The paths we take: Choosing our direction

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geoff laundy on canoeIn 2003, motivational guru Brian Tracy wrote Many Miles to Go affiliate link describing his African adventure as a young adult, when he survived harrowing experiences traversing the Sahara desert.

“The reason the Sahara crossing was so life-changing for me was that after it I never felt there was anything I couldn’t do.  I felt programmed for success in life — although it took me many years to understand what had really happened and why I felt that way,” Tracy wrote. “If you resolve that whatever life hands you, you will carry on, there is nothing that can stop you from achieving the greatness for which you were created.  Never give up!”

These words have touched close to my own life experience. I, too, grew up in Vancouver, B.C. and my two African journeys as a young adult shaped my life. I certainly have persisted at the most important things in life and have achieved a fair bit of success, though my international fame, if you can call that, is restricted to construction marketing.

Nevertheless, Tracy left a mystery in his book. Tracy writes that he didn’t cross Africa alone. He referred to his travel-mate as “Geoff” several times, but only once, in an obscure reference, added Geoff’s surname, Laundy.

Yesterday, I connected with Geoff Laundy and, in a fascinating interview, connected some dots.

Geoff Laundy, too, lives with his second wife in the San Diego area in a comfortable neighbourhood, but he has not achieved much fame.  He self-published a book, The Second Law of Dying affiliate link in 2005, which I doubt has achieved the best-seller lists. Earlier in his life, with his first wife, he lived in the B.C. wilderness for 25 years operating a horse farm — and making ends meet by driving transport trucks in the North.

He says, although he and Tracy now live in the same general area, they see each other only occasionally. Once he went with Tracy to Orange County, near Los Angeles, where Tracy gave a speech to about 3,000 real estate representatives.

Laundy sat at the table at the back of the room to help process orders for Tracy’s books and motivational materials.

“I got the impression, (that I’ve) never seen a bigger group of more desperate people,” Laundy said. The crowd hoping for Tracy to provide answers were people who couldn’t find their own answers. “That is what drives most people into fundamentalist churches,” he said. “They feel alone and neglected — and somebody is taking enough interest to show the way.”

Laundy offered some personal recollections of Tracy that I think are fair to publish publicly only after Laundy gives permission and I can speak with Brian Tracy.

But I am comfortable in asking, and publishing Laundy’s answer to the question: “What is your most important insight from Africa?”

One moment steps in mind, being a North American stuck in this weird place, ancient place, in some cases rather primitive . . . how does an outsider blend in?

After we had run a few borders and got into trouble, in Niamey, Niger. . . we saw this girl riding along on a little scooter, blond hair streaming along the helmet, heading to this gated but not-so-posh place, with walls around it.

Turns out the guys who lived here were part of Peace Corps, so we stayed with them.

One of the Peace Corps volunteers, it seems, had adapted by “going native” — even to the point of owning a herd of camels.

If you really want to get along, you have to blend in, you can’t stick out like sore thumb. As far as you can stand out, in attitude, when you can blend in, it is diplomatic to do so.

Of course, Laundy acknowledged, it isn’t always easy for two white young men, in their 20s, to blend in by driving a Land Rover through black Africa.

Geoff Laundy observed that, while he and Brian Tracy had indeed traversed Africa together, they are truly different people and they had their own experiences before and after that shaped and defined their perspectives.

Success, I appreciated from this conversation, has different meanings. If you are hoping for someone, anyone, to help solve your problems — if you are looking for guru with the wisdom of the ages to offer motivational insights, you may be surprised to find a far more complex and challenging story if you elect to dig a little deeper.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to publish this story’s sequel. To do it fairly and properly, I will need to interview Brian Tracy and ask some tough questions. I know Tracy doesn’t think much about the quality and perspective of most working journalists. Of course, not too many of us retain our journalistic passions, yet end up actually owning the publishing business.

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