The Spirit of Giving

A Conversation with Dr. Denis Waitley,

author of The Psychology of Winning

By John David Mann

If you were looking for network marketing's Renaissance man, you'd be hard pressed to find a better candidate than Dr. Denis Waitley. One of America's most respected authors, keynote lecturers and productivity consultants, Denis is the most listened-to voice on personal and career success in the world. His international best-sellers include Being the Best, The Winner's Edge, and the recent Seeds of Greatness. His audio album, The Psychology of Winning, is the best-selling program on self-mastery of all time.

He has counseled Apollo astronauts and youth groups, Superbowl champions and US Olympic teams, Vietnam POWs and Iranian hostages. He was recently voted business speaker of the year by the Sales and Marketing Executives' Association and by Toastmasters' International, and was inducted into the International Speakers' Hall of Fame.

Intimidating? Perhaps on paper. Speaking with Denis in person, even for the first time, is like chatting with an old and close friend. This is the man the Washington Post called, "Vince Lombardi power in a Bob Newhart personality": soft-spoken, disarmingly self-effacing and unflinchingly honest. Best of all (and it's not a universal trait in great speakers), the man listens. It comes as no surprise that Dr. Waitley is also intimately familiar with the world of network marketing: an avid networker himself, he has coached and counseled successful network marketing organizations worldwide for the past 30 years.

-- JDM

Denis, what does giving have to do with good business?

When you give more in service than you expect to receive in dollars, you never run out of dollars, because people will always want to do business with you if they know you have their best interests in mind.

I've tried to live that way, always saying, "Here's what I'm going to do for you, regardless of what you're willing to do for me." It works--90 percent of the time!

Here's a recipe for failure: Direct your business by listening to yourself. Do that, and you're doomed!

Michael Dell, the founder of Dell Computers, tells a story about how, in the early days of his company, they came up with the ultimate line of computers: the biggest-screen laptop, the fastest processors, the best colors--the most, biggest and best of everything. They called it "The Olympic." They took it to Comdex...and nobody wanted it.

They lost $171 million dollars by designing something that nobody had asked for.


They learned quite a lesson!

They sure did. Today, all they do is ask people, by telephone or Internet, "What can we design for you?" Michael Dell is the richest man in the world under the age of 40; he sells $25 million of merchandise every day by asking people, "What do you want?" and then giving it to them.

Every invention I know about was created by someone trying to solve a problem. I don't know of a single successful invention that resulted from somebody saying, "What can we do to make a lot of money?" They've made a lot of money, but that's not why they were originally invented.

The Canadians who invented Trivial Pursuit didn't do it to make money. They made it up to play themselves, and they enjoyed it so much they started making it available to other people. Did they wind up making money? Absolutely. But that's not where they started.

Ole Evinrude was bringing his girlfriend an ice cream cone in his row boat, but he didn't row fast enough and the ice cream melted--so he invented the outboard motor.


What can network marketing companies take from that experience?

Find out what people want, then give it to them. That will make you the most formidable company in the world.

There are network marketing companies that were started by someone saying, "Hey, this would to be a great way to make a lot of money." But the approach that works is, "What service or product can we provide that will really give people something they want and need?" Chances are because it serves such a great purpose and solves people's problems, there'll probably be a good market for it.

When I conduct training seminars or first interview new people considering a network marketing business, I never tell them what I have. Instead, I always ask them what they want. "If it weren't for time, money and circumstance, what would you do? What excites you? What is your core passion?"


There's a sort of paradox there: we tend to be such product evangelists, because we're genuinely passionate about what we've got. How do you, as a network marketer, hold yourself back from "telling them what you have"?

Of course you're passionate about it: you've already bought in. But you can share all the passion in the world, and that just sets up the other person to say, "Well, that's good for you, and I'm glad you're excited...."


You're hitting your hot button, not theirs.

Exactly. I'm trying to sell you on my ideas, on what I'm excited about. I haven't yet found out what you want. You have to be prepared to sell your ideas to an indifferent world.

When I used to raise money for the Salk Institute, I would never start out by telling people about all the wonderful things the Institute was doing--even though I knew that they were up to some really amazing things in the pursuit of overcoming major diseases. Instead, I found out what they wanted. People will give generously to something that motivates them from their core desires.

I might find out that they wanted to be remembered as someone who was philanthropic. Or they might want a newsletter that would keep them informed about diabetes; they might have had someone in their family with an illness and want to know about progress in finding ways to help with that particular disease. They might want their name on a building, or to play in a golf tournament, or to go to a silent auction, or a jewel ball....


As many different motivations as there are people!

That's right. And their motivation is always based on their desires, rather than their needs.

Sometimes we approach networking the wrong way. We say, "Do you have someone in your family who's sick, who needs more energy, who needs to lose weight? Do you need money? We've got the answer!" Sure, you've got the answer...but have you found out what the question is?

One of the biggest mistakes networkers make is to unload on people: "We've got this company that's run by the best people in the world, and the products have been patented, and they're curing all the known illnesses, and if you just swallow this or drink this your worries are over...."--and what they've failed to do is to find out what that person wants.

People have needs, but that isn't what motivates them. Everyone knows they need to lose weight, they need more money, they need to be healthier...but what do they really want? What do they want right now?


Denis, The Psychology of Winning be-came the most popular personal development program of all time. What gave that program such value for people?

The answer might startle you: It was written for the author. What I was really doing was crying out to teach myself what I wasn't doing. I wrote, performed and produced The Psychology of Winning at the lowest possible point in my own life.

Here I am, in a cheap, $100-a-month apartment in Pittsburgh in the dead of winter, having just negotiated a transfer of my responsibilities with the Salk Foundation to a Pennsylvania foundation. I have no job and no prospects of one. I'm a single father with custody of my teenage kids--and they've just mutinied. They don't want to be here with me, freezing in Pittsburgh, and they've headed back to California.

I'm sitting there writing The Psychology of Winning, while I'm losing in every way.

I began to take inventory of all the things I wasn't doing.

I was majoring in minors.

I was procrastinating.

I was afraid to succeed because of guilt and feelings of inadequacy--the inadequacy of a dysfunctional family, the guilt of feeling that maybe I wasn't worth it.

I started thinking, "Maybe there are other people like me: people with an impostor mentality, people who've experienced temporary success or are trying to act successful, but who at their core are not successful."

The truth is, I'd written much of this material before, but it hadn't been good enough to publish. It wasn't good enough to publish because the author wasn't good enough to publish.

As it turned out, I was very lucky on the timing. At the time, there was only one spoken-voice audio album on the market: Earl Nightingale's Lead the Field. [See our feature story on Earl Nightingale, Networking Times Vol. 1, No. 3--Ed.] I happened to be Nightingale-Conant's second album--and being just after the Vietnam war, this happened to resonate at a time when America was not feeling good about itself.

The Psychology of Winning has sold more spoken-voice programs than any other program--ever.


Your own program was based not on what you had, but on what you wanted!

It's true. It isn't necessarily the winner who can tell you how to do it. Often, the novel or self-help program that resonates with an audience is the one written by an author who's struggling; it's the struggle that causes the clarity.

People say, "Gee, I'm not a Triple Crown Diamond like those people on stage making those enormous sums of money; what do I know...," but it isn't at the moment that those people are making the enormous sums of money that they're going to give you the salient advice. It's during the struggle--if they can recall that struggle with any clarity--that their experience is valuable.

Your very best work often comes at the most adverse moment in your life. That's when push comes to shove and the rubber meets the road.


The best of times, the worst of times.

Exactly. This is why I love to read biographies.

Jacques Cousteau broke both arms in a car wreck, which ruined his an astronaut! He really wanted to be an astronaut--and instead, he became an aquanaut. People assume that being an oceanographer had always been his passion--but originally, he didn't want to be under the ocean, he wanted to be up in the air!

Julio Iglesias broke his legs, so he learned to play the guitar and serenaded the nurses.

You read the biographies of a Cousteau, an Oprah Winfrey, a Colin Powell, and it dawns on you that these people made these tremendous, life-changing decisions precisely when things were not going "their way." They didn't have a moment of truth, no big Aha moment; they had to struggle through it.

That's why networking is most effective and successful when it's done to help people solve problems and get their desires, rather than to make a lot of money. Yes, you can earn a lot of money, but that's not the original motivating force.


You pointed out that your experience of struggle is valuable--if you can recall it with clarity. Is that a big "if"?

Unfortunately, for many, it is. And it's when you forget where you came from, when you get too self-involved and start believing your own press, that you get in trouble. When you start to believe you're some kind of special person, you've already plateaued.

By the way, this is rampant in our business [public speaking]. You'll see authors, speakers or celebrities of any kind, who actually start to believe that they exist in some lofty area. They can no longer relate to these people who are struggling. They confuse self-esteem with arrogance. Conceit and arrogance are disguises worn by individuals with little inner feelings of value.

A few decades ago, Robert Redford was the number one box office draw, the most handsome man on the silver screen. At the height of his popularity, he said, "I never embrace success--I only spar with it."

The athletes I know who are truly successful, permanently successful, are those stars who never forget where they came from, who never forget their fans, who never flaunt it and go around high-fiving after every play. They go out and do their business. For these people, the fans become very important, not because of the adulation, but because that's why they're there: to serve the fans.


What does that look like in a network marketer?

A person who makes three-way calls with somebody brand new. A person who, when she enrolls a new person, rolls up her sleeves and gives that person time and attention--even though these things are now at a premium because her group has grown so large. A person who, instead of saying, "See how far I've come," behaves as if she is still starting out.

When you stand in awe of a superstar, you don't believe you could ever possibly become like him or her, but you stand around anyway, hoping for any little crumbs or kernels that might drop your way...

You want to be just the opposite from that! You want to be somebody others can relate to. You want the person who hasn't yet had much success to say, "Wow, he's so real; I was gonna ask him for his autograph--but instead, he asked me about my life!"

As you head into your phone meeting or three-way call or in-person meeting, say to yourself, "I'll make them glad they talked to me today. I'll make them glad we crossed paths--because I'm going to give them something they want."


And this is something you can't fake.

If you fake it, it doesn't work. People can tell when you're manipulating. They know whether or not you're genuinely interested in them by the way you ask questions.

Here's one way to measure yourself: "Am I constantly talking about me--about what I've done, what I've accomplished?" If so, that's a tip-off: your hubris or conceit is getting the better of you.

You can tell right away whether the person you're with is a giver or a taker. The giver will always ask you questions; the taker will always tell you where he's going, what he's doing, what he's written, what he's accomplishing, what's new with him. You don't have to do anything; all you have to do is feed him lines; you just say, "Wow.... Ooh.... Aah...," and every now and then, "To die for...!"


I'm intrigued with the idea that your greatest clarity arises in moments of crisis. How does that relate to the issue of giving?

When things are not going right, that's all the more reason to be giving.

That's the message of classics like Dickens' A Christmas Carol or Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life: other people have problems that dwarf your own.

I tell people, "If you're having problems, go to a burn ward or a children's leukemia ward, where the children are going through chemotherapy. Their hair is gone but they have a little bit of down, and they're actually betting each other, who isn't going to get sick. And then they look at you, and you're crying, and they notice your hair is thinning, which is just because you're getting older, and they say, 'Don't worry, mister, it'll grow back.'"

If you're feeling just a little blue, that's the time to really start giving.


Focusing on others' needs is not only a good thing to do in a moral sense, but it's also a practical strategy--because that's when you tap the greatest resource.

That's really it. If you're not in a good place, then get out and help somebody else. It will help you identify your own talents and abilities. It will reinforce the good in yourself, because you're not stewing, you're doing. You're getting out of your problem and into solving somebody else's.

You may not feel capable of solving your own problems, but the truth is, it's a lot easier to solve other people's problems. And as you begin to realize that you are capable, after all, this gives you a feeling of self-esteem.


As a nation, we've had our confidence shaken--in our corporate leaders, in our national security, in our standing in the international's been a rough few years. What is it that the world needs most that network marketing has to offer?

That's a great question, and there's a simple answer: There'll be no peace on earth until there's a piece of bread in every mouth.

We exist in a global marketplace; with all our differences in culture and belief systems, what is it that is the same everywhere? It's this: People all over the world want the opportunity to have a seat at the banquet table.

Network marketing is a tremendous way to cross boundaries and eliminate prejudice.

What this business offers is an opportunity to cross cultures, to cross geography, and even cross belief systems. It gives you the opportunity to deal with your global neighbors around the common idea of being more self-determined. It gives you the opportunity to eliminate, or at least sidestep, hierarchies--politics, ethnicity, culture, any barriers--and do business with one another, directly, globally. It doesn't really matter whether you speak the language or whether you eat differently or pray differently.

Network marketing gives you the biggest common ground in the world: being responsible for your own future, working with other people, and helping them do the same.


And you're speaking as someone who has been exceptionally involved in working with people all over the world, aren't you?

I'm one of the few people in my business who lectures in all these different regions, and I have done so for many, many years. Mainland China? I'm there. Vietnam? Singapore? India? I'm there. Ireland...New Zealand... Latin America... Africa...I'm pretty much everywhere--and what I see is that they all want to network with each other.

They--we--all have a common goal: we all want a seat at the banquet table. Not to be rich, not to be better than someone else; to have dignity and self-respect. To be able to educate your children. And even with limited education and lack of other resources, they can get that by networking with each other. By doing business with the people they trust.

This is the first time in history that knowledge equals power, so if you have the knowledge and you have a team you can work with, you've got power.

That's the beauty of network marketing. It makes the world come together for a really positive reason.

Prologue from The Seeds of Greatness Treasury
By Denis Waitley

My grandma, Mabel Reynolds Ostrander, and I shared one of those special relationships as rare as a double rainbow. She was 53 when I was ten; that's when we planted our first "Victory" garden together during World War II. We planted seeds together - in the soil, and in each other.

Grandma lived 87 seasons without a complaint. I was 44 when I last saw her. But I remember every mince and lemon tart, every bite of made-from-scratch apple pie, and every lingering wave of her hand as she stood (out of sight, or so she thought) behind the rayon Priscilla curtains in the little house at 718 West Pennsylvania Avenue in San Diego, California, where I was born and raised. Later in life, as our station wagon full of my kids and contentment would slowly pull away from the curb, we would all look back at her and wave - and I would gaze at her fragile silhouette through the rear-view mirror, wishing I could frame her there forever, just that way... wondering how many more Easter and Christmas dinners we would share.

Most of all, I remember my grandma and me planting seeds. We planted squash, beans, corn, watermelons, beets, pansies, mums, and other flowers. I'll admit, I rode my bike those 20 miles each Saturday more for the bonus of the conversation and the homemade pastries than for the vegetables and flowers. But no matter how full I was after I ate, I was always left hungry for more of the wisdom and optimism she shared with me.

I'll never forget the day we tasted our first harvest as a result of crossing a plum tree with an apricot tree. The ripe fruit was pink, not purple like a plum nor orange like an apricot, but a combination of both. "Gee, do you suppose they'll be any good?" I asked. "Why, of course, they will be wonderful," she chided. "Didn't we do the planting, nurturing, and pruning?"

Sure enough, they were delicious, even though they were different than any fruit I'd ever seen before. "That's because they are uniquely unlike any other fruit you'll ever eat. They are plumcots!" she exulted. "You always get out what you put in," she continued, as we sat under the tree eating most of what we had picked.

"Plant apple seeds and you get apple trees; plant acorns and you get majestic oak trees; plant weeds and you will harvest weeds - even without watering! Plant the seeds of great ideas and you will get great individuals," she said softly and intently, looking directly into my eyes.

"Do you understand what I mean?" I nodded, remembering I'd heard her say the same thing before, in different ways.

I learned from my grandma that the seeds of greatness are not special genes dependent on the birth of the gifted, the inherited bank account, the intellect, the skin-deep beauty, the race, the gender, or the status. The seeds of greatness are attitudes and beliefs that begin in children by observing, imitating, and internalizing the lifestyles of significant role models and heroes.

"Model your thoughts and actions after men and women who have been passionate, excellent, honest, unselfish, and creative in their service to others," my grandmother counseled. Armed with that affirmation, I ventured forth to sow and reap my own legacy in life.

I've traveled the world to the seven seas;
I've been up at the top and down on my knees;
I've been blessed with abundance and plenty of weeds;
But I've never stopped caring about others' needs.

As you tend your own garden, unlike any other,
Remember the words of my lovely grandmother:
"If you're hoping to harvest a life of great deeds,
remember you first have to plant some great seeds."