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“If Benjamin Franklin had picked someone to teach the lessons in self-mastery that he used in his life, he would have picked Bob Burg.”

~ Vic Johnson, Founder AsAManThinketh.net

Striving for Higher Consciousness . . . or Not

February 28th, 2009 by Bob Burg

I was in a car with a woman I’d recently met. We were on our way to a restaurant for lunch; she was driving. Our conversation turned to the topic of higher consciousness. I suggested that mastering this concept was something that — if we truly desired to achieve — we would need to continually practice. And that, even then, “mastering” it might never actually happen.

“Not me” she replied. “I’ve read a lot about it and I really believe I’m already there.”

At that very moment — and timed about as perfectly as a Hollywood movie — an elderly gentleman accidentally cut us off; his car nearly slamming into ours.

This person next to me; the one who had already mastered higher consciousness, then proceeded to scream an “expletive deleted” at the man while, out of embarrassment, I buried my face in my hands. For the next two seconds I found myself frozen with fear that the middle finger on her right hand was going to rise to salute him.

I see some very profound lessons here, ranging from the sacred to the mundane. Anyone want to suggest any of them? Feel free to share.

24 Responses to “Striving for Higher Consciousness . . . or Not”
  1. Bob,

    Great story… although tough to have to be in that lesson.

    I’m sure there are many levels of wisdom here but one that pops for me immediately is about belief, and the idea that we’ve “arrived” anywhere. All judgment aside (and I admit to having some) the nature of the human goal seeking machine is to stop striving once a destination / goal has been reached.

    I talk about this in Chapter 1 of my new book, Strength for Life, in regards to Health… for most it’s not a destination they are aspiring to than something we HAVE until a Dr. tells us otherwise. Even Webster’s defines health as “the absence of disease.” Not much of a striving for destination unless you’ve lost your health.

    Hence, if one is aspiring to live a high energy, vibrant, high impact life, I suggest they set a new standard, not just of health but inclusive of health and more… that more I call, “strength.” Not just physical, of course but “strength” as an abundance of mental, physical and spiritual energy. A reserve…

    Even the greatest athletes and leaders never “arrive”… they always strive to be that better self that they know they can be. Be that Tiger or MJ…

    May we all strive to enjoy a vibrant life of contribution… a Life at Full Strength.

    In Strength,
    Shawn Phillips

  2. Bill Johnston said at 12:05 pm on

    I am thankful and blessed not to be the “elderly” gentleman. However I know I have demonstrated the ladies emotion. Much to learn yet. Certainly a long way from Higher Conciousness! Thanks for the great article Bob!

  3. Bob Burg said at 12:15 pm on

    Hi Shawn, it’s one of those grand paradoxes of life, isn’t it: “As soon as we think we are ‘there’…we should realize we aren’t!” 🙂

    Always fascinating to me that the people who continually strive to learn are those it would seem need to the least. Hmmmm, “School is never out for the pro.” I guess we could list a whole bunch of similar sayings. I like what you say above regarding the greatest athletes and leaders. Very true!

    Note from Bob: Check out Shawn’s newest book, “Strength For Life” at http://www.startstrongmonday.com/

  4. Bob Burg said at 12:20 pm on

    Hi Bill, there is indeed much to learn. I think one of the many lessons in the story regards how important it is for us to realize how much there is to learn. Staying “conscious” regarding our lack of “consciousness” is the first step toward “consciousness.” 🙂 And, believe me when I tell you it’s something I need to work on every day. I find it very easy to slip into non-thinking/non-awareness mode.

  5. Sue Mazza said at 12:35 pm on

    I have to admit that I was chuckling as I read that story. I can identify with each of these three people in your story! We never know what life will throw in our path as we turn the next corner. I’ve yet to meet a truly enlightened person who will say that they have “arrived” in achieving their goal of higher consciousness. In fact, encounters with self-actualized people through my martial arts training, as well as encounters with many who desire to become better at self-mastery and higher consciousness have taught me that the further you are along this road, the more you realize your journey into self-discovery is only beginning. Here’s to the Journey! 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Bob!
    You’ve always got nuggets of wisdom for us!

  6. Bob Burg said at 12:46 pm on

    I couldn’t agree more with everything you said, Sue. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  7. The agonizing pursuit of “higher consciousness” is illustrated in Ps 42. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”. The word compelled comes to mind. I pursuit “higher consciousness” because woe is me if I dont. I am compelled. What are you compelled to do?

  8. Bob Burg said at 4:33 pm on

    Thank you, Jackie, for sharing your thoughts with us. Very appreciated! While we may or may not all agree 100 percent on a particular meaning or meanings, I think it is terrific that we can all share our thoughts and learn from one another.

    Note from Bob: Jackie is publisher of the online Christian-based publication, http://www.GoodSoup.com, which features many heartwarming stories.

  9. Jack said at 5:07 pm on

    Hi Bob,
    Your story focuses on the main tenet of spirituality as I see it, which is the need to constantly strive to be more. I can see a person getting ruffled while driving…. and ….after taking a while to gather their senses….take advantage of the opportunity to ponder the meaning of the ruffled reaction, and learn the lesson that the incident had in store for them.

    This is the essence of a higher consciousness. Fostering the awareness – not only to “keep control” of our reactions, but, much more importantly – to notice when we react not as we would have ideally wanted to, take the time and make the effort to learn the lesson that can be gleaned from our own inappropriate reaction. Learn what the core trigger was and work on that.

    Was your “already arrived” acquaintance open to that?

  10. Bob Burg said at 5:44 pm on

    Thank you, Jack. Yes, I am in agreement with you on this.I would interpret your phrase, “strive to be more” as striving to be more consciously aware. Living in Israel, as you do, you’re familiar with the Hebrew term, “Cheshbon HaNefesh” which means, “Spiritual Accounting” (and is the name of a famous book by 18th Century Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato). Cheshbon HaNefesh is a method of keeping track of one’s personal growth. One of my heroes, Benjamin Franklin, illustrated this beautifully with his “13 Virtues” in his autobiography. A sense of “improved consciousness” certainly comes into play here, doesn’t it?

    Your second paragaph was also right on the mark. Keeping conrol of our reactions is a huge part of this personal/spiritual growith. The Sages asked, “Who is mighty?” and answered, “That person who can control their inclinations.” (And, really, that takes work; constant and continual self-work.)

    Thank you, Jack. I appreciate your sharing.

    Note from Bob: By the way, going through all these great comments from all of you, look how many different lessons are coming to the forefront! Personally, I’m really enjoying this. Thank you!

  11. david palmisano said at 1:40 am on

    That story reminds me of a story in WWI…….when this guy is driving and he sees an angry driver behind him….and he and his son just smile and wave at the angry driver.

    I think preventing road rage has a lot to do with keeping your ego in check. Well, that’s what I learned from winning without intimidation.

  12. Sandrine Kuate said at 11:21 am on

    I personnally found the story quite hilarious, especially the part where you described your fears, as I picture the whole scene in my mind.

    The lesson I choose to learn from this is that of clemency. Obviously our faults are greater than we believe them to be. I mean, anyone of us have been guilty of thinking we were free of a particular shortcoming, and althouth I want to say, just to realize we were not, the truth is more like unable to realize we were not even when the proof was right under our nose.

    We should have mercy, mercy for ourselves and mercy for our fellow human beings because we are not done surprising ourselves and each other, especially since most of us are not yet master of our tongues.

    I am still laughing, because I think it happens to us and many others a lot more than we all care to admit.

  13. moe conley said at 11:58 am on

    The scenario described in your blog reminds me of a question that always comes to mind when responding to a situation or comment that arouses feelings of anger in me…what is the difference between ‘letting it go’ and ‘stuffing it’. WWI thinking is helping but my anger (accompanied by a red, shaking face) tells me that I’ve not mastered that demon yet.

  14. bob Burg said at 1:20 pm on

    Hi David, thank you; I’d forgotten about that story in Winning Without Intimidation. Thank you for the reminder. I agree with you; ego (and the controlling of such) typically has a lot to do in practically all areas of success.

    Sandrine, yes, it’s a great idea to judge others favorably whenever possible. Not only is it simply a more “righteous” way to live 🙂 but, since we don’t know what is going on inside another’s head, the favorable judgement is often the more accurate one.

  15. bob Burg said at 1:57 pm on

    Hi Moe,

    First, a very well-deserved CONGRATULATIONS for recognizing this challenge and for striving to do something about it. Many people with an “anger problem” (as I used to have myself, so I can definiitely relate) would simply accept that about themsleves and continue to allow those feelings to rule them. I appreciate your desire and willingness to do something about it.

    Overcoming anger is indeed a challenge. I discuss it in my ebook, “Master Your Traits – Master Yourself.” I’m going to send you a complimentary copy. I hope you find it to be useful.

    There are also many other books on the topic, and I’d suggest you look into them, as well.

    There is indeed a difference between “letting it go” and “stuffing it” and that difference makes a uge difference in your sense of peace.

    Again, way to go!!


  16. Alice Flanders said at 12:47 pm on

    Hi Bob (and others), In this story, first of all, no, I don’t think she has reached “there” yet. Second, usually you can tell if someone cuts you off intentionally or accidentally. If accidentally, they are as scared and upset as you are if not more so. If it was intentionally, I have been known not to possess as many middle fingers as I wished at times.

  17. Judy said at 11:36 pm on

    Hi Bob. Thanks for sharing this story with us. It sounds like most (if not all of us) can relate to one or more people in this situation. What a wake up call, “You think you’ve got it? Nope…”

    What I have learned is that we need to consistently strive to do better, be better, live better, talk better… and judge favorably (if we feel the need to judge).

    I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments! Much to learn from each other 🙂



  18. David Faulkner said at 2:49 am on

    Hi Bob!

    OMG – LOL!!!

    What a poignant reminder that success is a journey, and NOT a destination!

    Thanks for sharing!!


  19. Pamela said at 10:00 am on

    Hi Bob,

    That story was funny!

    Lots of lessons in that one story, remembering that my actions always speak louder than my words and may my heart, mind, body and soul always match up with what I truly want for my life…

    Put an emotional squeeze on me, and hopefully the squeeze is more than something that happens in traffic, and the inside of me will come spilling out.

    Depending on my thoughts, of course, depends on what comes out of my mouth…

    And to be honest, “some thoughts should not be thought, much less spoken.” 🙂


  20. Nick Ng said at 10:38 pm on

    I can see Bob go, “D’OH!”.

    It’s like listening to a salesman at a fitness center preaching about the benefit of healthy eating and exercise while he is munching on a Krispy Kreme.

  21. bob Burg said at 6:18 am on

    Yep, “D’oh!” would be one good response. 🙂

  22. Rich Atkinson said at 12:00 pm on

    There’s a big difference between being aware and “pursuing higher consciousness”. And you can be a whole lot more aware if you don’t resist and react and judge. Not that I’ve never yelled at someone while driving! 🙂 I’m just choosing not to judge and react. Sometimes that takes extra amount of allowance.

  23. david said at 1:24 pm on

    HI Bob,

    What is your best advice for striving towards higher consciousness if say, you have bullies for neighbors? IN the last couple of years they’ve vandalized my property (torched my mailbox and garbage cans, cut down shrubs, tore down privacy fence)…and called my mom some very bad names that I won’t repeat on this forum. There’s nothing the police can do…because there’s no proof. I fear that this year will escalate even more since the economy is falling off a cliff.

    So, how do you compose yourself when you live in a toxic waste dump, so to speak?

  24. Bob Burg said at 7:29 pm on

    David, I’m very sorry to hear you have had to go through this. As you said, these people are bullies. And, while it’s one thing to have to put up with an occasional unkind word (and that is indeed a good way to practice detachment), it’s a whole different matter when it comes to vandalism and and verbal insults to those we love.

    Interesting that on a recent Legacy Club call, we had a caller with a similar situation, and one of the other listeners had been through something remarkably similar, as well. I’m afraid the world does contain its share of bullies and they must be dealt with. Legally, of course, but still dealt with.

    The fact is, David, it IS a matter for the police. Yet, their hands are tied in not having proof. Still, my suggestion would be to keep them involved by documenting everything that happens, getting photos or video and continually (though, pleasantly) continuing to report each and every incident.

    Be, what I call, the “nice sqeaky wheel” – those are actually the ones that get results. While these results will most likely not be as fast as you’d like them to be, hopefully, over time, it will happen.

    Anyone else have any thoughts or suggestions to share with David in terms of handling this situation legally and/or emotionally?

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