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Category Archives: Fear and Failure
When we’re on the outside looking in, when we compare ourselves to others, when we listen to the glossy, photo-shopped stories the media feeds us about people who’ve “made it,” we often feel like there’s something wrong with us. We lack what other people have.
I remember early on during my spiritual path when I first started learning to meditate (and even after one of my first trips to India), I struggled with questions of faith. I thought I would wake up one day and all my doubts and insecurities would be gone because I was on a “path.”
They didn’t. In fact, they got louder.
And when I compared myself to the images and stories being spun of saints who seemed to have conquered all their fears, I felt even worse about myself.
Similar to when I was in my 20’s starting to act. No one in any of my classes talked about their struggles with the work. It was always about discussing the “character arc” and objectives. Here I was feeling doubt and loathing, excitement and dread – all these contrary emotions – but no one else was talking about them.
Years later I read an autobiography of the spiritual icon (and Nobel Prize winner), Mother Teresa. It was a watershed moment. The woman who had been publicly portrayed as the most saintly and devout of nuns actually had many dissonant feelings about her faith. She struggled and felt alone and lost. She said she was hypocritical because the outward face presented to the world was smiling and beatific, but inwardly, she often experienced absolute confusion and disbelief. Who would have thought that the woman who was considered the most faithful woman in the world actually struggled bitterly with her faith?
The moral of this story is twofold. First, and foremost, because of her contrary thoughts, Mother Teresa was even more a hero because she continued to do such serviceable work. She helped millions. Her inner battles didn’t leave her feeling sorry for herself or inert. They didn’t stop her from doing good. She persevered.
It also is yet another example of how we aspire to be like the often air-brushed images that are sugarcoated and fed to us making us believe that people who are achieving great things have something extraordinary that you and I lack.
We need to stop comparing ourselves to glamorized images. We need to realize that the same stuff you and I struggle with is the same stuff everyone on the planet works through.
The true heroes are the people whose work is not abandoned because of their fears or doubts. They’re heroic not so much because of the work they do (although that itself can be inspiring) but because of their honesty and bravery in pushing through their challenges to continue creating the work.
Compare yourself less.
Realize the hero is your own hero within.
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” ~ Mother Teresa
EVERYTHING you want is in the Unknown.
We’re not taught the physics of creativity so we listen to the pseudo-self (our Ego) — which tells us that the unknown is a scary and unsafe place to be. And it tries to prevent us from going there.
But a deeper part of us craves the unknown, desires it. The adventurer, the seeker in you – knows that all expansion in life, all discoveries, all creative victories have only occurred by stepping into that which is unknown.
Look at your own life. Anything that you’ve accomplished that has been meaningful or significant or fulfilling has required that you first step into that which is unfamiliar.
You had to take the leap.
But because our minds tells us things like “You’re going to get hurt.” “Don’t be stupid.” “You can never do that.” “You’re crazy!” “Who are you to try that?” – and on and on – it feels almost counter-intuitive to step into the void.
But the unknown is really just a scary word for something that is actually the material we need in order to create. It’s the creative matrix. It is infinite potential. It is the substance needed for your creative genius to take root and grow. The unknown plugs you into universal consciousness – a stream of information and ideas you cannot access without first taking the step into that which isn’t familiar.
Stop running away from it. Turn back and step into it. Fully. Totally. Committedly. You’ll see that it supports your step. It’s been beckoning you to take the leap into it all along.
And watch what happens in your life.
The novelist, Andre’ Gide, said it best:
“In order to discover new lands you must be willing to lose sight of the shore.”
Except that you don’t see yourself that way. You see yourself through the dirty mirror of the left-brain’s Maddening Mind Matrix.
That is, when life gives us a big fat “No!” – which it will invariably do if you’re out in the world pursuing your dreams – we personalize the “No” in a way that triggers our left-brain’s default neural groove.
Hearing a “No” isn’t really that big a deal. But when we associate that “No” with incorrect interpretations in our left hemisphere (“I’m talentless.” “It’s never going to happen for me.” “I suck.”) we immediately let the “No” defeat us.
We stop moving forward. We move back to Baltimore. We reach for that Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby. (Which by the way, is amaze-balls! And they have a gay version called Hubby Hubby!)
Or we personalize the defeats by beating ourselves up for the way we look or who we are — thinking that if we were someone else it would just be easier.
Well, first of all, it wouldn’t. (Unless maybe you’re Brad Pitt.) And actually, he’s got his shit too. Everyone does!
So all we need to do is a bit of radical re-working of our brain’s neural wiring. It’s like Frankenstein’s monster. You have to start re-booting your neural groove so you don’t let defeats defeat you.
Why are we wired to the lies of our left-brain and not the truths of our hearts?
Remember, the next time you hear a “No,” it means nothing more than that. Actually it means that you’re in the game of life and every “No” you get brings you closer to a “Yes.”
Stop thinking you’re this:
When actually you’re this:
Watch the Frankenstein experiment with the lovely Amy. “She’s ALIVE! She’s ALIVE!”
“Happiness is equilibrium. Shift your weight.” — Tom Stoppard
James Cameron said that. And he should know. He made PIRANHA II. Absolute 1981 trash. But if he’d given up after such a dismal failure he would have never created AVATAR. Indeed, his future successes were born out of his early failures.
Fail. That may seem counter to what we’ve all been taught, but only in failing do we ever achieve any sort of growth, understanding, insight, expansion. Within each failure is the seed for future success.
If you look at your life, you will see that every success you’ve had has come from overcoming obstacles and disappointments, falling down and getting up again.
The willingness to fail is the spirit behind every major accomplishment. Because doing things that matter involves great risk. Once you decide that trying something – which includes failing – is better than not trying at all, you begin to see that failure, itself, does not define you. It is actually a construct of the ego, used to keep us from attempting new things. The ego will do whatever it can to keep you looking good. And there’s nothing more crushing to our ego-selves than attempting something and having the experience not measure up to our expectations. But the ego is just one tiny part of who we are.
The greater part of you – the seeker – the part that transcends the ego, desires adventure. It desires risk. It desires stepping into the unknown. It is not concerned at all with the outcome of things. Or how we look. Or keeping us safe. Or comfortable. Or defended. It just wants to create. Powerfully. Non-judgmentally. Fearlessly.
Can you imagine how radically different your life might look if you started to live from that sense of freedom?
Homework: This week – fail at something. Try something that’s hard. Do something in which you could get rejected. Attempt an experience that might humble you. Step beyond your comfort zone. You might notice that if you give up the attachment to the end results (and how you look) — that even if you don’t get what you desire — the act of attempting something is more fulfilling than the outcome anyway.
Why? Because you tried.
“The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss, but that we aim too low and hit the mark.” — Michelangelo
Long before I wanted to be an actor/writer/director/teacher, I wanted to be a cheerleader. Yes! A cheerleader. Suffice to say, that dream was shot down quicker than you can say, “Gimme an A!”
I grew up in the Midwest and back then the only thing scarier for a boy wanting to be an actor was a boy wanting to cheerlead. Well, that didn’t stop me. Sixth graders are very resilient! With head held high and my short shorts pulled higher, I kicked ass auditioning in front of the Kingsbury faculty and snotty team cheerleading captain, Cathy Kincaid (ummmm…all she knew how to do was the splits!).
Back handspring after back handspring didn’t impress. Looked upon like a leper wearing spandex (It was 1980 after all!), I was told that although I was better than all the girls who auditioned (Splits can only get you so far, Cathy Kincaid!) – it was just “too much” to have a boy on a girl’s cheerleading team. Too much what? Drama? Inconvenience? A school having to face their prejudices and fears?
I got a big fat “No” that day. It hurt. Like hell. Someone torpedoed my dream. But I was a determined little shit and I wasn’t going to let that “no” stop me.
I turned to gymnastics instead.
Re-adapt. Re-imagine. Re-invent. Re-assert. Re-design. But don’t ever quit.
Homework: Today you’re probably going to hear a “no.” An agent, a producer, a casting director, someone — is for some arbitrary reason — not going to like you. So what?!!? If you’re getting “no’s” it means you’re doing something right. It means you’re engaging with the world in a way that is actually forcing people to respond to you. It means you’re putting yourself out there and taking risks. It means you’re in the game of life. So seek the “no’s” today. Actually get out there and seek a “no!” So many people give up because they interpret “no’s” as failure. If someone negates you, don’t let it stop you. Just shrug it off and move on. It actually means you’re moving in the right direction.
Watch this two-minute video lesson to remember: None of this is personal!
“I am a performer. That is my life. That is what I am.” — Joan Rivers