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Steal Fire From the Gods

Foreword for a new book, “Whispers of Genius Echoes of Madness”

Patterns repeat.

I was 22, a recently honorably discharged Military Police veteran who had just completed a decorated enlistment in the United States Air Force.

As other veterans can attest, transition into civilian life isn’t always smooth. The credentials that validate and advance your military career don’t often translate into the “real world.”

It was not uncommon to feel disheartened after sharing all the military achievements and educational courses with a potential employer, only to be asked the simple question, “But do you have a regular college degree?”

After a few missed (much needed) opportunities, I finally changed my answer… an untruth, a lie, a deception, a misrepresentation… setting the course for my undying commitment to self-education and excellence for the next two decades… “Of course!”

The joke is on me… The problem with a short lie to get in the door is that you have to keep it as long as you’re performing the function you were hired to do. What you shortsightedly see as an embellishment to check a box ends up becoming a permanent part of your resume. There’s no turning back.

Sometimes, “Fake it until you make it” requires more work than just doing the actual. I know a lot of mental health professionals who make far less effort to stay abreast of cutting edge research and findings than I do. Maybe they find security in their license and don’t feel the need to advance their knowledge beyond the minimum standard. Maybe they aren’t nervous like I am, to be caught off guard and appear anything but on the very top of the field. This feeling that I lack security has been a vital factor for keeping me at the top of the field.

But wait, wasn’t this wrong? Getting into the room by saying you’re something you’re not, then working your ass off to become it and more… isn’t that still wrong? Yes. Yes, it is. But the younger version of myself was an endless reservoir of excuses and justifications. Because of my single-minded dedication to helping others… not to marketing… not to selling seminars… not to pushing products… not to offering retreats… but simply learning everything I could to help others and sharing it freely… I felt like I was on a journey similar to Prometheus.

In Greek Mythology, the Titan Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to the people. As you can imagine, the people were greatly impacted and the trajectory of their life paths forever propelled into a positive direction… but the gods were pissed! The gods liked having that power over the people and that the people couldn’t access the fire without jumping through the god’s hoops and meeting their insatiable demands. Prometheus removed that barrier and shared the fire without condition. The people considered this act heroic, but the gods considered it the gravest of crimes and had him tortured, smeared his reputation, and finally killed.

It is those of us who have been broken that become experts at mending. Let me in…

I just wanted to be in the room with THE PEOPLE. No matter what their profession or education, I felt I had information that could help them change their lives. I wanted to share all of the things I wished someone had told me. I had a universal philosophy and strategy that, over the course of many years, has been proven incredibly effective in helping people live their best lives.

What happens in Vegas…

Every day, countless organizations are having their annual conventions… huge rooms filled with people who are waiting to hear a Speaker make them laugh and inspire them to think. I just wanted to get into that room. Let me in the room to reach these people. Let me give them something they can use in any aspect of their lives. If you had told me I needed to be an Astronaut to get in that room, I would have said, “Of Course!” and would have even told you how beautiful Space was. Let me in that room!

Was I acting on an inner calling of God’s whisper or was I living a delusional echo of self-importance by being so dedicated to a mission and service nobody even requested? I don’t know.

In the scores of years that have passed, “Of Course!” has rocketed out of my mouth (when it shouldn’t have) more times than I could possibly count. Looking back, confirmation bias provides a retroactive continuity (hindsight is 20/20) that paints a bumpy road that led to a beautiful current location. I am able to freely share my story thus far because it worked out. By misrepresenting and aggrandizing my academic and employment prowess, I forced myself to step-up and become even more than I said.

In the end, like Robin Hood, Prometheus was a liar and a thief. On my darkest days, I would see myself as no more than that. On my lighter days, I would appreciate the incredible impact my actions have had on the lives of so many beautiful strangers. On days I reflect on the length, depth, and breadth of my life’s actions, I see the history and possibility of the full range of humanity. It’s true… I can lie, I can cheat, I can steal, I can hurt, I can betray, I can help, I can empower, I can heal, I can impact, I can love, I can teach… People can ask why I sometimes choose the most difficult road, but I reply, “Why do you assume I see two roads?” Maybe your life is simpler than that. Mine is now, but it wasn’t. I have no further need to misrepresent, but I cannot forget that I was carved into the man I am now with the same sword I used to commit my sins.

I don’t always wrestle my demons; sometimes we snuggle…

After so many years of helping people around the world, I get accolades for being a good guy, and I believe myself to be one… But I am usually quick to remind people that there is no saint here. I have attained wisdom from life's experiences... the positive, the negative, the destructive, the nourishing. I have been medicine for some and poison for others. I've learned a lot about heaven from aligning with angels and I have learned a lot about hell from acting like a devil.

I offer my scars... what you call "wisdom"... Seeds of knowledge that have been watered by tears and flowers of hope that are nourished by love... It's a garden of experience made beautiful by self-acceptance... The insight I have gathered from my comfort of living within both the light and the shadow.

I know who I am. I am just as comfortable taking a selfie in Hell as I am taking one in Heaven… but who are you?

What would you do to provide for your family? What if you worked your regular job and just made it by each month… but knew you had the knowledge and ability to achieve so much more and that with just one lie, you could completely give your whole family a better life. Would you do it? I did. And because I did, the best, worst, funniest, saddest, beautiful, ugly, serene, and chaotic life followed.

I used questionable methods to get to where I am, but there is no question on the positive impact my journey has had on this world. I guess I found solace in the idea that if this were a crime, it would be a victimless one. I am merely sharing insight and practical ideas for positive changes in people’s lives. I have received THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of emails and messages from around the world from people thanking me for the amazing effect my words have had on their lives. Each day, my words reach MILLIONS around the world in some languages I didn’t even know existed.

But it’s still wrong, right? Is it worth it? Do I just have a delusional sense of grandeur? Or did I just previously have a delusional sense of insignificance? I don’t know. It’s been said that the crazy ones are the ones who change the world… It’s because time and perspective have a funny way of shaping contemporary madness into visionary genius.

For me, it was the right “wrong” thing to do. I felt like there were so many organizations claiming to help, but not offering anything that was truly helpful. Most were either complete bullshit or just helpful enough to get them to buy your product.

Chasing the “Of Course!” has propelled me to the top of two fields. I have become synonymous with the leadership in fields in which I originally lacked credentials. Schools I once couldn’t afford to attend have me speak and teach the students seeking those credentials. The small number of Academics who mock and judge me have many colleagues who quote and reference me.

In Business, I have become the go-to for many of the top corporations in the world. In Behavioral Science and Psychology, I’m quoted and referenced by all of the top publications and have become a driving influence for the advent of Experiential Psychology.

These same small number of Academics can turn their noses up at me, but if they are so brilliant, why don’t I see them in these boardrooms? Where are they at these big events testing their ideas in practical application? Where are they in the real world? Where are all the letters signifying the impact they have had on the lives of others? Why do they fear the rogue thinker and researcher? Especially since it’s the rogue thinker who had been the shaper of each field and its advancement.

It’s an interesting thing to see as people take sides. The side they chose is far more a flag of who they are than who I am. There is no doubt the people who received the fire from Prometheus were ok with his methods, even if they preferred a more honest route. But the gods, and those who felt ownership over the fire, those who were intimidated by an empowered public, they undoubtedly found his actions deplorable and dedicated themselves to end his impact.

I’m confident I understand business methodologies and the intricacies of group dynamics at an elite level. Moreover, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who can identify, understand, deconstruct, and rebuild personal behavior than I can. The road to this point was bumpy, messy, painful, grueling, and every bit of the fiery hell that forges the steel of character.

My words are everywhere. From heart-melting romance, to tear-jerking insight, to eye-opening observation, to game-changing methodologies… My impact is everywhere.

My credentials, experience, and effectiveness are unquestionable. But while the reach and positive impact of this fire… this light… is without dispute… It is the shadow of the road journeyed that sometimes weighs heavy.

With this book, Whispers of Genius; Echoes of Madness, we turn the page on these eventful years by sharing the numerous quotes you have all become familiar with and have had the kindness to share. This foreword was as much of a throat-clearing therapy session for me as it was an intro to this body of work.

To this day, sometimes when I ask for forgiveness, it’s because I know I don’t deserve it.

I have spent a lifetime catching up to lies I’ve told. The struggle to turn lies into truths has made me who I am today. It’s a struggle that continues and one that millions of people around the globe have benefitted from. For me, this makes for an incredibly complicated relationship with what many would consider reprehensible behavior.

In my heart, I know it’s “the wrong thing” to do. In my mind, the positive impact of this journey is indisputable. It’s such a weird feeling… to seek forgiveness and validation at the same time.

The brighter the light; the darker the shadow. Is it genius or madness? Will it be the case that Time and Perspective will oscillate in revealing it as both?… “Of Course!”

Love and hugs from NY,

Steve Maraboli

("Whispers of Genius Echoes of Madness" book release 2021)

Updated August 2019 - Millions of views and thousands of comments


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