More often than not, our own mental obstacles are holding us back from the joy, fulfillment, and meaning that we all crave, but by retooling our perspectives, we gain the ability to see the path toward the life we truly desire. Charlie Harary, business executive, professor, speaker, and radio host, combines the wisdom of science, spirituality, and personal growth in practical and understandable terms so you can take the life you have and make it the life you want.
Everyone has the extraordinary capacity to transform their life. And it’s easier to do than you might think—in order to get what you want, to achieve that sense of greater life satisfaction, all you need to do is learn how to best use the resources you already have. Based on the latest research into the brain’s neuroplasticity, analysis of ancient wisdom, and exploration of the practices of today’s greatest achievers, Harary offers guidance and inspiration so you can break through the clutter and confusion of your life and find your true purpose.
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About the Author
Mark Dagostino is a #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor who has worked with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Hulk Hogan, and Rudy Ruettiger, among others.
Read an Excerpt
WHY AM I PERPETUALLY UNSATISFIED?
What do you want?”
The silent pause after I posed that question seemed to blot out every other noise in the city.
We had been sitting at Starbucks for over an hour. I was on my second Venti-size refill. Outside, a sea of pedestrians weaved hurriedly around the nearly stationary pillars of tourists who clogged the sidewalks gawking at tall buildings and dazzled by lights. It struck me that even Starbucks is different in New York City. It adapts to keep up with the intensity. Customers move as if on an assembly line, shouting complex orders of made-up coffee names while maintaining conversations on their earpieces and simultaneously checking their smartphones.
Dave and I sat by the window. He’d asked me to meet him here to talk about problems he was having at work. He wanted my advice, he said. But our conversation quickly turned to a discussion about the unhappy state of his family and then to himself.
Dave was my college buddy. Back in the day, if I were a betting man I would have bet the house that Dave would be running the world by the time he was 40. He wasn’t just smart; he was mad smart. He also happened to be good-looking, athletic, and comfortable being the center of attention. Yet now, as he approached his 40th birthday, his life was unraveling. His job as a Wall Street banker had stalled, his marriage was on the rocks, and his three kids—well, let’s just say he might still have a chance with his youngest.
He had achieved what so many people consider “the dream,” complete with a picture-perfect family, a beautiful home, a distinguished career, and season tickets to his favorite team. Yet now, to him, it felt like it was all falling apart. Dave came to me trying to help plug a hole in what seemed like the breaking of a dam.
What he didn’t realize was that he already had the power to not only to plug the hole, but stop the crumbling altogether; to build a much stronger, more powerful dam, complete with a turbine to reenergize everything he wanted out of life.
The question he needed to answer first, though, was: “What do you want?”
“I told you,” he said. “To make more money, to improve my marriage, to—”
“No,” I cut him off. I didn’t want to hear some recitation of everyone’s life goals. “Can you dig a little deeper?” I pushed. “Stop saying the things you are supposed to say. You have so much and yet so little. You have what looks like a really great life, and you’re miserable. Why? What is it you really want but don’t have?”
With all of my training as an attorney, I have a hard time letting silence linger, especially when I sense weakness. But I let it sit there as the lightning-paced world around us seemed to fade away.
“I don’t know,” he finally said.
“That’s your problem,” I responded, smiling as if I had just helped him.
We wouldn’t come to an answer that day. The noise of the crowd rushed back in, and the conversation ended with Dave feeling rather deflated. I promised we would follow up. I told him he had made a great start. Admitting that he didn’t know what he wanted and that he didn’t really know how to fix any of his problems was the start of a great journey for him—a journey that I would gladly help him complete.
I knew it was better for him to be deflated and real than to keep up the charade he’d kept up for so long.
The thing is, I’ve had this same conversation with dozens of friends and acquaintances in recent years. In fact, I’m guessing I could pull any random person out of almost any Starbucks line in the world, sit them down, and have nearly the same conversation with them, too.
Just as I’m pretty sure I could have a similar conversation with you.
Welcome to life in the modern world: a world in which most people have more wealth, knowledge, and technology (not to mention access to untold amounts of fresh-brewed coffee) than their ancestors could have ever dreamed for themselves. A world in which we have so much but so little. A world in which we seem to have it all, except for the ability to process it. A world in which we are constantly reaching for something, yet never seem to catch it—because we’re not even sure what “it” is.
A world in which we are perpetually unsatisfied.
How bad have things become? The symptoms could hardly be more evident: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the prescribing of antidepressants has risen nearly 400 percent since 1988.1 More than 10 percent of Americans over age 12 take an antidepressant.2 That means more than one in 10 of us are taking a pill just to get through the day. And the fact is, more than 66 percent of severely depressed people aren’t even included in that number, because they aren’t taking antidepressants at all.3
Those are huge numbers, and yet I would argue that there are far more of us walking around with a feeling that makes those numbers seem small. There’s a pervasive sense of malaise in the developed world—a sense of worry, of dread, of fear, of helplessness, of an inability to find the capacity to change or to feel better or to get out of our own way that all adds up to something bordering on, or perhaps even surpassing, what we colloquially define as depression.
So if you thought it was just you feeling this way, I hope there’s some solace in knowing it’s not. It’s all of us. This problem is not just personal or communal—it’s societal.
The world has developed so rapidly since the late 1980s that it seems impossible to take it all in. Our access to everything has exploded. Health and wealth have increased significantly. Meanwhile, crime and poverty, have decreased.
According to every indicator, we should be overwhelmed with happiness. There is still pain and suffering in the world, of course, but compared to life 25 years ago, let alone a hundred or a thousand years ago, we are doing great.
So why are we less happy, less satisfied, more fed up, and far less enthused about our day-to-day existence than ever before?
WE ARE ENTERING A NEW ERA Decades from now, we’ll look back and recognize that this period we’re in is one of the most transformative in human history—and you’re a part of it, whether you like it or not.
We are in the midst of experiencing the shift to a digital age, a massive technological revolution that has transformed the way we interact with each other and the world around us. The fact that we have life-changing computing and telecommunications power in tiny devices that we carry in our pockets is incredible, but just as the Industrial Revolution brought all kinds of strife and challenge, this technological revolution is bringing new challenges with it as well.
In previous generations, wisdom was generally gained through a combination of hard work and time—whether that meant going to school or taking an apprenticeship or gaining years of experience simply by living and working in the brave new world. Now, information is available at every single moment and all at once. It’s so much, so fast, that we can’t possibly take it all in. What we’re experiencing, then, is a breadth of information combined with a lack of depth. When we’re able to access everything immediately, yet rarely get a chance to go deeper than the surface, that creates a massive problem. As the poet T.S. Eliot once said, “Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”4
The superficiality of information is actually acting as an inoculation against wisdom. We think that we have all the knowledge we need when, in fact, we really don’t. We’re distracted all the time. We fall prey to the myth of multitasking (more on this in Chapter 12). When searching for knowledge, we’ll read a quote or a maxim, hear someone’s opinion and even gather a limited explanation but won’t invest the time needed to fully understand any of it.
Think about this: Everywhere you look these days, you’re bombarded by information that’s designed to make you feel better. Feel-good Facebook memes, good-news websites and Twitter feeds, and self-help philosophies on positivity abound. You have access to all of it, 24/7 if you so desire. But is any of it truly making you feel better deep down where it counts? Even though the information offers some essential truth, I think most of us recognize that quick fixes and surface-level mantras don’t work as a permanent solution. Even if they pick you up, there’s always something that comes along and knocks you back down. And the more often that happens, whether you realize it or not, the more you begin to give up.
And that is what leaves us perpetually unsatisfied: when we think we’ve tried everything and read everything and seen everything, and we still don’t feel good. So we give up on believing that we ever will.
Our need to find satisfaction in life is overwhelming. And in truth, finding that satisfaction comes from doing deep, real work. There is no quick fix for lasting contentment. Unlike getting a quick hit of happiness from a short-term distraction, true satisfaction requires investing a little more time and a little more effort into figuring out what’s underneath all of these basic, intuitive bits of information that now flood our screens and our minds.
What we lack right now—and the thing that I aim to give you in these pages—is something that is fundamental to our existence: the ability to process your own life.
You already have all the ingredients for happiness, satisfaction and success. You do. We all do. The problem is that you don’t know what to do with them. It’s like having a refrigerator full of raw ingredients but not knowing how to cook. Staring at, discussing, and even touching the ingredients won’t satisfy your hunger. It can’t. It’s not edible until you learn what to do with it.
And that hunger you feel in your life is not something small. That desire to be happy, fulfilled, and empowered—that desire is existential. That’s why we all keep trying to get to it. You might think that hard work will get you there, so you work harder. You see other people smiling and assume they’re satisfied, so you try to be like them. It doesn’t work. And again, if you do that often enough, you’re bound to give up and resign yourself to thinking you will never satisfy that hunger yourself. (That’s why you’re likely skeptical even as you read this.)
What if I told you that in order to get what you want, to achieve that sense of life satisfaction, all you need to do is change your relationship to what you already have? What if I told you there’s a “golden lever” that allows you to bridge the gap between the life you have and the life you want? And all that is required in order for you to learn how to operate that lever is to understand yourself a little better—to read an operating manual, as it were, on how we actually function as human beings?
Well, it’s true. The golden lever exists. I’ve spent my entire adult life in pursuit of it and in pursuit of the understanding of how that lever works. And guess what? I’ve found answers, most of which were right there in front of me the whole time. But as you’ll soon learn, sometimes the things that are right in front of us are the hardest to see.
The fact is, most of us have failed to put in the work it takes to fully understand who we are. Most of us have no idea how to take advantage of all that life has to offer, because no one has showed us how.
That is what I would like to show you.
I suppose that leads us right back to the big question, the one that left my buddy Dave completely stumped: What do you want?
Truly, deep down, what is it that you want?
You don’t have to answer that question quite yet. You need to learn a few things first so you can gain the wisdom that’s needed to answer that question and then to understand how to implement the changes you seek.
So I hope you’ll indulge me. I hope you’ll be willing to invest a little time to take this journey with me. Because as you’re about to see, not only are you capable of achieving the life you want, you are also capable—we all are capable—of all sorts of amazing things that at first seem, quite frankly, beyond belief.
Excerpted from "Unlocking Greatness"
Copyright © 2018 Charlie Harary.
Excerpted by permission of Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Why Am I Perpetually Unsatisfied ix
Part I How to Experience Reality
Chapter 1 Fake Tests, Old Men, and the Power of Beliefs 3
Chapter 2 Jean Piaget, the Falling Tree, and the Super Bowl Catch 13
Chapter 3 The Power of Plasticity: Can We Function with Half a Brain? 27
Chapter 4 Seeing Minivans and Missing Reality: The Surprising Value of Limited Attention 47
Part II How to Satisfy Our Needs
Chapter 5 Deconstructing Desire: Do You Want It or Do You Need it? 67
Chapter 6 Unity: The Surprising Connection Between Spirituality and Olympic Hockey 81
Chapter 7 Trophies, Symbols, and the Forces Within 97
Chapter 8 The Passion of a 3-Year-Old: How to Enjoy Pitching a Perfect Game 117
Part III How to Make the Ideal Real
Chapter 9 The Simulator: Navigate Life Like a SEAL and a Surgeon 143
Chapter 10 Chiseling to David: The Path of Be. Do. Have 159
Chapter 11 Habits, Rituals, and the Fatal Flaw of New Year's Resolutions 181
Chapter 12 The Crossover: Finding Flow in an Overstimulated World 199
Chapter 13 The Road Trip: Utilizing Your Golden Lever 213
Epilogue: Never Stop 235