The Book of Art Mortell


In March 1998, I attended a seminar given by business oriented American motivational speaker Art Mortell entitled “How to Thrive on Rejection, Failure and Anxiety.” The brochure had, I found out later, been intended to go to one of my colleagues in Public Works Canada but somehow found its way into my In-Basket. So, with my boss’ consent I went to Toronto to participate. I had a great time. Here are some of his insights recorded at that time:

Each of us has two primary responsibilities: Relationships and Results. 

Nothing in life is important except what you take from it that makes you more aware of how good you are. 

When you have convinced your self of what you can be, you become so relaxed that there is no negative self-image to get in your way and hold you back. 

Do you see yourself as you are or as you can be? As the person you have the right to be? As the person you deserve to be? 

When you change your perception of reality you split it open and release the tension. 

The gap between “Where we are” and “Where we want to be” can cause frustrations which have to be either released or confronted. Release the petty ones like rush-hour traffic; confront the serious ones. 

Failure/Success are synonyms for the same experience. The label depends on the expectations: Mary Expected to get an “A” on the exam, got a “B” and “failed”; Martha expected to get a “B, got an “A” and “succeeded“. 

Failure renews your awareness of humility; life is an adventure to be approached with humility. 

Failure is an opportunity to try new ideas which we rarely do when succeeding. 

Failure puts scar tissue on your ego and tempers your soul. You have to test yourself. Oysters turn grit into pearls. 

Find the humour in your failures and frustrations. Use positive rather than negative self-images to deal with”failing” situations. 

You can only really fail if you don’t try;  or you give up. 

There are three conditions for happiness: 

  1. Always take on new experiences that give you a greater sense of self-worth.
  2. Enjoy the journey – have fun along the way.
  3. Modify your expectations to maintain internal harmony/balance.

Change can cause anxiety i.e. If you know you need to change, and don’t, you become even more uncomfortable.

And then this profound insight: 

Suicide is what people do when they know of no other way to become comfortable. Society tends to label that Failure. 

NOTE: In reality, committing suicide is the act of a person doing the best they can with what they have got in that moment: Hence the need for compassion. 

There are three benefits from anxiety which is the label for psychological pain: 

  1. It is a gift to encourage us to stop whatever we are doing.
  2. It helps us isolate our vulnerabilities/sources of frustration.
  3. It is a source of energy that can be used to resolve the problem that created  the anxiety in the first place.

Lastly, when Art posed this rhetorical question during the seminar everyone burst out laughing. And try to imagine his voice at the beginning and the end.

Have you ever noticed, he gently enquired, that when you are in trouble 80% of the world doesn’t care, and ….(pause for effect) .. the other 20% are glad!!

In that connection, he also made the point that good humour is that way because it represents an unexpected distortion of reality.

Here, from his web-site is another example of that:

In 1966, Bill Clinton defeated Bob Dole for the US Presidency. The morning after his defeat, Bob was asked how he felt. He said. There was no problem I went home and slept like a baby: Woke up every two hours crying.”