All great writing is in the re-writing, so don’t get too attached to anything. If I go back and look at first drafts of our chapters — ones that I thought were very good, they now seem very bad. It is amazing how getting to a great piece of literature means being open minded to feedback and letting go of things you might think are your masterpieces. I wasted way too much time not letting go.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Ash ElDifrawi, Psy.D. Dr. ElDifrawi has built a reputation as a thought leader in clinical, social, and consumer psychology. He began his career as a clinical psychologist before transitioning into work as a marketing executive for some of the most prestigious and innovative companies in the world. He is the author of the new book The Ten Worlds: The New Psychology of Happiness.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
When I started seeing patients for the first time during my internship for my doctorate in Clinical Psychology, I was struck by the simple observation that people are really bad at being happy, but even more curious to me was why some people were so much better at it than others. That started me on the 25-year journey to write the quintessential book on happiness, which was just published.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
One of the more interesting stories was when my co-writer Alex and I decided, for fun, to write a dramatic television pilot about a team of psychologists. We literally just read a book on screenwriting and got to it. Next thing you know we had an agent, producer, and optioned the show to Dreamworks Television.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
One of my first clients was a mother of three who came in to see me because of anxiety and depression. She started talking to me about a new cartoon that had recently become popular, and I interpreted her facial expressions as conspiratorially telling me that she has to watch this ridiculous show with her children every day. I agreed and shared that I thought the show was, indeed, hard to watch. Turns out I misread her expression. It was actually her avoiding “bragging” because her husband had created the show, which launched them into unexpected wealth, which she in turn was struggling with. First lesson of therapy — assume nothing!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We are working on a potential television series based on the book.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer? (i.e. perseverance, discipline, play, craft study) Can you share a story or example?
Observation and curiosity about the human condition. I learned early on in my training that ALL behavior that humans engage in makes sense to them from their perspective, no matter how self destructive or loathsome in might appear. For many, the motivations are not even within their consciousness. Only through curiosity and dispassionate examination can you help them discover what might be the driving force behind the decisions they make in their lives. It is a core thesis of our book.
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
For me it is the two stories that Alex and I shared about our individual enlightened/awakening experiences. It convinced us both that there is a type of happiness that is more amazing and beautiful than we both thought possible. It inspired him to start down this journey and it inspired me when I was exhausted trying to finish this book.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
That most likely their beliefs about what will make them happy will not lead them to the type of happiness that they really want — a happiness that endures through even when the worst of life circumstances are thrown at them, and that there is a greater type of happiness that is within their grasp.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it? Can you share a story about that that other aspiring writers can learn from?
Discipline, perseverance and focus. For me it was an unusual journey because I had another career that took a lot of my time… in fact, two other careers as a psychologist and marketer. So the challenge was finding the time and being able to quickly move my mind back into the task at hand. It is hard to bring intense focus to something then have to leave it regardless of where you are in the process, because then you have to come back and find the magic again and again. Starts and stops are hard. I was lucky to have a co-author because we helped rejuvenate each other — and fed off each other. Like any great journey, the best advice I can offer is around mindset… read the work on growth versus fixed mindset and internalize it — it will get you through anything!
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
I enjoy books that inspire me to see myself and the world in a new way, e.g, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Kahneman.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
If everyone truly seeks the type of happiness that lies in the world of Enlightenment, then we are on our way to World Peace.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Perhaps it is a cliche but you absolutely have to find something you are passionate about saying because you will be thrown obstacle after obstacle that will make you want to quit.. ..and only the personal drive to share something that matters to you with the worlds will get you through.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. I wish I was introduced to the concept of growth vs. fixed mindset much earlier in my career.
When I went to a workshop on this it was like a light went on for me, particularly how to think about overcoming obstacles and why so often we don’t fight through them. It taught me that mindset was everything.
2. All great writing is in the re-writing, so don’t get too attached to anything.
If I go back and look at first drafts of our chapters — ones that I thought were very good, they now seem very bad. It is amazing how getting to a great piece of literature means being open minded to feedback and letting go of things you might think are your masterpieces. I wasted way too much time not letting go.
3. Be prepared to make some artistic sacrifices for the sake of making your book sell-able.
If nobody buys your book then nobody can benefit from it, so you HAVE to think about commercial viability. It might feel like you are selling out, but you aren’t, you are being smart. I will be very honest in saying that I think that perhaps we should have named our book something more commercial.
4. Have a strong support system because you are going to piss off a lot of people who love you along the way.
Alex admitted to me that this book almost got him divorced because every moment of free time he had from work was on the book and he neglected his family way too much. Getting a book done requires a certain amount of obsession and you need to be prepared for the consequences of those who love you.
5. This will take a LOT longer than you think.
We thought we could finish this book in a year. It took 23. Point made!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would love society to adopt the Ten Worlds framework as the way we all talk about our level of happiness and our life condition. It creates a common way in which we can all discuss our struggles to be happy, what gets in the way, how to be happier, and a common shared mission to make the world a more compassionate place. If we all believe the happiness found in the tenth world is possible, then we are that much closer to a world in which World Peace is not just a pipe dream, but a reality.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
And on our website: thetenworlds.com
Thank you for all of these great insights!