November 26, 2020

Isolation is the Dream Killer, Not Your Attitude…a Favorite TEDx Talk of Mine

by christopherabdo

One of my favorite talks that's a hidden gem is Barbara Sher's TEDx Talk: 

Isolation is the Dream-Killer, Not Your Attitude.

So here's my wish(es) and my obstacle(s): 

I want to create an urban homestead where people from all walks of life can have incredible experiences with nature and the educational resources that can empower people just like me, where I am now, to move from apartment dweller to a regenerative citizen of society. I want to help everyone else that won't ever be farmers or maybe hardcore gardeners, find a beautiful in home in their ecosystem. 

I have 3 obstacles: actual land and house, the audience/network to make a bigger impact and the skills needed to make both more possible. Oh and yes, I also have a rotten attitude its so rotten that its become...compost 😉 

So...what's your wish, and what's your obstacle? Send me a message, if I could actually help you in some way, I would be overjoyed 😃 

Here's a shortened transcript of the video...with some timestamps missing so you'll watch the whole thing later and hear the best stories (which I purposely left out so you'll watch it) 🙂


Isolation is the Dream-Killer, Not Your Attitude TRANSCRIPT


When I was about 36,

I had just gotten through a very bad year.

I’d gotten a divorce, I had no money, I was in New York City,

I had two very small children.

I couldn’t get a day care center, so I couldn’t take a job

We stayed in welfare hotels in New York; that’s worth writing a novel about.

They have cockroaches, so I would tell the kids,


But we got a day care center, I got a job,

And I was washing dishes when I was 36, and I thought,

“By God, we made it."

The kids were great,

I cried a lot, but we did it.

We did it, that’s good, I’m proud of myself.

And then I had another thought.

I thought,

“Is this it?

Is that what I get? 


Is my gravestone going to say,

"Her house was frequently clean 


for very brief periods of time?"


I was going to do something; I don’t know what.

I didn’t have particular talents,


I wasn’t very good at things.

But I figured, I just have a bad attitude,

because that was about the 60s, and everybody learned

about positive thinking, and "believe it and you can achieve It,"

and “create your own reality,"

I thought, “Hey, 36, maybe I’m really old and ugly

and nobody will ever love me again, okay.

But that’s not so old; I might live a while,

I’m going to see if I can figure out what the hell my dream is and go get it!”

So I went to everything.

I stood in rooms where they all stand up and say,

“I can do it! I can do it!”

And I did that,

but I still couldn’t do it.

And they said, “Think positive”, they said, “Create your own reality”.

I didn’t believe that, and you know what?

I was raised in the 50s.

In my day, if you said you could influence the universe

02:30

to do what you wanted,

02:31

or turn peoples sentences backwards, we called a doctor.

02:35

(Laughter)

02:36

I am not a "New Age" lady; I am an "Old Age" lady.

02:40

And so I just gave up.

02:42

I thought, “Well, I guess I’m going to be average;

02:44

somebody’s got to do it.”

02:48

And I tried to forget about it.

02:50

Then something astonishing happened that didn’t just change my life;

02:54

it has already, in the ensuing years, changed the lives of thousands

02:58

and thousands of people.

03:00

And that all started in my second job.

03:03

I had a job in the evening where I ran an "encounter group".

03:08

Encounter groups were something that the psychiatrist had learned

03:12

in the drug program,  where people attack you,

03:14

until you cave in, and they scream at you, and yell at you,

03:17

and you holler at them, and everybody feels better.

03:21

I was there and he said, “You’re hired; you can be a leader.”

03:24

Because I was good at it; in my family, we always hollered at each other.

03:27

(Laughter)

03:29

It was a natural ability, I didn’t think much of it,

03:32

and I had groups every night after work.

03:36

I had one on Tuesday night,

03:37

which is going to go down in history.

03:39

In this group

03:40

there was somebody named Ronnie.

03:42

Well, that’s what I call him.

03:43

I’ve been telling this story so long I don’t remember his name.

03:47

Ronnie was different.

03:49

We used to call him "Type B".

03:51

He didn’t have any feelings he was aware of.

03:55

He came because we were basically his social group.

03:59

But he leaked hostility.

04:01

It just came out of him,

04:02

and everybody laying their eyes on him really wanted to hurt him.

04:06

We had to walk him home after the group, but we were used to him, we liked him.

04:10

And he was very valuable.

04:12

Because people would come in who couldn’t get to their feelings,

04:15

this one woman came in and she said,

04:18

“I quit law school to put my husband through law school;

04:21

I became a waitress, and put him through law school

04:23

and then after that, he divorced me,

04:26

and married somebody younger and prettier,

04:28

and took the house and everything.

04:30

Naturally, because he’s a lawyer and I couldn’t afford a lawyer,

04:34

but that’s okay I guess, you know,

04:35

if I wasn’t enough.

04:38

But now he wants the kids

04:39

because he says he can give them a better life, and he really can,

04:44

but I feel funny about it.”

04:45

I was looking at the group and they were going “Grr!”

04:48

I said, “Listen, you’d better get angry,

04:50

or they’re going to find him and kill him."

04:53

And she said ‘I’m not angry.”

04:55

I said, “Try.”

04:56

She said, “I’m angry, I’m angry.”

04:58

I said, “Ronnie, would you put your fingers in your ears?”

05:02

He did.

05:03

I said, “Look at Ronnie.”

05:04

She said, "Eww, I wanna smack him!”

05:08

(Laughter)

05:10

And she said, “Ronnie, what do you dress like that for?

05:13

You idiot!”

05:14

And she switched over to her husband and she got mad at him,

05:20

and she just went off like a volcano.

05:22

Oh, it was so satisfying for everybody in the room.

05:25

(Laughter)

05:26

When she was done, she looked strong and calm

05:29

like you do when you get to your feelings.

05:31

She said, “I can’t believe I’m letting him get away with this!”

05:34

And she said, “Oh Ronnie, I’m sorry!”

05:36

He said, “I’m always glad to be of service.”

05:38

So, he was very helpful.


05:59

I said, ‘How are you doing, Ronnie?” and he said, “I’m depressed.”

06:03

I said, “Oh! A feeling! Um...

06:09

Why are you depressed?”

06:10

He said, “I hate my apartment.”

06:11

I said, “Why don’t you get another one”

06:13

They were very easy to get then, very cheap.

06:16

He said, “I can’t get another apartment because I’m too depressed.”

06:20

I said, “I think I fell for something.”

06:22

And someone raised her hand and said, “You didn’t fall for anything.

06:25

If you saw his apartment, you’d be depressed too.”

06:27

I said, “Oh. Reality. I like reality.

06:30

Okay, why don’t you guys go out, get a Village Voice,

06:33

and find him an apartment,

06:34

we’ll have a painting party, I’ll bring a potted plant,

06:38

and if he’s still depressed,

06:39

I’ll send him to somebody who’s had some training.”

06:42

And they said “Okay!" and they brightened up.

06:44

You have to understand, these were neurotic New Yorkers.


07:01

They went out, got an apartment, we had a painting party, it looked great,

07:05

and the next week we had a go-around and I said, “How are you, Ronnie?”

07:09

He said “I’m happy!”

07:10

I said, “Wow! That’s great! “OK! So who wants to work tonight?”

07:14

He said, "Wait a minute."

07:15

I said, “Yeah?”

07:16

He said, “Well now I want a woman."

07:28

We had to be emotionally honest in these groups

07:30

so somebody, a woman, said to him, "Ronnie, women hate you."


07:35

He said, "I know; fix me."


07:38

And they said, "Fix you?"

07:40

I said, "Why not? What the hell! Stand up and let’s take a look."

07:43

Ronnie, he didn’t look good.

07:45

He had one positive attribute: he was extremely clean.

07:50

That’s where it ended.

07:52

His pants fit wrong.

07:53

He looked wrong.

07:54

He talked wrong.

07:55

So the women took him to the store and got him better clothes,

07:59

and the men took him to the gym where he could stand up straighter

08:02

and not be in danger all the time,

08:04

and when it was his turn to work on Tuesday nights

08:06

he would stand up and try to pretend he was, basically, a human.

08:10

Somebody would come to him and say, “Hello,"

08:13

and he would say, “H-u-llo!"

08:16

And she’d say, "Not like that, that’s disgusting!"

08:18

He’d say, "Give me another try,"

08:20

and finally after about six months,

08:22

he said, "I think I’m as good as I’m going to get."

08:24

We looked at him and said, "I think it's true.

08:27

"Okay, let’s set a date for a party and let's go find some women."

08:30

After that, everybody would come in every week saying,

08:33

"I got one!

We got innocent visiting cousins from Ohio, and we had the party.

09:02

It was a triumph.

09:04

Nobody talked to Ronnie.

09:05

(Laughter)

09:07

But he'd learned how to make hors d’oeuvres, and he was very happy.

09:10

And when it was over I said, "You know what, guys?

09:13

Keep throwing parties; you never know, Ronnie could find somebody.

09:18

But it’s good for everybody, I want you all to do it, it's good for everybody!"

09:22

They said okay, and they did!

09:23

And he found somebody.

09:25

She was actually quite cute to look at, but she was very peculiar in her head.

09:29

But, hell, it was Ronnie, and so we were very happy.

What if we got together every week and you told us what you wanted?"


"We don't know what we want."

"Well, we help you figure it out

and then we made you do what you want to do?

I mean the world makes you do what you have to do;

10:50

you have to pay your taxes, you have to show up,

10:53

what if we made you do what you want to do?

10:55

You could have your dream; you could have any dream!"

10:58

They said, "Barbara, we’re too neurotic."

11:01

I said, "What are you talking about?

11:03

We could put a man on the moon, we got Ronnie a woman!"

And we did it.

11:10

Amazing things started to happen.

11:13

Right in that group, we got somebody into law school and through law school,

11:16

and she started a law firm with another woman.

11:21

Somebody adopted a kid, and somebody went to Cairo.

11:25

We got wonderful things.

11:27

So, my wish was to create a workshop, and I did, and everybody helped me.

11:31

I went around the country; didn't make money but I had a lot of fun.

11:34

I went around the country

11:36

teaching people how to be in these Success Teams,

11:38

because they were just great.

11:42

Then at the end, I’d say,

11:44

"I’m going to prove it to you; give me an impossible dream."

11:47

These are all true stories, I couldn't make these up.

11:49

I was in Greenville, North Carolina,

11:51

and I said, "Tell me an impossible dream; I want to show you something."

11:55

A woman stood up and said, "I want to dance with Patrick Swayze."

11:59

That's from "Dirty Dancing."

12:01

So you could hear women say,

12:02

"Yeah, you and every other woman alive on earth."

12:05

Another woman waved her hand.

12:06

I said, "Does anyone have ideas?"

12:08

A woman raised her hand, and said, "Patrick Swayze's mother has a resort

12:11

30 miles away; I work there weekends.

12:13

He comes Wednesday, I've danced with him,

12:15

I'll take you up; you wanna dance with him?”

12:17

12:26

That was nothing.

12:32

Somebody stood up, she was crying, she said "I want an animal refuge

12:35

for old dogs and old animals.

12:38

They just don’t get treated.

12:39

It’s terrible, even farm animals,"

12:41

I just said, "What’s your obstacle?"

12:43

I'm going to teach you about "wish and obstacle";

12:45

that is the secret.

12:47

If you don't learn it, nothing happens.

12:49

I said, "What’s your obstacle?"

12:51

"What’s my obstacle?!

12:52

I don’t have any money, land, license, any training; I have nothing.

12:55

I can't do it!"

12:57

Someone waved her hand, they always do,

12:59

and said, "My friend's mother just was in an auto-accident,

13:02

she hurt her back, she won't be able to run her refuge anymore.

13:05

She can't find anybody young to run it for her.

13:07

She’s got a license, the money, the land, she’s even got the animals!"

And it wouldn't stop.


Oh God, I’ve got so many.


She said, “Yes, and giraffes, rhinoceroses, and horses."

You never know who you’re talking to!”

We’re all the center of enormous amounts of information and connections

that we don't need and we don't think of,

unless somebody asks us.

I began to realize that I had found the absolute guaranteed secret to success,

and - boy! - did it have nothing to do with positive thinking.

Isolation is the dream killer, not your rotten attitude.

15:23

You can hate yourself, you always do, you know it.

15:25

You wake up and go, "I'm fat."

15:27

You know you do that.

15:28

If you wake up in the morning and say, "I'm here!”

15:31

your wife will kill you in your sleep tomorrow night.

15:34

(Laughter)

15:35

And I'll help her.

15:38

You can't walk around faking feelings, I mean to yourself anyway.

15:45

I just feel bad that everybody started it.

15:47

That says, “Cross out Positive Thinking."

15:49

And this says ”Here’s a team."

15:51

Right?

15:52

Not necessarily closest friends or parents,

15:54

because they’ve got attitudes about you.

15:56

Strangers are great, absolutely great.

15:58

So here's what you do:

15:59

You get a team.

16:02

You figure out what you want, and then you say,

16:04

"Here is my wish, and here is my obstacle.

16:07

Here's what I want, and here is why I cannot have it."

16:09

If you don't say both those things, nothing happens.

16:12

We are problem-solving animals.

Someone called me from Toronto.

16:45

She was a Success Team leader and she said,

16:47

"We have an accountant in Toronto, I have to tell you the story.

16:50

We had a group with six people; there were five women, and this guy.

16:54

He was so helpful; he knew everybody in town,

16:57

he got them bank loans, he introduced them to everybody.

16:59

But he never wanted anything.

17:01

Finally they said, "Listen, you have to tell us what you want.

17:04

We can't take anything from you anymore!'

17:06

And he said, "I can’t tell you; it’s too stupid, you’ll laugh at me."

17:10

They said, 'Oh no, absolutely not.

17:14

Barbara Sher says,

17:17

"You never laugh at anyone's dream."

17:19

He said, "Okay, well, I want to be a cowboy."

17:24

So naturally they all laughed.

17:26

(Laughter)

17:29

Someone said, "What’s the obstacle?"

17:31

He said, "What’s the obstacle?

17:32

I don’t even know if there are cowboys, I liked cowboy movies as a kid

17:35

and I wanted to be one, that's it.

17:37

I don’t know if there are cowboys.

17:39

Second, I’ve got a business; I can’t walk away hoping to find a cow.

17:42

What are you talking about?'

17:43

Someone said, "Wait a minute," and called her roommate.

17:46

She remembered her roommate had an uncle in Alberta who was a rancher.

17:49

And soon he called.

17:51

And we said, "Turn on the speakerphone."

17:54

The guy said, "I hear you’re an accountant.

17:56

I’d like to fly you out one week a month to do my books."

17:59

And the accountant said, "You can do it online."

18:02

He said, 'I know, I don’t want my business on the internet."

18:05

And then the women kicked him and he said, "I want to be a cowboy."

18:09

He said, "You can be a cowboy; just finish in a couple days,

18:12

and you can on a drive we always have them."

18:14

He said, "You have cowboys?"

18:16

He said, "Yeah, if you had steak this month, somewhere there's a cowboy."

18:21

So he did it.

18:22

He sent back photographs.

18:23

He went out, he became a cowboy,

18:25

and he does his Toronto accounts on the Internet.

18:29


20:18

But here's what I want to tell you:

20:21

We depend on each other's dreams coming true.


You have to, you have to.

20:49

You have to figure out what you want, you have to ask for help,

20:52

and you have to remember "wishes and obstacles."

20:56

And you have to let people help you

20:58

because you have to go after your dreams, and never tell me you can't do it.

21:01

Just remember: we got Ronnie a great apartment in New York

21:06

and a woman, a crazy woman, that he loves with all his heart.

21:09

We can do anything.

21:11

That’s what I wanted to tell you.

Translator: Ellen Maloney Reviewer: Samuel Titera




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