Simple in nature, yet profound in impact, Twelve Pillars is truly a must have for anyone who can relate to the young traveler; stuck and unsure of the cause, yet eagerly wanting to create something special with their life. While it covers a range of topics from financial wealth to the importance of life-long learning, Twelve Pillars, in its essence, is about experiencing the magic in your life that comes when you are working towards a betterment of self.
Each “pillar”, or life lesson, could be a book unto itself, yet few are as under valued (and therefore more worthy of attention) than the focus on building strong, meaningful relationships.
The Big Idea
Developing your “Relationship Green Thumb”
Anyone who gardens regularly (and even most that don’t) will tell you that the first steps aren’t easy. Taking a piece of barren earth and turning it into a lush, colorful landscape requires vision and effort. There is soil to be turned and weeds to be pulled. The first steps take a lot of time, energy and sheer determination.
One of the many, great analogies in Twelve Pillars is the comparison of building a beautiful garden to cultivating deep, lasting relationships. Just like a beautiful garden, cultivating a relationship requires three critical elements – Time, Effort and Imagination. Only with the application of all three should we hope to expand the roots of our relationships.
So why bother? Why focus on creating strong relationships? Because real relationships are possibly the greatest immeasurable aspect of wealth that exists for human beings. The feeling of being connected; of being understood and appreciated is one of the greatest experiences of life. Peer acceptance and approval are inherent needs. All the money and accomplishment in the world mean nothing if you’re alone on your deathbed.
So spend time with loved ones. The term “quality time” gets tossed around a lot, but what does it really mean? In terms of Widener and Rohn’s definition, it means spending more time, full of more effort to connect, and more thought on creative ways to enrich that relationship. Focus not on what is, but rather what could be.
“Imagination just means that you have to see with your imagination what the relationship could be.”
Twelve Pillars, page 41
Monitor your Associations
“Every relationship you have is an association, and each association has either a positive, neutral or negative effect on you”
Twelve Pillars, page 63
Not every relationship you have in your life is one worth hanging onto. This can be a touchy subject for some. No one likes being told who to be friends with, and who they should disassociate from. So instead, just consider the above quote. Chances are there are people in your life who have a neutral, or perhaps even negative, effect on you. The question is, what’s more important to you – keeping that person in your life out of habit, or removing them in an effort to be a better person? Take some time to think about the relationships in your life. Quite simply, you should be able to place every person you know into one of three categories; Disassociation, limited association or expanded association.
Life’s too short, and too full of promise to waste it on the negative peoples of the world. If you know that someone in your life is perpetually taking more joy and enthusiasm from you than they’re giving back, I would recommend reevaluating how much time you spend with that person. Think of it this way – there’s only 24 hours in the day. Wouldn’t you rather spend those hours with people who want to get the most out of life? Surround yourself with the best. “Attitude is greatly shaped by influence and association.” (pg 67)
If you were asked to define communication, what would you say? Communication is talking? Listening? Sharing a message? Chris Widener has one of the most unique definitions of the term we’ve seen. It’s also one of the most powerful:
“Communication is two or more people working together to find the common ground of understanding. And when they find that common ground, they are positioned to have tremendous power together.”
Twelve Pillars, page 99
“Working together to find a common ground of understanding”. Powerful thought, that. Communication is a collaborative activity, not a competitive one. So often in our day to day interactions we are simply looking for ways to convince others of our point of view; trying to get them to see it from “our point of view”. Not only is this an ineffective relationship builder in the long run, (how deep can a relationship possibly be in which you’re constantly trying to bend the will of the other person?) it also requires a tremendous amount of energy. Look at it this way – You can tug-o-war for inches, or you can pull in the same direction and gain miles. It may be a slightly new direction than originally planned, but keep in mind – your million dollar ideas are waiting in places you’ve never been.
Simply told and beautifully written, Twelve Pillars is a wonderful little book with the power to both inspire and instruct. As Jim Rohn and Chris Widener’s first collaborative project, Twelve Pillars is a testament to the knowledge of these two men, and their gifted ability to translate it into universal truths. For those looking for an entry point into the realm of personal development books, I can think of few better starting points than this.