Putting in Stars

Dreaming of Success

Maybe you want more… Tony did. Little Tony was born “in the wrong neighborhood” to relatively poor, working class parents who couldn’t afford to send him to college.

But even as a child, little Tony ached and yearned to amount to something, to be really big in the world. His grades weren’t all that special, but he had one burning desire. He wanted to be a big success.

He began studying every self-help teacher he could find. He devoured books. He didn’t listen to tapes – he inhaled them. So completely did he immerse himself in the thinking and spirit of self-improvement material that by the time he was in high school, Tony was already an expert on the subject.

And so great was his hunger to become really big in the world that one summer, a strange process began. Tony started growing. He got taller and taller, and before it was over, little Tony wasn’t little any longer. In fact, at 2 meters tall, he suddenly found himself towering over nearly everyone he met.

By now, you know I’m talking about Tony Robbins, who as a very young man rose almost overnight to prominence as an outstanding and enormously effective lecturer. And his staying power over the years has proven as amazing as his rise.

He truly is big now, in every sense of the word.

And, for those who think a university education is the key to the world, keep in mind that Tony didn’t go to college. When asked about this “limitation,” Robbins simply responds that he has a PhD in results. Such utter confidence.

Maybe you’ve looked (half enviously?) at outstanding successes and wondered how they do it. What sets one person so emphatically apart from everybody else? What allows them to dive into the deep end and perform at Olympic levels, while almost everyone else is still wading around in the shallow end of the kiddy pool?

This ability to perform, confidently and impressively, can seem almost superhuman at times. We often call these people overachievers.

So How DO They Do it?

We’ve been told many times that great success involves hard work, self discipline and powerful ambition.

But what if that’s not quite true? What if most “overachievers” aren’t telling us what really makes them so different?

If hard work were really the key ingredient, ditch diggers would be millionaires. Baseball players would be paid about the same as your typical train conductor, and drummers would earn more than singers.

Self discipline? Under that guideline, Zen monks and marathon runners would have all the money.

Powerful ambition? Every politician alive reeks of ambition, but plenty of them lose elections and sink back into anonymity.

Any good sports coach knows that success in competition is 90% mental. Just watch Tiger Woods on the golf course. Sure, he’s got unusual physical talents, but he works first and longest on his mental game.

So does every other winner — in any field.

One of my most favorite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi:

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it.

“On the contrary, if I shall have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have it at the beginning.”

Gandhi is quietly suggesting that he may not have possessed his outstanding abilities at the beginning of his career, that he “grew into the job.”

He’s also telling how he did it… by actively cultivating a profound belief in himself as a leader — by working on his mental game.

Note that he doesn’t credit a particular technique such as “practicing self-hypnosis” or “praying fervently” or even “doing affirmations.”

He mentions only the simplest of procedures (“I keep on saying to myself…”). Now you and I may call this “doing affirmations,” but let’s stay with his simplicity for a moment.

There is perhaps a reason his emphasis was not on technique, which is only a means to an end. The real power is in the person using the technique. Of all the millions of people “doing affirmations,” why did this one man rise to lead his country to independence?

Perhaps it’s because he realized it’s not the REPETITION of the thought, but the repetition of the THOUGHT that brings the power.

His simple words contain a clear warning, and an equally clear promise. a) Warning: If you say the WRONG things to yourself, you’ll reduce your potential. b) Promise: If you say the RIGHT things to yourself, you’ll increase your potential.

Your self talk is a tool that shapes anything you turn it towards.

A Technique Is Only a Tool

YOU, however, are the soil in which the seeds of your thoughts grow. All seeds come ready to sprout; their growth is determined largely by the soil in which they are planted.

So the tool is not as important as its consistent, diligent use.

But I believe there’s another warning in his words also, one that is more subtle.

Gandhi doesn’t appear to differentiate between saying something to oneself and believing it. He seems to equate “if I keep on saying to myself” with “if I shall have the belief.”

It’s a fact that most of us are largely unaware of our own self talk. I frequently have conversations with folks who have studied self-help for years. And yet, in many cases their speech patterns are littered with phrases like:

  • I just wish I could…
  • It’s so hard when….
  • My family’s attitude keeps me from…
  • I can’t seem to…
  • That didn’t work for me because…

Speech patterns come directly from thought patterns, so we’re given a direct window into a person’s mental landscape every time they open their mouth and say something.

Those statements above — they all indicate that the power is “out there” somewhere, rather than “in me.”

Have you ever said any of them? If you’re shaking your head no right now, you’re probably wrong. How can I say that? Years of listening to people. All kinds of people, including those who claim to be positive thinkers.

Napoleon Hill wrote: “What the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” We’ve all heard that statement hundreds of times.

But if we really believed it, we’d all be rolling in success and happiness. So why aren’t we? Little Tony did it, and he grew to be as big as he dreamed of.

I have a theory.

We read the words “conceive” and “believe” and we assume they’re two different things. But what if they’re not?

What if they’re exactly the same thing, the same way a seed and a tree are the same thing? Maybe a concept or idea is really only a very young, newly-sprouted belief.

Try this hypothesis: the conception (the idea) is the baby, and the belief (the burning certainty of achievement) is the adult. They’re just the same thing at different phases of their life cycle.

Remember, Gandhi didn’t really make any distinction between saying a thing to oneself and believing it.

To conceive of an idea, your inner intuitive mind must see the idea as potentially true — conditional, yes; improbable, yes; but to some degree your imagination sees truth in it.

What happens if you then take that improbable idea and play it back to yourself? What if you feed it and nourish it till it grows into a passionate, powerful reality for you? Until it completely dominates your inner landscape.

Let’s a take a simple example. I stand only 5-foot-10 (177cm), so even when I was younger, I was never a good candidate to play professional basketball.

However, a full two dozen players, all shorter than me, have played productively in the NBA. Of course, that kind of success didn’t just happen randomly. I’ll guarantee each of these players worked as hard on his inner game as anybody alive.

Sometime when you have a spare minute, so look up Calvin Murphy. His career on the court lasted 13 years, so he didn’t just conceive an idea — he believed it.

He had the idea, but he didn’t stop there. He nurtured it, he fed it, he cherished it, and that idea grew. Did he work hard and have ambition? You bet he did, but there are thousands and thousands of talented, hard working, ambitious players — taller players — who never even get a tryout.

But he got in. Why? Some people call it luck. But is it really luck that keeps you in the NBA for years? If we cut luck open and look inside, we’ll often find enormous, towering belief.

Now, I’ve written a couple of books and a number of articles on luck and how to improve it.

Want to know a secret? I use the word luck because that’s what most people insist on calling it. Highly successful people almost always say they don’t believe in luck.

What they DO believe in is a non-random universe that sooner or later brings everyone what they fill their mind with.

The person who deliberately chooses thoughts to produce the best results — that person KNOWS it’s not quite luck.

On the other hand, the person who is not conscious of his or her own habitual thinking believes that everything happens randomly.

Of course they believe that. They must … they don’t want to admit they’re the ones responsible for all the crappy stuff that’s always happening to them. A belief in luck lets them avoid doing anything about it. They’re living in denial.

So winners fill their mind with what they want.

Not what they dread. Not what they fear.

Does this mean they don’t have any fears? Nope, not by a long shot. They recognize their fears, but they refuse to feed them.

Courage Defined

Mark Twain said it well: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.”

Notice he also didn’t claim it’s a denial of fear. If you’re sitting in a theater, you can be aware of the person next to you, but the main thrust of your attention goes to the performance.

And successful people can be aware of fears, but their primary energy is directed to thinking the thoughts they CHOOSE to think.

Watch a star athlete in action, especially one who performs alone, like a weight lifter or gymnast. Before they begin, you can see the concentration in their eyes. They turn inward, seeing the successful results they want. That concentration, that inner game, is the reason they’re a star.

But most of the people in this world are not stars.

They’re not stars because they spend an incredible amount of time saying “I can’t.” They usually don’t, however, know that’s what they’re saying.

Want to know some of the ways you can say “I can’t” without ever realizing it? Try these:

  • The people in this town just don’t …
  • I need a coffee to get started …
  • I’m incompatible with …
  • Mars is trine Venus and Mercury is retrograde so …
  • That guy just rubs me the wrong way …
  • I hate …

In every one of those cases, the power to decide what you can do lies outside yourself. With the people in this town, you can’t. Unless the stars say you can, you can’t. Without coffee (or a drink), you can’t. Without the right partner or the right conditions, you can’t.

That’s all complete crap, of course. For every reason why not, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands of people who just go ahead and achieve anyway.

Those “I can’t” phrases are just excuses. And the tragic part is, we really believe them. We accept the idea that we can’t, because the “rules” say so. But what are the rules? They’re what everybody else believes in.

Winners, meanwhile, make their own rules. They simply give themselves permission to nourish their ideas till they grow up into reality. That’s the real reason they’re stars.

To the extent that they’re stars, they don’t use that freedom to abuse other people. They end up offering liberation to others by demonstrating just how high a human can reach when the mental limits are stripped away.

But what if you’ve tried? You’ve TRIED to reach higher but you “failed”? Did that discourage you from trying another time? Again we can turn to our friend Mark Twain.

“We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it — and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid.

“She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again — and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.”

If we’re normal, we learn from our mistakes. That’s good. But sometimes, as Twain points out, we “learn” more than we should.

Paul, now in his forties, started a construction business in his early twenties. The economy was good, there was a big boom in home building, and he was making money left and right.

He was so successful, in fact, that he didn’t need to learn anything about budgeting, nor acquire management skills.

Then the economy shifted.

He went broke, and he had to put his loyal employees out on the street. He was so scarred by that experience that even now, two decades later, he refuses to even talk about starting another business.

He learned a one-size-fits-all lesson: Running a business is not for me

He could have learned many more:

  • Money skills are important
  • I need to learn how to manage
  • Having a plan is essential
  • Always keep funds in reserve
  • Watch for changing trends

Everyone has had learning experiences. We tend to remember many of them as unpleasant episodes.

If you have any of those “bad experiences” in your past, maybe now is a good time to take them out, dust them off, and look for some of the other lessons you COULD have learned — lessons that would have helped you grow.

That’s what Twain meant by “resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.” Go grab that “failure,” look it in the eye and demand that it give you back your valuables.

The more often you do that, the less impressed you’ll be with failures. You’ll learn that such experiences are like a highwayman or bandit. You don’t much like them, but they do have treasures. You can either let them take from you, or you can take from them.

Look at it this way: if you only look at events superficially, you’ll only see what’s on the surface — all the nasty, hard to endure stuff. But if you’ll grab them and demand more before they pass on by, many times (perhaps every time), you’ll find yourself richer for having met them.

All this is just another way of saying that in every problem there is the seed of an equal or greater benefit. Usually much greater.

You have dreams. I know you do. You wouldn’t be studying motivation and self-help material if you had no dreams.

But in the past you’ve let problems and difficulties get in the way. They’ve discouraged you and slowed you, perhaps stopped you.

Sometimes the things you want to have, and do, and be … well, sometimes they can seem unreachable. Maybe even impossible.

And yes, it IS impossible if you:

  • See obstacles as stronger than you
  • Doubt that the universe supports you
  • Seek no lessons in your problems
  • Believe that you ARE your present limits

On the other hand, you COULD ACHIEVE those impossibilities if you:

  • Stop believing in every difficulty you see
  • Know the universe unconditionally loves and supports YOU
  • Realize life says yes to whatever you request
  • Fill your thoughts with fun, happy, joyous things

Regarding this last point — filling your thoughts — I don’t mean doing this for 15 minutes a day, then going your way, worrying and fretting and frowning.

I mean FILL your thoughts. Every time you start worrying, you’re imagining what might happen. This will always bring you exactly what you’re thinking about, so you want to change that — sooner rather than later.

You can retrain yourself just as you’d train your dog. In fact, some people put a lot more time and energy into their dogs than they do into their own minds.

Here’s a fairly simple way to change a habit.

First, don’t even consider “breaking” a habit. It doesn’t work. Instead, build a new one on top of the old.

If you worry, for instance, about something dreadful happening to your family, just admit it to yourself. Say, “I worry about my family.”

Now sit and think some of those worrisome thoughts. Do this for a minute or two, then deliberately replace those thoughts with a happy thought. See something wonderful happening. Think about your children or your spouse smiling and enjoying time with you.

Switch back and forth between them several times until it becomes relatively easy.

Really practice this.

Deliberately start up a worrying thought, then just as deliberately stop it and replace it with a happy one.

What you’re doing is two-fold. First, you’re convincing yourself, at the gut level, that your thoughts can be tamed. You’ll never again be so intimidated by them.

Second, you’re building a new habit. If you practice this for several days, you’ll soon find that a worrying thought will automatically trigger the second habit. Your thoughts will switch tracks and become cheerful, just as you’ve trained them to do.

That’s how you begin filling your mind with what you want. It’s not difficult at all. In fact, it’s so simple that most people just won’t do it.


I’m not quite sure, but I think that for many folks, being happy seems so alien, so outside their sphere of experience, that they can’t imagine themselves doing it.

And we already know that if you can’t imagine it, then you’ll never get it to happen.

So, yes, you have dreams. And you’ve never quite given up on them, but you’ve never quite known how, in practical terms, to fully reach them, either. They just seem so far away, so hard to achieve. It can’t be easy to reach your dreams because it looks so impossible from here.

And that’s your biggest obstacle. Your dreams, your goals, your highest ambitions are all so far away. You just can’t see how you’ll ever reach them; you could as easily reach out and touch the stars.

Well, I don’t know about the stars, but your dreams are only far away because you’ve put them there. It’s you who placed them so far out of reach, out there among the stars.

In NLP, there’s a little trick called “moving pictures.” It’s based on the fact that people seem to file different kinds of thoughts into different areas of their mental space.

For example, think of somebody you like. While you’re thinking of them, imagine reaching out to touch their shoulder. Where did you put your imaginary hand to touch them?

Now think of somebody or something that you very much dislike.

When you think of them, you’ll find they’re positioned in a different area of your mental space. The person you like may be directly in front of you, or off slightly to the left or right. The thing or person you dislike, however, will be somewhere else — a different location in your thinking. They may hover over you, or be far off to one side or the other, or wherever.

At any rate, the places will differ.

If somebody, perhaps a co-worker, irritates you constantly, you can change how you feel about them. You could mentally reach out with imaginary hands and “move them” to a different area. For example, you might move them far, far away from you where they exert little or no emotional impact.

There’s much more to this technique; you may want to study up on NLP.

So regarding your dreams, there’s one thing you COULD do if you’d like. You could simply grab those dreams and hopes and goals, and you could pull them closer. Just position them right there in front of you, where you can easily lay your hands on them. Make yourself a little “dream area” in your mind where you put all your goals for incubation.

Then, practice touching them often.

Really, what harm could that do?

You do have a choice about how you think your thoughts. It’s your head, right?

And as soon as you move those dreams close, you’ll find they feel completely different to you. No longer out of reach. No longer hopeless and unattainable.

Seriously, could it really be that simple? Well, if I told you yes, would you believe me?

Instead, why not just try it? What would it hurt?

And while you’re at it, why not reach out there and put a few of the brighter stars in your “dream area” too.

Who knows — you might become a star, as well.