Almost exactly one year ago, my TEDx Bend talk entitled "Why Aren't We Awesomer?" went live on the TEDx site. (If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch it here.) Over 100,000 views later, I've realized that one story I didn't share during the talk was about where the title originally came from.
Some years ago, I was sitting with an entrepreneurial client who was telling me about his business struggles, and how the stress and pressure he was feeling were leaking into other areas of his life. Out of nowhere, a question that at first seemed too rude to voice popped into my head:
"Why aren't you awesomer?"
It was such a direct question that it made me smile, and when my client asked me what I was smiling about I told him and he asked me what I meant.
"I'm not sure," I said, "but I think what I mean is this. You're a very successful guy, so I know you're at the very least capable of hard work and delivering on what you promise. You're well educated, so I know your brain works just fine, and I've been around you long enough to know you're socially intelligent as well."
"But somehow you're acting as though you no longer have access to the same resources that have gotten you this far in life. And I don't mind, but it's curious to me..."
We both sat with that thought for awhile, and he shared some of the doubts that had been creeping into his mind as he struggled to keep his business afloat over the past couple of years, like "What if it was all just a fluke?" and "What if my time has past?"
Rather than address those questions directly, I took us back into a conversation about the nature of the human experience. We talked about the nature of thought, and how everyone experiences their thinking as though it's real. I shared one of my favorite stories about my mentor George Pransky and how one of his clients was offended when George told him that his stress, which seemed so real to him, was only a mirage -- a trick of thought without any substance to it. George thought for a moment and then responded, "Well, it's a real mirage..."
We also talked about how it isn't only people's problems which are the mirage -- the whole game inside of which the problems arise is made up of thought as well. This took us into a contemplation of the formless energy out of which thought and every form arises and dissipates, and we both got pretty quiet.
Finally, he asked me "Why do you think I'm not awesomer?"
I reflected for a few moments, and then shared what came to me.
"I think it's because somewhere along the line, how you were doing in your life started to seem very real and significant, and like it would be for anyone, that was a scary thought. And because it looked so real and important, you started to think that you needed things to be a certain way in order to manage your fear. And if all your attention is on controlling the world, it's really difficult to stay tuned in to your deeper guidance and wisdom, which is where all our 'awesomeness' comes from in the first place."
We sat there for a few moments.
"That's pretty awesome," he said.
And I had to agree that it was.
My dictionary defines "awe" as "an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc. produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like." And while I've never seen this written down as a magic formula, it seems to me that it's our capacity to live in reverence for the grand, sublime, and extremely powerful intelligence behind our thinking and our lives that makes us "awesomer."
I hope you enjoy the talk, and may all your success be fun!
For more by Michael Neill, click here.