Life is so rich
There’s a picture in my home office of me, my wife, and my daughter riding bikes on a trip we look last summer to Paris. If you walked into my house and saw it, you may think that’s our norm - helmet clad, trekking around Nashville daily, packing up the car with our bikes when we travel to visit family or tour the southeast on fall break.
But you’d be wrong.
That afternoon in Paris was the first time my wife and I had ridden a bike in five or ten years. We don't even own bikes (my daughter has one but isn’t an avid rider).
This is the risk of a snapshot - we think it tells us everything but it tells us nothing.
I was recently in contention for a job that lasted several rounds of interviews. Having been an entrepreneur for the last 13 years, I was suddenly confronted with the daunting task that confronts many of you regularly: create a resume.
Being thrust into the dubious task of summing up my professional life in a few sheets of paper was no small challenge - not because I’m supremely accomplished but because bullet points and section headers don’t come close to detailing the stories I could tell, lessons learned, and skills developed from creating four companies, delivering 500+ speeches, serving on nonprofit boards, and consulting business owners. But there I was, confronted with the overwhelming power of a stupid blank sheet of paper.
I thought back through the last decade plus of work and tried hard to pull snapshots from the recesses of my mind. Quoted in a newspaper here, a revenue milestone there - all of it a vain attempt to cobble together a scrapbook of work.
After an hour or so of this mental inventory, I abandoned my approach. I ditched the snapshots for a highlight reel.
You’ve seen the highlight reels that plan on Sportscenter or award shows. Clip after clip gives you a sense of all the highs (rarely the lows) in vivid motion and exciting crescendo, a fuller glimpse into the life and work of a cultural icon. Life is too rich to dilute it down to a handful of still pictures; we were meant to share our highlight reels.
My resume was soon filled with paragraphs and stories. No; it won’t get past the bots if I apply to gigs posted on large online job boards, but it would do the trick for this opportunity. Most of all it would let me remain true to myself and the fun dynamism that has been my career journey thus far.
Of course, highlight reels can’t be framed and placed on office walls, so this isn’t a wholesale replacement for photography as memory capturer. But it does serve as a reminder for me that when talking about myself or measuring my success (especially in my own head), knowing that my highlight reel of accomplishments is far deeper than the recent snapshot of failure means I won’t judge myself on my latest task. I’ll draw on the deep well of richness that is life itself.
In her book Storycatcher, Christina Baldwin writes:
“I have read the story of a tribe in southern Africa called the Babemba in which a person doing something wrong, something that destroys this delicate social net, brings all work in the village to a halt. The people gather around the "offender," and one by one they begin to recite everything he has done right in his life: every good deed, thoughtful behavior, act of social responsibility. These things have to be true about the person, and spoken honestly, but the time-honored consequence of misbehavior is to appreciate that person back into the better part of himself. The person is given the chance to remember who he is and why he is important to the life of the village.”
I took the title of today’s post from Scott Galloway and his weekly email. Scott is a brilliant thinker and writer (h/t to my friend Rob for shining the light on him for me) who usually riffs on technology or business news (Pivot is a weekly must-listen for me). But, in his weekly newsletter he usually works in a family/personal lesson with whatever business headline he’s breaking down. The combination of the two is summed up nicely in his closing, “Life is so rich, Scott.”
If you’ve failed at something recently, don't frame that snapshot. Know that your highlight reel of accomplishments is bigger than any single act (failure or success) and will tell a deeper, richer story of who you are and what you’re capable of doing in this world.
And, I’m back. After having taken a long time away from creative work, I’m at a place where I’m itching to share what it is I’m wrestling with, dreaming of, and learning. I’ll share more later about what I’ve been up to during the hiatus, but it’s good to be back.