As a native Manhattan kid, I grew up fearless in the city through the rough 1970s and ‘80s. Navigating the neighborhoods -- good or bad, day or night -- was second nature. Street smarts, peripheral vision, and an edge, not too much, of attitude, always kept me safe. Drop me into the funkiest neighborhood in the middle of the night, and while my heart may be beating a bit faster, on the outside I remained composed and looking like I belonged.
In my five decades of life, nothing bad every happened to me on the streets of the Big Apple…
This instinctive way of handling myself also kept me safe while traveling in other cities in other countries like Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Accra, Ghana, and Luanda, Angola.
But put me in the country once the sun goes down, at night, and I lose my shit.
On a recent visit to stay with my mom in CT, in the heart of the country – her neighbors have cows – I was petrified.
I thought my fear was only in the night when there’s a quiet and darkness unfamiliar to us city folks, but it turned out, fear engulfed me on my morning walk as well.
It was a beautiful summer day and I was determined to get my 10,000 Fitbit steps and let nature inspire my creativity. Walking, around 10am, on a country road, in broad daylight, I was happy as can be, until I noticed the ratio of trees to houses to lack of people.
My head starting spinning out like a crashing race car with fear, imagining episodes of ‘Criminal Minds’ meets ‘Law & Order SVU’ (my guilty pleasure TV shows). And then there was an empty pickup truck by the side of the road. Holy crap – do I run or pray! The teachings of the Law of Attraction tried to jump in mixed with the principles of Buddhism. “You create your own reality,” “Be still, be present, breath, what is meant to be shall be…”
I tried to center myself with yogic breathing, trusting that the pickup truck door wouldn’t suddenly open for me to be abducted and dropped in another state, leaving my mom wondering where I was.
It was uncontrollable dueling crazy thoughts, in broad daylight, with no sign of a threat anywhere except possibly a passing bird pooping on me.
Fear must have put some bounce in my step because I hit 10,000 before I knew it so turned around to the safety of my mommy. Of course, on the way home, I saw passing cars, road workers, and realized that the trees weren’t as dense as I first imagined and that there were many more houses. I wasn’t in Narnia, the Adirondacks, or the Amazon. I was on a pretty populated Connecticut road.
The moral of the story? That’s just it – it was a story. This was a clear case of mental fiction storytelling, which many of us do all day long, letting our mind control us when, in fact, we have the power to control our mind. We can direct our thoughts in any way we so choose. In meditation, we’re taught to see thoughts as passing clouds, not to get attached, just observe as they float by. Granted, that’s easier said than done, but well worth the daily practice of trying.
And then there’s storytelling for our brand, how we position ourselves as an entrepreneur, business, or product. Whether it’s in our written materials, elevator pitch, or selling from the front of the room, here, too we have to control our thoughts, to learn to find the gold in our story, to spark intrigue and curiosity. When in doubt, always bounce if off of someone else, and remember less is more.