The Upside Down Duck (#761)

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking to 350 people or so at St. James church in London on the subject of “Financial Fearlessness”. I began by reading out the following story from Supercoach:

Many years ago, a man was sitting in quiet contemplation by a riverbank when he was disturbed by a beggar from the local village.

“Where is the stone?” the beggar demanded. “I must have the precious stone!”

The man smiled up at him. “What stone do you seek?”

“I had a dream,” the beggar continued, barely able to slow his words to speak, “and in that dream a voice told me that if I went to the riverbank I would find a man who would give me a precious stone that would end my poverty forever!”

The man looked thoughtful, then reached into his bag and pulled out a large diamond.

“I wonder if this was the stone?” the man said kindly. “I found it on the path. If you’d like it, you may certainly have it.”

The beggar couldn’t believe his luck, and he snatched the stone from the man’s hand and ran back to the village before he could change his mind.

One year later, the beggar, now dressed in the clothes of a wealthy man, came back to the riverbank in search of his anonymous benefactor.

“You have returned, my friend!” said the man, who was again sitting in his favorite spot enjoying the peaceful flow of the water before him.  “What has happened?”

The beggar humbled himself before the man.

“Many wonderful things have happened to me because of the diamond you gave me so graciously. I have become wealthy, found a wife and bought a home. I am now able to give employment to others and to do what I want, when I want with whomever I want.”

“For what have you returned?” asked the man.

“Please,” the rich beggar said. “Teach me whatever it is inside you that allowed you to give me that stone so freely.”

After finishing the story, I began to speak about what I sometimes call “the elusive obvious” – things that are unarguably true but run so counter to the way we normally think about life that we continually overlook them.

As I shared such radical notions as “we don’t control the universe”, “our needs are minimal”, “money is just a tool”, and “nothing can make us happy”, I noticed to my delight that I was experiencing a state of calm and well-being far beyond my norm.

In the contrast between the physical exuberance of my speaking (click here for a clip of a previous talk I gave at the same venue) and the extraordinary calm I was feeling, I was reminded of the popular analogy that most people’s experience of life is like a duck floating on a pond – calm on the surface but paddling like hell underneath.

What I realized in that moment is that I was like an upside down duck – paddling like hell on the surface but incredibly calm underneath.

And this is our potential in any situation.  When we’re not making up that we control the universe or that our well-being is dependent on our results, we have nothing to fear but our own thinking.  And the wonderful thing about the scariest thought you can imagine is that you’re just imagining it.

Which leads us to another piece of the elusive obvious:

Fearlessness is our natural state.

Have fun, learn heaps, and enjoy the calm at your core…

With love,

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My friend Steve Chandler and I have just finished the first weekend of our Financially Fearless mastermind, and I was chatting with my teenage son about what the people on the course were learning. When I told him that in one exercise that lasted for just one hour, the 18 participants had made over $84,000 between them, he was gobsmacked.