Lao-Tzu or Laozi
Statue of Lao-Tzu, or Laozi

Wayne Dyer, Lil’ Wayne, & the 38th Verse of the Tao: Unleash Your Inner Gangsta

When you’re actively seeking it, inspiration for life coaching, career and transition coaching, and everyday living comes from many places.

Given my own “music composer” side, I tuned in to Katie Couric’s recent Grammy Awards special where she interviewed several popular music stars. Among them was Lil’ Wayne, a hip-hop/rap artist known for his fiercely independent image.

What impressed me was the energy with which he pursues what he loves. He is so passionate about his creative work that he has the phrase “I am music” tattooed above one of his eyes.

Later in the interview, Couric pressed Wayne on a few more controversial elements of his lifestyle, including a few arrests for marijuana possession. He explained, “I am a rapper…I’m a gangsta…and I do what I want.”

Couric then noted that with his level of visibility, he might be considered a role model by many. To this, he suggested rather bluntly that if people really need an example for how to live, then they shouldn’t have been born.

When I hear someone talking about the “gangsta” lifestyle, some dangerous and not-so-nice things come to mind, such as anger and violence. In that world, many venture beyond occasional recreational use of substances into addictions and numbing of pain and fear.

Also, there undoubtedly are many youth who look to Lil’ Wayne and other musicians for a sense of identity. I don’t agree that seeking role models for some degree of guidance is a sign of weakness.

At the same time, I also don’t like to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Beyond the surface of Lil’ Wayne’s message and energy, there is some truth that may be applicable to many of us.

Renknowned self-empowerment guru Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, a 60-something Caucasian with a Baby Boomer-Yuppie and simple living appeal, has a strikingly different appearance than the heavily tattooed, jewelry-bearing Lil’ Wayne. However, some of the two Waynes’ thoughts run parallel, and tie into those of a renowned spiritual philosopher.

My mom had recently read Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. She shared with me an excerpt that I’ve found particularly relevant, and that promptly led me to the library to check out Dyer’s book in more detail. Leave it to good old mom to chime in with those well-timed nuggets of wisdom from time to time.

Mom knew that a struggle in my own life – and one that I work with others on – has been to strike a balance between doing good in the world, fully utilizing and enjoying my talents, and earning a living.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a greater pull to focus more upon some of my creative interests like music composition, interests I’ve had since a very young age but largely pushed aside due to “practical” concerns like pursuing a stable and respected career. Alongside my bookishness and nerdiness, years ago I was in African drumming and hip-hop dance groups, and was long considered the best beatboxer (vocal percussionist) in my schools.

In his book, Dyer draws upon the Taoist teachings of Lao Tzu, including the “38th Verse of the Tao.” I had read portions of the Tao Te Ching years ago for an Eastern Religions course, but at that time I apparently wasn’t ready for this information.

The 38th Verse of the Tao, as cited by Dyer, includes the following:

“A truly good man is not aware of his goodness and is therefore good.

A foolish man tries to be good and is therefore not good.

…The highest virtue is to act without a sense of self.

The highest kindness is to give without condition.

The highest justice is to see without preference.

…The great master follows his own nature and not the trappings of life…”

A key message in Lao Tzu’s writing and Dyer’s analysis is that we sometimes become so caught up with trying to look like a “good person” rather than a “bad person” in light of societal expectations that we lose sight of our nature – and we may forget how to be ourselves. We may, as I think Lil’ Wayne intended to convey, look a bit too much to others to determine how we should live.

If we take this tendency too far, it can reduce the power and energy we share with the world, our sense of connectnedness to all things, and often our inclination to act in an innately good way. As I’ve written in Naked Idealism, I’m guilty of doing this in my own life.

Another spark of enlightenment I take from Dyer and Lao Tzu’s words is that we sometimes squelch our talents, and withhold from sharing them more freely with the world, because we fear that we may get little in return. Or, we fear that the conditions we expect in our mind won’t be met. I believe this is what I’ve done with music composition.

The truth is that we might not get what we expected, we might get something completely different, or we might experience a delayed return in response to our actions.

In some ways this different way of thinking might be considered selfish, as we’re disregarding many societal expectations. It might even be considered rebellious, or in some ways “gangsta like.” In other ways, it’s very selfless in that we must let go of our ego and stop worrying so much about what others think. This helps us to be more authentic.

Being a little more rebellious can be good for us, provided we’re engaging in courageous behavior that is truly an expression of our nature, and is not merely an attempt to mask fears, hide pain, or numb the ego that is concerned about what others think of us.

While some actions of exceptionally rebellious-seeming individuals like Lil’ Wayne might be questionable in terms of their healthiness, who are we to judge? He’s spending a great deal of his time doing what he loves, and being very successful at it, regardless of whether we agree with all of his messages. Perhaps the underlying energy of independence and connection to one’s nature is something we could all use a bit more of.

Do you often find yourself overly concerned with what the world thinks of you, and whether you’re being good enough? What are two or three things you can do over the next week to become a “gangsta of the Tao”?

Photo by Flickr user Lucas. Size and contrast adjusted. License.

Dave welcomes phone-based life, career, and transition coaching clients from around the world.

4 comments

  1. Dylan Lee says:

    I am very happy to see someone like you who could actually some good advice through your post to me, especially with Dyer’s work. I am current schooling at high school for last year, and struggling what course should I take to fulfill my own meaning of life. Two years ago, 2009, I have come across dyer’s book, Your Sacred Self, which change my entire course and direction of life. Since then, I getting more in touch with my intuition and spiritual towards the higher being. Now I am facing the choice of mny life, my heart urge me to get a path of my own nature, mostly spiritual, or music, but my family doesn’t encourage me… So I once again lost as what I did in 2009. Npw i probably will do psycology, but how should i relate my own will to this field? After reading you article, i find that one should not be hiding his ego and fears behind the mask of society needs. Is that means i should be brave to stand out for my dream? or Surrender to what i cant change, and accept what i can? Please guide me.

  2. Dave W. says:

    Dylan,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It seems you’ve already done some deep thinking and work, and have some exciting decisions ahead of you! So many possibilities.

    It’s not uncommon for parents and their kids, who both usually share the desire of wanting the child(ren) to have the best life possible, to have different ideas about the strategy for creating that best life. While my bias is toward doing what we love, it’s also true that parents often have practical advice, life experience, and wisdom to offer. Each of us has to determine how these factors weigh into our decisions. Whatever the case, it sounds like you’ll be of age to leave home soon, and that major transition (and likely increased independence and responsibility) may bring additional change in perspective.

    In cases where we’re faced with challenging societal and economic life situations, there may be a bit more initial discomfort associated with pursuing what we love the most. We each need to decide how badly we want to pursue what we love, and what temporary discomforts or inconveniences we’re willing to endure to create the reality we desire. (Although some, like Eckhart Tolle, suggest ways to reduce discomfort by accepting or surrendering to the present while still taking action to create change.) And having family and friends to encourage us in the longer run is never a guarantee—we may expect them to do so, and become annoyed because they “should” do it more, but they may or may not follow through. As we pursue our dreams with great energy, we’re more likely to connect with many amazing new people who support us, but the responsibility to get and keep the ball rolling ultimately falls upon us. This is the case whether we already have cheerleaders at the starting line or not.

    As you probably know, guidance doesn’t give answers, but offers powerful questions and observations that encourage you to be fully honest with yourself and uncover the answers from within. Your post suggests you’ve already started this process on your own. While reading and research can offer a great deal, have you also explored interactive approaches like guidance counseling through your school? If those services aren’t readily available, a favorite teacher might be able to offer suggestions. Coaching, of course, is something I frequently endorse, but coaches (myself included) generally require consent/support from parents of anyone under 18.

    Also know that while some people identify a single area of strong passion early in their education and stick with it for the rest of their career, others choose to focus on a few different areas—either at different phases of their career, or simultaneously. Whatever you decide, congratulations on taking a proactive approach to taking on these exciting questions! I have no doubt you’ll create some powerful energy in the world, whichever path you choose.

    While I hope this has inspired some useful thought, you are welcome to discard or ignore any part of it that’s not useful to you.

    Best wishes,
    Dave

  3. Dylan Lee says:

    I’m more than glad to have reply as such so far. Mainly because you are probably the first one whom I ask those questions reply with some helpful reply. Nonetheless, i will take all the initiative i have on my life to rediscover my purpose. I think practical and interactive approach is my next step.
    Thanks!

    Dylan

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