I saw Wicked for the first time last week.
One of the most moving performances I’ve ever seen.
Especially “Defying Gravity,” which, as most people suggested, brought me to tears. I'm such a sap.
Just listen to these lyrics:
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!
It's time to try
I think I'll try
And you can't pull me down!
I’m through accepting limits
Because someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know!
So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
"Everyone deserves the chance to fly!"
And if I'm flying solo
At least I'm flying free
To those who'd ground me
Take a message back from me.
Tell them how I am
I'm flying high
And soon I'll match them in renown
And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!
What about you?
Ever wanted to defy gravity, but didn’t know where to start?
1. Accept and applaud your uniqueness. In the first act of Wicked, Ephelba first arrives at Shiz University. Her instructor, Madame Morrible, reminds her, “Never apologize for talent – it’s a gift!”
This is a helpful lesson for each of us: Unconditional self-acceptance is the prerequisite to defying gravity. Because if you don’t honor what is chieftest and most powerful in your heart, gravity will get the best of you.
And if you don’t stay true to the light that’s been given to you, every day it will become increasingly hard to shine. Are you open to all that you are?
2. Architect, embody and constantly rekindle your vision. Vision motivates us. Vision drives action. Vision defies gravity. And in case you’re wondering, vision is defined as, “telling a story about the future you want to see.”
Have you done that yet? If not, spend some time writing your answers to the following question: “If everybody did exactly what I said, what would the world look like?” Simply by asking, you accomplish a few things.
First, the question helps you imagine what you need to become in order for your goals to manifest. Second, it empowers you to speak from the future, then look back to identify the steps that led there.
And finally, it inspires you to paint a compelling, detailed picture of the desired future and make meaningful strides toward it. What three things are you doing repeatedly that don’t serve or support your vision?
3. Stimulate a gradual reduction of dependency. An addiction is anything that blocks your life force. And if you’ve ever dealt with a serious one before, you know that telling the truth of an addiction requires heaps (mountains!) of courage. The cool part is, once you’re willing to confront it, everything changes.
For example, I’ve historically been addicted to attention. I admit it. Which isn’t always a bad thing, especially in my line of work as an entrepreneur, where anonymity is bankruptcy.
But, attention is a seductive mistress. And when it (finally) occurred to me that I was using unhealthy tools to attract attention – some of which cost me money, relationships, even my health – I made a conscious choice to reduce that dependency.
Now, will my addiction to attention eventually disappear completely? Probably not. And whatever is currently blocking your life force is probably the same way. The secret lies in the ability to be aware of it while simultaneously keeping it at bay.
This reminds me of an (unexpectedly) inspiring line from the hilarious movie, Get Him to the Greek: “There isn’t a thing in this world you can’t turn into heroin.” What are you currently addicted to that’s weighing you and the people you love down?
4. Transcend orthodoxy. In the preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman suggests the following:
“Take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men. Re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
Lesson learned: Most of society’s “rules” aren’t even rules – they’re self imposed limitations squelching the life out of your dream. Even The Wonderful Wizard of Oz admitted, “The truth is not fact or reason. The truth is simply what everyone agrees on.”
Your challenge is to agree on the truth that matters – your truth. The truth that you taste. Otherwise you’ll find yourself at the mercy of whoever wields authority over the things you desire. Are you doing what has the highest value or the strongest expectation?
5. Defer to yourself. Accept not the prescriptions of the world. Otherwise you allow your life get eaten up by the incompatible expectations of people who don’t matter. My suggestion: Flout the rules that govern everybody else’s business by permanently deleting the following two words from your gravity defying vocabulary:
There is no “they.” “They” is a surrogate for owning your own mind. “They” is just another way of saying, “Baaaahhh!” And “they” is what people say when they’re too lazy to find out for themselves.
Stop asking the waitress which steak she likes the best – just order.
Stop reading every cynical review of the movie – just go to the theater.
Stop mindlessly swallowing the dogma that’s been indoctrinated into the fibers of your being – go write your own bible.
Because the safest place to seek security is in the shelter of your own resources. Believe that you are enough – and have enough – to make the decision on your own accord. Are you your own authority figure?
6. Probe your musts. Albert Ellis, author and founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, coined a term called “musterbation.” He used it to describe someone who tells himself obsessively that he must do things or things must be a certain way, even though they’re not.
“The three main musts are: ‘I must do well or I'm no good,’ ‘You must treat me well or you’re worthless and deserve to roast in hell,’ and ‘The world must give me exactly what I want, precisely what I want, or it's a horrible, awful place.’”
To avoid falling into this trap, regularly subject yourself to honest introspection. Take an objective inventory of yourself and ask, “What is the history behind the assumption about myself?” and “How could I test those assumptions?”
This inner work is crucial. Because if you don’t learn to love self-confrontation, you may never pinpoint the musts that are clipping your wings. The Wicked Witch was right: Everybody deserves a chance to fly. Don’t disable that chance by musterbating all over yourself. What are you convinced you must do, think and feel?
7. Reintroduce the power of choice. I just finished Discourses and Selected Writings by stoic philosopher Epictetus. Here’s my favorite passage:
“If, from the moment you get up in the morning you adhere to your ideals, that is where you will see true progress embodied and find someone who has not wasted her time making the journey.”
Does that describe you? If not, there’s still hope. Try introducing this practice into your daily life: Next time someone sits you down to tell you how crazy you are for doing what you’re doing (and they will!) don’t react – respond.
Manage the resistance as soon as it arises. Ask yourself: “Does this feedback truly reflect who I am?” If it doesn’t, ignore it. Instead, clothe your daily movements with individuality. And fashion your unique future like the artist that you are.
Otherwise you enable the resistance to deepen. And that only makes gravity harder to defy. Are handicapping your success by listening to people who don’t matter?
8. Plan for an aggressive growth campaign. That means two things. First, paying the price in the off-season. Gladly submitting yourself to being whipped. And remembering that it’s never a waste of time to take the time to learn. Especially when the stakes are lower.
The second component is staying committed to growth – even when you’ve achieved excellence. And sending yourself on an open-ended quest for progress, improving until the bitter end.
Remember: The onus is on you to renew your contract with yourself. How are you regularly renewing your commitment to your desire?
9. Shout your wares at the top of your voice. Jump at every opportunity to show the world what you can do. Even if the money is shit. Even if it’s a freebie. Even if you have to pay to play. Doesn’t matter. Sometimes you have invite yourself to the table; otherwise you may never get a seat – much less a chance to eat.
What’s more, small victories harvest big successes. And the more you demonstrate to yourself that you have accomplished difficult and impossible things before, the easier it is to win in the future.
Just remember: There’s nothing like a moment of private triumph to fuel your efforts. Especially in those moments of immobility when you can’t get past the paralyzing uncertainty of following your dreams. What audience did you get in front of today?
10. Beware the cost of commitment. If you notice your foundation beginning to crumble, don’t build anything else on top of it. The bigger and grander you make it, the sooner it will collapse. For the love of God, stop adding more bricks.
Come on. You’re too smart to be that stupid. Defying gravity is one thing – but destroying your health is another. I learned this lesson the hard way a few years back when my respiratory foundation (literally) collapsed. It’s called a pneumothorax, or collapsed lung, which is a fairly common incident among young, tall men in their late twenties.
That’s what happens when you don’t have a healthy relationship with your breath.
That’s what happens when you’re working so hard to defy gravity that you completely forget to check to see if there’s any oxygen left in your lungs.
Please be careful. Don’t become the victim of your own conviction. Be smarter than I was. Otherwise the only gravity you’ll be defying is the air coming through your chest tube. Will your commitment become a detriment?
11. Momentary cracks in your resolve are inevitable. You can’t build immunity against life’s sorrows and you can’t outsmart getting hurt. My suggestion is that you expand your sense of humor proportionate to the situation.
That’s what my friend Rusty does. As a lifelong native of Biloxi, his philosophy toward the hurricane and oil disasters always remains the same: “Attitude is the difference between an experience and an ordeal.”
After all, crying a river never takes you to the other side of the river, it just makes your shirt wet and annoys the people around you. Instead: Be persistence personified. Like Henry Rollins wrote in A Dull Roar, pain is nothing but an invitation to excel. My question is: Will you meet misfortune with groans and tears or with nods and inhales?
12. Patience isn’t idleness. Nothing important comes into being overnight. Except maybe quarters from the tooth fairy. But even she’s been kind of spotty lately. Stupid Fairy Unions.
That’s the other challenge of defying gravity: How unspectacular the process is. Plus, how few people see the gallons the sweat you pour into the process.
For example: Nobody sees you dragging your tired ass up at 5AM every morning, pounding away on your laptop until lunch. Nobody hears you working until midnight, rehearsing away in your hotel room until housekeeping tells you to keep it down. And nobody notices you sitting in the back of the restaurant, sneaking in a quiet hour of reading before you get back to the grind.
Hell, sometimes you have to wait ten years before the right people even see you at all. I just hope you’ve got something (that matters!) to keep you constructive in the meantime. Otherwise the wait is going to wear down on you like a junkyard car crusher. How patient are you willing to be, and how productively are you willing to work in the meantime?
ULTIMATELY: Gravity is a powerful force. Sometimes brutal.
And the reality is, it doesn’t care about you.
It’s not interested in your dreams.
It’s been around the block a few times and it has no intention of slowing down.
But therein lay the weakness of gravity: It also has no intention of speeding up.
And because of that, casual effort isn’t sufficient.
Whether you’re building a business, moving across the country, starting a family or interning for peanuts at the company of your dreams, the five words that matter are:
Go full time or go home.
Run headlong into the future with sprinting shoes on, relentlessly refusing to settle for a pale version of what’s possible.
Yes, you will get hurt. You will lose money. You will alienate people. And you most certainly will think about quitting at least once a week.
But I believe in you.
Enough assuming innate inadequacy. You are the person who can do this. And if you stand there with stern and uncompromising feet, stark naked to the world, trembling at the possibility of abject failure, and remind people that they will not dull the edges of your enthusiasm…
You will defy gravity.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you ready to fly?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.
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Monday, July 12, 2010
I saw Wicked for the first time last week.