From Chapter 8

One of my favorite movies is called "About a Boy," starring Hugh Grant and costarring Nicholas Hoult. It is the story of a rich, single, Londoner named Will (Grant's character), who learns how to form meaningful relationships by helping a weird kid named Marcus (Hoult's character) cope with life. As the opening credits roll, we see Will living all alone in his expensively furnished apartment. "In my opinion," Will says, "all men are islands." As the story unfolds, we watch Will waste his life in selfish pursuits and meaningless social encounters. Then Marcus comes into his life. As a result, Will realizes how selfish and empty his life has been. By helping Marcus, Will winds up helping himself. As the movie ends, we see that Will's apartment is now full of people. There is Will and his new lady, Marcus and his girlfriend, and several other friends and family members. As the closing credits roll, we discover that Will has modified his opening position as he says, "Every man is an island. I stand by that. But, clearly, some men are part of island chains. Below the surface of the ocean they are actually connected." Will is right: we are all connected. Now we may not be able to see these connections, because some of us are like Will-linked beneath the surface of things, while others of us are more visibly attached. But whether our connections are apparent or hidden, they are there, binding us to each other. There is a Cameroonian proverb that says, "Rain does not fall on one roof alone." This is a wonderful way of illustrating the truth about the communities in which we live: when the rain falls, all of the houses get wet; when the sun shines, all of the houses become dry. That is, the conditions of the world affect all of us, not just one of us. If we work to improve the conditions of the world, each of us will benefit. I have modified this Cameroonian proverb a little and tell my clients and students that "All boats rise together." The all-boats-rise-together concept is helpful to keep in mind when you are trying to move forward in your life. I believe that the reason that so many people stay stuck is because they mistakenly believe that all human beings really are islands-that essentially we are all alone in this world. And so, armed with this false belief, instead of reaching out to others for support, they head off to their local bookstores to purchase the latest self-help book. They scour its pages for remedies to their lifelong dilemmas and diligently begin to implement the recommended strategies. And maybe they get some traction for a little while. They change their diets, they join gyms, they begin to give themselves positive self-talks. They start to move forward a little.and then they come to a crashing stop. They can't sustain their progress. They toss out that book and head off to the store to buy another self-help book, with a different "secret to success." Well, no matter how many books people buy or how many seminars they attend, if their formula for progress does not factor the human community into the equation, then people's efforts are doomed to fail. This sounds harsh, but it's true. As Mark Twain said, "the universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession." We are each other's best support; we are each other's best resource. This book is unashamedly about helping people find their place in this world by connecting with the people around them. I have found that this is the only way to make real and sustained progress in life. One of my clients, Ron, offers a good example of this. Ron was depressed when he hired me to be his coach. He wasn't suffering from clinical depression, but he did feel sad most of the time, and he didn't really know why. We did his personality assessment and he discovered that his life code was INFPR. I observed that some of his identity elements were out-of-sync with his true self, so we developed a plan for getting them into alignment. As Ron began working on the plan, he still felt depressed about life in general. I asked him to tell me more about his belongings. He mentioned that he didn't really have any. I told him that I was pretty sure that his disconnectedness was part of his depression. I recommended that he volunteer at a local teen crisis center. He resisted at first, telling me that he felt too sad to be of any real help to anyone. I asked him to trust me and try it for two weeks. He agreed reluctantly and went to a center near his house that trained him to answer phones and help the teens who were calling in. The next time I talked to Ron he seemed ...