“The lion does not concern himself with the opinion of the sheep”
Tywin Lannister’s famous saying from Game of Thrones sounds nice in theory but carrying it through in reality is no easy feat.
It’s a hurdle that confronts young people in particular.
As you’re still in the process of developing your sense of self and finding out who you are, your ego is particularly vulnerable and worrying about what your peers think of you is constantly top of mind.
So we asked had a chat with self-help guru John Demartini ahead of his Australian tour, to talk about his own struggles as a kid and to get some advice about how to stop caring so damn much about what people think.
John, you’ve obviously had a fascinating upbringing, can you tell us a little bit about your childhood and how you got to where you are today?
Well, I was born with my arm and leg turned inward, and I had speech problems, and even eyesight problems. I had to wear braces as a child up until age four, and when I got out of that my dad said, “If you get out, you’ve got to keep your legs straight”, and I’ve been wanting to be free ever since.
Then when I got into first grade, I was told by my first grade teacher, “I’m afraid you won’t be able to read or write or communicate.” “Never amount to anything, never go very far in life,” from my parents. And I couldn’t read, I couldn’t spell, I couldn’t pronounce, I couldn’t get meaning out of words and I had speech problems still.
We lived in a lower socioeconomic area, and so when I turned twelve, thirteen, I was not doing so well and I started failing, and by the time I was thirteen, fourteen I dropped out of school and I was a street kid. I lived in a bowling alley and I lived in a park.
I hitchhiked to California when I was fourteen, and throughout Mexico to surf.
I picked up surfing, and eventually made it to Hawaii because that’s where the big surf was, and so I was kind of a long-haired hippy surfer, Hawaiian kid, living there until I was seventeen, and then right before my eighteenth birthday I almost died.
I was poisoned and almost died, and luckily a lady found me in my tent and cleaned up the tent and helped me recover a little bit, and I went to a little health food store to recover nutritionally and one day I was led to go to a talk. Paul Brag, an elderly gentleman, in one hour, one message, one night, this one man inspired me at age seventeen right before my eighteenth birthday, to do what I’m doing today.
Forty-five years later I learned how to read, overcame my learning problems and speaking problems, and pronunciation and meaning problems. It was a slow, tedious process with the help of my mom, but now I’m, I guess you could say, a scholar traveling the world teaching. Here I am, and what they said I would never do, I ended up doing.
You’ve mentioned that worrying about what others think of you is one of the most important things to overcome. This is especially true for young people, what tips do you have for young people to help them with this?
Well, let me put it in a scenario. If I ask people, “How many of you have the fear of public speaking?” Most people put their hands up. I don’t have a fear of public speaking anymore; I have the fear of not speaking, but people have the fear of speaking because they see people outside there they think are smarter, more degreed, educated, they think are more successful, they think they’re more financially viable, they think they have a better relationship, they think they’re more of a leader, they think they’re more physically fit or beautiful, they think they’re more spiritually aware.
As long as we minimise ourselves to others and live in the shadows of people instead of standing on the shoulders of giants, we’re going to be frightened and hold ourselves back, and worry about living our own identity. We’ll try to fit in, and as Emerson said, “Envy is ignorance, and imitation is suicide.
We sometimes envy other people and then try to imitate them, and then lose our own identity, and then have a midlife crisis later in our life because we haven’t been true to ourselves. I help people identify what they truly value inside objectively, and not so much what the peer expects, not what society expects, but what they really dream about inside, and help them orchestrate their life and structure their life around that.
Show them how challenges from the outside, and ridicule, is the path that the great leaders have always had, and then eventually it becomes self-evident and they change the paradigms of the world. Being a leader is different to being a follower, and you go further and you have more opportunities in life.
Deep inside, all of us have the capacity to be a leader, but what we do is until we live congruently with what we value most, it will sit there dormant and won’t emerge.
John touches down in Australia on October 9, head over here for more info on dates and tickets.