This post is part of Breakthrough with Tony Robbins. A series featuring the empowering stories of individuals who have triumphed in the face of hardship and crisis.
After an early life of trial-and-error, I have come to a life of blessing in which I want to give back to persons who are hurting or alone, but who deserve blessings. It seems simple now, but I have not always seen how the Universe gives and desires us to share one with another -- to give back.
Two days during my fifth year stand out clearly in my mind. My dad's car arrives, carrying a boat almost as big as the car. Dad places me inside the boat, seating my younger brother, Ron, right behind me. I am teleported into a different world where pirate ships are defeated, and new lands discovered. On a Sunday later that fall, after church and lunch, we take a nap. Mom sleeps with my little brother, while I am sent to my parent's room. Hearing someone coming, I pretend to be sleeping. Dad walks past. Just as I sit up to talk with him ... he clutches his chest. I ask what is wrong. Silence. I shake his body. No movement. I bolt to get mom. She turns his lifeless body over, shouting my dad's name. As his body is carried out, mother sends Ron and me to grandma Toffel's house next door. Mom's demeanor changed. Perhaps like her, I loved dad for the boat, but regretted the life we got when he died.
At age 9, I am a starting pitcher in Little League. Each step poses a struggle as my mother, a widow, scrimps to keep us fed. Then, I lose my baseball mitt. At practice, I tell my coach, who approaches mother. Two hours and an ocean of tears later, she is not finished explaining her troubles. He finds me a left-handed mitt. As I get used to it, I take extra long on the pitcher's mound. I re-kick the dirt, trying to get my mother's voice out of my head. As I look at the hitter, I imagine his bat contains my mother's wails and humiliation. I fight to hold back hot angry tears and throw my first pitch. Strike one! I wipe the sweat on my face and realize that pain, humiliation, and adversity have become my motivation. That old, uncomfortable mitt gave me a way to increase my game: pitching strikes means I didn't need to bother with the mitt.
As an undergraduate, I was a walk-on member of the track team and ran by the same old rickety house. One day I knocked. An elderly man invited me in. The living room had no furniture, except canoe to catch water from a gaping hole in the roof. A WWI veteran, and a new widower, he wanted to move. Maybe because I grew up without a father, I decided to help him. I drew up a contract, found him an apartment, and helped him move there. Then I paid my fellow athletes to fix the place up. Hardly any skills. Yet in 7 weeks, it was completely remodeled and rented to a sorority. Six months afterward, I called the university folks to negotiate a potential sale; my bank account was restocked and school loans paid off. The man had been hounded by the university, he told me; I had approached him "on the right day and in the right way."
Shortly afterward, I was running a City Master Plan project my small firm had won even though I was under 30. This was another blessing -- the opportunity to design and implement a 20-acre parkette, fitness trail, and water feature. I got valuable experience, while the community got an exceptional development. For the first time in such a powerful way, my visualizations became the reality I saw.
My master's degree thesis offered a mathematical model to value real estate, focusing on how the energy permeating a building draws or repels tenants. I asserted a building evokes a feeling much like an oil painting or piece of music and translates into numbers. The committee could not envision this. At an impasse, I debated whether to appease the committee members. I maintained my stance and obtained my masters degree by the narrowest of margins. Here the reality I saw manifested; value is not just the cost of things.
The derision about granting my masters degree caught the attention of the architecture department. The dean invited me to become University of Illinois's first Ph.D. in architecture. Under my professor's tutelage, I designed a HVAC system to circulate air while exploiting natural air currents; this increased heating and cooling efficiency by nearly 68 percent. I worked in my own laboratory; a tuition waiver allowed me to take course sequences in four colleges. I also took ballroom dance classes as a way to meet girls, and this manifested in falling in love with a young violinist.
Unfortunately for graduate work, my business escalated. A prominent real estate developer died. I used to run by an all limestone mansion every day. According to any expert, it was not worth much. Yet, I loved its Gothic cathedral feeling. I phoned my banker to join me in attending the auction. Once there, I spotted all the big name players. So I visualized the building again, its grainy limestone on my hands. This present-experience (what I call the point of power) centered me. The bidding began, and I made my one bid. The banker and I stopped at our building on the way home to feel the limestone again.
My real estate business added staff, and I enjoyed giving back by helping them thrive. One night I was awaked at 3:00 a.m. One of the fifty or so employees, "Sharon" was crying. She needed money to bail out her son. I thought of my own mother -- a struggling single woman raising two boys -- and my heart melted. I comforted Sharon, paid the bail, and drove both of them home. Surely, I was tired, but warmed by a feeling of family.
I have also been able to give back to my community. For example, I was invited to be on the board of directors of the local symphony. Once seated, I discovered that this 125-year-old symphony was on the verge of bankruptcy. Three board women came to my office. Over tea, they asked me to take the position of president. I declined without much hesitation. That night, I felt a deep sadness toward all those who depended on the organization and toward the community. The musicians and the children in the surrounding community who were always invited to our annual free concerts. Some their only exposure to the classics performed live. After I accepted, I initiated fund-raising events and reached out for support. Within eight months, our first concert was sold out. Within 18 months, the company ran at a profit. To this day, this successful volunteer effort is one of my proudest achievements. And I owe it all to the women who visualized a great outcome in the organization and me. Sometimes, we are actors in the visions of others.
Five years ago, I decided to do camera interviews at each port on a sailing trip up the east to Manhattan and then back to Miami Fl. Many persons agreed, but then were unable to say much. I asked questions about their belief systems in religion, politics, and eating. Their practices came from their parents or their long-time associates or meaningful classes taken or media.
One of the inspirations for my book "The Point of Power" came from a chilling moment during these interviews. A family of 5 each member appeared obese walked into a McDonald's. After interviewing the parents, they were not aware that they were handing their bad eating habits over to their teenage children. The parents seemed to love these kids, but could not see that they were marching their children down the plank to super sizing their next meal. Life spans of children ages 9-14, according to the AMA, are getting shorter because of weight and the sharp rise in diabetes due to the diets imposed by us adults. It was in this moment that I felt an urge to cause a bigger ripple; by translating the wisdom I had learned to a larger audience through writing.
Most persons simply seem to swim along in the stream of life until they meet the falls. Had this become my life as well? That led to a decision. Those who know me would be surprised that in my thirties, without any disease or medical condition, I had outsourced the company I had founded. It was posting record profits, and yet I chose to close it down and embark on my semi-retirement. I want to devote my life to helping others explore and benefit from the Law of Attraction. I have also decided to give my attention to the things that feel good. With this elementary logic, I create the best life possible -- one of giving back.
This give-back attitude emerged from a series of transformative events in my life and the lessons that I was able to learn from them. Lacking a father led to a desperate home life, of course. The embarrassment of losing a baseball mitt led to focusing on pitching more strikes (because then the pitcher doesn't need a mitt). Furthermore, these experiences led me to be able to make connections with others in their losses (such as the elderly man).
Notice, I was not so much determined to somehow, at sometime in the future have wealth. It was to see the wealth in the bleak situation or see triumph in the bidding situation when it could have easily ended in failure (like losing the bid on the Grey Stone building). This led to my three-point insight:
- Intend by thinking positive thoughts; be gracious, be humble, think love, and intend an outcome (this or better).
- Declare a plan of action and a clear desire; feel it, experience it, make clarifications during the sync period, live it.
- Trust the Universe to do its bit -- have faith, forget about it, and detach.
Writing this has been my greatest joy because I truly believe that the Universe intends good for us. With such wealth in the present moment, how can we not share with others?
To read more about Peter's story and his inspiring philosophy, check out his book, "The Point of Power", available now on Amazon. He is also the author of "It's None of My Business What You Think of Me!: If You Want to Change Your Life ... Change the Way You Are Looking at It". His website is peterbaksa.com.