What is your book about?
This is a book about self-discovery – discovery of self and discovery of the self in others – and the amazing personal growth that understanding can drive. It is an alarm clock – awakening the reader’s capability to understand and helping them along the way. There is, after all, little sense in living a life – occupying space and taking up resources – if you aren’t going to be awake and aware during the experience. And being awake to and aware of those around you and to your own true self is the great pathway to personal enlightenment. All of us have a chance to set foot upon that wondrous highway – but so many of us spend so much time asleep along the side of the road.
Tell us more about that way of thinking.
Sherlock Holmes was fond of telling Dr. Watson, “Don’t just see; observe.” That is the first, and crucial, step. The next one is to act on new understanding.
Knowing needs to be acted upon. Little is gained through understanding that has no impact on your life and prospects.
Self-sabotaging behavior is most often an extended event. Self-sabotaging behaviors are persistent over time. It is not the single event that limits your prospects but the persistent tendencies towards harming yourself and your future.
Behavior occurs in the present not in the past or future. Buddhists refer to this as “being in the present”. By that they mean being alive to all that is happening around you when it is happening around you. You are at your most potent when you are alive in the moment. Try to become more in the present and less one who realizes some days afterwards what happened.
Memory has a role. Once you decide to overcome self-sabotaging behaviors, keep track of your progress. If it takes six weeks to build a habit that will endure, you need to settle in for the long haul and be persistent.
Develop a system to help you remember. I use Microsoft Outlook as a contact manager. Every individual contact file provides a “Notes” text field for entering information. I pull up the file and see my notes on that individual’s self-sabotaging tendencies. Others prefer to use a journal to record their experiences and insights. It is a matter of personal preference. Find the one that is easier for you and use it.
Know Thyself. This book is, above anything else, about a journey of self-discovery. It is your tendencies that are the focus. Self-knowledge is the most potent of all. With it you can say, “This is who I am. Do not confuse me with someone else!” Without it, you are just another brick in the wall.
Nothing Too Much. Moderation in all things; so long as you don’t take that too far. Be kind and understanding to yourself. Foibles are unavoidable unforced human errors. They are not indictments or mortal sins. If you have breath and will, you can overcome them. It is not what you have been, it is what you are now in this moment.
Heal Thyself, It is seductive to try to become the savior of others before you see to saving yourself. It is, after all, easier to criticize than to personally reform. That is particularly true when you are looking in a mirror.
Celebrate your victories quietly and know you are better for them. This book is about the ability to improve a life. Each time someone overcomes a tendency that has been limiting them is a victory.
What inspired you to write your book?
It all started with an event more than a decade back. I suddenly realized that something that I was habitually doing was negatively impacting my relationships. That started me on a journey. First it was one of self-discovery but soon it also became a journey of discovery of others. I learned that I would grow in two ways. First, my life would improve. Second, I would come to know my fellow travelers in deeper and more meaningful ways.
About a decade ago, I began mentoring others with a focus on overcoming the negative impacts of self-sabotaging behaviors. I had found my mission in life. The work was hard and sometimes disturbing but, with experience, I became better at helping others overcome the tendency to make their own lives and the lives of those they cared for more difficult. Each victory was a celebration of the human ability to overcome and grow.
I began to share my experiences with my network and was warmed by the responses I received. It seemed that I had tapped into something common to all human experience. They shared experiences, war stories and responded to those of others. In a few months, I had received well over five hundred comments. At that point my mission became to put it all down in an organized form so that I could share the insights with others. That’s how Self-Sabotage: 12 Nasty Habits was born.
How did you come to do what you are doing today?
I mentor because it makes a difference in the lives of the people I work with. I have always believed that my life is formed by what I can learn and the gifts I can give to others. Having spent a couple of decades thinking about how unthinking behaviors can make a life more difficult and how to overcome them, I can now help others do the same. Mentoring just seemed to happen for me. I seek out people who are determined to change their lives – and to do the heavy lifting necessary – or more often they seek me out. Every journey starts with an understanding of how hard the work is going to be. Each one brings celebrations and setbacks. But those who persevere come to live lives that are a glory – a testament to the potential in us all.
Can you describe a typical day in your life?
That brings me to my second passions – raising money to support cancer research. For decades, I have been organizing fishing trips. I enjoy sharing my love of fishing with friends. During one of our regular Cabo ﬁshing trips, my brother Tom suggested we ﬁsh in a tournament to beneﬁt leukemia research. He was rather insistent so a bunch of us decided to enter with him. While none of us won, it was a great day out on the water with my brother. After we returned from Cabo, I gave the tournament little thought until less than a year later when my brother died. It was then that I learned he was suffering from early-stage leukemia and his insistence that we ﬁsh in the tournament made more sense. So, we started the Tom’s Team tournament in honor of Tom: doing two things he loved most – raising money for a worthy cause and trying to catch the big one.
I split my time between mentoring and managing Fishing Cures – a 503(c)3 non-profit organization that raises money to support cancer research.
What do you most enjoy about what you do?
That’s easy – the benefits that others get from it. For me, nothing is more rewarding that watching the sun come up for someone in need. Neither money nor fame comes close.
Are there any people and/or books that have inspired you along your journey?
My life has been formed by Buddhist thinking. I’m not sure why. I am a New Englander who has traveled the world. But the ideas of service, compassion, living in the present, making a difference and helping others are central to my life.
Can you share some wisdom with our readers?
Procrastination is the life killer. You can spend years – and sometimes decades – avoiding doing what you know needs to be done. Most often that happens because you try to do it on your own. Maybe out of shame or guilt – or a feeling of inadequacy. But it is all such a waste. Time is what we have and only a limited amount of it at that. Humans are social animals – we help each other. It is the great strength of our species. Find someone who can help you shut down the procrastination – make the commitment – stay with it – get on with your life and claim the person you were meant to be.
Can you share something that people might be surprised to learn about you?
My mentoring clients will tell you that I am a hard ass. I am constantly telling them that “it’s your life and if you don’t care, why should I?” But I am always there for them to work through the lows and celebrate the victories. I take the same approach to raising money to support cancer research. I often tell potential donors, “watch your wallet because I’m going to take as much of its contents as I can and send it to some PhD looking for a cure.” For me, life has a purpose and I work towards it with determination and focus.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I believe that every life has unrealized potential and that the meaning of life – the very reason for our existence – is to tap into that potential and claim the life we were meant to have.
Social Media Links:
Amazon Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Self-Sabotage-Earl-Smith-II-PhD-ebook/dp/B01N1FTKGT
Tom’s Team: http://www.toms-team.org/home – raising money to support cancer research