Truly Powerful People (450)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

For years the question I have most dreaded is the cocktail party standard, “So, what do you do?” I’ve never had a simple answer. I’ve never had a single answer. And usually, my answer serves to complicate rather than simplify. Once I stopped feeling bad that I didn’t have a simple answer, once I recognized that I was never going to have a suitable answer, I decided to make the moment an opportunity for play: I used the untenable question to sort my encounters into “those people I want to know” and “those people that I do not.” I went on offense. Without hesitation I tell them whatever comes into my mind; the people that step toward the chaos go into the “people I want to know” bucket. Those that flee the chaos have self selected themselves from my future friend pool. Recently, my newest favorite friend took me to lunch and started our time together with, “Who the hell are you?” It’s worth noting that he also has no simple answer to the dreaded question.

Once, at a conference for doctors, I performed a piece that was written to seem autobiographical, but was fiction through and through. I played the role of a doctor. Off the stage, I was surprised and delighted when people called me doctor! They didn’t realize that I was an invention – and I did nothing to help correct their perception. It felt good fitting into an identifiable box. “Doctor Robinson,” they said, “Thank you for telling us your story.” I smiled and said, “Thank you for listening to my story.” All the while I was thinking, “Mom would be so proud!” For one glorious day through my invention I felt the simple joy of being identifiable to others. And, in that day, I realized with relish that it is all an invention. None of us is truly identifiable; no one is the role that they play. Double liberation!

There is an exercise I love doing with groups: pretend that your memory will be erased in 5 minutes; before your memory is gone, before 5 minutes elapse, write all that you want to remember, all that you think you value, all that you want to recall about yourself. People write about their families and relationships, they write phone numbers of important friends, they write of their dogs and their desires. I’ve done this exercise with groups hundreds of times and once, only once, at a retreat, a woman wrote that she loved herself beyond measure, that she was fulfilled and talented and caring. When I asked her about it she said, “If I have a clean slate and can only know myself through what I’ve written, why not tell myself a great story. Why not invent an amazing me.”

3 Responses

  1. I want to know the woman at the end of your story!

  2. Dear Dr. Robinson,
    The stories you tell are very powerful, and often hilariously funny to me.
    I am so glad you went to medical school.

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