"You've been given a great gift, George. The chance to see what the world would be like without you." ~ Clarence in "It's a Wonderful Life"
What a great line from an iconic movie. I saw the Frank Capra film on the big screen for the first time this year at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. It was such a treat seeing it as a feature film with 300 other rapt moviegoers, popcorn and all. The comment we made as we left the historic theatre was "they don't make movies like that anymore."
Then, last night a friend took me to see "West Side Story" at the Pantages Theatre. It's truly the perfect evening of musical theatre, the brilliant re-telling of Romeo & Juliet set to music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
After seeing both of these treasures that have stood the test of time and whose stories still hold up today, it got me thinking about how when they were both made they were original and fresh, truly the exemplars in their arenas, setting a new ideal. Even though "West Side Story" was an update on Shakespeare's tale, the way it was told made WWS, itself, precedent-setting. It was done so well that any attempt to re-tell or update its tragic love story would be futile. The theme behind "It's a Wonderful LIfe" set a precedent that many storytellers have tried to emulate, but none so well as in the black & white original.
It got me thinking about how, in this copycat information-junky society, it's important to remind ourselves that we all are true originals, to set precedents of our own, to be remembered for being unique and for contributing value to the world and to the lives of others, to build a legacy that is ours and ours alone.
- Be yourself, instead of trying to be something or someone else. Imagine how much more work it takes to keep up the appearances of being someone else inauthentically, rather than in being yourself authentically.
- Chart a fresh course. Expand your mind and your ideas by trying new things and learning new subjects. Take a class, read an author you're unfamiliar with, skydive, belly dance, snowboard, climb a mountain, camp by the ocean, walk a country mile, buy an espresso machine, learn an obscure foreign language, meditate, sing in public, tour a museum, eat something you've never eaten before, do whatever "charting a fresh course" means to you.
- Make note of original ideas. By keeping a regular journal or notebook you can keep track of small seeds that are divinely or organically planted in your mind. Then, go back and expound on them.
- Pay attention to sparks. My best ideas have come from paying attention to odd images, interesting words or phrases I read or hear, or a question or need I need answered. I grab the spark, storing it to chew on later. Think about Post Its, or paper clips, or Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, or "Gone with the Wind." The spark for the idea came from a need, a twinkling of a thought or a slice-of-life experience. Pay attention to the sparks.
Establish your own standard to be followed by yourself and others. Examine the areas of your life and career where you are the example, where others follow your lead. Where do you set a precedent? No matter how small it may seem, notice where you are original and unique. Take some time this weekend before the new year begins and honor your originality. Many times out of those moments of self-reflection and reverence come more sparks.
Pay attention to the sparks!