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What Stage Will You Shine On?

How to live your truth no matter what stage you’re on.

As Nelson Mandela once said, “your playing small, doesn’t serve the world.”

As a society, we are fascinated with celebrities. A few weeks ago, I enthusiastically sat down to watch the Golden Globes. Like many of you, I was looking forward to seeing the spectacular fashions, the reactions of the winners (and losers) and even the crazy antics often displayed by the presenters (Ricky Gervais, anyone?) Admittedly, I watched very few of the nominated movies and shows this year. Geez, I hardly even know half of the actors. Yet, that didn’t matter. I was still riveted by the fanfare and the beautiful people who are revered like gods.

What stood out for me this year were the two beloved celebrities who were being honored for different awards: Ellen DeGeneres for the Carol Burnett Award for Achievement in Television and Tom Hanks for the Cecil B. DeMille Award, an honorary award bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” 

The tribute given to Ellen focused as much on her amazing comedic ability and generous spirit as it did on her willingness to come out as a lesbian woman. She is great not because of this fact but despite it. Sure, her story is what made her who she is and that part of it may have been needed to spur her to such high levels of fame. Yet, more than that, she is an excellent example of the type of human we should all want to be. She chose to be on a large stage (literally and figuratively) and no one begrudges her willingness to shine, to stand out, to live large. She is a humanitarian in every sense of the word.

I don’t know Tom Hanks but I can infer a lot from the way he lives his life. Tom is the kind of person I’d love to hang out with at a baseball game (or anywhere, for that matter). He has a genuine, compassionate demeanor and appears to have very little ego. Did you know that he quietly and unassumingly donates to over 31 charities? He’s loyal to his family and you never hear negative news about him. Who else would they get to play Mr. Rogers? 

Speak Your Truth

I know many of us look to movies and TV (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) as a form of escape from our everyday life. Something to take our minds off the real world of busyness, heartache and drama. Some of us think entertainment is just that, a way to distract us from reality and nothing more. There are those of us who may even scoff at how silly the awards shows are when there are so many other lofty and noble endeavors in this world. Normally, I would have agreed, but I felt differently this year.

Entertainment should not be trivialized. The stories captured on the screens are pictures of our own trials, they connect us with something bigger than ourselves, and they often allow us to experience real emotions that we may otherwise stifle in our daily lives. Tom and Ellen are proof that greatness exists. Their combined power, success and fame are enviable. Yet, they exemplify more humbleness and bravery than most people could ever hope to have. 

We don’t condemn Ellen, Tom and thousands of others who choose to play on a larger stage and do it with humility and kindness. We’re all on stage in some respect or another. Some of us choose to live our lives on larger stages than others not out of pride or ego but out of a desire to live on purpose. No matter what size stage you’re on, think about what you show to others. Do they experience your authenticity? Can they feel your vulnerability? Do they understand your willingness to fail and get back up again?

With the start of the new year, I’ve launched a new business. I’m excited to do great work and know I’m aligned with my purpose, yet fear still exists. Will people take me seriously? Can I really succeed? Will I be able to make money doing something I love? Here’s the deal…I’m finally taking a stand for myself. I’ve decided to look fear in the face, let my courage outweigh the feeling of vulnerability and for the first time in my life, feel my personal stage expanding. 

It’s a little daunting to have more visibility and put myself out there. The way I’ll stay grounded is to stay true to my values and to focus on my “why”. My purpose is clear—I’m here to serve others through coaching, teaching and speaking. I’m here to help people see there’s a way to shine, no matter what stage they’re currently on. Is this audacious of me? Some might think so. But if I let my fear outweigh my desires and my inner knowing that this is my path, I’d stay where I was. I vow to use my stage for good. 

And the winner is…

When you live your authentic truth and push through fear, you win. The world wins because your gifts are meant to be shared. Others will benefit from what you bring to the world. It doesn’t matter how big or small your stage is, let your gifts shine and the world is a richer place.

If Tom and Ellen can do it, why can’t we?

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