Driving with my mom on my way to Penn State my sophomore year (back in the 80s-- the LATE 80s!)) I decided to get honest. To open up and tell her all the things I had done in high school that she was unaware of. All the times I lied, or sneaked out, or told her I was going someplace else- other than the party I was headed for (black sheep spoiler!) After a good amount of shock story-telling, I turned to her with a grin and said, “And someday, I’ll tell you what I’m doing now!”
My life is obviously way different these days and I have many more redemptive stories to share. Which I do, without question. Without hesitation. But when it comes to my abilities, my skills, my know-how, or the gifts I have been entrusted with, I am a lot less prone to step out. My thoughts take this turn: When I’m a professional, I’ll have something important to say. I really have nothing to give until I’ve reached this milestone. Or this expertise. Or this mastery of whatever it is I am passionate about. In fact, there are a gazillion people more knowledgeable. I’ll leave it to them.
I don’t know about you, but I can be frozen by this idea. I walked into the local library the other day to set up a book signing. I walked out before I had the nerve to say anything to anyone because, well, I'm only pretending to be an author!
How can I teach others to take the next step—to construct, to write, to paint—when I have so much still to learn? But what have I gained along the way? The ability to pick up the brush, to hold it properly. To mix colors. To choose a medium. The ability to write a novel—with 57 chapters and 125,000 words. Or convince a publisher to take me on.
Where was I two years ago? Five years? Ten?
Everyone else is somewhere along that continuum. Some I can teach. Many I can learn from. If we wait until we get to the ever-chasing obscure point in the future when we have truly “arrived”, we will never get there at all. Because the treasure is found in the journey not in the destination. You will not get THERE … ever.
So, give back. Now. While it is still called today.
I went to a writer’s conference this last weekend, and this truth came alive for me. At the lunch table, one of my friends asked how I made a One-Sheet (a visual summary of my book to catch an editor’s attention). I explained it, step-by-step. Then how I set up my webpage. Half-way through the discussion, I glanced up to see others had joined in to listen. It seemed the whole table wanted to know as well. I had something to give back … something before I published 20 books. Before I became a NY Times Best Seller. Before I had a story go to Hollywood to become a movie smash. Those things may never come to pass, obviously, but today I have something to give.
Whatever it is. Whatever you do. You have something powerful to share. Something to teach. And someone, somewhere will take a step they have not yet taken … because of your journey.
YOU make a difference! Give back.