If we did all the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves – THOMAS EDISON
Let’s break this down. We means you, me, the human race, anyone. So hopefully what I write will speak to you because you may be thinking Yes! I can do it too. I wonder even now if you the reader are thinking you might like to try to see what you are capable of. You might like to be astounded. Did – well that involves action and as cavemen we were programmed not to be too active – only enough to hunt, gather and survive. Otherwise we would have to save our energy as food was hard to come by. So this invites us to go against our nature for many of us. Doing involves action, involves pushing out of our comfort zone and probably involves change. The things – what things? Things could mean an essay such as this, haha, a painting, a piece of music, a house, a run, a dance, a pole vault, a skydive, or the less active and less creative things such as a difficult Sudoku, a complicated jigsaw or a logic puzzle. As I am thinking up these examples of things, I am picturing how these things are done. Does it involve creativity, physical effort, mental effort or plain perseverence in the face of any of those. For that is what it may take to do all the things ultimately, in order to get to the point where we are astounded.
Anyway I digress. Back to the analysis of the statement. Capable of – Cap comes from Latin for head I think and I see the word able. So our heads (minds) are able to do things that astound us. Fantastic! It’s like we are two people – the one doing things to astound the other. We cannot be astounded if we expected it. Of course our bodies will be involved in the doing until such time we can all hook up our minds and instantly create on the outside what is in our imagination. (I am sure someone out there is working on doing just that). Plus we expect people to manifest their own talents. We are impresssed by the physical action. But what technology is doing is making it easier to manifest what is in our minds. You can paint a picture on the computer, use speech recognition software to type and spell your words, turn your music into written notes etc. Disabilities can be excluded in the process of showing your capabilities, which is a great thing. Get the raw, unique talent that is yours out there. Use any tool necessary. Who cares if you can’t spell.
For now we have to use action to translate what we are capable of, including finding the tools to manifest that genius creation. We may think we are capable of climbing Mount Everest tomorrow or writing a symphony but our bodies have not yet acclimatised nor may we have learned to even read or write music in order to capture and arrange the lovely tunes in our heads.
[I have this strange ability to listen to music and see an ice skater doing a routine as the music unfolds! But can I choreograph a performance? No clue. I am pretty basic at ice skating myself. My mind may be capable but how would I translate my imagination into moves that are actually possible for the skater? And how to notate the moves? Physics, mechanics and momentum may render my attempts futile (plus I forget the choreography with each passing second – it’s just fun to do somethimes). Yesterday I found myself creating a dance to a Gangnam style song Lauren Bow Wow or something. The irony here is that I RARELY dance freestyle and from my imagination. There is a broken link between using my imagination and my body. I prefer to dance set moves, taught and carefully analysed by me, including angles of the feet, rhythm etc etc. Analysed to death in fact! No freestyle there.]
Again I digress. So back to Astound. As I said, we like to be astounded. That involves surprise, the unexpected, , joy, a lifting of the heart. When I am astounded my eyes widen, forehead crinkles upwards, I tip my forehead foreward and chin back, an expression perhaps learned from the media in a kind of parody of showing how I am feeling. Don’t we LOVE to be astounded? It widens your world and by its very nature it means your understanding of the world is expanded. We are likely to relay this new information of what is possible to others. And in this case we are astounding (delighting probably) ourselves. This would be a very good kind of astounding indeed. It’s like the One Moment in Time song by Whitney Houston where she sings ‘give me one moment in time where I’m more than I thought I could be’. She wants to be astounded though she doesn’t go on to sing that. She goes on to sing – ‘when all of my dreams are a heartbeat away and the answers are all up to me’. I couldn’t say it better. This astounding ourselves may lead to fulfilling our dreams as we are likely to attempt the kind of things that we like doing but to a degree we weren’t sure we would enjoy or were capable of.
So why don’t many of us regularly do these things to see how much we are capable of? Are we afraid of achieving our dreams? Probably. There is the quote by Maryanne Williams, now erroneously attributed to Nelson Mandela because he quoted it in one of this speeches – that we think ‘Who am I to be brilliant, fabulous, talented, gorgeous?’ and we hide our light and potential capabilities out of embarassment. But the quote goes on to say ‘who are we not to be?’ By doing these things and astounding ourselves and being successful, we give others the permission to be talented, fabulous and gorgeous themselves.
Look how the successful group together. Would we feel intimidated in their company? The only difference is that they have manifested the things they were capable of. They flicked the switch and got started. They weren’t afraid to change their lives and be seen as successful to those around them. They overcame the envy or sorrow of those they loved but may have had to leave behind. They overcame the negative expectations of them by well meaning family, teachers and loved ones. Those closest to them may have been astounded but they may not have been. And in all of us, there is something we suspect we could do really well if we tried. If we weren’t afraid to be rubbish at first in our physical attempts to create and do those things, and persevere.
The challenge is this. Lose your perfectionist way and be terrible at something for a while. Ignore the opinions of loved ones who have their own reasons for wanting to keep your where you are, either afraid you will make a fool of yourself, worried you will be upset or scared that you will do so well that you leave them behind. Once you are past that you may then want to take your efforts to the marketplace and face rejection from ‘professionals’ who can’t see your vision. (Or in the words of Seth Godin ‘pick yourself’ and get your work out there by other means). How many incredible and now famous inventors, actors, models and singers are there who joke about the negative feedback they didn’t listen to?
Where was I? Ah yes, pushing on to your dreams. So you may have done something, astounded yourself, and have created something which you wish for others to see. Your skills however may be in the creating rather than the marketing. This is where you need to find a book or other information about getting your work noticed. How to self-create anything – publish, print, create a TV station on Youtube, write a daily blog, get a book printed, plaster your artwork on posters, t-shirts, mousepads and greetings cards.
Sometimes you are content to simply be astounded and are satisfied with realising what you are capable of – completing a marathon, or solving a cryptic newspaper crossword. You need go no further except to maybe try it again – the longer marathon, or the trickier crossword. What joy in astounding yourself! You have grown. You will probably continue to grow and be all the happier for it. It’s not what we have the makes us happy, it’s what we do.
Either way, fame or inner satisfaction, it can only be good for mankind to do these things, feel this way, get started, get energised and absorbed in order to see what they are capable of. Find your capability! I leave with a quote from Ghandi which basically says that if the whole world achieved what they were capable of, all the world’s problems would be solved. But that’s another post!