What should you do when you don’t know what to do? This was the situation the prophet Samuel faced one day when God sent him to Jesse’s house. First Samuel 16 tells how God had rejected Saul as continuing to be king of Israel and instructed Samuel to go and anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be next on the throne.
When the prophet arrived at the house, he went to the main room, where he was greeted by Jesse and seven sons. Samuel immediately walked over to the eldest son, preparing to anoint him to be the next king of Israel. But before he could reach out to do so, God spoke to him: “Stop, it is not him.”
How would you react if you were pursuing a desired project, a product, a proposal or a person, fully expecting a “Yes,” but instead you got a “No”?
Samuel reacted by realizing that there was not just the one possible outcome he’d had in mind. There were other options in the room—the six other sons. So, thinking that it must be the next eldest son, he went over to anoint him. Again, he heard “No.” A little bewildered, the prophet then went to the next son and again heard a “No.” As he continued down the line, all he heard was: “No-No-No-No.”
Now he had a dilemma! He believed that God had told him to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next king. But as he stood in front of each of them, all he heard was, “Np.”
It is one thing to get one “No,” but much more mind-boggling when you have gotten seven “Nos” in a row.
Believing beyond ‘normal’
What do you do; how do you feel; how do you react when every option that you know of and try turns out to be a “No”?
For Samuel, the problem was additionally complicated. Remember, there were seven sons… seven options… in the room. Now, in the Hebrew language, numbers also have verbal meanings, and the prophet knew that the number seven meant “completion” and “that is all there is.”
The temptation would have been for him to think that maybe he had misunderstood God about coming to Jesse’s home or that perhaps he should go back and try anointing the different sons again. Notice that he did not respond in either of those ways. Nor did he fall into a state of confusion and disbelief.
Instead, he asked another question. Realizing that there might be an option available that he did not see nor know about, he turned to Jesse and asked, “Do you have an eighth son?”
“Yes, I have an eighth son,” Jesse replied. “He is my son David. He is not in the room but in the field, taking care of the sheep.” Samuel told them to fetch David, and when son No. 8 entered the room, he heard a resounding “Yes!”
In Hebrew, the number eight means “transcending limitations” or “going beyond normal.” This is the mindset of “increase thinkers.” They are not satisfied with what is normal. They think beyond normal. They expect beyond normal. They perform beyond normal. One reason Jewish male babies are circumcised on the eighth day after birth is that choosing that day signifies that the parents are raising children they believe are going to be beyond normal.
“Increase thinkers” believe that even if they can’t see it, or don’t know about it yet, the person, strategy, idea or money they need already exists. The answer might be on the other side of the wall of what they are seeing or dealing with.
Samuel found his answer, his No. 8, on the other side of the physical wall of a house. Sometimes just by changing our surroundings, by leaving a room and/or going outside for a walk, we can trigger fresh ideas and inspiration.
Other times the answer for our breakout is not found on the other side of a visible wall but rather a mental wall or boundary. Let me explain.
All of us think, dream, plan, strategize and examine possibilities within our existing mental boundaries. These function like invisible walls. They determine the areas where we search to find answers to problems, create relationships and establish beliefs. These mental walls were created by our past experiences, learning and feelings.
The problem is that oftentimes it is only when we go outside these mental walls will we discover the idea, strategy or person that makes something different possible for us.
Signs in the desert
Here is an example of “increase thinking” in action. I live in the city of La Quinta, a desert resort community in the Palm Springs area of Southern California. Years ago, many area residents were frustrated because they could not get the state to commit to a date for the building of a four-year college or university in the area. In order to pursue a higher education degree, many local students had to commute 60 miles or more daily each way.
For several years community leaders and officials had contacted the state’s higher education officials about opening a local campus. Repeatedly, they were told that the population base was not big enough for the state to construct a college or university. The officials said it could be 10 to 20 years before a campus would be built, if then.
The government officials and residents tried different strategies in an effort to get a school built including lobbying and calling state representatives and senators. All they got was “No-No-No.”
However, two “increase thinkers” changed everything. They arranged for a luncheon with the president of the university system and some key civic and business leaders. During a Q&A session they went outside the walls of normal and asked the university head, “What if the state had no construction expenses to build the buildings? What if we raised the money for you to have a campus debt-free? Would you then staff it and open up a campus here?”
The president replied with a “Yes.” With that commitment, everything changed. A local city donated the land that would be needed. In 90 days’ time they raised $10 million… and soon thereafter another $10 million.
Today, there is a university campus located in nearby Palm Desert, where thousands of students are preparing for a better life. Why? Because when faced with a multitude of “Nos,” two people went outside the walls of normal, believing that an answer existed, and found their “Yes.”
Richard Branson is a billionaire who owns and operates many companies under The Virgin Group umbrella. He tries to make this kind of thinking a part of the mental arsenal of his key people. He says: “I cannot count the times when we were told by our bankers, partners or lawyers, ‘No.’ However, because we were willing to try new ideas and strategies, we eventually got a “Yes.” Now so many of these are our most successful ventures that our team nicknamed me ‘Dr. Yes.’”
If this sort of thinking can be so life-changing, why don’t more people embrace it? The problem is that it is not easy to go outside of those invisible walls. When someone chooses to leave “The Land of Normal Thinking” they will experience discomfort and fear. In response to those feelings, if they are not very motivated and courageous, they will likely pull back and live inside of their old mental comfort zone.
Might discomfort and fear be keeping you from moving outside the walls of normal and pursuing the life of increase that you so desire? If so, I encourage you to do as I did years ago. Determine that the days of yielding to limiting beliefs and pulling back when feeling uncomfortable are over.
Make a decision that, more than ever before, you are not going to automatically accept the “Nos” in your life. Instead, you are going to believe and act like your No. 8, your “Yes,” may be waiting for you on the other side.