Dr. Wayne Dyer promises, Whatever your passion may be, you can make a living doing it and simultaneously provide a service to others. Wayne Dyer is an internationally renowned speaker, author, and now actor/producer who has been following his passions for many years to inspire, motivate and serve people around the world to find their purpose in life.
He’s the author or 30 books, has created many audio programs and videos, and has appeared on thousands of television and radio shows. Many of his books have also been featured as National Public Television specials. His latest adventure is his new movie being released by Hay House in January, 2009, called Ambition to Meaning. Costarring Michael DeLuise and Portia de Rossi, this movie tells three different intertwining stories exploring the interplay of ambition, meaning and service.
Wayne holds a doctorate in educational counseling from Wayne State University and was an associate professor at Saint John’s University in New York. Wayne is affectionately called ‘The Father of Motivation’ by his fans. Despite his childhood spent in orphanages and foster homes, Dr. Dyer has overcome many obstacles to make his dreams come true. Today he spends much of his time showing others how to do the same.
Cheryl Richardson is the author of the New York Times bestselling books,Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers, Stand Up for Your Life, and The Unmistakable Touch of Grace. She was the first president of the International Coach Federation, and she has had her own TV show on the Oxygen network, as well as having hosted two public television specials. You can get a copy of her newest book being released in January, 2009, called The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time by going to www.HealthyWealthynWise.com/Cheryl.
JANET ATTWOOD: Cheryl, thanks so much for being here with us. I’ll turn it over to you now to conduct tonight’s interview.
CHERYL RICHARDSON: Wayne, thank you very much for joining me during this interview about passion and your great new movie, Ambition to Meaning. As you know, Wayne, I had the good fortune of watching a 45-minute rough-cut of the movie before it is released, and I have to say from the moment I began watching the movie until the very end, 45 minutes later, I was just in tears.
I was just blown away by the story, and I’m so excited for people to be able to see the film and come to [indiscernible] the sense [indiscernible]. The first question I want to ask is what role have your own passions played in the creation of this new movie?
WAYNE DYER: Cheryl, one of the things I’ve always believed about passion is this. If you take the word ‘enthusiasm’, break it down and look at what it really means, it comes from the Greek ‘entheos’, which means God, and ‘iasm’, which means within: the God within. Passion and everything you’re passionate about, I tell my audiences all the time, is an indication that you are connected to God, to a source that is going to provide you whatever it is that you need to fulfill whatever you feel passionate about.
It’s the hanging onto the passion that most people have difficulty with. They let go of it, they let somebody else talk them out of it, they think they’ll outgrow it or that it’s irresponsible. Nikos Kazantzakis, who is the great Greek author of The Last Temptation of Christ and Zorba the Greek, said that when you passionately believe in what doesn’t exist, you create it, and that which does not exist has not been sufficiently desired. Passion, for me, is something you always have to hang onto.
When I was asked to do this movie I had a whole lot of reservations about whether or not I wanted to be an actor-it’s a full-length film!-but at the age of 68 I decided that this was something I absolutely could take on, and that it was doable. It was getting to a place where I was willing to take direction, to have someone teach me about all the different angles, all the different shots and how things come together on a movie set, which is very different than getting up in front of a live audience, which I’ve done thousands of times, just taking the microphone and speaking from my heart.
It’s take after take and retake after retake starting at 7:00 in the morning, and some nights, working all night long. It’s having other people tell you exactly what to do, where to go, how to set this scene and so on. My passion was really nothing more than the opportunity to take some of the ideas that I believe in so strongly and reach a completely new audience.
We just showed what you saw and were just talking about, the first rough-cut of the first 40 minutes or so, to an audience of about 600 people who had come from all over the world here to Maui. We were able to watch their reactions. Some of these people would never, ever pick up a book or listen to CDs and so on, but they definitely would go to a movie and see it come alive with great acting and a great script.
The idea of doing that was actually a no-brainer for me. All I had to do was to surrender, to let go, and to allow myself to be completely in the hands of other people. I learned an enormous amount about how to make it all come across. I’m so glad because you and I had a chance to talk not too long ago, and your reaction to the movie was so important to me because I place so much value in your opinion; I have for so many years.
When I have other people watch it, I’m beginning to see that this is the kind of thing that can really make a huge impact on how people think around the world without having to read a book, without having to listen to CDs, without having to go to a seminar or do any of the work. They can be entertained and still come away with a powerful message.
CHERYL RICHARDSON: Absolutely. I feel the same way. When I saw the rough-cut, it was a private showing. Our publisher was there, and there were a handful of other people standing around. First of all, I have to say that you did a wonderful job of acting, and I’ll just give the listeners a little peek inside. One of the things that you’re seeing is Wayne being filmed as himself in the movie, in the beginning [indiscernible].
I remember thinking, just like you said, if someone asked me to act in a movie, that would be pretty challenging. It’s one thing to get up on stage and teach; it’s another thing to be an actor. You did a phenomenal job.
WAYNE DYER: Thank you. I didn’t really learn right away. It took me about five or six days of being there. I’ve written a lot about the Tao, the Tao Te Ching, and changing your thoughts. Lao Tzu has been an important and powerful teacher for me. He lived 2,500 years ago, and he talks a lot about this whole idea of letting go and surrendering, finding your truth by not grasping. He uses water a lot as a metaphor. Be like water. Be like nature.
If you want to experience water, if you try to grab a handful of it, the tighter you squeeze the less you’ll experience the water. It’s when you let go and just let your hand go into the water. It is the softest substance on the planet, and yet it’s also the strongest. If you just let water run over a rock for enough time, the rock will wither away and the water will still be there. Also, it always stays low like the ocean.
All of the rivers and streams fight to get down it, but they all end up at this source, and the source is the ocean, which always stays low. It’s about having humility, about staying low, about being soft, about being flexible and about not grasping. Those are just some of the metaphors. When I first got to the set, they were running me through the paces. I was trying to remember the lines. I was trying to remember what to say, thinking about the scene and how it was going to work, and all of it.
Then I remembered somebody else is here incarnated to do that, and he’s called the director! That’s his job. My job was to let go and just allow, to just be myself. It took me about four or five days before I finally began to realize, This is how you do it. The first three or four days of all the shooting they cut out until I got so comfortable with just being myself, until I began talking as if there was no script at all, as if there were no cameras around, as if there was no lighting around.
I was just allowing, just letting it be. That’s when it all came alive. I’ve seen a lot of the movies that have been out there that have been made by people who have done similar kinds of books-The Celestine Prophecy, for example, Conversations with God, The Way of the Spiritual Warrior and several others-where they’ve taken these ideas and turned them into a film. I said to myself, I do not want to be involved in a project in which it looks like an amateur is attempting to do an acting job with professionals.
I wanted to really convey what it is we’re trying to teach in this movie and still entertain. I’m so pleased at your reaction and other people’s reactions to it, as well. I’m thrilled beyond belief. I feel like a rock star!
CHERYL RICHARDSON: Just you wait! You already are a rock star. Now you can be a triple rock star. It’s true; as I was watching it I was really emotionally moved, as a woman at my age-I’m going to be 50 soon-watching the movie.
WAYNE DYER: You’re going to be what?
CHERYL RICHARDSON: I’m going to be 50 pretty soon, my friend.
WAYNE DYER: Oh, my gosh! I never saw a 50-year-old who looked as good as you when I was growing up, I’ll tell you that.
CHERYL RICHARDSON: I love you! Keep reminding me of that, will you? As a woman at a pivotal time in my life, the movie really speaks to this, and I felt so moved personally. I remember sitting there thinking, Oh, my gosh! I’m going to burst into tears in front of these people. The heck with it, and I went ahead and did so anyway. Then as a wife and teacher, I felt it was such a powerful inspiration and example as I watched you.
I just felt like the movie gives you [indiscernible] really this live stage, and that you have something important to share with the viewers. Like you said, the great thing about this film is that it’s going to appeal to such a wide mainstream audience that may never, ever have even picked up a self-help book in their lives. It’s just going to reach out and grab them, and in that regard it was also [indiscernible].
WAYNE DYER: I remember years ago, and I don’t know if you’ll remember this or not, a movie came out. I think it was back in the ’70s and it was called Rocky. I’m sure you remember Rocky with Sylvester Stallone. I saw it over in Honolulu, and I think I had just written Your Erroneous Zones; it was right around that time. Anyway, I walked out of that film so inspired and so believing that I could do anything I could put my mind to. That was when I decided I was going to write a novel and we were going to make a film out of it.
I wrote Gifts from Eykis. It was this simple idea of seeing someone going through the motions of looking at the self-doubt, practicing the art of living completely in the present moment, having an intention that no one else can dissuade you from, and feeling so inspired and so powerful and being able to do the work. This guy who could hardly talk right coming out of the bowels of the city of Philadelphia and becoming the heavyweight champion of the world, I felt I could do that.
I wasn’t interested in boxing, but it’s the idea that anyone who really puts their mind to something and has passion about it and hangs onto it can do it. I remember how inspiring that was, and that’s exactly how I wanted to feel about this film. I want people to walk out of the theater when the film is over and say to themselves, I’ve gone through my entire life trying to please other people.
I’ve gone through my entire life trying to do what I’ve been programmed to do, and I’m not going to die with my music still in me. I’ve got music to play, and I’m going to play it. I don’t care if it’s a woman who’s just turning 50, someone in their 70s or someone in their 20s. Get inspired within you. Again, the word ‘inspire’ means ‘in spirit’. All you have to do is return to the spirit, the place from which you originated and live from that.
The movie portrays that in a series of stories. I was just so blessed to be able to get some of the top people in the field, like Portia de Rossi. I had the great privilege of being able to marry her and Ellen Degeneres this summer; they invited me to officiate at their wedding. I never thought that Portia would accept this, but she did, and she just shines throughout it. Michael DeLuise is the son of Dom DeLuise, and he was just amazing to work with, as was everyone else on the film.
I don’t know if you’ve ever participated in a film, Cheryl, but what happens is this. There were 92 people working on this film for 30 straight days, from 7:00 in the morning until, sometimes, 7:00 the next morning. Everybody got involved in the process here. People began to move their lives into meaning. You could see that the cameramen were really listening intently, as were the lighting people and all of the set decorators. It became like a family. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience. I didn’t really want it to end, I loved it so much.
CHERYL RICHARDSON: One of the brilliant things you all did in the movie was this. As Janet was saying when we started the interview, the movie really looks at how three different life scenarios weave together, one of which is [indiscernible] who is filming you as part of the movie [indiscernible] really be transformed by what it is you’re teaching, and they become these great characters [indiscernible].
[Indiscernible] such a wonderful job of representing it to a mainstream audience that might not have looked at some of the thing you’re talking about. That was just a brilliant piece of writing. I’m curious, Wayne. The movie is called Ambition to Meaning. Say a little bit about what you mean by ‘ambition’ and what you mean by ‘meaning’, and why both are important.
WAYNE DYER: There are really four words in the book. The book, which will be out some time toward the end of next year-I’m still working on it-has four words in it: from, ambition, to, meeting. ‘From’ is really where we come from. What’s the source of everything in the universe, everything that is physical? Whether you’re an atheist out there or you’re a member of any religious organization or you’re an agnostic, it doesn’t make any difference.
What science and quantum physics have taught us is what Jesus was teaching us centuries ago. It’s the spirit that gives life. Quantum physics now shows that quantum mechanics and quantum physics are really nothing more than the study of how sub-, sub-atomic particles, the tiniest particles, operate and work and where they come from. Ultimately, what quantum physics has shown is that nothing that’s here in the physical world originated from something that is physical.
Everything originates from this invisible source. ‘From’ is the first part, and we all come from some place. T.S. Eliot had this wonderful line; he said, We shall not cease from exploration, but at the end of all of our exploring will be to return to the place from which we originated and to know it for the first time. In the Tao Te Ching, in the 40th verse, it speaks about the way of life being a return trip and that all of us originated in spirit, in source.
It isn’t just me saying it, it isn’t just a group of spiritual teachers saying it, and it isn’t a bunch of tree-huggers saying it. It’s coming from the greatest scientific minds on the planet: Max Planck, Albert Einstein and so on. They all say that particles themselves do not come from particles. They come from an invisible energy source, and what is that energy source like? What does it look like?
All of creation comes from something that is very peaceful. In the Tao Te Ching they call it the Tao. The Tao does nothing, but it leaves nothing undone. It’s all about love; it’s about kindness. It asks nothing in return. That’s where we came from. We all come from this place of oneness, and then we show up in this world. I always say in the first nine months of our life, from the moment of our conception until the moment of our birth, we are at a total place of surrender, of allowing and of letting go.
There is nothing to do. Perfection is already underway. The creative process is taking place, and there’s nothing for the mother to do. There’s nothing for the child to do. Everything will come exactly as it’s supposed to, and we all just surrender and let go and let God. Then we’re born and we take this beautiful little child into our hands. We look and we say, Great work, God. We’ll take over from here.
What happens in the ‘taking over from here’ part is we edge God out; we edge God out of the picture and we begin to take on our own belief about who we are. ‘Edging God Out’ is what the acronym EGO stands for. We take on this ego, and this ego is what ambition is about. It believes that who I am is not this divine creation from which I originated, and that everything that is necessary for it to do whatever it came here to do is already taken care of.
Instead, we start to train our young people and ourselves to believe that who we are is a series of things. First, it’s what we have, so we start believing that our value and worth as a human being comes from all the things we accumulate. We train our young people to get as much as they can. The more they get the more important they are and the happier they’ll be, and so on. This is what all the spiritual sages call the false self. It’s the idea that who I am is what I accumulate.
The problem with ‘who I am is what I accumulate’ is that when I no longer have something, when I lose it or someone takes it away, then who I am disappears in the process as well. The other thing that the ego teaches is that who I am is not only what I have but what I do. We take our young people and train them to believe that their accomplishments are what define them: what they do in school, what kind of a job they get, how much money they make, who they’re better than, who they compete with, and so on.
Again, it’s the false self. It’s the belief that in order to prove my worth I must not only accumulate but I must achieve, and I must achieve at a higher level than everybody else, so competition is introduced. I think the most egregious thing the ego teaches is that not only am I what I have and what I do, which is what we pursue, but who I am is my reputation, what other people think of me.
We become obsessed with that instead of being content with who we are and being able to live in this world, as Jesus said, to be in this world but not to be of this world. Instead of that, we go around and try to please everybody else and make everybody else’s opinions more important than ourselves. Our whole training is taking us away from our real authentic selves and into this artificial or false self.
That’s what ambition is; it’s the time in life from childhood up, usually, into adulthood but not always, when we are obsessed with accumulating, with achieving, with winning our reputation, with believing that we are separate from everyone else and even believing that we’re separate from God. The problem with living your life by ambition is that if you believe that you are what you have, then when you don’t have something you aren’t.
If you believe that you are what you do and your job is taken away or you lose something, then your value is taken away as well. If you believe that you are what other people think of you, the problem with that is that when other people change their minds and think something about you that you don’t like, then you become depressed or things aren’t working for you.
That’s putting all your value in things external to yourself, and that’s ambition. That’s what we do, and almost everyone can identify with that. We were put into schools and told we have to get good grades, that’s it’s important to have your friends like you and to get the right work and so on, but there’s something missing in that. I call this part that is missing, the third word in this title, ‘to’.
That implies moving to something else other than just identifying yourself on the basis of your accumulations, achievement and reputation. In the Tao it teaches us to do very little. The Tao teaches us to accumulate nothing and to let go of everything. The Tao teaches us this most important line, What you think of me is none of my business. Most people, Cheryl, have inside of them someplace a calling of some kind. I call it ‘not dying with your music still in you’.
It’s getting to a place in your life where you know that you came here to play some music, you came here to do something, that there’s a calling for that, and it has nothing to do with how much money you’re going to make or what other people think of you or whether you accumulate things or not. Those are things that you don’t even chase after in that inner space of meaning.
You begin to make a shift, and the shift is the fourth part of the title, ‘meaning’; ‘From Ambition to Meaning’. ‘Meaning’ becomes the place that Maslow called the very top of the pyramid. This is the place where you are living your life on purpose, where you truly know inside of your heart that you’re fulfilled. This is where you have passion. This is what passion means, when you’re connected to your source, you’re connected to God, and you know what you’re doing.
I’ve used the metaphor that I talked about on my public television special. In Leo Tolstoy’s famous short story, The Death of Ivan Ilytch, Ivan Ilytch was a man who was a judge in Russia, and he would go back and forth every day to work. He hated his work, and he despised his wife because he believed that it was his wife who got him this job in the first place and who was responsible for him not living out his destiny and fulfilling the dharma that he felt was his.
He got to the end of his life and he was lying on his deathbed. He looked up at his wife, who was holding his hand, this woman with whom he’d been angry his entire life, and his last words to her were, What if my whole life has been wrong? and then he died. I remember I was 19 years old and in the Navy when I read that. I wrote a note to myself, Dear Wayne, don’t die with your music still in you.
You came here to play something. Don’t let yourself get so absorbed in doing other people’s bidding, in fulfilling a dharma or a destiny that other people are imposing on you. Even if nobody understands it, grasps it, or gets it, it doesn’t matter as long as you know within you that you are enthusiastic, connected to your source, and that you’re not hurting anybody else in the process.
I encourage and hope a lot of people, when they see this film, will walk out of that film and say, I did come here to play something, some music, and I’m not going to allow myself to be trapped by all of the external things, all of the external appearances. That’s a long answer, but that’s what that means.
CHERYL RICHARDSON: That’s a great way to really cover the whole journey. As I was listening to you, I was thinking that the upside of ambition is that it leads us to this place of discontent. That, then, becomes an opening for raising our level of consciousness, it sounds like, so that suddenly we’re open meaning. I wonder, as I’m listening to you, two things: Can that journey be sped up in some way, and should we want to speed that journey up? Does that make sense?
WAYNE DYER: It does make sense. Here’s one of the things I’ve learned in my 68 years. That means, by the way, that when I graduated from high school, you were born. I can’t believe that! I’m just figuring that out. This is something you have to learn. In the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu holy book, they talk about being able to fuse the dichotomies. The great spiritual teachers have always said this. It’s a very difficult concept to come to grips with, which is to live with two opposing ideas at the same time.
For example, there’s the idea that we have a free will and we’re making choices, and the opposite idea that our destiny is all taken care of for us. Those are two conflicting ideas, but you have to meld the two of them together. Carl Jung specified this beautifully in the early 1950s. He said that at the same moment that you are a protagonist in your own life and you’re making choices, at the very same moment you’re also the spear carrier or the extra in a much larger drama.
He also said, All of you are doomed to make choices. That’s such a paradox; but I’ve studied the Tao for the last two or three years and the Tao is filled with paradoxes. How can you be doomed-everything taken care of for you-and have to make choices in the same context? What you’re speaking about is the same thing. There’s this idea of being able to be content with where you are. Contentment is a big part of the teachings of Lao Tzu. Contentment is just to be satisfied, to be happy, not to always be trying to get someplace else.
It’s a big part of what Buddhism is all about: to suspend your desires, to live in the moment, to trust your nature. Then the other part of that is improvement, which is what you were speaking about in your question. This is the idea of moving from ambition to meaning, and we assume it’s better to be ‘in meaning’ than it is to be ‘in ambition’. Can we be in a state of ambition, trying to get someplace else, and meaning, being content with where we are at the same time?
You have to fuse those two dichotomies. You have to bring them together. You have to live with those two opposites. The whole universe is like that. In fact, every single person listening to this recording right now is a major paradox. You’re in a body, and you take it with you wherever you go. This body had a beginning, has an end, has a substance, has form, has beginnings, and all of the stuff of the material world of 10,000 things in it. You can touch it, see it and get hold of it.
At the very same moment that you are all of those things in this material world, in this corporeal world you’re in, you’re also an invisibleness. The thoughts you’re having, how you’re processing what I’m saying to you right now and all of that invisible, amorphous stuff, you can go inside and look in the brain to see what you are; but where do these thoughts come from?
You’re visible and invisible. You’re form and you’re formless. You’re both boundaries and boundary-less. You’re all of that. It’s like fusing the dichotomy. Now you go back to what we’re talking about and you get into this place of ambition. You get to a place where you can step outside of who you are and begin to observe yourself. You can be ambitious about having meaning. It sounds like it would be a contradictory thing, but the fact is I don’t think I’m not ambitious right now.
I get more done now than I’ve ever gotten done in my life: creating books, writing all the time, living a very fulfilled life, making money, giving lectures, and doing all the kinds of things I do, but there’s a part of me that is so content and peaceful with who I am and what I’m doing that I know this is the music I came here to play. I’m ambitious, but I’m ambitious not so much about accumulation.
My teacher was Abraham Maslow. I was blessed to have one of the great spiritual teachers of the last century as a mentor of mine. Maslow speaks of self-actualization, higher awareness and higher levels of consciousness. He said there are two major things that identify a person who is living an enlightened life. One is that they are independent of the good opinion of other people; that is, they don’t do what they do for a reputation.
Two, and even more importantly, they are detached from the outcome. When you’re in ambition, most of the time you’re doing what you do because of the outcome. You may be writing to see how many books you can sell, how much money you’re going to make, how good the reviews are going to be, whether or not it’s going to be a success, whether or not it’s going to be on the bestseller list, or how many weeks it’s going to be on.
You get into all that kind of stuff, doing it for outcome for whatever job you have. As you then begin to shift into meaning you begin to detach from outcome. It doesn’t mean you stop working; it doesn’t mean you don’t have ambition any longer, but you’re not doing it for that reason any longer. You let the money come to you. You let the reviews say what they’re going to say.
Whether people buy or don’t buy isn’t really of a major concern to you any longer. That’s the shift that takes place. You become ambitious about living a life of meaning and being totally here, completely, here in the now and not consumed with trying to get someplace else. You stop striving and you start arriving. Ambition is about striving, trying to get someplace else.
Arriving is about living your life with meaning. Then the really big shift that takes place in meaning is that you stop doing things because of what is in it for you; you begin to put more of your focus on serving. Lao Tzu calls this ‘living the virtues’, and one of the great virtues is just called service. Whatever it is that you want for yourself, suspend that ego part of yourself and want it more for somebody else or other people than you want it for yourself.
Ironically, when you start living that way all the stuff that you used to chase after starts arriving in your life in amounts larger than you can even handle, and you just keep it circulating. Then you’re living in harmony with God.
CHERYL RICHARDSON: I have 17,000 questions I want to ask, but let me ask you this, Wayne. When you talk about this beautiful transition from ambition to meaning, I totally get what you’re saying, and I think it’s just beautiful. I think it’s important for people to realize that you dance in and out of that as you’re moving toward meaning. I wonder if you can remember in your own life-maybe some specific examples that the listener would really benefit from hearing-about the way your thinking began to change, the way your expectations may have begun to change, the way your specific actions may have begun to change as you were making that transition from ambition to meaning.
WAYNE DYER: Absolutely. I can tell you the day and the date and the time. It was …
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