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


Fielding Your Dreams

Baseball is fun for you & me. There is batting and fielding and making an out, There is doubles & triples and even home runs, But what I like about baseball is for the fun.


How powerful are thoughts that become dreams? Here is an example.

A writer, W. P. Kinsella, sat in Calgary, Canada, and had a thought: what if an Iowa corn farmer had a dream, and, combining that dream with action, he was able to reunite with his father, who had died many years earlier, for a game of baseball?

Kinsella did something about his dream. He wrote a novel called Shoeless Joe. The book was read by film director Phil Alden Robinson. Without their ever meeting, the dream (thought) was passed (successfully communicated). Robinson's dream was to write and direct a film based on the book. His dream, too, was for Kevin Costner to play the farmer who converts some of his farmland into a baseball field.

He successfully communicated his dream to Costner, who helped pass the dream along to some money-people in Hollywood. Many successfully communicated dreams later, a film was made--Field of Dreams .

It was (and is) a great film, a great success (Hollywood translation: it made a lot of money), and an Academy Award nominee.

Well and good. But the power of that dream didn't end there.

The farm on which the film was shot is owned by Don Lansing. Since the film's opening, thousands of people--moved by the power of a dream--have traveled to Dyersville, Iowa, to see the field, play a little baseball, get married (really, at home plate)--but mostly to affirm that dreams can, and do, come true.

It's not just my parents who believe they'll see Matt on the field, it's me too. I'll see Matt through my heart. You have to believe before you can see things on the field, and if you believe, you'll see.


But the story is still not over.

(If you haven't seen the film, now is a wonderful time to set down the book, go rent the video, watch it, and return to this spot for the conclusion of this story.)

Here is a letter Lansing received in the fall of 1989:

Dear Don,

You don't know me; my name is Jim Bohn. My son Matt and mother-in-law Lena Blaha died in the crash of United Airlines Flight 232 in Sioux City on July 19.

This past spring I had taken my son and family to see the movie "Field of Dreams." We loved the movie. I had no idea that the "field" was still there. I figured that after the filming it had been replanted. To my surprise and delight, I read an article last evening in our Pittsburgh (PA.) Press newspaper that you have been maintaining the field. How long do you plan to maintain it as the baseball field? Will you still receive visitors next summer? We are planning to visit Sioux City next summer for the anniversary of the crash and would love to stop and visit the field.

Matt was 12 and loved baseball. So do I, as my father before me did. I've always coached Matt's team. For the past 6 years we have had a great time enjoying each other and baseball.

As you may know the plane crashed in an Iowa corn field. I found the whole idea very ironic; the story of an Iowa corn farmer who plows up his corn field to make a baseball field where dreams come true and my son, who loved baseball, dying in an Iowa corn field. My dreams came to an end.

When I was in Sioux City after the crash, I stayed at Briar Cliff College. From my room the most prominent object in the landscape was a baseball field. I could not stop thinking about the movie, the crash and a corn field in Iowa. There was message there.

When I read the article last evening I knew I had to visit the "field." Please let me know of your plans for the field. I hope I will have the chance to walk with my son one more time.

I was able to read your letter.--If the movie means anything to me now it's that you get that chance to walk with your son.--I am with you in spirit.--Love, Kevin.


It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.


A single thought, by a writer living in Canada, became a dream inspiring millions, and gave comfort to a family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Thus, the power of a dream.

UPDATE: As it turned out, I rewrote this chapter only two days after the September 1994 USAir crash en route to Pittsburgh. I called Jim, Cindy, and Stephanie (who will be fourteen in three weeks). They told me that although the recent tragedy brought back painful memories, they have nevertheless volunteered to help some of the families devastated by the crash. The dream--the gift, and life--goes on.

The Thought-Feeling-Action Pyramid

When people say to me: "How do you do so many things?" I often answer them, without meaning to be cruel: "How do you do so little?" It seems to me that people have vast potential. Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don't. They sit in front of the telly and treat life as if it goes on forever.


Successful achievement requires the use and coordination of thoughts, feelings, and actions. They form the three sides of a triangle--a pyramid.

Like a stool that requires at least three legs for stability, ongoing accomplishment requires thoughts, feelings, and actions for success.

Thoughts spark the process, get it going. Feelings keep the thoughts alive, encourage similar thoughts, and get the body moving. Action is important to accomplish the physical tasks necessary for achievement.

Without all three, the pyramid collapses.


To change one's life:
  1. Start immediately.
  2. Do it flamboyantly.
  3. No exceptions.

William James

One of the most powerful tools in the achievement tool kit is the combination of commitment and action. W. H. Murray, in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, explained it:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:

Whatever you can do,
or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius,
power and magic in it.

When you're so committed to something you know it's going to happen, you act as though it's going to happen. That action is a powerful affirmation.

If you sit back and say you're committed, but wait for conclusive proof before you act, little is likely to happen. It's called "playing it safe." I don't recommend that game. Not only is it ineffective and demoralizing, it's already being played by people who are absolute masters at it. The field, in fact, is overcrowded. You'll have to study long and hard to beat them at that game.

Be bold. Commit and act. Your action indicates the depth of your commitment. Action can also determine the measure of support you'll get from others.

If you tell friends, "I'm going to visit Hawaii, someday," they'll probably say, "That's nice." If you tell them, however, while heading for the door, suitcase in hand, a nonrefundable ticket in the pocket of your funny-looking flowered shirt, your friends are more likely to say, "Can we drive you to the airport? Do you need anything? Can we help you carry your lei?"

What is your purpose? Commit to it.

What experiences do you want? Commit to giving yourself those experiences regularly.

Look at your top-ten list. Commit to each goal.

You are, in fact, not committing to any project . You are committing to yourself.

The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.


Your Word and How to Keep It

Never esteem anything as of advantage to you that will make you break your word or lose your self-respect.

121-180 A.D.

Your word is one of the most precious things you own. Do not give it lightly. Once given, do everything within your power not to break it. A broken word, like a broken cup, cannot hold very much for very long.

Does one broken agreement matter? One broken agreement is like a grain of sand. To a lake, one grain of sand is nothing. Gather enough grains of sand, however, and a lake becomes a swamp. Add enough more, and it becomes a bog. (Ever feel bogged down?) Add enough more, and it becomes a desert. (Did you ever feel barren inside? Did you ever plant a dream and wonder why it did not grow?)

No, one grain of sand doesn't much matter (unless, of course, the winds of fate blow it back in your eye). Gather enough grains day after day for a lifetime, and your only effective action might be sandbagging.

Most of us look back on a seemingly endless trail of broken agreements. That's a lot of sand. Is it, then, hopeless? Not at all. Declare your past broken agreements a beach, and get on with your life. (The techniques given in the chapters "For Giving" and "For Getting" are especially useful, as is the exercise in "Heal the Past.")

I phoned my dad to tell him I had stopped smoking. He called me a quitter.


If our word is so important, what (or who) would keep us from keeping it? Once again, I present a familiar cast of characters: rebels, the unconscious, comfort junkies, and approval seekers. (By the way, don't get too down on this unworthiness tribe; the Master Teachers employ them as Master Testers. They're friends, too.)

Rebels will break a rule just because it's a rule. "Rules are for fools!" they claim. They consider agreements of any kind--including ones they make, involving things they want to do--rules. They claim they have no commitments in life--only options.

The Unconscious use the excuse, "I forgot!" whenever an agreement is broken (which is often). If they genuinely did forget, they consider that a sufficient explanation. When asked, "Why didn't you write it down," the unconscious may say, "I meant to, but I forgot." They misplaced their datebook. Where? You know the answer to that one.

Comfort Junkies will keep agreements--if they want to at the moment. If it means doing something uncomfortable, however, they don't do it. This is most of the time. To make an agreement is easy. (It's less uncomfortable than saying no.) To actually do something when the time arrives is not comfortable. Calling and saying they won't be there is uncomfortable, too, so they avoid the whole situation.

Approval Seekers will agree to do something because, when they do, they get approval. Their schedules become hopelessly overcrowded, so keeping all those conflicting agreements becomes impossible. Their reasons for breaking agreements are excellent ones, however: visiting the sick, feeding the homeless, feeding pet butterflies (I tried it; it worked)--designed to get approval even while breaking an agreement.

One must have a good memory to be able to keep the promises one makes.


How to keep agreements? A few suggestions:

  1. Make only agreements you plan to keep. Learn to say no, or maybe, or I'll get back to you (and do get back to them). If you don't want to do now whatever it is you're agreeing to do later, you probably won't want to do it when the time comes, so make your "no" known now.

  2. 2. Make every agreement important. Some play the game, "This agreement is more important than that agreement." In terms of ramifications "out there," that may be true, but inside yourself, each time you break your word, no matter how seemingly trivial, it costs.

  3. Keep the agreements you've made. Even if keeping an agreement is uncomfortable, outrageously expensive, or in some way seemingly prohibitive--keep it anyway. Doing this may show you--experientially--the wisdom of suggestion #1. Slip-sliding out of agreements at the last minute will only show you that you know how to slip-slide out of agreements at the last minute. Most of us already know how to do that fairly well.

  4. Write agreements down. Keep a calendar or datebook. Record your agreements. Review the calendar at least once a day.

  5. Communicate. If a conflict arises and you may have to rearrange an agreement, communicate as soon as you discover the conflict. There are at least two ways to reschedule an agreement: "Something more important than keeping my agreement with you has come up, so let's reschedule," or, "We have an agreement, and I'm willing to keep it, but I'd really appreciate it if we could move it to another time." Which do you suppose is more accountable, courteous, and recommended? (By the way, if you use the second approach, don't do it as a technique--mean it. If the other person says, "I want you to keep your agreement anyway," be prepared to keep it.)

When you lovingly keep your word--keep it safe, keep it strong, keep it true--you will know the power of it. When you lend it to a cause--especially one of your own choosing--its effect will be powerful. Its effect will be known.

The price of greatness is responsibility.



For the very true beginning of wisdom is the desire of discipline; and the care of discipline is love.


Most of us associate the word discipline with punishment of a precise and exacting nature--fourth-grade teachers and the military are notorious for discipline. To call someone a disciplinarian is seldom a compliment.

To call someone Machiavellian is usually not nice, either. Maybe it was Machiavelli who gave discipline a bad name. In 1532 he wrote,

A prince should therefore have no other aim or thought but war and discipline, for that is the only art that is necessary to one who commands.

The word discipline comes from two very nice words: discipulus , meaning pupil, and discere , to learn. Discipline, then, is devotion to learning.

I like to think of discipline not as forcing yourself to do without (the austerity school), but as keeping your attention focused on what you want.

When your attention is focused on what you want, the emotions and body tend to follow. Our attention is like a flashlight beam in a dark room. What we focus the beam on, we emotionally respond to, and move our body accordingly. As Schiller wrote in 1799, "The eye sees the open heaven, / The heart is intoxicated with bliss."

For example, are you content reading this book? If so, that's the thing to focus on. You could, if you wanted to feel deprived, think about everything else in the entire world you could be doing right now except that you are sacrificing all those incredible experiences to sit and read this book. But this book is supposed to be good for you, so keep sitting here reading it, no matter how much you want to do all those other wonderful things .

This is how many people view discipline. My suggestion? Focus on what you're doing. If what you're doing at the moment is not entirely pleasing (I don't mean this moment with this book, of course; I mean some other moment with some other book), ask yourself, "Does what I'm doing lead to something that is pleasing?" If yes, then focus on the pleasant goal. If no, do something else.

That's being a disciple.

Liberty is a beloved discipline.


Unified, disciplined, armed with the secret powers of the atom and with knowledge as yet beyond dreaming, Life, forever dying to be born afresh, forever young and eager, will presently stand upon this earth as upon a footstool and stretch out its realm amidst the stars.


Positive Focusing

Beaver: Gee, there's something wrong with just about everything, isn't there Dad?
Ward: Just about, Beav.
Ever wonder why it's so difficult to keep negative thoughts out of your mind for any period of time? Ever berate yourself for not being able to hold a more positive thought longer? There's no need for self-reproach; the odds are so stacked against us, the fact that we have any positive thought at all is something of a miracle.

Here's what we're up against:

  1. The Fight or Flight Response. This is an in-built, physiological response to danger. When danger is perceived (not actually happening, mind you, just perceived) the body reacts. The body calls an All Alert and prepares to either fight or flee for its life .

    This was a very handy response for millions of years, but today, for most of us, it's counterproductive. (If you are a police officer, a firefighter, or make your living as a contestant on television game shows, the Fight or Flight Response may still come in handy.)

    Part of the Fight or Flight Response is focusing the mind on what's wrong in the environment. This was helpful in the days when humans had to find the saber-tooth tigers before the tigers found them. Today, this intense, life-or-death searching for "What's wrong?" usually unearths something that's not right. That "something" may trigger another round of the Fight or Flight Response. The truly bad news? All of this negative-fact finding is completely automatic.

    Nobody, as long as he moves about among the chaotic currents of life, is without trouble.


  2. Childhood programming. As I've mentioned before, our parents, often, trained us by telling us what not to do. All the things we did correctly--and there were many--were quickly accepted (and then expected) as "normal" behavior. Our occasional departures from our parents' Ideal Child Behavioral Matrix? The boom lowered. (You can skip this point if your parents were the kind who smiled and said, "Isn't that sweet? What remarkable individuality you're showing, dear, by pouring honey on the cat!") Is it any wonder, even today, we sometimes find ourselves unconsciously scanning the environment, looking for bad things not to do?

  3. The general negativity around us. We turn on the news, and what's the news? Bad news. We pick up the newspaper and what do we read? News of fresh disasters. Commercials warn us of bad breath, body odor, constipation, how it feels when a sesame seed gets caught under dentures.

    The favorite conversation? Gossip. The favorite activity? Complaining. Between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m., in cocktail lounges all over town, the citizenry gathers for the daily meeting of the Ain't-It-Awful Club. For the price of a drink (and you get two-for-one), you can tell your day's troubles to a stranger--providing you are willing to listen for an equal length of time to the stranger's woes. For some unknown reason, this is called The Happy Hour.

  4. Everything's falling apart (entropy). How do you like this entropy law? Everything is in a state of deterioration. Leave something alone, and it rots. We know that, but do we need a mathematical formula to tell us how fast? Entropy comes from a Greek word meaning transformation. What they really mean is that everything is transforming into something worse .

  5. Genetics. Well, there's nothing much we can do about that, now is there? Hopeless.

All of this internal and external programming will, naturally, lead to negative thoughts. No big deal. Really. Let them drift through your mind like leaves on a patio. There's no need to resist them, hold onto them, or entertain them (I'm talking about thoughts here, not leaves).

What's important is your focus . Where--in the big picture--are you putting your attention? If you're focused on your goal, you can have any number of positive and negative thoughts along the way. (And probably will.)

It's a journey. As long as you keep moving toward your destination, you're doing fine. It's when you stop moving, or are not moving toward your destination, that some "course correction" is in order.

Those who enjoy being on the train, and those who do not enjoy being on the train, get to the same destination at the same time. Yes, there are things you can do to enjoy the train more. Lots of techniques for enjoyment are given in the next section (Part Five). For now, however, know that being on the train that's going in the direction of your choice is all it takes.

Naturally, the more positive thoughts you have, the more positive you'll feel. If you want to feel happy, think about happy things. An unending stream of "happy thoughts" is not, however, necessary to reach your goal.

Motion and direction are.


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