The Obstacle is The Path (Zen Proverb)
Last night I attended my 19-year old daughter's showcase where she performed a standup comedy routine, for the first time, to a crowd of strangers, her adoring parents, and a handful of her closest friends. For 8 weeks she mined for "material," and this past week she rehearsed her set behind closed doors, not wanting me to hear her punchlines. (She was concerned that if I knew the jokes, I wouldn't laugh the night of her performance).
I'm glad she pursued that strategy. Because I was terrified for her. She, in my opinion, was taking on one of the most difficult things a person could do. To stand up, alone on a stage, and bring a hidden part of one's self out into the open, and to use it to make people laugh. I was in awe of her courage, yet concerned for the outcome -- so it was better that I stayed out of her way.
Backstage she had a case of the nerves -- anxious about what could go wrong, concerned about crickets. I tried to help -- encouraging her to rely on her practice, to breathe through it.
She nailed it. She was poised, clever, and got the laughs. She poked some fun at her Irish heritage, and entertained us with stories about her new job at an elite country club. But what really impressed me was that she fully showed up. Her routine was grounded in self-knowledge. She was aware of her strengths and foibles, owned them, and used them to get her points across and engage the audience in her world. She was brave.
Depending upon the conditions, bravery is accomplished in both small and large ways.
My daughter's performance last night may seem small, but I predict it is a milestone on a path for what's to come. Knowing our strengths, embracing our "weaknesses," and working through our fears is what propels us forward -- towards those things that are known as well as towards those opportunities that lie in wait.
Mary McGuinness, M.Ed., PCC is a career transition and shift-it coach based in Chicago, IL USA.
Mary uses visual coaching and design-thinking techniques and practices to accompany her clients on a journey of self-discovery that results in creative solutions, faster results, and happier, more fulfilling careers.