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The project unfolds
My identity crisis at age twenty-seven was the first step in a long journey that would eventually result in writing this book. But this is not a book about me. Nor is it a dry, drab self-help book. In fact, you’ll probably find that it’s unlike any other book you’ve read.
The amount of research and painstaking trial and error that went into creating this program is mind-boggling. This book is the culmination of over ten thousand hours of intensive study and a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of research and development, done in order to ensure that you get the best, most cutting-edge information available today. What started out as a hobby nearly fifteen years ago has turned into a full-blown obsession. Since that time I’ve studied, analyzed, and modeled more than eleven hundred of history’s most successful people—ranging from Gandhi and Mother Teresa to Kid Rock and P. Diddy, from Lincoln and Franklin to Emeril and Oprah. I’ve interviewed astronauts, diplomats, professional athletes, Fortune 500 executives, former POWs, and successful entrepreneurs. My mission: to uncover the universal secrets of success and learn how these top achievers discovered their gifts, their passion, and their purpose—and then share this wisdom with you.
However, you must understand that this book is just the beginning of your journey. It will provide you with a basic understanding of the concepts and strategies that form the foundation of the system I’ve developed. It is designed to arouse awareness and inspire deep thought. The book by itself cannot change your life, but the ideas and information expressed in this book will—as long as you are willing to keep an open mind, ask yourself the tough questions, and, most important, take action!
This is a journey we cannot complete alone. Thus, I strongly encourage you to invite a few friends to read this book along with you. Having a group of friends to brainstorm and bounce ideas around with will make this trip much easier and a lot more fun. This book contains a wide variety of stories about everyday people who became heroes by overcoming adversity and squeezing every ounce of opportunity from their gift. I hope these stories will provide more than just entertainment. I hope you’ll connect with the experiences of these people and realize that if they can build a successful life from humble beginnings, your circumstances probably aren’t so bad after all. I hope these stories make you realize that you too are a very special person with a unique gift.
As Americans today, we are the recipients of a windfall of opportunities that few generations have known. Because of the tremendous sacrifices made by our ancestors, most of us have the luxury of not having to worry about putting food on the table, clothes on our back, or a roof over our head.
Thus, we have no excuses. We owe it to ourselves and to those who cleared the path before us to make the most of our opportunity to create a life worth living. It is both my honor and privilege to act as your guide on this amazing journey. I guarantee that if you are as committed and passionate about discovering your gift and uncovering your purpose as I am, there is nothing in the world that can stop us. So let’s make it happen!
WORDS OF WISDOM
A man can stand almost anything except a succession of ordinary days.
Johann von Goethe
QUESTION TO CONTEMPLATE
Are you really LIVING life?
2 What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson Find the Fire Within
What gets you fired up? What gets your heart pumping and your juices flowing? Is it success? Money? Accolades? Winning? Happiness? Leisure? Power? Prestige? Big houses, fancy cars, important titles, and a little “bling-bling” are all nice, but they don’t produce the high-octane rocket fuel we need to launch us on a path toward lasting success and happiness in life.
Why do Bill Gates and Warren Buffett continue to get up early each morning to go to work? Why did Michael Jordan come out of retirement not once, but twice after he had already made his mark in the record books? Why does Jane Goodall continue living part of her life in the jungles of Africa when she has already contributed so much?
The reason is surprisingly simple: happiness in life is not about money, fame, recognition, or even competition. Successful people love what they do and feel compelled to express the best that is within them. They don’t strive to be better than their neighbors or contemporaries—they strive to be better than themselves. For them, pushing the threshold of their “gifts potential” is reward enough.
If you truly desire to be the best you can be, you must find the fire within yourself. It’s intrinsic; it must come from within you. It’s bigger than a goal or a dream, it’s expressing who you truly are and proving to yourself—and the world—what you are capable of achieving. I honestly don’t believe there’s a single unmotivated person in the world. What most people call unmotivated, I call uninspired. What most people call lazy, I call bored. And there’s always hope for these uninspired, bored people. But there’s only one way for them to find it: discover their gift, pursue their passion, and catch a glimpse of their true potential.
Among the many gifts we are blessed with is the gift of vocation—our life’s work. True genius is created when we discover our gift and express our passion in our profession. I can think of no better example to highlight this point than the man featured in our next story.
“If you pour your heart into your work, or into any worthy enterprise, you can achieve dreams others may think impossible.”
Style and sophistication, now Howard Schultz’s trademarks, were in short supply where he grew up. His family of five lived in a cramped two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn’s Bayview Projects—a cluster of high-rise apartment buildings inhabited by the working poor, who were looked down upon by other Flatbush residents.
Young Howard played sports, worshipped Mickey Mantle, and started earning money at age twelve to help out with the family’s tight finances. His dad, a World War II veteran, held a series of blue-collar jobs but “never found himself, never had a plan for his life.” Howard didn’t have much of a plan either, except to escape the struggle his parents lived with every day: he had to get out of the projects. Fortunately, quarterbacking for his high school football team won him a scholarship to Northern Michigan University, a thousand miles—and light-years—away.
His college pigskin career didn’t amount to much, but thanks to loans and part-time jobs, four years later he became his family’s first college graduate. Though he still had no direction, getting out of Brooklyn had given him the courage to keep dreaming. After college, he stayed in Michigan and worked at a ski lodge. He took time to think about his future, but no inspiration came. After a year, he went back to New York and landed a job as a salesperson for Xerox. “I sold a lot of machines and outperformed many of my peers,” he recalls. “But I can’t say I ever developed a passion for word processors.”
He moved on to Hammarplast, a Swedish housewares firm, and became vice president in charge of U.S. operations. Now only six years out of college, he earned a substantial salary, owned an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and rented a summer house in the Hamptons. “So no one—especially my parents—could understand why I was getting antsy. But I sensed something was missing. I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny.”
In 1981, while still working for the Swedish firm, Howard noticed that one of his customers, a small retailer in Seattle, was doing brisk business in a particular line of drip coffee machines. He flew out to investigate and fell hopelessly in love with what he saw: a narrow storefront with a violinist playing Mozart at the entrance. “The minute the door opened, a heady aroma of coffee reached out and drew me in. I stepped inside and saw what looked like a temple for the worship of coffee.” Behind a worn counter stood bins of coffee beans from Sumatra, Kenya, Costa Rica—all over the world—“at a time when most people thought coffee came from a can, not a bean.” Immediately, Schultz knew that this store and this town were his mecca. This was where he wanted to be and what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
And the rest, as they say, is entrepreneurial history—though it was hardly smooth sailing at first.
Despite Schultz’s enthusiasm, the firm didn’t want to hire him. The owners thought his New Yorkish style and his big plans would clash with the small-is-beautiful culture they worked so hard to maintain. But in what would later turn out to be a major turning point in Schultz’s life, he refused to accept no for an answer.
Though rebuffed, he went back again and finally persuaded the owners to change their minds and hire him as their marketing director. “Life is a series of near misses,” he reflected in his book Pour Your Heart into It. “But a lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It’s seeing what other people don’t see and pursuing that vision, no matter who tells you not to.”
So he gave up his fancy New York lifestyle—the comfortable salary, prestige, company car, and fancy apartment—and went to work for a small Seattle company that operated four coffee stores. Not long after he took the job, while attending a business convention in Milan, Italy, he stumbled across an espresso bar and again was swept away. Except this time it wasn’t just the coffees or the store itself, but the family-like community that gathered there and created an atmosphere pulsating with energy, music, and camaraderie. He immediately knew he could—he must—bring the concept of Italian café life back to America. “It was an emotional experience. I believed intuitively we could do it. I felt it in my bones.”
At first, the firm’s owners resisted, but eventually Schultz’s persistence won out. They sold him the company, and it became—have you already guessed?—Starbucks, now with more than ten thousand locations around the world and over six billion dollars in annual sales. Through Schultz’s leadership, Starbucks has become more than just a phenomenally successful business venture; it is an icon embodying all that is good in corporate America—honesty, integrity, and a deep compassion for its customers and its “partners” (employees). “Success,” he argues, “should not be measured in dollars; it’s about how you conduct the journey and how big your heart is at the end of it.” For instance, when three Starbucks employees were murdered in a botched robbery in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, Schultz chartered a plane and arrived the next morning to work with police, console the victims’ families, and attend the funerals. He also decreed that all future profits from that store would be donated to organizations working for victims’ rights and violence protection.
Now that Schultz, a reputed billionaire and lead owner of the Seattle Supersonics pro basketball team, has come out of the projects to run one of the world’s most respected companies, he wants to “inspire people to pursue their dreams. I come from common roots, with no silver spoon, no pedigree, no early mentors. I dared to dream big dreams, and then I willed them to happen. I’m convinced most people can achieve their dreams and beyond if they have the determination to keep trying.”
Wishing upon a star won’t get you very far
Schultz knew the difference between a hope or wish and a burning desire to make a dream come true. Yet when most people are asked about their future, they say something like, “I hope to be able to retire early.” Or “I wish I could find a more enjoyable job that pays well.” They don’t realize that “hoping” and “wishing” are as futile as dreaming without acting. These are probably the same people who throw down a buck and hope to win a million in the lottery, or would like their marriage to improve, or wish they would lose weight, but don’t take steps to make it happen. To hope or wish is to expect something without earning it. It just doesn’t work.
The trick to realizing a dream is to get beyond wishing and hoping by igniting a burning desire. To start, examine your thoughts. Are you “success conscious”? Cognitive psychologists have shown that “outlook” governs “outcome,” and what we focus on is often what we get. When we focus on bad things, bad things tend to happen. When we focus on good things, good things tend to happen.
For example, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was stricken with polio at age thirty-nine, everyone—including his family and closest friends—urged him to retire. “No one is going to vote for a handicapped politician,” they said. Fortunately for us and for the rest of the world, Roosevelt refused to listen. He focused on the positive—and look how far it took him and his country.
Or take Albert Einstein. His seventh-grade teacher’s prediction that young Albert “would never get anywhere in life” produced a burning discontent in the boy that became the fuel for his fire. Despite setbacks in school, he persevered, and, of course, his ideas eventually changed the world.
A burning desire (running toward something) or a burning discontent (running away from something) springs from friction or tension. This tension could be anything from dissatisfaction with where you are in life to a lust for something more.
For instance, a young boy named Joyce C. Hall was deserted by his father at age seven. When he was eight, young Hall was forced to take a job as a cook and a nurse’s assistant to help the family survive. By age nine, he was already a door-to-door salesman selling cheap perfume. His burning discontent was hatred of his life of poverty, but in trying to overcome it he discovered his gift: persuading people to buy what he was selling. Now all he needed was a product he could be passionate about. By age eighteen, he had found it—and today Hallmark Cards sends warm wishes worldwide and earns more than four billion dollars a year.
Do you have a burning desire or a burning discontent? If so, you probably know that it’s buttressed by determination, unquestioned faith and belief in your abilities, and the courage to act in the face of fear.
To take your burning desire or burning discontent to the next level, here are a few suggestions:
nMake it precise. State clearly what it is you’re fleeing from or running toward.
nMake it come alive in your imagination. Visualize. See yourself—in full color and exacting detail—achieving the desired result.
nMake it intense. The more vivid you make the image, the stronger your desire will be. And the stronger your desire or discontent, the more determined you’ll become.
nMake it inescapable. Leave yourself no possibility of retreat—no plan B. Failure cannot be an option.
nMake it happen. Now that you know exactly what you want and can vividly see it, go after it!
Give life to your dreams
I’ve found that many people are afraid to give life to their dreams. Why? Maybe because they fear that what lives invariably dies. And if their dreams die, so does hope. Not being able to bear the death of hope, they shy away from stating their deepest desires. They don’t share their dreams with their friends or even with their families because they don’t want to be laughed at.
Dreams that are not openly stated are hardly dreams at all. Proclaim your dreams to one and all, and set yourself on a path to see them realized. Be bold, be brave, be persistent—but also be patient. As Howard Schultz said, “It took years before I found my passion in life. Each step after that discovery was a quantum leap into something unknown, each move riskier than the last.”
WORDS OF WISDOM
The greatest tragedy of life is not death. It’s what dies within us while we’re still alive.
INSPIRATION TO REMEMBER
QUESTION TO CONTEMPLATE
If you could get paid to do anything you loved, what would it be?
3 We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Aristotle Are Your Life Patterns Holding You Hostage?
“Citizens, who should be your president?” the South American dictator asks the throng of people below his palace balcony.
“We want you! We want you!” they shout in unison.
“And how long should I be president?”
“President for life! President for life!” they roar.
“And what should I be paid?” he asks, smiling.
“Everything we have! Everything we have!” they roar still louder.
“My people,” says the dictator, “I am deeply moved by your faith in my leadership. I accept your election to the presidency of our great nation. Now, everyone who voted for me can lower their hands and move away from the wall.”
How’s that for democracy? Too many of us fall into the trap of living our lives as if we had a gun to our head. And the irony is that we’re usually the ones holding the gun! Without recognizing it, we often put our joy and peace of mind at risk by unknowingly choosing life patterns that are inherently flawed.
At some point in our life—perhaps even now—we hold ourselves hostage to our career ambitions, our need to be happy at the expense of others, our need to look good, our desire to have the latest and best simply because it is the latest and best. We make ourselves hostages to the need to win—whether at business, a game, or simple conversation—and hostages to the need to be popular and liked.
By definition, hostages aren’t free, and they certainly aren’t happy. Why do we do this? Why do we choose life patterns guaranteed to keep us “unfree” and ultimately unhappy? We do it mainly because we haven’t firmed up a clear-sighted inner self that knows what’s really valuable and what’s not. So we pick up our values at random from our surroundings, our associates, and our culture. And more times than not, these are the same values that indirectly cause so much pain and discontent in our lives.
Writing your own story
We’re all in the process of writing our own stories. Filled with hundreds of characters, large and small, our tales are unbelievably complex, laced with plots and subplots. Every day we write another page, sometimes barely noticing what we’ve written. On and on we write, without the slightest clue about how we want our story to end. How will your story end—in triumph or in tragedy? Will it take some strange twist in the last chapter or on the last page? The fact is, you’ve already unknowingly sketched out much of your ending, and the clues exist on every page. If you read carefully between the lines, the patterns will tell you how your story will end. For example, what’s your usual reaction to times of stress? Or, for that matter, to times of happiness? Are you generally quick to anger? Slow to forgive? Defensive? How much do you reveal about yourself and how much do you withhold? How—and with whom—do you choose to spend your free time? What consumes your thoughts? The patterns are definitely there, and they don’t lie. Troubled marriages, delinquent kids, bankruptcy, obesity, and other failures don’t just show up on our doorstep. They’re carefully written into our life script one page at a time, and we’re doing most of the writing! But more often than not, we still don’t see where our story is heading.
Having the freedom and opportunity to sculpt one’s own life is a blessing few people in previous generations have known. Having the power to write our own story can be both frightening and overwhelming. But it should be a source of immense hope, because we can change that last chapter. We can change our story’s ending by changing what we write today—one little word at a time.
“A lot of people told me that this was an impossible dream.”
Like many seven-year-old boys, young Franklin Chang-Diaz dreamed big.
From the Hardcover edition.
Posted June 21, 2005
I am only half way throught this book, but it has been a pleasure to read. Brian has done his homework on the research for this book. He has taken the time to really search for meaningful living. He also does an excellent job giving really good examples of people we all know and how they developed their gifts.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 13, 2005
This book was amazing, it combined everything all in one; inspiration, guidance, and examples. Out of all the self-help books I've read for the past 3 years or so (and I've read at least one a month!) this by far, tops them all. Give it a try, and you'll be hooked!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 23, 2005
I've been reading these books for years and can say without a doubt that Become Who You Were Born to Be is the best of the bunch! The advice/info is incredible and the stories are great too. My wife even loves it and she hasn't read a book in over 10 years!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 27, 2005
If you're stuck in a rut like I was - Become Who You Were Born to Be is definitely the book for you! I couldn't put it down. This is probably the only book I've ever read in one sitting. This book will make you want to jump out of your seet and do something with your life! Kudos to Brian Souza for a job well done.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 9, 2005
How very inspiring of a book! Finally someone one who effortlessly puts into words what many of us are feeling. Brian does a phenomenal job of using ordinary examples that turned into extraordinary results. Moreover, he challenges us to challenge ourselves. Not a 'get up and do it' book but rather a journey. It enlightens us to the fact that our search isn¿t ¿out there¿ but inside of us. That an inquisition of our own character will reveal the keys to our happiness. And that the happiness that we have found on that journey will allow us to focus our energies on our true passions in life- business or otherwise. Quick and easy read that is well worth it. You won¿t be the same after it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 6, 2005
The simple concept that we all have greatness and that to access this we must find out what our gift is, meticulously focus and nurture it is perhaps the most clearly expressed plan for success I have ever encountered. This is an incredibly inspiring book. It is packed with true life stories of some well known and other relatively obscure people that have applied the concepts in the book and succeeded. It is well written and will get anyone in pursuit of a major purpose very excited about their future.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.