Is it an act of bravery to survive a crisis? Maybe. But if you have the potential to be remarkable, why wouldn’t you be? Now is the time to give your greatest gift to the world.
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We are all scared and unsure, or at least that’s what the news tells us. I don’t know who you are or what you do or what you make of all this madness. Every day, I wake up wondering where I am and what is happening, and it all feels so confusing. Doesn't it? And yet, there seems to be a voice inside me, wanting to say something.
I don’t know if you hear this voice, too, but it scares me. If I'm honest, this is the place from which my best decisions have been made.
It is the tightening in my chest I felt in high school just before asking a girl on a date.
It is the swirling in my stomach as I am about on step onstage to speak.
It is the feeling I feel right now, writing these words. If you feel this feeling, if you hear this voice, it is my experience that you must respond, if you want any peace at all.
And I do.
Recently, I heard someone say it is enough to survive a crisis. After all, nobody needs you to paint the Mona Lisa this week. Which, I suppose, is true; but it doesn’t feel quite right to me. It doesn’t feel like all I have to offer now. And if you, too, feel like you have more to share, and the boredom and loneliness are getting to you, if you’re wondering what else you can do, well maybe start here:
Give your greatest gift away. Every day.
Give until it hurts. And keep giving until it feels good again.
Give like you mean it, like no one else can.
Give without expectation of anyone saying thanks, because maybe no one will.
Give because it’s right, because you’ll feel better when it’s done.
Give what you have, whenever you have it, as much as you can give it—now.
Give your gift when others need it, and when no one seems to need it at all, because that's what you're here to do, and what else is there?
Because it sure beats watching the news.
Survival is not enough
Some say this is our World War II. I’m not sure about that, but I bet our grandparents didn’t set out to survive the Great War. Certainly, survival was necessary; but it was not sufficient. As human beings, we all want to move beyond meeting our most basic needs; we want to transcend, we want to win, we want to become all that we can be.
Yes, before you overcome a crisis, you must endure it; that's true. But I wonder if we aren't selling ourselves short by thinking this. We can, after all, do more than cope. And sure, for some, getting through the day may be heroic in itself. But perhaps you and I can do more; and if we can, we should.
Forget that feeling of guilt for a moment that says your thriving in a time of trial adds one iota to the suffering of others. It doesn't. If you have an opportunity to grow and succeed when others cannot, you have a responsibility to do just that and use your privilege for the benefit of others. At least, that’s what I intend to do.
So, how do we do this?
First, remember your own remarkability. I'm not sure that's a word, but it should be. Acknowledge that you have something special to share with the world and that if you don’t, maybe no one will—not that thing, not your thing, not your way. So, please, take what’s obvious to you and offer it freely to others, as a gift. Someone just might call it amazing.
Second, see opportunities where others see challenges. I have a musician friend who has made a living playing house shows and delivering virtual concerts for fans. He's done this for years, and now, he’s helping major acts reschedule their “tours” online.
My friend's way of “getting by” has now made him an expert at a time when others are desperate for such a skill. How did he do it? He offered his gift to those who needed it. When others were lamenting their losses, he saw an opportunity and spoke up. Now, it's opening up all kinds of doors for him and others.
Third, partner with people who can help your message spread. The way we get our work out into the world faster than it would otherwise spread is by reaching those who are reaching others. These are the tastemakers and patrons of our day, the YouTube sensations and Instagram influencers, the community leaders and doctors and politicians who are scrambling to help a lot of people but overwhelmed by the need.
Amidst the chaos, you might see some problem that can be solved and realize that you see a solution others seem to be missing. And as you feel this genius rising in you, don’t fight it. Don’t push it back. Lean in. See if there is someone who has a lot of attention but is searching for the right words to say.
Then, share your gift:
Maybe this means delivering flowers to everyone in your apartment building as an encouragement to those who need it.
Maybe it means calling up old friends and telling them someone is thinking about them.
Maybe it means going on someone's podcast and offering your best advice or sharing your most vulnerable story to help others feel not so alone.
Maybe it means finally launching that blog, releasing the book, or building that side business.
People are scared and bored; we are all looking for answers, and if you actually have some, speak up.
Do it or don't it
The point is this: share your gift now. As Annie Dillard tells us, “Give it, give it all, give it now.” Spend it all, every ounce of it right now, because if you hold back, if you save some of what you have to offer for later, you will go into that safe a day or a week or a year from now and only find ashes.
So this is your call right now—to create, to be generous, to share. I promise you that it will come back to you. I’m not saying, by any means, that you have to work for free.
All I’m saying is, be bold; share what’s on your mind and in your heart, what’s right in front of you. Do what is yours to do, and let tomorrow worry about itself. You need to share your gift today–for you and for others. The world will thank you, even if it doesn’t say a thing.
Anyway, it’s up to you. As for me, I will not shrink back. I might be afraid or confused or not know what to do, but I am going to keep sharing what I have to share, giving what I can, and centering myself around the truth that all change is good and that we cannot cling to what was but only embrace what is.
When we do this, embracing reality while generously offering what we have to the world, we are all better for it. But, of course, it's up to you:
You don’t have to be remarkable. No one’s going to force you to shine.
You can keep hiding who you are, if you want. You can be like the butterfly who crawls back into the chrysalis, scared of being shunned for her effulgence. You can live a nice, quiet life indoors.
This is a choice—becoming who you are—and most people don’t ever make it. You could be more than what you think other people think you are. But you’re going to have to do it the same way you tried to be normal: all by yourself.
You don’t have to be remarkable. But it’d be nice if you tried.
Let's do this together
Need help figuring out what your gift is? Don’t worry. You don’t have to do it on your own. Last week, I hosted a digital meetup of creatives who want to share their work with the world and need help during this time of crisis. We had such a great time that many folks were asking for us to do it again.
So this Wednesday, we’re going to do just that. Here are the details:
- Time: Wednesday, March 25, at 12:00pm Central time (the call will last about an hour).
- Length: About an hour (but we may stick around a little later to answer questions and chat some more).
- Format: Video conference call via Zoom (make sure you have a decent internet connection so you can stream video). Come ready to share your thoughts and questions in the chat (you don't have to be on video). Spaces are limited, so make sure you register here.
This is a no-pitch, completely-free webinar in which I’ll do a short teaching on branding and marketing and how to talk about the work that you do so that you can help more people (whether that means getting a job because you just got laid off, launching a new product, or spending some time working on that new hobby of yours).
After the teaching, we will open it up for questions and discussion on how you’re dealing with the current challenges to get your work out into the world. I believe this is an opportunity for us all to find our true work and do better at getting it in front of the people who need it. I hope you will join us (and yes, we will record it and send the recording to those who can’t make the live call).