever he was saying, it made sense to me. What mattered was where his kindness came from. I knew he couldn’t want anything from me; he didn’t know me, there were no strings attached, so I trusted what he said. He said I needed help, and the agony shifted a bit.
This was the first time in my life that I ever experienced love. I couldn’t get it from my parents, or from my first or second husband, or from my children; I just got it from this simple act of kindness. Today I give others what that man gave me, and each time I do, I receive the original gift again.
Often when I tell this story, tears run down my cheeks. It’s the experience of gratitude all over again. When anyone is hurting to the extent that I used to hurt, I know how simple it is to step out of it. And I know that you’re what’s left of me. So when you say, “Help me,” I do what that kind man did. He showed me who I was—who we all are.”
Stop and think about this story for a second. This woman who’s changed this many lives and helped this many people (who’ve then gone on to help even more people, who’ll in turn help even more people)… that all happened because that one man decided to do one tiny random act of kindness in one small moment. None of the wonderful shit that’s happened in the ~40 years since that moment, happens without his one act of kindness.
It was such a seemingly small, insignificant act of kindness. Just a stranger being nice to another stranger for 20 minutes on the phone. Just a man doing his job, but being loving in doing so. Nothing special; just a bit of niceness.
I wonder how many of you have impacted other people in the same way, and you’ll never realise it. That girl you’re nice to on a date, that friend of yours you’ve encouraged to improve himself a bit and pushed him, that girl you’ve slept with a few times and gotten her to open up to you about stuff she’s never told anyone else, helping her grow just a little more courageous.
That girl you say, “Hey, you’re super cute and I wanted to say hey”. Maybe she was having a terrible day, or a terrible week, and was deep in her own suffering. Maybe your one tiny little compliment and 3-minute chat genuinely made her realise that life is pretty fucking wonderful and worth living, and you gave her the courage to jump on the self-improvement train and build something wonderful for herself.
And maybe every time you’re honest with people and just “keep it real” with no games and no bullshit, there’s a tiny chance that person will go, “Wow. Honesty is… nice. Maybe I’ll start being just a little more honest with other people too”. Maybe you just being decent is that one small act of kindness that’ll change someone’s life, without you ever even meaning to.
Maybe that one time you reply to one of the guys in our coaching program who’s really struggling, and all you say is, “You got this man. I believe in you”… Maybe that’s the thing that keeps him going, pushes him to build something amazing, and go on and spread that motivation around and change other people’s lives.
I wonder how many lives each of you will change over the course of your own life; and how many subsequent lives each of those people will change too. And all it takes is just a tiny bit of kindness, or a bit of honesty and “being real”, or a little push to one of your brothers or sisters. You probably don’t see it, but each time you face your own fears with courage, each time you push your brothers, each time you’re just decent to a girl, you make a positive impact on the world. Each of you in every moment are doing good; even if the effects don’t make themselves apparent to you in that little moment. Each of you is a ripple on the pond of life; you have no idea where those ripples will end up.
This is why I push you guys to talk to girls; every girl you talk to and give a compliment to and make her feel good about herself, you could literally be changing her life for the better. It’s why I push you to make money and GIVE VALUE, and genuinely change people’s lives in whatever endeavour you pursue. Every goal you go for, you’re inspiring others to go for their goals too. Every time you put yourself out there in the world and face yourself with courage and persistence, you’re literally making the world a better place – and improving your own life in the process.
Go out there today and make ripples in the pond of life. You never know where those ripples will end up, or who they’ll lift up in the process.