The life of those breaking out of the box in pursuit of creative endeavors often feels like a rollercoaster, at least in the beginning. No matter the project, taking the path less traveled is sure to create moments of angst, fear and doubt. The longer we walk the path, the clearer the trail tends to become, but I’m not sure that the fear and self-doubt ever fully vanish. The idea that we will one day become so efficient that doubt will simply fade into the abyss seems to be an illusion. The truth lies in becoming more resilient. And in perspective.
Take this morning for example. I’m in a pretty solid place these days. My memoir hit #1 on the local best seller list last summer and exceeded my publisher’s expectations in regards to sales. My second book Be Audacious: Inspiring Your Legacy and Living a Life That Matters is scheduled to release the first week of October. I’m close to inking what looks to be a multiple book project and I’m in the midst of wrapping up my Be Audacious website facelift/remake. All is good in my professional life, yeah? So one would think, but self-doubt—while less potent than before—still percolates and sometimes paralyzes.
The number of projects on my plate of late have been dizzying at times. Add to the diversity of deadlines juggling my radiant seven year-old’s summer schedule and there are moments where I simply sit in my truck taking deep breaths to calm the brain train. Today when I showed up at my favorite coffee shop that serves as my de facto writing studio, I found my mind wandering into the gutter of self-doubt. Hoping I could re-capture my writing flow from the day before, I got into anti-social mode, bee-lining it to my favorite spot.
It’s always fascinating to me how my perspective can change from one day to the next. For days following a big keynote, I’m on fire, brimming with confidence and my chosen path. Following my meetings last week, where I met with my marketing and design crew to go over the new look website, I felt like I could take on the world. But for whatever reason, this morning I sat at my laptop brewing over my fear of failure. That’s when one of my favorite regulars walked up the stairs. I’ll call her Kelly for anonymity’s sake.
I’ve felt badly of late because I’ve found myself avoiding eye contact with some of my favorite regulars, feeling the need to make the most of my writing time and chaotic schedule. Seeing Kelly changed that. I ventured over to her table to check in and ask about her granddaughter, who for nearly a year has been fighting an aggressive cancer form at children’s hospital in Seattle, Washington. Never one to lament over her family’s situation, Kelly always remains upbeat, optimistic and hopeful. When I saw her I sensed that she wasn’t her typical self, and feared bad news regarding her granddaughter.
But, as always, the first thing Kelly asked was, “How’s Kamiah?” She went on to ask about my wife and me. I was beginning to breathe a little easier. There must not be any terrible news about her granddaughter. When I asked how she was holding up, she shared with me every parent’s worst nightmare. In April, she lost her twenty-eight year-old son to a backcountry skiing accident. After listening to her story and digesting an update of her granddaughter’s next round of chemo as she awaits a bone marrow transplant, we shared a long and heartfelt hug.
When I sat back down, my mind, which had just been swirling with what now seemed trivial concerns, marveled at the resiliency and perspective demonstrated by my friend in the face of overwhelming adversity. In her typical manner, Kelly had just gifted me with her wisdom and grace. If we are to honor our struggles and more importantly, the hardship of others, in our quest to inspire a legacy and live a life that matters, we must learn to embrace Kelly’s perspective on life, strengthen our purpose, while consciously building up our resiliency.
Success in life and work are, in many ways, one and the same. I realized that with great clarity this morning, looking into the eyes of this courageous, compassionate woman. Resiliency and a positive perspective can get us through the whole gamut of challenges—from niggling self-doubt to personal tragedy—and allow us to go on to live, love and lead from the heart. And inspire others to do the same.
~Michael W. Leach