In 1979 Denis Waitley was on his way to a speaking engagement and was booked on a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles.  He arrived at the airport late and had to run for the flight.  He arrived in the departure lounge just as they locked the door to the plane.  Denis argued, begged and pleaded to be allowed on that flight as it was the only one that could get him to his engagement in time.  Despite his protests he wasn’t allowed on board and he stomped back to the ticket counter to register a complaint.

While standing in line 20 minutes later, Denis heard that the plane had crashed on take-off and there were no survivors.  Denis keeps that unvalidated plane ticket on a bulletin board in his home office.  Whenever he gets annoyed he looks at that ticket and remembers how grateful he is just to be alive, it was a vital lesson for him in learning to trust.

Taking action towards your most important goals on a regular basis indicates trust.  Remember this, trusting is rarely about taking one step, it’s about taking one step after another.  If you visualise, meditate or pray, do so repeatedly.  I’m not a fan of please, please, please type of prayer, I prefer to ask once and then say ‘thank you’ in advance as if I already have what I’ve asked for.  Visualise yourself as having achieved the goal just before going into a meditation and give thanks as if it is already a reality.

Learning to Trust

Action can include researching, learning, seeking advice, planning, clearing out and making way for the new, and creating a space for what you want in terms of time.  When you do this your attention automatically shifts towards the goal and away from the fear of not achieving the goal.

I often say, action comes first—feeling follows.  This is trust in action.  You need to act as if you trust before you can become a trusting person.

The Getting of Confidence

I was in my twenties and had just started a new job, when one of the girls in the office said, “No one is that confident, you have to be faking it”. I was quite taken back by her comment as I was just being me.

Over the intervening years I have sometimes wondered why I have been confident in most situations, with the exception of public speaking, whilst many others struggle, and I believe it’s because I learnt that it is  okay to fail at an early age.

Fail early – Fail often

Most people don’t wake up one day and suddenly feel confident, you become confident by trying, falling down then picking yourself up again, and being prepared to fail until you get it right.

I came from a family of perfectionists who lacked confidence so at one time when I was just a young kid, Dad asked me knock on the neighbour’s doors to see if they had a garage to rent, while he watched over me from the safety of the street. My mum would have me go into a shop and ask if they had something. My sister was so shy that she wouldn’t even buy a train or movie ticket, so if we wanted to go anywhere I learnt that I had to be the one to take charge. Psychologist now recommend that we learn to fail early and fail often, this way we learn to experience setbacks and develop resilience, so while it used to annoy me when I was young that I had to do everything for my family, I am now so grateful for the confidence I gained from those times.

Shawn Achor tells a very funny story of how he used to sell his body when he was a student at Harvard. As Shawn was always in need of money he often volunteered for paid experiments such as MRIs and various other tests as a way of supporting himself. At one time he volunteered for a study to prevent elderly people from falls, the study was three hours long and he was promised he would be paid $20. He was given a set of bike reflectors with Velcro straps and tight white biker shorts and he was shirtless. He had to attach the velcro straps to each of the joints in his body and he was asked to walk down a padded hallway in the dark with a video camera positioned to the reflectors on his joints. As he did this the floor would suddenly slide to the left and he would crash onto the lightly padded walkway, then the floor would slide to the right throwing him off balance. He had a cord attached to his leg which would be yanked from behind, pitching him flat on his face. After 120 falls the researchers told me that they had forgotten to put video in the recorder and asked him if he would do it again.

After three hours Shawn was met by a Professor who told him the study had nothing to do with helping the elderly, the researchers were studying motivation and resilience and Shawn was the only person who had lasted the full three hours. He was given $200 for his efforts.

The Getting of Confidence

In his book The Happiness Advantage, Shawn says, “More memorable than the generous prize were the lessons I learned about the nature of resilience—about picking ourselves up when we fall.” Years later Shawn was grateful for this opportunity when he had to address thousands of business leaders around the world who had had their legs yanked out from under them due to the global financial crisis. He now encourages people, as I do, to look for the good in every situation.

Countless studies have shown that if we view failure as an opportunity for growth, our confidence grows. As Robert F. Kennedy said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”.

The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor is published by Virgin Books. It’s a great read.

How Positive Thinking Helped me Become a Best-Selling Author

When I was 22 a friend at work lent me the book The Power of Positive Thinking, it changed my life and from that day forward I applied the principles of positive thinking to most areas of my life.

I have always loved to read and I usually read two or three at the one time, so for me it seemed only natural to dream of writing a book one day. With the exception of my mother, no-one else thought I had any talent. They were right—I didn’t.

From a young age I submitted the occasional story to magazines, only to receive rejection after rejection, then one day at work I happened to tell my boss that I wanted to write, he said I could start by compiling the office procedures manual. Now that wasn’t quite what I had in mind but I saw it as an opportunity so I put a great deal of effort into the task, and waited anxiously for his feedback. He took a while to come back to me and when he did he, ‘Anne, forget about writing!’

Now one of my strengths is that I don’t get put off by other people’s opinions. I wasn’t prepared to give up my dream and although I knew I didn’t have any great talent as a writer, I felt I could learn.

My career progressed and I was appointed manager of a women’s financial planning business. I was asked by a major magazine to write a column for them, but my employer refused to let me write it, instead my firm had their public relations person write it under my name. I was delighted when the magazine turned the column down and I started getting serious about writing a column myself.

Applying the principles of positive thinking a couple of times a day, just for a few seconds, I would visualise my photo and name at the top of a column. As I was often contacted by the media for comments on financial matters I started telling every journalist I came in contact with that I wanted to write a column. One day a freelance journalist rang and said, “Cleo magazine is looking for a financial columnist, I mentioned you and they would like you to submit something.” I did, and they offered me a monthly column.

Now I still didn’t have any great talent, but I was known in the industry and I had expertise in money and investments. The magazine obviously decided this was enough and their editor refined the articles I submitted to make them more reader friendly. Each month I would take the column I had written and check it word-for-word against the edited version that appeared in the magazine. As I took note of the changes the editor made my writing style improved and within six months I was writing for two major magazines and two local newspapers.

When a leading magazine editor of Australia’s best-selling magazine, The Women’s Weekly, said I was a very good writer and that I wrote like a journalist, I nearly floated out of her office I felt so happy. I knew it was time to write my book.

I took one day a week away from the office to devote to my book. The first day I sat at my desk and said to myself, “How on earth do you write a book?” It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. After several hours of pondering this question I went to my bookshelf and took out several books from my favourite authors and studied their style. The ones I liked best wrote in a very conversational style and that’s what I did, I imagined myself talking to a client and wrote down what I would say.

When I had a rough manuscript I sent it off to several publishers and it was accepted. I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to do this and I didn’t know that very few people get accepted. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. My book was accepted by Doubleday and my publisher Rex Finch appointed two wonderful editors to work with me. Those editors taught me how to structure a book, how to rephrase a sentence. It took me three years and countless rewrites to complete that book, Financially Free, which went on to become a runaway best seller, and while that book is now out of print, copies are still regularly sold on Ebay, 25 years after publication.

Since that time I have written six books, ghost written three books, and adapted two of Suze Orman’s books for the Australian market. I now write a weekly blog.

In the book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell refers to the 10,000 hour rule. In study after study of writers, chess masters, musicians, sports people and even master criminals they found that that while some people have innate talent, that wasn’t enough to make them successful. True mastery was achieved on average after 10,000 hours of practice, and anyone with the will to put in the work can attain a high level of mastery.

That’s the power of a dream coupled with positive thinking and the will to do the work. Never let anyone tell you it can’t be done when you know in your heart it can.