We use two words (or their synonyms) all the time: "I' and "choice." You would think we would clearly know what these words mean.If you ask me to define a cat, I can distinguish (define) with much certainty between a cat and a non-cat. Not so when I try to distinguish my "I" from my "non-I." For example, I might claim that whatever is my "i," it resides in a mind-body known as "Dwight." But, even that, I am not so sure of.Moreover, when I try to distinguish what "choose" means in the sentence, "I choose to give you some money," I cannot be so sure that the act of giving you money was not caused (or chosen) by something other than my "I."I take the inquiry into who my "I" is and what "choosing" is as a life-long journey of exploration.
Some of the following decisions were made explicitly and at a specific time. Others were made/absorbed implicitly over several months or even a few years.
As you read through my life-changing decisions below, it would be fun to ask yourself which of your life decisions have had an indelible impact on your life?
1949 age 5: To think for myself. My mother taught me this even if it meant disagreeing with her.
1950 age 6: Although I felt some guilt about it, most often I didn’t do my school homework unless it was interesting to me. My mother left this choice up to me.
1951 age 7: Saw people as “good people” and “bad people.” I was moralistic, always thinking and reacting in terms of right and wrong, good and bad, and trying to be the “a good boy.” Only in my early 20s did I begin to question this idea and it took many years for me to begin to step outside of this paradigm and live inside the new one indicated by Rumi when he said, “Out beyond ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing, there is a field.”
1952 age 8: After a frightening playground accident, I decided to never fight again (unless it was a matter of my or my family’s life or death). Until this decision, I was rather pugnacious, often getting into fights with other boys.
1954 age 10: Discovering that my father had a mental illness, I thought of our family as “rather special,” like in the story books.
1954 age 10: Noticing that my father seemed dead to the adventures of life, I promised myself to try to keep the little boy inside me alive even when I became his age.
1955 age 11: Decided that I belonged to humanity and to the world. I didn’t belong to my family, nor to my school (I had no school spirit), nor to my country. Outside of my love for humanity and for reciprocity, I let go of any sense of obligation or duty.
1956 age 12: Noticing that my parents, with three children, had no free money or free time, I decided to never have children.
1956 age 12: Started trying to discover my future career. I knew the importance of choosing something that you loved doing.
1958 age 14: Noticing that I could always find something I disagreed with about some specific way of life (for example, being a Christian), I decided to eclectically build my life philosophy. I would explore many different ways of understanding life and use what made sense, discarding the rest.
1958 age 14: After reading Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” I broke my habit of arguing with everyone and started making more friends.
1958 age 14: Discovering “The Foundation for Economic Education,” I became a Libertarian. While modifying my political philosophy somewhat over the years (for example, to take account of the “problem of the commons”), I still see a Libertarian approach to government to be the most supportive of human safety, progress, and mutually beneficial relationships.
1959 age 15: Discovered that happiness was the ultimate purpose of life.
1963 age 19: Decided it was okay to have sex before (or even outside of) marriage. I also discovered that masturbation was healthy and I let go of my guilt about doing that.
1963 age 19: Reading Ayn Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness” and later taking some of her philosophy courses in New York City, I established a new level of life understanding, some of which I transcended later.
1964 age 20: Decided to try to live forever (I even asked a medical doctor about the possibility of a body transplant: my brain into another body).
1965 age 21: I decided to give up on trying to learn foreign languages. Previously I had studied Latin, Norwegian, and German.
1965 age 21: Decided to quit college (it was so boring). I joined the Marine Corps Reserve to avoid the military draft and going to Vietnam.
1966 age 22: Having quit college and having no definite life direction, I borrowed $200 from my parents and took a two-day bus to New York City, intending to build my life there.
1966 age 22: Gave up on the idea of trying to “find my career.” I told myself, “Just find a job you think you would enjoy and forget about whether or not it will be your career.” Within three weeks of arriving in New York City, IBM hired me and trained me as a computer programmer. Within a few months I knew I had found a career that I loved.
1968 age 24: Wanting more freedom to learn and explore my life, I quit IBM to work for myself as a freelance computer programmer.
1969 age 25: Got a vasectomy. Even though I didn’t yet have a girlfriend, I wanted to make sure a woman never said to me, “I’ve got your baby.”
1970 age 26: Even though I remained a feminist, I learned that women wanted to be treated, in many respects, differently than men. Consequently, I got my first girlfriend and had no trouble getting girlfriends after that.
1971 age 27: Started going to a Gestalt therapist and discovered the world of self-development.
1973 age 29: Discovered est and later The Forum and Landmark Education (created by Werner Erhard). These trainings made a profound impact on my life and are responsible for me being a life coach today.
1975 age 31: During a seminal exercise inside of a weekend Intensive lead by Dr. Nathaniel Branden, I re-owned the five-year-old boy inside me and, in just a few short minutes, my life went from being hard to being my playground.
1979 age 35: Discovered Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). I studied NLP under Dr. John Grinder and Richard Bandler, becoming a certified NLP Practitioner.
1979 age 35: I moved from New York City to Tempe, Arizona (near Phoenix, Arizona). I loaded fourteen years of accumulated belongings and furniture in a rented Uhaul van and drove by myself for five days across America to my new home.
1981 age 37: Decided (near the beginning of the year) to let go of polyamory or serial monogamy and be open to a lifetime relationship with a woman. I met the woman I would marry in June of that year.
1983 age 39: Married Louise VanBuskirk.
1984 age 40: Sold my invention of a computer program called “The Magical Poet” to a multi-millionaire. He established a company to market it through kiosks placed in greeting card shops across America using the Apple Macintosh computer. “The Magical Poet” asked the user a few personal questions about a friend, colleague, or relative and then composed a 15-line personalized limerick about that person.
1986 age 42: Invented a technique (called “Consider It Done”) that guaranteed the keeping of self-promises to anyone who used it.
1987 age 43: After twenty years working with computers, I changed my career from computer software consultant to life coach.
1990 age 46: While taking the Landmark Education “Advanced Course,” I discovered that my three most fundamental life essences were play, adventure, and connection.
1991 age 47: Became acutely aware that making friends with fear and choosing courage was the fundamental foundation to creating and maintaining a great life.
1993 age 49: After a mutually happy divorce with my wife Louise, I married Yuko Nagai (who had immigrated from Japan).
1994 age 50: Legally changed my family name from Minkler to GoldWinde (along with my wife who also adopted this family name). This new name symbolizes for me my intention to spread great value all around the world (gold dust in the wind).
1994 age 50: Not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after three months of depression (I was in a “life, don’t bother me” mood), I stumbled on/created a process that totally dissolved my depression within three hours. I call this process Enchanting: nonsensical, extemporaneous verbalization. Since that time, I’ve used Enchanting as a prophylactic against any and all unwanted moods.
1995 age 51: Visited Sapporo, Japan with my wife Yuko. I became totally fascinated by the Japanese people.
1996 age 52: Separated from Yuko (we divorced in 1997). I finally learned that, no matter how much I love a woman, to maintain my passion for her, I need to keep some distance (visiting with my girlfriend once a week is usually about right). The structure of marriage does not fit me.
1996 age 52: In separating from my wife, I confronted my identity as a good guy (“a good guy doesn’t leave his wife”.) This was the biggest choice of courage of my entire life. From this choice, I learned to create and maintain good boundaries with others.
1997 age 53: Identified and transcended an identity issue that was keeping me from getting a bad tooth fixed: “I will find a better way to heal my teeth than the dentists have.” I got my tooth fixed by a dentist.
1998 age 54: Became very clear about the equal importance of the value of giving up (quitaverance) in addition to the value of continuing on (perseverance).
1999 age 54: After visiting Japan three times (40 days in 1997, 90 days in 1998, and two weeks in 1999), I decided, “Goodbye America, Hello Japan.” I moved to Tokyo.
2000 age 55: After living in Japan (and later China), I found I don’t like to live in western countries; they occur as boring to me. Living in Asian countries fits me much better. I feel more adventure, excitement, and even freedom in Asian cultures. That would not be true if I were Asian. All these benefits live inside of the special dynamic of me being a westerner in an Asian culture.
2000 age 55: After visiting Shanghai, China in July of 2000, I decided that Shanghai and China were better for me than Tokyo and Japan. I moved to Shanghai after living one year in Tokyo.
2001 age 56: Became very clear about the joys of living alone. I enjoy guests. But they are always my guests that I will say goodbye to. Then I will rejoice again in my own solitude and having completely private space.
2002 age 57: Beginnings of hiring a regular personal assistant and housekeeper. Today these two assistants provide invaluable power and richness to my life. My personal assistant works about six hours per day, five days a week. My housekeeper works about five hours a day, three days a week.
2004 age 60: Published (with coauthor Trish Coffey) my 700-page book, “Courage: the Choice that Makes the Difference: Your Key to a Thousand Doors,” after four years of writing and development. I am immensely proud of this book.
2005 age 61: Started taking a nine-day holiday every three months, mostly jumping around China and different Asian countries.
2009 age 65: Attended Byron Katie’s nine-day “School for the Work” residency course. Her “four questions plus a turnaround” provided additional access for living a life I love as well as coaching my clients.
2009 age 65: After visiting Kunming, China, I decided that Kunming was better for me than Shanghai. I moved to Kunming after living nine years in Shanghai.
2010 age 66: Lucky stars descended upon me when I met Heidi Yang in Kunming. She’s been my personal/business assistant for nine year now, also becoming my dearest Chinese friend.
2011 age 67: With the ease and low-cost of digital point-and-shoot photography, I fell in love with taking photos while walking along the streets of Kunming. I especially like taking photos of Chinese children. Unlike American parents, Chinese parents and grandparents are most often delighted that I am taking a photo of their child. I take over 200 photos a week.
2012 age 68: Deciding that sleep and being well rested is the #1 priority of my life, I started getting into bed by 9.00pm each night (waking up naturally sometime between 4.00am and 6.00am). Then, every day, around noon time, I take a one-to-two hour nap.
2013 age 69: Discovered the whole new world of cognitive biases by reading Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Since then I have continued to study this new domain of science, seeing how much I can improve my decision-making ability. Check out the website: LessWrong.com.
2014 age 70: Although I experimented with a ketogenic diet for a while, I am currently settled on a 98% unprocessed moderate-to-low carb, vegan eating program (I eat one sardine each day). With once-a-week splurge meals, I fast over 16 hours each day, rarely eating between 6.00pm and 10.00am (except for green tea, supplements, etc.). My energy level is the highest it’s ever been. I also created a more focused intention of living with vitality until at least July 18, 2115.
2015 age 71: Established the daily practice of self-coaching. With my assistant Heidi as a great listener, I found I could coach myself through almost any problem.
2016 age 72: Got very clear about the fundamental distinctions of my-now (the part of us that just wants to be comfortable and happy now) and my-next (the part of us that wants our future to be happy). And also I got clear about the distinctions of my-me (the part of us that wants and needs to take care of ourselves) and my-you (the part of us that wants to take care of others and wants approval from others). I discovered that all internal conflicts occur as a result of two or more of these four parts being at odds with each other. Therefore, the solution of all internal problems lies in being able to get these four parts of ourselves working together instead of fighting with each other.
2016 age 72: Became more powerfully aware of the effectiveness of cognitive approaches in making wanted life changes. I became aware of this after reading “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy” and “The Ten-Minute Cognitive Workout.” I started my own everyday ten-minute cognitive workout. I often recommend this workout to my clients.
2017 age 73: Discovered that super intense exercise is much more important than exercise spread over more time. I learned this by reading “The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That's Smarter, Faster, Shorter.” I am staying in great shape with just nine minutes of intense exercise per week.
2018 age 74: I took the stand that I am the “Newton of the New Ethics.” My life mission (for others) is to bring the new ethics (a partnership among my-now, my-next, my-me, and my-you) to humanity.
2018 age 74: With such high energy due to my great diet, supplements, and exercise program, I often had trouble getting to sleep at night. But then I found a way to almost always fall asleep quickly. Every night, just before bed and with only dim lights, at around 8:30 pm, I take 500 mg l-theanine and 5g of melatonin. Then I soak my full body for eight minutes in a hot epsom salts bath (about 150 grams of epsom salt each time). Getting into bed immediately afterwards, I’m able to fall asleep quickly.
Most of learning throughout history (aside from teaching a skill) has been to learn things that we’ll hopefully remember in order for that learning to be useful at a needed time in the future.
We are much better served in this new world by learning skills to access knowledge at the moment we need it, rather than trying to remember it.
Why do we need to learn how to add 6473 to 7385 when, if we know how to use a calculator or google (yes, google will add these two numbers for you), then, practically, learning how to add is redundant and quickly becoming useless?
We will be much more adept and powerful by developing exploratory skills to get the answers to things when we need them than to try to know them, rather than count on remembering them in advance.
And this new type of learning is likely to be more satisfying than “remember this fact and remember that fact.”
A new type of assignment might be, “Using the resources of different search engines what might be a more effective wording and methodology to discover the 25 top ranked causes of death or disability in a person of your age, sex, and nationality? Test out different wordings to determine how the ‘answers’ get nuanced.”
Another assignment might be, “Come up with four slightly different questions to ask google on how to prepare powerfully for a job interview. Test them out and determine which question gave the more helpful answers.”
Another exploration, “Find the five best resource sites/books for learning how to have more confidence. Compare and contrast the sites/books you found with those that other students found.”
Another experiment, “Interview five people (finding at least two you didn’t know already) to discover their favored approaches to solving different types of problems in their lives.”
I didn't deserve my mother. I could have gotten a different mother, a mother who was not "the one in a million." But, even though others didn't deserve the mother they got, just like I didn't deserve the mother I got, most people got mothers who were not "the one in a million."
Almost everyone who has met my mother or with whom I have told about mother, has exclaimed to me, "I wish I had gotten YOUR mother." Perhaps some of them were lying, but I don't think so.
I regularly meet a lot of new people, mostly by my instigation. For those with whom I can spend some quality time, I often get the feedback, "You've opened my eyes unlike anyone has ever done before."
In general, these whom I meet and impact did not deserve to meet me anymore than those who will never meet me. In this way, one could say that I am a potentially "undeserved" gift to all those who I meet.
I give to others what was given to me through the undeserved gift of my mother.
Most people think I'm an optimist, but they're wrong.
An optimist is someone who ignores or denies the risk that something won't turn out the way they want. They avoid acknowledging the risk and feeling the fear that it may not turn out as they intend.
"Of course I'll get the job," they think, not allowing for the risk that they may not.
A pessimist is someone who ignores or denies the possibility (the positive risk), that, if they did go for something, that it would turn out the way they want. By denying the possibility of a wanted outcome, they get to avoid (usually by inaction) feeling the risk of an unwanted outcome.
"I don't think I could get that job. It's a waste of my time to go for it," they think, not allowing for the possibility that they might get the job if they did their best in going for it.
Both the optimist and the pessimist blind themselves by their resistance to acknowledging the risks and fears.
The person who is willing to choose courage, allows both for the risks and the possibilities and chooses with open eyes whether the benefits/possibilities are more or the costs/risks are greater.
In this way I could say that I am both an optimist and a pessimist or that I am neither.
As long as you prioritize goals and results over the journey and enjoying the process, "having enough time" will always be an issue.
Once you learn to prioritize enjoying the process and dancing along the journey as more important than getting any particular result, then the "problem of time" will disappear except, on occasion, as something interesting to play with.
Are you concerned about “looking good”?
Of course you are. We all are. It's built into our DNA.
We want to look good, to avoid looking bad, and to avoid upsetting or disappointing others.
But at what price?
In Bronnie Ware's book, "The Top Five Regrets of the Dying," she reports that the number one regret was, "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
Wanting (and even taking action) to look good to others is not a problem if you keep it in the right priority and you consider both long-term "looking good" as well as short-term.
To keep this priority you will need to choose courage to ensure that you take care of yourself in making requests, saying "no," sharing yourself more openly, and maintaining good boundaries with others. Looking good to others comes as a second priority after these.
It's almost paradoxical that those who are most concerned about how they look to others very often have the least satisfying relationships.
My mother wasn't famous and had no desire to be famous or "great." And, somehow I knew, from fairly early in my childhood, that I had been gifted with a mother who was extraordinary beyond any other that I would know or would ever read about (so far).
To give you just some idea of her unique wisdom, especially as a mother, I'll share three points about her:
1) She always taught to me think for myself and to make my own decisions in life (even if it meant disagreeing with her).
2) She never required I do my school homework. She often said, "Children should have time to play."
3) She was happy and created her own happiness independent of us three kids. She never relied on us to "make her happy."
Even though she died six years ago (at age 90), she's always with me. I can feel her presence with me now as I write this. "Hello, Mama..."
Are you peaceful when you’re powerless?
Powerlessly, like fear, doesn't have good PR. We resist it. We think something's wrong when we're powerless.
But powerlessness is a fact of life. In fact, for every one thing we have power or influence over, there are thousands of things that we don't.
Sometimes we even try to invoke more power by appealing to God or the universe, not content to accept our powerlessness.
Yes, many times we could exercise more power or influence than we think we have. Often, to avoid choosing courage, we will lie to ourselves about how we're powerless. We often indulge in making ourselves powerless by being a victim and blaming others (or even by blaming ourselves, making ourselves both the blamer and the guilty one at the same time).
Regardless, we are still powerless to change or influence countless things in our lives. This is not a problem unless we make it a problem. If we do whatever we think we can do to get what we want and then leave the rest up to God and the universe (or whoever or whatever), trusting in the "kindness" of it all, then the game of life becomes both peaceful and easy.
Welcome to the peacefulness of powerlessness.