How to Write Your Own Story and Other Tips to Lead Positive
Lead Positive profile: Robbie Vorhaus, author of One Less. One More.
Posted November 13, 2014
Read on to learn how three transformational moments taught Robbie why he needed to write his own story and open himself to the magic that comes with getting out of your comfort zone.
This is part one of Robbie Vorhaus’ Lead Positive profile. Come back next week to read part two in which he explains what it means to be attached to nothing and open to everything.
What signature moments in your life have shaped you as a thought leader?
Writing my own story
The first turning point in my life was when I was physically forced from my house at 17. I left my childhood home in a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops. I was told never to return, and informed by my father that if I attempted to come back, he would kill me.
I did not think when I woke that day it was going to be the last time I ever lived in my house. Although that shock is still with me, it was also a wakeup call. Walking down the street in tears, I remember thinking, "Okay, what are you going to choose now?” There was a higher voice, a calling inside of me that said, “Are you going to be a victim and let this take you down or are you going to use it as a way to really make a difference in the world, to do something good?" From that moment, I decided to not allow circumstances to define me; instead, I was going to define those circumstances.
One of the things I researched in my book, One Less. One More., is the number of people that have existed on the planet up until now. According to science, there have been approximately one hundred billion people, and there are a little over seven billion souls on the planet today. Since the beginning of time, even with one hundred billion people, no one has ever been remotely like you. That stunned me.
There is no one who has your point of view, who has your story, who on any conceivable level is remotely like you.
So, if you choose not to discover your authenticity, if you choose not to understand your unique point of view, if you recognize how exceptional and incredibly special you are, and you choose not to pursue your life’s purpose, in my belief system, that is such a waste. If you don’t follow your heart, if you don’t discover your life’s calling, then you’re not being authentic and, ultimately, you’re living someone else’s life. But whose? Whose life are you living? Whose race are you running? Whose story are you telling?
Eliminating what doesn’t work for me
The second signature moment for me was when I made the decision at twenty-two to quit my drug addiction. I had been addicted to Valium for eleven years. As both my parents drank, and my father eventually left home, I was put on Valium as a kid to calm me down, and I was soon hooked. I ended up a drug addict and unable to function without the drugs.
In order for me to live the life I wanted, to change the world, to help people to follow their hearts, I could not be a drug addict. And so I made the decision [to quit valium]. I went cold turkey, ended up living for a week in my bathtub and then spent the next month just trying to get sane. I counsel anyone who is even thinking of quitting drugs to get professional help and not do it alone!
Allowing the space for magic
The third signature moment for me was my private audience in Rome at the Vatican with Pope John Paul II. I was raised Jewish, but never practiced the faith. I was not expecting what happened. I met with the Pope and when he held my hand, I became transformed. It’s hard to explain, but I experienced a transformative awakening. For some reason, as the Pope held my hand, my heart opened, and I recognized if I did not take my own counsel and follow my own heart, I was going to lose everything dear to me. I write about this in One Less. One More. I've worked with powerful and famous people before, yet I'd never had this experience and it changed me.
What I recognized is in each of these three moments—leaving home, becoming clean and sober, and meeting the Pope by total chance—is that it's not what happens to you, it's what you do with what happens to you. The second thing is, is there are parts of your life that hook you: money, fame, drugs, other types of addictions, belief systems. Whatever it is, there are things that we don't consciously think have hooked us until we look at our life's path and story and say, "Wait a minute, this isn't truly me." And then you need a guide, you need help on how to eliminate that, and that's the one less.
And then meeting the Pope and recognizing that when you are willing to examine your true authenticity, to get out of your comfort zone, to courageously experience something the universe delivers that you never even considered before, that, to me, is where the pure magic begins.
These are the three things for me. The first is not letting circumstances define me—I want to write my story, I don't want to let somebody else or other things write my story. Number two is there are things I am constantly eliminating from my life because they're not working for me anymore. And the third is allowing myself more mystery and magic and expression and experience of this endless magnificent universe.
Who had the biggest influence on you, a critic or a coach and why?
So, my parents always told me what I couldn't do. And then out of the 1,100 kids in my high school, I was voted most likely not to succeed. So that stuck with me. I think because I came from a broken home, I felt like an emotional cripple, and coupled with my drug addiction, I felt vulnerable and inferior.
Out of all the kids graduating from my school—Neshaminy High School just outside of Philadelphia—I was honored with an award for “Outstanding Service” to the school, but I did not have enough credits to graduate. So there was a big debate as to whether or not to let me into the graduation ceremony. They finally decided to include me because there were just a few kids to receive this special honor. However, when I got on the line to receive my award, the principal wouldn't shake my hand! In this huge stadium, with all of these people watching, this guy looked away and refused to shake my hand! I just stood there not knowing what to do, and I finally figured out that I was holding up the line, and just walked away. Not a good memory.
And then the flip side to that event was when I was alone in the Oval Office with an American president and he said to me, "I really need your help." Here I was in the most famous office in the world, with the most powerful person on the planet, and he was asking for my counsel. In that moment I realized my parents, the high school principal, the naysayers and all my early critics had got it wrong. That’s a good memory.
I try learning something from every person I meet. So yes, there have been people who have been extraordinarily influential for me, like South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Dan Rather, my former boss, was exceptionally influential for me, as was Don Hewitt, the founder of 60 Minutes. John Sculley, the former president of Pepsi and CEO of Apple has had a significant influence on my life, as was Robin Williams. I also recently wrote a piece in the Huffington Post about the actor, Danny Aiello, who taught me a valuable lesson about forgiveness (read it here).
Many people have been important to me, and helped me transform, but if someone were to ask me, "Who today made a mark on you? Who today helped you to change? Who today influenced you?" I'd say, “Dr. Kathy Cramer.” Really. In this conversation with you, I've learned at least two things that clicked for me. By just listening, you taught me two things that peaked my curiosity, and that I find valuable and important, certainly enough to learn more about. Because I was open to learning, to listening, I became inspired and grew from this experience. And for that, I thank you. There is so much available to us in every moment. So I work at being open to everything and attached to nothing.
Photo Source: vorhaus.com
Robbie Vorhaus is a respected leadership advisor, crisis strategist, teacher and author. His latest book, One Less. One More., is a modern-day handbook for following your heart. Robbie has advised governments, sports teams, celebrities, and consumer giants like Citibank, Coca-Cola, and Weight Watchers. He is a frequent media contributor on crisis and reputation management, public opinion and current events and a regular Huffington Post contributor. Follow Robbie on Twitter @vorhaus.
Dr. Kathy Cramer has written seven best-selling books including Change The Way You See Everything, which started the ABT Global Movement. Her latest book, Lead Positive shows leaders how to increase their effectiveness through her revolutionary yet refreshing simple mindset management process, Asset-Based Thinking. Download her Speaker Kit here.