Streaks of yellow light are streaming toward me through thick purple fog and silhouetted gnarly oak trees. I shiver as I try to extend my porch time once more before winter. Warmth hits my goosebumped skin as the light increases, and the sides of my old cabin are washed with a rich red-orange glow.
Last week exhausted me — being on stage, using my voice more in one day than in most months, giving and getting hugs from enthusiastic artists, wall-to-wall meetings between stage time, entertaining our VIP guests and faculty in the evenings till the wee hours. And exhausting as it was, I feel like the luckiest man alive to be able to serve others and give them a special week of high energy, learning from the best artists in the world, and time with old and new friends.
Joy and Exuberance
A recent realization has been that my art is bringing people together, and even if I have to put my ability to do paintings on hold so I have time to do things like last week’s Figurative Art Convention & Expo, it’s worth it to see the joy and exuberance in the faces at FACE. Dozens, probably hundreds, told me it was a life-changing experience, the best of anything they had attended, and that they got more than they expected. I feel like I’ve done my job.
Comparing notes with a friend recently, we both determined that life is better when we’re changing the lives of others. Though it used to be about the money for me, it’s now about the gold … the golden glow in people’s hearts when they experience change, when they have a revelation or an aha moment. I live for those moments, and that encourages me to find ways to give more.
And for every convention session, panel, demo, or other event people could attend, there were that many and more personal interactions where I felt I was able to coach and counsel people who had lost their way, who needed someone to point out what they could not see, to offer clarity where they had none. The two things they all had in common were self-doubt and being too hard on themselves.
Life on Override
Beating ourselves up, negative self-talk, and insecurity are the games we play in our own heads. I play them all the time, even though I was raised in a positive environment. It’s a self-preservation mechanism rooted in our reptilian brain. It’s natural for the mind to protect us, and it’s unnatural for us to override its protection. Yet overriding is the only way to escape those voices and build an awesome life.
What do the voices in your head say to you?
I wanted to understand what mine were saying, but most of the voices tend to be at an unconscious level. So I made a point of writing them down every time I noticed one. I knew I had head trash, but no idea just how much.
Then I took the list and asked myself, “Is this true?” and, “If it is true, can I change it? How?” I also asked myself, “What would be a better thought I can substitute?”
Have you ever had something come out of your mouth and you didn’t even know how or why? I also started writing down my automatic responses to others.
The Monsters Are Hurting You
Those are the monsters lurking inside your subconscious mind, and they are blurted out, as though they were natural responses to protect you. But instead of protecting you, they are hurting and limiting you and others.
If you do both of these exercises for a week, you’ll learn more about yourself in that week than you’ve learned most of your lifetime. Just pull up a notes app on your smartphone and write down every negative thought whenever you catch yourself thinking or saying them. It’s almost better than therapy.
Ever hear someone say, “I find myself sounding like my mother when dealing with my own kids, even though I swore I would never say those things”? That’s the instinctive monster inside, most of which was implanted generations earlier and passed along.
You get to be the lucky one. You can break the cycle.
The weak never break their chains — the strong break them. It starts by telling yourself you can overcome any possible obstacle, no matter how difficult, and that the ability to overcome anything lies in your head.
Are You Tired Yet?
The other good news is that the weak can become strong. All it takes is getting sick of the results you’re getting now and being determined to overcome the voices in your head.
We all tell ourselves stories and lies. We all live a certain percentage of our lives in a fantasy world. Those lies cause the drama in our lives, our families, our friendships, and in our own heads, preventing the best possible life from happening.
“Oh, Eric, I don’t deserve the best possible life,” you say? That’s the first monster to slay. Of course you deserve it. Why wouldn’t you? (More monsters will come out about now.)
Slay the dragons in your mind, and you’ll live the life of a true dragon slayer.
PS: Words simply cannot express the gratitude I have for the people of the FACE convention. We had a faculty filled with generosity to serve others, attendees who were on fire with enthusiasm and energy, and I feel like the most hugged man on earth (one of the perks of my job, I guess). Thank you for allowing me to serve. Well over half the people attending signed up for next year, which is unheard of this early for a convention. We are very excited about seeing you in Baltimore next fall.
Tomorrow I’m off to a week in New York for our annual Radio Forecast conference at the Harvard Club, and then to Washington, D.C., where I’ve been invited to offer my opinions to the commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission. If we don’t talk, have a wonderful Thanksgiving — though I fully intend to report next weekend before the holiday. And if you have a chance, invite someone to Thanksgiving who needs a family to spend the day with. No one should be alone if they don’t want to be. It’s something my parents did every year on Thanksgiving and something we try to do.
Oh, and if you encounter someone who needs a jolt of Sunday Coffee, pass it on.