I realised something about myself. I had entered a career that didn´t really suit me, mostly as a way to make a living and my work reflected this incompatibility.
I had to get out of journalism.
This realisation initiated a period of wandering in my life. I travelled all across Europe. I worked every conceivable job. I did construction work in Greece, talk English in Barcelona, worked as a hotel receptionist in Paris, a tour guide in Dublin. Served as a trainee for an English company making documentaries.
I was 36 years old and I seemed lost and unable to settle into anything.
I too had moments of doubt but I did not feel lost. I was searching and exploring and I was hungry for experiences. I was continuously writing.
Suddenly, in writing what would be become the 48 Laws of Power, everything in my disjointed past seemed to click into place. Like magic. Like destiny.
All of those various writing experiences; the journalism, the television, the theatre, the film, had given me the skills to tell stories and organise my thoughts.
Even the languages I had learned while travelling taught me patience and discipline.
All of these experiences added up to rich layers of knowledge and practice that had altered me from the inside out.
In my own weird and very intuitive way, I had given myself the perfect education for the writing of the 48 Laws of Power.
The moral of this story ... is the following.
We humans tend to fixate on what we can see with our eyes.
When we look at the changes and transformations in other peoples lives we see the good luck that someone had.
We see the book or the project that brings the money or the attention. In other words, we see the visible signs of opportunity and success.
But we are grasping at an illusion. What really allows for such dramatic changes are what occurs on the inside of a person and are completely invisible.
The slow accumulation of knowledge and skills. The incremental improvements in work habits and the ability to withstand criticism.
Any change in people´s fortune is merely the visible manifestation of all that deep preparation over time.
By essentially ignoring this internal, invisible aspect, we fail to change anything fundamental within ourselves.
And so in a few years time we reach our limits yet again. We grow frustrated. We crave change. We grab at something quick and superficial and we remain prisoners forever of these recurring patterns in our lives.
The key to the ability to transform ourselves is actually insanely simple. To reverse this perspective.
Stop fixating on what other people are saying and doing. On the money, the connections, the outward appearance of things. Instead, look inward. Focus on the smaller, internal changes that lay the groundwork for a much larger change in fortune.
It is the difference between grasping at an illusion and immersing yourself in reality.
Reality is what will liberate and transform you.
At a certain point you can almost become a stranger to yourself and so you enter career paths that are not suited to you emotionally and intellectually.
Your life´s task... is to return to those inclinations and that uniqueness that marked each and every one of you at birth.
At whatever age you find yourself you must reflect back on those earliest inclinations. You must look at those subjects in the present that continue to spark a childlike,
intense curiosity in you.
And you must look at those subjects and activities that you´ve been forced to do over the past few years that have no emotional resonance.
Based on these reflections you determine a direction you must take.
You now have a loose, overall framework, within which you can explore and find those angles and positions that suit you best.
You listen closely to yourself. To your internal radar.
Some parts of that framework do not feel right .... and so you move on, slowly narrowing your path. All the while accumulating skills.
Most people want simple, direct, straight lined paths to the perfect position and to success. Instead, you must welcome wrong turns and mistakes. They make you aware of your flaws. They widen your experiences. They toughen you up.
If you come to this process at a later age, you must cultivate a new set of skills that suit this change of direction you´ll be taking and find a way to blend them with your previous skills. Nothing in this process is ever wasted.
The goal that you are after is learning and the acquisition of skills, not a fat paycheck.
Because you are headed in a direction that resonates with you personally, and emotionally, the hours of practice and study do not seem so burdonsome. You can sustain your attention and your interest for much longer periods of time.
Without forcing the issue, a point is reached where you are thoroughly prepared from within.
The slightest opportunity that comes your way you will now exploit. In fact, you will draw opportunities to you because people will sense how prepared you are.
The way to transform yourself is through your work.
Self transformation comes through a spiritual journey we think. Therapy, a guru who tells us what to do, intense group experience and social experiences... but most of these are ways of running away from ourselves and relieving our chronic boredom.
They are not connected to process and so any changes that occur don´t last.
Instead, through our work, we can actually connect to who we are, instead of running away.
By entering that slow organic process, we can change ourselves from the inside out in a way that is very real and very lasting.
At the end of this process we contribute something unique and meaningful through our work.