Wayne Dyer joined James Altucher to talk about writing books, quantum moments, and self-reliance. Dyer is the author of over forty books including; The Power of Intention, Wishes Fulfilled, and his most recent, I Can See Clearly Now.
The interview begins with Dyer relating some interesting experiences about his first book, Your Erroneous Zones. He tells James that the book was banned in Poland. To get orders there, he shipped orders to London and the books were smuggled over the border.
Before he wrote Erroneous Zones, Dyer was the author of three textbooks. A future in academics was laid out before him but in a “quantum moment” on the Long Island Expressway, Dyer realized he couldn’t take tenure. He felt an urge to teach people, to teach many people, and it wasn’t through academics. He had bigger plans, and hit the road.
“I was told there was only one way to reach everybody in America,” he tells James, “get on the syndicated shows.” But he was turned away again and again. No one wanted to have him on. Dyer faced a challenge to his self reliance. There might be another way to reach everyone in America, he tells James. “It’s a little more tedious, but it’s also a little more fun. And that’s to go to everyone in America.” Packing up his car and his books, Dyer was off.
Dyer tells James that a quote from Virginia Woolf that helped his thinking, “arrange whatever pieces come your way.” For Dyer this meant not be discouraged, dissuaded, or dissatisfied that he wasn’t getting on television. It meant to take this as an opportunity, not a problem.
Ryan Holiday (episode #18) told James a similar thing. Holiday’s examples come from stoicism and in his book he quotes Marcus Aurelius:
”The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Dyer tells James that he’s had a burning desire to teach people these ideas. He picked up this idea from Napoleon Hill, who wrote, “There is one quality which one must possess to win, and that is definiteness of purpose, the knowledge of what one wants, and a burning desire to possess it.”
A more example is modern metaphor is Eric Thomas who compares the desire for something to the desire to breathe.
Dyer tells James that when he looks back, he saw he had this attitude when he was younger. “I’ve never been unemployed” he tells James. He was always able to hustle for something, from yard work to bagging groceries. The idea that work can be found if you’re willing to work isn’t an antique of Dyer’s youth. It’s still happening today. In episode 11 of the Upvoted podcast u/huckstah tells his story about being a vagabond. He notes that in ten years of traveling, he’s always been able to find work.
Getting this attitude/mindset/POV takes a bit of work, but anybody can do it. Dyer asks hypothetically, when I got up this morning and brushed my teeth, poured a glass of orange juice, and took my vitamins, did I think about those things? No. Those things are subconscious actions that we just do.
Tim Ferriss (episode #22) says much the same thing, noting that “some of the impossibles are negotiable.” So too says T. Harv Eker (episode #100) who told James, we have these pre programmed beliefs, “and we don’t even recognize the program running us.” This trio, Ferriss, Eker, and Dyer offer the inspiration if you want to change your thoughts.
When he started writing I Can See Clearly Now, Dyer says, “I wanted to get people to step back and look from a distance at these things that have taken place in their lives. The good, the bad. The diamonds and the stones.” He wanted people to look back and see that those things were directing you to a life you were meant to live. A life you were aligned for.
Dyer tells James that he’s felt this way ever since he was a boy. He used to go down to his basement and watch the show Life is Worth Living, which he jokes to James, could be the subtitle of any of his books. And thanks to YouTube, anyone can watch.
Dyer’s education culminated in graduate school where a friend gave him, A Guide to Rational Living. “It was completely life changing for me,” Dyer says, “I don’t think I went anywhere without it for three years.”
Another transformative moment was watching an experiment that’s recounted in Bruce Lipton’s Biology of Belief. You can see Lipton explain some ideas here:
And Dyer has been writing ever since. At sixty-five he was getting signs that he should begin reading the Tao Te Ching. “Some call it the wisest book ever written” Dyer tells James and wanted to live it. Each week Dyer says, he would read one passage and meditate on it for four days. Then he would sit down and write what he felt. That experience became the book, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life.
The common thread to the stories of Dyer, James, and other guests is that each of them take life as it’s presented and make the best of it. They recognize that the struggles are part of who they are. “I can look back to when I went dead broke and lost my house and talk about how this was ultimately a positive thing, even though it felt really horrible at the time” says Altucher.
This was what happened to Rich Roll (episode #107). Roll was overweight, an addict, and struggling in his relationships. He had to go through that to get to this.
Astro Teller (episode #81) told James this was true for his marriage. His first one wasn’t great, but he had to go through that, get divorced, and remarried to be in the happier place he is now. Former NBA coach Pat Riley wrote, “Sometimes the breakthroughs aren’t the pretty moments. Sometimes losing is more constructive than winning.”
But the suffering can be helpful because it’s one Dyer’s paths to enlightenment.
- Enlightenment through suffering. Dyer says, “You go through these experiences and ten years or so go by, and you look back and you say, I know why I had to have them.” He’s not the only one. Megan McArdle wrote The Up Side of Down where she notes that many people come out of bad situations better than they went in. “Handle it right, and failure can be the best thing that ever happened to you” McArdle writes, and give examples from divorce, incarceration, video games, and economic markets.
- Enlightenment in the present moment. This sounds like an awareness of being able to look around and learn in the most chaotic of times. Dyer says that on this path you say, “whatever it is I have to learn from this, I’ll accept.”
- Enlightenment by getting out in front. This is a “honed intuition” where you can see how a situation might play itself out and you act to get the best outcome. For example, rather than be right in a fight with your spouse, be kind.
James asks what Dyer would suggest to get unstuck and Dyer says that he should find something that makes him feel good. He tells the story of meeting a flutist who told him that she had always been moved by the sound of a flute. She told Dyer, “I began to play, I began to write about it, I became an expert, I joined an orchestra.” It was the thing that made her feel good, and if you find something that makes you feel good, but doesn’t infringe on someone else’s ability to feel good, take that as a sign Dyer says.
And don’t think you ever stop learning and growing. James says that too many people feel like they are done learning in school. No, keep going. Maria Popova (episode #89) has built her career around this very idea.
Their conversation ends when Dyer says to think about your physical self. It’s your only physical self. You won’t ever be taller or shorter. You won’t look like a model or you’ll never have less hairy arms. This is the you, you get. But doesn’t say anything about what you can do. Jack Canfield (episode #90) told James the story of a friend who always wanted to be in the NBA, and now he is. But he’s not playing. He’s in the front office and loves it. He found a way to make it using his mind rather than his body.
“Extend this metaphor to the other parts of your life” Dyer says. If you can take your body and do your best with it, can you take your thoughts, attitudes, and perspectives and do the best with those too? That’s the question he wants you to answer.
Thanks for reading. If you want to connect, I’m @mikedariano.
Two extra notes, Dyer mentions the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Second, notice the details of the examples for people who do things that make them feel good. Dyer’s own experiences begin with years of adversity, followed by years of schooling, followed by years of writing and research before he wrote a bestselling book. Dyer had the collection of experience to do that. The flutist he mentions also takes the path of building up skills before following a passion. Following your passion the right way is one of the big ideas here.