Row

may-you-be-small-crop-jpegSometimes the way forward is akin to rowing a boat: facing backward is the only way to get proper leverage. Today, to stir my pot, to get some leverage and new energy, I revisited three books that I wrote but never published (or limply offered to a tiny audience). It was a revelation. It’s as if the man who wrote those books in the past meant for me to read them today. The man who wrote them was not ready or clear enough to birth them. The man who read them today knows just what to do (including rewrite some odd bits). Here is the introduction to the first of the three books:

I’ve generally stepped in every pothole, tripped over every opportunity, broken the family dishes, and made every mistake a person can make. I feel fortunate to be alive. I used to try and hide the mess behind a veneer of “knowing.” Eventually I realized that in order to find what I was seeking I had to stop pretending that I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. I now recognize that the more I learn, the less I know. Life is not about knowing stuff. Life is vibrant when engaging with the un-known. Seeking is messy business. Being human is messy business. To pretend otherwise is…well, to pretend.

One day, while exhausting myself pretending, I realized that I was telling myself a story of fear. I realized that I was the only person invested in my fear story. I realized that I’d cast all the other people in my story as dangerous characters. I believed that if they really knew me they’d shame me. I realized that I was the only person in my story feeling pain, frustration and exhaustion. So, why was I telling myself this story? This was not the story that I wanted my life to tell. That day I began changing my story.

At some point, each of us comes face-to-face with the story of our lives. When we do, we have the choice to retreat further into hiding or to take off the mask, turn around, and walk toward the thing we fear the most. This is to seek the bear.

Every human being who has walked the face of the earth has come to the same crossroad; those that faced their bear left behind clues about how to do it. They left us messages about how best to stop hiding, how to turn and walk toward fear, what to do when it is time to stand in front of the bear’s cave and how to welcome the encounter. The clues and messages are found in the stories they left for us. The stories are maps for navigating our inner geography.

Our ancestors understood that stories are a participation sport. Our lives are mirrored in the tale of adventure. We know what to do in our personal story because we identify with the heroine/hero in the story. Their journey of transformation is a guide to our journey of transformation. Their follies and foibles give coherence and direction to our messy passage. Their death and rebirth is a map for our death and rebirth. Their story is a call for us to step more fully into our adventure-story.

As is true in all life-lessons, it’s a perfect loop. I’m back where I started (apparently) only with new eyes and a few more years of experience. Order from chaos, chaos from order, I suspect we are all, one way or another, rowing in a perfect circle.circle-peace-earth-jpeg

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Truly Powerful People (461)

461.
Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

In a recent post I used the phrase, “embracing your inner odd” and it filled the mailbag with letters of recognition. Apparently, my odd-tribe is much larger than I realized!

Secretly, I’ve believed for years that despite all appearances to the contrary, we really desire to be on the island of misfit toys. Despite all the suits and ties, all the career-track choices and ubiquitous McThought thoughts and pressuring peers, it is our square wheels that make us special. It is our missing buttons that make us unique. Too much similarity and we start to disappear. Therein lives the dragon. To appear, to be in view, we must show our oddity.

We want to fit in. It is among the strongest impulses in the human canon of desires. E.O. Wilson suggests that belonging sits atop the list. Banishment makes us food for lions; it is our pack-ness that makes us safe. Fit in or perish. Odd wrinkles brows and makes bystanders avert their eyes to prevent any embarrassing association. Therein lives the opportunity. To show the odd is to upset the norm.

Throughout history the centers of great innovation have been cultural crossroads. Where differences cross paths innovation thrives. Difference knocks us out of our comfortable assumptions. It’s the oddity that joggles new perspectives and opens the door to “what if?” Suppressing difference pours water on the fires of invention. Eliminate the odd and uniformity, stasis, and stagnation are your reward.

The inner odd provides the same service to your personal crossroads. Muting yourself, gagging your inner odd, stifles your possibilities. It limits your view. The comic, the eccentric, the alarming trickster within is meant to keep you from taking yourself too seriously so you can open. As someone once told me, “Humor is the path to confidence.” Your inner odd is a jester whose gift is to question your attachments and harass your assumptions so that you might put down your rulebook and see the possibilities.