Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Are You Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”


My personal journey of growth and discovery plus my experience in hundreds of seminars and with thousands of people informs me that most people—beginning with me—are somewhat hard wired to look outside ourselves for answers.

My business mind reminds me that this is the marketing force behind our sales results. After all, when people do look “outside” they often turn to companies like Extraordinary People for answers. My strategy in founding Lifespring, ARC International and now Extraordinary People has been the same: allow people to think that we have “the answers,” get them engaged in our work and then enroll them into the reality that the only valid and valuable answers come from within.

A profound process is to follow this Sufi poet’s counsel and do the necessary and sometimes painful work of self discovery; to identify and clear those “barriers within yourself” preventing you from full self expression; to cease seeking for love and move yourself to a place where you can simply allow it to flow.

With love and respect,



emc said...

Dear Robert,

It was nice to see you in person a while back when you were in Tokyo. I am glad that I had the chance to meet you in person, and I found your book interesting.

I wanted to share with you my perspective on your book, but resisted until today, when I saw your mail below, which prompted me to write.

One of the underlying assumptions of your book is that "ordinary" people do not take responsibility, and have a host of other problems associated with limiting their personal growth in a variety of ways. "Extraordinary" people, on the other hand, are folks who have been able to overcome these limiting factors, and go on to lead more fulfilling, meaningful lives.

Well, ok. I suppose that you can look at things this way.

I have a slightly different view; While I certainly recognize that "ordinary" people have faults that need to be worked on, I do not agree that by overcoming these faults they arrive at the vaulted state of being "extraordinary". In my view, taking responsibility for our lives, and our actions, by asking deep probing questions of ourselves and where we fit in the universe, by pursuing life-long learning to be better, and accepting our past for what it is, etc. etc. these are all things that millions of "ordinary" people do everyday.

The state of being extraordinary, truly extraordinary - as in "exceptional to a very marked extent" - must necessarily belong to a smaller group. And I believe that one of the measures of "extraordinari-ness" must be the ability to shape and influence the way large groups of people think and act.

Christopher Columbus, Albert Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci, Mozart, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela....these are - I believe - people who are "extraordinary".

Anyway, splitting hairs or semantics perhaps. What you do has a positive impact on people, so it's all good.

Next, what spurred me to write today;

"My strategy in founding Lifespring, ARC International and now Extraordinary People has been the same: allow people to think that we have "the answers," get them engaged in our work and then enroll them into the reality that the only valid and valuable answers come from within."

What I found very revealing is your confession: "allow people to think that we have "the answers".

Frankly, this came as a shock.

I read this statement in the following way: "We have this great business. We create this aura of capacity and knowledge, this perception that we have a special ability to help people. Then, once we get them hooked into our program, we simply help them to see that it's all up to them!!!"

It strikes me as ironic that a person who champions ethical conduct, honesty, and deep integrity to admit that your business rests upon an initial perception which is false, or at best, misleading.

Wouldn't it be more in keeping with your message to explain to your prospective customers that you have a lot of experience as an "enabler" but that the ultimate responsibility for any meaningful change will always rest with the individual?

...or maybe that's what you are saying, and I just read it wrong.

Best regards,

Eric M. Cole

Robert White said...

Eric ...

Thank you for such a thoughtful post -- clear and compelling! In response ...

You draw the line between ordinary and extraordinary people in a different place than I do. Not a matter of being right or wrong, just a difference in location.

My experience (and the perception that arrives from that experience) with literally hundreds of thousands of participants in our seminars is that most people do not, in fact, take responsibility for their lives, ask deep probing questions, or pursue life-long learning. I say that not in a negative or judgmental way--just an observation of what they reveal to me in our programs.

Most of our participants report to me being directly or subtly victimized by the circumstances or people in their lives; a certain amount of "drift" in their lives and a reluctance to come to grips with those major life questions you detail. Sad but true.

The other aspect of my distinction between ordinary and extraordinary is grounded in a paradigm shift I sense we're either already in or soon to enter because it is needed and wanted. That shift is from holding a "chosen few" as the leaders, heroes and mass influencers ..... to one where the "ordinary" individual has a context of "leadership, heroism and influence is up to me."

I grew up in a time when "extraordinary people" were celebrated and recognized. As a teenager spending my summers in a full leg cast, I read every biography in our neighborhood library. I know more about extraordinary people than most folks and their inspiring life stories have made a real difference in my life.

Today, I strongly suggest there's an urgent need for more widely dispersed leadership, heroism and influence--in families, companies, institutions and nations.

Regarding your very good question about whether my integrity is in question when I say we "allow people to think we have "the answers...."

The key word here is "allow." If you'll review our marketing materials at or review any of our printed marketing materials or in person presentations, you'll find us expressing clearly that we don't offer the answers, just a structured space for discovery.

My experience is that no matter what we say, many participants enter our programs or buy my book or home study program looking for "the answers."

I really enjoyed your take on how my statement could be read and this occurred to me: if we did the bait and switch you outlined so brilliantly (we don't), and people got the value they really needed and wanted, would that necessarily be out of integrity?

If we applied that same standard to multiple marketing efforts, would that mean no more Estee Lauder ads? No Corvettes or BMW ads? No Nike ads? I can argue that all of those companies promise one thing and deliver another, mostly to the satisfaction of their clients.

Thanks for the opportunity to explore these ideas. I learned from your perceptions and appreciate your input.