LIFE 101
Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life In School -- But Didn't


Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.


We can learn by doing--by doing anything. Even if we fail--repeatedly--there's something to be learned from the failures. Of course, one of the lessons we can learn from failure is, "I want to learn some new ways of doing things so I don't have to fail so much."

Or, perhaps you already are a successful doer and, like all successful doers, you know there's always more to learn about successfully doing.

This section focuses more on "outer" achievements. The next section, "To Have Joy and to Have It More Abundantly," highlights methods for "inner" success.

You will notice, however, that most tools can be used for either inner or outer learning. The same commitment that allows you to make a million dollars can be used for achieving happiness. The same discipline that allows you to focus on your self-worth can also be used to master scuba diving.

The inner mirrors the outer. The outer mirrors the inner.

What Is Your Purpose?

My function in life was to render clear what was already blindingly conspicuous.


Before taking successful action, you must first know what you want. (If you don't know what you want, how will you know when you've gotten it?) Before knowing what you want, it's good to know why you want it. A good way of knowing why you want it is knowing your purpose in life.

What is your purpose?

A purpose is something you discover. It's already there. It's always been there. You've lived your life by it--perhaps without fully realizing it. (Although when you do realize it, you'll know you've known it all along.)

It's your bellwether, your personal inner divining rod. It tells you, in any given moment, whether you're living your life "on purpose" or not.

A purpose is a simple, positive statement of why you are here. It usually begins, "I am " and is only a few words long.

It is not a goal. A goal is something that can be reached. A purpose is a direction, like east. No matter how far east you travel, there's still lots more east to go. Purposes can be used for selecting goals, just as someone traveling east can select certain cities as guideposts along the eastward journey.

A purpose is never achieved; it is fulfilled in each moment you are "on purpose." You use your purpose to set your course in life. It's your inner compass. When you are "on course," you are "on purpose."

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.


A purpose is not an affirmation. Affirmations are created and used to make that creation real. A purpose is not created--it is discovered . You already have a purpose. You have always had a purpose. It has always been the same purpose. Your purpose will--for the remainder of this lifetime--remain the same.

A purpose is like a heart. You don't create a heart, but, like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz, you can discover the one you've always had.

Purposes sound something like this (Don't use this list to select a purpose for yourself. Give yourself the time and the freedom to discover your own. These are just to give you an idea of what purposes sound like.): "I am a cheerful giver," "I am a happy student," "I am a devoted friend," "I serve the planet," "I am a joyful explorer," "I am a lover of life," "I want a hamburger" (all right--the last one was my personal goal for the moment).

There are many ways to discover your purpose. Here are a few. If one doesn't work, try another. Patience, seeker, patience! The discovery of a purpose can take a while. When you know yours, you'll know it was worth the wait.

  1. Make a list of all your positive qualities. This is no time for modesty. (False humility, by the way, is just a form of egoism.) Narrow each of your good qualities to one or two words. "Loving, giving, joyful, playful, caring, effective, etc." If your list is short, ask friends for suggestions. Using these words as a starting point, find the two or three that suit you best. Arrange them in sentences starting with "I " or "I am " When you discover your purpose, it will "click."

  2. Before going to sleep, give yourself the instruction: "When I wake up, I will know my purpose." Have pen and paper by your bed and, first thing when you wake up, write whatever words are there. It may be your purpose.

  3. Go to your sanctuary and ask your Master Teacher. (Remember your Master Teacher?)

Once you discover your purpose, I suggest that you not tell anyone. This keeps it powerful. It also keeps others from saying, "So you're a joyful giver, huh? Okay, I'll take five dollars," or "Happy helper? You don't seem very happy to me." Life's hard enough without having our purpose on display for the potshots of the world.

It is better to be hated for what you are than loved for what you are not.


When you know your purpose, it's easier to set and achieve goals. The litmus test of any action is simply, "Does this fulfill my purpose?" If yes, you can choose whether you want to do it or not. There is--as you may already know--a certain value to being "on purpose."

In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.


Intention and Desire or Method and Behavior?

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.


There are some things we want because we really want them. There are other things we want because we think they will give us what we really want. The first category I call intentions or desires . The second category I call methods or behaviors .

For example, you may say, "I want a red sports car." I may say, "Fine, and what do you want from the red sports car?" "I want adventure." The true desire or intention is, in fact, adventure. The red sports car was the method or behavior to get adventure.

Another example: If you say, "I want more fun," I might ask, "What can you do to have more fun?" You could then give a long list of the things you find fun to do. In this case, fun is the intention or desire; the enjoyable activities you've listed are your methods or behaviors for achieving fun.

A person's intentions or desires are experiences. They are described by words such as freedom, security, power, happiness, self-worth, success, satisfaction, respect, peace of mind, adventure, love.

The methods or behaviors people use to have these experiences are symbols for "the real thing." They include money, job or career, clothes, cars, house, marriage, family, sex, lovers, sex, physical appearance, sex, educational degrees, sex, and travel. (And food.)

One must not lose desires. They are mighty stimulants to creativeness, to love, and to long life.


When people want a physical thing--and, yes, a husband, wife, child, or lover is a physical thing--they are usually talking about methods or behaviors. When they discuss inner experiences, they are generally referring to intentions or desires.

There is nothing wrong with wanting the symbols. This section, in fact, will suggest many techniques (methods? behaviors?) for getting your fair share of symbols.

It helps, however, to know that the house, car, better body, career, or money you want--yes, even a romantic relationship, religion, or spiritual path--is simply a method or behavior to get something else: something inner, something experiential (security, fun, energy, satisfaction, love, knowledge of God, inner peace).

Why does it help to know this? First, if you know the experience you're looking for, you can make whole lists of methods and behaviors that might fulfill it. Love can be found in more places than romantic relationships. Fun can be found without having a million dollars.

You can make a list and "scientifically" investigate it to see if a certain method or behavior fulfills a given desire or intention. If yes, fine. If no, you've still got a long list to explore.

Second, knowing the experiences you seek helps you avoid fear and disappointment. Say you know you want adventure and think a red sports car is the way to get it. If the car does it, fine; add "red sports car" to the list of things that (for now) work. If the car doesn't do it, that doesn't mean adventure is out of your reach. Next method or behavior, please.

Third, and perhaps most important, you learn that you can fulfill your own desires and intentions without too much outside help. You can fulfill your own desires or intentions right now . Want love? Love yourself. Want joy? Be joyful. Want adventure? The last frontier is the interior.

As you can imagine, if you provide yourself with the experiences you seek, this decreases the frantic quality of pursuing the symbols of life. "I can't be happy until I get " "I won't rest until " "My life isn't complete until I ." There's not a desire or intention we can't fulfill for ourselves, right now.

Ironically, once we give fully to ourselves, those symbols just seem to cascade in. Relationships, for example. Whom would you rather be around--a joyful, loving, happy person, or a miserable, needy, unhappy person? Well, so would everyone else. (People know this, which is why they pretend to be loving, happy, and joyful, in order to "catch" someone.)

When you are genuinely "up" because you are the source of your own "upness," people either do or do not relate to you--and whether they do or not is fine. As Frank Sinatra explains, "I bring my own crank."

The last time I saw him he was walking down Lover's Lane holding his own hand.


You can use your behaviors and methods to discover your intentions and desires. Of each external "thing" you want, ask yourself, "What experience am I looking for?"

Experiences can be layers of an onion. Pleasure may be on the surface, but that's really a symbol for contentment, which is a symbol for peace of mind. Keep asking. Eventually you'll find experiences that are complete in and of themselves--experiences you're not using to achieve other experiences.

When you discover your fundamental desires and intentions, you'll know what you really want. Then, finding methods and behaviors to create the experiences is not only easier; it's more fun.

You Can Have
Anything You Want,
but You Can't Have
Everything You Want

When I ask people that simple yet profound question, "What do you want?" they sometimes answer, "I want it all!" I often wonder, "If they had it all, where would they put it?"

I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.


There's an awful lot of "all" out there. And there's a lot more "all" to be experienced inside. The people who say they want "it all" either have not taken the time to explore what they really want, or don't realize one simple fact of life: "You can have any thing you want, but you can't have every thing you want."

Living on this planet has some down-to-earth limitations. First, we can put our body in only one place at a time. Second, there are only 24 hours a day, 365 (or 366) days per year. Third, the human lifetime is only so long (150 years seems to be tops).

The limitations become even more severe when we consider the time we spend on maintenance: sleeping, washing, eating--and some of us even have to make money to pay for all that.

We can't have "it all" because "all" is more than our "container" of time and space will hold.

Before you cry, "Foul!" consider: You can have anything you want. Pick what you want most and--if it's available, if it doesn't already belong to someone else (who wants to keep it)--you can have it.

The history books are full of people who said, "I don't care if everybody thinks it's impossible, I think it's possible, I want it, and I'm going to get it (or do it)." And they did. You can, too.

The catch? The more unobtainable the "want" you want, the more you must sacrifice to get it. It's not that you can't have it, it's that you'll have to give up many--and maybe all--other things.

I was once on a talk show and a woman called in. She said she wanted to be an actress more than anything else. She was quite upset that she hadn't succeeded yet. Our conversation went something like this:

The Wright brothers flew right through the smoke screen of impossibility.


As you can guess, this woman spent about an hour a week on her "career." What she meant to say was that she spent all of her free time pursuing acting. Unfortunately, it's not likely that an hour a week will give her the success she craves.

My advice to her? After establishing that she loved her daughters and loved her boyfriend and considered them more important than show biz, I suggested she be grateful for the choices she had already made and her successful implementation of them. I told her there were any number of successful actresses who wish they had two healthy children and a loving, romantic relationship. The acting? Make it a hobby.

The phrase "spending time" is a precise and accurate one. We all have only so much time this time around. Spend it well.

Who begins too much accomplishes little.


It's as though you were in a large store (Earth). You are given enough money (time) to buy anything in the store, but not everything in the store. You can fit a lot of things in your cart (projects you start). When it comes time to pay, however, if your money runs out, that's it. And this store does not give refunds. At best, the store may reluctantly buy something back as used merchandise--at a fraction of what you paid for it.

Some people put a "want" in their cart--a new career, a relationship, a car, a house, a project--and fail to consider its cost: the time it will take to obtain and maintain the want.

They like to quote Edna St. Vincent Millay:

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light.

While reciting it, however, they are secretly worried about the wax dripping on the new rug--which hasn't yet been paid for. At some point, they find themselves "out of time," quoting Samuel Hoffenstein: "I burned my candle at both ends, and now have neither foes nor friends."

Some protest: "Time is money, and with money you can buy time." Up to a limit, that's true. But you can't hire someone to do all the things you want to do yourself (flying a plane, ballet, race car driving, reading, watching videos). And do you plan to hire people to spend time with your friends, eat your pizzas, or to entertain your lover(s)?

At a certain point in most everyone's life--rich, poor, organized, or scattered--the wants outnumber the available hours in the day. At that point, a want must go a-wanting.

The solution is preventative: choose carefully at the outset. Be grateful that, although you can't have everything, some very nice anythings await your selection.


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