Shoveling snow for neighbors and carrying their grocery bags is probably not taught as a success strategy by many business schools, but for Wayne W. Dyer, best-selling author and the owner of a multimillion-dollar business, it represents fundamental principles of success in business and life.
“I’ve run a business that’s been very, very successful. I run it on a very simple principle: I’m here to serve,” Dyer tells SUCCESS in an interview from his Maui, Hawaii, home.
While many business owners pay lip service to the idea of running a customer-focused company, few take it to the level that Dyer or his employees do. “If anybody writes me a bad check, I send them a gift. I send them something and remind them of that, and then I just drop it and I let it be in them. If we’re selling books at the back of a room, and somebody doesn’t have the money, we give the book to them. Always. When people make requests—‘Can we have this?’ or ‘Can you donate to this?’—the answer is always yes.”
Dyer’s approach to business may be unorthodox, but it has earned the psychoanalyst tremendous financial success, as well as a legion of intensely loyal fans around the world, during a career spanning more than 30 years. “
It makes sense to me to be generous, to be thoughtful, and to extend as much service as you possibly can and to suspend thoughts of what’s in it for you. It’s so simple. It’s not ‘He who has the gold makes the rules.’ It’s the other way around. Treat people the way you would like to be treated. That, to me, is a formula not just for business, but for life,” says Dyer, 69. “Lao Tzu [the ancient Chinese philosopher] says if you want to have meaning in your life, return to your original nature. He had what he called the ‘cardinal virtues,’ which is to have reverence for all of life, to practice gentleness and kindness to all beings, and to extend service. Instead of thinking about yourself, tame the ego. That’s how I live my life; that’s what I teach. I believe that businesses who do that will thrive.”
Philosophies Born Early
Dyer uses meditation to keep this philosophy at the forefront of his life and work. Even before a speaking engagement, in meditation, he asks, “How may I serve? How may I serve?” he says. “This helps me to keep my ego out of my talk. It keeps my attention off ‘What’s in it for me?’ or ‘How well am I going to do?’ or ‘How much money am I going to make?’ or ‘Are they going to like me?’ I meditate to let go of all of that and to really get into the moment of what it is that I am doing.”
Dyer’s belief in offering service stems from his early years, mostly spent in orphanages and foster homes in his native Detroit. He also learned self-reliance and the power of thought when he was very young.
“A woman once told me, ‘Wayne, if you don’t want something bad to happen, or if you want good things for yourself in your life, be careful about what you think, for you will become what you think as sure as the dawn follows night. Always remember, thoughts are things.’ Wow, the entire world wrapped up in those three magic words: Thoughts are things! A thought is the most powerful force in the universe. You can make of your life whatever you wish if you learn to make your thoughts work for you,” he says.
“I grew up in the east side of Detroit in an area where there was very little, except for a lot of scarcity, poverty and hunger, but I never woke up saying, ‘I’m an orphan again today, isn’t this terrible? Poor me.’ I never ever felt that I was unfairly treated. I’ve never been a complainer. There were a couple of very affl uent neighborhoods nearby, but I never thought for one second that those people had more than I had. It just seemed that they got what they were entitled to, and if I really wanted those things, then I would have them, too.”
From the age of 4, Dyer discovered that service brought rewards. “I just knew how to attract abundance or prosperity or money into my life,” he recalls. “I was the richest kid in the orphanage. It was very simple: When it snowed, I’d go out and shovel the walks along the street. I didn’t ask for anything. I’d just go back and tell people, ‘I shoveled your walk.’ People would always give me money. I’d go to the grocery store down the street and help people carry their bags out. We had coal furnaces in those days, and I’d help people take the ashes out and park them in the alley. When I found out that an empty soda pop bottle was worth 2 cents when it was returned, I used to follow people around and ask them, ‘Are you through with that? When you’re done, I’ll take it off your hands.’ ”
After high school, Dyer enlisted in the U.S. Navy for four years’ service. The experience convinced him that he wanted to have control of his own life, so he enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit. He went on to get a master’s degree in school counseling and later enrolled in a doctorate program in psychotherapy.
After six years of teaching, Dyer was 36, had a successful private therapy practice and was an associate professor at St. John’s University in New York. His lectures on positive thinking and motivational speaking techniques caught the attention of a literary agent who persuaded Dyer to write a book. The result was Your Erroneous Zones
, published in 1976, which gave readers a step-by-step method for escaping the trap of negative thinking and taking control of their lives.
The following year, disappointed with the book’s initial sales and intent on preventing it from sliding into publishing oblivion, Dyer resigned from his teaching position to promote the book. He loaded up his station wagon with cartons of books for a nationwide tour lasting more than a year, calling radio stations, newspapers, TV stations and bookstores in each city he visited.
His effort earned his book a place on the New York Times bestseller list (where it stayed for 64 weeks) and resulted in invitations to appear on several TV talk shows, including The Tonight Show. The book has since sold 35 million copies in 47 languages and has become one of the best-selling books of all time.
Dyer has since written more than 30 books, created audio and video programs, and appeared in the movie The Shift. His most recent work is the New York Times best-seller Excuses Begone!
Employing his philosophies has contributed to his success. “One of the reasons most people are not good at solving problems and manifesting or attracting into their life what they want is because their thoughts are always focused on what’s wrong and on what’s missing and on the problem,” he says. “
To change the way you think about your life and create success for yourself, you need to put your attention not on what you want so much as on what you intend—what you intend to create, what you intend to manifest. When I sit down to write a book, I always have the publishers create a jacket for the book with the title on it, and I wrap it around a book that’s already written and I sit it on my writing space, and every single day, I assume this book is already completed. I think from the end always, and then I allow whatever needs to come through to complete it, to come through—that’s my secret. Use your imagination to assume the feeling of having your wish fulfilled. Begin with the end in mind,” Dyer says. “
There are endless ways to attract prosperity. Most people fall into that trap of believing negative things— that the economy is going into the toilet or things are going to get worse. If you buy into that, you become what you think about whether you want it or not. Why not pick the thoughts that are at least going to lead you where you want to go?”