Let's Get Off Our Buts

Part One:

"Let's go."
"Yes, let's go."
STAGE DIRECTION: They do not move.


You may find this first part of the book depressing. I'm going to explain why most people aren't living their dreams--and I'm not going to pull any punches.

It's not a pretty picture.

The reason we aren't living our dreams is inside ourselves. We pretend it's people, things, and situations outside ourselves that are to blame. On the other hand, you may find this an uplifting section. You may say, "So that's why that happens!"

Further, when we know that the cause of something is in ourselves, and that we (ourselves) are one of the few things in this universe that we have the right and the ability to change, we begin to get a sense of the choices we really do have, an inkling of the power we have, a feeling of being in charge--of our lives, of our future, of our dreams.

This Was Going to Be a Truly Great Opening Chapter,
But . . .

Pithy quote to come.

This was going to be the best opening chapter you could possibly imagine, but so many things got in the way.

I was going to spend lots of time writing it, but, well, you know how time goes!
note: find quote

I was going to get lots of touching and poignant and humorous examples of people not getting things done, but I never got around to interviewing the people.

I was going to gather lots of wonderful quotes to illustrate my points, but I left the quote book at home, and this chapter is being written at a lecture hall outside Carmel, California. (Besides, I think the dog ate it.)

If this page goes to press without a quote, it will be most embarrassing.

I was going to make sure that this chapter was so informative, so readable, and so wonderful that if you were reading it in a bookstore, you'd buy the book, or, if you were reading it in a library, you'd check it out, or, if you were reading it at home, you'd decide, "Boy, I'm certainly going to enjoy reading this book!" but I decided to watch this movie on TV last night, and I was going to work on the chapter afterward, but then I went out for ice cream, and I was tired, and decided to start fresh in the morning, but then I slept late, and then I went out for breakfast and took a drive past an aquarium and decided to stop in, then I went for lunch, and then thought I'd take a nap and start fresh in the evening, but then I started watching a documentary on TV, then, of course, it was time for dinner, then I was invited to the movies, and I don't want to be rude to my friends, and besides I sort-of wanted to see the movie anyway, then I was going to go right back and work on this chapter, but then I remembered how good the ice cream was the night before . . .


Do or do not. There is no try.


But. ——that three-letter, four-letter word. It permeates our language. It's a nasty little word. It allows us to lie to ourselves and to severely limit ourselves without even knowing it. Let's look at a typical sentence containing "but."

"I want to visit my sick grandmother, but it's too cold outside."

"But" usually means: "Ignore all that good-sounding stuff that went before—here comes the truth." You might even consider BUT as an acronym for Behold the Underlying Truth. (And Buts can be shortened to BS.)

The truth is that grandma is not getting a visit. The lie is that I care so much about my sick grandmother that I really want to pay her a visit. (Note my sensitivity to her need for visitation, and my compassion for wanting to visit her.)

At this point, entering stage right, are two of but's dearest friends--if only and try.

"If only it were a fine spring day, I'd be into the woods and on my way to Grandmother's house. If only it weren't so darn cold, I'd be at Granny's side right now. I'm going to try to get there tomorrow!"

Unless, of course, we are too busy, too poor, too tired, too ____________ (please fill in the blank with one of your favorites), or perhaps not feeling all that good ourselves.

But even if we and everything else were fine and dandy, let's not forget the about the wolves . . .


Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.


The naked "but" is what we use when ignoring our own good advice. When ignoring the unbearably good advice of others, we use the hyphenated version: "yes-but."

"You really should pay your car insurance."

"Yes-but, I don't get paid until next week."

"You could get an advance on your credit card."

"Yes-but, I owe so much already."

"You have no insurance!"

"Yes-but, I'll drive real careful."

And on and on. When we argue for our limitations, we get to keep them. Yes-but means, "Here come the arguments for my limitations." Or, if you favor acronyms, YES-BUT = "Your Evaluation is Superb--Behold the Underlying Truth."

The only activity more foolish than a person pouring forth a stream of "yes-buts" is the person who continues to give good advice in the face of obvious indifference.

"Yes-but, I thought if I tried just once more, it might be the bit of wisdom that would make the difference.

Uh huh. As Jesus of Nazareth said, "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" (Matthew 7:6).


Reasons or Results

Results! Why, man, I have gotten a lot of results. I know several thousand things that won't work.


In life, we have either reasons or results--excuses or experiences, stories or successes. We either have what we want, or we have ironclad, airtight, impenetrable reasons why it was not even marginally possible to get it.

We use one of the most powerful tools at our disposal--the mind--for our disposal. Rather than dispose of the barriers to our dreams, the mind disposes of the dreams.

In the amount of time it takes for the mind to invent a good excuse, the mind could have created an alternate way of achieving the result--rendering excuse-making unnecessary.

But, alas, as John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out, "In the choice between changing one's mind and proving there's no need to do so, most people get busy on the proof."

While I'm on the subject of the mind, allow me to give the mind something to ponder--a premise I'll be considering throughout the book . . .

We Live the Life We Choose

It is hard to fight an enemy who has outposts in your head.


Here's the premise: We are all, right now, living the life we choose.

This choice, of course, is not a single, monumental choice. No one decides, for example, "I'm going to move to L.A., and in five years I will be a waiter in a so-so restaurant, planning to get my 8-by-10's done real soon so that I can find an agent and become a star," or "I'm going to marry a dreadful person and we'll live together in a loveless marriage, staying together only for the kids, who I don't much like, either."

No. The choices I'm talking about here are made daily, hourly, moment by moment. Do we try something new, or stick to the tried-and-true? Do we take a risk, or eat what's already on our dish? Do we ponder a thrilling adventure, or contemplate what's on TV? Do we walk over and meet that interesting stranger, or do we play it safe? Do we indulge our heart, or cater to our fear?

The bottom-line question: Do we pursue what we want, or do we do what's comfortable?

For the most part, most people most often choose comfort--the familiar, the time-honored, the well-worn but well-known. After a lifetime of choosing between comfort and risk, we are left with the life we currently have. And it was all of our own choosing.

The Comfort Zone

The only thing I can't stand is discomfort.


The comfort zone is our arena of thoughts and actions within which we feel comfortable--all the things we've done (or thought) often enough to feel comfortable doing (or thinking) again. Anything we haven't done (or thought) often enough to feel comfortable doing lies outside the parameters of the comfort zone. When we do (or think) these things (basically, anything new) we feel uncomfortable.

For example, most people reading this book find little difficulty reading English--it's within their comfort zone. But how comfortable are you at reading code? Here's a sentence in code:

Dpohsbuvmbujpot! Zpv'wf kvtu dsbdlfe uif dpef!

Can you crack the code? Each of the letters stands for another letter in the alphabet. They are arranged in a logical way so that when you know the code, you'll be able to decipher the sentence. What does the sentence say?

How do you feel? Uncomfortable? Overwhelmed? Have you given up? Did you give up before even starting? What if I told you there was $100,000 riding on solving the puzzle? In addition to money , what if you had to solve it on television? And, in addition to that, what if there were a time limit imposed? Say, three minutes. What if something really bad were to happen to someone you love if you couldn't crack the code in three minutes? What if he or she were really counting on you?

How do you feel? If you played along with my questions, you probably felt some tinges of fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings, and/or anger--the feelings I lump into the general category of uncomfortable .

After feeling uncomfortable enough long enough, we tend to feel discouraged; we give up. Some people gave up before they even began. They were permanently discouraged about word puzzles. They told themselves, "I'm no good at this sort of thing," and skipped to the next paragraph. Unfortunately, there I was in the next paragraph--waiting for them--reminding them of the puzzle--making them feel uncomfortable.

Other people, who love puzzles, jumped right in. They weren't uncomfortable; they were challenged . They hung in there, and some of them solved it (and are now wondering how they can collect the $100,000 prize). Perhaps the "doers" felt the same emotion the uncomfortable felt--that tingling we feel when rising to a challenge--and labeled it "excitement" instead of "fear." Maybe they used that energy to help solve the puzzle.

Okay. Try again. This time I'll give you a clue: The first letter is a C.

Dpohsbuvmbujpot! Zpv'wf kvtu dsbdlfe uif dpef!

Compare the relationship between C and the first letter of the puzzle (D) and see if you can see a pattern. If you see one, try it on the next several letters and see if something approaching a word emerges. If not, look for another pattern.

Some people are now actively involved in the process of figuring it out. Others are still saying, "I can't do these things." As Henry Ford said, "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right." If we say we can't do something, we don't spend any time on it; therefore we can't. A self-fulfilling prophecy.

We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.


So, if you're still in the "can't" category, switch it around. Tell yourself, out loud, "I can solve this!" Become involved. Invest a little time in the process. "The willingness to do creates the ability to do." Give yourself the willingness. (A pencil might help, too.)

What is the relationship between C and D? Where have you seen them together before? Where are they always together, one right after the other?

Dpohsbuvmbujpot! Zpv'wf kvtu dsbdlfe uif dpef!

Another clue? ("I'd like to buy a vowel, please.") The second letter is O. What's the relationship between O and P? It's the same relationship as between C and D. ("Living together, no children.")

Most people have, of course, figured it out by now. (There. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Those who haven't figured it out don't like to think they're behind most people, and those who have figured it out don't like to be thought of as "most people.")

My final clue: the alphabet. The alphabet looks like this:


Now, can you see the relationship between C and D and between O and P? Apply that to the other letters of the puzzle and see what you get. Congratulations! You've just cracked the code!

You'll note that when you move past your comfort zone you find adventure, excitement, satisfaction, and the answer to some questions you may never have known to ask before.

How often have you heard someone say, "I don't want to do that; I feel uncomfortable"? It is a given-- for most people an accepted fact--that being uncomfortable is sufficient reason for not doing.

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself.


The primary sensations we encounter when approaching the "walls" of the comfort zone are fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings, and anger. When feeling any one--or, especially, a combination of them--we say we're uncomfortable. After tilting the windmills of our comfort zone for a time, we tend to feel discouraged--and discouragement is the primary barrier to living our dreams.

Let's take a closer look at fear, guilt, unworthiness, hurt feelings, anger, and discouragement. (Just what you wanted, huh?)

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