Truly, I just cannot believe that I did that!
What – something amazing I achieved in my life?
Well, actually no, just the opposite.
This week, our daughter brought us a surprise gift that had happy associations for us – Mozartkügeln, beautiful expensive chocolates in celebration of Mozart, that we’ve found previously only in Salzburg. She’d come upon these to her surprise, she said, while looking for a child’s winter coat in TK Max, and couldn’t resist buying them for us.
“Oh, they can’t be real,” I jossed, “Half of those luxury label goods in TK Max are fakes.”
“But it says here, ‘made in Austria’,” came back our daughter.
“Well,” said I, warming to my theme, and thinking I was being quite funny, “Do you really think they’d go the trouble of faking a chocolate and then not faking the label as well?” I laughed, mainly at my own wit.
“Oh well, they taste pretty good,” said my daughter.
They did. I enjoyed mine.
The following morning, I awoke at 4 AM, with a brightness behind the curtains. I got out of bed and peered out. The sky was clear, and Orion, one of few constellations I recognise, was dead centre of my view, bright as I’ve ever seen it.
I smiled. Then suddenly, a memory of my exchange with my daughter came back, and only at that moment did I realise how boorish my remarks had been. WHAT WAS I THINKING OF? I felt dreadful. But as well as that, I felt sort of stupid that I hadn’t realised at the time that I was being a bit crass. Only now, looking at the stars, did it come to me. Orion shone white. I turned red.
It was interesting that the revelation came at a quiet moment while I was focused on something else – it often happens that way. The moral of the story? To be kinder, more thoughtful, to be a better person? Well, yes of course, but as well as that, I felt pleased to have at least noticed what had happened. How many other crass remarks have I made where I never even realised that they’d been offensive? Or where I put everything down to the other person, thinking, “He’s a bit off today,” or “Why on earth did she snap at me?” So, I told my daughter about it the next day, and reflected it was good to be still living and learning, through life’s little blips!
When does learning stop? Have you noticed how many people live the last 20, 30 or 40 years of life becoming ever more like caricatures of themselves? Whatever you’ve sold your soul to, you become that. When I used to watch the programme Spitting Image, with its puppets that emphasized the prominent characteristics of famous people, it was extraordinary how eventually the actual famous people struck us as more of caricatures than the puppets did. I’m sure you know people like that, who’ve stopped changing and become replicas of themselves; then year by year, as their arteries ossify, their persona does too.
I don’t want that. I want to be alive enough to notice what’s happening. It seems an ultimate good to remain flexible to change. Okay, as I found, learning isn’t always comfortable (that awful embarrassment at 4 am is why we often give up on it!) but awareness is gold dust.
“The unexamined life is not worth living,” says Socrates. And here are a couple of thoughts from Marcus Aurelius (Woah! – flaunting the Classics now? … just shows how long these concepts have been around.)
“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I
will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly
harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to
escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
I especially like the last quote in the light of the insane world we are currently living in – though I guess that living according to your own values has always been challenging.
So, two things: first, notice (find your own truth); then, act (dare to act). I used to think that ‘being yourself’ was a matter of authenticity. I now see it’s a question of courage – to dare to do and say and be what is true for you, regardless of what the rest are doing and saying. I never thought authenticity was particularly easy; living courageously is twice as hard! Still, you can start small… And, I’d like to add, with kindness, always with kindness.
Conversations – challenging conversations, conversations that connect, being yourself – these have been my theme for many a year now. You’ll find helpful stuff on these subjects in my books:
The Art of Communication – How to be Authentic, Lead Others, and Create Strong Connections.
As for finding the courage to be authentic, you’ll find lots of help in
It’s short, to the point and highly practical. Many people have told me how useful they’ve found it. I did an enjoyable interview with Edizioni Amrita for the Italian Edition (Farfalle nello Stomaco e Mani Sudate) this week (how’s your Italian?!)
By the way, Voice of Influence has just come out in a new Arabic edition. I received my copy last week.
You can get my books from all the usual channels and in e-versions and Audio. The links I’ve provided are to bookshop.org, an ethical source of books that supports local bookshops
Coaching isn’t counselling or therapy; you don’t have to feel broken to find it useful. It’s a safe space to pause and find out where you are, what you want next, what’s stopping you, and how to go about achieving your desires. Speak to anyone who’s worked with a good coach, and they’ll tell you how indispensable it’s been to getting where they want to be and to being the person they want to be. Email me if you’re a little bit curious and we can have a conversation about it. Even a single session can unlock previously untapped potential. firstname.lastname@example.org
Courage to speak up
I talked about courage above. If you are daunted at the idea of speaking up, sign up for my e-course 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety. It’s entirely free and I never share your email address with anyone. Hope you find it useful. Together with my book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms, it’s a potent combination.
Speaking live and speaking on Zoom
In the interview with Edizioni Amrita, Andrea Degl’Innocenti asked me if we need different skills for giving a live presentation and for speaking on Zoom. What a great question! It makes me think people might find thoughts on the subject interesting. What are your experiences of the differences – I’d love you to share them with me – mailto:email@example.com. Thanks!
Just another little reminder of my TEDx Talk, How Your Voice Touches Others – the True Meaning of What You Say. Especially relevant today I think. Please share if you like it!y