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We talk a whole lot about passion—how to find it, do it, why we need it, and so on—and I’m all for it, mainly because I’m almost all passion. When I feel something deeply, I latch on so tight to it, you’d have better luck pulling a guard dog off the mailman. It’s that first flash of adventure and foray into the unknown that draws me in. My question, now that we’ve passed through the holidays, the end of the world, and into the sobering rest of the year is, What do we do next?
In previous New Year posts I talked big talk about the importance of dreaming dreams and realizing them. I also urged you—and me, too—to never ever, ever give up. I still believe this is true; we have to stay with the things we want and keep ourselves at least pointed in the direction of our goals. This year’s no different, however. This year, I owe it to you to tell this much: it might not work.
If you know nothing else about me, you know I’m a flat-out, wall-to-wall optimist. I can see the silver lining, sunshiny rainbows and candy-bearing faeries in most anything. Through lots of trial, error and trying again, the truth is happy visions of leprechauns and good intentions aren’t what get the work done.
The only thing that’s going to get us to our dreams is showing up and staying in the seat, trusting yourself lay down another brick in your building. Period. Even with that said, there’s still no guarantee that we’ll get to our goal. Simply because everything could fall apart. In fact, I think you should expect it to.
I love to go hiking by the creek. There’s a trail alongside it that winds up into the mountains and down through town, and if you stay with it long enough, you get to see sides of the city that all too often go unnoticed. Among those gems along the creek trail are the painstakingly manmade cairns.
In the late spring and throughout the summer, you can often spot people standing knee-deep in the creek stacking river stones atop each other in a delicate balance of big and small, jagged, smooth, and slippery slick. They do this for hours, choosing which rocks to stack where. They’re amazing to watch. It’s a meditation in itself, seeing them so connected to the creations they’re shaping. For that moment, we as onlookers get to see what it looks like to become the thing that’s being creating. Watch the video; it’s a wordless testament to the impermanence and infinite space we occupy whenever we dare to create. It’s oneness at its best.
The creek will reclaim toppling the cairns in its flow just as Life will reclaim us all one day. The artists know this long before they enter the water. Whether it’s within minutes, hours or weeks, they expect a certain kind of failure. And here’s the lesson in everything we do: Life flows better when I/we can acknowledge, going in, that our art might not work out, that maybe nobody will see it, that we might not get loved like we wanted—you name it.
Everything we do, no matter its scope, is temporary. Simply because we are temporary here and that’s the only guarantee we get. When I first willed myself into the metaphorical waters to openly create and do my thing, I spent lots of time questioning the point of it all and whether people would get what I was trying to do. What if they don’t? I asked. Then so be it, came the delayed response. The same holds true for those who do get it: they just do.
Whenever I venture into new zones of discomfort and creativity, the more comfortable I get with failure and the chance things might fall apart at any minute. That’s the risk we take. It’s never about saving face or playing safe and it’s not something I can explain so easily if this post finds you idling on the sidelines right now. To feel the truth of what I mean, you have to venture into the water on your own. Test your mettle there, get a real feel for your work and how it rests in your hands. Connect with your art, whatever it may be, and be willing to let those stones fall where they may. Most important, expect a fair amount of failure—it’s better that way.
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