Thursday, August 25, 2011

Whose Path Are You Holding a Torch To?

You can’t just sit in a corner and perfect yourself.

The only way you get better is by contributing to your fellow humans.

As author Ben Sweetland once remarked, “You cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own.”

THE QUESTION IS: Whose path are you holding a torch to?

Today we’re going to explore a collection of practices to help your flame grow brighter:
1. Witness people’s lives. Nobody wants to look back and feel that their life was just a series of small incidents. They need proof. They need your eyes. Because without witness, their lives go unnoticed, unaffirmed and misunderstood. Sounds existentially agonizing to me.

To be a better witness, start by being a better mirror. Affirm the value of people’s accomplishments by constantly asking them, “How did you do that?” This allows you to become a stand for people’s greatness. And it gives them a front row seat to their own brilliance. Plus you might learn something cool.

Personally, I like to use the platform of writing to do so. Whether it’s online via social media or in print in my columns, whenever I feature someone in my work, it’s a form of witnessing. And I always send them a copy when it’s published. How are you being sensitive to people’s visibility needs?

2. Indulge people’s humanity. In the seminal book, Story, Robert McKee makes a powerful point about our species:

“The majority of the world suffers short, painful existences, ridden with disease and hunger, terrorized by tyranny and lawless violence, without hope and that life will ever be any different for their children.”

I don’t share this passage be a downer. Rather, to suggest that what your customers need is reminder of how alive they truly are. Something that highlights their humanity.

Consider the billion-dollar fitness industry: People invest countless hours practicing yoga, lifting weights and taking Zumba. But they don’t enjoy doing it as much as they relish being done with it.

What they buy is the experience of walking out of that studio two hours later, feeling more alive. What do you sell?

3. Preserve people’s story. When my friend Stacey Wehe suffered major scarring on her voice box after oral surgery, she lost the ability to speak. After an unsuccessful string of doctors and speech therapists, there was no doubt: She needed an outlet to share her story.

She founded a storytelling non-profit called The St. Louis Ten. Over a year later, hundreds of people gather each month to share and listen to each other’s stories. I’ve only attended a few times, but the event is nothing short of amazing. (Watch my story here!)

Bottom line: Human beings are lonely and want to be listened to. Each soul is laden with its own story to tell. And anytime you can give voice to people’s experience, you add value to their lives – and to the world. Your mission is to build that platform, step back, watch people’s legacy shine. After all, how your story lives on is the truest form of life after death. What stage are you providing?

4. Petition people’s plunge. The greatest gift you can give someone is to throw them over the wall. To compel their commitment. To challenge them to push their chips to the middle of the table and play for keeps.

I remember the exact moment this happened to me: I was working full time as a furniture salesman, doing my writing and publishing on the side. After a nervous presentation at a Rotary Club, the president – a ninety year old retired surgeon – approached me with the following advice:

“Stop selling couches. You need to become a speaker.” That was a gift. That was a shove moment. And was an interaction that made my path brighter. I took his advice and never looked back. Who do you know that desperately needs to be disturbed into action?

5. Excavate people’s crazy. Everyone is a geek about something. But sometimes people need a little push, a little permission, to let the geek come out and play. Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt put it beautifully:

“To geek out is to spot something that makes an emotional, irrational connection to your soul. It’s the extraordinary piece of something just slightly different than what’s considered to be standard fare.”

What’s more, geeking out is an emotional and spiritual release. It’s when people become the best versions of themselves. And if you can respond to that experience with respect, affirmation and gratitude, not only will people love you for creating a chance to geek out – you may even learn something too. After all, approachability is not about being the life of the party; it’s about bringing other people to life at the party. How many passion finding questions are you asking people?

REMEMBER: You cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening your own.

Make that flame grow bright.

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Whose path are you holding a torch to>

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* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Publisher, Artist, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011-2012!

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