The Magic is in the Details
On a recent episode of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" Jerry Seinfeld had coffee with his greatest comedy influence, Jerry Lewis. Seinfeld wanted to discuss some of his favorite iconic bits where Lewis was in his genius.
One such scene from "The Bellhop" Lewis appears to simply be walking through an empty ballroom. Seinfeld said, "You were playing like eight different characters there." To which Lewis responded, "Yeah, most people don't notice the details..." What they notice is that it's funny. And, the reason it's funny is that it wasn't general; instead was filled with specificity. And it's why it felt real, even in its silliness.
The best actors spend a vast amount of time and dedication to being so specific in their scenes - What's their intention? What's behind the dialogue and actions? What's between the lines? - So that they embody the truth of the life they're portraying. They notice everything.
The magic is in the details.
In a recent fiction writing class, the teacher talked repetitively about following the character moment to moment, with curiosity and great attention to detail. There's such discovery in the most minute instances. And, that's when the surprises happen, when, as the creator, you allow yourself to just be with that moment, inside the life of the person, as new moments, directions and discoveries present themselves. And, those are the moments that feel most true.
The magic is in the details.
It got me thinking about how specificity can be a vital component to living a fully present life; a mindful, moment to moment aliveness.
It's noticing what's right in front of you, the textures, feelings, sounds, colors, the unique details and nuances that keep you present.
It's noticing that the barrister at the coffee shop has a smattering of freckles on his nose.
Or that the brass has worn off the elevator button.
Or that your child holds her cup with her thumb and middle finger, just like you do.
Or that your dog uses his paw as a pillow.
Or a tree branch barely touches the top of the table on the patio, gently scratching it as the wind blows.
Or that the person next to you in line has stepped aside so you can go first.
What's magic about the details is how you allow them to surprise and delight. In what's next. In what's underneath. In what's there when you look closer.
Just a little something to ponder as you head into your weekend. Get specific. Pay attention. Notice everything.
Look for the magic. It's in the details.
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This Is Not on You
Sometimes we need a little reminder. And, then other times we need more than that. We need a meaningful punch to snap out of it. To snap back to paying attention, paying attention to ourselves.
I was fretting over a couple of situations recently where I had myself in knots about what to do, what to say, how to be. Enough so that it took a meaningful punch from a good friend, who said, "This is not your responsibility. You're acting like it is." And, when I say meaningful punch, I mean it's a welcome jolt of reality, something I often count on from this friend.
It got me thinking about how subtle it is sometimes, the ways in which we can take on too much, diminish our sense of personal power, our self-worth. And, it can build until the little forms of self-betrayal become a way of being. It stops us from being truthful and effective. And, real.
How do we stop from robbing our own personal banks of self worth or power? These two ways are vital to replenish and revive.
Stop Taking Responsibility for Other People's Stuff
You know those times. If not, let me remind you. Those times when you want to help so badly that you, energetically, take on the problem. When you feel like you need to fix things, to get in the middle; to help or give advice, often unbidden. And, all because you care, at least it starts out that way.
Then, if things get complicated or don't go the way you hoped or envisioned, or the person or people come back at you, then you - wait for it - take it on. You become responsible for that person's or group's actions or feelings.
But, here's the thing. This is self-inflicted responsibility, misplaced ownership of that which doesn't belong to you. And, most of the time the other person or persons have no idea because they're focusing on themselves. They may sense of push-pull type of energy or they may not. Because it's in you, this self-inflicted responsibility, you're the one who is suffering.
The work, your work, is to know and understand the difference between support and responsibility. They dance next to each other but to very different tunes. Big aha for me!
This is not on you.
A dear friend used to say, "One, two, three; not about me." It's a good mantra in those moments. Another friend says, "How is this my problem?" It helps put things in their proper place.
Stop Apologizing for Yourself
This is the other debilitating way we betray ourselves. And, it's rampant, particularly with women.
You know those moments. If not, let me remind you. Those times you apologize when someone else gets in your way. Or you say I'm sorry for someone else's mistake or misgiving because you don't know what else to say or you somehow feel it's partially your fault, even when it isn't. Or you apologize for a situation that is clearly out of your control, outside of your jurisdiction, just because you extended the invitation to an event that goes awry or you brought to someone's attention something in the ether that ended up being offensive. Something you had nothing to do with. Or when you apologize for taking up space, for breathing.
The last one may seem far fetched, but that's the impression it leaves. I've been trying to be mindful of when I do this. And, when I see or hear another woman do it, sometimes it's a reflex to say, 'stop apologizing.' Primarily because it's a reminder or a call for all of us to stop it.
"Oh okay... Sorry."
Apologizing for yourself is another way of taking responsibility for something or someone that has nothing to do with you. Yikes.
The first step is awareness. Start noticing, listening, as others do it, apologizing for things that don't require an apology from them, and then notice how it disempowers them instantly.
At the same time, shine the spotlight on yourself. Pay attention to how and when you do the same. Don't judge yourself for it. That's not what this is about at all. It's about reclaiming your inner strength and worth, your life, instead of continually giving your power away, one I'm Sorry at a time.
Perhaps find another word. Remove I'm Sorry from your vocabulary. It so easily slips off the tongue, for everything. So, if you stop yourself from saying those words, then it allows you a moment to consider what's really happening and if the situation calls for you to say anything at all. If so, then find another way to engage, empathize, support, respond.
This is not about when something occurs that does require a heartfelt apology, something that you are a part of. This is about not diminishing yourself and your life. It's also about not putting what you perceive to be other people's opinions about you or your actions above your own self worth.
In her book, "Girl, Stop Apologizing," Rachel Hollis says, "If you actively take steps and intentionally begin to live without obsessing over what other people think of you, it will be the most freeing decision of your life."
So, stop apologizing for yourself. And, stop taking responsibility for another's stuff.
Instead, be in full ownership of your own life, your own power. Now, that's on you. How awesome is that?
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Catching Up to Your Own Success
"Reading your own bio is more painful than looking at current photos."
I've been helping a friend update his bio. Several days after sending him the first draft, his response email came and literally made me laugh out loud. "I am learning that reading your own bio is more painful than looking at current photos."
I laughed because I related so much to the raw truth of his statement.
My friend's career has taken a huge uplevel that puts him in the very top echelon in his field. And, while his ascent has been organic and based on decades of study, practice and proven success, the latest leap is the stuff of dreams personified. Thus, the need for a new bio.
It got me thinking about how sometimes there are those comfortable parts of ourselves - as in the parts that fit-like-an-old-shoe - that aren't quite ready for the big accomplishments and successes that happen to and for us. And, once you see yourself in that elevated position, in black and white, in meaningful descriptive words, the way others already see you, and the way the rest of the world is about to know you, it can take a minute to catch up. For the rest of yourself to catch up.
In fact, for me, there have been times in my life when I felt I went backward after a big leap. Where the fear of being able to actually survive and thrive at the new higher base camp, sent me back a few thousand feet.
When you think about it, mountain climbers who set their sites on a major pinnacle must do so in increments. They spend time at the elevated base camp to become acclimated to the higher elevation. They have to allow their bodies to catch up. To become comfortable with the new normal. Once they have, they can keep moving upward. And, every few thousand feet they must get acclimated again.
The same can be said for your life and career. When something major happens - a promotion, a huge book launch, a major product line unveiling, a big sale from your life's work, a high profile invitation to sit at the big table - it makes complete sense that you might need to take a moment. Or several. To acclimate to your new base camp. To enjoy the view, as well as the fruits of your labor; to get comfortable in your new suit of clothing. Adjusting. Loosening the bindings so that it fits. Making room for all of you.
I used to think it was self-sabotage, those moments when I took a step back, and when the committee in my head would come up with all the reasons why I didn't deserve it.
Now, with the help of my brilliant up-leveled friend, I see that it really was simply space, a pause, a comma that was needed in order for the rest of me to catch up. It provides the chance to say to the self that's lagging behind, "It's okay, I've got this. How about you get in the backseat and I'll drive for a bit. Until you can catch up."
So take a minute. Get acclimated to your awesomeness.
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Your Most Important Conversation
It might not be what you think.
DIANE LOCKHART: I’m happy.
KURT MCVEIGH: You like narrating your life.
~ CBS’s THE GOOD FIGHT.
I thought, ah, there's so much truth to that. We're always narrating our own lives, sometimes dictating, sometimes cheering, sometimes judging. It got me thinking about that most important conversation.
The most vital chat being, to my way of thinking, our inner dialogue, the constant conversation we're having with ourselves.
On the full moon this weekend some friends were texting about what we each wanted to release and let go of. It can be kind of powerful to do that as one moon cycle ends and another begins. No matter the woo, it's always something good to ponder and can lead to change.
I said I want to let go of the attachment to the negative voices in my head. The naysayers in my internal conversation, the one who says all of those things that spark insecurities or fear. The voice that likes to keep us in check, that says we're not good enough - whatever not good enough looks like.
So that the "I'm happy" conversation starter is met with, you should be. And, me too. And, I'd like more of that please.
Or the first internal voice that says, "This is what I desire and I'm going for it," is met with, "Great what's the next step?" Rather than, "Yeah, that's not gonna happen. Again." Or "You're a dreamer."
Here's the deal. Since you are the one on both sides of that conversation you get to write, or rewrite, the dialogue. How cool is that?
Safire Rose in her moving poem "She Let Go" wrote "she let go of the committee of indecision within her." I love that.
It's so true, sometimes those voices can feel like a committee whose vote is louder and counts for more than your first true voice, the one being told to hush and to stop. That's when, along with letting go of the glue-like attachment you may have to this committee that's likely been in place for years, you can rewrite the committee's agenda. Or, better yet, do away with the agenda altogether and assign a higher purpose and vocabulary to your this-is-my-life-so-I-get-to-write-the-script committee.
And, since they are voices that have most likely been around a long time, you can be gentle but firm. Listen, but not judge. Learn and reframe. Re-engage and choose the inner conversation you wish to have.
Kind of gives pillow talk and coffee chat a whole new meaning, don't you think?
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Removing the Barriers to Entry
This is what TV showrunner and writer for ABC's "The Fix", Sarah Fain, said in a recent interview. "Remove the barriers to entry."
She and partner Liz Craft were asked what makes them want to read, or more importantly, continue to read a script that's been submitted to them by writers looking to get hired. Besides good writing, surprises within the first five pages (if the first five don't grab them they stop reading) and interesting and compelling characters, they talked more about what interferes with the read or stops them from reading it all together - things that are firmly within the writer's control and where so often they fall short. Things like bad formatting, poor sentence structure or grammar, misspelled words, not enough white space (too many words on the page), are all turnoffs before word one.
They said, do yourself a favor and remove the barriers to entry. "Barriers to entry" is an economic term referring to things like high startup costs that prevent a new player from entering an industry or market. Sarah's use of the metaphor brought it down to the personal in such a descriptive way. I love that. It got me thinking about how applicable the notion is to so many areas of life.
To put it more directly: Remove the barriers over which you have control before an entry is upon you. And, entry is whatever is involved just prior to setting you up to succeed. An interview, a big presentation or workshop, a networking event, a date, a workout schedule, an eating plan or that huge opportunity to be read or seen by someone who can change your career.
Dot the i's.
Cross the t's.
Proofread, then proofread again.
Layout your workout clothes before you go to bed.
Have healthy snacks prepared.
Check your teeth.
Spellcheck. If someone doesn't take the time to fix misspelled or missing words in an intro letter or pitch then how will they be as part of a team on deadline, etc. That may seem harsh, but it's reality. You never know what someone's hot buttons are. So, push them yourself before they become the reason you're out before you were ever in.
We've all been there, I know I have. And, what a great reminder to not jump the gun until you're ready. This doesn't mean to become paralyzed by perfection, but rather to pay attention to and take seriously the importance of the details. The details that even the playing field, that lay the groundwork for a smooth entry or an easy read or an inviting cover letter or compelling first interview or smooth-sailing presentation or consistent workout schedule.
Bottom line, it's doing everything within your power, to powerfully put your best self forward always and in all ways.
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