I have been watching the new version of Cosmos an it’s led to some amazing conversations. For those that aren’t aware of the show it’s a new version of the classic Carl Sagan series that aired in 1980. Neil Degrasse Tyson is the host this time around.
The show is such an amazing combination of science and imagination. Specifically I was blown away by the Cosmic Calendar that says that if all time from the big bang to now was one calendar year human existence would be the last couple of minutes of the last hour of Dec 31st.
I have two very distinct feelings when I think about that fact. First I feel so insignificant, small and unimportant. There was a time when I would have spiraled into feeling depressed, like what’s the point? Not this time, after feeling small and insignificant, I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude. I’m amazed and grateful that I’m living at a time and in a place where I have the opportunity to bear witness to the vastness of life.
I feel genuinely connected to life and appreciate my place in it. Of course my mind struggles to grasp the scale of it all but my heart swells and the feeling is joy.
Who would have thought watching a show about science would be a spiritual experience.
Here’s the original Cosmic Calendar with Carl Sagan from 1980.
It’s a popular debate today, are we too connected by our technology or are we not connected enough to each other. Can you have a meaningful connection with someone via Instagram?
I can see both sides of the debate… actually I live on both sides of the debate. At work I prefer direct connections whenever possible, it’s faster to pick up the phone or walk down the hall then to rely on email (the second worst form of communication after texting). I’m a Recruiter and it’s such a critical part of what I do to develop a connection with my candidates to build rapport and trust.
It’s a different story in my personal life. With exception of my amazing wife Becky most of my relationships are maintained through a steady stream of ‘Likes’ texts and retweets. If my phone rings outside of work I almost always screen the call. My normal excuse is I spend all day talking to people so why would I want to do that on my spare time. Just reading that line makes me shake my head. Why would I avoid personal connections in private life but work so hard to build them professionally?
I’ve been thinking a lot about why I treat my personal and professional relationships so differently. What I’ve realized is that there is a common theme in almost all of my relationships. That theme is distance. At work I rely on knowledge and experience to build connections, but nothing too personal. It’s the PG “Company Manners” version of who I am. I’ve been doing it for so long it’s been completely transparent to me until now. I’m friendly and approachable on the outside but anxious and defensive on the inside.
At home with family I’m much more casual and open but still guarded and distanced. I love my family but I don’t talk to them that often. It feels so strange to admit that. I am so fortunate to have a loving family who are supportive and generous. I’m truly grateful to have them in my life but I don’t know if they know that. I think I worry that relationships have an expiry date and if I get too involved or share too much of myself I will inevitably get hurt. That is a legitimate risk but I guess no emotional risk, no emotional reward.
So what can I do? If I want deeper more meaningful connections I only have one option, I have to step into my own vulnerability and take the emotional risk. At work I will declare “I don’t know” more often, rather than hide behind feeling I have to know the answers I will be open to asking for help and admitting I don’t know. In my personal life I will not hide behind a wall of social media and instead try actually being social. When the phone rings I’ll answer it or better yet I’ll reach out and make the call.
Before I start I have a Confession, I love the commercial on CBC for the Paralympics and it is the inspiration for this post. I should also confess that this won’t be my only post based on the tagline of a commercial (I’m lovin it… just kidding)
I’ve been watching the Paralympics in Sochi and I’m so inspired and amazed by the athletes. It occurs to me that I relate more to the athletes in the Paralympics more than I do to the athlete in the Olympics. I always assume that the athletes in the Olympics are “gifted” and possess mysterious physical attributes that are not available to me. I guess I feel that if an athlete with a physical disability can be successful that maybe I can to.
That got me thinking about why? I’m not physically disabled, but I do feel like there is something missing and that’s where I relate to the Paralympian. I feel like I don’t have all the tools that everyone else has and that like the Paralympian I will have to “Overcome” to be successful. Well at least that’s how I used to feel.
I realize that the elements required for a Paralympian to be successful are the same as it is for any high level athlete. They need the insight to learn technique (language), they need physical practice to perfect the technique (body) and most importantly they need the strength to be immersed in failure. The vulnerability an athlete needs to be willing to fail is key to their success (emotion).
This is where I get stuck. Nothing scares me more than vulnerability. The idea of failing at anything, especially failing in public is enough to prevent me from trying at all. For years I joked by saying that instead of no pain no gain I was just going to stick with no pain. This was more telling than I realized. I can’t say that I have overcome my fear, far from it in fact, but I do acknowledge my fear and I’m more comfortable to step into it and be willing to fail.
As I’m watching these athletes I’m not focused on their disability, I’m seeing more and more the courage they display by being willing to fail so that they can succeed.
This is the lesson for me. It’s not what’s missing that’s important, it’s what’s there.