Doing Hard Things

Nosing around on YouTube the other day, I came across Patti Smith singing at the 2016 Nobel awards in Stockholm. If you haven’t seen this video, I strongly recommend watching it:

What I admire about Patti is her poise when her memory failed her. She just stopped, hit the reset button, and started in again at a familiar place, and pulled the performance off with aplomb. She had the audience in the palm of her hand by the end.

So many of us are reluctant to speak or perform publicly for fear that something might happen to us like it did for Patti. That we’ll be humiliated publicly, which seems to be a great fear many of us share. I would argue that I watched this YouTube over and over precisely because of her momentary failure. Rather than thinking less of her, I admired her all the more.

It seems that I’ve lately done several hard things… things I’d just as soon have avoided, but managed to get through them, and once done, they strengthened me rather than weakened me. None have been easy, but all have been worth the effort. An example is my recently speaking at a dear friend’s memorial service. Public speaking is not a fearful thing for me, but on this occasion, I was shaking in my boots. I was feeling so emotional that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get the words out, thereby not doing my job at honoring my late friend.

The speech went fine, and all the worrying was for nothing. I did challenge my thinking by getting up and standing at the podium however. And for me that was the plus. I think we all build pictures of the world in our minds, and filter experiences through that picture. If they don’t belong, we discard them. If experiences fit with our world picture, we welcome them in. This is probably healthy to a point, because allowing the world into our brains unfiltered would likely overwhelm us. My feeling is that we do need to challenge that world picture from time to time. And when it proves inadequate, it needs to be adjusted. It is easy to be lazy and stagnate, and hard to continue updating the model.

There is an arrogance we need to overcome. That picture we’ve made of the world required a lot of work, and we can believe it is perfect the way it is. But just imagine one of the crucial components of that picture, and further imagine a time in your life when that component was not part of your picture. Had you not have been open to embracing it, you might have lived your life without it. We need to stay open to new things that help us make sense of the world, while being careful to reject the poison. With the world changing so rapidly, keeping the model up to date is a full time job.

Leave a Reply