Have you heard this story? It’s a long way around to get to the point of this week’s video, but here we go!
As a child, because I felt I did not have a voice at home or receive the attention I craved, I cultivated a Winning Formula based on being funny. I realized early on that people respond to humor, and that if I injected comedy into a given moment, I would receive the attention I felt I would not otherwise receive. My Winning Formula began as the occasional joker, then the class clown, and evolved into being the person who always had a quip ready.
As I grew up, I developed an affable nature and reinforced it with my winning formula, which fueled my leadership skills in school. I was voted class president and then head of the student council. My winning formula helped me receive attention from my peers, fellow students, and teachers – the attention I so desperately craved, but did not receive at home. Because I was considered “funny,” I was invited into social circles, academic clubs, and bonded with my professors, which inspired me to study harder. That led to great scores on my tests and solid grades, which in turn helped me get into some fine universities with academic cred after high school.
But, even when I was awarded the National Merit Scholarship for Academic Excellence, at my acceptance ceremony, the dean asked, “Do you have a joke to tell us?” All this reinforced my commitment to my winning formula.
And the trend continued. After I left school, in the development and reinforcement of my “Winning” Formula, I received the attention, affection, appreciation, and acceptance from my clients, partners, work colleagues, and bosses. In time, even the media began paying attention to me, and soon I was playing on a global stage.
Success unfolded for me in the world of business, as I leveraged my winning formula of humor, adding a lightheartedness to each moment that balanced the more serious, heaviness of my stereotypical type A, Taurus, New York style. It guaranteed that I could always get a word into any conversation, that people would listen to me, and most likely enjoy my company. But I never felt as if they were really listening; they were hearing only the joke.
My humorous persona came to define me, and my contact lenses were so tightly stuck to my eyes, I had no other way to validate my existence than through other people’s laughter. It was the only way I could guarantee that I’d received the attention, affection, appreciation, and acceptance of the world around me.
That’s why I had originally planted that initial seed of my winning formula so many years before. I was just so desperately afraid to risk being liked or loved for just being me.
I had become a master at my winning formula, and it colored everything I thought, said, and did. It was the contact lens I saw the world through—so close, that I didn’t even realize it was there. I had conditioned myself—or to use don Miguel’s phrase, I had “domesticated” myself. Essentially, I had tamed myself to always respond with humor ultimately crafting my persona. But what did it cost me? It cost me my heart, my authenticity, my vulnerability. It cost me intimacy. It cost me the fact that my true voice had never been heard – because I had never trusted that it would be enough.
My contact lenses had been so finely polished that my ego, self-worth, and self-esteem depended on whether or not someone laughed while in my presence. And here’s the rub: I used that very fact to offset my behavior when I was harsh, reactive, insensitive, or impatient. I rationalized in my mind that since I made so many people laugh, smile, or feel good over the course of the day, that it more than offset my more unattractive behaviors. But, deep down, I felt brokenhearted, isolated, and afraid to express my most authentic self.
There was obviously deeper pain that had not worked its way out of me. Rather than addressing it, I had sugarcoated my childhood issues of loneliness, emptiness, worthiness, self-love, and relevance. Instead of being the soft, tender, kinder person I truly wanted to be in my heart of hearts, I had built a fortress to protect me from my deepest, most painful emotions. I had created a powerful excuse to not grow, not evolve, and not transform. My Winning Formula had devolved into my Losing Formula!
The personal paradigm I created as a child so that I could succeed in life was costing me as I grew up. What had delivered me to a pinnacle of “success” right up until my 35th birthday, was now holding me back from being the best version of myself. When I looked in the mirror, I did not see myself as smart, thoughtful, insightful, intelligent, authentic, compassionate, helpful, loving, or supportive – the fundamental traits that I held dear as my Sacred Values. Instead I defined myself as simply funny. Yes. For thirty years, my winning formula had brought me the trappings of what many consider success—a steady paycheck, a loving family, a posse of friends. To look at my life, I should have had everything. But I was miserable. Inside, I was feeling shallow, small, and alone.
Over time I realized that I had built a barrier to receiving love in my heart; I had dumbed down my ability to authentically flow it back out into the world; and I was missing the true depth of connection.
And so it was necessary to re-craft my vision of the world as I saw my life unfolding over the next one, three, five years—essentially emotionally deconstructing and then reconstructing myself. In his self- reflective book, An Invented Life, the American scholar and teacher Warren Bennis wrote, “I believe in self invention. I have to believe in it . . . To be authentic is to literally be your own author . . . to discover your native energies and desires, and find your way of acting on them.” As I read those words, I knew in my heart, it was time to REbirth and change my winning formula. And that phrase—“To be authentic is to literally be your own author”—had just given me the permission I craved! I needed to come back to my core . . . my heart . . . my truth . . . and step into what Bennis referred to as my “native energies and desires,” or my most vulnerable self.
In that moment, I began the process of taking responsibility for all of my life choices from the moment I first stepped from the womb. That was the key. I forgave the little boy who so long ago had made that desperate choice to build a protective wall of humor around his heart. Instead I learned to appreciate him, grateful that he had brought me to my current state. And now here I stood on the platform of my own making, recognizing that what got me here was not going to take me to the next level.
But by finally celebrating the innocent, little boy inside me who had tried to keep me safe… by taking responsibility for every choice I had made along the way—by releasing the joker who had shielded me from the native energy in my heart—I was able to take back my power and fully REbirth.
I’ve never publicly spoken or written so candidly about my past, or the steps I took to REbirth myself. But I feel that you’ll better grasp this process once you know the rawness of the pain that I’ve moved through. Hopefully, my vulnerability will help you go deeper into your own journey of REbirth.
Once I realized I had been looking at so much of my life through this distorted contact lens, I took it out, wiped it clean, and dedicated myself to seeing with “new eyes.” To break the cycle of my conditioning, I needed a powerful pattern interrupt, so I began meditating twice a day – first thing in the morning and at the end of my day.
I developed a gentle morning ritual to open my heart, flow gratitude, and awaken my sacred powers. I made forgiveness an important part of my interactions, embracing the ancient practice of self-kindness, known in the Buddhist traditions as maitri (pronounced may-tree). I immersed into daily emotional healing practices. I surrendered fully to my native energies to flow my most authentic self. And I began to truly live the Five Divine Principles.
And rather than trying to get people to laugh, I found my validation in sharing timeless wisdom. I cultivated a gentle teaching process that was powerful, yet lighthearted, so that my students throughout the world could integrate the depth of this profound knowledge into their own lives with a smile.
As my style crystallized, I realized that I was so much more deeply fulfilled by nods of understanding than by giggles. It didn’t happen overnight. I had many missteps and false starts along the way. But when I got to the point where I had truly awakened my Sacred Powers, authenticity flowed, and the life I had always dreamed about, effortlessly revealed itself.
Like any birth, the process of REbirth can include some prickly discomfort as you hold the mirror up. It requires total self-honesty. But the end result is a magnificent liberation.
The Divine Principle of REbirth has existed for eternity. And there are three sacred powers that have upheld this timeless truth of renewal since man and womankind first walked the earth. Awakening them connects you more closely to the Universe, frees you from emotional constriction, and helps you to step into your power:
- The Sacred Power of Acceptance
- The Sacred Power of Release
- The Sacred Power of New Beginnings
So let’s open the door to the Divine Principle of REbirth, and walk this magnificent path together by first awakening the Sacred Power of Acceptance in our lives!!! In the meantime, you can read more about my personal journey in my latest book Sacred Powers.
davidji is a globally recognized mindbody health & wellness expert, mindful performance trainer, meditation teacher & author of Amazon’s Best Seller destressifying: The Real-World Guide to Personal Empowerment, Lasting Fulfillment, and Peace of Mind, Sacred Powers: The Five Secrets to Transformation and Secrets of Meditation: A Practical Guide to Inner Peace & Personal Transformation, & winner of the Nautilus Book Award. Connect with him on . davidji.com Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Image courtesy of Steinar Engeland.