Last year I read a book by Seth Godin called What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn). It’s a great book. In it he talks about his views on entrepreneurship and how to achieve your goals more efficiently or… at all, really.
The main idea Seth wants to drive home is baked into the title of the book. It’s your turn. Now. It’s never not your turn. Do something.
This was revolutionary for me (and maybe it is for you, too). The desire to be “the chosen one” is universal. Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Cinderella, The Matrix, The Sword in the Stone… I could go on and on naming stories, myths, archetypes from all throughout the history of storytelling that point to the same need in all of us. We want to be chosen. And for some of us that means a lot of waiting and painfully watching while others achieve what we had always hoped for.
I have spent so much of my life waiting to be given permission to live. When I was a teenager, I didn’t do anything without permission. Well, I wasn’t supposed to, at least… so if I did and it ever became known I’d suffer consequences for it.
Those consequences reinforced the need for permission from anyone and everyone to be able to act. So instead of making art or writing fiction or doing anything that I wanted to do simply because I wanted to do it, I waited for someone to tell me I was allowed to.
Growing up, I had bathroom mirror fantasies (you know, where you lock yourself in the bathroom and have imaginary conversations with your reflection? Anyone? Just me? Ok…) that I had been discovered by someone who would make me a famous model, or actress, or just a member of a richer, more “hip” family. The keen desire to be singled out, to be chosen, has lived inside me my whole life.
What I wish I’d known then, what Seth Godin drives home in his book, is that if you sit and wait for someone else to pick you, the odds are you’ll never get to “go” at all. If you want to play the game, if you want to be chosen, you have to pick yourself.
It took me almost 4 decades to discover this truth. When I think about the time and opportunities I wasted by waiting for someone else to tell me I was allowed to live I get a little sad. How much more could I have done if I had realized early on that I could fill my own need by choosing myself?
These days I’m bolder, I dive in and take more risks without waiting for someone to give me the go-ahead. I make messes and sing out of key and am publishing my first novel this year because I’m not waiting for anyone to say “It’s your turn.” I already know it’s my turn. I already know that I’m going to get picked for the team I want to play on because I’m the one doing the picking. I pick myself.
What about you?