All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dana and Christopher Reeves: Their Challenges Fostered Greatness
Dana Reeves (and her late husband Christopher) exemplify this principle to the max!
In their beloved field of acting, they both garnered success. In love, they found their soul mate. In their middle years, they faced major crises and trials as well as tribulations. They both lived their successful lives with great meaning and love.
Glimpsing bytes of Dana on our screens, we are reminded that great challenge fosters greatness. So while she said in resignation, “I thought I was almost there. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.” We all know she was thrown a curve. She couldn’t have seen it coming. It was her time to leave us. Christopher Reeve Foundation Article
We can learn a great deal from how the Reeves lived their lives and faced the unexpected hairpin turns along their route to greatness. Their life saga compels us to redefine success. The Reeves morphed success into being all about showing up. In so doing, they revealed the truth to us about having it all! It’s worthless unless we show up for what matters most to us.
Birthed in the women’s movement of the 60&70′s: Going for it all became the liberated woman’s “truth”. It was a byproduct of learning that we could “be” whatever we wanted. Failure was out of the question. For me, and my suburban cohorts, that meant becoming a “Super Hero” of sorts: super-mom, super-wife and super career woman all rolled into one!
But the truth about Having it All is this: our evolutionary mandate is that we let go of the compulsive goal to have it all at any cost to birth a new definition of success and failure. This new definition is about how we show up! Especially when we get thrown a curve.
Recently a successful CEO client sharing his take on the shakedown in his dying industry, told me: “…I’m doing fine. I just don’t like surprises.” Tell that to Dana or Chris.
Sudden life-altering change is the norm. Surprises a given. Markets shift. Industries die. Playing fields reform. New bottom-line demands stretch us past our limits. Even the great icons of American business like “GM” have lost their footing. Many of us find ourselves and what we’ve built slipping out of our reach as we slide down success ladder!
Leaders and business owners are at a loss as to what to do about run-away costs, lackluster innovation and a coming labor shortage of “knowledge workers”. Our icons of commerce are faltering and industries are dying. The threat of terrorism and nature’s wrath in our everyday awareness. We are being thrown back to the bottom rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy to survival & security.
Morale and stress are going in opposite directions. The need for meaningful work and relationships never fit into the “win-lose” profit-at-all-costs industrial model. Self-actualization, transformative leadership, wellness were not part of the success equation, yet job satisfaction is going downhill rapid-fire. Quality of life is tenuous.
Our current conditions are the kindling that could ignite greatness. If we can learn how to unleash greatness on demand, we will have truly learned how to show up when it counts the most. True success will be ours!
Forced by emergency to lead outside of the box, leadership is beginning to show up in a whole new way. What was once think tank talk is now becoming a reality. Dana was right. There is light at the end of the tunnel. A Fortune 500 company recently lifted its denial about the accelerating overgrowth of organizational dis-ease by surveying their top executives to get a better handle on the wellness of its leadership. Survey results:
70% of their top exec surveyed reported back
that they are “in personal crisis!”
What does this say about productivity, innovation and longevity? No wonder Asia is fast outpacing us. Armed with this alarming input transformative practices can be put into place. Old paradigms demolished. New “win-win” business models put into place. By surveying their top executives, this company is also showing up! Just in the nick of time!
Driven by necessity to lower soaring costs of health care– which in turn are pushing the cost of doing business over the top – future forward leaders are responding by offering once taboo wellness and preventive health care options to keep the people who keep them in business at their peak.
Each of us is being called to step forward and lead us into a better future. What’s critical is to show up even if we don’t know all the answers. The right questions matter much more!
Greatness is about showing up for all areas of our lives as Dana Reeves unwittingly demonstrated in the last months of her life. Dana’s staying below the media radar screen was a form of showing up, now tilted appropriately towards herself and her loved ones, especially her son. Rather than showing up for everything, choosing what not to show up for just as important. Showing up comes in many guises.
A few weeks ago as I enjoyed the Arizona desert air with Brett, my 33-year old son, he asked me to “show up” in a way I had avoided for several years. In his convincing preamble, he told me that I taught him to always take the high road, to tell the truth as fast as he could and to always show up! As his sister’s wedding approaches, he wanted me to “show up” by healing the wounds of a long ago vicious custody case shrouded in broken vows. The real gift is that my son showed up for me! Unraveling the twisted impotent rage buried deep in my psyche, I had to confront my demonized excess baggage of memories that could no longer hurt me… or my kids.
The best way to know when to show up and when not to is to be really clear what your criteria are for living your greatness and leading others to theirs. If you know for sure that something will NOT support your criteria, then it makes sense NOT to show up. When we act in accordance with our core values, both synergy and synchronicity take over!
I was reminded of this yesterday when I was invited to speak to a college classroom full of 21-year old business majors. When class was over one of the female students asked me for advice. She eagerly shared her dream of owning her own business with plans of realizing a profit in one year from opening! Older than the others at 31, she has 2 kids-one not even out of diapers and the other only 9yrs old. Listening to her internal battle, it was quite clear that her inner Tyrants and Terrorists were driving her in conflicting directions. The breakthrough came when she revealed that while listening to the lecture she became increasingly skittish about her plans for the immediate future. The “Aha!” moment came when she revealed that she grew up in a family-owned business located in her native country of Argentina.
Until that moment, she hadn’t a clue that it was more than okay for her to redefine what showing up meant for her… at least for this time in her life. We talked about how she could pursue her dreams by working for an entrepreneurial firm without the stress of being the owner until she was ready to launch her own. She visibly softened as the enormous self-imposed weight lifted off her. Without planning for it, she ended up with a new working definition of showing up!
Really showing up, giving up our preconceptions, means fully trusting the process.
A client who was one of three finalists for a coveted top position was bemoaning his recent “loss” and asked: Having just blown one question in one of the most important interviews of my life, how can I believe, that my just showing up was enough!?
How we define success versus failure determines how we deal with those days when we feel that showing is just NOT enough! I don’t mean that just being there is the same as “showing up”! The best way to rebound from a small or large failure is to appreciate the fact that we showed up… and trust that we just don’t have all the answers yet.
Even when we show up for something, (or someone), and it appears we failed, we must continue to follow the process to its completion so that new outcomes will be revealed. In my client’s case, letting go of what seemed the goal, allowed him to be open to “right angle precession”! In the aftermath, he was forced to recalibrate and learn new things about what would really give him the life he dreamed of. Then unexpected doors opened, obstacles melted.
It’s pretty simple. If you show up, the unexpected-what I call the “X” factor — also shows up. Otherwise there’s no chance of miracles happening.
Just remember that showing up is all about living life fully. You cannot live your greatness if all you do is contemplate your navel or sit on the fence with blinders on.
Dana and Christopher Reeves were ordinary people who had an extraordinary commitment to show up in life for those they loved and for those they served.
As we saw over their last years, months and days with us, Christopher and Dana Reeves kept showing up. Their lives may be over, but their life of contribution was filled with meaning, great love and fulfillment. That’s having it all!
Clearly Dana and Christopher traveled a hard road from self-actualizing success to significance, and now transcendence. Although incredibly heavy footsteps to follow, we all have been gifted a great legacy.
Thank you Dana and Chris for showing us that “The only failure is not showing up!”
© 1997-2009 Karen Sands/Future Works Institute, Ltd. All rights reserved. May not be duplicated, retransmitted or reproduced without permission. Future Works® is the registered trademark of Future Works Institute, Ltd.
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