Mental health

The basics of motivational books

English: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins at ...

Tony Robbins at a Twitter conference in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I started this blog, people love giving me motivational books. They are packed with great advice on how to achieve one’s dreams and how to overcome obstacles, but after you’ve read one you’ve read them all. From Tony Robbins to  The Secret, the same rules apply because they are truths that really work. So, I’ve decided to save you time and share the key tips they all have in common.

  1. The easiest way to make money is to tell people how to make money. Most of these motivational books start off with the author describing how they were down in the dumps but then they learned a few things, made millions of dollars, and now they’re going to share those few things with you so that you too can make millions of dollars. But first, give them $29.99 so that they can share those tips. Success begets success.
  2. You cannot control the timeline of your success – all you can do is prepare for it. You don’t know when you’re going to meet a crazy inventor who loves your idea and wants to give you $50k to get started, but don’t you think that investor will be more likely to give you money if you’ve already built a prototype and written a business plan? “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca
  3. You can’t get what you want until you know what you want.You know those times when you walk into the kitchen and then realize you forgot what you wanted? You stand there like an idiot scanning every surface, hoping it will trigger your memory. When you do finally remember what it was you wanted, you see it immediately. It’s usually in the most obvious place. The thing that you wanted was always there, but you won’t find it until you know what it is. Start writing down what you want out of your life, and reread those lists constantly. What you want should always be on the tip of your tongue.
  4. Create a community of support. Find mentors who inspire you and do what they have done. Find colleagues who challenge and motivate you and give them the amount of help that you would like in return. Cherish your friends who are positive, and weed out the people who stomp on dreams or fill your life with unnecessary, distracting drama.

If you would like further reading on this matter, here is a wide variety of motivational books I’d recommend. Each of the books have an amazon link, so if you buy from the link, I’ll make money and then I can achieve the first point in this post 🙂


Mini Memoir Monday: I Thought She Was Laughing

*Names have been changed

I liked Sarah because she was edgy, and pierced her own ears. She liked me because I brought a stuffed animal to college, and she thought that was amazingly bold and ‘real.’ When you’re meeting your college roommates for the first time, sometimes that’s all it takes to spark a friendship. We were in a suite, so we each had a private room, and shared a kitchen and living room.

She was the first person to tell me wearing my hair parted in the middle looked like an ass crack. I still part my hair to the side because of that comment. She was the first person I met who was my age and engaged. She used to joke that if someone cracked my head open, it would be filled with cartoon rainbows and ponies. If someone cracked her head open, it would look like a nine-inch nails video, she said.

While t.v. was filled with ads for anti-depressants, and  depression was a topic we learned about in high school health class, I never really understood how it could take someone’s personality hostage. In the first week of college, Sarah joined us for all the cheesy freshman orientation events (pajama parties, duck hunts, and mega hacky sack games to name a few). We joked around in the cafeteria, competing to make the tallest waffle towers. We even got tattoos at the same time. We held each other’s hand through the excruciating buzz that left me with a permanent heart on my hip, and Sarah with her fiance’s initials on her wrist (I tried to talk her out of that, but since her fiance’s initials were J.C. she told me if they ever broke up she’d pretend to be Christian).  She told me that she had depression and I thought that was strange because she seemed so happy.

Then something shifted. Her fiance wasn’t calling anymore, and her teachers weren’t ‘getting’ her. The food sucked, and everyone was lame. Pretty soon she wasn’t joining me in the cafeteria, and I was left to answer the door for her friends and tell them that she was sick. She stopped going to class. She stopped taking showers. When I forced myself into her room one night I barely recognized it as the mirror-image of my room. She had hung black curtains and taken out the overhead light bulbs so the only light came from a green lava lamp. The floor was carpeted with layers of dirty cloths, and a few random dirty dishes. Books covered her bed, and some had fallen to the floor. It smelled like my sneakers one summer when I forgot to bring socks to sleep away camp. The counselor made me leave my sneakers outside at night.

I turned down the Evanescent song that was blaring from her computer and sat on her bed. She had lost weight, and her skin was a shade that doesn’t exist in the aisles of any make up store. She rested her head in my lap, and I stroked her greasy hair  as she sobbed. I remembered my guy friends in high school joking about what college girls did in their dorm rooms late at night. This probably wasn’t what they had imagined.

If I could just find the right motivation for her, she would start feeling better. Her sadness didn’t seem proportionate to her circumstances. I wanted to understand it, but just as I could not imagine her feeling of despair, she could not imagine my feeling of hope. All I could do was listen. So I came into her room every night, and held her as she cried for hours.

And then it started working. One morning she woke up early and was chipper. I hardly recognized her. Freshly showered, she gave me a big hug and told me how much she appreciated our friendship. The next day she asked me to come to her room. She had a huge smile on her face as she put some of her paints in a box.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Getting rid of some stuff. I don’t need it all.”

She gave me a collection of sketch pads she bound herself, as well as her c-d collection. “Thanks, but are you sure you don’t want these?”

She shrugged. “Nah.”

The next night a large group of our friends huddled on the couch and watched Scrubs together. She laughed the loudest at all the jokes. I watched her out of the corner of my eye. I couldn’t believe how happy she was. I had the real Sarah back. I imagined us laying out on the grass in the quad, talking about boys, or walking down to the innbier-harbor in Baltimore, and binging on fudge. No more of this depressing darkness.

After the show ended she escaped to her room to call her fiance. The rest of our friends trickled out over the next two hours, and eventually I made it to my room to work on a midterm.  Every teacher had an assignment due before the Thanksgiving break. They all liked to feel like they were the hardest teacher in the school.

I was two pages into my essay on Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People,’ but I kept getting distracted by Sarah’s laughter. We shared an air vent and I could hear every snort and guffaw. Another hour went by and she was still laughing. No wonder she was marrying this man.

I heard a knock on my door, and my other suite mate, Jen, came in.”I think there’s something wrong with Sarah,” she said. She was already in her pajamas and glasses, no longer resembling the girl all my friends had crushes on.

I knocked on Sarah’s door. The laughing had stopped. I knocked again. Jen stood close behind me. There was no answer. I knocked harder. I tried the doorknob but it was locked. “Sarah, open up,” I yelled, but there was still no answer. “Ok, we’re going to pick the lock. Time to put away the vibrator,” I joked, trying to ease the tension. Still no answer.

The locks were cheap, and I was able to unlock her door with a dime. In the haze of the green lava lamp, I could see Sarah sitting at her computer desk, slumped over the keyboard. The screen was showing flight options to her fiance’s city. I wrapped my arms around her.

“The tickets are so expensive,” she said weakly.

I squeezed her tighter, but then felt something wet. In the green light, her blood on my hands looked black. I rolled her away from the desk, and noticed the pool of blood on the floor, with a razor blade in the middle. “Sarah,” was all I could say.

I told Jen to get tissues and put pressure on the wound as I ran out to get our R.A. he called the 911, and before I knew it I was sitting in the front seat of the ambulance, rushing through red lights at 2 am on a Tuesday night. Jen and the R.A. met me in the lobby of the emergency room a half hour later. Jen had my purse, which I didn’t realize was missing. We sat in edgy silence until a nurse came to tell us we could see her.

Sarah was hooked up to blood drip, and her eyes were barely opened. “I’m really sorry,” she kept repeating.

The nurse in attendance cocked her mouth to the side and shook her head. “You should be, taken’ god’s gift for granted. There’s a special place saved for people like you.” She filled something out on her chart, clucked her tongue, and then left us. I made a mental note to find the nurse’s supervisor later and complain.

“I had a really good idea,” Sarah said in a fog of painkillers. Her wrists were bandaged tightly. She looked like she was ready to play tennis.  “We should start a company where we print photos on dildos. Wouldn’t that be cool if you could have your boyfriend’s face on a dildo,” she said with slurred words. She was barely recognizable with her droopy eyes, and goofy smile.

“That would be really cool,” I said patting her shoulder.

We weren’t allowed to stay. The R.A. drove us home at five in the morning and I slept through my classes the next day. I didn’t finish my midterms. Jen and I stayed in the living room of our suite until Thanksgiving break. We drank hot coco and tried to ignore the fact that there was a blood stain trailing out of Sarah’s room.

When I returned from Thanksgiving break, Sarah’s room was cleared out. Her parents had taken her back home. There was no note. Her cell phone number had been disconnected. I know that Sarah was still alive in the emergency room, but her abrupt absence felt like a death. I never told her friends what happened. When they stopped by to hang out, I told them she dropped out.

Most of what you learn in college happens outside of the classrooms. I learned that I cannot fix someone. I wish that I had told a mental health counselor earlier on, someone who was equipped to handle Sarah. I knew about the five stages of grief and I realized that I was stuck in anger for a long time after the suicide attempt. I was angry that she put me through that. I was angry that I lost a part of my innocence. But most of all, I was angry for feeling so helpless.

I’m Mad about Julia

Cover of "The Artist's Way: A Course in D...

It might seem strange to talk about anger right after announcing my engagement, but I came across this beautiful passage on anger and had to share it. Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way,

Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way, not just the finger. In the recovery of a blocked artist, anger is a sign of health.

Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out… with a little thought, we can usually translate the message that our anger is sending us.

“Blast him! I could make a better film than that!” (This anger says: you want to make movies. You need to learn how.)

“I can’t believe it! I had this idea for a play 3 years ago, and she’s gone and written it,” ) This anger says: stop procrastinating. Ideas don’t get opening nights. Finished plays do. Start writing.”

Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not.

I read this passage so many times and underlined almost every word. And then I put stars next to almost every other sentence.

There are two basic expressions of emotional pain: anger and sadness. While men typically express their anger and repress their sadness, women typically do the opposite. Anger has always been a really hard emotion for me to embrace. Sadness feels safer and more appropriate.

Maybe I’m afraid anger will push people away, or maybe I don’t feel like I have the inherent “right” to stand up for myself. But Sadness cannot be the only tool for relieving emotional pain. There’s no sense of empowerment when you are sad. No sense that you are in charge, and you can change the situation.

"Oh bother"

While there are certainly people who have an unhealthy amount of anger, and need to learn how to manage it, there’s also a lot of people who need a little anger in their lives. I’m talking about all the doormats, the Igor’s and the Emo kids out there. You know who you are.

My mom started her wildly successful

business of challenging property assessments because she was angry about the local municipality not doing their job, and taking advantage of her. What good would it have done her or anyone to just cry about how unfair her property taxes were? In that case, anger put all three of her kids through college, paid the mortgage, and helped thousands of people save money.

I love the thought of using anger to show you what you want. I love the thought of anger as a pro-active emotion. Take some time today and think about what makes you really angry. Are you angry enough to start doing something about it?