But still, how was I going to actually do it?
Truthfully, I had been writing it in my head for so long that it wasn’t that much of a struggle to get it on paper. But delivering it in front of a church full of people and potentially breaking down: that thought scared the crap out of me.
I stepped away from the family gathering we were having the night before the funeral, sat down on the front steps of my parents’ house, and called my cousin, Katy—who has eulogized both a brother and a father. “Katy: how do I get through it without completely breaking down?” I asked her.
“Visualize the whole thing,” she said. See yourself walking up to the microphone (keeping in mind you will pass by the casket), picture what it will feel like to turn around and look out at everyone, and hear yourself reading it flawlessly, including the most difficult parts, she said. “You’re successful in so many ways in your life: I’m sure you already do this all of the time,” she said.
As most of the best advice is, it was the thing that was so obvious, but I probably never would have thought of myself. Because it seemed like a situation unrelated to anything else I had ever done. But of course that wasn’t true. Everything is related, all of the time. We stack and build and borrow as we assemble the different experiences of our lives. Those tasks that seem impossibly hard that we have to do or want to do: what pushes them outside of our comfort zone is simply that we can’t see we’ve already done them, in some other form. And once you can SEE it, everything shifts.
¬†Let’s Get Visual
Practically speaking, I do use visualization all of the time, whether I’m running a race, giving a speech, or working on a project. I see myself starting it (this is what the nerves will feel like when the starter gun goes off), being in the middle of it (here’s that difficult conversation with the client), and then finishing it (I will hit “send” on this). The theory about visualization is that if you mentally rehearse whatever it is you’re trying to do, once you go to actually do it, you’ve sort of already done it—so it’s a lot less unknown. In my experience, it’s crazy helpful.
Visualization is a distinct technique for a finite thing: A to B to C. But it’s also an entire way of being. People get stuck all of the time because they simply can’t SEE themselves doing whatever it is they think they want to do or need to do. They limit themselves because they just can’t SEE it.
I believe that if you can truly SEE yourself doing it, you actuallycan do it.
A lot of people don’t believe this: I’m fine with that.
But also, don’t mistake this message for the “You can do anything you dream!” message. I’m sorry to say, you can’t. Or at least I can’t. That message is a huge disservice to human kind. But I do believe that you can do what you can truly SEE. It’s not the same, and in my experience, there are two reasons we can’t see ourselves doing something, even if you dream it.
Reason #1: We don’t actually have the ability.
Call it innate talent, matched with the right set of circumstances and the right attitude and the right set of decisions, made at the right time. It’s a percentage of what’s in your genes and a percentage of what you bring through decisions. I don’t ever see myself qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Like physically, I don’t think I’ve got the V02 max or the physiology. But I also haven’t made decisions conducive to it. Even though it’s a cool dream, and I do my little hill intervals and keep trying to get faster (and am going to try really, really hard to finish a half marathon this Sunday in two hours or under), I’m missing a piece of what you need.
Reason #2: We don’t have the will.
Call it burning desire that just doesn’t go away with time or circumstance or obstacles. You can make ability from will—but you can’t make will from ability (at least I don’t think you can). Will is an elementary particle. But even so, will is tricky. Often, you think you have the will, but you actually don’t. You have a shell of it. A fantasy of it (ooh, Boston . . .). Often, it’s a halfway version of it, that’s related more to misdirected frustration than pure will.
When I can’t see myself accomplishing something, it’s because I’m missing one of those two things. Like I keep having this fantasy of scaling my business so I can make more money. I just had this discussion with a writer colleague last week, in fact. I ruminate on it, I sort of want it, I like the idea of it . . . but I can’t SEE it. Whether I have the ability, we’ll just set aside for now. Because what I definitely don’t have is the will. I don’t want to manage people. I don’t have that burning desire to create something bigger than me and run it on a day-to-day basis. If I had the will, I’d get the ability. I’d learn to manage people, even though it’s outside my comfort zone. I’d find the thing it’s related to that I’ve already done, and just start stacking.
But I just don’t want to. Not really. It’s a halfway dream, the same way making half-a-million dollars is. The people who burn for it: they can really SEE it.
So I guess my message this week is: forget about your comfort zone. That’s just a phrase we use. What can you SEE yourself doing?
Stack, borrow, build, and be a visualizer. Start with the tough situations that challenge you, like public speaking. And then bring it to the big game.
PS. I made it through the eulogy just fine. Thank you, Katy. You have no idea how much you helped me!