The recent death of Michael Jackson sent shock waves through the world. People everywhere are talking about their memories of the man and his music. His idiosyncrasies, over-the-top lifestyle, changing facial structure and brushes with the law will no doubt be a part of most discussions throughout the balance of history, and may even overshadow the profound effect he made on the entire music and dance industry. Hopefully, this is not the case. It is my wish and hope that Michael Jackson is remembered for his bountiful talent, his child-like love of life, his unparalleled moves, and the touching songs that we link to poignant moments of our lives.
Looking back at other famous people in history who have made a dramatic and profound impact in their own given fields of work, society often considered them to be outsiders, freaks, fringe-dwellers or even downright crazy. We also see many who had to overcome adversity, obstacles and a multitude of misfortunes in the midst of rising to greatness.
The noted scientist, Albert Einstein, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics who gave us the theory of relativity, and is considered one of the most magnificent minds of all times, was aloof to his surroundings and quite forgetful. He chose to have a minimal wardrobe so he didn’t waste time deciding what to wear. He preferred his work to social engagements and needless chatter, and spent countless hours going over theories, mathematical equations and in deep silence.
The incredibly gifted speaker and humanitarian, Helen Keller might not have been so well-known if she had not been blind and deaf. Perhaps in her loss of these basic socially-prominent faculties, she was forced to dig deeper in her mind and heart than most other individuals, and there she found the great truths that she shared with the world.
In more recent history, we have Louise Hay and Oprah Winfrey, both who experienced sexual abuse as children. These women have gone on to serve as role models for the women of the world and they choose to empower and lift up others in their everyday lives. Oprah has been named one of the richest people in the world. Is it possible her drive to succeed and help others would not have been so deep if not for her adverse childhood experiences?
We hear numerous stories of now-wealthy individuals, like Mark Victor Hansen, James Arthur Ray and Og Mandino, whose path to riches took them very close to, or right through, the doors of the bankruptcy court. Could this humiliation and view of the bottom have increased their desire to such a degree that they saw no other outcomes for themselves less than becoming multi-millionaires?
Is it possible that we must first suffer a great loss to find our own true potential? Must we overcome deep adversity before our gifts are shown to us? Do we have to have a back-story that tells of heartache, struggle, pain, failure and a bottoming out, before we come to greatness? I’d like to think that this is not the case. I’d like to believe that we need not reach rock-bottom and despair in order that we might shine. I’d like to know that all people who change the world profoundly don’t have to live on the edge of society.
Regardless of what I might like, stories like these are the ones we remember. Famous people live lives that those of us who are not so famous might not understand. Perhaps, to find our own greatness and to cultivate it and birth it into the world, we must simply give in to what shows up in our lives. Just like the great ones, we must allow our minds to take us where they will. We must open our hearts to both excruciating pain if it is present and to the ultimate love that awaits us. We must act unreasonably and without regard for what others might think. And in the process, our gentility will serve to buffer that which may rise up and our love will serve to soften the social stigma with being outside of the pack.
Perhaps your greatness will not lead you to the edge of society. Perhaps it will lead you directly to the center of it. Your calling to greatness may be one that is not as outlandish as many who have gone before you, and indeed it may not even touch as many people or profoundly and dramatically affect the world. Yet, as individuals, it is our right and more so our responsibility to shine our light and share our gifts.
My question to you is two-fold: What are your gifts and are you willing to do whatever it takes to share them with the world? There is no wrong answer; there is only your choice.
You may choose whatever brings you peace of mind and great love. You may choose that which brings you satisfaction, reward and freedom. You may choose to live below the radar and shine your light briefly and softly on those who now surround you. Or you may choose big and bold gestures that shine brightly and broadly. You know the choice that is right for you… in fact, you are the only one who does.
I am grateful for those who have gone before us and for all they have chosen to share. We would not live exactly as we do today without each of them. And I am grateful to you for whatever you choose, because you too, are shaping this world and our future.