Disruption, Innovation, and Success from Egypt: A New Insight


This week at a talk, I came to understand for the first time that my novel The Oasis Within is about disruption, innovation, and success, both personal and organizational.

When it came to me in 2011 as a mental movie, suddenly appearing one morning from the first scene and proceeding throughout the entire story, I first thought of it as a coming of age story about a 13 year old boy who is crossing the desert in Egypt in 1934 with his wise old uncle. They talk about inner peace, the power that things have for good or ill, the immense power of the mind, the way to know our personal calling in life, the four elements that structure people’s personalities and how to identify which element leads in anyone’s life, the deepest secrets we have about success, the ways we can best prepare for any form of trouble, and what the boy’s uncle calls “The Gift of Uncertainty.”

Shortly after the book was published, I got a letter from across the world in which a businessman told me that it was his favorite leadership book ever. I had not thought of it as a leadership book at all, but after his note, I re-read it and came to see what he had seen. It is indeed a leadership book, but it’s a life book as well.

I was asked to speak at a conference on disruption and innovation, as one of the keynote speakers. And, as it turned out, the event was days after Hurricane Florence hit my home directly, taking out massive numbers of trees, blocking roads, and flooding highways. There was no power, or internet or cable, and only on and off cell service. I had to get to northern Minnesota by noon on Thursday, and in the aftermath of the massive storm on Sunday, it looked impossible. I had read during the storm, for about the fourth or fifth time, The Odyssey, the tale of Odysseus, the “storm tossed man.” Big O was praised for his adaptability and innovation, a resilient creativity that got him out of every tight spot. I used the wisdom of the ages with his example and got to my event. Five days of planning, six airplane reservations, a night in via, an unexpected rental car necessity to avoid T storms in the north, and I arrived at the destination, and at a new understanding of my own book.

And now, I can see years later that The Oasis Within is all about how to deal with disruption, create innovation, and attain success in any challenging circumstances.

I learn more about my own work from your emails, your notes, and talks I’m asked to give. If you haven’t see the book yet, I hope you will soon and that you will tell me what it is to you!

Where are Wisdom and Virtue?


We live in a surprisingly turbulent time. And because of that, I'm so very glad to be writing and publishing novels of positive philosophy that can help people across a broad sweep of ages navigate the roiling waters of the present day. We need wisdom and virtue now more than ever—two major components of the human adventure that far too often seem to have vanished in our culture. But the embers are alive and can be fanned back into flame. I hope these books can help.

I want to thank all the early readers who have written me about what they've called "a palpable sense of goodness" that comes through these stories. I had no idea that, after 19 nonfiction books, I'd be writing an epic tale set in Egypt in 1934 and 1935 that would be compared in various ways to such modern classics as The Little Prince, The Alchemist, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, and in the words of one reviewer, "The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Meet Aristotle!" In these simple stories, a 13 year old boy finds himself steeped in the wisdom of the ages and fighting the biggest battles of his life, while experiencing true friendship and the real promises of love for the first time. As we watch his challenges, we learn about our own, whatever our stage in life might be. I also appreciate all the early readers who have written such amazing testimonials for these books that can be found at their website. I hope the books can continue to make a difference in our time, to enhance both the wisdom and the virtue we have. In case you haven't seen them yet, you can learn more at this site, www.TheOasisWithin.com.

A Most Remarkable Book Signing


I recently had the great joy of speaking to nearly 600 Indiana judges, hosted by their Chief Justice and the Indiana Supreme Court, pictured above. After a lively hour of philosophy, a lot of the honorables stood in line during their lunch hour, trading food for philosophy, to buy a copy of The Oasis Within and have me sign it. The conversations we had as a result were amazing.

Judges confront daily the most troubling problems of our society, and most often the people causing those problems. They face difficulty, tragedy, and the entire range of human emotions played out in their courts. It has to be emotionally exhausting. And the workload never lets up. They don't have a hard week followed by a light load. It's endless. And the wonderful irony is that, surrounded by the greatest threats to societal disorder, they play such a crucial role in maintaining the order that allows for a flourishing culture. And, as you can imagine, it's never an easy job. Then, in their spare time, as if they have any, they do volunteer work in their communities. I was inspired just being with them.

One man recalled having heard me speak 21 years ago. He said the meeting occurred at the lowest period of his career and life, and that the hour had been just the inspiration he had needed. And now here he was, all those years later, flourishing and loving his work.

Another remembered that same event, all those years ago, and thanked me for in that talk having gotten him excited about philosophy, which he has read now for over twenty years. He works with addicts and tries to impart to them the best wisdom for living. He snatched up a copy of the new book as perhaps just the thing he needed to share with those he counsels.

The judges' enthusiasm for the new book was great to see. The Oasis Within is about inner resilience, outer results, and so much of the wisdom we need in navigating a challenging and often gratifying world. I look forward to hearing from the judges as they begin to read, ponder, and use the ideas in the book. It's a rare book signing where you see so many new books go out the door with so many avid readers who are in a position to use its ideas for great good in their communities and in their lives.

If you have a chance, thank a judge for all that they do! I sure took the opportunity I had to do so.

The Diary of Walid: Inner Peace


From the Appendix at the end of The Oasis Within, these are excerpts from a diary kept by the thirteen-year-old Egyptian boy, Walid, as he's crossing the desert in 1934 with his uncle Ali. At the end of the day, by the light of a candle or lamp, he writes down things he's learned from what he's heard, seen, and experienced. I'll provide some early samples here, and then comment.

An oasis is fun, safe, and relaxing. We can carry an oasis within us wherever we go, an inner place of calm and refreshment, by using our thoughts well.

We all have in our minds something like an emotional telescope. If we look through the end everyone uses, things will seem bigger than they really are. But we can flip it around and look through the other end. That will make things appear smaller and less threatening. So whenever anything looks big and overwhelming, say to yourself, “Flip the telescope!”

Almost anything needs interpretation. That’s where freedom begins.

Whether something is a big deal or not often turns on how we see it. If you think it’s a big deal, it is. But you can change your mind on many things and shrink them down to size.

Wisdom for life is about seeing things properly. It’s about perspective. This gives us power, because it brings peace to our hearts, and then we can think clearly, even in difficult times.

If I live most fully with my heart and mind in the reality of the present moment, I will feel better and be more effective.

Things are not always what they seem. In fact, they often aren’t.

Whenever life brings us a storm, we should use what we have, stay calm, and move quickly to respond well.

An oasis within us is a place of peace and power in our hearts.

We can learn the most from the most difficult things.

We can’t control the day, but only what we make of the day. We should always try to make the best of whatever comes our way.


Originally, The Oasis Within did not include Walid's Diary. A man I often see at the gym read the first draft of the book and he said, "It's amazing how many good ideas are in this book, really vital perspectives we all need. It would be really nice if there was some way to summarize the main points at the end, to help the reader remember all the great concepts."

I thought that was an interesting suggestion. But I had seen many books with summaries of chapters, or even of the whole book, that weren't very helpful, and were naturally very repetitive. I didn't want to add anything artificially to the book that had come to me, as if from outside me. So I waited. And then a little voice told me that Walid was keeping a journal during the trip across the desert. Sometimes he would record or summarize the wisdom he had gleaned from his uncle that day. Other times he would ponder it a bit more. And he would even have his own insights to add. And the journal began revealing itself, just as the chapters of the book had. Now, each novel in the subsequent series also has a diary at the end. To get these, I had to go into a zen meditative state and allow it to come to me. And it did.