I had a phone conversation last night with one of my best friends in the whole wide world. His name is Jonathan Robinson and I’ll tell you a little bit more about him in a moment. He said something in this conversation that really struck a chord with me. And as I switched off the light in my hotel room, on my way to Colorado to teach a seminar (you will see why that is funny in a moment), his words echoed in my mind. And here is what he said:
“It is easier to be a teacher than a student.”
I want to ask you to stop, to pause for a few minutes right here and go back to that line. It is easier to be a teacher than a student. Feel what it means for you in your own life now. What are the implications of that one little thought, on the relationship you have with your parents, with your children, with your friends, at work, with the world, and with “God”? I discovered, in the time between our phone call and falling asleep, that this one little sentence from my friend has enough meat on its bones to keep me chewing for a long time.
Let me tell you a bit about Jonathan Robinson, because his is the kind of story that seldom gets told. Back in the 1980s Jonathan did what so many people want to do, he became rich and famous doing what he most loves in life. That’s the American dream, isn’t it? That’s the jackpot. That’s three cherries in a row. He was the youngest person ever to be licensed as a psychotherapist in the state of California, and then went on to write many bestselling books. He was on Oprah several times, and on one occasion she told him that his had been one of the most controversial shows she could remember. The 1980s was before the advent of the internet, so there’s not much trace remaining of those days of glory for Jonathan Robinson. You can still find his books on Amazon.
A day came when he was at the peak of his success and wealth. He made a decision that not many people make in our culture. He had amassed more than a million dollars, just from writing books and giving talks. Very few people in America have been able to do that. He made the very unusual decision to walk away from all of it. He moved to North San Juan, at that time an extremely remote outpost outside of Nevada City, and settled down to a life of meditation and self-exploration. He lived with a loose knit spiritual community and his teacher. He realized something that not many people get to realize, or if they do, they realize it too late. He recognized that fame, wealth, and a packed schedule are not all that they are cracked up to be. Although everyone chases after them, they are more of the booby prize, than where the real gold is to be found.
Jonathan has lived in relative obscurity for the last many years. He lives in a very small house (about 800 square feet) with his wife and dog. Slowly another recognition has crept up on him, and has taken root. He has discovered that he is happy. He is genuinely happy, for no very good reason at all. He has put quite a bit of energy lately into paying attention to the mechanics of real happiness, of deeper happiness. And he has realized (as he shared with me and I am now sharing with you), that to a large degree happiness has to do with a willingness to being a student to life more than being a teacher.
It is easier to be a teacher than student.
I would love to hear your thoughts about this: about this statement that has touched me so deeply. What are the ways that you hold on to being a teacher? To being a “know it all?” (Just like me!) And what are the ways that you are willing to step into the dangerous territory of being a student? (Just like me too… sometimes). Please share your thoughts with me.
All the best,
ps. At the request of some of his friends, Jonathan has made a series of audio recordings documenting all that he knows about happiness. He has it all on CD, and is willing to share it with anyone who is interested. You can e mail him directly, and he will arrange to get the CDs to you, if you want them.