Denis Waitley is one of America’s most respected authors, keynote speakers, and productivity consultants on high performance human achievement.
With millions of audio programs sold in over a dozen languages, Denis Waitley is one of the most listened-to voices on personal and career success. His most popular audio program, The Psychology of Winning, first released in 1978, has generated more than $100 million in revenues.
Denis is also the author of 16 non-fiction books, including several international bestsellers—Seeds of Greatness, Being the Best, The Winner’s Edge, The Joy of Working, and Empires of the Mind, to name a few.
Denis has helped top athletes to win bigger and is a former chairman of psychology for the US Olympic Committee’s Sports Medicine Council.
Perhaps you remember Denis Waitley’s name from the movie The Secret, even though he had only a brief appearance in it.
We recently sat down with Denis and asked him about some of the biggest changes he sees happening in the global marketplace, and where he sees network marketers play at their best.—J.G.
What’s your memory of The Secret, 10 years later?
I was totally surprised at the unbelievable viral nature of the video. It came out the same time as Daniel Brown’s Da Vinci Code. It had the same magical and mystical feel to it.
Next thing you know, it became the phenomenon that it was, and then the book came out afterward. A lot of people did not see the video; they just read the book, which is a compilation of all the interviews.
I thought it was creatively done, provocative and memorable. I went to China last year, and I got tired of signing the books. I said, “Wait a minute, I only had this little tiny part… I’m not one of the gurus of The Secret. I’m just somebody who happened to be around when it was conceived.”
The Secret also led to some misunderstandings.
Yes, I was interviewed by a German magazine, and they said, “So, you go down to the dealership, you sit in the BMW, you smell the leather, you get the feel of it, and next thing you know, it shows up in your driveway.”
I said, “No, that’s exactly what it isn’t. Unfortunately, that’s what the Law of Attraction has appeared to be: some passive concept where you just use your imagination to throw out what you want to the Universe, and the Universe answers you.”
Then they asked, “What does it take?”
I said, “The Law of Attraction helps you take the action necessary to bring the intent of what you have in mind to your driveway—in this case, by giving at least $86,500 worth of service to the dealership that will park it in your driveway. You have to apply the Law of Attraction by creating the action behind it, and the action steps, so The Secret was just part one.”
It was only the beginning, not the answer. It opened up the question. The sequel didn’t get the same kind of traction, because there was work involved.
Was there a precursor to The Secret?
My introduction to the concepts of The Secret was Earl Nightingale’s vinyl record called The Strangest Secret. It was the first nonmusical audio to be awarded with a “gold” record status.
It simply stated that we become what we think about most of the time. So “the strangest secret” already captured the imagination of people in the 1950s and 1960s. Everyone knows that when you design your home, the architect gives you the blueprint, and then you give it to the contractor. The next thing you know, your thought becomes real.
I’m very much into the new physics, into neuroscience, and I’ve always been uncomfortable with rubbing the genie’s lamp and having the genie say, “So it shall be asked for, so it shall be done.” We know there’s a lot that goes into getting it, but the concept is sound and pure, as far as having the imagination plus internalization equal realization.
The Secret simplified it to make it seem easy.
It did, and it was very compelling for that reason. It didn’t take any effort. You just had this power within you to communicate with the universal truth, and then what you visualized materialized for you.
Today we know there are some steps in between that we can learn and practice. I’ve learned them from the Olympians, for example, there never was a winner who wasn’t a beginner. When we begin anything, we’re awkward. We don’t do it very well, so we get discouraged. But if we have a mentor and a coach, and we have role models and ways of rehearsing and training and copying and improving, with trial and error we become a champion as a result of this initial desire we had.
For an Olympian it takes 4 to 8 years, sometimes longer, and for a person to develop a new habit it really takes six months to a year. It doesn’t take 21 days, as some people believe. It may take 21 days to be comfortable with the computer keyboard, but it takes a longer time to internalize a change in behavior, by putting new thoughts on top of the old program.
Can you say more about that process of internalizing a new behavior?
I look at the mind as software, and the brain is part of the hardware. You have to superimpose a software program into the hardware for a long period of time in repetition before you will get the result you’re looking for. That’s why instead of “no pain, no gain,” I say, “No train, no gain.”
The steps in between are the most exciting for me—to know that you can grow a new neural pathway, that you can actually rewire and create new brain connections. When you create new “traffic,” you build a new freeway where there used to be a dead end, or where there used to be a surface street, or where you used to have a bridge or a blockage, because that part of the road was under construction.
It’s possible for you to create a new freeway that takes you on a new path, because of the internalization. The plasticity of the brain and its rewiring mechanism is incredible.
It’s dashed many of our beliefs. We used to think that all the talent we’ll ever get was given to us at conception. Now it’s been proven that you can learn a new talent at any age. We can learn to sing or be a musician, even if we don’t have the natural gifts, because the plasticity of the brain allows us to internalize these new things. If you didn’t have that talent before, you might be able to create it.
That pummels a lot of myths, including our concept of aging.
It does, completely. This is really good news for all the Baby Boomers.
We’re also finding that even though we’re losing so many neurons the older we get, we can grow new ones. The more you read, the more you speak out loud, the more you listen, the more plasticity you create. We can retain our memory much, much longer by exercising it and using new technologies.
For instance, you can take a certain nutritional supplement and create a change in your cellular response. Instead of taking an external antioxidant to protect against disease, you can actually influence the endogenous antioxidant production within the body. We’re now able to change what’s going on inside the body, by not necessarily taking a drug, but actually doing something, either nutritionally, or emotionally, that will cause the body to have a new interaction with its own cells. That means I can turn on certain mechanisms in my body that I wasn’t able to access before.
Additionally, the brain is much more pliable and teachable than we ever thought. Look at music therapy, what’s going on with environmental therapy, people overcoming phobias, and virtual reality.
I love how virtual reality mirrors the fact that we live in an observer-based world.
I believe virtual reality is going to be as big as the Internet, in terms of how it will transform our lives. When virtual reality is brought to its full use, people are going to be able to do incredible things in the health-related fields, in sales, in travel, in education. They’re going to be able to talk to a virtual William Shakespeare. They’re already going inside the human body and taking a virtual trip through the arteries and into the heart chambers.
When looking at this, I say, “Please, Great Creator, let me live another 20 years so that I can see it unfold in front of me, so I can see virtual reality become a way to travel to places in the world that I may never get to if I had to get on an airplane. Let me learn things firsthand by going inside these buildings, these artworks with the artist.”
Nothing is more exciting to me.
Denis Waitley Success Quotes
“Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep.”
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.”
“Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer.”
“You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.”
“A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.”
What do you think is the new secret that will propel us forward?
It’s that virtual reality is reality, in the sense that once you observe it virtually, it sets up such a remarkable experience that it changes your world. You can live in a virtual world with your friends. Most young people are already doing this right now—they’re living in a world of texts and Instagram—and in a way, it becomes real.
It’s so exciting for medicine and education. To me, that’s the big new breakthrough—being able to go into the virtual world so you’re no longer limited to using your own imagination.
Some people haven’t developed the ability to imagine themselves in a scenario; it just seems too scary and too much for them. It seems too unrealistic. Their self-esteem and self-image won’t allow them, but with the assistance of technology they’ll go, “OMG, I am really here. This is happening to me. I can see my new body shape. I can see how I look when I’m more fit and trim. I can see myself in this.”
When you combine that ability with personalization, to me that will be the most powerful approach for business, especially in network marketing. The key is having a personalized message, offering individuals their personalized lifestyle or product, the ability to solve “my problem.”
My problem is not my child’s problem. My nutritional problem is not my grandmother’s problem. It’s mine. I have my own makeup. I have my own needs. I have my own desires. As long as you can help me with my desires and my needs, I’m a return customer.
Don’t sell me something off the shelf. Don’t give me your cookie-cutter offer.
We see it happening in 3-D printing. It’s happening with companies designing products specifically for you, from leggings to nutritionals and greeting cards. It’s why we’re giving people the genome. It’s why we’re doing genetic testing to see where our origins come from. People are excited to see how much of what they have in them is inherited. We’re clearly moving toward the world where I can discover and celebrate my uniqueness. If you can tap into that, if you can give people what they personally want, you’ll have a customer for life.
People are recognizing their differentiation. Sure, we’re all humans, and we need to come together, but at the same time, let’s marvel at our differences. True diversity is not what you see with your eyes; it’s where people are coming from in their thought processes and beliefs. We want to appreciate and embrace diversity as this vast reservoir where each of us has our own uniqueness.
Unfortunately, we’re always looking with our eyes at what people look like. We’re so afraid of an outsider coming into our own little cultural group that we feel uncomfortable with anyone who has a different belief or different way of looking at things, and those people become a threat.
I just love to ask young people, “Tell me about you. What do you think? Where have you been? How were you raised?” When they tell me their story, regardless of how they look and how they’re dressed, or what their political belief is, I receive a richness from that exchange like no other.
It’s all about recognizing our interconnectedness through our diversity.
Absolutely. The other thing is, unless you’re networking with others, you’ll soon be not working. Networking is a fundamental part of human nature, and if people ask you, “This isn’t networking, is it?” you say, “It certainly is. That’s where everything is at.” “This isn’t a referral business, is it?” You say, “You bet it is.”
In today’s market, there’s so much overload, so much infomercial-and everyone is saying the same thing. “We are the best. We are the greatest. We are the best investment. Please, buy us!”
Then you ask yourself, “How can I get through the noise?” Most people get their news and their wisdom from the Internet, without even considering the source. The greatest opportunity today is to be someone who walks their talk, who gives you firsthand information, and says, “If I tell you it’s a good restaurant, it’s because I ate there. I’m telling you it’s a good movie because I saw it and I liked it. I’m sharing this with you because you and I are on the same wavelength. I respect you.”
Amazon and other online retailers have a great marketing concept—to be able to click, point, buy, ship, get. There’s no question about that, and it has a certain personalization. But having someone you trust recommend something because of their use of it, to me that’s even bigger. That’s going to cause the real breakthrough in network marketing.
It’s the Law of Attraction, or the Law of Resonance, in action.
It absolutely is. Your friend is using this product or system, and you see the difference it’s made in their life. You respected them before, but now you really respect and admire them. If it’s working for them, and you trust them, you say, “Wow, I can do that too.”
You combine that with this virtual reality, and this ability to observe and imitate and change your brain wiring. I’m just astounded at the opportunity we have with this person-to-person marketing. Instead of having to listen to somebody who is just trying to sell me something, I want to listen to somebody who has my best interests in mind, somebody I trust and respect; someone I resonate with.
I grew up in a wartime environment—World War II and the Korean War. After graduating from the Naval Academy, and an early career as a naval aviator, I discovered a different calling. I went from being in the military to spending my whole life being an inspirational teacher, a kind of emotional gardener planting shade trees. That’s all I want to do: plant shade trees, under which I myself will probably never sit. I just love planting seeds of success.
I’m still traveling to a lot—to Asia, India, to Dubai and Abu Dhabi—and finding that all over the world the same thing is happening. People are looking for, “What can you do for me? Why will it work for me? How do you know? How will you help me?”
People are realizing we have much more freedom and power to create our own reality.
Exactly. Ten years ago we thought, “I’ll try to rub the genie’s lamp and see if it shows up,” but now we’re getting actual scientific proof and validation.
One of the things I’ve really been fascinated with is how we can use virtual reality, the Law of Resonance, to overcome a phobia. The newest virtual reality was first being used in the entertainment world. Everything starts with the entertainment of people—the video games, the things that please us. That’s what we buy into first, and then we realize that these same things that are fun and playful can be used to improve our lives completely. Virtual reality is now being used to overcome fear of flying, fear of needles, fear of snakes, fear of spiders, fear of public speaking.
By putting yourself in a virtual situation, you become the co-creator in a more relaxed approach to learning something that before frightened you.
Fear is usually a result of something that happened to you. It could be secondhand, passed on by a well-meaning parent who says, “Be careful where you walk,” or “Don’t run in the street.” Whatever idea they gave you that you’re afraid of, is now being used in a positive way.
When learning how to fly, I first needed to go to ground school where we would practice flying in an imaginary airplane. We went through all the motions with the imaginary plane before we got in the real one. From there, I began to counsel astronauts. They have to play, “Let’s pretend we’re going to go to the moon.” If you can do it right in drill, or in your mind, you can more comfortably go there in the body. Astronauts are going places no one’s ever gone before. They know it’s dangerous, and yet thanks to virtual reality, they feel comfortable in taking the risk.
Whether you’re an astronaut, an Olympian, a salesperson, someone overcoming a phobia—it works just the same.
Yes, I think we’re at the breakthrough point, where virtual reality and neuroscience meet. I speak for big companies that use fixed action patterns focusing on, “What are the emotional triggers that get a person to say yes?” We used to try to close the sale by using words that move people in the direction we want.
Now, we’ve realized that most feelings are triggered by audio-visual stimuli, rather than just verbally. So we no longer need this big sales pitch. We don’t need to “close the sale” with all these different sales techniques. Instead, we want to develop an ongoing relationship that makes a person feel that you have their best interest at heart, and nurture this relationship.
Network marketing, in my opinion, should be called relationship marketing. Moving from mass marketing to me marketing, which means personalization of the offer, is key. Everything going forward will be based on relationships, because with technology taking over, we don’t know who to trust. There’s an overwhelming bombardment of information with texting and the Internet.
We have a different opinion for almost everything that’s offered. They’ll tell you, “Nutritionals? We don’t need them.” Then they’ll tell you which ones are dangerous—and which ones to buy. We have to rely on sources we trust, which is why everything is moving toward the relationship between one person and another, between one group and another, and inclusion rather than exclusion.
Trust goes back to the intent behind our words and actions. We’ve become more sensitive to the energy behind the messages we receive, which brings us back to the preverbal.
Yes, we’ve become very suspicious of spin. We’re suspicious of the news media. We’re suspicious of all politicians. We’re suspicious of people who try to coerce us into buying. We’re definitely suspicious of anything hard sell. We’re suspicious when people try to change us, and we’re suspicious, especially, when they put pressure on us. All these factors combined make it the ideal atmosphere for people who truly want to help you improve your own life rather than just making money off of you.
No longer can you say to somebody, “Look, we’ll get rich quick together,” or “If you help me, I’ll help you.” Instead, you put all your chips over, and you say, “Look, I’m in the business of trying to help change lives for the better, and I love that. It makes me feel good that I’m engaged in a profession that is actually helping people improve their lives. If I can show you a way to help you improve yours…”
You can no longer put any pressure on somebody. If your prospect doesn’t buy after you give your best presentation, understand that the timing is not right for them, and it’s useless to pressure them into buying by making them feel like they aren’t part of the “in” group.
We really need to leave the old-school selling techniques behind.
It’s done. My daughter is working with big corporations. The biggest companies now are retaining neuroscience firms to see how they can possibly work with the new Millennials who are coming into the work force, and soon the new Gen Z’s. Many feel entitled instead of empowered, and don’t know how to communicate in a way that gives another person what they want. Instead they’re still operating out of an “I want to get what I want” mentality. In other words, winning through others instead of helping others win so you can win.
This is a whole new field, and it’s a difficult shift in corporate America. I’m sure the same is true in network marketing. How do we get people to understand—as they may have thought they had in The Secret—that they will get what they want only by giving others what they want?
People don’t want just to help a company reach its goals. People want to achieve their goals through the vehicle they’re working with, and if you can personalize your offer to match individual needs, you’re going to retain more employees and customers. Retention in network marketing will be based on the feeling that you’re truly trying to help me rather than increase your own position or whatever your agenda may be.
Any closing words?
If people feel that you actually want to help them, they’ll stick with you rather than say, “I can’t sell. I’m not getting enough support.”
You want to become a really good networker for the right reasons, not just somebody who’s able to persuade. To succeed in this business, you want to be a great questioner. If you must speak, ask a question.
I finally learned that. To be fascinating, you need to ask questions, so you can find out where other people are coming from. You don’t have to make the sales pitch then. All you have to do is find out what they want and need, and help them get it.
People want to be seen, understood, and embraced for who they are. It’s so simple, yet so difficult. We all have this desire to be special, to be somebody the peer group loves. If only we could just take off that veil and ask ourselves these simple questions.
I constantly remind myself, “Denis, shut up and listen.” When I give a talk, I never learn a thing, but when I question other people and listen, I learn so much more. The same is true with reading and networking. I think we should be lifelong listeners, and challenge our assumptions every minute, in order to be really good in this kind of business.