Stand Tall- The Courage to Be Yourself

heart-stoneSo many people are walking in fear these days. You can feel it when you are around them, you can see it in their eyes. Many deny it and have a laundry list of reasons it may seem like they are, but they really aren’t because… and their list proceeds from this point on. To me, this is the saddest state of being because they are lying to themselves most of all. They may be able to fool themselves for a time, and those they drag into their dramas, but what a sad and limited way to live! They will defend their behavior to the end though, and with vehemence!

There is a story told by the author Kahlil Gibran that illustrates this point wonderfully. He tells of farmers in a village who created a scarecrow- a “false man”, to protect their crops. It was just a stick, tied to another stick, and looked almost like a cross. They put some clothes on it, and maybe a mud pot for a head. That was enough to make the birds and animals afraid that there was someone standing there. The “man” in the clothing with the two hands was enough to make them think someone was watching. For the animals, it was enough, and they stayed away from the farm.

Gibran goes on to say: Once I asked such a scarecrow, “I can understand the farmer who made you- he needs you. I can understand the poor animals- they don’t have great intelligence to see that you are bogus. But in the rain, in the sun, in the hot summer, in the cold winter, you remain standing here. For what?”

And the scarecrow said, “You don’t know my joy. Just to make those animals afraid is such a joy that it is worth suffering rain, suffering heat, winter, everything. I am making thousands of animals afraid! I know I am bogus, there is nothing inside of me, but I don’t care about that. My joy is in making others afraid.”

Some are like this “bogus” man, nothing on the inside, trying to make someone afraid, someone unhappy, someone humiliated, and someone respect them. They hold on desperately to the false power they feel from creating all this fear and drama. Old ruts are still familiar ruts, and even though they create health issues, stress and tension in our lives, they feel safer than the unknown process of letting all of that go.

How about you? Is your life lived only for others? Will you ever take an honest look deep inside yourself? What would you find if you did? I promise you that if you did, you would find your own rainbows and music, new colors and flowers, and life would take on a whole new meaning for you. You would begin to know what it means to be truly alive.

There is another way… a softer, kinder, gentler way that actually comes from great inner strength- not from fear.

It takes great courage to totally be your authentic self.

Most people walk around being visions of who others want them to be.

It takes courage to be who you really are-deep down in your soul. I am talking about the “you” that you are when no one else is watching, when you are alone with your soul. Are you even comfortable being alone with yourself? Are you afraid of what you might find there?

First, you have to know yourself well enough to know what you believe, what you stand for, and most individuals haven’t taken the time to really stop and think about it. What qualities do you want to possess and show to the world? What do you believe about yourself and your world? From the time we are small we are taught what our families believe, what our churches believe, what our communities believe, at an age when we are too young to see if those beliefs fit us. We act from those sets of beliefs, and as we grow into adults our lives become too busy to deeply examine what we were taught, and we continue to live from that set of “rules”.

We do need a foundation that helps us navigate in the world. Yet some of those “rules” have actually hurt us and have become things that we need to work through. Our parents got them from their parents, and so on and so forth. Many of these standards haven’t changed for generations.

Some that have hard repercussions for us later in life are ones like:

“Children should be seen and not heard.”

“Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to.”

“Girls don’t_____________.” (Fill in the blank.)

“Boys don’t _____________.” (Again, fill in the blank. The most common one here is cry.)

But where are you in all this? What do you believe for you? Take some time and really think about it.

What enormous energy it takes to hang on to all of your old “stuff”, old fears and beliefs, and to be around people who just can’t seem to let it go, who need the fear and the drama to keep people around. These are the people who truly believe that if they didn’t have something in their life that needed “fixing” everyone would leave them.

There is a saying by Rob Lehman:

We don’t let go into trust until we’ve exhausted our egos.

That is part of the whole walking in fear thing. How do you know if you are walking in fear? Look. Honestly. If your life is full of drama and you are thinking everything is evil and dark~ you are walking in fear, baby, and not letting go and trusting. Your ego is getting a real workout!

I would like to share with you some of the inspirational speech given at a commencement address by the late Steve Jobs on June 12th, 2005. I have taken parts of it, and encourage you to read the speech in its entirety. You can Google it in print, or watch the speech on video. Here is part of what he said in that incredible speech. My prayer is that it will inspire you to start really living each moment as if it were your last, with joy and a passion for life.

“The first story is about connecting the dots. (Read his speech to hear about the beginning of his life.)

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parent’s garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

Great words, by an incredible innovator and genius.

Find out who you really are and what you really love to do! Go out there and do it! The world will be a better place for it, and you will have a life you never dreamed of! This was the reason I created The Gift of a Year course- to help people learn how to really pack the most “life” into each and every moment they are given on this earth.

Don’t waste your time being someone else’s version of you!

Live your version of you out loud!

Love and blessings,