The power of personal transformation: Change your self, change the world

Note: On July 8th, I gave the closing keynote at World Domination Summit 2012. After listening to Brené Brown talk about vulnerability, Susan Cain talk about introversion, Scott Harrison talk about building wells in Africa, and Chris Brogan talk about bravery — after listening to all of these professional speakers, I took the stage. I'm just an average guy. I shared what I've learned about how to change your life. This is the text of that talk.

My name is J.D. and I am an introvert. Or at least I used to be. As a boy, my introversion created problems. I was awkward physically and I was awkward socially. I was strange.

My awkwardness only increased as I grew older. I hung around with the other strange kids. We were nerds. There was a band of us, about six boys, and as we progressed through the grades, we gravitated toward each other. In our free time, we'd hang out to read comic books or play Dungeons and Dragons.

This was back during the late seventies and early eighties, and we were among the first to have computers. While other kids were doing what other kids did, we were home learning to write our own computer programs, reading Superman and Spiderman comics, or pretending to be barbarians or wizards or trolls.

At the time, I didn't know I was different from other kids. It didn't matter. All that mattered was that I liked what I was doing and I liked my friends. Life was good.

Things changed, though, when I got to junior high school. Gradually I became aware of a certain social hierarchy. What's more, I became aware that my friends and I were at the bottom of this social hierarchy.

We were always the last kids picked for kickball teams. Nobody wanted to be our lab partners in biology. When my pal Jeremy carried his Dungeons and Dragons books from class to class, the other kids would knock them to the floor if he got up to sharpen his pencil.

One day in algebra class, the girl behind me — Janine was her name — the girl behind me wrote something on the back of my shirt. I kept turning around to ask her to stop, but she kept writing. The other kids kept snickering. After class, I went to the bathroom to see what she'd written. There, in big block letters, was the word DICK. She'd written DICK on the back of my shirt.

That's who I was. I was the bottom of the junior-high pecking order. I was a nerd. A geek. A loser. The other kids thought I was a dick. And slowly but surely, I began to believe them. In fact, as eighth grade progressed, I sank into a deep depression. I missed school. I withdrew. I became suicidal.

I remember coming home from school after one particularly horrific day — maybe even the same day Janine wrote the word DICK on the back of my shirt — I remember coming home to our trailer house, searching the cupboards for something to eat. I opened one of the kitchen drawers, and there I found a sharp knife. I took it out and sat at the table. For maybe five or ten minutes, I sat staring at the blade. I ran it over my wrist once or twice. “I could kill myself,” I thought. “I could kill myself and this would all be over.”

Fortunately, I didn't have the guts.

Instead, I put the knife away and went to my bedroom to read X-Men comic books.

That was a turning point for me, a key experience in my young life. As I sat at the table with knife in hand, I made a decision. I knew I wasn't a dick. I knew I was a good guy. Why didn't other people? I decided to change. I decided that the next year, when I started high school, I'd do new things. I'd make new friends.

And so I did.

Making a Change

When I started high school, I intentionally made an effort to meet new people and to try new things.

  • I joined the business club.
  • I joined the drama club and the choir.
  • I wrote for the high-school newspaper.
  • I went out for soccer and for tennis.
  • I joined a church youth group.
  • I joined the computer club. (Heck, I was president of the computer club.)
  • And so on.

Basically, I began to say “yes” to every opportunity that came along. I tried new things and then focused my energy on the things I enjoyed most, things like business classes and writing. I worked hard to become more involved with these activities. I edited the literary magazine, for instance, and took ninth place in the nation at Business Math.

You Can't Take It With You
That's me on the right, dressed up for a high school play.

The bottom line is I looked at who I had been, didn't like what I saw, and then made the decision to change. At the age of fourteen, I underwent a personal transformation. As a result, life became more interesting and I became happier. Whereas a lot of people have bad memories of high school, I loved it. It was an amazing time in my life.

After high school, I went to college. I graduated. I got married. I went to work for my father. I grew complacent with my life, and as I grew complacent, I gradually became unhappy again, just as I had been when I was a boy.

By 2004, I had accumulated over $35,000 in consumer debt. But my debt wasn't my only problem. My life was a mess. I was overweight, and had been for years. I hated my job. I wasted my free time watching TV and playing World of Warcraft. And I was beginning to realize that there might be problems with my marriage.

The Man I Want to Be

During the summer of 2004, my wife and I bought a new house. It was the home of our dreams: a century-old farmhouse on half an acre close to Portland. It seemed expensive, but the bank said we could afford it, and we believed them. Things became problematic, however, when we were forced to spend several thousand dollars making repairs.

I felt overwhelmed. I was drowning in debt, and the expenses were flooding in. I'd been living paycheck-to-paycheck for more than a decade, just staying afloat as the water slowly rose around me. Now I felt myself sinking below the surface. I'd reached the end of my credit and the end of my cash.

Fortunately, a friend threw me a life preserver. He noticed I was struggling with money, and he suggested I read a book about getting out of debt. I read that book. And then I read another. And another. Within a few months, I'd read a dozen books about personal finance, and was starting to apply the lessons I'd learned to my own life. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I noticed an immediate change. I paid off a couple of debts. I felt better about money and I felt better about myself.

In April of 2005, I wrote an article for my personal blog, an article I called “Get Rich Slowly”. It summarized all of the books I'd been reading about personal finance, and tried to explain what sorts of themes they had in common. For whatever reason, my little article on getting rich slowly attracted a lot of attention from around the web. It resonated with a lot of readers.

A year later — on 15 April 2006 — I started a blog about money, a blog I called GetRichSlowly.org. At the time, it just seemed like a simple way to make a few extra bucks. I figured maybe it'd help me pay off my debt a little more quickly.

I had no idea what it would become.

  • Within a year, I was making as much money from Get Rich Slowly as I was from my day job.
  • Within eighteen months, I'd paid off all my debt.
  • Within two years, I was able to quit my job to blog full time.
  • And within three years, I was able to sell Get Rich Slowly for a nice chunk of change.

It took me three years of hard work, but that intense focus paid off. I'd dug myself out of debt and, in fact, had set aside a sizeable nest egg.

Who I Am Today

The thing is, it's not just my financial life I turned around.

After I paid off my debt, I began to wonder how I could apply the lessons I'd learned to other parts of my life. If I could transform my personal finances, could I transform my fitness? My personality? My relationships? Turns out, the answer is “yes”. In fact, it's a resounding yes.

Over the past few years, I've:

But the biggest change of all, and the most important one, is that today I'm happy. That's probably the defining facet of my existence. A decade ago, I was unhappy. Even a year ago, I was unhappy. Not today. Sure, there are things I want to change, but have no doubt: I have an awesome life.

I feel lucky. I feel blessed. I want others to feel this happy too.

That's enough background. You don't care about my life. What you want to know is how you can apply this information to your life. How can you get started with change? I believe it all begins by learning to say “yes”.

The Power of Yes

The first key to transforming your life is to be open to new experiences, to let your environment change you. But most of us are too complacent. Or we're afraid to try new things. I know that was certainly true in my case.

For much of my adult life, I was shackled by fear. This fear of failure confined me to a narrow comfort zone. Then, five years ago, I read a book called Impro by Keith Johnstone. It blew my mind.

Impro is a book about stage-acting, about improvisational theater, the kind of stuff you used to see on the show Whose Line Is It Anyway? I'm not an actor, nor do I want to become one. But several of the techniques the book describes are applicable to everyday life.


Improvisation in action on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

I was particularly impressed by the need for improvisational actors to accept whatever is offered to them on stage. In order for a scene to flow, an actor has to accept whatever situation arises and just go with it. Here's how the author explains it:

Once you learn to accept offers, then accidents can no longer interrupt the action. […] This attitude makes for something really amazing in the theater. The actor who will accept anything that happens seems supernatural; it's the most marvelous thing about improvisation: you are suddenly in contact with people who are unbounded, whose imagination seems to function without limit.

[…]

These ‘Offer-block-accept' games have a use quite apart from actor training. People with dull lives often think that their lives are dull by chance. In reality everyone chooses more or less what kind of events will happen to them by their conscious patterns of blocking and yielding.

That passage had a profound effect on me. I thought about it for days. “What if I did this in real life?” I wondered. “What if I accepted offers and stopped blocking them? Could this help me overcome my fears?” I began to note the things that I blocked and accepted. To my surprise, I blocked things constantly — I made excuses not to do things because I was afraid of what might happen if I accepted.

I made a resolution. I decided that instead of saying “no” to things because I was afraid of them, I'd “just say yes”. That became my working motto: “Just say yes”. Any time someone asked me to do something, I agreed (as long as it wasn't illegal and didn't violate my own personal code of conduct). I began to put this philosophy into practice in lots of little ways.

Even to this day — five years after beginning the habit — I practice the power of yes. For instance, during the past few weeks:

  • I shot a gun for the first time.
  • I tried Bikram yoga for the first time.
  • I began drinking beer for the first time in my life.
  • I madea presentation about personal finance to a group of migrant women. And I made the presentation in Spanish.
  • And a couple of weeks ago, I sat on a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Give me another couple of weeks, and I may actually ride one.
J.D., Shooting for the First Time
J.D. learns to shoot a rifle…

Yes, these are small things. I know that. But, in time, small changes can become big changes. For instance, I'm hooked on the Bikram yoga. It might seem crazy, but I love sitting in a 105-degree room for 90 minutes at a time, sweating and stretching. I'm hooked. This feels like it could be a permanent part of my life.

Plus, the power of “yes” has led me to make larger changes to my life too. It's exposed me to things I never would have done before.

  • I wrote and published an actual book.
  • I sold my web site.
  • This fall, I'm traveling to Turkey. Next spring, I'll head to Spain and Norway.
  • At last year's World Domination Summit, I jumped out of an airplane.
  • At this year's World Domination Summit…well, I'm up here on this stage talking to one thousand people. That's huge for me.

These things will seem minor to the natural extroverts here. But I'm not a natural extrovert. I'm an introvert. For me, these were big steps. These experiences were new, and I wouldn't have had them if I hadn't forced myself to just say yes.

J.D. Roth at World Domination Summit 2012
Taking the stage at World Domination Summit
(Photo by Tera Wages)

Overcoming Fear of Failure

Most of my experiences from the “just say yes” campaign have been positive, but not all of them. I've had some failures, too. That's okay: I've learned more from the bad experiences than from the good.

A few years ago, for instance, a Seattle radio station asked me to do a telephone interview about retirement saving. “I'm not a retirement expert,” I told the woman who contacted me, but then I realized I was making excuses. I was blocking because I was scared. “But I'll do it,” I said.

Ultimately my radio appearance was a disaster. I got stage fright and became tongue-tied. I was like a deer in the headlights. But you know what? I don't care. I failed, but at least I tried. After the interview, I e-mailed the woman to apologize and to ask for advice. She was sympathetic, and gave me some great pointers.

Since then, I've done dozens of radio interviews. Each one has been better than the last. Just a couple of weeks ago, I was invited to do a ten minute interview with a station in San Antonio. The hosts kept me on for half an hour. After it was over, they e-mailed to see if I'd be willing to chat with them again in the future.

“Of course,” I said. After all, I'm all about saying yes.

Of course, saying “yes” to so many things can create complications. For one, it's easy to get overwhelmed. It's easy to over-commit. Because of this, it's important to balance your enthusiasm with a little bit of focus.

The Power of Focus

If personal transformation begins by being willing to try everything, it's put into practice by choosing to do almost nothing.

A few months ago, my Spanish tutor said something else that surprised me. We were talking about the books I've been reading and my plans for the coming months, including WDS. “Eres un mago del tiempo,” she told me. “You're a magician of time.” When I asked what she meant, she said that I seem to do so many things that it's like I can create time out of thin air.

Well, I can't create time, of course, as much as I wish it were true. Instead, I've learned the power of focus.

HELL YEAH!

On his blog, entrepreneur Derek Sivers once shared a great way to find focus. Instead of committing yourself to everything, instead of agreeing to things that only half-way excite you, Sivers says you should either be so excited by something that it makes you say “HELL YEAH!” — or you should say “no” to it. When you say “no” to the things that don't excite you, you leave lots of room in your life to passionately pursue the few things that make you go HELL YEAH!

The power of yes works hand-in-hand with the HELL YEAH! philosophy. You cast a wide net by saying yes. By casting a wide net, you'll catch a lot of stuff you don't want to keep — but you'll also catch a few HELL YEAHS.

This is one of the secrets to personal fulfillment. There's a great temptation to do it all. But you can't do it all. You're only human. You only have 24 hours in each day, just like the rest of us. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, find those few things you love and build your life around them. Maybe that's your family, your friends, your blog, and your business. Maybe it's travel and teaching. Or sports and speaking. Each of you has different passions. Your goal is to discover the things you love and to pursue these things above all else.

One of the core concepts of my financial philosophy is the notion of “conscious spending”. When you practice conscious spending, you give yourself permission to buy the things you value, but you also agree to cut costs ruthlessly on the stuff that's not important to you.

For instance, I discovered that I like a certain type of physical fitness. I'm a fan of Crossfit. But attending a Crossfit gym isn't cheap. Still, I budget $200 a month for my gym because it's that important to me. In exchange, I don't have a television; I don't drive very often; and I buy a lot of my clothes at thrift stores. This is conscious spending: Giving up the small stuff so that you can afford the big stuff.

J.D. (Tire Flip)
Hard at work in my gym. Fitness is one of my Big Rocks.

Well, the same concept applies to your time. If you want to be happy, if you want to become a better person, then focus first on the parts of your life that are most important to you. Make these your priorities. Once you've scheduled the big things, fit the small things in — if you can.

Think of it this way: Imagine you have a jar. You want to fill this jar with a bunch of big rocks and with some sand. How would you do it?

One way is to put the sand in first and to add the rocks second. But if you did this, you'd quickly see that it's impossible to make everything fit. With a layer of sand at the base of the jar, there's no room for the big rocks.

On the other hand, if you start by putting the big rocks in to the jar first, you can then pour the sand into the gaps and cracks. Everything fits.

Do this with your life. Focus on your big rocks first. Fit the small stuff in around them. For me, my big rocks are fitness, friends, writing, Spanish, and travel. These are my five big rocks. If these aren't in my jar, I'm not happy. So, I make sure to squeeze these in before anything else. Once these rocks are in place, once these things are on my calendar, then I fill the remaining space with the sand.

I know this sounds elementary and you may be tempted to ignore what I'm saying. Don't. This one idea alone revolutionized my life. It made me happier. It made me more productive. By focusing solely on those things that were most important to me — by making room for the Big Rocks — I was able to reclaim my life and my time.

But sometimes you have to go even farther. Sometimes to make change, you have to focus on just one thing at a time.

One Goal at a Time

I used to be the sort of guy who loved to set lots of goals. At least once a year — usually around New Year — I'd sit down and make a list of all the things that were wrong with me, all of the things I wanted to change. I loved projects like “101 Things in 1001 Days”. That's where you make a list of 101 goals you'd like to accomplish in the next three years. Sounds great, right?

Eventually I realized that making a long list of resolutions was a sure path to failure, at least for me. There's a reason you see newspaper and TV stories every April about how most people aren't able to achieve the resolutions they set at the first of the year. It's because most of us try to do too much.

Nowadays, I do something different, something that's actually proven to be successful. Instead of trying to change many things in my life at one time, I only try to change one.

In 2010, for example, I focused on fitness. In fact, I dubbed 2010 “The Year of Fitness”. My aim was to lose fifty pounds. Every decision I made was with that goal in mind. You know what? It worked. Though I didn't lose fifty pounds that year, I did lose forty. (And I lost the last ten by the middle of 2011.)

The Man I Used to Be

I was able to do this because for the entire year, my only goal was to get in shape. I was focused. Nothing else mattered. I didn't have any other big goals clouding my view or competing for my attention. I set one goal, and I worked hard to meet it. I picked the one thing in my life that most needed to change, and I committed to changing it.

This year, I'm doing something a little different. Instead of one big goal for the year, I'm working on one major goal every month.

  • In March, I had lunch or dinner with a different friend every day. This let me reconnect with some people I'd been missing.
  • In April, I embarked upon an Extreme Dating Project. My goal was to date as many different women as possible. April was a fun month.
  • Then I made it a goal to go to the gym every day in May.
  • Last month, my aim was to eat “no junk in June”. I focused on my diet, which helped me to lose five pounds and two percent body fat.

The idea is that at any given time, you're only worried about one major goal. Attack it from different angles if needed, but be tenacious about working on that single goal.

There's a fun side effect to so much focus. It's kind of counter-intuitive. I've found — as have others before me — that when you have fewer obligations, when you're chained to fewer responsibilities, you have more freedom. It's easier to change. You're better able to say “yes” to new opportunities when they appear.

The Power of Action

So you've decided to say “yes” to new experiences. And you've taught yourself to focus on only a few projects at a time. These are two of the three keys to personal transformation. But as important as these are, there's a third key that's more important still. That key is action.

Talkers and Doers

For a long time, I was full of hot air. Well, that and I was lazy. And depressed. This wasn't a good combination for Getting Things Done. I talked a lot about the things I wanted to do, but I never did them. I found reasons not to. I even had trouble keeping up my end of the household chores, which my wife found very frustrating.

I was a Talker.

Maybe you know somebody like this. A Talker seems to know the solution to everything, has great plans on how he's going to make money or get a new job. But the funny thing is, the Talker never acts on his solutions and his great plans. And he never gets that new job. He's out of work or stuck in a job he hates. To everyone else, it's clear that the Talker is full of hot air, but he believes he's bluffing everyone along, or conflates talking with doing. When confronted, a Talker always has excuses for not getting things done: He doesn't have time, he doesn't have the skills, the odds are stacked against him. When a Talker does do something, he often takes a shortcut.

That, my friends, was the man I used to be.

But something changed in the autumn of 2005. I began to read a lot of books. Not just personal finance books, but also self-help books and success manuals. And gradually I began to take the advice in these books to heart.

I began to take small steps, began to be more active in my world. Instead of just talking about doing things, I did them. I stopped looking for shortcuts and started actually doing the work required to get things done. Shockingly, this worked. By doing the work, I got the expected results. By doing instead of talking, things started to happen.

I became a Doer.

10,000 Hours
Outliers

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient at something. What separates the pros from the average people like you and me isn't that they're talented. It's that they've spent so much time honing their skills.

Change is like that too.

You might not need 10,000 hours to lose weight and become fit, but I guarantee that the more time you spend on it, the better your results will be. In my case, I've probably spent an average of 90 minutes a day for the past two years working on fitness. That gets me to about 1000 hours of exercise. One thousand hours isn't 10,000 hours but I'm not aiming to be an elite athlete. I just wanted to be fit. And now I am.

The same is true for my Spanish. After WDS last year, I decided to learn Spanish. I started on June 20th without knowing a thing about the language. Now, a year later, I'm not fluent but I am proficient. I'm a solid intermediate learner. What did it take? Four-and-a-half hours a week of lessons and probably an equal amount of time studying on my own. So, maybe 500 hours of study and now I can speak Spanish well enough to strike up a casual conversation with the man making my tacos down at the food carts. He likes it, and so do I.

My point is that to make a change, you have to put in effort. Change is not effortless. You can't use the “Think Method” to achieve change. Instead, you have to devote blood, sweat, and tears to the cause. In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck writes:

What makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one…Yet it is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure.

I don't have any bullet points for you here. There aren't any bullet points for taking action. Taking action is the bullet point. Taking action is the most important component of change.

Thinking about change is not change. Talking about change is not change. Attending conferences about change isn't change. Do you know what is change? Change is change. Until you actually alter your behavior, you haven't changed a thing.

This, more than anything else, is the key to personal transformation: Action. There are no shortcuts. You have to do the work.

Change Your Self — Change the World

So, these are the three keys to personal transformation:

  • The power of yes. Yes is an open mind. Yes is a willingness to try new things. Yes is allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
  • The power of focus. The ability to focus only on those things that are most important.
  • The power of action. The strength to work hard, to get things done.

I believe that if you take the time to develop these three skills, you can change your life. You can transform yourself into whomever it is you want to be. But it won't be easy.

You Against the World

You see, our society doesn't really like change. We value constancy. We celebrate things that have remained the same for years. Or decades. Or centuries.

Take politics, for example. Sometimes a politician will change her mind. To me, this seems like a good thing. It's a sign of maturity. It shows courage, intelligence, and an open mind. If I believe one thing but then get new information, of course I'm going to believe something else. This isn't a bad thing. It's common sense.

But in our world, if a politician changes her mind, she's criticized for it. She's accused of flip-flopping. In politics, it's dangerous to change who you are and what you think.

But it's not just politics. I can name three friends off the top of my head who are proud that their belief systems have remained essentially unchanged for twenty years. They see it as strength of character; I see it as a lack of adaptability.

There are other examples too, of course. On Tuesday night, for instance, I went out to Thai food with my friend Paul. I was looking forward to a good, hearty meal. But when I looked at the menu, I was disappointed to see the restaurant had removed my favorite dish. “I hate it when restaurants change their menus,” I told Paul, and even as I said it, I knew I was part of the problem. I'm part of this society, and I don't like change either.

Think of all the ways we celebrate sameness and longevity:

  • We celebrate fiftieth wedding anniversaries.
  • We give a gold watch to the worker who's been with the same company for twenty years.
  • We put up a plaque on the building that's been downtown for a century.
  • The most profitable restaurants in the U.S. are franchises like McDonald's, where the food always has been and always will be the same.

Our society just doesn't like change. But that shouldn't stop you from changing, if change is what you want.

Ulysses and the Sirens
Ulysses and the Sirens

A Part of All That I Have Met

In his poem “Ulysses”, Tennyson describes the unhappiness of Ulysses (or Odysseus) after he's returned to govern his kingdom, Ithaca. Ulysses spent ten years fighting in the Trojan War — the Trojan Horse was his idea — and then spent another ten years sailing home. No surprise: After blinding the Cyclops and skirting the Sirens, after dodging Scylla and Charybdis, after twenty years away, Ulysses has changed. He's undergone a profound personal transformation. In the poem, Tennyson describes it like this:

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades
For ever and ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!

I love that: “I am a part of all that I have met.” It's true.

Everything I see or hear or do becomes a part of who I am. In some small way, every event changes me, and it changes how I see — to quote Tennyson — it changes how I see “that untraveled world”.

And you are a part of all that you have met and done. You are the sum of your experiences. If your life is constant, if it's filled with sameness, that's fine. But then you will remain the same. If you want to change, if you want to do something different, you have to fill your life with new experiences. You have to find your own Cyclops and your own Sirens. You have to build your own Trojan Horse. The more you do, the more you'll grow. And, I'll wager, the more you'll realize there are other things to do and experience.

At the end of Tennyson's poem, Ulysses reaches out to his former shipmates. He calls them to action. He wants to leave Ithaca, to sail the seas again, to find some purpose greater than their day-to-day life. Tennyson writes:

Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

[…] Though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” There's a kind of magic in those words. They urge us to say “yes” to what life offers. They ask us to focus. They call us to action.

But there's more. This poem isn't just about the changes Ulysses has been through; the poem is also about the way he has changed the world, and the way he wants to continue changing the world.

Keep Dropping Keys All Night Long
My favorite poem. It's my philosophy. Art by Jolie Guillebeau.

Change the World

The official theme of the World Domination Summit is: “How do we live a remarkable life in a conventional world?” But I've privately given this year's conference a different theme. And now, after having spent the weekend meeting so many passionate people and listening to so many thought-provoking talks, I think this unofficial theme for the weekend is apt. It's simple:

Change your self — change the world.

One of the awesome things about personal transformation is that it changes how you view the world. It gives you perspective.

It used to be that I did no volunteer work. I didn't contribute to charity. Everything I did was for myself. But the simple act of learning Spanish has changed me. It's caused me to grow. As part of that growth, I've begun to see the world in a different light. I've become passionate about immigration issues. I've been moved to act. I don't care how or why people reached this country; once they're here, I want to help.

I have been changed inside, and now I want help to change the world outside, if only in some small way.

To start, I volunteered at a local grade school. Twice a week, I work in a Spanish/English second-grade class, helping the kids with their reading and writing. Next, I volunteered to teach English to Spanish-speaking immigrants. And a few weeks ago, I taught a budgeting class to 20 migrant women.

I'm not telling you these things to brag. I have nothing to brag about. My point is that by allowing myself to be changed, I discovered that I have the passion and the skills to give back, to help change the world, at least in a few small ways.

Only you can change yourself. We're lucky to live in a society that allows this to be true. Other people aren't so lucky. They want to change, they want to be happy, but external forces prevent them.

I think Scott Harrison made that clear in his talk about Charity: Water. Some people can't focus on self-improvement because they're too busy worrying about survival. Basic needs come first.

Libby, Dominating the WorldYou and I are fortunate. All of us here today are fortunate. We're in a position where we can focus on self-improvement, where we can pay $500 to spend a summer weekend in Portland sharing ideas and meeting new friends. Our survival needs are met, and we can pursue higher aims. For us, I think it's our responsibility to do what we can help others reach this point too, to help them improve their lives.

Ask yourself: What could you do to improve the world if you had a few extra hours every week? Not what could you do to improve yourself, but what could you do to improve the world? What could you do to improve the world if you had an extra hundred dollars? How could you invest that $100 to bring about change?

I'm just beginning to answer this question. After spending nearly a decade changing myself, spending so much time and effort to become the man I want to be, I'm finally ready to look outside myself and ask, “What can I do to make the world a better place?” Right now, that means teaching English to Hispanic immigrants. It means talking to people here at the World Domination Summit. But who knows where this could lead?

And who knows where personal transformation could lead for you?

Say “yes”, my friends. Stay focused. Take action. And after you've changed your self look for ways to change the world.

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AMW
AMW
7 years ago

This is a fabulous article (speech)! I give it an A not a C. I will be sharing this with many people.

One point I am going to question you on is “celebrating sameness”, the 50th wedding anniversary and the gold watch. I view it more as celebrating commitment and dedication.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  AMW

I was unsure about that part too. Just because you stayed with the same company or in the same marriage for a long time doesn’t mean you’re celebrating “sameness”or that life is merely “fine”. Often it takes a heck of a lot of adaptability, comprise and growth to maintain that kind of commitment.

Amy
Amy
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

And maybe, just maybe you have put your finger on the underlying drive behind all the WDS stuff? The need to not only be, but be DOING all the time? Can’t have sameness…..can’t stay the same. Must always be changing, doing something different. It almost strikes me like kids with ADD….well, self enlightened naval gazing adults with serios ADD ;)(I jest! Sort of….) I love the speech though. You should if you are not happy, strive for change (finger point at me here). I would say you should probably also consider the value of the ‘sameness’ in your life as… Read more »

MK
MK
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I hypothesize that is the lack of change and adaptability that results in a dissolution of marriage, rather than the ability to stay the same. The idea of “growing apart” versus “growing together” in my experience often means one person changed while the other remains the same, or the two changed in incompatible ways. That said, I don’t believe that judgment should be passed on either party. Marriage should be rewarding and fulfilling from the work involved. If it loses these elements, then it stops being a marriage and becomes just a contract that requires some renegotiation. It takes courage… Read more »

Kris
Kris
7 years ago

I’m so glad I popped in today to read the blog. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve started to give up on GRS. These are the posts and articles that I come to read. This is the reason this site was so successful (IMO). It’s not just about the personal finance, it’s about following one individual trying to do things better. It’s about seeing that individual succeed and knowing that I can do the same. I started reading in 2008 and have since squared away my financial house and just recently started focusing on my own fitness. I’m subsequently… Read more »

gerald
gerald
7 years ago
Reply to  Kris

Same here, and congrats on being able to publicly admit your faults. Being “someone you don’t like” and taking years to become better take a lot of guts.

Jennifer
Jennifer
7 years ago

Love this, J.D. Fabulous speech, very inspiring!

Heather
Heather
7 years ago

Wow!!!!! This article has so much in it, I’ve read it twice and will be coming back. I’m in the middle of my own journey and transformation. I’m just beginning to realize how much control I about things I thought just “happened” for other people. Thank you J.D, for sharing this with the world.

Patti
Patti
7 years ago

I love your speech– thank you for sharing your transformation with the world. One reason I have set paying off my debt as my number one goal, (the big rock in my jar this year) is that I found that I often said “No” in the past because I didn’t have the money to do the things other people did. I was jealous of people who could say “yes” to things I couldn’t. I found it very hard to be creative about how to say “yes” when I had learned the habit of saying no over and over. It’s a… Read more »

Mighty | Transformational Leadership
Mighty | Transformational Leadership
7 years ago

Amazing amazing speech JD! It’s very inspiring and moving! Now I don’t have any excuses left! Although I come from halfway around the world, the lessons you learned resonate with me.

Blessings!

Carolyn
Carolyn
7 years ago

Thank you for sharing! I attended WDS this year and was greatly moved by all of the speakers. It’s nice to have something in print that I can refer back to for a little inspiration.

Joni
Joni
7 years ago

Only change is forever. To take action and keep trying is the best way to deal with uncertainties in life. J.D, your story is encouraging.

Sheila Waddell
Sheila Waddell
7 years ago

Great speech. And I couldn’t help wondering – how did Janine turn out?

Kris
Kris
7 years ago
Reply to  Sheila Waddell

I know! I often wonder about the people who did that sort of thing as children. Do they regret what they did? My mom and dad would be SO ashamed of me if I did that to someone. I am not convinced other parents are the same, unfortunately.

bon
bon
7 years ago

Hey JD – just wanted to say reading this made me really happy – very inspiring, but mostly because I’ve been reading this blog for years and years and I’ve always been a fan of you as a person and your voice – I’m just so happy for you that you are in such a great place.

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

Long time reader, first time commenter. Such a powerful speech – I’ll have this one bookmarked permanently for inspiration! Congrats on all your success. 🙂

krantcents
krantcents
7 years ago

Most of us never test ourselves! It is that testing that teaches us what we can or cannot do. The more experience you get the better you become. BTW, a habit is formed or broken after 22 consecutive days.

WWII Kid
WWII Kid
7 years ago

Be the change that you want to see in the world.

Golfing Girl
Golfing Girl
7 years ago

Powerful post–you should be a speaker at junior high schools across the country to save future J.D.s.

Jason Clayton | frugal habits
Jason Clayton | frugal habits
7 years ago

No matter how downtrodden you may be, how stressed, or despaired – you can change your life starting today, and subsequently your world.

As stated in the article by J.D. – it starts with yes, focus, and action. All three are required… Fantastic post – Thanks J.D.

bg
bg
7 years ago

Great speech, and it really resonates with me. Especially the focus thing – from last September to April, I had every week full of action items, weight loss, juggling, sports, learning Russian… Right now, my only hobby activity is writing after work every day for 2-3 hours to finish a fanfiction of mine, so that I can soon embark on the various general book projects I have by now – which are all blocked by the unfinished fanfiction. My writing productivity and fun went up remarkably, because when you touch the document every day, it’s less of a hurdle. Your… Read more »

SuzyB
SuzyB
7 years ago
Reply to  bg

And this is why I read the comments. I’d like to send a simple thank-you to bg. I also have an unfinished book that pleads with me to spend time with her… and I only want to write when I can make her story even more beautiful… talk about a big hurdle!
You wrote, “–because when you touch the document every day, it’s less of a hurdle”.
That is exactly what I will do!
Thank you BG.

Luis
Luis
7 years ago

Hola J.D. Felicitaciones y gracias por esta publicación. No sólo es inspiradora y sustentada con hechos de tu propia vida, sino que tiene un tono personal que la hace verdaderamente convincente.
Espero que esta respuesta te sirva para practicar tu español y que algún día vengas a Colombia para compartir tus conocimientos. Leo tu blog desde hace varios años y me ha servido mucho para organizar mis finanzas personales. Saludos!!

JM
JM
7 years ago

My jaw dropped when I read the part about how celebrating a 50-year wedding anniversary is celebrating sameness. I thought it was about celebrating commitment and devotion and changing WITH your spouse for the prior 50 years.

Liked everything else in the speech.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  JM

My mind went to all of the ways we celebrate change: weddings, new babies, new jobs, promotions, new homes, graduations, etc.

I think when people celebrate birthdays or anniversaries it’s more of a “look how far we’ve come” rather than “yay! nothing has changed” type of occasion.

Cory
Cory
7 years ago
Reply to  JM

I think they are all poor examples of how “our society doesn’t like to change”.

partgypsy
partgypsy
7 years ago
Reply to  Cory

Actually I think our society wants to change too much, or at least doesn’t value things that should be valued over material things. China has the same problem, throwing the baby out with the bath water for the sake of “progress”.

Josetann
Josetann
7 years ago
Reply to  JM

Same here. I get why he said what he did…but I think the comment about long marriages was a bit mean/hurtful. And an employer celebrating a long-time employee…what’s the alternative, not do anything for him/her at all? So either we complain about the person being celebrated for spending so much of their life doing the same thing, or complain that the company didn’t do anything to recognize the person’s dedication.

But other than that…I think it was a good post.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  JM

I really enjoyed this speech and J.D. seems so likeable. And while it would be easy for many of us to find fault with these examples, I they’re appropriate given his current state in life. He’s in major self discovery mode. And the life altering changes he’s initiated in his life have all been very positive for him.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

That’s the problem with speeches put in writing — it makes them easier for us wordsmiths to nitpick 😉 Reading gives you time to reflect and revisit whereas a speech is a one-off that generally leaves you with an overall impression or theme rather than specifics.

I enjoyed the post 🙂

getagrip
getagrip
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

Uh, no, not really a one-off like comments sessions here by any stretch. You typically prepare for a speech, you’re not improvising, you’re working off your notes and should know what it is your going to say and more importantly the specific examples you are going to use to prove your point. Then JD also went through writing it down in the above article where he could have, with a note of explaination that he chose to change from the speech upon reflection, utilized alternate examples to better clarify his point if he noted the examples weren’t exactly what he… Read more »

GUILLERMO
GUILLERMO
7 years ago

Everyday, the first thing I get to do on Internet is to check this amazing blog. Given the point that my personal finance life is much more into the “I want to get out of debt” stage, I can say you that this is one of the best posts you have published in a few months. Thanks for the insights… There are a few motivational motto that I will take to my office. There is only one comment on your attitude towards giving. Since you started this blog, and through all the posts and research, ou gave given inspiration and… Read more »

jefferson
jefferson
7 years ago

Very inspirational, JD.. The way that you have transformed your life and overcome all of your fears and limitations is just simply.. awesome. My favorite part is how you carry yourself today. You are without question a success at this point, but you stay humble and continue to dedicate yourself towards improvement. I am convinced that it is that quest for improvement and that yearning for a better life that is what has led to your increased happiness. I have learned in my own experiences that complacency just isn’t the way, and will eventually start to eat away at you… Read more »

Lia
Lia
7 years ago

This blog has inspired me in ways unexplainable. The timing could not have been more perfect. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world. You are incredible.

Lance@MoneyLife&More
7 years ago

What a powerful speech. Wish I could have seen it in person. I went to James Madison university and our motto or slogan was Be the Change. I understand exactly what they meant now thanks to your article today.

Joe D.
Joe D.
7 years ago

Loved just about all of this, congrats on your transformation. I appreciate it being a junior high outcast myself. However, I believe that being in a 20 year marriage has required a large dose of change and adaptability from both myself and my spouse. Even in “sameness”, change is a constant.

Kathleen @ Frugal Portland
Kathleen @ Frugal Portland
7 years ago

Very well said. Best thing I’ve read on the internet this year. Thanks for posting, thanks for inspiring, and thanks for having a thick enough skin to deal with the haters!

Trisha
Trisha
7 years ago

JD thanks for this article. It hits home, especially since I have decided to say yes to some great projects. I can only hope that one day I will be where you are.

Steve
Steve
7 years ago

Beautiful, thought-provoking, inspirational post (and speech) JD!

Truth be told, now I really want to attend the WDS next year and am feeling quite motivated to change a few things in my life.

Thank you!

Natasha
Natasha
7 years ago

You’re making unfair comparisons in the “celebrating sameness” section- a restaurant’s static menu is nothing like a long term marriage, or loyalty to a company (“we” in the collective don’t give out retirement watches- the thankful, specific company does), or a historical structure ( ignorance and disrespect of the past is nothing to celebrate). It seems like you are advocating for new and shiny at the expense of other, subtler, qualities.

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
7 years ago
Reply to  Natasha

I would be interested to hear JD’s take on this article 20 years from now. It is a very powerful motivational speech for young people (saving junior high schoolers from tweeny misery as someone else mentioned) and for young adults (and maybe older adults) who’ve never taken risks or done things they’ve wanted to do. I love the idea of saying “yes” to many opportunities and seeing what happens. At the same time, there is much to be said for staying steady and digging in when things get tough/boring. And as someone else said, staying in a relationship for the… Read more »

Tom
Tom
7 years ago

Awesome!

Audrey
Audrey
7 years ago

Absolutely wonderful speach, and it comes at the perfect time in my life. There is a whole lot in my life that I “want” to change, but I am doing very little to get there. I just say, I’m not motivated right now. I can spend hours every day sitting on my couch watching tv and messing around on the internet, but I’m doing nothing to improve myself. And I have plenty I need to work on. I have 100 pounds to lose, and I really need to work on my photography. I know that this would be hugely beneficial… Read more »

Carla
Carla
7 years ago

This is a good reminder for me. Too many times I get stuck in the, “I can’t”, “I don’t know how”, “I’m not smart/talented enough”, etc. I have a reason why I will never have what I want or even some of what I need (including health) in life. This post is a good motivator for me – I will probably have to read it daily until I get it right!

partgypsy
partgypsy
7 years ago

I do agree with the overall premise. Even the concept of “offer – block – accept” I see how I can psychologically constrain myself and reduce possibilities, not out of fear, but laziness.

Natasha
Natasha
7 years ago

Also – what’s with all the introvert-hate? Introverts aren’t “cured” by becoming extroverts, the world needs both. That’s the point of Susan Cain’s book, TED talk, and, presumably WDS talk!

PawPrint
PawPrint
7 years ago
Reply to  Natasha

I didn’t feel like JD “hated” introverts. He wasn’t happy as an introvert, although perhaps that means he wasn’t a true introvert. I would hope that people who are true introverts are happy being who they are. But if a person isn’t happy with who he or she is, then here’s a kind of blueprint, if you will, to change.

Laura
Laura
7 years ago

J.D., thanks for sharing this. I admit I like and resonate with this post much more so than the reader story of the day before of What Would You Do If You Were Rich. I think you are sharing your experiences and the value in them in a non-judgmental way that encourages others to follow suit without insisting that “if you just did what I do, you’d win too.” I can’t shelve my life to Follow My Dream, but there are opportunities that cross my path daily that I can say yes to instead of no (although following up on… Read more »

Ash
Ash
7 years ago

Over the top cheesy, just like Brene Brown’s speech, which has no place on TED Talk.

Ali
Ali
7 years ago

Hey JD,

Liked your talk, just wanted to point out that there’s a difference between ‘introvert’ (someone who recharges in private) and ‘shy’ (which is what you were!). . .Sounds to me like you’ve always been an extrovert (you get a boost out of spending time with other people), just a shy one. It’s a common mistake to equate introvert with shy, and makes life more difficult for those of us who are introverted by not shy!

Keep up the good work. . .

TinaPete
TinaPete
7 years ago
Reply to  Ali

Well said, thank you from another introvert who is not shy.

Flexo
Flexo
7 years ago

Great speech! It sounds more like you were shy and socially awkward as a kid… not necessarily introverted (though you may have been — you didn’t indicate anything in the story that pertains to introversion). Introversion is not something people need to be “cured” from or something that needs to be changed in the endless pursuit of “personal development.” Introversion isn’t a detriment in business, and introversion doesn’t mean you can’t effectively mingle and socialize. One can be shy and introverted, and one can be outgoing and introverted. Carl Jung is pretty specific about what he means by introversion and… Read more »

Amy F
Amy F
7 years ago

A wonderful post, and one that I’ve read twice already today. But JD, I have a question. You say that you were happy as a kid who didn’t know “better”. You say that you were at the bottom of the social order. You also mentioned that you knew you were a good guy but other people didn’t. So you decided to change. I don’t understand the disconnect. You weren’t unhappy until others told you weren’t good enough, until others reacted badly to your introversion. Isn’t that the problem with society in the first place? You weren’t unhappy until someone told… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
7 years ago
Reply to  Amy F

This is a great, great point, Amy, and actually at the root of a lot of the recent changes in my life. You see, for a long time I thought I had to change to please others. I had to be others wanted me to be (or what I thought they wanted me to be) in order to be happy. Over the past few years, however, I’ve learned that in order to actually be happy, I have to be true to myself. I have to be me. I have to do what I want and what I feel. If people… Read more »

Amy F
Amy F
7 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

It actually makes such perfect sense that I have tears running down my face as I type. It strikes such a chord with me because I am struggling on a daily basis between knowing who I am and who others think me to be. As a divorced woman, I defined myself by the relationship I was in, having developed as an adult within that relationship. Now, at 37, I’be been muddling in a half-life that looks near perfect on the outside (finances, career, family, friends, interests, travel) but contains some serious flaws barely below the surface. The fear of change… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
7 years ago
Reply to  Amy F

Thank you, Amy. I’m glad to have been able to help. I think that you may be ready for a book that I read last June. It helped me clarify a whole hell of a lot about my life, helped me embrace making choices based on pleasing myself instead of pleasing others. The book is How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne. It’s out of print and tough to find in hard copy (though it can be done). But it’s available for ten bucks on the Amazon Kindle. I highly recommend it. It changed my life.

Bella
Bella
7 years ago

I really liked this article. No, I dont’ particularly agree with the 50-year marriage comment, or that you were an introvert and ‘cured’ by becoming an extrovert (more likely it seems you were an extrovert who was shy, which made it difficult to be happy and once you were comfortable being an outgoing extrovert things are better matched for you) But these things pale in comparison to the rest of the story, it’s well written, thought out, and inspiring. Thanks so much for starting the blog, and writing as well as you do. I was also one of those people… Read more »

zoranian
zoranian
7 years ago
Reply to  Bella

I wanted to agree with the comment on being a shy extrovert. I am definitely a shy extrovert and have struggled for quite some time socially. Usually it can take me anywhere from a few hours to a few months to warm up to a certain person or group of people and truly be myself. However, I am great with strangers, so I look for jobs where I can be around a lot of new people to fulfill my extroverted tendencies. I do struggle making long-term friendships, though, which really makes me unhappy. My husband, on the other hand, is… Read more »

SwampWoman
SwampWoman
7 years ago
Reply to  zoranian

I’m one of those “introverts” that can sell a product, teach a class of peers, sit on a board of directors of a nonprofit and be the sole dissenting voice, stand my ground, and argue everybody else down, and run a company. I prefer my own company to that of others on my “down” time and, in fact, require alone time to recharge. I rarely answer my telephone, keep my cell phone turned off because I consider it to be there for my convenience and not for somebody else to invade my privacy, and rarely answer or look at email… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
7 years ago

I miss the cat photos.

Nick Claremont
Nick Claremont
7 years ago

Wow! J.D I came across this through Ramit on Twitter. It is truly the single most inspirational thing I have read in a very long time. It is clear I am a ‘talker’ and not a ‘doer’, something which is a constant source of personal resentment. Your speech/post has made me realize this and has given me an incredible urge to go out and pursue a business idea and help at a local youth centre. There are many other things however the two above are what I want to FOCUS on. Thank you so much for sharing this with us,… Read more »

SweetCoffee
SweetCoffee
7 years ago

WOW! I’m speechless… except for knowing that I feel grateful to JD for sharing his speech and his life lessons, and for recognizing a funny, vulnerable, scary, and exciting feeling of recognition in the pit of my stomach that means there’s “beef in this speech”! I need to go back and study it some more, once I calm down!

Lura
Lura
7 years ago

There is something left unsaid here so far on the mental health /depression topic. People with depression always feel like they have done something wrong, something is wrong. so much so that they end up trying to conform to others expectations to make that feeling go away. Its more like you dropped 50lbs and shed the depression and prb feel sexy for once in your life. Shed the extra coat, get out, get on with it. Makes it a lot easier to do what feels good and not give a rats *** about what other people think you should be… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
7 years ago

Folks, don’t read too much into the examples of “sameness”. They’re chosen to make a point. In retrospect, I can see how they carry too much emotional weight and actually hinder the point I’m trying to make, but they’re still good examples. They do reflect how society values constancy. And I’m not arguing that’s always a bad thing. I’m just trying to show that change often isn’t valued, but consistency is.

stellamarina
stellamarina
7 years ago

Heavy stuff JD

Nicky at Not My Mother
Nicky at Not My Mother
7 years ago

Thank you for this, JD.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago

I read this earlier but didn’t have a chance to comment. I really liked many parts of it, but I have to say some things in defense of me and my ilk. First of all let’s just note how much times have changed. J.D. in school thought that being a nerd and a geek made him a loser, but nowadays nerds and geeks rule the world (and I don’t mean that tongue-in-cheek, I mean it literally). I also want to join other voices when I say that being an introvert is a good thing, and this is not about shyness… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

“I am a part of all that I have met.” Great comment, Nerdo, as always. As I freely acknowledge to everyone who will listen: I do not regret my past. I do not regret who I was or what I chose. I love who I am today. I am happy with my life. But I would not be who I am without having experienced all of those things that I experienced when I was younger. If that’s the case, then how I can regret those things. They are a part of who I am, and that’s a good thing. I… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

Thanks man. Speaking of change, by the way, I’m all for it– it’s the only constant in the universe, yeah? (I’m a bit of a Heraclitean, I confess.)

Anyway speaking of changes and self-improvement and all that, check out this hilarious and very useful book:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Nerdist-Way-Reach-ebook/dp/B0054TVW1S

I could write you a review of it if you’d like 😛

Jacq
Jacq
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

El Nerdo – you seem like a candidate for lesswrong…
http://lesswrong.com/lw/3nn/scientific_selfhelp_the_state_of_our_knowledge/

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Jacq, thank you, as always. Caught the link late last night, read until I fell asleep, woke up and started reading again this morning, and I’m going back to it after I post this. Fascinating stuff!!

Jacq
Jacq
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Oh, so happy you like the site (ps – read PJ Eby’s comments and tell me what you think please). The internet – a playground for promethean introverts…

Speaking of playgrounds – have you ever read “The Internet is a Playground?”
http://27bslash6.com/missy.html
http://27bslash6.com/p2p2.html

Lmoot
Lmoot
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

El Nerdo, this was absolutely perfect. I don’t think that many people realize that introvert/ extrovert goes beyond personality, or that it correlates to social capabilities. I know plenty of extroverts who are socially inept, or incapable of making or keeping friends and plenty of introverts who get on well with everyone (almost to their detriment because then they aquire lots of friends…more than they know what to do with…who want to spend more time with them than they can give) I am the definition of an introvert. I like to go out, but I always need either quiet, solitary… Read more »

Lmoot
Lmoot
7 years ago
Reply to  Lmoot

Whoops, can’t edit. Meant to say in the beginning “does NOT correlate” to social capability.

Jacq
Jacq
7 years ago
Reply to  Lmoot

Lmoot – you may be thinking of an article on the book “The Introvert Advantage.”

Like this one: http://karenhancock.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/introverts-different-brain-pathways-and-neurotransmitters/

“…it takes introverts longer than extroverts to refill their energy well when it’s been emptied, because their nerve receptor sites are slow to re-uptake the neurotransmitter. So we need more time to recover and get tired more easily.”

Kevin
Kevin
7 years ago

I really liked this article. In my case, I’ve spent most of my life being an introvert and wondering what I could do about it. Only recently has it occurred to me that I **like** being an introvert. I would much rather be at home on a Saturday night with the family reading a book or watching a baseball game. In fact, when I drive by a neighbors house and see lots of cars parked I feel sorry for the people forced to be at a party. Of course this is ridiculous – most of the people probably want to… Read more »

Diane
Diane
7 years ago

You seem to be consuming new ideas and experiences the way you once consumed food and comic books. Perhaps it’s the rush of newness (as some people say they feel while surfing the internet) you feel, rather than happiness, and it might wear off like the happiness you experienced in high school. Buddhism, among other wisdon traditions, teaches that unhappiness comes from dissatisfaction with the way things are–“If only I were thinner, had more money, or travelled more, my life is useless because I haven’t founded any non-profits in Africa,” etc, etc. The same sort of dissatisfaction that advertisements feed.… Read more »

Paul
Paul
7 years ago
Reply to  Diane

I felt the same way after reading this and struggle with seeing the difference between replacing consumer acquisition with experiences. Kind of like it is another race away from dissatisfaction.

And while I may be “inferring”, the speech does read somewhat that sticking to the same path is less interesting or less rewarding or less awesome. It strikes me that the world needs people who work farms, raise kids, study physics for years on end, etc. Long term commitment brings levels of expertise that society values.

Penny
Penny
7 years ago

Hi J.D,
Reading about your personal transformation has been really inspiring.

And it’s good to know that all transformation takes time and you have been really candid and truthful about the whole process.

My 101 things to do is to attend World Domination 2013. Hope to hear you speak.

Chris
Chris
7 years ago

Wow. Some parts of this are really inspiring but other parts just sounded frantic. I think what bothers me about this speech is the implication that those who aren’t rushing around saying yes to thousands of new experiences are somehow less interesting. There’s a lot to be said for going deeply into something, for learning a subject really well, for building a long term relationship, etc. When I was young I jumped from job to job and profession to profession – because I was bored. Then I realized that becoming more skilled at what I was doing made it more… Read more »

J.D. Roth
J.D. Roth
7 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Chris, you’re mistaking implication with inference. There is no implication here that those who aren’t saying “yes” to things are less interesting. That’s something you’re inferring. And there’s a difference. I’m saying that if you want to change — if that’s your goal — then exposing yourself to new ideas and new experiences is the first step to doing so. I’m not saying that one or the other is more or less interesting, yet many people choose to read that into these sorts of posts. I’m curious as to why that is. It’s fascinating! And trust me: Dating many women… Read more »

Deborah
Deborah
7 years ago
Reply to  J.D. Roth

JD, I have to respectfully disagree with your claim of “now I’m an extrovert”. An introvert can no more change into an extrovert than a brown eyes can suddenly become blue. My guess is that you’ve always been an extrovert… hobbled by shyness and depression. Your success in overcoming those impediments is allowing your true nature to shine forth. True introverts are like El Nerdo, who so accurately explained an introvert’s view of the world in his earlier comments that I felt like he was writing from within my head.

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