It probably took place about 15 years ago. It was the Grand Ballroom in the Sheraton on the Park, in Sydney, Australia. There were about 900 cheering, positive people in the crowd. I had just finished doing a presentation and was signing books and shaking hands at the back of the room.
The seminar had been about creating an empowering mindset, how to recognize business opportunities, and follow your dreams. I shared my story of transforming from a minimum wage dishwasher to a multi-millionaire, and strategies for how the other people in the room could do the same. The music was jamming, people were buzzing, and the energy was electric. Then he came.
The man I will always remember as…the dictionary guy.
He stood around, hovering and fidgeting. Finally he worked his way up to the front of the line, holding a pocket-sized, dime store dictionary, which he was fondling nervously. He reminded me that during the session, I had grabbed a bottle of water and splashed it into the audience. (A little show biz stunt I’m known to do when I’m really connecting with an audience.) He opened the book to a page that had received a droplet or two, and explained that he had bought the dictionary for his mother. And now he didn’t know how he could give it to her. I laughed, assuming that he wanted to keep it as a souvenir or was making a joke. He wasn’t.
He pulled a receipt out of his pocket, and again started mumbling about how he couldn’t give his mother a dictionary that had had water splashed on it. I took the dictionary from his hand, replaced it with a $50 bill, and tossed the dictionary into a nearby waste basket.
“Don’t you want the receipt?” he mumbled.
“No I don’t need it. Goodbye.”
My friends told me later that he went back and took the book out of the garbage before he slunk off. Like millions of people, the dictionary guy is trying to cheat the system. He wants a better life, but only if someone is going to provide it for him. More likely he will create a self-fulfilling prophecy of lack and limitation.
In that ballroom at the Sheraton that day, he was the weird one. It was a room full of dreamers – positive, success-oriented people who were working for a better life. And they understood that this is accomplished by self-development and challenging yourself. But out in the real world, you and I are the weird ones.
As you develop on the path of personal growth, your palatable options decrease in number. There are less tv shows you can watch, movies you want to see, books you want to read, and social media platforms you can stomach. Most importantly, you will realize that the gene pool of people you want to spend extended periods of time with will dramatically decrease. Dramatically. And this can be daunting to for you, especially when it means moving away from certain people in your life.
This isn’t about being arrogant, mean-spirited, or thinking you’re better than others. It's about recognizing that everyone is on different stages of their journeys and wanting the highest good for all involved. You don’t ever help anyone who is in poverty consciousness by commiserating or participating in their drama and dysfunction. The best you can do for them is having empathy and compassion – and making sure you don’t allow them to drag you down to their state.
Here’s the reality:
You must be comfortable with yourself enough that you don’t need approval from the herd. You’ll notice many commonalities among the people who are toxic and dangerous for you. Alcoholics always want you to drink with them. Druggies want you to drug with them. Professional victims want you to wallow in misery with them. When you get sober, refuse to gossip, start a fitness routine or initiate any almost any kind of personal growth program, you’re going to create a gulf between yourself and many others. Don’t let that stop you. Alcoholics do not like sober people. Dysfunctional people don’t like happy ones. And poor people usually don’t like rich ones.
The dictionary guy and his team outnumber you 100 to one, but you can always win the match. Because the optimist always beats the cynic, and the person who sees possibilities will always triumph over those who focus on obstacles.
Being weird, being different, even being ostracized is your superpower. Embrace it.
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