It was connection overload over the weekend with the Basic training. I fell off blogging about my connection goal, but I learned a lot nonetheless.
I learned connection doesn’t take much from me, and that people generally welcome and appreciate it. I learned, too, that sometimes me connecting with others is what makes the difference–for them.
Yesterday and the guest event brought that up for me.
The guests came to our sign-up table nervous, edgy, unsure. Cracking a simple joke or asking how they were or making other small talk (and I hate small talk) made a difference. I could see they shifted to feeling at ease, less out of place.
I had a similar experience during the Advanced enrollment break on Sunday. Several students slipped off to go sit by themselves, avoiding the registration table like the plague. I totally got it, of course, I’ve been there. Part of me wanted to just leave them alone. Remembering my connection goal, though, I dropped my assumptions and went and talked to them.
I realized several of them had self-selected themselves out of the program, thinking it was for more well-adjusted folks, or folks with bigger dreams, or folks who hadn’t screwed up as much as they had. I then told them what I saw in each of them and why they in particular belong in Advanced–why the world is waiting for them, and what they offer.
One (very) young man in particular struck me. He was an African American man who had grown up on the steets. With the support of his girlfriend, he had cut ties with all his friends that were engaging in violent and degenerate behavior and enrolled in college. He told me he didn’t think Advanced was for him–he was enrolling in college for the second time. He’d stopped out after his first attempt. And, aside from his girlfriend, he had no friends, nor any idea how to make any. He was a failure.
You can imagine what I said to him. I told him he was incredibly inspiring–that he had done what so few could. That he was courageous. That he was a leader, that his story was a big one, and that the world deserved what he had to offer–and that he deserved to have a community of people lifting him up. He doesn’t have to do it alone.
Then yesterday, at the guest event, there he was, signing up.
Was it my talk with him? I don’t know. But, what if it was? And if so, what if I had stayed in my stuff of feeling exhausted about the weekend, that it was an overload of people and connection, etc., and not said anything? Let him sit there by himself, in his disempowering conversations? The world needs that man. Can you imagine? Yes, he can make it without Advanced, and he can even be great without Advanced, but, he deserves the support.
Then there’s Isaac. Hoo boy he was frustrating me over the weekend. Analyzing, analyzing, analyzing. I was done! I was not going to even TALK to him about Advanced. He had firmly announced to me early on that Basic was as far as he’d go, and he even tried to bait me into some philosophical debate about it–no. I just said, well, if that’s what you choose, okay. It ain’t MY life.
I’m an analyzer as you all know. Paralyzed by it, often. So part of my reaction was because Isaac = the part of me I’d like to delete out of my system.
When we got to graduation, the students were told to sit across from their Imo (sp?) and talk about what’s next. Sitting in front of Isaac, looking into his big, loving brown eyes, I realized I hadn’t once told him why I selected him, of all people, for the free ticket. I instead had judged him throughout and avoided him because I didn’t want to hear it about Advanced.
So, I told him. Boldly, passionately, authentically. Whether he signed up for Advanced or not didn’t change any of that, so why hold it back from him? I told him at the end that, whatever he does–whether it’s Advanced or more Tony Robbins videos–they key is action, action, action. He MUST be in action, because he is remarkable and wonderful and so full of light and love.
Fastforward to the guest event. Isaac, the perpetual analyzer, jumps up first to share in front of the room of graduates and guests (whaaaat?). He says he realized how much pain his analyzing was causing him in his life, and so he’d jumped up first to share, having no clue what he would say, because he was committed now to making different choices (I was inspired). He then said how yesterday he’d taken a big risk — he told a woman he’d been in love with over a year: “I love you.”
She didn’t reciprocate. It didn’t matter. Afterwards, how he felt inside was clear, and free. Good. Great, even. He realized too that if he had told her months ago, and showed it to her in his being, he might have a different outcome. So: he was done analyzing. Then he announced he was doing Advanced. I busted out cheering before he finished the sentence.
Was it my conversation with him that made the difference? I don’t know. It could have been anything. But, what if it was? And what if I had stayed in a place of judgment and disappointment, and never told him what I saw as being possible for him?
After the guest event, I had to rush to my band rehearsal. The band was practicing alone for the first hour, and then I was to join them from 9-11pm.
I love music and I LOVE singing, but, I didn’t feel like going. Jimmy and I had hardly had any time alone together in days. And, I was tired. I also was nervous that with the performance approaching, we’d all start scrutinizing ourselves and it wouldn’t be fun. What if they called me out for being shakey in a few spots? For still not really jiving with Jet Airliner? Then I got on the wrong train and was like, Ugh. I can’t deal with this.
When I got there, the band was in the middle of a song and having a lot of trouble coordinating. They were out of sync, drowning each other out, disconnected.
Upon my arrival, we decided to press the reset button. We ran through the set from beginning to end, now with the vocals.
As if my magic, it went smoothly.
“That was it,” Jerry said after we finished. “That’s what was missing. You. You’re the missing ingredient,” he told me.
I’m the missing ingredient.
Now, a big, powerful story I have–a life-defining story–is that I don’t belong. Anywhere. I didn’t belong in El Paso, I didn’t belong in Hawaii, I didn’t belong in Virginia (or law school), I don’t belong as a lawyer or at my firm. I’m different. I don’t fit.
It’s a tough story to let go of, because in many ways, it’s been empowering. I get to be a pioneer, a rabble-rouser, a shaker-upper, someone who doesn’t fit the mold.
But, it’s disempowering because it keeps me separate from others. I’m not like them, I don’t belong here. As a result, there’s always a screen between them and me.
What if, instead, I were the missing ingredient? What if I chose that as my life-defining story?
And it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, right? I don’t know if I was the difference in ANY of what I talked about above. It’s the approach and perspective that matters, because it changes who I BE. What if I approached every situation, every sphere of my life, as if I were the missing ingredient?
I absolutely would belong if that were the case. The missing ingredient not only very much belongs, it’s MISSING. There’s a hole where it should be, and everything is off without it. But, the missing ingredient is also still unique, and different–a shaker-upper, a rabble-rouser, that extra spice that creates the spark. If it weren’t that, it wouldn’t be “missing.”
So: I choose to try that on, step into that, and see where it leads me.