Saturday, January 23, 2010


Well, as usual, I often go meandering off on a tangent when observing something that evokes totally different responses in most other people--it's one of those things I most enjoy about my strange and wonderful mind, and sometimes even my weird, warped sense of humor.

For example, I looked at the following video posted on Facebook by my old friend Andy Santosha Milberg

So what we have here is a film about an activist trying to make a statement, and the reaction of the audience he is trying to reach. And what I think about is how embarrassing it would be if this was a friend of mine doing this and I happened to be with him. In that moment, it would not be about my appreciating his courage and his passion, but about my discomfort. I think we all secretly admire people who are willing to put themselves out there, even to make possible fools of themselves, or to confront authority and the status quo in ways we might not have the chutzpah to do. It's almost embarrassing just to watch the video. I kept waiting for something terrible to happen--his arrest, someone taking a baseball bat to him and his megaphone, or a more usual YouTube conclusion, a dog walking up and peeing on him in the middle of his statement. Maybe deep down we almost want this kind of performance to end badly, thus justifying our own unwillingess to stand up and shout out what we feel and believe. I even had the flash of a thought that some of the disciples of Jesus may have been embarrassed when he insisted on talking to large crowds of people about very provocative subjects.

And then I remember way back when and how my former colleague, psychologist Carole Altman, would put herself out there and often embarrass me--but at the same time thrill, awaken, and inspire me. One time we were on a late evening flight, and she got up and introduced herself to the other passengers and within a few minutes had some of them sitting in the middle of the aisle in an impromptu encounter group. In her company, I never knew when she would approach a stranger and tell or ask them something outrageous. And it almost always worked in terms of creating a great experience, even for me, the innocent and somewhat embarrassed bystander. I've had the thought that if I could somehow get over whatever inhibitions prevent me from doing the kinds of things she did, or the man in the video is doing, I would create a lot more of what I want in my life. In her company, whatever I was experiencing, an airplane ride, a meal in a restaurant, a party, even running one of our old Together Circle workshops together, would be richer, fuller, more fun, and just uncomfortable enough to make a difference.

The same is true of a few other friends of mine I can reflect on, who put themselves out there in a dynamic way. Wayne Dyer, Mark Victor Hansen, Pam Lontos--all powerful speakers and motivators in whose company I have sometimes felt embarrassed or discomforted, and then amazed at the rewarding results they produce by this behavior.

So one suggestion I have for myself and you, as I think about all this, is to, sometime in the next month, put ourselves out there in some way that is uncomfortable and risky. Ask someone something you want to know but have never had the nerve to ask. Approach someone about something you have avoided for fear of rejection. Do something that is totally out of your comfort zone. It can be simple. It can even be silly. How about announcing, in a crowded elevator, "I want to thank you all for riding with me on my elevator." C'mon, use your imaginations.


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