Last week I spent a fascinating morning meeting a (very hospitable) living and breathing philosopher. Having enjoyed studying political philosophy at university (more Aristotle and Plato than contemporary) it was inspiring meeting a contemporary young philosopher, German-born Dominik, who is offering to Bude a unique seminar based around his thinking.
Focused on the ‘Philosophy of Success’, his thinking is a form of personality training that’s about positivity and achieving our goals, thereby developing that often elusive feeling of attainment/success. Dominik is keen to explain he does not study philosophy but he is a wisdom-seeking philosopher and writer. He says:
“I didn’t study philosophy at a university but lived and worked from the age of 16 in the house of the ‘Countess of Korff’, Germany’s best known ‘philosopher of success’. The Countess’s seminars in Germany have been visited by many successful people, hundreds of thousands of participants. I can proudly think that her success was partly my success. I gained more valuable experience there than any university could have given me”.
Dominik explains: “Philosophy is the love of wisdom. Wisdom is the certainty that there is something real and true, the distinction between genuine and fake, something that completely excludes denial. Life is a test and success is an encounter that reaches down into man’s innermost depths and can never be reduced to merely material things. Consequently, the very magnitude of the reality is such that success is an event or inner and outer harmony”. In a society where authenticity sometimes seems hidden, and people overly-concerned with material goods, then meaningfulness is a valuable concept.
More about Dominik’s thoughts later, but who has influenced his thinking? Well, it is Viktor Frankl. You may well have heard of the late Frankl, Viennese neurologist and psychiatrist, who astonishingly survived life in three concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau, writing “Man’s Search for Meaning” as a response to that experience. He believed that people, even in the toughest circumstances, are primarily driven by a “striving to find meaning in one’s life”. This is important because the key question Dominik poses is how do we, as individuals, find meaning in our lives? He adds: “I was so very fortunate to meet the late Viktor Frankl when I was quite young” and he obviously had an impact on the young philosopher.
It may all sound a little complex but part of Dominik’s role is to not only philosophise, but to make this thinking process readily understandable to people so that they may benefit from it. I guess his own success is the testimony to his personality training methods. Dominik appears very much at peace within himself, harmonised, contented, but how did he come to be in Bude?
Like many Germans, Dominik knew of Cornwall through the Rosamunde Pilcher stories so acclaimed in Germany, and which brings many visitors to the duchy. He wasn’t a fan of the stories but did grow to love the Cornish landscape therein. There began his dream of coming to live in this beautiful part of England, with a goal of, within ten years, learning English well enough to be able to competently deliver his philosophy in English anywhere in the world. He has now pretty much reached that goal which is very personal to him, and measurable.
He aims to encourage a change of mindset by assisting people wishing to look into the deeper layers of themselves, thereby finding answers from within. Many of us are busy earning a living or gathering what we perceive are the status symbols of success, so we can forget that paying heed to our inner voice is what is important. Dominik can help us to achieve this greater balance.
Conscious and subconscious
As psychology tells us, our minds have three levels of consciousness: unconscious, subconscious and conscious. The conscious mind is the part responsible for logic and reason, controlling actions we do intentionally, such as our day to day thoughts and decision-making. The subconscious mind controls involuntary actions, such as heart beat, breathing rate and, of course, emotions, such as love, which we might all at some point feel but cannot see, may feel we cannot control, and cannot easily describe. If I’ve understood this correctly, the route to success involves balancing these levels of consciousness, so that the conscious and subconscious are in harmony.
It is in the subconscious mind that our previously-mentioned inner voice is located. However, our subconscious may be filled with a fair amount of negative experience depending upon our upbringing and lives to date (think of Frankl’s time in those concentration camps, which is probably about as negative as it gets) which we need to consciously balance with positivity. For Frankl, his survival in the most desperate of circumstances was sustained by a sense of positive meaning (life is to be lived not merely an existence) achieved through love, courage in the face of difficulty and work. Few of us have such extreme situations to deal with, but Dominik suggests that unless we make a conscious effort to learn from social encounters, but also to consciously balance the negativity with positivity, then the subconscious can hold us back in the quest for success.
Part of this focus for success relates to needing other people, but also in knowing what we want, for if we don’t have goals, then others will make our choices for us, which may not be in our best interests. It is only if we know what we want that we can then apply the belief to actually get it, to work on our personalities, to develop gratitude, but also charisma in relating to others, which is closely related to motivation. One point Dominik made was that “versatility is death”. I’d always prided myself on my versatility, my ability to be involved in umpteen things, but I take the point that such frittering of the mind means insufficient focus to achieve success in one’s goals, especially if no real goals have been set.
To achieve success then, we need to use our past to think ahead, setting honest and authentic goals for the future. This involves medium to longer term planning. So, we need to actively ask ourselves how should our lives look in 5 or 10 years’ time? What are our genuine dreams/beliefs? How do we make our lives much more than merely existing? Back to Frankl, we can see how a vision or a goal for his future would have helped sustain him through the most awful of times. Problems, even massive ones, give us a chance to show how capable we are, and to be thankful.
What we need to achieve is harmony, contentment. To find out what we really want, we need to uncover the layers of ourselves. Humans, it seems have two problems: themselves and others, so to create inner and outer harmony, we need to give of ourselves, and find gratitude in what others do for us. It is this, rather than material success, which leads to contentment and harmony.
If I understand correctly, what Dominik suggests is that the mind is our starting point. How the mind works is vital, especially the subconscious mind, our most powerful tool, and to properly harness that tool, training is essential. Other people also help make us successful, and all great people are actively trained to achieve that success. For example, Andy Murray is not an accidental tennis player; he has lots of training including mind training. Likewise, Michael Schumacher or other great sports people. We have to realise, too, that while material goods may be a side effect of success, it is personal success, inner peace and harmonious relations with people that are important.
Seminar for success …
Dominik is extremely fond of Cornwall and especially Bude, so he is organising his seminar at the Parkhouse Centre to give back to the area he has learned to embrace so positively. There are 16 places available. He is keen to explain he is not giving a talk, but a seminar (stationery and refreshments also provided) which means he plans to make people think about their subconscious minds so they can train themselves to success in life, whatever that means to them.
Don’t worry, there is no public soul-baring.
Finding out what we really want from our lives is a key part of this, so the seminar is open to young people (16+), older people (any age) professionals, sports people, and people at home with caring responsibilities; in short, everyone.
Dominik stresses he is not a life coach, nor a counsellor and focuses on the positive, not problems. He will not tell you how to live your life and what to do, but firmly believes that you can train yourself to success to be a winner on your chosen path. He says:
“What makes German products and quality outstanding? Do German footballers have more energy than others? Do successful German companies have better machines? The answer is NO – the only thing that is different is the mind. Everything created by human hand arose first in a mind. I would like to bring the wisdom of success to share with the people of Bude. Personality training seminars in Germany are quite expensive to visit, but here in Bude it is only a nominal amount. I hope people will join the three-hour evening seminar and learn from this philosophy”.