You are greater than you know. You are more than you believe.
No matter what credentials, diplomas, status, or net worth you have (or don’t have), you possess the power to change your surroundings, your habits, your career, your life. You are more powerful than you know. What you say, think, and do impacts those around you. You create ripples in the pool of life. You have power. Use it. Bless others. Do good.
You are more beautiful than you feel. Although you long for beauty, to be it, to have it, to hold it, to be united with it, you are glorious just as you are. Yes. Don’t believe the lies of the media, our culture, glossy magazine covers, or social media posts. They are fantasy, untrue. There is a beauty that lays hidden from plain sight; it’s more profound, more vibrant, more authentic than what we see. It can be cultivated and grown in anyone, in you. The real beauty is the person you are, your kindness, gentleness, integrity, justice, love. By those, anyone can beam with blazing splendor.
You are more capable than you think. Don’t let the voices inside you, around you, the mistakes from the past, the fears of the future, sway you from seeing what you can do. You can learn new skills, start a venture, pursue a dream. It’s not beyond you. Every day is an opportunity to try. It’s before you always, beckoning. The only person holding you back is you. Go.
You are more competent than you think. Maybe you’ve failed here and there. But don’t count them as signs of incompetence. See them as opportunities to learn. You aren’t a failure; you’re experienced, seasoned. You’ve been around the block and got mugged and lived to tell the tale. You’re a survivor. Now it’s your chance to thrive. And you have enough smarts and skills to do more than you can imagine. Take your experience, interests, and effort and create something. It’s in you. You can. Try.
Cast off the negativity, naysayers, self-criticism, hate. There’s too much of that already.
Uninterrupted time is the fodder for creativity. As yeast is to bread, solitude is to the creative process—essential.
Without the quiet moments and lingering stillness, words that move us wouldn’t be as moving, paintings that stir us wouldn’t be as stirring, inventions that help us wouldn’t be as helpful.
Creation best happens in the quiet while you are lost in your thoughts, connecting disparate ideas, forming new ones. That occurs when no one else is stirring, during the twilight mornings before the dawn breaks or long after others are fast asleep. When they rest, you work.
You seek silence because you know that’s when inspiration roars.
It’s in those moments, you get lost in the matter at hand, discovering a deep satisfaction, mesmerized by the task, as you enter a state of flow; and it’s just you and the work, dancing freely.
Being alone can be more than just productive; it has been known to produce tears, weeping even. We can’t be isolated for too long. We are meant to be with others, connected.
Yet, solitude helps us connect with humanity differently. It may not be like grabbing coffee with a friend, looking into their eyes as they speak, hugging them as they go; it’s a different kind of connection. What we create enters into the meta-conversation. It’s making a statement to the world. It’s the act of handing others something useful, compelling, beautiful.
Peace. Let it wash over you, soothing you like an embrace of a loved one, as you ease yourself into this vision.
You are in a beautiful garden, surrounded by blooming flowers, red, orange, violet, indigo, yellow. The green is greener than you’ve ever seen it, covering rolling hills, treetops, bushes. It’s vibrant and rich. The sky is deep blue, and the sun is bright. A warm breeze caresses your skin like a lover. You release.
A stroll among the foliage along a stone path looks delightful, so your feet whisk you there. Then you slow your pace to drink the moment in. It’s intoxicating. Your fingers are outstretched, brushing the blooms around you, and you hear birds chirping songs of joy. The path softly curves this way and that, drenched in colors, leaves, shafts of light, and beauty.
You see a grassy knoll, and you decide to lie down and bathe in the sun’s luminous embrace. You can’t help but smile because it’s too wonderful, too glorious, too good. You’re soaking in all of it, absorbed in glory, basking in the bounty.
And memories begin to visit you like old friends you’ve missed and longed to see, and there you are reunited. You’re a child playing gleefully, freely, unencumbered, without a care. You remember the happiest moment of your life and relive it and relish in it.
Then, you journey into the present, and you see objects, people, and opportunities for which you are grateful, and it reminds you of how richly adorned you. And you can see clearly.
Everyone laughed, and I was the butt of the joke. I hated it. But I realized something about life.
A group of us sat around a large circular dining table, and a newly married couple started talking about how they met. It was a great story with surprising twists and turns. And then a guy shared about him and his girlfriend and how he wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. So I said something from my story to comfort him. It was revealing and somewhat vulnerable. But I thought it would help him, so I put myself out there. Then he turned it around and made it into a joke about me–and everyone laughed heartily.
It felt like being kids on the playground, except we were in our thirties and forties. It was silly, but real.
It’s most introverts nightmare—to be outed, and publicly, and I’m an introvert. The embarrassment didn’t show on my face. But it was there, along with disappointment and disdain.
Afterward, as I played the moment over in my head more times than I’d like to admit, I was tempted to stop opening myself up to others. It seemed futile, useless. But truth be told, the utility had nothing to do with my reaction; I just wanted to protect myself.
And I realized that I shouldn’t let any person stop me from giving of myself, being vulnerable, sharing my story—even the revealing parts—and living as I ought. Brené Brown, in her book Daring Greatly (affiliate), writes that vulnerability is fundamental to our being.
“Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To foreclose on our emotional life out of a fear that the costs will be too high is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living.”
We shouldn’t let others stop us from sharing our lives, opening our hearts, living with purpose. The cost is too high: we would lose you.
You have ideas, insights, knowledge, feelings, stories that can impact those around you for good. They are the inner workings you’ve been ruminating on over the years. Share them. Yes, someone may make you the butt of their joke; they may transport you back to middle school. But that doesn’t diminish the great value you can give to the world. Give generously.
If you haven’t read Range, by David Epstein (affiliate), you need to. It will change the way you think about thinking.
Most of the world holds the notion that experts are what we need, people who are hyper specialized. Ten thousand hours are what it takes to succeed, is the belief (it’s what I believed). They are the authorities; they are the ones who will change the world, cure cancer, untangle the perplexing complexities of the universe, push us into the future. But that often isn’t true.
Range delves into that. It is an amazing exploration and explanation of how you can become great at something, and it’s surprising.
The anecdotes he uses are compelling. Some of the most accomplished people in the world became great in unexpected ways. They started their craft, sport, education, much later than you think was possible to rise to the level they did. They will inspire you.
For those of you who are in midlife like me, life isn’t over. Some have recreated themselves, learned a musical instrument well enough to play professionally, started high growth businesses, lived a whole new life later in life. It’s possible. It’s in the book.
When I read it, I felt like I had new life breathed into me, allowing me to see my potential, abilities, and future anew. It gave me hope.
You see, I’ve had a windy and strange career. I hopped and bopped around: ministry, data-entry, banking, business, entrepreneur, creative strategist are the positions I’ve held. Now I blog, too. Yes, strange, I know.
And I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that I was insufficient because I was the farthest thing from a specialist. If I had ten thousand hours in anything, it was changing course, which I believed couldn’t be valuable.
But Epstein helped me see that I was wrong. He made me realize that my disparate experiences are a virtue, not a vice.
They are what help me add value because I can borrow from one experience and provide a fresh view in a completely different area. That’s what has helped me survive, even thrive. It’s what helps me ideate for my clients, start a business, think.
However, Range isn’t just for generalists. If you are a specialist who wants to find new, fresh ways of thinking, read this book.
Or if you are a person who wants to make a change or has changed a lot and wonder what good you can create in the world, Range will open your eyes.
Parents, if you’re wondering how to help your children succeed, this is incredibly insightful. It’s helping me reframe how I deal with my kids.
If nothing else, this book (affiliate) will stretch the way you think.
The death of a loved one, the breaking of love, the broken promises, the promising future never realized, the realization that your body won’t stop aching…causes us great grief; but they often act as the compass of life, directing us to our true north.
Who would we be without it? We are marked, like babes at birth.
We yearn for it to disappear, though. How could we not? It’s pain. If we could rid ourselves of it, we would in a moment, a breath. Instead, we lie awake, swallowed in darkness—pining—dreaming of healing, sustained relief, a whole wholeness, love.
It’s there. We can feel it, sensing that relief is near, and sometimes we find it. But some pains are beyond the healing found in this world, now. That adds to our suffering; it’s the pain of pain.
But it’s that ache that grows us, molds us, deepens us, enrich us. It’s our seasoning. By it, our life’s song is more sonorous—richer. It lets us resonate and connect with others, so we can weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice. Our pain unites us.
Nevertheless, I believe there is a place where whole wholeness comes, washing over us like the inevitable tide washes the shore. And we will bathe in it like a hot bath in winter, relief, but not temporary—eternal.
For now, we must move forward through the pain, forsaking bitterness, jealousy, hopelessness. Forsake them. Choose to grow. Ask for help. Pray. Seek, and you shall find. And, in the process, you will be surprised.
Our pain is like the pangs of childbirth, throbbing, ornery, agonizing. But it births something, no, someone amazing.
Book Recommendations: Here are some books that I found very helpful in dealing with and thinking about pain. Now, to be upfront, these are coming from a Christian framework. Nonetheless, they are immensely beneficial.
A gas station attendant made me pay a dollar for hot water (which I thought was absurd) and treated me rudely. And I learned something.
It was compassion.
It was a magical day. My family and I went apple picking. We drove down two-lane highways surrounded by wood and canopied by leafy branches that were starting to show signs of fall. The air was crisp, and the sun was beginning to break free from the clouds. The orchard was small, but the apples were sweet. We picked some Fuji and Gold Delicious. We felt rich.
And after lunch, a pony ride, and feeding some farm animals with our kid; we decided to return to the city. We shared our favorite memories of the day before we got back to our building.
The rental car needed to be returned, but, before that, I had to refill the tank. And there’s a station fairly close, so I went there. I got to the pump and pumped. And, as I jumped in the seat to leave, I saw my empty paper cup with my teabag that I usually use twice before I throw it away, but only used once. I went into the gas station to fill my cup up and get the most out of my teabag. I had my phone in the car and didn’t want to linger in the store. So, I ran in and filled up the cup and ran out.
And as I was leaving, I hear, “Excuse me!” I check the car for my phone and then pop back in.
“Yes,” I say, as the hulking attendant glares at my cup of freshly steeping tea. “It’s my cup and tea, and I just got hot water for it.”
“Would you just barge into someone’s living room and take hot water?” the attendant asked.
I didn’t think it had anything to do with living rooms or hot water. He thought I stole from his shop and realized I just got hot water. So he wanted to save face. He did that by telling me to pay him for the hot water. It was outrageous, but I asked him how much to see what outrageous costs. He told me one dollar; I tossed it onto the counter, wished him a nice day, jumped into the car, and zipped away to return my rental.
As I drove uptown, I was seething as I replayed the situation in my mind. I was drenched in anger and incensed with injustice. All of the bliss from the day was melting away. “It’s not the dollar; it’s the principle of the thing,” I told myself, feeding the fire.
Then I realized something that changed my whole perspective. It was this.
Pain is contagious. People who are in pain tend to inflict it on others. When one is in misery, they often make others miserable. I mean, anyone who likens a gas station to their living room can’t be enjoying their life that much.
That perspective extinguished the fire of anger I had for him. He made me feel momentary pain, but he seems to dwell in it. I had compassion for him, and that stopped my pain from him and allowed me to be pained for him.
And if we all took a moment to stop and reflect on what the person who hurt us may be experiencing, we might, just might, make this world a little better.