innkeepers-spooky-basementHave you ever lived someplace you absolutely hated?  You know like crappy little back room “bachelor” apartment or just above a Chinese restaurant?

We’ve all been there.

For years one of my dearest friends lived in his parents’ dreary, damp old basement with no windows, no heat and mind numbing florescent lights. Even though it met tons of his basic needs like safety, shelter, security and even food in addition to rent free… he knew it still sucked.

He would constantly dream about the day he could finally move out and up into his own place.

He imagined how great it would be and how much having his own place would improve his self-esteem and sense of self worth.

He shared with me that at times he felt like that day would never come.  It was as if just being in that basement ‘living there’ was imposing some kind of spell that kept him there, stuck, frustrated and unable to climb his way out.

You would think the opposite – but it seemed that living in that basement was destroying any and all ambition (not necessarily desire but ambition) to achieve something better something more.

It wasn’t living in the basement per say, that was destroying his ambition it was the fact that he had started identifying with and accepting his unacceptable circumstances. He had begun feeling like just being safe and having his basic physical needs met was all he was either capable of striving for or possibly even deserved.

Hell at least it’s stable” he would half jokingly say.


From the Ground Up

We all have needs that must be met at one level or another.  The need for safety, security, food, shelter, and clothing are our most basic needs. According to Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” these basic needs must be met before we can move to the next higher rung. After all it’s pretty tough to pursue “Self Actualization” when you’re homeless in the freezing rain wondering where you’re going to sleep and where your next meal is coming from.

maslows basement graphicIf Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy were a boarding house it would have 6 levels – 4 upper levels and 2 subterranean or basement levels.

Anyone struggling to meet those first level physical needs would, metaphorically be living in lower basement. Only one level up but still in the basement is where the previous needs for food, shelter, and clothing have been met but the need for safety, security, laws and stability are most pressing.


Where Few Tread

The very top of the boarding house is where very few of us reside. Let’s call it the penthouse. The penthouse has the best view, the best food and provides the most pleasure. It is from this vantage point that we can not only observe what is going on around and below us but more importantly have the ability affect real positive change in other individuals, the world and our own continued growth.

According to Maslow, getting to the level of the penthouse is pert-near impossible (he didn’t actually use that term) without first experiencing the ambitious and arduous but rewarding task of taking several flights of stairs from the bottom up and having all our needs met consecutively along the way.

But whether Maslow realized it or not there is an express way of getting to the penthouse and having most if not all our needs met along the way.


The Express Elevator is Called CHOICE

When someone living in the basement “chooses” to remain focused on his or her circumstances all they can see are the four walls and ceiling that keep them contained. They can imagine what it must be like to live upstairs but this image often contains feelings of lack, scarcity and even resentment.   When this occurs the express elevator will not move and circumstances don’t change.

If however a highly conscious basement dweller chooses to focus his or her attention outside themselves, are able to transcend their own basic needs and desires and direct their ambition towards helping elevate others he or she can almost magically begin the express elevator ascending with nothing more than a selfless and decisive thought… “There are people who are struggling a lot more than me… I can and must do something about it.”

When my friend began to think and more importantly act both psychologically and emotionally in this way everything changed.

No, he didn’t run off with the Peace Corp to save third-world children – which would not have been a bad thing, instead he did something very simple, something we can all do. He reframed his focus.

Instead of constantly focusing on himself and what was missing in his life he made the conscious decision that everything he did from that point on would in some way be of service to others. He immediately began greeting people in a way that brightened their day made them smile, his job was now about enriching his customers experience instead of bringing home a check, instead of bringing them down with tall tales of his hardships he looked for ways to encourage and support his friends, myself included.

Living in the basement of his mom’s house was no longer about a “rent free safe place to live.” Instead he voluntarily began contributing rent and groceries every month and helped out when and where ever possible. It was now about making life for his aging mom easier and more joyful.

He realize that if he were going to elevate himself from the basement into his own place and a better, higher, more fulfilling life he had to first take responsibility for his situation and start acting and living as if he were already living the life I wanted.

By changing his focus from self  to others he began to feel a true sense of belonging and love, his esteem and self worth skyrocketed, he was feeling fulfilled and confident that he was on a steady path of personal, financial and spiritual growth.

On which floor you reside in the boarding house has more to do with personal choice than it does circumstances. You now know how to magically operate the express elevator, you get to choose where it stops.

Tom Terwilliger

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[kc_heading_pac_16_pre_headline_11 size=”20″ color=”#d50000″ ]I’ve selected 4 of YouTube’s Most Viewed Videos[/kc_heading_pac_16_pre_headline_11]
having to do with the Hierarchy of Needs. 
(The third video is my personal favorite!)

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