One of the few shows on television that I currently watch every week is “American Pickers.” This reality series follows two men, Mike and Frank, who own and operate an upscale, antique store called “Antique Archaeology.” They obtain their merchandise by traveling all over the country as pickers. To put it simply, a picker is someone who goes around sifting through other people’s collections of junk looking for treasures, or as Mike would say “looking for rusty gold.” You can think of this as large scale, high stakes scavenging, junking, or for you high society types, antiquing. Every episode shows Mike and Frank picking through these huge accumulations of old, roached out stuff that would fit right in on a show like “Hoarders,” and they then haggle back and forth with the owner to try to buy any hidden treasures they find. They then restore, repurpose, and resell the items at a higher price in their store. As they are hunting for the diamonds in the rough, they frequently ask the owner about the story behind certain items. They are just as interested in preserving and passing on the history of America through these items, as they are in earning the greatest profit. It is the hunt and the story that drives these two treasure hunters, and this is also what makes the show so interesting. As I was watching last week’s episode, I suddenly realized that what I do in developing my Roll Models talks and writing blog posts is really just a different kind of picking.
As someone who makes a living telling stories, I am constantly on the lookout for new, insightful tales from my past that I can use in spreading my message. Whether I do this by looking through old, family photos, conversing with friends and family, or just by going about my life with an open mind, I am always on the hunt for new material. Sifting and sorting through my lifetime of memories is just mental picking. I go through all of my past experiences trying to weed out the priceless artifacts from the junk, and believe me, I have a lot of junk floating around in my head. Lots…and lots…of junk. But every so often I find a needle in this mental hay stack, and add this moment of my life to my arsenal of stories. I then take the memories that I have found and think will motivate and inspire, and use these stories to pass on a valuable life lesson, just as Mike and Frank try to pass on our nation’s history through the stories behind their items. I can even relate to the excited, euphoric feeling that they get when they find a really great item after a long day of hunting, which they call “junk drunk.” I have felt this empowering, incredible feeling several times after finding and finishing a story that is just perfect for the message I am trying to pass on. I’m not sure there is any better feeling than when you finish telling a story and know that you connected with your audience and changed their lives forever. If that isn’t “junk drunk,” I don’t know what is.
Even though “Antique Archaeology” probably does more business in a day than I do in a month through Roll Models with their picking, I still believe that I get more return on my mental picking in other ways. In order to share my thoughts on life and happiness with all of you, I have had to get deep down into myself to reflect upon my life, my values, and my feelings. Through this introspection I have found out so much about myself and what is important to me. Although my motivation for posting and speaking was purely to help others, I have been happily surprised to see that I too have gained a much better understanding of how to lead a happy life filled with new experiences. I also get to enjoy the amazing sensation that comes over me when someone emails me after hearing a talk or reading my blog to tell me how I changed their life. The connection I feel with my audience when this happens is so powerful that I can almost touch it, and I would not trade it for anything. So, sure Mike and Frank may double their money on almost every item they buy, but the personal growth and development that I get through picking my own mind is priceless.
You have probably heard before how keeping a daily journal of your thoughts and feelings is a great way to better understand your own life. And, like I used to do, you most likely
rolled your eyes and thought “great, another new age, self-help method,” as you dismissed it. I cannot stress enough how much I have gained from going through my life and writing about it, and remember I used to be a complete non believer. By becoming a mental picker and then writing about your treasures, you gain a whole, new perspective on your life, your relationships, and even yourself as a person. When you knock the dirt, rust, and cobwebs off of the rusty gold in your mind, you obtain a better understanding of where you have been, what you have learned, and where you are going. When was the last time you looked through your family photo albums? Or watched the old family videos you filmed with a shaky camcorder? Take 30 minutes at least 3 days a week to think and reminisce about your past. Do some mental picking, and climb around the mount junk that is your past until you find a gem. Then, relive the memory in your mind like a movie and write it down. You will be amazed at how insightful and educational that this process can be, and you may even find that you actually enjoy it, like I do. Although you and I may never get financially rich mentally junking through our lives like Mike and Frank will by being pickers, we will gain an even more valuable type of reward in the understanding we gain about life and happiness, and there is no price they could offer or haggle with me to buy that kind of wealth because it is priceless.