But Niwinski, a Pole now living in Canada, believes the seemingly impossible is perfectly possible. He compares the human mind to a computer which can be programmed for success. "It is the software of the mind," he argues, "which has to be changed in order to release the tremendous potential we all have."
This is the message he brings to his yearly seminars held throughout Poland. His first seminar held in 1992 drew 26 people.
Two years later in 1994, a total of 950 Poles attended his seminars. He has even delivered a conference on motivation to the presidential staff. From his seminars sprang the foundation of two Success Clubs, one in Lodz, the other in Bielsko. The clubs, modelled somewhat on Toastmasters, provide motivation and support for members through weekly meetings.
Niwinski's growing popularity in his homeland is not surprising, given the success of his personal life. When he and his wife came to Canada in 1982, their pockets were empty. Today, he teaches at British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) and owns a computer company. JA is currently in its fourth printing (35,000 copies) with a second book, TY (You in English), soon to be published.
Niwinski tells the story of how, in 1982, he stood on the suspension bridge stretching across wooded hills and waterfalls in North Vancouver and looked at the roofs of luxury houses obscured by the trees. Wouldn't it be nice, he thought wistfully, to live in such a place? Today, he and his family live in a spacious, secluded home -- next door to those he saw more than a decade ago. For Niwinski, his home is an example of how natural it is for dreams to become reality.
Partners with Poland recently spoke with him in his home on the eve of his departure to Poland for another round of seminars.
MC: What will your itinerary be like while in Poland?
TN: Very busy. I will arrive in Warsaw on Monday morning where I'll go straight to the printers with the copy of my second book TY. That evening, I will speak at one of my success clubs. During my six weeks in Poland, I will be conducting 12 seminars in six cities, four alone in Lodz.
MC: Did you do all the organizing for them?
TN: When the seminars first started, I did. But no, not now. Six different people helped to organize these seminars.
MC: How did these seminars start?
TN: In 1990, I went to Poland and had a little lecture open to the public. I found that people were interested in my ideas, but were -- well -- very narrow-minded. I don't want to use a negative word. I understand them, since I was brought up the same way. The questions they asked me in this meeting showed that they were not really interested in how they could live better, but in telling me it was impossible to live better. So, I said to myself, "Gee, this is the perfect setting for me. I've got to come back." I spent two years preparing and, in 1992, I went there with my seminars.
MC: A leap of faith in a way?
TN: Yes, kind of. I had $3,000 to spend and I said, if I spend it and the seminars don't take off, too bad. If they do, then I know it's the way to go. I wanted to prove that one person can do it, and I wanted to be that person. I met with friends there, 12 in all. They all started telling me that I was crazy, that I wouldn't do anything, that Polish people are too suspicious. "Besides," they told me, "what do you know about success in Poland. You've lived in Canada for 10 years. How can you tell us how to live?"
MC: How would you answer this question?
TN: I'd answer, "It's your job to judge it. I tell you the truth, the principles and if they work for you, then you take them. If they don't, that's okay. If you don't believe they'll work, they won't."
MC: Who comes to these seminars?
TN: Oh, all kinds of people. There are unemployed people, managers, school teachers, architects, all kinds of professions.
MC: Your seminars cost $60 for two days. That would be very economical for Canadians, but for Poles...
TN: Yes, they think it's a lot of money. They are not used to paying for their own education. But, this way, they'll treasure it.
MC: What do you teach at the seminars?
TN: I cover the basic laws of success -- the law of control, the law of cause and effect...
MC: And what do these laws say?
TN: The law of cause and effect says that everything has a cause for which there is an effect. If you are not happy in your life, there must be a cause and you must find it before you can change anything. The most fundamental law of success is the law of control. The more we believe that we can control what happens to us, the more we can achieve. It's not necessarily objective. You might not have control, but the more you feel you have control, the more you can do. And obviously action is the key to achieving.
MC: You also talk about self-esteem, don't you?
TN: Yes. I find Nathaniel Branden's theory most convincing. He talks about it as the judgement we have about ourselves. Self- esteem is the basic motivator. This is a typical problem in Poland. People there have very low self-esteem. They don't believe they can. They were taught all their lives that they should follow somebody's orders. It was not only the communist government, but the church as well. The people followed either one or the other and, now that they can't, they are lost.
MC: So, self-esteem and motivation are at the root of the problem for the Poles?
TN: Well, I would't say it's a problem. There are many people here in Canada who have very low self-esteem and don't understand how their self-esteem works. They, like most people, are just followers. In Poland, it is especially evident, though.
MC: But some Poles are doing very well under the post-communist system, while some aren't. Why is this?
TN: There are a lot of Polish people who concentrate on complaining, that's the way we were brought up. It has worked for changing the communist system. People constantly complained and finally, they had enough. But now, the complaining is still there. One person will say, "I hate my job, I hate my boss. My life is terrible." Obviously, those people will not go anywhere. But those people who know that they can now show initiative, who start a little business, will succeed.
MC: But is it just their attitude that's preventing them from achieving success? Are there not outside forces beyond their control like the slow pace of privatization and government bureaucracy that's also hindering them?
TN: Yes, I agree. There are a lot of obstacles that make it more challenging for them. But a lot of people will use these obstacles as an excuse not to do something.
MC: What accounts for your success with these seminars?
TN: I guess they need it. I am also recommended by people who've gone to the seminars and tell their friends to go.
MC: Do the people who go want to change their personal or business life?
TN: Well, both. But if you want to go far in business, you have to transform your personal life. That's the first step.
TeTa Last updated 1997-01-30