Ever since I was a child, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of hidden treasure. I don’t know if I was stranger than other kids (I suspect I was), but I used to daydream quite a bit about secret passageways in our house. In my imagination I would discover (or even construct) the secret passageways and show them to other kids. Hidden within our walls was a network of roller-coaster-like tracks, and I could ride around on them in a cart to any part of the house I chose. In our basement was a secret door to an elevator that led down to a chamber housing my own personal flying saucer (because of course I was an alien disguised as a human).

I think this is the first time I have ever revealed these daydreams to anyone. As an adult, I looked back at them and saw something more there than just idle fantasy. I have the feeling that I was really thinking about my own self, my own mind. The house symbolized my psyche. Most of my life I struggled to “make it,” to fulfill my life’s purpose, if only I could figure out what it was. But I kept tripping over my own feet. I kept comparing myself to others and falling short. I was afraid to show people anything I created, for fear of being criticized or laughed at. The daydreams were my own way of telling me that there was more to me than met the eye (more to me than even I was aware of). There were “hidden passageways” in my own mind that I hadn’t yet accessed. In more recent years I had recurring dreams about UFO’s and aliens gradually getting closer to me, and interpreted that to mean there were “alien” (untapped) parts of myself I was becoming familiar with for the first time.

My life experience has proved that to be true. Starting a business, getting my products online, and writing a blog like this are completely alien to my past self, and it still feels strange to be doing it.

I’m sure that this is true of almost everyone as we grow older. We all start out fairly ignorant of our own capabilities, then are startled to discover who we really are. The feeling of liberation is short-lived. We soon find ourselves living on what feels like an alien planet, because in a sense we really have never been here before. You could say we define where we live as a set of experiences. If those experiences are familiar, we feel at home. Add some new experiences to the mix, and it’s not home anymore.

What does this all have to do with “Treasure is everywhere?” Well, I have to digress a little bit before coming back to this question:

I recently adopted “treasure is everywhere” as my business slogan, mostly because it just popped into my head, and I liked the sound of it. But then I had to ask myself: “Is it true?” It’s obvious that “treasure” can’t really be found on a bloody battlefield, in the death of a child, in depression, in pollution, in disease. But, I reminded myself, afterwards people get together to create charity, prevention, activist and crisis organizations; they learn lessons that prevent recurrences of the bad event; they teach others how to prevent it; they invent new devices, new ways of doing things, because of the bad events. If I looked at it that way, I could say that good can come out of bad things. It just doesn’t make the bad things good....

I also turned to my own life and saw some instances of bad-events-leading-to-good:

When I went through my darkest times, mostly when I was a teenager and young adult, I sometimes felt like I was losing my mind. I dropped out of college four times because of depression. It could have derailed my life, since I was also partying quite a bit at the time, but instead it forced me to search for a positive way out. That led me on a cross-country bike trip that had the effect of shaking me out of my self-destructive pattern, and I never fell back into a depression that deep ever again. Because I was able to survive forty-five days riding a bicycle through mountains and desert, roughing it all the way, I was introduced to a resilient part of myself I had never seen before. From that point on I was able to pull myself together enough to graduate from college. The depression could have been my undoing, but instead I saw it as a warning alarm that told me to wake up to what I was doing wrong. (I should mention that the depression I had was psychological, not physical or due to chemical imbalance.)

That’s only one example out of many. I realized that there were quite a few “bad” experiences in my life that yielded positive nuggets of learning experience or led to revelations, new resources, better pathways.

I’m also finding the “treasure is everywhere” statement to be true in regard to developing my business. The fact is that I have no idea if what I’m doing is right, no idea if I’m headed in the right direction with my products. My business plans usually don’t turn out the way I want them to. I’ve run into many obstacles and problems that stopped me in my tracks, like accidentally trashing some cache files that gutted one of my online interactive projects and then compounding the disaster by backing up the gutted files without realizing anything was wrong. In each case I was forced to use the “seat of my pants” approach to get beyond the obstacle. That’s where ideas would “intuitively” pop into my head, and I would follow them as “trail markers” leading to other useful ideas. Before I knew it, that became my approach for developing the whole business. I would pretty much feel my way along, often having no idea where I was headed until I got there. It’s a lot like The Secret Treasure Path, the puzzle game on my Website, where you reach the treasure by uncovering Puzzle Words and following cues and clues as they are revealed to you. In fact, that’s how both the game and The Magic Number Technique (my eBook about improving productivity) were born--by following intuitive leads. It’s a scary, “alien” way to go, especially after living a life of safe familiarity. But somehow it seems to be working.

A good example of this “intuitive,” treasure-finding way of doing things occurred a year ago, when I was creating an interactive online greeting card similar to an eCard. I’d already worked on it for four months and felt that I was getting nowhere with it. I was having trouble keeping myself in front of the computer for longer than an hour. As soon as I’d delve into the greeting card, I’d get very tired and bored. My mind would wander. I’d start watching YouTube videos and visiting forums. The old self-sabotage demon was raising its ugly head, and I was at a loss what to do about it. Then a simple thought came unbidden into my brain: I was stuck, because I didn’t believe the business was real. I didn’t have my business license and tax ID number yet, much less my products fully developed. If I went out tomorrow and took the scary steps of getting my license, even before I had the products ready, I would somehow find myself getting unstuck. I knew that to be true, but I didn’t know how I knew it. I had to take it on faith. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got.

The next day I did some quick online research about where to go and what steps to take. I also made a few phone calls, surprised to discover that there wasn’t much to the process. In fact, I got the whole thing done in about three hours. I came home with my business license and tax ID in hand, not quite believing I’d done it. For some reason I’d always thought that’d be the hardest step, but it was incredibly easy. That night I had dinner with friends to celebrate. The next day, I woke up and immediately brainstormed about the product I was working on. It was clear to me that I had taken it in the wrong direction, which explained some of my inertia.

About an hour into the brainstorming process, I came up with the idea that changed everything: I could place a “hidden treasure path” inside the greeting card leading to a treasure. The greeting card would be free to send and access, but you’d have to pay to convert the greeting card into a treasure hunt game. The idea excited me so much that I jumped up and practically ran to my computer. I was no longer stuck, and haven’t been stuck since, even though I scrapped the greeting card idea, only because there were already too many flaws in it before I started applying the “hidden treasure path” makeover.

There seems to be a “metaphysical” aspect to this story that still has me raising my eyebrows, and it has to do with a Panda Express fortune cookie. (In fact, this is one of several “metaphysical” events in the past year that tie in with Panda Express fortune cookies, and I mention one of them in my eBook.) The day after having this brainstorm, I went to Panda Express to have lunch. I opened my fortune cookie and gasped, attracting the attention of some diners around me. The fortune read, “Hidden treasures are found where you least expect them.” I keep it next to my computer to this day, along with several others that say things like, “You are an adventurer on the highway of life,” “Life isn’t a struggle; it’s a wiggle,” and “Your current plans are going to succeed.”

This example is only one of many hidden treasure discoveries I’ve experienced recently. Since then, I’ve changed the “hidden treasure path” to the “Secret Treasure Path.” There’s a small one in my eBook, The Magic Number Technique, leading to the password for the interactive Web Player Book version, and there’s another one hidden in the Web Player Book that leads to the password for the game. It’s not quite the same as the idea I had for the greeting card, but it was definitely inspired by it.

Now I’ll go back to the question about comparing “treasure is everywhere” with discovering “alien” parts of ourselves. The simple answer is that the “alien” parts of ourselves are really the treasure that we’re trying to discover. It’s a little like the quote from the New Testament about lighting a candle and not hiding it under a basket (bushel). As we wander through life on our quest and run into obstacles and challenges, we need to learn new ways of breaking through, and that invariably means discovering new parts of ourselves and revealing them to the world, so to speak. There might be a material treasure involved, but that can’t be gained and fully realized without the treasure of insight into our true selves.

Final Word

So what are some of the keys to finding this treasure? Here I’m speaking from my own experience and the experience of others. You’ve probably heard all or most of this before, but it’s always good to be reminded of it again, especially when it’s described in a different way:

1. The first key is a tough one, but for me it seems to be the most important, and that is to believe or have faith that there really is treasure for you to find. As I developed the business, I went through distinct stages. While I was involved with each stage, there often was a barrier (some kind of “scary” action I knew I had to take) standing in the way of the next stage. Usually I didn’t know what would happen once I reached the next stage, as if the barrier were an actual wall, beyond which I couldn’t see. That’s what scared me more than anything: the unknown circumstances of the next stage. As I would fearfully approach the barrier, the little voice of intuition would say, “Keep on going. Once you get through the barrier, you’ll know what to do next, and everything will be all right.” Sure enough, as I described earlier, new ideas, new resources, and new inspiration would come to me once I made it to the other side.

2. Follow your path. As Joseph Campbell said, when he was talking about the “heroic quest” that each of us has set before us, “Follow your bliss.” This is the path that makes you happy, the path that excites you most, where your passions are stirred up. For some, it’s a matter of finding out what that path is first. I had a very general idea of where I was headed, but it took a long time to find out the specifics. Even though I didn’t know exactly what my calling was, I decided to head off in the general direction, the direction that felt right. Only then did the path become more clear, with one door opening after another, while other doors closed.

3. Follow your intuition, just like I described earlier. This is a tough one for all of us, because it’s hard to know which voice is the right one. There’s the voice of reason, what we sometimes call “common sense.” There are the voices of our bad habits. There are the voices of the past, of society, of peer pressure, of fear. And then there’s the voice of intuiton. For me it’s more of a feeling, a reluctance or a sense of excitement, that guides me. If I feel “wrong” or “dead” about a direction, a person, etc., I won’t go that way (unless I’m overwhelmed by fear or some other kind of pressure). But first I’ll pause and ask myself if the sense of “wrongness” is actually irrational fear instead of intuition. If I’m excited, it’s pretty easy for me to recognize that as the right way.

4. Work on helping yourself, through therapy, self-therapy, introspection, exercise, nutrition, spirituality, meditation, or whatever program/direction feels right to you. Sometimes this is necessary for overcoming blocks and enhancing the quality of your life. I have a lot of experience with this, and I had to try out a lot of techniques and even develop my own before I could see results. What worked best for me? Hypnosis, visualization, journaling (especially cathartic writing), NLP reframing, pendulum work (using my own “customized” way of using a pendulum to speak with my subconscious mind), dream interpretation (making associations with dream images), and three techniques I developed over the years, including The Magic Number Technique, which isn’t so much a form of self-therapy as it is an aid to getting work done better and easier.

5. Give. Following the path of your calling or true purpose is one way of giving, because you are offering your talents, passion and abilities to the world. But you can also give of your time, money, resources, help and attention to others. It’s been said many times before that this creates a flow of abundance (treasure) through you and to others. Ultimately, this is really why we improve ourselves and seek the true treasure in ourselves, in others, in our lives and in the world: to share it and brighten other peoples’ lives. By doing this, you discover the treasure of feeling really good about yourself, and that goes a long way to helping you overcome habits or ways of thinking and acting that make you feel bad about yourself.

I know that these are topics I simplified quite a bit, but I wrote them “on the fly,” as the thoughts came to me. I’m not a psychiatrist or life coach, so I mostly speak from my own experience. I hope that you found at least some treasure in this article/blog post. Happy treasure hunting!

Author's Bio: 

Ken Vandre is the owner of the interactive game/self-improvement eBook Website and online store,The Enchanted Kiosk. He is also a former art gallery director, with over nine years of experience in the field. Most of his life he dedicated himself to overcoming and growing beyond the troubles of his childhood, which included poverty and a dysfunctional family situation. In the process, he tried out countless self-help techniques and developed a few of his own, which became one of the foundations of his business. You can find his Website at http://www.theenchantedkiosk.com