Aim Higher

Josefsplatz, Vienna

Please note! The live Q&A for the 10 Lessons on Storytelling (on Zoom) has been pushed by a week. It will now take place on Sunday, 17th May at 12 noon EST (9am PST, 5pm UK, 9.30pm India, 10pm Bangladesh). I will post details of the call closer to the time. It will thrill me to no end if you can join me! (Please go here to Opus 40 to see my two video links on storytelling. And thank you!)

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” — Helen Keller

Hi my lovelies,

I hope you are all safe and healthy, and looking after yourselves and staying indoors.

When we were getting ready to graduate from university, my friends and I used to tell ourselves that you can have the perfect home, the perfect job and the perfect man – but not at the same time.

When sharing dating stories, my girlfriends and I would say about the quality of men we hoped to meet: intelligent, good-looking, emotionally stable – pick two.

In my years as a line producer in films when I was responsible for creating and managing the budget, I would tell the studio: quick, cheap, good – let me know which two you want, because you can’t get all three.

Indeed, my criteria for choosing films to work on in the first place were where I could confidently tick two out of the three: good people, good script, or good money. And I learnt the hard way to never compromise on the “good people” part. (It continues to be the advice I probably share the most.)

As amusing as these are, they upheld the notion that we mustn’t aim too high, as disappointment was simply inevitable. These worked as talismans. Lest we jinx ourselves, we (especially I) figured it better to aim low from the start. Better to be cautious than a fool. We kept our enthusiasm in check by front loading it with plenty of cynicism.

What a half-hearted way to live!

I’ve congratulated myself over the years for shielding myself this way. But it hasn’t made disappointment any more tolerable. There is no careful navigating of pain, it turns out.

Also, restricting myself like that actually feels like a burden (like the statue at the top). It’s a weight to carry.

Now more and more, I’m embracing the deliciousness of dreaming. I’ve been rolling around exquisite possibilities in my mind. Testing out how excited my heart feels at the thought of various scenarios. This is the time to be visionary. It feels unrestrained, light, expansive.

This dream-time can be a fragile time to speak of it out loud. All too often, others can be quick to point out difficulties. So protect your ideas and your excitement. Share them with people who want the best for you, not those who want to cut them down to size. Let them stew in their tiny lives. You go big.

There is time enough for all the logistics to be considered and weighed, but it’s important to not edit at the early stages when fantasy rules more than practicality.

So, now I’m daring to imagine: what if something can be good and quick and cheap (or, rather, affordable)? What about a work scenario where it’s good people and good script and good money? How about a man who is intelligent, good-looking and emotionally stable? (There’s a thought!) And how about going for a perfect home, a perfect man and a perfect job?

Woah! I love it. And of course, that’s just for starters.

Let’s aim higher. It makes life so much more beautiful.

“I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” — Vincent Van Gogh

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I have been clearing stuff – preferable to sitting in front of a screen all day long. So for a change, instead of various cultural things to imbibe I’m recommending ways of lightening up. Let’s make space to dream.

Physical: whether it’s one drawer or your whole home, this feels like a wonderful time to get rid of all that belongs in the past, or perhaps in the future, but have no relevance for the present. I include digital in this too. I edited my address book; my music; the apps on my phone; the bookmarks on my browser; my documents; all the ideas for blog posts that I never got around to writing; recipes I hoped to one day make; books I’ll never re-read or, indeed, really ever will read; and more. Next: wardrobe, kitchen and study.

Mental: sit still in silence with eyes closed for five minutes. No need to call it meditation. No chanting, no mantra, no chin mudra required. No special breathing, no attention to your body, no scanning your thoughts needed. Just sit still. Let whatever needs to fall, shift, pop, turn, etc do its thing. Just clearing this tiny amount of space can be revolutionary.

Emotional: listen with an open heart but tell the truth to everyone around you.

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