All the world’s a stage and we are merely players

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I had a vivid dream early this morning that was so perfect in message, so vivid in detail and so funny in its twisted paranoia that I just had to share it with you.

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I was chosen as the lead in a play to be performed at a large local theater.  I was studying my lines for days and days and felt confident in my ability to deliver on opening night.

I arrived at the theater and was taken on stage.  Two wise-looking elderly men in long robes with beards were standing in the wings.  One of them was my college professor.  I think the other was a famous Shakespearean actor.  I immediately walked over to them and said sincerely  “I apologize for the terrible job I am going to do.  I really don’t know how to act, so please don’t take any offense.”  They didn’t say anything, they just walked away.

Just then, the Director walked over to me and said “I am so surprised that you didn’t take the supporting actor’s role.  That was a much better fit for you, and the character is much funnier and sexier than the lead.”  I looked at the actor in the supporting role and felt pangs of regret.  But I told the Director “I really wanted to take the lead role this time.”

Right before the curtain was raised, I forgot all my lines.  Everything.  I didn’t know what the play was about, what to say or how to act.  I walked on stage and made up some really poor dialog.  My fellow actor in the scene looked at me with confusion on her face, but just tried to play along.  There was hardly anyone in the audience at first, but the longer we were on stage, the more the room filled up.

I finally turned to walk offstage in desperation to find my script and read my lines.  But as I turned my back to the audience, I realized that I had forgotten to dress my bottom half, and all that was smiling back at them was my very pale thong-clad butt.

I ran offstage and frantically grabbed the script and searched for the correct page of dialog. I spent what seemed like an eternity searching, to no avail.  Then I woke up.

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It does not take an advanced degree in psychology to interpret the messages in my dream.  Many of you may recommend therapy.  I am so used to my “slap me in the face with my anxiety” dreams that I just laugh at them now.  Here is what I took away that I think applies to all of you who are stepping out into your “bigger” stage:

  • As much as you prepare, you will feel awkward, lost and incompetent when you first start out. Your moment of reckoning may be a presentation in front of a potential investor, the day you open your shop doors or your first time leading a workshop or seminar.  You will not be perfect.  But contrary to my dream, if you carefully prepare, you will not totally blank out and forget everything you learned.
  • Important mentors, experts and friends may disapprove of your new direction.  You may feel like a gigantic impostor taking the stage of business with other seasoned experts.  Some will try to intimidate you with their vast knowledge and make you second-guess your decision to join them.  Don’t cave to pressure.  When they started out, they knew as little as you, and had to learn by doing just as you will.  Don’t apologize for what you don’t know as I did, just be humble, observe and soak up everything you can.
  • You may be tempted to slip back into comfortable territory.  The “supporting role” element of my dream spoke directly to underlying fear I feel for stepping into the spotlight.  For the many years as a consultant, I was the “wizard behind the curtain” for many successful people, helping them to make millions of dollars, build their brand and develop as leaders.  In the past year, I made a conscious choice to take center stage and build the next phase of my business with me in the middle.  There are times when I feel like climbing back behind the safety of the curtain.  But I know that is not where I am meant to be – neither are you.
  • When you take great risks, you have the potential for great embarrassment. Can you think of anything worse than flashing your less-than-firm butt to thousands of jeering critics?  When you choose to live your authentic life and speak your truth, it truly is an experience of being naked in public.  And this is an extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable place to be.  But it also is liberating when you realize that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  So they don’t like your butt.  Who cares?  Once you are comfortable in your own skin, the fun begins.
  • You will never find the magic formula for success.  No expert, class, book, script or program will teach you all that you need to know to be successful.  It will be a process of trial and error, a fierce dedication to your own growth and personal development and lots and lots of time.  Success can only be defined in your own terms, so you will know you have it when you feel happy, peaceful, stimulated, fulfilled and excited about your life.

5 Responses to “All the world’s a stage and we are merely players”

  1. Francis says:

    This so reminded me of the decision I went through to leave a solid, dependable job at AT&T to strike out on my own 13 years ago. My wife is starting her own practice and going through so much of this for herself — you described the reality of it so very well!

  2. Jack Yoest says:

    The Camera Loves You, Baby! Here’s Rule One

    All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players:…And one man in his time plays many parts, said Shakespeare. Leaders, like the Alert Readers of this humble blog, have a part to play. Lines to read,…

  3. Pete Altieri says:

    “The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is to high and we miss it,but that it is too low and we reach it.” Michaelangelo

    Big mistakes versus small ones? :)… I’ve been there.

    Pete

  4. Astha says:

    I really enjoyed reading the analysis.

  5. Pam,

    I can relate to this one the most…

    You will never find the magic formula for success. No expert, class, book, script or program will teach you all that you need to know to be successful. It will be a process of trial and error, a fierce dedication to your own growth and personal development and lots and lots of time. Success can only be defined in your own terms, so you will know you have it when you feel happy, peaceful, stimulated, fulfilled and excited about your life.

    Everyone seems to want that magic pill… only there isn’t one!

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