This Week's Sunday Message

It's What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts

Reverend Arlyn Macdonald Picture

He was born in the parking lot at St. Joseph's Hospital in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Even his birth certificate states he was born in the parking lot. His parents divorced soon after his birth. They were heavy drinkers and smokers and the children suffered from a broken home and abuse. He was caught stealing balloons from his kindergarten teacher's desk, had to do the fourth grade twice, and at age 16 had to sit on two telephone books just to take the driver's test because he was so short. He entered the University of Kentucky, but his counselor told him he had done so poorly on the entrance exam it was doubtful he would make it. The freshman English teacher told him his writing skills were so bad she doubted he would pass her class. Despite that lack of support, he graduated from college, married while a senior and had two lovely daughters. He was fired from his first job because of a company merger and the first time he had a real speaking engagement he had to leave the podium and run to the restroom to throw up. He was told by his friends and other people that he probably wouldn't make it as a motivational speaker.

The first half of his life was so miserable that he only had one way to go and that was up. His first ray of hope was a profound counseling session when the counselor asked him, "What was the most significant decision you ever made about your life as a child?" That question stunned him and immediately the answer came. He says he can recall that day like it was yesterday. He was six years old sitting on a large roll of carpet in his mother's house wondering why he was there. He had been living with his father until that time and his parents decided without asking him that he would start living with his mother. He decided that day never to trust anyone again. He would have to make it on his own!

Can you remember such a life decision you made when you were a child? I thought about this and remembered that one of my decisions at an early age was that I had to take care of myself because nobody else was. What decision did you make as a child that still influences you as an adult?

Rich Wilkins is the man in this story, a modern day Guru. Despite the miserable first half of his life he is making the last half a miracle. And he is sharing these miracles with others. He became a motivational speaker, wrote several books, and developed his Attitude Action Plan that has changed many, many lives. He did all of this despite a less than perfect childhood, early decisions, non-support in college and a shaky start in business. I'd say that Rich tapped into the Hope that is instilled in us before we are born. We may all have similar stories, but the great gift is that we also have that Hope.

Rich says that we are actually engineered for success because we have been born with seeds of greatness. We all have a powerful potential. But we have to be willing to release that Hope and move forward. Rich says, "Life can only be understood by looking backward, but it must be lived by looking forward."

I think that is a good definition of hope – looking forward. Along with hope we are to have faith. Rich says, "Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see." "If you can conceive it and believe it you can achieve it."

Rich calls his teachings "Powerful Stuff, 25 Powerful Life Changing Conclusions and Eight Attitude Building Principles." It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. It's time for all of us to go back to school and learn more. His teachings remind me of many other systems, "The Secret" for one and especially the teachings from "Your Owner's Manual," a great little book from Fernwood Management in Oregon.

The very first sentence in the Manual says "It's regrettable that this manual was not available at the time of your production, since much of your dissatisfaction with life might have been avoided. The following, however, is one of the most important instructions in this manual: "Don't let your past rule your choices today." It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.

We can look at our pasts but we can no longer be ruled by them. Hope brings us a new day, a new outlook, the possibilities that we can achieve whatever we desire. And who or what promised us this? The Divine Spirit, our Creator. If we were not supposed to have unlimited potential the Divine Spirit could have made us a rock or a tree or a mosquito. But no, God created us in God's image and likeness. We are to be creators and the first creation we are to make is our own life. Powerful Stuff indeed!

Buddha, Jesus, the Gurus, and all the great teachers tell us over and over that we must be mindful. Mindful means we have to pay attention to what we are thinking and speaking. For what we think is what we create. Rich says, "A minute of thought is worth more than an hour of talk. You rise to the level of what comes out of your mouth." An example of this is listening to what people talk about. They talk more about what isn't than what is, more about how they don't feel rather than how they do feel."

Dr. Mitchell J. Perry, a human behavior specialist, has done a lot of research into language and behavior and he found that children generally speak in inclusion and adults in exclusion. When a family returns from visiting Disneyland, for example, all the children will talk about all the fun they had. The adults will say, "It wasn't too bad" or find something to criticize. Children speak of what is and adults speak of what isn't. It's time to go back and listen to our inner child and raise the level of what comes out of our mouths. It's the hopeful thing to do.

Here is another hopeful bit of wisdom from Rich. "Success comes in cans; failure comes in can'ts." How many young people today are afraid to succeed because they begin believing they can't do anything? Up until about age 10 we believe we can do anything. After that our society starts feeding us stuff about how we can't do it. Our hope is turned off. And most adults are not mindful of what we are modeling for our children. We often get a bad case of the can'ts. It's time to remember and believe and practice that we can. And how do we do that, by taking that first step. Rich says, "He who wants milk should not sit on a stool in the middle of the pasture expecting the cow to back up to him." It's up to us to take the steps necessary to be a success. Sitting at home on the couch with the remote control in our hands is not considered a step to achieving success.

One of the best ways to find hope in our lives is to nurture hope in others. "Be a good finder in others," he says. This is a simplified version of the Golden Rule, but one that gives us a very real practice. Being a "good finder" means we have to practice forgiveness, no judgment, and compassion. Find the good before you speak.

Another of Rich's teachings is this, "You can have anything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want." Most people react to that teaching by saying, "It's too much work. What's in it for me? How do I benefit?" When did work get pushed out of the hope equation? How do we achieve anything? By working, by enjoying what we do, by helping people, by caring, by living life to the fullest. That doesn't mean we don't have time to stop and smell the flowers, it simply means we put hope back into work. It is the journey that is to be enjoyed not the achieved goal.

There is so much more to learn now that we know it all: how to build good relationships, including the one with ourselves and the one we have with our Source; how to make this world work to the advantage of everyone we touch; how to turn from seeing the world through foggy lenses to seeing the Truth through our rose-colored glasses.

I conclude this lesson with two more of Rich's quotes:

"You don't drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there."

"He who is waiting for something to turn up might start with his own shirt sleeves."

Bring Hope back into your life. Let go of those old decisions made when you were a child. Realize that being mindful is about relationships. Balance and harmony and fun are the purpose of the journey. Remember the best helping hand you will ever find is at the end of your own arm. God created you whole, complete and perfect. It's time to remember that and speak the Truth. Namaste.