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Robert Schuller
Robert Schuller
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Robert Schuller Interview

Crystal Cathedral

May 22, 1997
Baltimore, Maryland

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  Robert Schuller

When did you first have a conception of what you wanted to do with your life?

Robert Schuller: I was four years and 11 months old. My mother's brother, who was a Princeton graduate, came home from years of working in China, met me, ruffled my hair, and said, "So you're Robert are you? You are going to be a preacher when you grow up." I said, "Oh, thank you, Uncle Henry." And, I took it as a divine declaration. It wasn't a question. It was a prophetic statement, and I bought it, hook, line and sinker.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

Robert Schuller Interview Photo
What do you suppose he saw in you at that age that moved him to say that?

Robert Schuller: I have no idea. I think it was Providence. I don't think there's a more intelligent answer than the one religion gives: divine destiny.

Do you feel you were chosen for this work?

Robert Schuller: Oh, absolutely. I'm a Christian, and there's a chapter in the New Testament where Jesus says, "You did not choose me, but I have chosen you."

What kind of childhood did you have? What experiences were important to you as a child?

Robert Schuller: I was raised in the country on a farm. I was the last of five children, so I grew up in a great deal of solitude. I could walk to the river, and sit on the riverbanks and watch the river quietly move. It was tranquil water, not dramatic water. I could watch the clouds sliding silently through the soundless sea of space, and fell in love with the sky. And so, a quarter of a century later, when I went to California to begin a new church, I picked the drive-in theater as a place to hold church services, because I liked the sky. I didn't have to look at a ceiling. And I think that affected me subconsciously. I think I choose windows and no ceilings.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Do you think you were attempting to duplicate Iowa in southern California?

Robert Schuller: Probably, on a subconscious level. The subconscious is ahead of the conscious, and we never know what really drives us.

Were there particular events in your youth that shaped your choice of career?

Robert Schuller: Not that I can instantly recall, except for my calling into my profession.

After my Uncle Henry told me I'd be a preacher, he said to me the next morning, "That means, Robert, that you'll have to go to school for 20 years." I said, "Really?" He said, "Yes, first eight grades, then four years of high school, then four years of college, then three years in seminary. That's about 20 years." I said, "Fine, no problem." And I think what happened there was, I was imbued with the noblest quality of character development a person can receive. And, I say I was imbued with it; I didn't choose it. I didn't know it was being given to me. It was the power of delayed gratification. I set a 20-year goal. It was phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

I thought you were going to say patience.

Robert Schuller: Delayed gratification is more than patience, we now know. I got a psychology course in my undergraduate days, and then I chose to go into theology instead of psychology because I wanted the right to impose my value system on people if I felt their value system was the core of their neuroticism and, it is in many cases. But, the delayed gratification was phenomenal. Then I would -- later on, having accomplished that 20-year goal -- I would now find myself at the age of 23 and I would set a goal of creating a great movement, and build a church. I went to California with a 40-year goal, and they're few people that believe that. Well, now they do because I've spent 41 years there, but again, the power of delayed gratification means patience to wait for the big thing to come along, but you're going to keep working on and never, ever give up.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

It takes a certain optimism to believe you have the power to make something happen.

Robert Schuller: Yes. I write about it in my new book, If It's Going to Be, It's Up to Me. I say optimism is enormously powerful if it's controlled by a person, not a group; by an individual, not a collective organization; by a person who is committed to integrity and excellence.

That's all that it takes. If your idea has integrity, you know it. And then if you are committed to developing that idea -- with excellence, never compromising to mediocrity -- by golly, the world will get out of your way. Because the world is made of up people who are not committed to integrity, and are not committed to excellence.

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