If you’ve ever walked through the world feeling powerful and confident, you know that power and confidence can be felt in the body. Like the endorphin rush of exercise, they buoy you. If you grew up with that feeling, and sustained it into adulthood, you may take the feeling for granted, may not even know it’s there. That is, until it’s gone.
My hope for you, of course is, that your experiences with the loss of power will be of the mundane variety, like the mild anxiety before giving a big speech, or going on an important job interview, or arriving at an event where you don’t know anyone, but want to make a strong impression.
The social psychologist and Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, known for her research on non-verbal communication, stereotyping and discrimination, emotions, power, and the effects of social stimuli on hormone levels, suffered a much greater loss of power following a brain injury, sustained in a car accident when she was 19. I experienced a similar loss of power when all of a sudden, at the height of success in my budding screenwriting career, I found myself significantly cognitively impaired. Which is why I hung on Cuddy’s every word when I first heard her TED Talk on body language and found there the answers I’d been looking for for over 10 years. I’d wanted to know how I could regain the unwavering sense of power and confidence I’d had, then lost and been unable to fully regain.
I am drawn to two very different kinds of people, people who live at the center of things, and people who live at the edge. Those at the edge have always frightened and fascinated me. They are the authors of innovation, not because they seek to innovate, but because the distance they stand from the center affords them a different kind of sight. They see possibilities in things that others might dismiss. I have seen with this same kind of outsider’s eye while also craving an insider’s sense of balance and place. Lately I’ve made peace with these hungers and embraced the decidedly ordinary parts of who I am: the me who wants to say something new and offer something of value, but who also wants to connect and find the places where I fit in this world. I thought of these twin hungers of mine, to be ordinary, to be extraordinary, while listening to musician Amanda Palmer‘s TED talk on The Art Of Asking, which is really a talk about human connection, the kind of deep human connection we all long for and too rarely experience.
I’m a fan of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty even if I’m not always a fan of the aesthetics or even of the end goal (the “underarm conversation” campaign stands out since I’ve never once considered the possibility that my underarms were or could be ugly. Ugly underarms, is that really a thing — and if it were, couldn’t you solve the problem by, you know, wearing a shirt with sleeves? I mean, do you really need a product for that?
But criticisms aside, I’ve never doubted Dove intentions, which, yes, includes selling product, but I also believe they genuinely want women to feel good about themselves and their bodies while they’re using all those products from Dove. Call me gullible, but after seeing their latest Dove Real Beauty Sketches, I’m even more convinced of their good intentions. Of course, telling stories and not tying it to the sale of a specific product is smart business these days. As social media renegade Amy Jo Martin explains in her informative and entertaining book, Renegades Write The Rules, success no longer belongs to the brand that bombards consumers with the most adds; it belongs to the brand that builds genuine relationships of affinity with real people. One way to do this is to tell stories, which is why it’s been said that, in today’s world, every brand is a media brand. Brands are no longer selling products, they’re selling stories — not about what a brand does, but about why it does it. It’s an idea Amy Jo Martin borrowed from Simon Sinek’s TED Talk in which he explained the difference between brands that lead their industries and everyone else.
I love the idea of riding a bike in the city, even though it seems all wrong in the city where I live, where I’m pretty sure the risks of being run down are pretty high. Still, I dream of some future, more gentile time of bike lanes and patient, courteous drivers who are primed to share the road.
In Europe, getting about on a bike feels like the sane and civilized thing to do. A few years back in Barcelona, the hubby and I commandeered some rental bikes and saw the city in a whole new way. Of course, it did get dicey as we made our way into Gotti park in the Barcelona hills, but the ride down, and the opportunity it gave us to discover hidden pockets of the city, paid us back with dividends. We wore helmets. We were the only ones.
Life is change. If we’re adventurous we meet the changes that alter and sometimes upend our lives with a mixture of courage and curiosity, courage because sometimes the experiences life throws our way are formidable, and curiosity because, when change sweeps through our lives, it serves us well to take a minute at least to not know what to do. I call this minute “getting lost.” It’s the minute before we marshal our resources or even know what they are. The minute before the answers come.
I’ve never been comfortable getting lost just as I’ve never been comfortable failing. Yet, both have their place. The Samuel Beckett quote (above), “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better,” just about writes the whole book on failure. It suggests that failure is a necessary ingredient for success, much as Malcolm Gladwell does in Outliers, where he argues, quite convincingly, that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. Rack up 10,000 hours and you can bet that, somewhere along the way, you will have failed and failed again and failed better, like Thomas Edison, who failed more than 10,000 times on his way to inventing the lightbulb. You will have failed until finally failure perfected you. And by perfect, I mean perfect like a rose — with thorns, uneven petals, and all.
That is the virtue of failure. It perfects you. But what of failure’s sibling “getting lost?” What benefits does it confer? Consider Columbus. He set sail for India, got lost, and found North America instead, which only proves the point that sometime you have to get lost so that you can find the thing that you didn’t know you were looking for.