Step into the Spotlight: How to Land the Role of a Lifetime
If there is one thing I’m well acquainted with, it’s this search for significance—a spotlight of sorts. How can I show up authentically, adding value and beauty to the world around me? How do I get there? Well, as it were, I’m dreadfully stubborn, traipsing around for years down camouflaged detours of tangled roads leading to what I thought were final destinations.
Interestingly, I’ve learned far more from my detours than my successes.
Can you relate?
As a result, I’m still building out that journey, and plan to for the long haul. Here’s the thing though, oftentimes we exhaust this search and desperately cling to false forms of stardom, significance, what have you. We try to shine in someone else’s spotlight, fit into their box, and therefore abandon the unique capacities and creativity dormant within.
Remember the movie The Holiday? I realize it’s a bit late for Christmas amusement; however, there is a scene in this movie that is worth noting all year long.
Here’s the set up: Iris, played by Kate Winslet, is having dinner with Arthur Abbott, an older gentleman who’s a successful, retired Hollywood film director. They meet by chance while she’s in LA on holiday over Christmas in hopes of escaping the pain of a recent heartache back home in England. After Arthur expresses total perplexity as to why the gorgeous Brit is spending her holiday alone in a different country, he digs deeper. She eventually breaks down in tears as Arthur gently sizes up the situation with his spot-on insight.
“This is not a hard one to figure out. Iris, in the movies we have leading ladies, and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason, you are behaving like the best friend.”
It was one of those “aha” moments for Iris, and for me the first time I watched it. After a sip of beer and a sigh of relief, she jokes about her incompetent therapist of three years withholding this core insight from her.
In order to recuse myself from any such accusation (and because I wish my therapist would’ve asked me the same thing ten plus years ago), I’ll ask you a similar question today:
Are you starring as the lead in your own life? Or are you the best friend, constantly apologizing for your actions and taking cues from everyone else around you?
When we attempt to re-invent our wheel and jump on someone else’s bandwagon, we detach from ourselves, ignoring what’s burning beneath the surface. Slowing down to grapple with this stuff isn't necessarily easy either.
In fact, for years I battled hard-core anxiety and self-doubt, feeling obligated to pursue music as a career. With a natural bend towards it, loads of encouragement from outside sources, and unique opportunities in front of me, I traveled down that path for several years. Sure, I loved the idea, and it felt really satisfying to walk down that brightly lit and hopeful path, but it fell short–something was missing.
Music is a passion, but it was never enough for me to pursue solely. When I woke up to the fact that I’m more than enough without a spotlight on a music stage, it strangely permitted me to enjoy it even more. Funny how that works.
It also allowed me to see boundless opportunity in those things that felt truly meaningful, exciting, and a more authentic fit for me career-wise.
Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you must pursue it. You get to choose.
In light of all this, I’ve got a little assignment for you. At the very least it’s food for thought or good dinner conversation... or both.
• Become laser aware of the things you effortlessly enjoy doing. What are the problems you get lost in solving? This can look like drafting an email, planning a party, listening to a friend share a difficult experience, telling a story, picking out paint colors, practicing piano, writing a thank-you note, and so on. Nothing is too small or insignificant. What do you love about doing it? How does it make you feel?
• What compliments do you receive often? Don’t be shy. (e.g., You’re great with people, you make a memorable first impression, you’re a gifted flower arranger, you’re hilarious.)
• Finally, ask a trusted friend this question:
When do you observe me at my most engaged, alive, and contented self? What am I doing and what do you notice about me?
• Write it all down.
We simply don’t realize how we lead in certain areas. We assume “everyone does this as well!”
It takes loving mirrors such as trusted friends, colleagues, coaches, and family members to reflect back on what they see. I’ll never forget my 8th-grade cheerleading coach (laugh it up) giving me invaluable insight into what she saw in me back then. One day she took me aside in her thoughtful and present way and told me I was a natural encourager and observer. As an insecure, awkward 12-year-old in need of validation, I tucked her words away like a tiny family heirloom in my coat pocket. I’ve treasured and trusted them ever since. So many years later, much of my work is built around those two attributes. This stuff works.
Let’s cast you in the lead role of your life. It’s not selfish, or petty, or a waste of time. Quite the contrary! The minute you step into your unique calling or “spotlight,” a sense of relief wells up. An internal security and calm pervades, and you can stop hustling to compete, compare, and look for outward solutions to internal capacities that have been there all along. We love and live more fully from this place of knowing.
So, you’ve landed the lead role… It gets really fun when we start writing the script.
Love & Gratitude,