What’s the Worst Thing that Could Happen?

I was always the “new kid” in school. My family moved more than 10 times before I graduated from high school.  We weren’t a military family, running from the law or in the witness protection program. My Dad was moving up the corporate ladder, our family was growing and it just set up a series of moves.

Being the perpetual “new kid” forced me to take risks every time we moved, forming new friendships, adjusting to new schools, dealing with the inconsistencies in the curriculum from school to school, and learning

gail and wagon
Me, taking a stand in the new neighborhood.

new neighborhoods and the local culture.

In my early years, I was not the one who was initiating “change” or deciding to take a risk – my parents were. Nevertheless it made me the person I am.  As a child I was learning that it was OK to take chances and in fact, it was a good thing. But I also knew that we were not a “normal” family and at times I longed for a life that was less transient and more like the families I saw on TV.

I look back at my upbringing and Roller skaters jump over teammates, Tokyo, JapanI believe that the greatest gift my parents gave me was to teach me that it was OK to take chances.
And in fact when I was afraid to take a risk, I remember my Dad asking me “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” To be honest, I never really thought of anything that was all that bad.
So, is it any wonder that someone like me would opt to go around the world with my daughter, traveling to remote places on six continents, and live out of backpacks for 99 days while creating a movie?

Erin and Gail, Peru
Erin and Gail and children of village along Amazon River, Peru

I was actually going to do this by myself until I received an email from my daughter telling me that she wanted to quit her job and sublet her apartment and go with me.

At first, it surprised me when she said that she wanted to do this with me.  She had only been working for a year after graduating from college and was lucky to have a job. But she was willing leave her life as she knew it, apartment, take a trip around the world for four months and face looking for employment upon her return. Then I realized I shouldn’t be surprised at all, she too had grown up with the notion that “taking a risk” was normal.

These days, I see young people growing up in a society that has been so over litigated in an attempt to make our lives more risk free that it seems like we are teaching our children NOT to take chances. Losing or failing is looked at as a bad thing and that instead everyone has to be a winner.  It seems that fitting in and becoming part of the status quo is what we should strive for rather than being unique or original.  The problem is, if everyone thinks and acts that way, innovation will die.  No on will dare to be different.
In the last few years, I’ve probably had to face more rejections than I’ve had to over my entire career, or at least it’s seems that the way.  On the other hand, I have had the most incredible experiences and successes of my life.  To be honest, I’m scared to death just about every day but I grew up thinking that was normal and that came with growth. Thanks Mom and Dad for giving me the courage to spread my wings.

 

Fear and Innovation

One Fear illustration from Book of Fears
One Fear illustration from Book of Fears (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We are taught from an early age to conform.  Think about it.  Schools emphasize conformity with rules, regulations and a system built on recitation and memorization. We are told there are two types of answers – “right” and “wrong” ones. I suppose when speaking about math and science, it could be stated that there are only two types of answers or conclusions – it’s either right or wrong.  But is that true?  Are there really only two types of answers?  Or is that merely a mechanism that makes it easier to grade tests and papers?

Is it any wonder that we are programmed from an early age NOT to be innovative or creative with our thinking?  Is it any wonder that we are afraid or fearful to take a leap and question something?  But what are we afraid of? Essentially, we are afraid to be wrong.  We are afraid to fail.  So what do we do?  We let our fear stop us and in doing so we stifle creativity and innovation.

We have been trained to obey rules, comply, sit and stand in an orderly fashion, “don’t rock the boat”, “be a good soldier”, and in the process we stifle innovation and growth.  The problem is that “system” left over from the industrial age doesn’t work anymore. The world has changed.  These days, people are entering a “workforce” that is no longer contained within geographic boundaries with an established set of rules and controls. It’s out of our control. Wow, that’s enough to make anyone afraid.

So, what do most people do when their world is changing and they are scared to death?  Sadly, they tend to desperately hold onto a system that is broken and no longer serves them well.  They spend enormous amounts of energy defending this broken system from the past because it’s all they know.

We can either succumb to change, and merely react to it little by little over time, until there isn’t much left of a life we once knew, or we can face our fears and take responsibility for our lives.  In order to do that, we need to change our outlook and identify what it is we are really afraid of.  Ironically, what most of us fear is failing, so in an effort to protect ourselves from this fear – we ultimately fail because we end up with a life that brings few rewards.

Listen to what Sue Bryce and Seth Godin have to say on this topic.

Happy Birthday John and Jackson and Goodbye Steve

Today John Lennon would have turned 71 years old, had his life not been snuffed out by a man with a gun in New York City over 30 years ago.  John was always someone I revered – in the beginning as a heartthrob – later as an activist for peace and for living his life the way he wanted to live it  – despite what others thought.

Today is also singer/songwriter Jackson Browne’s birthday.  His music and lyrics have resonated with me since I first became acquainted with his songs back in the early 70’s when I was living out in California. I’ve been in and out of touch with his music over the years, but recently I’ve been influenced by his songs as well as his social activism. Jackson uses his craft to create awareness, gets people to think and moves  people to action.

Jackson Browne

A line from his song “Alive in the World” inspired the title of my documentary Opening Our Eyes, and I have been extremely fortunate to obtain his permission to use his song in our movie for community screenings and film festivals.  Next week, I will get the opportunity to personally thank Jackson when I get to meet him after his concert at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ.

Last week we lost one of the “great ones” – Steve Jobs. 

Steve Jobs

I’ve always admired Jobs for his vision and for what he brought into all of our lives.  But mostly I admire Jobs for remembering to “Stay hungry and foolish”. And for reminding us to march to our own tune.  He sums it up more eloquently than I in his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech:

“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.”

I admire these three men for  listening to their hearts and for following their dreams – for daring to be different. They have made our world a better place and have inspired me to do the same.  I don’t know how much more time I have on this earth, but I do know that I wake up each day and remind myself to make it count.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine