Neither a lofty degree of intelligence
nor imagination nor both together go
to the making of genius.
Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.
-- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
In one way or another we're all seeking ways to find happiness and fulfillment. And we all know that success alone doesn't bring happiness.
Mother Teresa said that the greatest poverty was spiritual, not physical. It's easy to measure our material wealth, but to gauge spiritual wealth we have to look at our lives as a whole. How do we value our life and the lives of others? What are the depths of our relationships? Have we used our gifts for the good of others as well as ourselves? How well do we love? Happiness is not a byproduct of circumstances, but rather a spiritual place we can tap into regardless of our circumstances.
Looking for the Illusion of Contentment or Lasting Happiness?
Our culture teaches us constantly to raise our standards for happiness. It's partially human nature, but our focus on material things makes matters a lot worse. Hundreds of times every day we are bombarded with advertisers telling us that if we wear the right clothes, use the right shampoo, drive the right car, or associate with the right people we will be happy.
When we buy our first 15-inch-screen television, we feel good for a while. Over time we discover that it no longer satisfies our demand for quality; we have now raised our standards for what is acceptable. So we set our sights on a bigger and more expensive television that meets our current definition of acceptable. This time it's a 27-inch set with a better picture and sound. For a while it seems like this is as good as it gets. But then we start asking ourselves, "What if I had a high-definition big-screen television? What if I had a DVD player? What if I had a surround-sound system?"
For a while we're satisfied until we started thinking we need one for the bedroom and begin the process all over again. It's a trap. These things may provide a brief illusion of contentment, a sense of comfort and security, but they will never bring lasting happiness.
It is second nature to thirst for a full and rewarding life, but we often look in the wrong places. If our quest for material wealth is based on what we can get instead of what we can give, then we will be left empty.
What happens after the high has worn off from the things we buy? We must look within ourselves, not outside to TVs and cars and gadgets, for real happiness. For only when we learn to change our inner world does our outer world also begin to change.
Happiness is not a state to arrive at but,
rather, a manner of traveling.
-- Samuel Johnson
What Will Make You Happy?
We have all sorts of ideas about what will make us happy. What will it take? Winning the lottery? Being admired by others? Becoming a millionaire? Riding the perfect wave? Performing the perfect concert? These might be worthy endeavors, but when you think it through it becomes clear that they will never bring the kind of lifelong happiness we desire -- a rich, fulfilling satisfaction through good times and bad.
But, Robin, you ask, what about those six-thousand-square foot custom homes or those romantic vacations in Tahiti? What about sending our children to the best colleges? What about a solid financial foundation built on an impressive investment portfolio? Are you telling me I can't have those things and be happy? You already know part of the answer.
You can certainly find happiness with -- or without -- those things, but they will never make you happy by themselves. From what I've seen both in my own life and in the lives of people around me, when you become wealthy whatever traits you have will simply be intensified. If you are an angry person without money, you will become even angrier with money when things don't go your way. If you are generous when you have very little, then you will be very generous when you have a lot.
Looking back on the last twenty years of touring, I figure I've driven more than a million miles. All this travel time has given me a lot of time to ponder the question of happiness. I've met all kinds of people -- rich and poor, young and old. After all those miles and all those encounters, it's so obvious to me that lasting happiness never comes from outside circumstances -- like making money, finding romance, becoming famous, or gaining power.
The Measure of True Success
The most important message I wish to convey is this: True success, the kind that leads to real happiness, is measured by who we become as people. Here's a story to make my point:
Christmas is big deal in our family. My children spend months anticipating how much fun they're going to have and, of course, what great new gifts they might receive. Nancy and I try to plan ahead, because we have so many relatives and friends to think about, not to mention our four children. We have five people on staff, plus ten or so interns to think about as well. On top of all that I try to mail out gifts to some clients whom I also consider to be friends. Two Christmases ago I picked thirty-two people who fit that description. Some of those people I hadn't seen for a while, and others I see almost every week.
When Christmas is over I confess that I'm not very good at writing thank-you letters -- partly because I've never learned the art of writing a short but sweet thank you. My other excuse is that I'm always too busy. Both my excuses are lame. But I tell you this to make a point: out of the thirty-two people whom I sent gifts, I received two thank you letters.
Going the Extra Mile: Courtesy and Thoughtfulness
Here's the irony: the two people who took the time to write and say thanks are perhaps the two busiest of the thirty-two. They're the two who have more demands on their time and who have the most intense schedules. Ironically, they are also the most famous of the thirty-two. The two people that wrote thank-you letters to me are not people I see very frequently. I believe they wrote those thank-you letters because they are in the habit of going the extra mile for others. They know that small gestures go a long way.
Those two people were Dolly Parton and Naomi Judd. This is not to say that the others were the least bit rude; they are all friends whom I like and respect. Plus, I hadn't sent them the gifts expecting anything in return. They were simply sent in the spirit of Christmas. But having said that, those two letters got me thinking about who Dolly and Naomi are as people.
Their small acts of courtesy and thoughtfulness go hand in hand with why they are so successful with their careers and why they're so successful as people. It was a great reality check for me. They've inspired me to step up and be more giving to others. It also got me thinking how small acts of kindness can make other people feel so good. You never know how important a little positive reinforcement can be to someone.
I can live for two months on a good compliment.
-- Mark Twain
Looking for Love for All the Wrong Reasons
We all need to be loved. When I first struck out on my own I was determined to show my parents and my friends a thing or two. Subconsciously I was thinking, "When I become a big rock star, then they'll love me more!" In fact, I believed that when I became rich and famous everyone would love me.
During my twenties that thought pattern became the driving force in my life. It became my identity. My people skills left a lot to be desired, so I looked to my musical abilities to somehow fill in and bring love to my door.
This approach is filled with flaws, of course. It kept me from looking at what kind of person I really was or at my need to become a better person. Instead my obsession with musical success escalated as I threw myself into my work. Now this in and of itself isn't a bad thing. To have a burning desire to succeed in something is one of the most fundamental keys to success. The irony is, if we don't learn how to love and become someone who can be loved, then we're missing the entire point.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom
all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor
and surrender my body to the flames,
but have not love, I gain nothing.
-- 1 Corinthians 13:2
Looking for Success for All the Wrong Reasons
How many times have we heard stories about famous people who seemed to have everything going for them, yet whose lives spun totally out of control -- sometimes even driving them to suicide? A person can easily spend years striving for success for all the wrong reasons.
When I was in my twenties the driving force behind my desire to be a guitarist was the need to draw attention to myself. I believed that attention would lead to love and that would lead to happiness. It was a totally flawed plan, yet so many people live their lives using just that blueprint. They work and work so that they will be loved, yet they have no time for love!
If you achieve great wealth at the expense of your health, what do you have?
If you acquire power and fame, yet you never see your children, what do you have?
If your career becomes more important than your wife or husband, what do you have?
Wouldn't you rather be broke and have a house full of love than have lots of money and no love? A house without love has no foundation. It's just a matter of time until the wind begins to blow and it all comes crashing down. If you fill your heart with love for others, that love becomes the foundation you build on, and it's a foundation of solid rock.
To love for the sake of being loved is human,
but to love for the sake of loving is angelic.
-- Alphonse De Lamartine
Jesus was right! "Many who are first shall be last and many who are last will be first." "It is better to give than receive." "The meek shall inherit the earth." These paradoxical statements seem simple enough, but are hard words to swallow when we're trying to get ahead in life. We put all our energy into striving for a better life, but why are we so unhappy and discontent with life in the fast lane - or the me lane?
Familiar acts are beautiful through love.
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley
To Receive Love, You Must Give Love
It's one of the universal laws of life: Before we receive love, we must give love. Before we receive a smile we must give a smile. Before we can receive a blessing we must give a blessing. Jesus said it another way: "He who sows sparingly shall reap sparingly, and he who sows generously shall reap generously."
This scripture reminds us of the law of giving and receiving. When we believe our lives are filled with abundance and prosperity, then we will know abundance and prosperity. But again, in order to receive abundantly we must give abundantly. When we learn to be truly generous, we find ourselves being swept along in the flow of abundance.
Cultivating an Attitude of Trust
So often people live with a mindset of scarcity; they become fearful. This stops them cold in their tracks when it comes to expending energy to help others. I know so many people just like that. Our culture provides us all with so many images of scarcity. Thoughts of running out of food or out of fuel or of the economy going under bring fear into everyone's minds.
Think about it. God wouldn't have allowed our planet to be populated with billions and yet deny them the ability to feed and shelter themselves. Nor would God have created a world in which one person's gain would be another's loss.
I believe the resources we need are here in abundance if we are willing to cultivate an attitude of trust. Spiritual abundance is always about letting go. The irony is that having a belief in scarcity is always about holding on out of fear. That's when we get caught up in a vicious circle that becomes so hard for us to break: the more fearful we are, the harder we hold on, and the harder we hold on, the more fearful we become. But once we do break through to a belief in unlimited bounty then we let go and enjoy more abundance than we ever dreamed was possible.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library. ©2002.
Jump and the Net Will Appear
by Robin Crow.
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About the Author
Robin Crow is an author, speaker, entrepreneur, and one of the world's most innovative guitarists. He has forged an extraordinary career, releasing nine albums, performing more than two thousand concerts, and appearing on national television dozens of times. Robin continues to appear before audiences of thousands throughout the country with his unique blend of speaking and musical performance. Robin lives on his farm in Franklin, Tennessee, with his wife and four children. For information about Robin Crow performances and Dark Horse Recording, visit robincrow.com and darkhorserecording.com