We all spend the early years of our lives essentially as sponges — soaking up everything we see, hear, taste, and feel, without prejudice or agenda. As we grow up, various pressures conspire to avoid the risk of failure, and to build a protective shell around our fragile egos.
The irony is that we become a better skier by falling, we become a better lover by being guided by our partner’s needs rather than our own, we become a better leader by being led.
Avoiding risk is not a formula for security nor success.
I’ve always felt that if someone said to me, “If you walk around that corner with me, we’ll be in Africa or Haiti, or wherever, helping to heal people and rebuild their lives…and we’ll take care of all the stuff of your life while you’re gone,” I’d be there. That specific offer never appeared, but when I stepped off my career path to join an inspiring political campaign, I resolved to offer myself up to engage and work without regard for my ego, my “armor of achievement.”
All I can say is that it’s easier said than done. I’ve never climbed Everest nor gone to war — although a few of the movies I produced have felt like war — but, I have held a friend’s hand as they died, I’ve built companies, and I’ve gone back to school at fifty with a bunch of aggressive pre-meds because I wanted to get certified as an EMT.
None of that prepared me for the seemingly simple challenge of un‑strapping that armor and stepping naked into a new world. Reckless? Showing up in another state and offering to work on a campaign, with a team of millennials, no less — maybe. Humbling? For sure. But I had made the decision to go in clean. I wanted people to discover me through my words and my actions. I wanted my character, not my resume, to speak for me. And, as Matt Friedman says in Lanford Wilson’s play Talley’s Folly, “the difference is all the difference.”
From programming 150 smartphones on Day 1, to producing 5-10 events a week across the state throughout the summer and fall, this experience was fulfilling in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It tested me deeply; it invigorated me; it bonded me with a cohort of new friends; and it absolutely made me a better, more effective, and more empowered person.
Robert Kennedy said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
We become a better world the same way we become a better person: one step at a time.
One Step At A Time
Focus on something you care about…
- Open yourself up to new people, new ideas and new challenges
- Challenge yourself to engage and to make a difference
- Take a risk
- Step off the path and into the need
You may not often think about how special you are, you may not even realize it, but you are. Just the fact that you’re reading this, and that throughout the year you remain curious and caring, you participate, you influence, and you give…your engagement makes you special, and powerful.
Whatever your passion, you can do remarkable things.
Take the leap. Seize the moment.
Read about a solo trip to the Maldives here
Read about the role curiosity plays in longevity here
Read our profile on Paddy Renouf here