Seeds of Greatness


Seeds of Greatness: The Ten Best-kept Secrets of Total Success (1983) by Denis Waitley is a teaching tool to add to learning about life and how we think, reviewing ten simple “secrets” for living a happy and successful life.


Denis Waitley says that each of us is born with seeds of greatness inside of us, waiting to be nurtured and cultivated. In this book he outlines ten attributes, or seeds, that can lead to a fulfilling life, drawing on his own life’s experiences and aiming at empowering people to change their life for the better.

At the end of each session the author allows for introspection in order for the reader to do some true soul searching and gives an action plan to apply each of the ten seeds to his own life.

The goal of the book is to help the reader to combine positive attitudes with his natural abilities, to choose his goals and follow steps to attain them, to build on his self-reliance and so enhance his self-esteem, to make the right decisions, to understand others and be understood by others, to overcome feelings of unworthiness, and to set and achieve higher goals.


  • The Seed of Self-esteem: the author invites us to think about what we are planting and harvesting, and how can we expect to harvest good when we plant bad. Before we can give love to tohers, we must feel love inside ourselves. We generally form our self-esteem level from the way others speak and act toward us, and if we don’t separate who we are from what we do, it leads to bad self esteem if our actions have been bad. We need to overcome the fears of rejection, change and success to ensure we grow to maturity in our goals and values. When we see ourselves and others as valuable and worthwhile it is the basis of our ability to love others and achieve things worthwhile.
  • The Seed of Creativity: when we were born, we were a blank plate – no pictures, no story, no dialogue. As we grew we accepted the stories, the dialogue and other things that others were giving us, and our self image grew with us: if we were nourished and cultivated, our self image grew with happiness and success, and vice versa – if we were neglected and undernourished, we have probably struggled with unhappiness and low achievement. We become conditioned to the input we receive from our families, friends, and teachers, so we need to get creative and make a new pattern for our life, where we actively visualize and create our future in advance. How we picture ourselves will determine how our plot unfolds. Visualizing living in the future we want, tells our mind that we are there now.
  • The Seed of Responsibility: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, or “we reap what we sow”, so, according to the author, we have two options: we can accept conditions as they exist, or accept responsibility for changing them. Rather than replaying our past mistakes, we should learn from them; rather than fearing what may happen in the future, we should live and do in the present; we can control our concepts – our thoughts and imaginings become realization. We can control our contacts, our communication, our commitments and our causes: choosing worthy causes gives us courage and confidence.
  • The Seed of Wisdom: the author defines wisdom as the combination of honesty and knowledge applied through experience. He says that living according to our spiritual convictions, our integrity and our social conscience allows us to be true to ourselves and respect others. He suggests an interesting exercise to allow ourselves some reflection and improvement: to think what we would do if we had our lives to live over again. He lists steps toward wisdom:
    • Continue learning. Classes, courses etc.
    • Use dictionary to look up and learn new words.
    • Read lots. Increase vocabulary.
    • Take aptitude test.
    • Question your honesty in all things.
    • Encourage your children/others to develop natural giftings.
    • Think, say and do what you believe is true in all situations.
    • Model yourself after people you respect and admire.
  • The Seed of Purpose: goal setting is the instrument to living with purpose – if we fail to set goals, we fail to achieve any. Once goals are set we need to say affirmations, and to follow ten action steps to achieve them:
    • Set short term goals.
    • Set goals just out of reach but not out of sight.
    • Get group reinforcement.
    • Establish a reward/celebration for when goal is met.
    • New Year – put goals in envelope. Open next New Year. Set new goals again.
    • Use calendar/diary to track goals.
    • Use calendar/diary to set time frames for upcoming goals.
    • Check master list of goals daily.
    • Don’t share goals with negative people. Look for encouragement.
    • Pay yourself each month and save some money for the future.
  • The Seed of Communication: two most important aspects of communication are empathy and love. We should walk in another’s shoes before we criticize or pass judgment. Demonstrating value for and looking for the good in others builds confidence in communication. Ten steps to better communication are:
    • It’s never too late. Don’t wait. Don’t leave a void that can be filled with rumour or misrepresentation.
    • Empathy doesn’t assume. Put yourself in others’ shoes.
    • When listening, take responsibility for hearing. When speaking take responsibility for conveying message.
    • Look at yourself through other people’s eyes. What do they see?
    • Listen for truth, speak the truth. Check validity of information.
    • Be open-minded. Consider without prejudice. Then research and test integrity.
    • See positive and negative side of issues. Pursue the positive.
    • Check that you shift roles to cater to communication needs of different people. eg. business partner, spouse, friend, parent.
    • Who are you communicating with?
    • A touch is worth a thousand words. A hug, shoulder rub, arm pat can mean a great deal.
  • The Seed of Faith: Waitley defines faith as the promise of the realization of things hoped for and unseen, and despair as the premonition of our deepest fears and unseen darkness. As life is a self-fulfilling prophecy (you don’t necessarily get what you want in life, but guaranteed, you will get what you expect!), it’s up to us to choose faith and hope, or despair and fear. His ten steps to optimism or faith are:
    • Fly with the eagles. Live with optimism and realism
    • If ever depressed visit a children’s hospital, a retirement home, a burns unit or an orphanage. If that doesn’t help, try the opposite – visit a playground or park where children are playing.
    • Listen to upbeat, inspiring music.
    • Change vocabulary from negative to positive.
    • Realize change is OK, although sometimes unfamiliar, unexpected and vulnerable.
    • Get high on endorphins. Think positive thoughts with the only side effect being happiness.
    • Enjoy positive recreation and education.
    • Visualize, think and speak well of your health. Use positive self talk on a daily basis.
    • Call, visit or write to someone in need every day.
    • Attend church on a Sunday. Parents note that studies on drug abuse among teenagers reveal that those NOT using drugs have a religious belief, have (extended) family relationships, and high self esteem.
  • The Seed of Adaptability: the author says that “the good old days are here and now. In reality we can always find the worst of times and the best of times. It all depends on what we’re looking for.” His ten steps for adaptability are:
    • Examine your sense of humor. Laugh at yourself.
    • Take responsibility for your emotions. Say “I feel angry.” instead of “You make me angry.”
    • If upset, wait until adrenaline is released before talking to person involved. Address behavior. Don’t criticize the person.
    • Arguments are not won. Agreements are won.
    • Change is inevitable and normal. Accept it.
    • Don’t engage in “all or nothing” situations. Salvage what good you can.
    • Let other people take responsibility for their behaviour.
    • Learn to say “no” to commitments when you already have a full calendar.
    • Simplify your life. Focus on your purpose.
    • Engage in recreational activities.
  • The Seed of Perseverance: the seed of perseverance is the test of faith, and that’s why winners who believe in themselves work at doing things most people are not willing to do. They press on and never give up their dream. The ten steps to perseverance are:
    • Do high priority work first. Important gets priority over urgent/busy.
    • Concentrate time and energy on 20% that provides 80% return.
    • Anticipate short term drop in productivity when you make life changes.
    • If you fail, get up. Fail again, get up again.
    • Associate regularly with people who have similar goals.
    • At a dead end? Take a renewal break. Regroup, refresh.
    • Always expect the unexpected.
    • Specialize before you diversify.
    • Look at problems honestly and logically.
    • Do more than asked, contribute more than required.
  • The Seed of Perspective: the author makes us ask ourselves: “Are we running to or from our fulfillment?” We should look at why are we doing the things we are doing, and are we doing the things that count. We should look where we stand in each of the following areas: mental, social, spiritual, physical, family, financial, professional, community support – and see if we are balanced in all areas, or we need to work on some on them.

Readers Reviews


This book has been the most memorable and biggest life impact book I have ever read. Originally read in my mid twenties. Reading it again at 50!

Dr. W. G. Covington:

Dr. Waitley reminds us of a truth his grandmother told him, “things don’t matter as much as your attitude toward them.” (…) Love is the most valuable gift that can be given he writes, and quickly adds, that it cannot be given by someone who doesn’t possess it. Love is an emotion. When we feel it inside, we have something to give. Giving love away is done by successful people regardless of the crowd he notes because, “their own self-worth is stronger than the rejection or acceptance of their ideas by others.” That’s a small sampling of the delicious intellectual meal awaiting you in this extremely motivational book. It will fill your mind with the kind of input that will work itself out in desired accomplishments.

Anonymous Barnes&Noble customer:

Denis’s writing style is edification through story telling. He keeps your interest all the way through, uplifts you, gives you action steps at the end of each chapter and provides overwhelming proof and real-life stories to illustrate the validity of his philosophy. I know this is an older book, I just wish it were still in print and circulated through schools.

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