Always question everything
A young woman was preparing a ham dinner. After she cut off the end of the ham, she placed it in a pan for baking.
Her friend asked her, "Why did you cut off the end of the ham"?
And she replied, "I really don't know, but my mother always did; so I thought you were supposed to."
Later when talking to her mother, she asked her why she cut off the end of the ham before baking it; and her mother replied, "I really don't know, but that's the way my mom always did it."
A few weeks later while visiting her grandmother, the young woman asked, "Grandma, why is it that you cut off the end of a ham before you bake it?"
Her grandmother replied, "Well, Dear, otherwise it would never fit into my baking pan."
Most people live their lives in a trance. They are in a state of waking hypnosis. The decisions they make, the actions they take, and even the thoughts they have are programmed responses that they have learned from their parents, their teachers, their friends, society, and even television. We all have habitual ways of thinking that we have learned over the years, and most of them we have learned inadvertently. There was no conscious choice involved.
As with the ham in the story above, much of what people do has it's origin in old habits, tradition, and absurdity. Even when it comes to what we believe, very few people realize that they have a choice; and a belief is only an idea supported by references. These references may or may not be based in fact. Common sources of references are parents, teachers, friends, society, and television; and each of these sources have a high probability of being inaccurate.
Let me restate what I wrote above, because it is one of the most important lessons that I can teach you… A belief is only an idea that is supported by references. Sometimes these references have no basis in reality. For example… At one point in your life, you believed that a chubby man in a red suit came down the chimney and left you presents. You were told this by… well… me. You were also told this by the entire family, television specials, movies, advertisements, friends, and even impostors who dressed up like Santa and took your gift list in the mall. Each of these sources were absolutely false (even lying to you), yet they were all references that supported the idea that Santa was real… and this became a belief for you.
On the other hand, let's take the belief that most of us hold… breathing is good. You have references to back this up just as you had references that backed up the existence of Santa, but you most likely still believe that breathing is good. Why? Well, you can test it. You can hold your breath, and you will soon find that not breathing is bad. As soon as you gasp that first breath after holding it for as long as you can, you are reminded of just how good breathing is.
The references that you have to support the belief that breathing is good are testable and continue to support what you believe. The references that you have to support the belief that Santa is real simply don't hold up in the real world. You may still watch holiday specials about Santa, you may read about Santa, and you may even run into Santa at the mall; but you now realize that these references are not strong enough to support the belief that Santa is real.
Beliefs are fluid and can change throughout your life. I promise you that some of the things you believe at this very moment will be completely different later in your life.
Just remember, always question everything. Be curious, look at everything with wonder, ask "how" and "why", and make a decision for yourself based on what you find. Learn to separate fact from myth. A fact is testable and empirical. Always remember that there is a difference between "proof" and a "claim". If someone hands you a book of religious writings, that is simply a claim; and it is no more or less a fact as Santa coming down your chimney.
I will always support your beliefs as long as you have solid evidence to back them up. Think, question everything, and choose what you believe based on empirical evidence.
Never accept the limitations of others
If you want to make $300 million a year, if you want to own an island in the Caribbean, if you want to fly to outer-space, if you want to be the President of the United States, "if" anything… you can do it. With a plan and massive action, you can do almost anything you set your mind to.
No matter what you decide to do, there will always be someone who believes it cannot be done. Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile barrier in 1954. Bannister was being told over and over again by doctors and other "experts" that the 4-minute mile was impossible… even lethal. Bannister, however, had medical training himself and knew his talent as a runner. As a medical student, he knew physiology and anatomy. Bannister also knew the limits of his own body. He also developed his own training regimen and pacing strategy.
Shortly after Bannister broke the 4-minute mile, many other runners began breaking the barrier as well. Why? Because Bannister shattered the belief that it was impossible. When he proved to the world that it could be done, everyone's belief about the 4-minute mile changed.
Sometimes, the people closest to you will tell you it cannot be done and you will fail… your family, your friends. Remember, these people mean well; and they most likely want to save you from heartache and pain. The heartache and pain that they want to save you from is only in their minds… it is not real. They have placed limitations on themselves, they have created a set of limiting beliefs, and they hold themselves back. They are unable to comprehend the possibilities, because they are blinded by their own beliefs.
I was laughed at, yelled at, ridiculed, shunned, and rejected; because I had a dream of being an entertainer. Coming from a blue-collar family, becoming an entertainer was too far from their reality. Their beliefs about what could be accomplished were very limited. If I had listened and accepted their limitations that they attempted to place on me, then I wouldn't be living this amazing life that I am living right now.
Be brave. Be who you want to be. Be true to yourself. Never settle for anything less than everything you want. Follow your dreams, listen to your heart, make a plan, and take massive action. If you find yourself getting off track or end up at a place you didn't want to be, then simply change direction until you get to where you want to be. With flexibility and inspiration, you can change the world.
Be a good person
No matter what you believe, who you are or become, or what you achieve; be kind, be compassionate, help others, and make a difference.
Sometimes I have failed, but I always strive to live in this way… Do and act only in a way that you would want broadcasted to every news outlet around the world.
If I could only give you one piece of advice for a truly fulfilling life… Be a good person.
I love you, and I am proud to be your father. I will always be here for you, and I am your biggest fan.
Bill Gladwell is an entertainer, speaker, and trainer as well as a self-contained, one-man spectacle and Social Dynamics expert.