Saturday, December 5, 2009

Stop What You Are Doing

Truisms are truisms mostly because they are true. For example "honesty is the best policy" applies to relationships, business, even medical checkups. And honesty is also a key to understanding what direction to take in pursuing greatness. People ask me all the time "how do I know where to focus my energies to pursue greatness?" Well, the first step is brutal honesty.

Yesterday I had the privilege to dine with and listen to Sydney Lea, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Sydney has been nominated and won more prizes for his poetry than I could ever imagine. He came to speak at our bookstore in Asbury Park. Sydney is one of the most self-effacing individuals I've met. But it is not false humility but a brutal honesty that has propelled him to be one of America's best poets.

The most telling part of the evening occurred when someone asked Sydney "why poetry?" Most of Sydney's poems are story-like; snippets of lives, moments and interactions that lend themselves to narrative. Sydney's explanation was amazingly honest. He described his doctoral dissertation as "ponderous" and his attempts at regional stories as "possibly appearing condescending." Conversely his use of poetry allows him to explore the dynamic in a human interaction, capture the regional flair, and briefly convey the meaning. In other words, he is honest about what he CAN'T do. That allows him to focus his energies on what he does well and continue to write better and better.

From boardrooms, to offices, to cubicles; from recording studios, to concerts; from practice to the court or the course, too many of us fail to find our greatness because we refuse to honestly admit what we don't do well and stop doing it. Because if we admit and cease what we don't do well, we can focus on our possibility for greatness. So, be honest, be brutally honest. It might help you find your greatness.

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