Tag Archives: rut

Knowledge? Shmowledge! Go Ahead and Make a Little Trouble

Yes!My father used to say that I made my own trouble. He was right, of course. But in my defense, I can tell you precisely why that was the case. Whenever anyone asked me if I could do something I’d never done before — or whenever I saw some great opportunity out there that looked good to me– I was the first one to blurt out an emphatic yes. Yes, I can write that. Yes, I can teach that. Yes, I can make that. Yes, I can do that. I’ve yessed myself through life even when I didn’t have clue about what I would have to do or how I would do it. I just said yes.

Want some examples? Well, here are just a few of the things that I have said yes to in my life with no relevant experience under my belt and without really knowing what would be involved:

  • Write my first book for Prentice-Hall
  • Chair an English as a Second Language program at a university
  • Serve as a marriage celebrant and legally marry a couple
  • Write a newsletter for hospital medical directors
  • Serve as an expert witness in a court case
  • Sing our national anthem at a golf tournament
  • Script and emcee a university commencement ceremony
  • Write an elementary school spirit song
  • Accompany a novice tuba player on the piano for a music competition
  • Make 1,600 chocolates for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah
  • Play Here Comes the Bride for a wedding
  • Lead an Irish sing-along, and
  • Give subcutaneous fluids to a cat

Why would I say yes to such things if I didn’t know how to do them? Because that’s how I’ve gotten to do amazing things in my life (fluids for the cat aside). I suppose I could have been conservative and taken on challenges only after I’d had proper training and experience. But what fun would that have been? Besides, saying yes when you don’t know what you’re doing is an invigorating leap of faith – in yourself. I may not always have known how to do the things I committed to doing. But I believed in me and I believed that I would ultimately figure things out. Call it gumption, call it confidence, or call it foolishness if you like. But whatever you call it, my yesses have given me opportunities that other people have not had.

Mind you, once I say yes to something I don’t know how to do, I react pretty normally. I panic just like anyone would and tell myself that I must have been completely nuts to say that I could do whatever it was. But then, inevitably, I calm myself down and get to work, and guess what happens? Somehow, I manage to write the book, to bang out the chocolates, to accompany the tuba, or to do whatever other crazy thing I said that I could do.

My daughter, Meredith, has told me that she thinks of her mother as a “professional expert”. According to her, it doesn’t matter what task is in front of me. She says I will always appear to be an expert in it – and then, somehow or other, I will actually become one. The kid has a point. Some people learn to swim by taking lessons in the shallow end of the pool, blowing bubbles, and learning technique step by step. I guess I’m the type that learns best by jumping into the deep end. I may flail and sputter a bit but somehow, I will always manage to stay afloat. And most people will think I know what I’m doing while I figure things out.

The next time you’re wondering if you should agree to do something that’s completely new and unfamiliar to you, don’t back off. Don’t let a lack of knowledge and experience stop you from doing what you would like to do in your life. Take a giant leap of faith and join me in the deep end. Say yes. You’ll figure out how to do whatever it is that you’ve agreed to do. Don’t worry when the panic sets in, because believe me, it will. But it won’t last. Don’t worry about the trouble you will create for yourself either. It will be worth it. Besides, what’s so bad about making a little trouble in your life? After all, the world needs more experts, doesn’t it? — Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com

It Started with a Red Kitchen

Red PaintMany years ago, I was feeling stuck in my career and my life. I had lost my mother only months earlier and the combination of my grief and my overall dissatisfaction made me feel incredibly sad. Then one day, as I was preparing my breakfast, I noticed how beige my kitchen was. The walls were almost the same shade of beige as the countertops, appliances, table top, and vinyl flooring. Even my toaster and coffeemaker were beige. The beige engulfed and surrounded me and stood for me as a symbol of my beige, bland life.

That’s when I decided that I had to paint my kitchen. But I didn’t know what color to choose. I spent weeks looking at paint chips of tasteful colors that most people would like – light greens, blues, and tans for the most part. I asked my friends for their suggestions. But nothing was right. Then, as I was looking at the paint chip display in a big box hardware store, I saw a man walk by who was wearing a windbreaker in the most delicious shade of red. It was a clear, strong, and definite red, and it immediately caught my eye. I followed the man and asked him if he could please come with me for a moment so I could match my paint to his windbreaker. He must have thought me mad. But he was a kind man. He humored me and together, we were able to match his jacket perfectly.

The moment the red paint went on the wall, I started to feel better. With every stroke of the brush and every pass of the roller, I felt that I was covering my beige sadness and preparing for a happier time in my life – a red time. When the room was completely red, I felt for the first time in a long time that I could finally breathe again. I felt exhilarated. My red kitchen was the harbinger of so many great new things in my life. After that, I returned to graduate school, took better care of my physical self, created a more orderly home, started playing the piano every week at an assisted living facility, and even, composed music for the first time ever. My creativity and energy soared, and with it, my happiness.

Are you feeling stuck, sad, down, or at a loss for what to do? Choose one room in your home where you spend a lot of time and paint it a spectacular new color. Don’t pull your punch. Give yourself permission to live in a color you love. If you don’t know what color that is, keep your eyes peeled and notice what pops. A color will come to you. Then live in that color, wrap yourself in it, and let it heal you. You’ll draw energy from the color but also from your own power for having changed something so dramatically in your environment. Then see what happens next. My guess is that good things will follow. — Dr. Laura Hills, President, Blue Pencil Institute, www.bluepencilinstitute.com