How to Be Successful Without Losing Your Self: Eckhart Tolle Speaks

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In 2013, when I quit my job to be an entrepreneur, I started out on fire.

I was going to be rich. I was going to be successful. I was going to be free of the system, in total control of my life and my income. I was going to inspire others in an economically depressed, rural, blue-collar America to do what I did, to take their fate in their hands and go for it, to achieve their dreams, no matter how outrageous they were.

I immersed myself in Napoleon Hill, Wallace Wattles, Robert Kiyosaki, and Michael Gerber. I listened to inspirational podcasts from entrepreneurs who had built their businesses from nothing. I took careful notes as my husband built his coffee business from scratch, using no funding other than what he earned from his window washing service.

What ended up happening was that I spent two years on the brink of starvation, left a relationship that had withered from neglect, moved to the city from the rural ghetto, and got a job.

Why, after such an energetic start, did I fail?

I kept running up against a very basic obstacle:

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make myself WANT to be rich or successful.

No matter how many books I read, no matter how many podcasts I listened to, no matter how many affirmations I repeated, the words were intellectual exercises, no more.

I might as well have been reading and reciting the alphabet.

So last week, when I read the following excerpts from Eckhart Tolle's "A New Earth", tears came to my eyes.

At long last, I read, in black and white, confirmation of what my heart had been trying to tell me for the last two years: I had been trying to paddle against the flow of my own life. And it was time to let go of the oars.

I now turn this narrative over to Mr. Tolle himself. Here are the excerpts from "A New Earth" that made my skin prickle when I read them. I took the liberty of emphasizing the statements that really rang my bells. I hope they inspire you as well.

The conventional notion of success is concerned with the outcome of what you do. Some say that success is the result of a combination of hard work and luck or determination and talent, or being in the right place at the right time. While any of these may be determinants of success, they are not its essence. What the world doesn't tell you -- because it doesn't know -- is that you cannot become successful. You can only be  successful. Don't let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present moment. And what is that? There is a sense of quality in what you do, even the most simple action. Quality implies care and attention, which come with awareness. Quality requires your Presence. 

Let's say that you are a businessperson and after two years of intense stress and strain you finally manage to come out with a product or service that sells well and makes money. Success? In conventional terms, yes. In reality, you spent two years polluting your body as well as the earth with negative energy, made yourself and those around you miserable, and affected many others you never even met. The unconscious assumption behind all such action is that success is a future event, and that the end justifies the means. But the end and the means are one. And if the means did not contribute to  human happiness neither will the end.
Even though you have a goal, what you are doing in the present moment needs to remain the focal point of  your attention; otherwise you will fall out of alignment with universal purpose.
Make sure your vision or goal is not an inflated image of yourself and therefore a concealed form of ego, such as wanting to become a movie star, a famous writer, or a wealthy entrepreneur. Also, make sure your goal is not focused on having this or that, such as a mansion by the sea, your own company, or ten million dollars in the bank. An enlarged image of yourself or a vision of yourself having this or that are all static goals and therefore don't empower you. 

Instead, make sure your goals are dynamic, that is to say, point toward an activity that you are engaged in and through which you are connected to other human beings as well as to the whole. Instead of seeing yourself as a famous actor and writer and so on, see yourself inspiring countless people with your work and enriching their lives. Feel how that activity enriches or deepens not only your life but that of countless others. Feel yourself being an opening through which energy flows from the unmanifested Source of all life through you for the benefit of all.

All of this implies that your goal or vision is then already a reality within you, on the level of mind and of feeling. Enthusiasm is the power that transfers the mental blueprint into the physical dimension. That is the creative use of mind, and that is why there is no wanting involved. You cannot manifest what you want; you can only manifest what you already have. You may get what you want through hard work and stress but that is not the way of the new earth.
Some people feel a strong urge to build, create, become involved, achieve, make an impact upon the world. 
Others...lead an outwardly unremarkable, seemingly more passive and relatively uneventful existence ... They have no desire to get strongly involved in or change the world. ...In past ages, they would probably have been called contemplatives. There is no place for them, it seems, in contemporary civilization. ...however, their role is just as vital as that of the creators, the doers, the reformers. Their function is to anchor the frequency of the new consciousness on this planet. I call them the frequency-holders. They are here to generate consciousness through the activities of daily life, through their interactions with others as well as through "just being".
In this way, they endow the seemingly insignificant with profound  meaning. Their task is to bring spacious stillness into this world by being absolutely present in whatever they do. There is consciousness and therefore quality in what they do, even the simplest task. Their purpose is to do everything in a sacred manner. As each human being is an integral part of the collective human consciousness, they affect the world much more deeply than is visible on the surface of their lives. 
~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening To Your Life's Purpose 
Here's to be-ing successful.

No matter how quietly.


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  1. Catharine - thank you for this - I needed to read it today. I'm finally coming to my own realization that it is worth doing things well - and really a lot to living and squeezing the life out of each moment rather than waiting until... or "when we..."

  2. Meredith, thank you for your kind comment. Coming from you -- one of the hardest-working and inspiring people I know -- it means a lot.

    Even though I don't visit you guys online very often, there's hardly a day goes by I don't think of you and Jasper and your venture.

    For folks who are interested in more about the entrepreneurial journey, Jasper and Meredith have a top-notch podcast called "Paycheck to Passion. And you can check out their ingenious time-trading social web page:

  3. Many years ago I met someone who embraced the Hari Krishna belief. Being unfamiliar with its practice I asked him to give me a one sentence description of his belief. He looked up for a moment and said, "Where you are is where you should be, right now." Sometimes its difficult to accept that "where" as being anything but what we wanted it to be. It's been the greatest learning experience of my life.

  4. "Sometimes its difficult to accept that "where" as being anything but what we wanted it to be."

    Well said.


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