The quest for safety and security may doom you to a lifetime of mediocrity.
The moment you make safety and security your primary goals in life, you begin to die. To settle for comfortable routine is like doing all of your grocery shopping at a convenience store. You’ll pay an exorbitant price for what you purchase there. The cost is your precious potential.
In our quest for security, too many of us choose to ignore our potential capabilities. It is certainly possible to opt for mediocrity in life and still have all of our basic needs met. We can get food, shelter, and clothing without pushing ourselves very hard; however, we were not created to be average. We were designed to excel and succeed—in our own unique ways.
The path of least resistance often becomes heavily rutted with boredom and dissatisfaction, because the spirit of creativity is built into us. To ignore it in favor of comfortable routine is to squander the greatest of gifts—our human potential.
Mark Twain wrote: “It’s good to take your mind out once in a while and dance on it. Otherwise, it gets all caked up.” That’s a colorful way of saying that we need to push out of habitual routine into new, positive directions. Life offers an abundance of opportunities when we do so.
Want to get more out of life? Make the choice to get more out of yourself.
Everyone has potential talents and abilities to share.
We all can become creative contributors whose work, in one form or another, will survive us. That is our mission here—to be of service. That’s what ennobles us as human beings, gives purpose to our lives, and brings lasting happiness and joy.
Our individual potential, acted upon in a spirit of faith and goodness, is all we can truly claim to own in life. Actions are our only possessions. Through them we expand beyond skin and bones to touch the lives of others and make some positive difference in the world.
Seeds of great potential have been sprinkled into every human being. It is tragic when people don’t realize this and fail to “germinate.” With the flowering of what is best within us comes the deepest satisfaction and peace that life can provide. To squander our potential is to lose sight of our purpose for being alive.
Think of historical figures whose lives we admire and respect. The most influential have always been those men and women whose desire-born talents were used in service to others. Each of us has the power to become such a person.
Nurture and develop your unique gifts, and use these to create a meaningful legacy.
All of us choose to be either architects or demolition experts. We can believe in our potential for growth, or we can tear ourselves down with the words “I can’t.” If we’re not going to build meaningful lives for ourselves, then we should at least acknowledge that we wield the wrecking ball.
Many people avoid the fear and discomfort associated with personal growth by withdrawing into themselves and complaining about all that is wrong with the world.
For every positive, a cynic can point to the negative. An optimist knows that every negative contains a positive. Both are correct, but only one enjoys a healthy mind and a happy, rewarding life.
A cynical, callous spirit grows to suffocate appreciation and gratitude—the keys to happiness. You cannot effectively act as both Nature’s work of art and Her art critic. Either live and breathe Her creativity or tear yourself apart. You must make the choice.
Lots of people prefer the security of a known ditch to the adventure of an unknown road. Their attitude about themselves and life is self-crippling. “Cynic” is just another name for someone who has given up.
What are you passionate about? Embark on a new, creative road that excites you. Move forward. Build your dream one step at a time—and never give up.
Whenever someone tells me “I need to find myself,” I suggest checking between the couch cushions. “Where was the last place you remember seeing yourself?,” I ask.
Too many people drift for years with the belief that their real lives will begin the moment they finally find themselves.
The acorn doesn’t search outside itself to become a tree. Successful people don’t find themselves—they make themselves. Success is a process of learning and growth, a daily act of creation which requires concentration, patience, and dedication to purpose. I believe everyone has the potential to do at least one thing well, and with great joy. But we’re often blind to our inner strengths. Even worse, we may focus on our personal weaknesses.
Never allow feelings of awkwardness or insecurity to define you. Don’t take what is best in yourself for granted. Take time to identify your personal strengths, and commit yourself to utilizing and fine-tuning these inner qualities in ways that will provide a rewarding career of joyful work.
“The best is yet to come” is true, but only when we choose to explore the best within ourselves.
Jack Lemmon in Tribute, 1979 ©Al Hirschfeld
Al Hirschfeld, whose drawings chronicled the New York theatre scene for more than seventy years, was a master of the caricature. I think his artistic style also offers us an important lesson in how to live well.
His witty portraits focused on what was most distinctive about a person—eliminating all unnecessary detail. With just a few, well-placed lines and curves, Hirschfeld not only captured a performer’s likeness, but also defined that person’s character. He excelled in the art of simplification.
Simplification is the lesson Hirschfeld’s drawing style can teach us. Often the failure to simplify our lives becomes a major obstacle to achieving our dreams. Life wants to interrupt us sixty times an hour to ask, “Got a minute?” We need to fight this and focus on our innermost desires with disciplined perseverance.
Why not take what Al Hirschfeld did with his pen and apply it to our personal goals? Efficient, effective people realize that a lot of things on their “to do” lists will never get done, because they aren’t crucial to the achievement of their desires. Such people know what to delegate, relegate, and eliminate.
Keep Hirschfeld’s drawings in mind. Cut through extraneous details in your daily life. Simplify and focus on what’s essential to cultivating your own unique abilities and making yourself ageless.
1. Learn from Lincoln. Our sixteenth president deserves a closer look. He has much to teach us about the power of laughter. His self-deprecating humor and a willingness to accept his own deficiencies were part of his greatness. A woman once accused him of being two-faced. “Madam,” he responded, “if I had two faces, do you think I would choose this one?” Lincoln understood that it’s our response to the challenges of life that either elevates or destroys us. “Most people,” he said, “are about as happy as they choose to be.”
2. Be more child-like when you fail. Kids fail and make mistakes, but they generally take it all in stride. At some level, they understand that it’s only a part of their learning. Did you stay upright on your bicycle the day your training wheels came off? Stay playful in your approach to life. Don’t mind falling on your backside now and then. Better to fall on your backside than to sit on it and not achieve your goals and dreams.
3. Step back and smile. Humor relieves stress and tension by removing us from ourselves and making us detached observers. Playwright Neil Simon says his sense of humor is partly due to his ability to step back during moments of personal turmoil. Detachment in the middle of emotional chaos allows him to view virtually any situation from a comical perspective. Using humor in this way enables us to think more clearly about problems.
4. Laugh at yourself. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re missing out on some of the funniest comedy material available. Humor reins in our ego and feelings of self-importance. It helps us keep a healthy perspective about ourselves and our place in the world. A sure sign of self-acceptance is the ability to put ego aside and take an objective look at who we really are—both our strengths and frailties. That requires a degree of maturity and humility we all need to cultivate.
5. Recognize humor as your cosmic night-light. Humor touches emotions that are felt universally. Comedian Victor Borge liked to say, “The shortest distance between two people is a good laugh.” Through humor we see our common fears and insecurities. Good comedy makes for camaraderie. A sense of humor was given to human beings because we need one. Use it to smile through failure—to success.
Are You a Disciple of Impulse?
Some people think things through—the rest only think they do.
Not many people trudge up the stairs of thought. Most glide along on escalators of feeling. For many of us, “I don’t feel like doing that” becomes a motivating force in our lives. We’re disciples of impulse.
Granted, it’s a lot easier to follow our feelings than it is to command our thoughts, but it’s best not to allow emotions to guide us. We can follow our heart, but should always balance feelings with sound judgment. Where feelings rule, rational thought is in exile. We need to think things through.
On days when I don’t feel like sitting at my easel to draw—and they are many—I park myself there for several hours anyway. Some days are productive, others are not; but I’m there at the same time, daily. It’s worth it.
The choice to override emotional impulse with mental diligence will eventually pay big dividends to anyone willing to establish a disciplined routine and stay with it.
Make every decision in the house of reason. Keep emotion outside, even when it presses its nose against the window and begs to come in. Remain with the rhythm of your routine. Instead of acting on your feelings, view every feeling as ‘a call to thought’ for you.
Imagine yourself in an art museum. Your face is positioned two inches away from a fine painting as you stare at what appear to be globs of color brushed hastily onto the canvas. That’s how most of us stand in relation to our own lives.
As observers of life, most of us are guilty of standing too close. Caught up in our daily routines and responsibilities, preoccupied with our challenges, we may fail to step back and see ourselves for what we really are—living, breathing works of art.
Your life and the planet on which you live hold little meaning when separated from their broader context. You need to stand back each day to see yourself as the marvelous brushstroke you are. Step back farther and understand that you also hold your own palette, brushes, and an infinite combination of colors for your use. In reality, you are both paint and painter, here to make your own work of art within this art gallery called the world.
It’s important to use “objective observation” during moments of fear and personal challenge. Stepping back, through emotional detachment, gives you a fresh perspective. Becoming a mental eyewitness to your fears positions you to make positive changes in attitude and behavior. You gain insight and can more easily move forward in healthy, productive ways.
A woman once came into my booth at an arts festival and sighed, “In my next life I want to come back with talent.”
“Why wait?” I asked. “Go for it now.”
I’m an artist who began with no talent for drawing, and an author who had no innate ability to write. A passion to learn these skills, and the willingness to work through frustrations and setbacks, took me to where I wanted to be. Please don’t think this is boasting. I’m a man of average intelligence. (My friends would argue I’m boasting when I say that.)
Trust me—if someone as flawed and absent-minded as I am can transform desires into talents, anyone can. We tend to look at people who excel—in any field—and think, “What wonderful talents they were born with.” Sometimes this is true. Most times it’s not.
Talented people arrived here gifted with what everyone possesses at birth—unique passions, and the potential to develop them. When we see accomplished people, we’re usually observing results, not inborn talents. We’re looking at individuals who were committed to doing things, clumsily at first, but persevered until they could do them well.
When I ask classical musicians, “Were you born with a talent for the instrument?,” most answer without hesitation, “No—I was born with a love for the instrument…and I played it horribly. But I kept playing it, hours every day, for twenty years.”
Mozart could compose and play minuets at age three. He was born with innate talent. If all other classical musicians compared themselves to Mozart, we’d only have Mozart. Inborn talent is wonderful, but it’s not a prerequisite for success. What is required is passionate commitment to a dream.
When my first book, The Power of Having Desire, was published in 2004, reporters interviewing me listened politely while I explained how passion—not talent—is the key to success, citing my own artistic journey as an example. Only after 10,000 hours of practice at the easel, I told them, did I gain an ability to draw well.
More than one reporter shook his head at this, saying, “I could spend 10,000 hours drawing, but I’d be no good at it. My talent is for writing.”
“Really?” I asked. “Tell me—were you born with that talent?” No writer (not even Shakespeare) was born with an ability to write. None of us even knows about language at birth. What writers exhibit early is a love for words and the desire to put them together in meaningful ways. No child does this well at age two; but, if words are your passion and you long to write well—then, by the time you’ve reached thirty-two, you’re probably earning your living as a writer.
What talent or ability do you long to possess? Be willing to do a thing badly…and keep doing it. Commitment to a cherished desire, with disciplined perseverance, is essential to success in any endeavor. Stay on course and new talents will emerge. Look silly for now. It’s one of the best ways to keep growing young.
MAKE YOURSELF AGELESS BLOG
Bruce Garrabrandt & Jeff White