I love reading the graduation speeches of celebrities and known scholars. Often buoyed by the wisdom of life and the school of hard knocks, they focus on what really matters in life. For graduates who are consumed with this huge leap into the unknown of life, they are consumed by what they think is the framework of existence ….. how to make a living. These speeches try to refocus them on what I know now as the really important lessons, but I wonder if it really sinks in. Sandra Bullock showed up at a New Orleans high school graduation last week and delivered a really cool speech which included wisdom on nutrition, letting go of failure, ignoring the haters and overcoming a fear of the unknown. But, the advice that really struck me was about dancing before you leave the house in the morning. “We turn on the music really, really loud before we leave the house,” she explained. “The rule is: You have to dance a little bit before you step out in the world, because it changes the way you walk.”
I was talking to a friend who is on her own personal journey in recovery from codependence. She is really struggling, and she went to the bookstore because she wanted to find a book that resonated with her feelings. In looking, she finally realized that she didn’t need to read about someone else’s experience. She just needed to do the really hard things – sitting with her feelings … speaking up when she’s afraid of the outcome …. setting boundaries with herself and others. I told her that I had a self-help library in my house early in recovery. I had this notion that if I understood it – if I understood me – that I could make better decisions. When I finally knew everything about why I was like I was, what I needed to do to change and what new behaviors were healthy, I still wasn’t any better. I hadn’t DONE anything. It wasn’t the KNOWING that changed me … it was the DOING.
When I think back of the biggest learning experiences of my life, I learned by jumping in with both feet and doing something. The biggest skill-builder of my career was not the work towards my Masters Degree in Instructional Technology at Purdue. I learned more about Instructional Design, training and performance improvement in a work project when I worked at Whirlpool. I had to train parts warehouse personnel on a new system and business processes affiliated with a transition to a centralized model. My pretty little call center butt had never stepped into a parts warehouse. I was given no instructions other than a little paper Quick Reference Guide on the new system. I talked to people who I anticipated knew what needed to happen in the new world for a week or two. But, when the final guy on my list said he had no clue, it sunk in that I needed to figure this out myself. I wanted to run. I knew I would be a colossal failure at this. There was no one to tell me what to do! Having no other choice, I started to investigate what currently happens, what the new system would require in a day-to-day operation, and I started pulling together people to discuss how the processes should work. It was a crazy time. Some things worked. Some things were colossal failures. Everybody on my team was in a huge learning curve similar to mine, but we began to meld and work together to get this thing going.
When I look back at that time, I realize I learned all of the skills necessary for my career. I learned to work with a team. I learned to write effective communication plans and how to target the essential information to the targeted audience. I learned how to trouble-shoot business and process problems. I learned to document and speak up on critical issues. I learned how to teach people how to do a job. But, the most important thing I learned is that I don’t need to know how to do something to be successful. I just need to do it. Nike was right. There is nothing more to know than ‘Just Do It.’
When I first started practicing yoga, I struggled with meditation. I’d read books on how to do it. I talked to teachers about it. I wanted to know how to do it. I’d meditate, and all of these thoughts kept ambushing my brain. The teacher would say to ‘let the thoughts drift through your mind like clouds.’ Well, I would try, but mostly I’d jump on the cloud and take it for a ride all over the country and back again. By the time I got back from my little cloud trip, the meditation would be done, and I’d missed it. So, meditation was not a regular practice for me. Lately, I’ve committed myself to a daily Yoga Nidra practice. This has been going on for two weeks. Yoga Nidra is a 30-45 minute deep meditation. Yesterday, I had a breakthrough. I was laying on my mat deep into the relaxation phase, and I started obsessing about a relationship I’m in. For some reason, my brain said ‘obsession’ in an almost audible voice, naming the thought. Have you ever clicked on those games on the computer, and the little character goes away in a puff of smoke? That’s what happened to my ‘obsession.’ The simple act of naming it clocked it. OMG!!! I got it!! That’s what all of those teachers were talking about. The cloud didn’t work for me, but naming it did. Then a thought about work poured in. I’ve got this! ‘Fear’, I said to it. Poof! It was gone in a puff of smoke. I started mind-writing a blog. ‘Passion’, I named it. Poof… disappeared. It only took me 14 years of practice, but I got it. I learned from the experience … not the instruction.
I learned very important life lessons from running my first marathon. With increasing workload on my body with 18, 20 and 22 mile runs, I learned how to fuel properly. I learned how much sleep I really need. I learned that food is important for more than just fun. I learned that things worth having can take a long time to get. I learned to set priorities. I couldn’t go out on Friday night and then get up at 4:30 to run 15 miles and expect to feel good. I learned where to buy cute running clothes, too. Lessons don’t have to be boring! Last week at work, I learned to speak up for what I know is right even when all the voices around me tell me to shut up. It was uncomfortable, but the immediate relief of doing it made for a great weekend. And, it really doesn’t even matter what happens with it. Having done it, I feel more in control of my life and my environment. I had weighed the pros and cons of speaking up for months. I could never come up with an answer of whether I should or shouldn’t. But, in one moment, I knew I had to ‘Just Do It.’
That’s what I loved about Sandra Bullock’s advice about dancing. The way you walk is not changed because you tried to change it. It’s not changed because you’ve built your confidence up or improved your self-esteem. The way you walk is changed because you danced. I know when I dance, it taps into some freedom within me. My spirit rides on joyful energy. The movement itself increases energy. I become aware of my body and my own presence. It puts me in a whole different place just because the music is moving me from the inside. The dancing helps me step into my femininity and my power. Especially when I’m dancing alone, it makes me feel sexy and beautiful and fun. I can be whoever I want to be, but mostly I can be myself. I went to a yoga workshop one time where we danced to music and drumming with our eyes closed for 45 minutes. Without others looking, we were encouraged to move however we wanted to move. It was awesome! I was in such a different place by the end of that class. I think I’m going to turn on some country music before I leave the house this morning. I’m not going to read about why it makes a difference in my step. I’m going to ‘Just Do It.’ I’ll let you know what happens. But, don’t wait for my experience – JUST DO IT!!! 🙂