Finding a Place for Your Dreams
M y hometown diner is a classic, with double-wing steps leading up to an entryway ornamented with arcade games, an aquamarine and silver starburst façade, booths upholstered in oxblood, a counter along one side, and sunshine spilling all over everywhere. Anyone who comes in here for breakfast can’t help feeling they’ve made a good start on the day.
I come here once or twice a week when I’m in town, but I’m not a real regular like Larry King, two booths down. He’s here nearly every day that he’s not taping his show in New York, usually with three friends. I bet more of the world’s problems get solved at that table than at cabinet meetings—solved at least long enough for them to finish their eggs, that is. Steven Spielberg drops in fairly often, looking like he’s thinking about the world that’s inside his head.
I don’t need to tell you I enjoy seeing these people, sitting in the same diner they sit in, just like I belong there. Me, a kid from a lower-income family in Whittier, California. Is this cool or what? I’m thinking. I mean, I’ve spoken all over the world, I’ve addressed the U.S. Congress, I’ve met stars in all sorts of fields, and I’m still just tickled by the whole thing. By life. You wouldn’t believe it.
Unless, of course, you believe that anything is possible. And that’s what I’m here to tell you. Anything you can think of can become real. In fact, it will become real—that’s the law of attraction. Anything is possible. It really is. Go ahead, say it to yourself. Say it out loud. Say it like you mean it, because before you finish reading this book, you are going to mean it. You are going to mean it about yourself and you are going to live it. Anything is possible. And it will feel great.
Life Is Yours for the Taking
I am the number one fan of the Anything Is Possible Network—APN for short. One time I was watching football with a friend of mine who lives out in the country. Way out. And like me, he is a big football fan, so he was really excited about his new satellite dish and what it could do for him. “Tim, watch this,” he said. “Wherever I shift the dish, that’s what I pick up. I can watch games on the East Coast, in the Midwest, or anywhere.” Listen to that again: “Wherever I shift the dish, that’s what I pick up.” We need to have a dish like that in our hearts and in our heads. Because you could be picking up the I’m So Stupid Network or the It’s Too Hard Network or any one of hundreds of other networks that are going to get you down when you pick them up. When you tune in to APN, you are going to pick up something that is going to pick you up.
One of my most interesting friends is Duane Chapman, better known as Dog the Bounty Hunter. I was introduced to him many years ago, when he was a bounty hunter, but before he became famous and made famous mistakes. He was working in Hawaii and in Denver, but he wasn’t happy. He knew there was more to life than what he had then. With Beth, his common-law wife, Dog and I began to spend quality time together. I talked to them a little about corners in life. A corner is a bend or a curve that you can’t see around. Sometimes your life just seems like it’s moving in a straight line—you’re ordering up the same thing every day, every week, every month. But if you shift your dish, you will come to a corner, and you never know what wonderful things may lie around that corner.
Dog had faith, and he turned that corner. Just around the corner he was offered a show with A&E, which is now that channel’s most popular one. And then his autobiography became a number one best-seller. I was at his wedding to Beth—after living together for sixteen years they finally decided to get married—and we were out on the ocean in an outrigger canoe. The A&E people were there, celebrities were there, and hundreds of people were lined up on the rocks on the shore, cheering for Dog and yelling congratulations. Dog began to cry. “Can you imagine this?” he said through the tears. “Look how far God has brought me.” If you shift your dish, good things are waiting just around the corner.
When I go to my diner, I can sometimes tell which of the people there do not believe that anything is possible. The people I worry about are the ones sitting alone at those tables near the kitchen. There’s Jack right now. He’s always there, pretending to read the paper while he’s eavesdropping on the conversations around him. Always next to the kitchen door, which isn’t exactly Siberia—the diner’s not that big—but surely isn’t Venice Beach. It’s noisy, the waiters are always rushing by, there are the steam and smells and heat of the kitchen. I tip my Dodgers cap to him and he nods back. Jack’s not a bad-looking guy, if you don’t mind a little piercing. Dark hair and about as pale as you can get in Los Angeles.
Frances comes by. “Where ya wanna be today, Tim? By the window? Are ya gonna flip a coin?” Frances is always a reality check for me. She doesn’t assume anything, so she makes me think about making a choice. Even about where I sit. Today I’ve decided I have a job to do.
As it turns out, now is the moment you’ve been waiting for.
“I’ll just sit over there today, Frances, thanks.”
“There? By the kitchen? You wanna know what Lou’s making for special today?”
“Just for a change, Frances. Humor me.”
“That’s me, the Good Humor girl. Juice?”
“That’s me. I’ll just take a look at the menu.”
“Suit yourself. It’s not like it’s changed since Tuesday.”
“Maybe I have.” I take a seat and look over at Jack, who’s pretending not to look over at me, even though he knows I’m usually across the room. I lean over to him. “Excuse me, is that today’s Times?”
“Yeah,” he says, and he thinks about whether to take the next step. He does. “But I wouldn’t say the news is all that fresh.”
I laugh with him. Jack’s willingness to strike up a conversation tells me he’s open for a change, or at least an exchange. Jack’s already made a choice, and I already feel like the day’s going to be a good one. I can help people who don’t acknowledge that they need help, but it’s a lot easier when they do.
Live by Design, Not by Default
I’ve talked to a lot of people like Jack. Jack himself doesn’t know why he always sits near the kitchen—it’s just where he landed the first time he came to the diner and he’s never sat anywhere else. Jack is living by default, not by design. For him, whatever was has become what is and what will be. Jack has not tuned in to APN.
You might think there’s nothing really wrong with just letting small, bothersome things be. Small, bothersome, distressing, distorting, depressing things. Maybe if it’s only for this morning, I could let that go. You can’t change everything all at once. I could even let it go if it’s only for today. But to live a life full of small, bothersome, distressing, distorting, depressing things is a default life. It is a life full of static that keeps you from tuning in to the Anything Is Possible Network, which is broadcasting in powerful high-definition 24/7. You’re getting the static, not the signal. You are trying to skip with your shoelaces tied together; you are trying to sing with a gag in your mouth; you are trying to make art with a blindfold on. Remember: your life is a joy, it is your song, it is your masterpiece.
Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.
It’s time to untie the laces, throw away the gag, and stuff that blindfold in the trash. You are here to do something divinely wonderful. Why else would God put you on earth? He doesn’t do things halfway. He doesn’t say to Himself, “Well, I think I’ll just create a little, not-very-important human being today. Just try one out, you know. See how it goes. Maybe tomorrow I’ll work a little harder.” He gives you everything He’s got and He wants you to use it. Why else go through all this?
I am going to help you find your way to the best life you can have, to your utmost life. I’m going to give you the tools to order up the life you want, and I’m going to help you discover what that life is and what is keeping you from living it.
I’m looking at the menu when suddenly there’s a bellow from the kitchen that startles Jack and me both. “Pick up! Let’s go! Diligent hands bring wealth!” I have to smile; one of the reasons I like this place is that the owner can quote Solomon. It takes me a few minutes to order, but Jack just says, “The usual,” without looking at the menu. I ask him if he likes the food here.
“Oh, it’s OK, I guess.” I raise my eyebrows, look at him some more. “Well, actually, it’s pretty bad.”
“Oh, I’m sorry you don’t like it. Do you always order the same thing?” We strike up a conversation, and Jacks asks me what I do. When I tell him that I’m a life coach, he looks a little startled and says, “Boy, that must be awesome. But I could never do it. Sometimes I’m not even sure what sport I’m playing.”
Sitting at the same table is not the only part of his life Jack just accepts. He always orders the same thing because it’s too hard for him to decide about something different every morning. He doesn’t complain when the food is bad, because he comes here nearly every day and he doesn’t want them getting mad at him. He doesn’t go to another diner because the food might be even worse. For Jack, there are obstacles at every turn.
Jack is living a life by default. Jack has become a victim—a victim of circumstances. Don’t let that happen to you. You have options; you can do something different. Wake yourself up and take a look around at the environment you’ve made for yourself. Don’t keep swallowing things that make you sick. You can change the faces, the places, and the spaces in your world. Circumstances don’t have you, you have them. Stop being a victim of circumstances and start being a victor over circumstances.
Don’t Let Your Past Predict Your Present
The kinds of things that are holding Jack back are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve seen that myself. We were not a wealthy family. In fact, we were a poor family. In fact, we were po’ folk, but my parents made our lives rich. We were a happy family. I loved sports, and as long as I could play, I was fine. There’s a picture of me in my Little League uniform: skinny, big smile, big Afro with my Little League cap perched on top of it. And there’s this big rip in my jeans. I didn’t care; my family didn’t care about things like that. It’s like we didn’t know we were poor, so it didn’t matter. My mother worked hard, and if we were always close to not making it, she kept us in Special K, which she’d buy in bulk. You’d look in our kitchen cabinets and there’d be nothing but Special K.
My parents didn’t have much money to spend, but they had lots of love that they spent on us, and we were happy. My father loved to spend time with us. He’d say, “We’re going on a family drive,” and we would all pile into the station wagon. Some of my best memories were when all seven of us were packed into our station wagon for family trips. Once we drove all the way from Los Angeles to Seattle, and I still don’t know how five little kids survived in that tiny space for such a long time. If it hadn’t been for Mom and Dad’s great sense of humor, I think we kids could have done some serious damage to each other. But my parents always had us laughing.
I remember especially one time we all drove to Big Bear Mountain, which is a recreation park in southern California. We began to talk about what we would like to accomplish. We began to dream; we began to think big in that small space.
Then when we drove up, there were all these people skiing. I had never seen anyone ski before, not in person. Somebody in the car said, “People like us don’t ski.” That didn’t seem right to me then, and it doesn’t seem right to me now. You can do anything you want, you can be anything you want. Anything is possible.
Dad loved his family and wanted each of us kids to reach our full potential. Then one day a police officer showed up at our front door. As I listened to the officer tell Mom that Dad had been in an accident and wouldn’t be coming home, I felt that the wonderful life I had enjoyed for eleven years was over. That night I heard Mom wailing in her bedroom. I had never heard anyone cry that way before, nor have I ever heard anything like it since.
I was keenly aware that I was living in a bad dream. Someone had dished up a meal for me that I didn’t want to swallow, and for months and months it was as if I had a stomachache every minute. But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t spit it out, couldn’t send it back, couldn’t get rid of the awful taste in my mouth that came from the news of my dad’s death. I didn’t know what to do. My mother had to work all the time to keep us alive. She worked in Winchell’s, a donut shop, and sometimes she would be working two shifts a day, and she would come home exhausted.
All the rest of us had to find new ways to live a life that had the biggest hole in the world in it. I watched my sisters and my brother find their own ways to live, their own ways to soothe the pain or deaden it. My oldest sister did her best with the rest of us. My other sisters focused their attention on school or jobs. My brother tried to numb himself with alcohol, as he had watched other people do.
Two years after my father died, my sister Viola was in a car accident and fell into a coma. We all came to her bedside and watched over her, prayed for her, but she never regained consciousness. I was old enough to hurt and young enough to find it difficult to express my grief. I wanted to scream, “Hey, I didn’t order this. I don’t want to listen to my mother cry in her room at night. I can’t stand this pain. I want my father and my sister back.” At that early age, I began trying to make sense of the senselessness around me, and I had a deep desire within me to fix everyone else’s pain. I knew there had to be a better reality than the one I was facing. I envisioned that reality, and it has come true.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Utmost Living by Tim Storey. Copyright © 2008 by Tim Storey. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.