When I was young, I was always good at playing the “guess what the teacher wants to hear and say that” game. Unfortunately, I wasn’t good at much else.
The result was a Master’s degree in English and no clues about relationships, managing or even being aware of my own emotions, how to achieve my most important goals or any of the other things they don’t teach you at school.
How I learned to stop
My first post-school learning opportunity came when I joined what I emphasise wasn’t a cult, though I could easily talk about it in a way that made it sound like one. It was a voluntary organisation, a religious organisation that had a very definite idea of what people should think and how they should behave. And I didn’t fit in, and I broke my heart over one of my fellow members who “didn’t think of me that way”, and in general it was a mess, and after a year so was I.
So I stopped, and that taught me a lot right there.
I was sick with stress and emotionally volatile, and had no money, so I looked for a job.
How I learned to look after myself
I didn’t want to be a teacher, because my parents had been teachers and they’d always complained about it, so I looked for a job in publishing.
Right about then, New Zealand’s most notorious publisher was just starting up in business again after being discharged from bankruptcy, and he contracted me to edit books for him. I set a record by not only working for him for two and a half years (he went through five or six office managers during that time), but actually coming out of it with all the money he owed me – I don’t know of any of his other contractors before or since who can say that. So I’d learned something from my earlier experiences about dealing with difficult people and standing up for myself.
How I learned about emotion
Life went on, and I had various job successes and various romantic failures. I eventually figured out that I was consistently falling for women who were already with someone else – that the “glow” I was detecting that attracted me came from their knowing that they were attractive to someone. At various times I was convinced that I would never get married. About this I was also wrong.
When I was 30, I took a night class in acting because I wanted to free up my ability to express emotions. Right before the class finished, my father died. The class worked – I was able to grieve him properly. And not too long afterwards, an Internet friendship I’d had for about a year with a very interesting and intelligent woman started taking a romantic turn. We were married in 1999, and I still consider that the best decision I ever made.
My wife’s trained as a psychologist – and believe me, in 1999, when Internet romance was new, she got some funny looks from her colleagues – and that increased my existing interest in human minds and how they work. At different times, we both went through an amazing course (really more of an initiation) in creating rituals and ceremonies for people’s times of transition, and, fifteen years after my train wreck with the voluntary organisation, I started to think again about possibly helping people as a career.
By this point, I had developed a contemplative spirituality that was much more based on practice than theory (unlike my earlier religious viewpoint). Practice over theory is a huge theme for me still.
How I learned to grow
I’ve had good luck with night classes. I took a Tai Chi night class, and built up my energy to the point that I thought I could take on some new challenges. I took a self-hypnosis night class and got myself some focus and direction, despite the fact that it was taught very badly. I trained as a hypnotherapist. I got interested in the health side of hypnotherapy, and studied some health science. And I learned as much as I could about personal change techniques, ranging well beyond hypnosis.
I created the How to Be Amazing website to pass on what I learned. Eventually, I realized that I’d said everything I wanted to say about personal development, and I wasn’t going to keep posting content for the sake of it or turn it into yet another repository for poor-quality guest posts.
I’m leaving the website up, but there will be little or no new content. Instead, I’m focussing on writing fiction, which has been something I’ve loved and wanted to do more of since I was twelve years old. My fiction website is The Gryphon Clerks.
The journey continues, and it continues to take me to interesting places. I hope you find something on How to Be Amazing to inspire you to action and change your life for the better.
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