Seeds of Greatness: Roots & Wings
Course 3 – Creative Discovery – Positive Self-Image
Please listen to the audio file first in each section as it contains greater detail than the written text. Then follow the instructions, if any, at then end of each lesson.
Lesson 1: Your Internal Software
Napoleon once said, “Imagination rules the world.” Einstein believed, “Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Among all living organisms on the earth, only the human being was created without a built-in “software” program for successful living. Insects, animals, and birds know instinctively how they must behave and what they must do in order to survive. Humans also have survival instincts, but we also possess abilities much more marvelous and complex than any animal’s. Because animals have instincts for daily living that are limited to finding food and shelter, avoiding or overcoming enemies, and procreation, they have no goals beyond survival and security.
The human being, with no pre-recorded computer program as a life-guide, is blessed with a creative imagination. This is why healthy role models and positive family support, superimposed upon strong spiritual values, are so important. Since we are not predestined as members of a wandering herd, victimized and imprisoned within a fixed environment, we need maps and charts to guide us.
First through our senses, during infancy—then through language and observation—we record, build, and photograph our video, audio, and sensory CDs and DVDs of ourselves. This recorded self-concept of your self-image—this mental picture of self—when nourished and cultivated, is a primary field in which happiness and success grow and flourish. But this same mental self-concept, when undernourished or neglected, becomes a spawning pond for low achievement, deviant behavior, and unhappiness.
Many people see themselves as inadequate. The early messages recorded on their “inner video cassettes” say: “I can’t do things very well, especially new things. I don’t think people like the way I look. There’s no sense in really trying, because I’ll probably get it wrong and won’t succeed anyway.” These are the surprisingly large numbers of individuals in this abundant country who have the most difficulty learning and advancing and who are problems to themselves and others.
We have found that the successful people, on the other hand, are those whose “inner video” carries a message something like this: “I can do things pretty well—a variety of things. I can try new challenges and be successful. When things don’t go smoothly at first, I keep trying or get more information to do it in a different way until it works out right.” These are the individuals who present the fewest problems to anyone, in society, professional life, or in their schools and homes. These are the few who can, and usually do, learn the most and who can share and give the most to others from what they have learned. They have discovered that their imaginations serve as a life-governing device—that if your self-image can’t possibly see yourself doing something or achieving something, you literally cannot do it. “It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.”
Pre-school children average over four hours per day in front of the TV set and 41 percent are watching between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. By the time children reach school age, they have watched over 20,000 commercials, most of which teach them to consume more and that life’s problems can be solved by a certain product in thirty seconds or less.
We are growing up with television as our “window on the world” and the TV world has become the basis for many of our beliefs and values. By the time we leave high school, most of us will have spent 50 percent more time in front of the television set than in the classroom or having rewarding experiences with our parents and families. We can’t really blame the television industry for the situation, because the quality of programming is only a reflection of the character of our families in the American social scene. But let’s remember, if a sixty-second commercial, by repeated viewing, can sell us a product, then isn’t it possible for a sixty-minute soap opera or “smut-com,” by repeated viewing, to sell us a lifestyle?
Studies conducted by a Stanford University research team have revealed that “what we watch” does have an effect on our imaginations, our learning patterns, and our behaviors. First, we are exposed to new behaviors and characters. Next, we learn or acquire these new behaviors. The last and most crucial step is that we adopt these behaviors as our own. One of the most critical aspects of human development that we need to understand is the influence of “repeated viewing” and “repeated verbalizing” in shaping our future. The information goes in, “harmlessly, almost unnoticed,” on a daily basis, but we don’t react to it until later, when we aren’t able to realize the basis for our reactions. In other words, our values are being formed without any conscious awareness on our part of what is happening! What if you and I could switch TV channels to one inside our own heads, in which our minds were cameras instead of receivers? What if we scripted, produced, cast, rehearsed, and broadcast our own programs, and, at the same time, videotaped them for our own enjoyment and for future broadcasts? Well, we can and we do, every day and night of our lives! And herein lies an important secret of success. Our minds can’t tell the difference between real experience and one that is vividly and repeatedly imagined.
Understanding this secret of the power of the imagined experience is the fundamental key to understanding human behavior. What you “see” is what you’ll get and who you’ll be. We perform and behave in life, not in accordance with reality, but in accordance with our perception of reality. Many of our everyday decisions are based upon information about ourselves which has been stored as “truth”—but which is really a combination of hearsay from family, friends and peers, actual past experiences and information we read, listen to, and view on television and the Internet.
Action Activity: Be more aware of the television programs you and your children are watching. Remember, just as we are what we eat, we also internalize what we watch repeatedly.
Lesson 2: Your Robot Self-Image
My Robot (RUME2)
I have a little Robot that goes around with me;
I tell him what I’m thinking, I tell him what I see.
I tell my little Robot all my hopes and fears;
He listens and remembers all my joys and tears.
At first, my little Robot followed my command;
But after years of training
He’s gotten out of hand.
He doesn’t care what’s right or wrong,
Or what is false or true;
No matter what I try now; He tells me what to do!’
During every moment of our lives we program (or we allow others to program) our self-image to work for us, or against us. Since it is only a process, having no judging function, it strives to meet the attitudes and beliefs we set for it, regardless of whether they are positive or negative, true or false, right or wrong, safe or dangerous. Its only function is to follow our previous instructions, implicitly, like a personal computer playing back what is stored on its hard drive—responding automatically. Much of the video, audio, and sensory information fed into your “self-image robot’s” memory stays there. Billions of integrated and separate items of input over a lifetime are all there awaiting retrieval. They can never be willfully erased by you. You can override them with stronger messages or modify their effects over a period of time, but you own them for life.
What has always amazed us is the research reported during brain surgery, in which patients whose brain cells were stimulated with a thin electrode described the sensation of reliving scenes from the past. Their recall was so strong and vivid that all details were there again—sounds, colors, playmates, shapes, places, odors. They were not just remembering, but reliving the experiences!
Action Activity: Expose your children to a variety of inputs. On TV, add nature, science and educational shows. Introduce them to different kinds of music, fine arts, cultural activities, and restaurants. Broaden their horizons.
Lesson 3: Learning Instant Replay & Preplay
We had the opportunity to interview and study a number of POWs when they returned from Viet Nam, many of whom were Navy pilots who had been shot down by Soviet-made SAM missiles. We also interviewed several of the former hostages after their release from the U.S. Embassy in Iran. Although the POWs endured much more in the way of deprivation and torture, over a considerably longer period of time, there is a common seed in their experiences that can bear fruit for each of us. The POWs and hostages who seemed to be in the best physical and emotional condition after their ordeal were the ones who had used the seven years, in some cases, or the 444 days, in others, as a “university without walls.”
There was one big drawback to going to class in their “university without walls.” All their “university” had was four walls, a cot, and a pot. There were no books—nothing to read, nothing to write with, or paint with, or look at, just the walls. The only light was artificial and that always seemed to be on, deliberately, when it was time to sleep, and off during normal daytime hours. The glaring bulb caused disorientation, fatigue, and distress, precisely the responses desired by prison guards, terrorists, and cult leaders to make their captives more susceptible to their wills. In the absence of any materials, tools, or comforts, our POWs simply created them in their imaginations.
They recalled most of the inspirational events and significant learning stored in their memories, which we refer to as “instant replay.” And they previewed coming attractions of Emmy Award-winning TV series in their imaginations—every color, every smile, every touch, every word, every picture, every detail. This is the creative ability to concentrate on reinforcing positive, healthy experiences from the past, and to project simulations of a successful project or lifestyle, as if it were actually happening in the present. This is the gift of creativity.
Some of our POWs reconstructed well-known passages from the Bible, which became their source of inner strength. By pooling their memory banks and imaginations, they remembered hundreds of the most significant passages from the Scriptures to use in their solitary, Sunday worship services. They got to know more about the childhood joys and dreams of the man in the next cell than they will ever know about anyone in their own families; some of these buddies never met each other in person. One pilot, who had particularly excellent recall of his college days, taught a class in aeronautical engineering and thermodynamics, which he had stored in his memory (much to his surprise). They invented hundreds of money-making ideas, built new homes, remodeled their parents’ houses, and, alone, whispered “Good night, I love you” to their wives, their children, and their country.
One of the Iranian hostages took a 444-day train trip in his imagination from London to Bombay. (We’re still trying to figure out how he did it!) He had his own private sleeping compartment with a pull-down bed. He strolled through six coaches to the dining car for his meals, and enjoyed the passing scenery as he sipped a glass of port before sunset. He was “doing within,” while he was doing without.
In our studies of hostages, POWs, footballers, and Olympic athletes, sales and business executives, mothers, fathers, and children, the bottom line is always the same: the replay of success or failure and the preplay of future success or failure. It’s interesting to observe that children don’t learn how to pre-play failure until their parents, peers, and other role models repeatedly show them how. And, also, it’s sad to see children and adults who have been taught to dwell on past mistakes instead of using them as learning experiences to reinforce their blessings and accomplishments. Almost everyone knows and can recite the historic remark Astronaut Neil Armstrong made when he set foot on the moon: “That’s one small step for a man, and one giant leap for mankind.” But few have even heard the rest of his radio transmission. He added later: “It was beautiful . . . it was just like we planned it, just like rehearsals and training.
Action Activity: Remember that practice makes permanent. Whatever your children observe, imitate and repeat will become a habit like brushing teeth or driving a car. Help them practice winning habits.
Lesson 4: Mastering Your Creativity
In order to master anything, you need to understand how it operates. Although we are only just beginning to comprehend how the brain functions to create the thoughts and automatic emotional and physical responses in each of us, some startling revelations have been made in scientific research that support our own findings. The real breakthroughs concerning the brain began in the 1960s when Dr. Roger Sperry and his students initiated their split-brain experiments. In these studies, they were able to test separately the mental abilities of the two surgically separated hemispheres of the human brain. They discovered that each half of the brain has its own separate train of conscious thought and its own memories. More importantly, they found that each side thinks in fundamentally different ways, the “left-brain” thinking in words and the “right-brain” thinking directly in pictures and feelings.
Most researchers now concur that the left hemisphere, which controls the right side of the body, contains much of the verbal, logical, and what we generally call conscious functions. The right hemisphere, which controls the left side of the body, functions as the visual, intuitive, and subconscious partner. The left-brain handles language and logical thinking, while the right does things that are difficult to put into words. By using images instead of words, the right-brain can recognize a face in the crowd, score high on a video game, or put together pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, which would totally frustrate the left-brain.
Let’s take, for example, a conversation you’re having with another person. Generally, your left-brain responds to the literal meaning of the words it hears and won’t even notice the “feeling” or inflection in the voice. The right-brain focuses on tone of voice, facial expression and body language, while the words are less important. An example of the separate responses in each hemisphere to the same person might be—Right hemisphere: “There’s something about him that I don’t trust!” Left hemi- sphere: “Nonsense, the fortune he says we’ll make is right here in black and white!”
Most of our “awake” lives are under the conscious control of our left-brain. When we are blessed with a “great idea” or “flash of insight” it seems to arrive suddenly and in a surprisingly complete form. Apparently, it was incubating unconsciously in our right-brain. Mozart and Beethoven said they heard symphonies in their heads, and had only to write them down.
Scientists today agree that the functions of the brain cannot be simply compartmentalized as right- or left-brain. Functions frequently appear in both hemispheres at the same time. Thousands of years ago we were more emotional and intuitive. As we learned how to use tools and communicate, we developed into a left-brain society utilizing discussion, logic, and practical, step-by-step solutions to our problems. The technological progress has been staggering and we seem to have accomplished more during the past fifty years, in terms of scientific breakthroughs, than in all the previous years in our history combined.
And this is just the beginning. We have a tremendous opportunity for a new era of creativity. As the computer takes over many of our purely routine and mechanical left-brain functions, our time and our minds will be more available. We should be able to experience interpersonal relationships based more on feelings, emotions, and spiritual love than we have in the past. Instead of passively watching television, we can actively visualize and create our own futures, in advance.
First, we have to believe we deserve success. Then, we need to visualize and verbalize that success, as if we were script writers for a TV documentary on our own lives. How we write and talk about ourselves today will determine how our plot unfolds tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Nearly all of our children are highly creative until the age of five. Then, within two years, only 10 percent of these children maintain this creativity. By the time they reach the age of eight, only two percent of our child population is able to meet the needs of real creativity for the remaining 98 percent. How does this happen and why? Well, we grown-ups destroy much of the creative potential of children by the things we do to them and make them do. We seem to nip creativity in the bud by making children hesitant and afraid. Afraid of not doing what other people want, of not pleasing, of making mistakes, of failing, and of being clumsy, foolish, or wrong. This fear of rejection makes them afraid to risk, afraid to experiment, and afraid to try the difficult or unknown. It begins early in childhood as we encounter the first “no” in our natural exercise of curiosity to explore and gratify our own needs. Even before a child is born, the nurturing moods of its mother during the nine months of pregnancy are important, as are all of the environmental noise levels, reactions, and substances the mother consumes as a reflection of her own self-image.
As children, we had fantasies about what we wanted to be when we grew up—entertainer, scientist, world leader, parent, astronaut, entrepreneur. We tried on numerous roles during our play-filled days of childhood and our dream-filled days of adolescence. Each role, job, or successful accomplishment seemed equally possible to us and equally real in our imaginations. As we grew older, we began to narrow the possibilities. Some careers seemed beyond our reach. We were advised—or ill- advised as the case might be—-by parents, teachers, other adults, or even our friends that we couldn’t be, shouldn’t be, or wouldn’t be extremely successful.
Too often, our possibilities were narrowed by ourselves or by our choice to believe the limiting opinions of others, to the point of our living with a tightly compressed self-image. The vast fertile fields of our lives began to shrink from the image of a towering redwood tree in our mind’s eye until we saw our future plot of success as being “flowerpot” in size. Suddenly, most of the world seemed impossible or inaccessible to us—in our imaginations.
The critical point to recognize, of course, is that both the unlimited potential of childhood and the tight constraints of adulthood originate and reside primarily in the imagination. What we imagine is what we become. Although the popular adage is “never cross a bridge until you come to it,” the most successful people in our world have crossed those bridges in their imaginations long before they ever saw them. And what a wonderful reality that can be!
At 14, Sandra Day O’Connor pondered a career in lawmaking while visiting state capitols during summer vacation. She became the first woman justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. A divorced grandmother from the inner city of Milwaukee saw herself leading her country, and Golda Meir became the first woman prime minister of Israel. Maggie Thatcher dreamed of leading England at the age of 21 in her father’s one-room flat over their grocery store. An awkward, nondescript girl in New York was totally obsessed with becoming a professional entertainer. She grew into Barbra Streisand.
As the 20th of 21 children, she had a withered leg and couldn’t walk without leg braces until she was 12. She became the first triple-gold-medalist in women’s Olympic track history: the fastest woman in the world at the Rome Olympics, Wilma Rudolph.
As a child in England, he spent hours and hours creating cardboard sets and elaborate staging for the puppet shows and miniature stage shows he would produce to entertain his family. Later in life, Andrew Lloyd Webber entertained the world with musicals including Evita, Cats, and Phantom of the Opera to name a few.
Cut from his basketball team as a youngster, he still dreamed that he would play someday. Would you have believed, if your name had been left off the team roster at the beginning of high school—the most significant peer-pressure time of your life— that you would grow up to become Michael “Air” Jordan?
You no doubt have heard of Sheryl Leach, a former teacher, who was taking care of her two-year-old son back in the late 1980s when she realized she couldn’t find any nurturing videos to entertain him. So she sat down and wrote the script for one herself, first about a teddy bear, and then, inspired by a traveling dinosaur exhibit that had come to town, about a Tyrannosaurus Rex. She recruited another former teacher, as well as a video producer and a bunch of neighborhood kids, and created a video from her scripts. Today, “Barney,” the purple dinosaur, is a billion-dollar industry.
The point isn’t that Sheryl is a mega-millionaire. The point is—what if she had been afraid to pursue her dream? She would have been a redwood tree stuck in a flowerpot, too old or too timid or too root-bound to get out and grow! Growing up should mean just that, growing up as tall as we can in our vision and reach. Dream the biggest dream you can. Imagination becomes realization.
Action Activity: Engage your children in activities that require imagination and interaction. TV and the Internet require little creativity. Video games usually don’t promote positive skills other than rapid hand/eye coordination.
Lesson 5: Dream the Biggest Dream You Can
From the time he was a young boy, Jim Carrey knew what he wanted to do with his life. At age 10, the comic actor of such hits as The Mask, and The Truman Show, was making funny faces in the mirror at his home in Canada. Comedy was his inevitable path. Throughout his childhood, there were many bumpy roads. They lost their house and were forced to live in a camper and later in a tent. When Jim turned 19 and wanted to pursue show business full-time, what did he have to lose? And besides, his father encouraged him to go after his dream.
Three years later, Jim Carrey was making money, but unhappy, doing impressions in Las Vegas as a warm-up act. He finally convinced the club owner to let him try his comedy act, and he was an instant hit. Five years before he became a movie star, Carrey wrote himself a check for $10 million and postdated it, Thanksgiving 1995. Incredibly, his personal fortune grew to that amount during that time.
“I wrote the check as an affirmation of everything I’ve learned,” he said. “It wasn’t about money. I knew if I was making that much, I’d be working with the best people using the best material. That’s always been my dream. Better to risk starving than surrender. If you give up on your dream, what’s left?”
One little French boy, who had a lot of health problems when he was young, spent much of his time dreaming. The only real physical activity he was allowed to do, which he really loved, was swimming. When he was six, he saw a water spider diving under the surface of a lake, with a little air bubble between her legs, that she deposited in her web on a submerged branch so she and her baby spiders could breathe under water. At the time he thought what a wonderful idea that was.
His favorite place to swim was the sea and he would spend hours swimming in the ocean and laying on the beach looking up into the clouds and wondering to himself: “What am I going to be when I grow up?” Since he loved the sea and the mysteries of the sky, he decided he would attend the French Naval Academy and become a naval aviator. After entering pilot training, his dream was shattered in an automobile accident. In the crash, both of his arms were badly broken and he was forced to withdraw permanently from flight school.
As he swam day after day in the ocean for several months to regain his strength and recover from his injuries, he thought of the adventures he might encounter if he turned his dreams from the world above the clouds, to the wonders of the world beneath the sea. He remembered his childhood days watching the water spider with her air bubble and he dreamed of being able to swim under the water like a fish, without having to wear heavy, deep-sea diving suits and metal helmets which were attached to hoses delivering air to breathe from a ship above. The more time he spent under water holding his breath and observing with goggles, he imagined life not as an astronaut, but as an aquanaut. He imagined exploring the inner space of the oceans, instead of outer space in the galaxies. He imagined men and women living in the sea, and he imagined not a flying saucer, but an underwater diving saucer.
Today, when we scuba dive off the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, we think of the little six-year-old-boy watching the water spider with the air bubble between her legs. And we thank the little French boy and the parents who encouraged him to explore and reach, for helping to invent our SCUBA gear, our Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. We thank him for his concern for our environment and for making the vast oceans of the world, which cover over two-thirds of its surface, user- friendly to all its inhabitants and visitors. We thank him for inventing the Aqualung, which become the SCUBA gear we enjoy.
And we also thank the men and women of Calypso, and his own family, whom he inspired to continue the dreams and adventures he started. Thanks to a little French boy with an ocean-sized imagination—Jacques Cousteau.
Action Activity: Introduce your children to true stories of common people, who have to become uncommonly successful.
Lesson 6: Enhancing Your Child’s Creativity
Modeling is a potent learning tool that goes far beyond simple imitation. Imitation is a conscious training process by which a person intentionally copies the behavior of someone else. Modeling takes place unconsciously, as one individual gradually assumes the characteristics of someone else, particularly someone who he or she likes or admires.
Developmental psychologists have identified several conditions that make modeling more powerful and permanent in the experience of the child. First, the degree of similarity the child perceives between himself or herself and the model. Second, the overall level of competence and skill the model demonstrates to the child. And, third, the amount of time spent in the presence of the model. How perfectly the parent fits each of these three conditions! The child sees the parent as being very similar to himself or herself, having the same last name, and sharing the same home and experiences. The child perceives the parent as competent, as a powerful and all-knowing figure, at least in the early stages of life (we parents all know how that perception dramatically does a 180 by the age of 13); and third, the child is exposed to the parent over a long period of time, in a variety of circumstances and settings.
The ramifications are absolutely awesome! The parent is a far more potent role model than any other adult in the child’s social environment; and the modeling effect operates so powerfully, quietly, and universally, that the parent is hardly aware of it, and the child is totally unaware that it is taking place at all. This is why we feel that parents who lead will inspire children who win.
A critical idea to remember in helping your children grow up more creatively in this volatile, fast-forward world is to help them view the problems of the world as normal ingredients in the process of change. Don’t preach to your kids about the good old days when you were growing up. Don’t gripe about the government, the economy, and all the other less enlightened countries. Don’t magnify the disasters that bombard our senses in prime time newscasts. Help them understand that while we see more problems via instant satellite communication in one day than our grandparents did in a decade, our lifestyles today are far more abundant than at any other previous time in history. In order for children to be creative, they need to know that adversity is the mother of invention:
- Did you know that the ice cream cone was invented by a waffle vendor who ran out of plates?
- That the hot dog was invented by a German immigrant so he wouldn’t need plates?
- That the automatic dishwasher was invented by a woman who was tired of having her china broken by the maid who washed her dishes by hand?
- That Dan Gerber invented strained baby food to make his own feeding job as a young father more efficient?
- Or, that Ole Evinrude invented the outboard motor, because he couldn’t row his boat fast enough to keep the ice cream from melting that he purchased for his girlfriend on the other side of the lake?
Help your children convert stumbling blocks into stepping stones to success by being more optimistic, by swallowing your cynicism, by praising their progress more, and by criticizing their mistakes less. Teach them to get back up, dust themselves off, and do it all over again, but to learn from their mistakes and get more knowledge and training so they can improvise and improve on their second try.
Introduce your children to the creative geniuses in history who, in reality, were hard-working people trying to solve problems, but who never gave up on their dreams. Successful people believe in their dreams when they have nothing but a dream to hang on to. Walt Disney was bankrupt when he went around Hollywood trying to sell his little “Steamboat Willie” cartoon idea. Can you imagine him trying to sell a talking mouse with a falsetto voice in silent movie days? Was Walt Disney more creative after he built Disneyland and Disneyworld, or just as creative when he was broke and being rejected?
When Elias Howe invented the sewing machine, most of the women in the world he showed it to laughed at him for years. “With their sewing done so quickly,” they argued, “what in the world would they find to do with all that extra time?” He lived his life in borrowed suits, yet his machine has done more than any other to create the clothes he could never afford to wear.
When Professor Alexander Graham Bell designed a hearing device to help his sister, who was nearly deaf, he had a vision that his hearing machine would carry the human voice for miles and miles. They all laughed at the time, but the Chinese people don’t laugh at him today as they move their economy forward with their 150 million wireless cell phones ringing incessantly.
Creativity is seeing, in advance, an idea that can become a solution to a major problem or need. And holding on to that idea until it works or until a better idea is implemented. Creativity is holding on to your dreams even when others laugh at you. Creativity comes from having parents who are interested in children’s school work, in attending open houses, who are eager to learn about what’s happening in their children’s lives, who’ll listen, unconditionally, who praise often and criticize constructively the behavior that is undesirable, while not directly criticizing the child. Creativity is having curious parents who are open to new ideas and to better ways of doing things and who are not so set in their ways that they prejudge everything in advance. Unimaginative and unproductive people say, “It may be possible, but it’s too difficult.” Creative individuals say, “It may be difficult, but it’s always possible.”
Action Activity: Show your children, by example, how you handle setbacks and problems in a positive way.
Seeds of Greatness: Roots (5 Courses)
Seeds of Greatness: Wings (5 Courses)