“We know what we are, but not what we may become.” ~William Shakespeare, Hamlet
As I watched the James Comey hearing yesterday, I kept thinking about this quote from Hamlet. Mr. Comey’s testimony showed that he always does what he thinks is the right thing to do given the information he has. He’s a man who sticks to his principles even when he knows he will pay a personal price for following them. He stands for something and therefore falls for nothing. He cares much more about the truth and the law than he does about politics and power. And in Washington, sadly, that is a difficult thing to do. He’s paid the price personally and professionally, and still stands by his decisions. That’s something to be admired, even though I don’t agree with his choices.
Nearly 7 months to the day, Comey transformed from being the person who single-handedly altered the outcome of the Presidential election to someone who may render the Trump presidency one of the shortest in history. It’s unclear if any of that will come to pass, but it made me think about our sense of identity, purpose, and perception.
What we do and who we are right now doesn’t predict who we’ll become or what we’ll be doing tomorrow. One minute, Mr. Comey was the Director of the FBI and arguably one of the most powerful people in the world. With the stroke of a pen, he was returned to private life and sat before a Senate committee to tell the world he didn’t trust the President’s intent and questioned his sense of judgement. All within 7 months. That’s a remarkable about-face to make in his career and in his life.
What I keep coming back to is his conviction and his refusal to do anything less than protect his country in the best way he could. If that meant being fired, then so be it. If that meant enduring endless scrutiny by the public, politicians, and the press, then bring it on. It takes courage to live today so authentically that it may drastically alter our tomorrow. Mr. Comey showed us it can, and must, be done.
“I like stories where women save themselves.” ~Neil Gaiman
Screw patience. Do what makes you happy now. If someone asked me how I got to the point I am in my life now, as a person and as a writer, my answer would be “I’ve always been my own savior.” I’ve never expected anyone to fix anything or do anything for me. I don’t want or wait well. All I really know how to do is roll up my sleeves and get to work. Sometimes that work is with other people like my experience in theater, and sometimes that work is on my own like sitting down to write my book. Some call it feisty, others call it fiery, and I call it building a life I love.
Our time is so precious and so short. It flies by despite our efforts to slow it down. Every day matters. Don’t bottle yourself up or tell yourself , “Someday, I’ll do what I love.” Do it now. Some day is today, every day. I promised myself a long time ago that I wasn’t going to die with the music, or the books, still in me. I was going to live and write out loud. However improbable my book seemed, I was going to find a way to get it done. And I did. You will, too. Keep writing.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ~Gandhi
Writers, you are leaving a legacy with every word you get down. Your words can change hearts and mind. Thy can connect you to people, and connect people to one another. If you write what you wish to see, you can then build it and inspire others to help you create that vision. You are brave to tell the world what you think and how you feel. So many people keep themselves and their thoughts locked away from others. I urge you now to tell your stories. There are people who need to hear them. There are people for whom your stories will help them get through a difficult time. Your work has value but only if you share it. Sharing is caring. Writing is giving. Care and give.
“There are always going to be skeptics. Prove them wrong.” ~Robert Kiyosaki
10 years ago this month, I made a pledge to write every day and it’s a pledge I’ve kept. Being a writer was the only thing I ever really wanted to be. I had a lot of people in my life who were very supportive of that path. But there were skeptics, some of them very loud. Once a close friend of mine told another close friend of mine that I was wasting my time trying to be a writer. I should just focus on my business career because that was something I was good at, and being a writer wasn’t. I was shocked and hurt. It stung. A lot. To be honest, it still stings all these years later. It shouldn’t, but it does.
On your path as a writer, wherever you might be right now, you may encounter similar people. And it may surprise you who those people turn out to be. Skepticism can really hurt, but it can also make you very strong. When my friend said that about me, I was upset and I decided right then and there that I was going to prove him wrong. I was going to keep writing every day and I was going to get good at it, very good at it.
And you know what I found? His opinion really didn’t have anything to do with my writing. I wasn’t writing for him. I was writing for the people I could help, and I was writing to bring myself joy. I love writing. I am intensely passionate about my craft, sharing my work, and inspiring others to write. It’s the work I’m meant to do.
The skeptics are always going to be there. Turn down the volume of their voices to zero. They aren’t for you and you aren’t for them. Send them on their way—in the opposite direction that you’re going. Move toward your own voice and your own writing.
“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ~Neil Gaiman,
“No one is too old for fairy tales.” ~Anonymous
The remarkable thing about fiction is that it can be such a help when trying to survive and thrive in the real world. Turn to any news source and you’ll see our country is in the midst of some bizarre twists and turns. Fiction can help us survive these kinds of circumstances by giving us a brief reprieve and it can help us thrive by showing us what’s possible. I wrote my book to help readers feel less alone, give them strength, and fortifying them with hope. Though it’s fantasy, it’s rooted in the very real circumstances of coping with loss, pursuing truth, and finding the will to love in the darkest of times.
Fiction teaches us that there are dragons everywhere. The good news is that there are warriors everywhere, too, in fiction and in the real world. Our protagonists in fiction inspire us to be the warriors the world needs.
I was in the room yesterday when Sally Yates and Ted Cruz went toe-to-toe. Senator Cruz was late to the meeting, missed Mr. Clapper’s entire opening and most of the opening by Ms. Yates, waited to asked his questions, and then promptly left after Ms. Yates won the argument. Top of his mind: Hillary Clinton’s emails and Ms. Yates’s “misbehavior” in defying Donald Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban, not the ties between Trump and Russia which was the topic of the meeting.
Though Senator Cruz was undone by this heated exchange in which he tried to discredit Ms. Yates and defend Donald Trump’s reliance on executive orders as indisputable law, Ms. Yates was not.And let’s be clear, several Senators were incredibly disrespectful to her several times.One commented, “Ms. Yates, who appointed you to the Supreme Court?” as if the AG has no right to question the legal validity of the President’s actions. She never once lost her composure.
She was prepared and passionate, while maintaining professionalism and grace. She stands with conviction and justice, even in the face of being fired from a job she loved. It was more important for her to do the right thing than to do what it would have taken to keep her job. That is patriotism.
It was 8:30pm last night and all of a sudden I was in my living room crying. I’ve been pouring myself in my book this week and I have a cold, but that’s not it. As I close this current chapter of my life and begin a new one, there’s a certain level of fear mixed in with my excitement. For a moment, that fear got the upper hand.
I’ve been through loads of changes like this before. I’m moved to new cities, left jobs, left relationships, started companies, closed companies, dealt with the loss of loved ones, and had great fluctuations in my income over the years. And let’s not forget my apartment building fire, the bullet through my lobby a few months ago, and that small matter of my airplane being hit by lightning in mid-flight causing an emergency landing just before the wing fell off on the tarmac. Life’s a real kick in the pants sometimes.
The difference for me right now is that I’m so unwilling to compromise when it comes to how I spend my time. The only thing I seem to have any appetite for now is building a better world. We are facing so many challenges that I want to be a part of solving, and there are brief moments when that becomes overwhelming. Last night was one of those times.
And then J.K. Rowling flew into my inbox, like fairy godmothers often do. Her advice? “Stopping worry about paying the rent. Concentrate on your public speaking phobia.” Doing heartfelt work often requires us to take our fear and put it over there so that we can get back to what we need to do. Cry it out. Dance it out. Yell it out. Write it out. Hell, eat a donut if need be. Do whatever you have to do to exercise the fear. Then, get on with it. The world needs you.
“Never let someone who has done nothing tell you how to do anything.” ~Al Pacino
If I learned anything from my childhood, it’s this: when the Godfather gives you advice, take it. What you’re trying to do right now is difficult. You’re trying to do something new. Something that matters. Something that has an impact. My friend, Sheldon, once recommended a book to me called The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Hard things don’t have easy answers. To get them done, you have to persist in the face of adversity. You have to believe more in yourself than anyone else does. You have to vault yourself over the endless flow of hurdles being thrown in your way. Be an artful, graceful dodger. Work like hell for what fires you up. The naysayers and doubters are everywhere.Live out loud. Dream out loud. So loud that you drown them out. Take what they say and let their words and doubts make you stronger, more resilient, and more determined. Watch yourself rise. And take others with you. The world needs you.
“If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?” – lyric from the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” from Hamilton the Musical
In our country, we are seeing leading and misleading. Comments on social media, with no substantiation or proof, are believed simply because of who’s saying them. Opinion is too quickly becoming fact. It’s important to know what we stand for, not who we align with or how we label ourselves, but what we stand for individually when everything else falls away.
I’ve often talked about being on Team Human, meaning respecting, defending, and advocating for the rights of all people to be free to live a life that suits them best so long as they don’t inhibit anyone else from doing the same.
I believe that health, happiness, and the prospect of success should we attainable for all people everywhere. They’re not luxuries or decided by luck of the draw; they are human rights.
That’s what I stand for. It’s the lens by which I judge everything. It’s the motivation that causes me to act, stand up, and speak out. And it means I don’t fall for anyone or anything that violates that belief, regardless of who may be advocating for it.
“People don’t develop their gifts because they want to, but because they have to.”
That’s how a conversation with Brian started recently. We were talking about the idea of using painful and upsetting experiences to become better people. I told him that I wished it didn’t take a burning platform to evolve and he explained that so often that burning platform is the spark we need to take action and grow. In other words, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” (Hat tip to Winston Churchill.) So if you’re going through something that’s difficult right now, there is an enormous and shiny silver lining: once you’re through it (and I promise you if we just keep going, we do get through all of our difficult times), you will emerge as someone who is braver, stronger, and better than you were before. Your gifts will get you there. It may not be fun, but it will be worth it because once you have your gifts, you have them forever.