I love the idea of reframing something. In a literal sense, a new frame can make an old picture seem new. In a figurative sense, it involves looking at something in a new way. This is so important as you venture toward taking more creative risks, because failure is inevitable. Recently I entered a writing and performance contest in which we had to write a five minute monologue about our mothers and perform it in an audition. I hadn’t auditioned in a long time, because I have busy raising kids for a number of years. But I decided that I needed to take more creative risks, while I encourage my coaching clients to do the same. The audition went beautifully, because I felt alive and present and happy, and I noticed that the women auditioning me loved the piece, based on their laughter and feedback.
The next day, however, I found out that I was not chosen to be in the performance. At first, no matter how I spun it, it felt lousy to be rejected, particularly after auditioning for the first time in years. I let myself feel bad for one day, and then I woke up the next day and decided to reframe the experience. What was good about this? How could I view this differently? I decided that my rejection didn’t take away from the positive experience and that I had written a strong performance piece I could use elsewhere. I reminded myself that each new rejection was leading me closer to success.
When Madeleine L’Engle sent A Wrinkle In Time out, she was rejected by 26 publishing houses until she got a yes. The book went on to be a huge success, but not without controversy. Some saw the book as too religious and some thought it not religious enough. At first, Ms. L’Engle was bothered by the criticism, but then she realized the upside by reframing it: “’It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, ‘Ah, the hell with it.’ It’s great publicity, really.”
What is the upside to rejection? How can you reframe failure? In order to find your world stage, the first step is to stop letting fear of rejection keep you from taking little steps toward your dream. What would you do if you didn’t have any fear? Now, go do it.
I was flying with my kids recently from Boston to California. Before take-off, I noticed a family of 4, two on one side and two on the other, in the exit row. Their kids were young and they seemed pleased to have the extra leg room that comes with that row. The only problem is that children are not allowed in the exit row. The family was told by the flight attendants that they would have to figure out how to switch with other passengers since children can’t be in that row for safety reasons. They looked like they cared, but then ignored the crew, hoping that the flight crew would forget that they were there. At one point the mom looked over at me, since I was traveling with my kids, to get assurance that it was alright for her to stay in that row with her kids. I said, “No offense, but I don’t want to rely on your 7 year old to get me out of the plane if we have to get out in an emergency.” She seemed a bit embarrassed, but finally moved with her child. Her husband on the other side refused to move. Finally, one of the flight attendants shouted, “We need two adults to switch places with this man and his child or we’re not taking off.” No one budged, so she added, “I’m happy to go back to my hotel and get more sleep if you prefer not to take off.” Finally, two people switched with the man who was forced to leave the row.
I have thought a lot about that incident in the days that followed. So often we want to do what is convenient for us. We all want the exit row, whether literally or figuratively. But sometimes what we want gets in the way of what is good or right for others, and we have to defer to them. In a world of instant gratification, sometimes we have to wait, sometimes we don’t get what we want because the greater good matters more. At my son’s sleep-away camp, which was founded in 1903, there are banners flying in the dining hall that sound antiquated now: “Manners maketh the man” and “Better faithful than famous.” How many of us in modern society believe that being a good person is more important than being famous?
As you look to find your world stage, think about how you can create something better for the world that may involve you stepping away from your comfort zone. How many of us really allow ourselves to be uncomfortable? What would happen if we put our responsibility to others and the world ahead of our own individual rights?
The world is waiting for you. Sometimes the first step is doing the right thing without having to be asked.
I was talking with a friend recently about the strange phenomenon these days of really nice people raising bratty and frankly mean kids. “How is that possible? Don’t nice people raise nice kids?” my friend asked, perplexed. I’ll never forget years ago seeing a mom and her four children in a lecture hall with mostly adults. The kids started acting up. All the mom had to do was give them that look–the look that says, “You need to behave now,” and they were quiet and respectful. I didn’t have children yet at the time, but I never forgot it. Clearly years of day in and day out parenting went into that mother being able to command that level of respect from her kids. But how many really nice people just assume their kids will turn out fine because the parents are nice?
I was at another friend’s house recently and her young son came up to me and punched me in the gut for no reason. I was stunned and my friend laughed, since she thinks everything her son does is adorable. I was too polite to say anything in the moment, but shouldn’t I have said something?
I wonder if today, with our busy lives, and our over-scheduled kids, if we really take the time to teach our kids to be kind, to treat themselves and others with respect, to take a stand for something, to stand up for someone. How many of us are taking the time to stand up for an injustice or teaching our kids to take a stand, like for a child being bullied?
If we want to create a life that makes us proud, so much of that hinges on our ability to be true to ourselves. But what does that really mean? It means asking ourselves what we value and standing up for it, even if it is scary or unpopular. It means allowing us to be the misfit or the rebel or the crazy one in order to make the world a better place.
Steve Jobs wrote: “Here’s to the Crazy Ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world–are the ones who do.”
How are you going to change the world? Who or what are you taking a stand for? What would happen if we replaced complaining with creating?
This is sign I saw when traveling in New Zealand with my family in 2014.
I was in the grocery store recently with a large number of grocery items. Normally, I’m asked if I found everything ok and how my day is going. Sometimes I get to know the cashier a little better, so that I know that this one is the youngest of six and that one is wearing shorts in the middle of winter because he hasn’t had time to do laundry.
But this time, the cashier didn’t look up. I wouldn’t have minded if he was just intently focused on my grocery items, but instead he was having a very animated conversation with the guy bagging. He and the bagger were shouting loudly at each other about music, something I’m interested in, but they never once bothered to look at me. Even when I started bagging, they kept on arguing about music. (The one thing they could agree on was that nobody should ever do Beatles covers because they can never do them justice.) The entire time they engaged each other. They never once looked at me.
I surprised myself when I decided to speak up with, “Do you realize that you haven’t looked at or talked to me the entire 15 minutes I’ve been here?”
The guy ringing me up replied, “You could have jumped in.”
“But you didn’t even look at me,” I said shyly, as though I were fighting with a boyfriend and not a cashier I had just met. “It makes me feel invisible.”
The cashier and bagger were embarrassed and hustled me out of the store as quickly as possible. They had no idea what I was talking about, because they are part of the “Look Down” generation. The only reason they weren’t texting was that I’m sure it’s not allowed when you’re bagging.
One of the most important things for all of us to remember is that we need to notice each other. We need to look up. But we don’t anymore.
If you want to find your world stage, a first step is to notice others so that you and they can feel part of the world. You can’t be on a world stage (or whatever that means to your life) and not acknowledge the people around you.
Here is my favorite spoken word poem, called “Look Up.”