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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The First Step Toward Success

Lately I've been reading about other people's life-altering crises, crises that have led to great successes, crises such as Lisa Fittipaldi's, which I mentioned in my previous post. Despite being legally blind, Lisa became a painter of colorful, realistic art.

Reading through her story brought my own emerging story into sharp focus. My own crisis has provoked self-awareness. It has also stimulated growth, exponential growth.

But the growth is not without setbacks. It is not without sleepless, tearful nights. It is not without self-doubt, self pity, and loneliness. Epiphanies come quickly, but change is a process, often a slow and painful process.

There is nothing romantic about it.

The theme from Rocky does not play in the background at 4 a.m. when you're getting up to go to the gym. No team douses you with champagne and carries you on its shoulders after you've stayed up late writing. No standing ovation erupts after you complete a song, and there probably will be no interview with Oprah, at least for a while.

Learning to be a great artist, a great friend, a great entrepreneur, a great lover begins with asking questions of yourself and facing truths about yourself: What do I need to achieve my goals? Why don't I have it? What can I do to get it?

Recently, I read Matt Frazier's blog post about how to go from just good enough to excellent ( Matt said he realized that he had to "grow the hell up."

I've given myself some version of that speech, but during the past few months I've realized that before I can be my best and live my dreams I must seek to understand myself and to have compassion for my unconscious mind. It is a powerful ally but sometimes misguided in its attempts to protect me from emotional harm. I've had to analyze my tendency to procrastinate, my tendency to isolate myself in times of stress.

I've had to sit alone with loneliness, fear, and insecurity until I could sit comfortably with them. I've had to admit my shortcomings.

It's truly amazing how many half-truths you can tell yourself. It's surprising how you can magnify the tiniest accomplishments to justify not doing as much as you could have done.

As I sat reading about Lisa Fittipaldi, an amazing woman who taught herself to do something that many people said was impossible, it became clear that the first step to success is getting real with one's self.

That's what Fittipaldi had to do before she could even start learning to paint. She had to get real with herself about why she wasn't getting the help she needed to function as a blind woman. She had to admit that her lack of trust and her inability to connect with people made it difficult to get her needs met. She also had to admit that losing her sight turned out to be a blessing in many ways, mostly because it made her face ugly truths about herself. It made her want to change. It also made her challenge herself as she never had.

"Just get real with yourself" sounds easy, doesn't it?

It isn't easy. Getting real with yourself can be embarrassing. Getting real with yourself can feel humiliating.

I remember long ago helping an elderly woman tidy up her house. As I opened cabinets and cleaned behind furniture roaches ran out of dark places into the light. They were everywhere. So I took this woman to the store to buy bombs to fumigate the place, but she was embarrassed and proclaimed loudly, "I don't have roaches."

She and I knew there were lots of roaches in that house. We both knew that the only way to get rid of them was to de-clutter and then exterminate. But first she had to admit (at least to herself) that they were there. Without that admission there would be no action to clear her home of the pests.