Dale Dauten: Speaker, Author, Innovation Consultant [an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Five Greatest Advice Books of All Time:
Climbing the Blue Mountain

"What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend."
-- Hecato (as quoted in the letters of Seneca)

It was one of the all-time great manuevers for ducking a speech. I'd asked an executive coach to speak at a meeting I was putting together. He said, "I've learned that you shouldn't do things you don't want more of." He added, "If I gave your speech, then five other people would want me to speak to their groups and I'd have to turn down five people instead of one."

He had a point. Yes, if he spoke, he'd get other invitations, assuming he was good. On the other hand, if he was lousy, he wouldn't get invitations and I'd regret the one I'd given him.

Before I could rally and come up with some counter logic, he did a verbal arabesque and neatly changing the subject with a question he knew I'd find irresistible. He asked me, "What one book would you recommend that I read? One that could change the way I look at the world?" That got not only got me thinking about the hundreds of books of wisdom I've read, but ultimately lead to my decision to create a list of The Five Greatest Advice Books of All Time.

The book I suggested to him was Climbing the Blue Mountain by Eknath Easwaran. Eventually, I decided that Blue Mountain is only the Second Greatest Advice Book of All Time.

But for now, let us consider the work of the brilliant Easwaran, who makes, say, a Wayne Dyer, seem amateurish. Easwarn's writing is sweetly uplifting in its simple profundity. When discussing the problems of having a big ego, he recounts a visit with his niece, who was caught up in being a champion in hopscotch. He asks her, "What is the secret of championship hopscotch?" and she answers, "Small feet." From there Easwaran is able to present of a mental picture of someone with a little, nimble ego.

How does this apply to work and business? We have an economic system built upon self-interest. To Easwaran, "We are still children, playing with our toys, lying in our cradles, screaming, 'I want this, give me this. I want that, give me that.'" Which sounds like the hot dream of an advertising executive, to reduce us to flesh-bags of pure desire. In fact, Andy Grove of Intel described his marketing goal as inspiring "waves of lust" for the company's products.

How is a person who seeks something more from working to proceed? Easwaran has an answer. Within a system based on self-interest, he provides examples of "how selflessness spreads."

One of those examples is about inspiring a colleague named Sam: "Good, kind, secure people are saying in a thousand little ways, 'Come on, Sam! Let's see you try being kind!' That is all Sam needs - someone who knows he can be kind, who appreciates his thoughtfulness at every opportunity. And even if he gets impatient once in a while, he knows there is someone who won't get ruffled or lose faith in him; so he tries again. That is how selflessness spreads."

Easwaran goes on to argue that if you learn to be selfless, even with difficult people, that you will become rich. Then, having learned selflessness, you will become a philanthropist. You might even achieve the highest level of philanthropy, becoming one of those who, like Gandhi, "make their whole lives a gift to the world."

Here it might be easy to let the eyes glaze over - to have gone from riches to philanthropy to Gandhi - who could aspire to such a path? But Easwaran doesn't expect us be Gandhis; no, we are all his Sams. He doesn't tell us what to do; he doesn't ask us to do more; no, he tells us stories. And when we feel his kindness and depth in those stories, we can't help but ask a bit more of ourselves. And that is how selflessness spreads.

© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

"The Five Greatest Advice Books of All Time" Series

  1. Letters From A Stoic
  2. Climbing the Blue Mountain
  3. The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson
  4. How to Win Friends and Influence People
  5. Bushido: The Way of the Samurai

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