Once, when I was giving a writers presentation to a group of high school students, I was asked by a teacher what process I follow for writing my books. “Is there one thing, or set of things you do prior to starting to write?”
“Yes, there is,” I responded. “I pray.” That was it, pure and simple. I didn’t even elaborate on what I pray for (which, btw, is clarity, the ability to write what’s in my head etc. and have it be congruent with my ideals and thoughts etc). You should have seen the look on this woman’s face. You would have thought I was advocating a new drug inhalation process for the illegal, not legal type. The irony of it all, was this was a parochial school, the place I where I actually felt safe giving this answer.
Over the years, the irony of the prayer-before-the-big-event thing has intrigued me. I’ve grown up with images of Madonna and her backup-dancers holding hands in a group prayer before a concert. Big football players kneel or bow their heads prior to kick-off, asking for health, strong hands and probably a win. Why then, I ask, is the big deal with saying a prayer (albeit silently) before a big meeting or when starting a sculpture or writing a book?
slightly obvious. I actually prefer Roger’s quote, which he used for years with consultants (who wouldn’t shut up). “You can’t learn anything while you are talking.” I would have used that but I didn’t have the time to create a pretty picture with quotes.
I have long prayed when considering what clients to take on and which ones to pass. I’ve said prayers before presentations in front of groups large and small, interviews with the press, before I’ve gone on television shows, prior to pitching the venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. In fact, pretty much any event of significance I’ve invoked my right to call above to the Almighty (or as Roger says: “whatever is out there in the Universe that’s listening”).
Ironically, I’ve been much more lax about praying on the personal front, but that too, is another story. It seems that when it comes to career, my red-phone bat line has been in constant use. It turns out, I’m not alone in this. Over the last two years, I’ve been interviewing 3 dozen hundred millionaires and billionaires that haven’t spoken to the press about their rise from poverty (nearly all) to a financially secure point in life. One of the common threads is faith (in self or God). Another thread is prayer. Even the few who claim atheism state they still say a prayer (to the universal energy that exists).
This call-to-arms as I’ve come to think of it, is a plea for all the thoughts, energy and desire built within to come to the forefront when it’s needed in exactly the right way, be it for that winning touchdown or the closing of the million dollar home sale.
Prayer circles aren’t as weird as they sound
Going back to the football scenario, where a bunch of men are on the field, eyes closed and heads bent—it’s a normal scene is it not? They are in a circle…a literal prayer circle. If this came up in casual conversation, can you even imagine the derision the topic would instill, not to mention the analogies to other sects, cults and who-knows-what off-shoots of beheading chickens and dancing around a bonfire.
Yet for athletes and Madonna, it’s done and accepted, business as usual. (I would, just once, love to have seen Ballmer hold out his hand at the executive round table, bow his head and say whatever prayer that man would have said –although I imagine it would have involved a strong desire for the stock price to go above 100 for a picosecond. Just once).
Going back to me and the writing process, or business for that matter, yes, I pray, but it is not done lightly or by rote. I won’t pray if I don’t feel worthy of an answer. Ergo, if I have a lesson to teach and I’ve not adequately prepared, I feel it’s morally wrong to ask some higher power to bail me out. Conversely, if I’ve done my part, studied, prepared my outline, readied the lesson and I still feel uncomfortable, then I know this means I’m missing something. A piece of the puzzle isn’t quite right in the grooves. It is then that I pray fervently to understand what direction I must go, what I must change and how I must communicate the message—assuming that my message is right in the first place. I can’t tell you how many times this very thing has happened, and when I’m on stage, I’ve had words, phrases or examples come to mind that I’d previously not thought of or considered, and it made all the difference in the world.
One billionaire, a seventy-ish man now retired and living in Colorado, used to be the president of one of the largest commercial real estate companies in the country. In his “retirement,” he still owns three different entities in different industries. When I asked him how he makes many of his decisions, he was unapologetic when he said he prays.
“Yes, I listen to my advisors and I read the numbers, but most of the time, hiring people and making big business decisions doesn’t rely on numbers or resumes,” he said. “Those can be manipulated and represented in ways that won’t tell you what will truly happen six months, a year or five years out.” For that, he relies on a higher power.
And this blog? Do I pray before writing a blog? No, not usually, and honestly, my level of seriousness regarding my blog writing (and Instagram and Facebook accounts) ebb and flow with my mood. Sometimes I simply like a picture that’s interesting, fun or humorous. I’ve noticed that when it comes to thoughts of making a person’s day brighter, uplifting myself (or others) in some way, then yes, I actually do say a prayer to understand what I should write or post. The reward is often immediate and strong, producing positive feedback or responses.
Even those who don’t believe in a universal God or super being, the notion of universal “Karma” is alive and well. In other words, what comes around goes around, so it’s better to be on the safe side than send out evil vibes. If this holds true, then one could argue that prayers can only help, and never hurt, so “What’s there to lose?” (As my husband often asks). “It’s not hurting anyone and can only help.”
Keep that in mind the next time you could use a little clarity, support, wisdom or overall confidence. It’s free, there’s nothing to lose, and it can only help. Those are three mantras I can live by.