The Man Who Found Success by Saying “Yes” to Everything

The Man Who Found Success by Saying “Yes” to Everything November 30, 2022

Michael Singer, saying yes
Jen Theodore via Unsplash

What if you trusted the flow of life enough to completely let go? What if you stopped making decisions and began saying yes to whatever life brought your way? Would life unfold the way it was supposed to—instead of the way you forced it to happen?

These are the type of questions that led Michael A. Singer to try something he called The Surrender Experiment. It’s the title of a book he wrote several years ago that details the amazing twists and turns that Singer’s life took once he made the following decision:

  • To stop analyzing and overthinking every decision he made
  • To start saying “yes” to everything life brought his way

Before I get into the details, let me give you some background on Singer. He is probably best known for his first book, 2007’s The Untethered Soul, which landed him a guest spot on the Oprah Winfrey show and became a #1 New York Times bestseller. But his more recent book reveals something even more interesting—his personal story behind the story.

Singer was a self-described “hippie” living near Gainesville, Florida, when he went on a quest to quiet the chattering voice inside his head. It’s the voice many of us hear, the one that analyzes and often criticizes our every move. He began a process where, with help from a daily meditation practice, he learned how to quiet the overanalytical part of his brain. Instead, he went with “the flow,” letting things happen rather than trying to steer them to his will.

While in a Radio Shack one day in the late-1970s, Singer took an interest in one of the very first personal computers. He began making trips to the store to “play” with the display model, eventually buys one and teaches himself how to write computer code. He ends up developing a billing program for a doctor’s office. Through a series of snowballing synchronistic events, his company becomes the largest medical software firm in the US.

Singer credits his surrender philosophy for putting him in a position to achieve this success, even though he had never envisioned himself as a businessman. As Singer said “yes” each step of the way, trusting that life was steering him in the right direction, his small business grew into the market leader.

Here’s how Singer explains his success

Singer points out that there’s a conundrum that most of us face in our daily lives. It’s the conflict, or what Singer calls “the battle,” between what we want from life and what life gives us. In his words:

The battle between individual will and the reality of life unfolding around us ends up consuming our lives. When we win the battle, we are happy and relaxed. When we don’t, we are disturbed and stressed.

Singer asks himself if life has to be this way. He wonders “if the natural unfolding of the process of life can create and take care of the entire universe, is it really reasonable for us to assume that nothing good will happen unless we force it to?” So instead of doing battle with life, Singer charts another course:

I decided to just stop listening to all the chatter about my personal preferences, and instead, start the willful practice of accepting what the flow of life was presenting me.

He literally puts life in charge, realizing that “life was asking me to get out of the way and let her do her thing.” This is easier said than done because it often means saying yes when the judgmental part of his brain wants to say no. But Singer had spent years readying himself for this task. He had learned to calm his overthinking mind and quiet his ego by meditating for hours each day.

One important point I should mention about Singer’s philosophy: Don’t confuse “surrender” with passivity or weakness. For Singer, “it required all the strength I had to be brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown. His will still wanted its way. So, according to Singer, “I let go of myself and allowed what was meant to be—to be.”

By accepting “the challenge of serving the energy that came my way,” Singer was able to build a large national company. It was not all a bed of roses. At the peak of the company’s success, it was brought low by an unscrupulous former-employee who falsely implicated Singer in a kick-back scheme. An overreaching federal prosecutor pursued Singer in a case that was tied up in the courts for years.

The charges were eventually dropped, and Singer decided to leave the business. He went back to his Gainesville homestead where he had started his meditation sessions 40 years earlier. Over the years, his property had grown to over 100 acres and several structures and hosted daily yoga and meditation services. In his words, “because I had surrendered each step of the way, no scars were left on my psyche.” He returned home in peace.

Singer believed he was given the most important lesson in life

Singer had learned that by putting life in charge, everything would work out just the way it was supposed to. Below are the author’s parting words, lightly edited, summarizing his experience and the surrender philosophy:

Joy and pain, success and failure, praise and blame—they all had pulled at what was deeply rooted within me. The more I let go, the freer I became. I realized to the depth of my being that life knew what it was doing. Once you are ready to let go of yourself, life becomes your friend, your teacher, your secret lover. When life’s way becomes your way, all the noise stops, and there is great peace.

After first publishing this column several years ago, I reached out to Michael Singer with a question. You might be interested to see his response in the story “How do I go with the flow of life when I’m broke?”

 

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