Last year a book came out called “Life in the Day 2020 – a mass snapshot of humanity.” The book quoted a man from Siberia who said “What I fear most is that my life will pass unnoticed.” I love that quote.
We all struggle to be noticed. When we die we put big marble slabs up to signify where we are buried so no one will forget us. The truth is, we are forgotten almost immediately. Once our immediate relatives die, in fact, no one will remember us. Our lives will not have mattered much, except maybe with our offspring. I have no problem with this. It’s the reality of our lives…and our deaths.
The purpose of my new audiobook, “Listen Deeply; Be Amazed; Tell the Story,” is all about the meaning that we bring to our lives while we’re here, because that’s all we have. I’ve just completed the final chapter, and I want to share some of it with you.
Psychologist Carl Jung once said: “The challenge of mid-life is to answer the question: What is my story?”
Looking in my the rearview mirror of my life, I see patterns. I am connecting the dots of my life. If you are in the Elderhood phase of life, I recommend looking at your life backwards. Connect the dots. Your major failures, your major successes. The patterns will appear.
The patterns of my life look like this: Lots of early failures. Success came later. Connecting the dots, I realize that it took decades for me to become a person capable of success. Along the way, I was always struggling with demons – the inner voices of self-doubt.
Those voices made me doubt I could do it, and when I did do it, I was plagued with what psychologists call, “the impostor syndrome.” If I got good grades it was only because I studied hard. If I got the job or promotion it was only because I wore wingtip shoes or knew the right people.
I learned that massive self-doubt goes with the territory. It must not – it cannot – prevent us from doing what calls us. Embrace the goddamned impostor syndrome. Grab it by the scruff of the neck and yell in its face: “Bring it on. Bring on the dark side you sons a bitches.”
Pessimism and self-doubt are the dark side of success. We can only be torpedoed by what we refuse to acknowledge. We can never get to the light of success unless we recognize the dark side of failure. It is a balancing act.
In your own work I hope you too will take the risks, look the imposter syndrome in the face and blast through the doubt and fear. It will help to define who you are. I have mud wrestled with the impostor syndrome… and won. It can be done.
I just turned 82. My eyes grow dim and my memory fades. My thoughts wander back to my amazing career in the communication business. Late at night with a glass of Jack Daniels at my side, I scroll through old videos, articles and audio tapes.
The words of Vladimir Nabokov speak to me now:
The cradle rocks above an abyss,
and common sense tells us that our
existence is but a brief crack of light
between two eternities of darkness.
My brief crack of light has been a blaze of glory because of the work I’ve done and the people I’ve met. As I consider the arc of my life, I find it exhilarating to have people tell me about the arcs of their lives, the experiences that have shaped them, and what they learned in the process.
I realized, that what I felt as a patient in therapy when I was really listened to as far back as age 16, created magic and changed my life. I wanted to make that happen in the interviews I did that ultimately resulted in this book. It is an honor to have people sit down with me and a video camera and tell me about the most important things in their lives. It is all about trust.
It has been a joy to write and narrate this book. Through the eyes of others, I have described the issues and experiences that define the three phases of our lives Childhood, Adulthood, and Elderhood.
In a way, I can see you, my listener, as a partner in this process. Perhaps you are sitting across the table from me as a young person, as an adult, as an elderly person. We are having a coffee, a glass of wine… we are sharing the stories of our lives. Can anything be more joyful, respectful, and growthful?
Let ‘er Rip!