I had a breakup when I was eighteen with a girl named Anita. I thought she was special, but looking back, I wonder aloud, "What was I thinking?" She used to make out with her poodle.
But I was inconsolable back then. So my dad threw a coffee-stained paperback at me. "Try this," he said. "I won it in a card game at work."
The book was called Your Erroneous Zones and at first glance people thought I was reading a sex book. "It's not what you think," I told them. "It's just a similar spelling. Honestly, I'm not a perv."
Well, I was a perv. But I didn't want them thinking so. So I took to reading the book under the table.
Your Erroneous Zones taught self-actualization and was packed with tips on managing relationships with people. I must have read that book and Wayne Dyer's other early stuff a hundred times. "It's brilliant," I told people. "Made me a new man. Just don't read it in public."
His ideas on self-empowerment helped me forget my emotional woonkiedonk and direct my energy towards self-improvement. I even bought his books for friends who read them, and then did questionable things like end long-term relationships (for the best) and quit jobs to go to clown college (probably also for the best). Wayne's ideas were dynamite.
In a sense, these books inspired my career later in life. And also I enjoy seeing personal transformation and also Wayne looked so content hanging out in his robe, drinking a Coca-Cola. He made guru seem a viable career path.
It was around that time I dragged my dad with me to see Wayne Dyer give a talk in Detroit. "I just win books in card games," my dad said. "I don't really read them."
"Well I do," I told him. "Trust me, this is going to be great. Wayne's a genius."
Boy, was I disappointed.
I expected an intense, go-getting, run through-the-wall type speech. Instead I got a guy wearing robes and talking about spiritual stuff, forgiveness, our souls... Who cares? I wanted to hear more tips on handling the sarcastic cashier at Kroger.
But I had to admit, he held the crowd spellbound and was one of the most naturally charismatic speakers I've seen. In hindsight, I learned a lot that night about speaking, performance and how to handle yourself as a thought-leader without being an arrogant prick.
Flash forward twenty three years later to 2010 and I had mostly forgotten about Wayne Dyer. My inspirations had become things like Modern Shakespeare Interpretation and soaking in the tub for a long time.
And so I was surprised when I was sitting in Madison Square Park in Manhattan, minding my own business, sipping a Starbucks and tweeting a photo of my foot, when Wayne Dyer walks up and stands in front of me, talking into his cellphone.
I think this is kinda an odd moment considering he was my guru when I was 18. He looks down at me, I nod politely, and he covers the receiver and says, "Talking to my daughter," as if it's the most natural thing to mention to a stranger. I say, "You're Wayne Dyer. I saw you speak in Detroit in 87." He says, "I'll be right back." Twenty minutes later he walks back, still on the phone and hands me two DVDs of talks he did for PBS or some such and walks away. I am again disappointed in my Wayne Dyer experience. "I'd rather have had a photo," I mumble to myself, "than some stupid DVDs. Who gives out DVDs anymore anyway? Just weird."
I never opened the DVDs and re-gifted them to a friend of a friend. Surprisingly, this woman ends up loving the DVDs, and in turn offers me crash space in her loft in NYC as I was desperately looking for an apartment then and burning money staying in a hotel. It was a life saver. And being in NY enabled me to later meet my lovely wife on the lower East.
So years later, today, at my Conversation Camp in Chicago, a client asks me for any books I've read in self-help and I tell him the truth. I told him most self-help is crap and I avoid reading other people's stuff for the most part because I want my ideas to sound original and be representative of experience and real-world testing, and not just theory. "I like to work things out for myself even if that can be a torturous route sometimes." But then, for some reason Wayne Dyer pops into my head and I tell him about these very old books that I read years ago.
The client has indeed heard of Dyer, so I tell him the story of the strange meeting in the Madison Square Park.
We finish the camp and I get back to my hotel here, and check Twitter and I see Wayne Dyer has, this very day, passed away at his home in Hawaii.
I'm again disappointed in my Wayne Dyer experience.
RIP Wayne Dyer