What do Emma Thompson and my late grandmother have in common?
The answer to that question is authenticity and the courage to live out loud.
The first time I met Emma Thompson I was running my retail fashion business in London. Emma T. was everything you might imagine she would be, especially if you are a fan, like me. And although she was attired in very ordinary clothes, mussed up hair, and wearing a pair of well-worn sneakers, she looked great. In fact, she came across as someone who is unquestionably authentic.
I recently had coffee with a successful businessperson who I've coached over the years. He said that individuals he's met who convey authenticity, or to use his words, "people who are the real deal", all have a common trait. He described it as "energy behind their eyes". Emma Thompson has that special energy and so did my late grandmother. Another word that's oft used to describe this kind of characteristic is charisma. It's a quality that evokes feelings of well-being in others; a kind of magnetic draw, if you like.
Over the years, I've met numerous men and women who hail from a wide variety of arenas. They range from captains of industry, wealthy bankers, movie stars and world-class politicians. I don't recall many of them having that energy that Grandma Goldman had, or that Emma Thompson has. I don't believe that this special characteristic is something that's conscious; rather, it comes from a healthy self belief and the desire to be Living Out Loud. Does anyone remember that movie? It starred Danny DeVito, Queen Latifah and Holly Hunter. We were living in L.A when it came out, and I recall being urged to see it by an L.A film reviewer. He thought the film was right up my street and he was right; I loved it. For me, it reinforced my belief that life is what you make it. And you can make it in any field of your dreams, if you really, really want to.
In many ways, Grandma Goldman lived out loud. She wore lovely 1940's colorful print silk dresses. I remember the way the soft fabric swished against her hand-made black leather boot, for she was born with a clubfoot. Sparsely spaced, narrow upright metal struts surrounded the boot. And although the boot was well-worn, the leather and the struts glistened as she hopped from one side of the room to another. Her physical handicap never got in the way of her ability to convey energy, be curious, to cook wonderful food and dole out tough love, or what we kids described as "jamma" in a bad mood. Grandma Goldman was the real deal; you knew exactly where you stood with her. And her unconditional love of us was ever present, no matter what. I still miss her today.
Emma Thompson lives out loud. This woman is an extraordinary actor, prolific writer, raises a family, has a social conscious and supports fourteen charities and foundations that I'm aware of. And she does all this with grace, humility and without a trace of ego, and always with humour. When Kate and I wrote our first book, we sent the manuscript to Emma and asked for a quote. She responded with a hand written note, saying that because we sited her in our book, she didn't think it would be appropriate. Of course, she was right. She also enclosed a photograph of her baby daughter, who she described as "baby Buddha" and commented very kindly about our manuscript.
We can all live out loud authentically. And here are some pointers on how to begin:
- Trade in self consciousness for courage
- Trust that what you value and hold dear is shared by others
- Learn to trust your intuition, it knows more than you think
- Know that you can have the life you want
- Be the you that you are most proud of -- that's the authentic you.
- Be alert to the times when you are not being authentic.
Follow Malcolm Levene on Twitter: www.twitter.com/malcolmlevene