THE STORIES WE LIVE BY
“It’s impossible,” said pride. “It’s risky,” said experience. “It’s pointless,” said reason. “Give it a try,” whispered the heart. – Author Unknown
It’s clear to me that growth is not simply moving forward in new directions or from new locations, though these things have, for me, proven already quite transformative. Growth must include a carefully examined view of the stories we’ve told ourselves and the ones we’ve believed—both the kind ones and the ones which leave no room for healthy self-reflection. Growth is also always about writing new “stories.” It’s about outlining the s-t-r-e-t-c-h kind we wish to guide us into the next season with the sometimes harsh yet always revealing hindsight they allow.
I once worked on a project with a photographer who seemingly had no concept of just how good he was or the depth of human emotion his images captured and what that meant to those who viewed them. He was incredibly financially successful through his efforts as he certainly understood which images were commercially viable but he’d lost his passion, his perspective and was struggling with purpose.
He knew what people responded to but he began to dismiss his unique perspective because the story he was currently telling himself, and me, was that anyone approaching his job with the resources he had access to and the set-ups he built could do the same. I remember him saying, “A monkey could do it.” It’s what he believed and for as long as he continued to do so, he continued to experience the feeling of pointless contribution. Serendipitously, I happened to be at coffee with him when a young guy approached and was basically fawning (which I fully understood because I had moments of the same). The young man was a bit discouraged because he was completely hung up on what equipment my friend was using, what kind of studio he had, what kind of post-production support he used, etc.. It turned out to be a delightful and encouraging exchange and with one raised eyebrow of my own, I heard him say, “I started with nothing. I even had to borrow my roommates’ camera the first six months. It took me a year and a half to sell my first photograph. You should give it a try. It’s really how you see that matters. It’s why those, who are meant to, will respond to your work. Trust yourself.”
[Cough. Cough. Smirk. Avert gaze. Slowly sip coffee. ‘Nuff said.]
From my park blanket yesterday, I devoured the book, The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown, Here’s How, by Daniel Coyle. (his TED talk here). Its premise is that those who are the best versions of themselves in regards to what they choose to apply themselves to “…are purposely operating at the edges of their ability, so they will screw up. And somehow screwing up is making them better.”
He goes on to summarize that, “The trick is to choose a goal just beyond your present abilities; to target the struggle. Thrashing blindly doesn’t help. Reaching does…. And when you find that sweet spot, learning takes off.”
To me, it's EXACTLY what Shonda Rhimes refers to as, "the hum," in her magic guide book, The Year of Yes. Consider treating yourself to the audio book because there is just nothing quite like her reading it aloud. She is j'amazing.
And you know....it really might be impossible. It really might be risky. But it is definitely not pointless and giving it a try is what, I suspect, we’ll each remember for the rest of our lives. And isn’t that the point, entirely?