(Three Inspiring Reminders from Last Month)
This is a cliché, but since clichés are just repeated true things, I’m going to continue the trend. Children inspire me because they embody what I all want from my audiences, readers, clients, and cohorts: honesty, clarity, openness, curiosity, tenacity and joy. They tell you when you’re wrong. They tell you when they want more. They tell you what you need to hear. They tell you that they like your face. They follow everything with a hug. Things don’t get much more perfect than that.
(Disclaimer: Age matters. Don’t expect a rhetorical response from a four-year-old, but expect lots of hugs at the drop of a dime. Similarly, four-month-olds can’t answer your question about their wet diaper, but they can tell you in no uncertain terms when something is wrong.)
Figure out the signals and you’re in the clear. Such as in life.
Burgers have a way.
I was recently invited to a monthly meeting of a local burger-of-the-month club. I say “a” to indicate that there are more than one in town. It’s a movement. I do not know the histories of these groups, their leaders, or their missions. I do know that they are serious about their burgers. They meet once a month at a restaurant and catch up over their shared meal. They ask chefs to create special house burgers for the group. So fancy.
But more impressive than the ingredients and their umami was the conversation we had. We talked about our favorite bowls of cereals, grilled cheeses, and what constitutes the ideal lasagna. It was no more serious than that: ground meat, condiments, bread, toasting rules, cheese-melting techniques. It wasn’t intellectual. It wasn’t political. It wasn’t complicated. It was fun. It was light. It was easy. I highly encourage regular meals with friends, or strangers—people at the next table, even—where you discuss nothing other than cheese. We bonded over cheeseburgers, which made it one of the more memorable conversations I’ve had in a while.
Parameters open more doors than they shut.
I came across an article I wrote 10 years ago, meaning it was one of my first, meaning it was for my college newspaper, meaning it was horrible. Don’t look it up. It was about what I had learned about life at 20, and what I was sure I wouldn’t settle for as I moved forward. (I piggybacked onto Mike Nichols and stole from “The Graduate” in the title. Talk about clichés.) It was passionate, but horribly off-target. I misused phrases. I crossed my metaphors. I didn’t have strong enough opinions, which made articulating them even worse. But that’s what 20 is for.
I don’t normally wait for milestones to be reflective. But this was something else. This was a friendly slap in the face to remind me to actively engage my mind, even change it; to develop opinions, even if they’re unpopular; and to delve into new territories. You have to know what you believe in, not pretend that you do if you don’t, and not be afraid to say you have no idea.
You can teach yourself a lot, even if you don’t know the lesson at first.