Take a moment and think of a person who inspires you. It doesn’t have to be a hero or an activist. It could be your favorite radio show host or blogger or actor.
Who brings their art into your life to help you feel more alive, motivated, happy, and enthused?
Now, think about this:
What if that person chose to live small in order to avoid criticism?
Andy Frisella of the MFCEO Project spoke about this last week and his words have been ringing in my ears since then.
If the people who inspired you were afraid of negative reactions, there would be no art.
No talk show hosts.
No motivational speakers.
He says: “If you have trouble getting over the hurdle of others’ negativity, just remember it is your obligation to live an awesome life to show others they can do so as well.”
In other words, it is on you to shine, so others have permission to sparkle.
“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you. As we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Mandela
The ‘find your passion’ call to action is very strong in the world right now.
We live in a remarkable period when we have the immense opportunity to spend our lives doing what we love most.
With every generation, we move further away from spending time meeting our physical needs. We have more time and opportunity to meet our higher needs—spiritual fulfillment, creativity, and connection.
For ourselves, and for others, we must fill our lives with activities that bring us alive.
When we’re lit up we set others alight.
When we do what we love, this very action fills the world with more love.
I’m not saying you have to drop everything and quit your job tomorrow to become a professional harmonica player.
It can be as simple as following your curiosity to learn a new skill.
Here’s a quick example:
In late 2014, I learned to ride a motorcycle.
Going to the class meant waking up at 6:30am on a Saturday. It meant tedious bookwork for the written portion of the test. It meant feeling out-of-place in a class of 15 men and only one other woman. It meant feeling scared about falling off the bike or, even worse, falling under the bike. Taking the class wasn’t all good vibes or smooth sailing, but the overall experience was wonderful.
A week after the class, I saw an old friend at a wedding and told him about my experience. I was on fire. I couldn’t contain my excitement about everything from the instructors' skill to the magical wind-in-your-hair feeling of being on a bike. I was still on a high from commandeering such a powerful machine. I could still taste the delicious adrenaline of moving from first to second gear. My newfound love of motorcycles spilled all over our conversation.
The next day I sent him the course information and then, quite honestly, forgot about it.
Fast forward to two weeks ago. This same friend emailed me out of the blue:
"I’ve been meaning to write for a while to send you a thank you—I spent 5 weeks in Asia this winter, and much of that was on a motorcycle in Myanmar and in northern Thailand. It was just so, so awesome. Really the ideal way to travel. I took the motorcycle course here in NY just before I left, and none of it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t suggested it to me. Quite literally, you were an inspiration, and I’m so grateful."
What a total joy to read his message! I was so grateful he had taken the time to write. I was grateful we could be a source of inspiration for each other. After the class, I hadn't been back on a bike and now I'm getting ready to buy one.
Pursuing passion—no matter how small—takes guts.
It means early mornings and late nights. It requires vulnerability and the courage to face discomfort. It means less TV and fewer nights out. Bringing art into the world means inevitable criticism and negative feedback.
But what if your favorite artist didn't create because the process made him uncomfortable? Imagine the hole it would leave in your life.
We owe it not only to ourselves to pursue what we love, we owe it to our friends and our communities and our audience.
We owe it to our fellow ships on the water because when we live our best lives, the rising tide lifts us all.