Be Excellent, Be Gone
The other day I was having this conversation with a neighbor of mine. This guy is pretty old, and was talking about well his kids were doing. He had three sons, and they all went to university, got decent jobs, and are now married with kids of their own. The guy seemed to be bragging about his kids, but I could detect a little bit of sadness. The guy’s wife died several years ago, and he lives alone. Hence his frequent chats with me and all the other neighbors. The guy is lonely. But he somehow knows when to cut a conversation short; he seems to have a sixth sense of doing this just before he starts to wear out his welcome.
But not a bad kind of lonely, like some old people. I had this neighbor once that was always eager to talk with you, but she gave off this really strong vibe of desperation. As soon as this lady started talking to, you had to figure out a way to make an escape. If it were up to her, she would talk to you for hours on end. Sometime she would knock on my door with a really weak excuse, when it was obvious that she was looking for somebody to talk to.
Reminds me of a story that people tell sometimes about Milton Erickson, who was a world famous hypnotherapist back in the fifties and sixties. There was a woman, in her sixties, who was old and lonely like the two people mentioned above. She went to Dr. Erickson for help, and he gave her some advice. It was a variation of the old “if you want to make a friend, be a friend,” advice.
Since was particularly fond of a type of flower, African Violets, and grew quite a bit of them, he had a pretty interesting idea. Her assignment was to read the Sunday newspapers, both the obituaries, and the announcements. If somebody that lived in her neighborhood passed away, she was to bring them a bouquet of African Violets as a condolence. She wasn’t supposed to hang around very long, or try to make friends. Just show up, give her condolence, offer the flowers, and leave.
Likewise, if she saw a good piece of news in the announcements, such as a wedding, or a graduation, or a new baby, she was to put together a bouquet, and bring it over as a gift of congratulations. Again, the assignment wasn’t the same. Show up, give her congratulations and the flowers, and split.
She was to do this every week, at least once. Keep in mind this was back in the fifties, when it wasn’t uncommon for neighbors to do this kind of thing. If you tried this today, somebody might call the cops or something, depending on the neighborhood.
At first she was incredibly nervous and worried that she would be rejected. She was afraid that people wouldn’t want her, or her gift. So the first couple of times it was very hard. But once she got over her nervousness, and realized that most people are generally very friendly, and will happily accept well wishes from strangers, so long as they don’t have any ulterior motives.
Pretty soon she was doing three, four, even five trips every weekend. As the weeks and months went by, she found her self very busy with her little operation that was actually getting quite big. It didn’t take her very long for her loneliness to disappear as she learned one of life’s most valuable lessons.
The best way to help yourself is to help others first.
Of course had Dr. Erickson told her this as some vague platitude, she would have agreed, and not changed much. But he broke it down for her into a simple task, so that she would discover this lesson for herself.
And years later, when she died, thousands of people crowed at her memorial service, and she got quite a write up in several newspapers:
African Violet Queen Mourned By Thousands
Not bad for a lonely old lady. Just goes to show what a simple effort to step outside of your comfort zone just a little bit can do. To see what you can offer to others.
It’s important to remember that she never hung around after she gave her bouquet of flowers, expecting immediate thanks or gratification. Erickson was explicit on this. Let the reciprocity slowly build throw the strange effects of karma.
For some reason, it reminds me of a movie called “The Tao Of Steve.” A movie that is particularly popular among those that would like to me master seducers of women. It was about this guy that was poor, overweight, and not all that attractive. But he was wildly successful with women. His motto was simple.
Be excellent, be gone.
Meaning never hang around waiting for people to say “thanks,” or tell you what a nice person you are. Do good things for others simply for the feeling you get for doing them. Then get the hell out of Dodge. If you are patient, your rewards will come. With much more magnitude and much more significance that you could ever imagine.