The Perfect Thirst (#979)

On Twitter this week, someone asked me if the principles I share in The Inside-Out Revolution “replace” the messages in my earlier books. Out of curiosity, I grabbed copies of a few of my earlier books off the shelf and browsed through them for the first time in several years. The main thing that struck me was how much hard work changing your life used to look like to me.

Each book is filled with questions to ask and answer, things to try and believe, techniques to practice, and insights I’d had into helping people with motivation, skill development, time management, and more. Every methodology was honestly come by and had been put to use in my life and the lives of my clients long before they made it into print, yet as best as I could tell, I haven’t used a single one of them in years.

It reminded me of an response I used to hear from Dr. Richard Bandler, the co-creator of NLP, when a course participant would complain that what he was teaching contradicted something he had shared in an earlier book or seminar. “There are people all over the world,” he would say with a twinkle in his eye, “stuck at various stages of my personal development.”

It also reminded me of a concept from the Sufi tradition called “the perfect thirst”. You know how water never tastes as good as when you’re really, really thirsty? Well the perfect thirst for love and knowledge is one that can be continually fulfilled but never quenched. And while I am incredibly grateful to have seen what I’ve seen about the nature of the human experience, I’m equally grateful to know that in many ways, I’ve only seen the very tip of an infinitely large, cosmically beautiful iceberg.

Here’s a Sufi tale I adapted for my very first book, You Can Have What You Want. The story traditionally ends when the lion reaches the lake, but I thought it would be interesting to contemplate what might happen next…

Once upon a time, there was a baby lion who was born into the world alone and afraid. A family of sheep found him in their home in the green grassy valley at the bottom of the mountains one day and because he was so beautiful and because they were so kind, they decided to raise him as one of their own. It was his sister, who had a highly developed sense of irony, who suggested they name him ‘Leo’.So they taught Leo the baby lion how to walk as a sheep and talk as a sheep and taught him all the ways of sheep and they loved him with all of their hearts. They taught him to fear what all sheep fear and that whatever he did he must stay away from the mountains, for lions lived up there and no sheep who had ever gone up the mountain had returned.

Eventually, Leo became so good at acting like a sheep that even his own family forgot that he was really a lion. Sure, occasionally some of the other sheep teased him for his unusual size and his bushy haircut. But Leo did what he could to fit in and he made good friends and eventually he became a good, productive member of the sheep community.

The years passed uneventfully until one day an old lion from the mountains came down into the green, grassy valley in search of food. Leo was the first to sense his presence and as soon as he yelled ‘Lion!’ all the sheep began to run in panicked circles. In the midst of the chaos, the old lion noticed Leo.

‘Hey, you!’ roared the hungry lion.

‘M-m-me?’ whimpered Leo, terrified, but at the same time fascinated by this magnificent old creature.

‘What are you doing here with all these sheep?’ the old lion demanded.

‘They’re my family’ said Leo proudly.

At this, the old lion laughed. ‘Then who are you, young one?’

‘I’m Leo and I’m a sheep’ Leo bleated.

Suddenly, the old lion’s face turned fierce. ‘Come with me!’ he roared.

Leo didn’t want to go with the old lion, but he thought that by doing so, he might save his fellow sheep. So with a last look back at his herd, he followed the old lion off into the mountains.

They walked for many miles until at last, high up in the mountains, they came upon a beautiful crystal clear lake filled with smooth, blue water. The old lion beckoned for Leo to come to the edge of the lake. By this time, Leo was exhausted, not so much from the climb, which he found surprisingly easy, but from the constant fear that at any moment, the old lion would eat him. So with a final reluctant ‘Baaa’, Leo made his way to the edge of the lake and looked where the old lion’s paw was pointing.

To his amazement, he saw not a sheep, but the reflection of a strong young lion. In that moment, he knew who he really was and let out a mighty roar that shook the mountains all the way down to the green, grassy valley.

After the shock of discovering his true identity, Leo realized that he was hungry – really hungry. And grass just wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Fortunately, Leo knew where he could get food and plenty of it.

But when he got back to the valley to where his old herd was still grazing, he stopped in shock. For what he saw was not a herd of sheep, but a pride of lions, each one grazing and bleating and acting for all the world like sheep. It was his own mother who saw him first, and though Leo could see that she herself was a beautiful lioness, she cowered in fear, not recognizing him and bleating ‘Lion!’ at the top of her lungs.

‘Mother!’ he roared, but the sound just made the sheep/lioness run even faster among the increasingly agitated herd.

Finally, Leo noticed that his sister was looking at him with a faint hint of recognition, and he knew what he must do. He put on his fiercest face and he roared at her ‘Come with me!’ And though she was afraid, she followed him on the long journey up to the clear blue lake in the mountains…

Have fun, learn heaps, and if you meet a lion on the path, you might want to look where he’s pointing and see what you can see!

With all my love,

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(A quick note: Michael is on sabbatical this month so we’re sharing excerpts from his books. Today’s tip is taken from chapter five of You Can Have What You Want. Follow the links at the end to read the whole chapter online!)…