Losing, for the Win

Hi everyone! If you noticed that I did not post a new blog last week, it was because I was distracted by Comic-Con descending on my city. I would be sorry for my absence, except that I got to see/listen to a couple of my celebrity heroes!

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I had the privilege of seeing Zachary Levi, who I wrote about it the post Nerds (and you) Who Are Changing the World, and was able to attend a couple of his Conversations for a Cause. I have yet to see a final number posted on how much money Nerd HQ raised for Operation Smile this past week, but I suspect that it nears the $200,000 mark!

I also got to sit in on a panel with another man I admire, the lovely Tom Hiddleston. Although he plays a villain in the Marvel universe (Loki), he is a real life hero who works to help women and children in developing nations through UNICEF.

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I was not disappointed. I think that if you have the opportunity to interact with people you have admired from a distance there is often the fear that they might not be so admirable in real life. But these guys certainly seem to be the real deal.

 Which brings me to my point–– Who are your heroes? Do you have any, or even know any? What is it that makes them a hero to you? No, seriously, take a second and think about it.

 Just a couple of months ago I was living in Namibia, Africa. (Shout out to my friends there!) While on my way home from seeing Iron Man 3 with a few friends, a discussion about heroes arose.

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Namibian sunset     photo cred: Michael Jeter

 During that conversation, I was struck by the truth that there are a few main characteristics that define a hero––things that make them who they are.

 Heroes are defined by the battles they fight and by the sacrifices they make.

 Think about it, whether your hero is Mother Theresa, or Captain America, or your mom for that matter, you admire them for these things.

 Maybe your hero battles poverty and apathy, and fights for the rights of the poor.  Or maybe they battle tyranny, and seek justice for the oppressed. Or maybe they battle depression and champion hope. So much can be ascertained about an individual’s character by knowing what battles they choose to fight. 

 The realization gave me pause. I thought, “What do I fight for? What am I willing to sacrifice for?” If we only have one life to live on this earth, I want to make it count. And yet so often I find myself caught up in the day-to-day hustle, feeling like I don’t have the time or energy to think about the “big” things in life.

Zachary Levi challenged fellow nerds at his panel to “live bigger.” I think most of us want to live ‘big’ or, at least ‘meaningful,’ lives. But it takes risk doesn’t it?

There is the risk that if you care about something, or love someone, you might end up hurt. The risk is very real. Caring is painful, but essential.

In the panel I attended for Tom Hiddleston, he profoundly stated this truth:

“You’ll never win unless you also stand to lose…Don’t be afraid of your passion.”

image credit: Elizabeth Fox (sitting next to me at the panel)

image credit: Elizabeth Fox (sitting next to me at the panel)

 It was an exhortation that I needed to hear. I am a passionate person, no doubt about it, but it is a marriage of passion and focus that create lasting change.

My challenge now is to find that focus–that thing or things that I am willing to fight for–and then passionately go after those things, knowing that I have everything to lose.

What are you willing to lose, that you might truly live?

 

The Adventure of Living Your Dreams

What is your biggest dream? The one that haunts your daily life, whispering with it’s beckoning voice, “What if you could?”

Take just a minute and think about it. I’ll wait.

To live that dream would be an awfully big adventure, right?

We all love adventure stories, don’t we? I always tend to have a big, stupid smile on my face whenever a protagonist first starts his or her journey. I imagine that character is filled with hope and expectation of the great adventures that lay ahead of them.

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Take The Hobbit for example. Bilbo thinks he’s living happily enough and doesn’t want any adventures, thank you very much. Then he gets a taste of it. The unexpected and unknown show up at his door, and at first he cannot wait for this messy business to be over. Until it is. When all of the loud, disrupting talk of far off lands, and danger, and treasure is gone, his house is quiet and empty again.

But now the silence is deafening because Bilbo realizes all that his life could be, and all that it currently is not. So he sets off eagerly into the unknown.

Everytime a character takes this step I inwardly cheer for them! “Hurrah! You will no longer live a boring life, but instead you will live out your passion and purpose! How wonderful!”

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Today I have a different response. Today I want to sadly shake my head at that character and say, “You poor, naive sap. You have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.”

Oh, sorry. That does seem a bit brutal, doesn’t it? Well, you see, I’ve been thinking of myself as that character lately. I went off on an adventure for the past year and I got a taste for it. When I returned, life as I knew it seemed too quiet and empty for me. So I decided, “I’m going to follow my dream, my passion! I’m going to write epic, life-changing stories and make awesome movies like I always wanted!”

I thought, “Yeah, this is a little scary, but I’m going to do it!” Like Bilbo, I went runing out the door. Now I’m at the part of the story where I’m soaked through from rain, tired of riding all day, and I just want to be home by the fire.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up. I’m not even in the middle of some ugly battle with a troll or orc or anything like it. I imagine it would be easier if the battle was so clearly defined. Truth is, I’m just uncomfortable and overwhelmed. And feeling a bit lost.

There is so much to learn starting this new career, and some days I hardly know where to begin. I find I am writing very little, reading everything I can, and at the end of the day I feel no closer to my goals than at the start.

It’s on these days, when I having difficulty seeing the forest through the trees, that I am especially thankful for the adventure stories. They remind me that for the soul who is willing to courageously move forward, greater things lie ahead. 

Despite my occasional discouragement, I press on with the hope that I will someday succeed in impacting others with my words. That, like Bilbo, I can encourage the next generation to take up the adventure, surpass me, and truly change the world.

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How about you? Are you pursuing your dreams? Are you taking the path that leads to awesome, as Kid President would say? If not, maybe get a pep talk. Watch the best one ever on the link below. If you are on that journey, you are my hero!

http://youtu.be/l-gQLqv9f4o

Nerds (and you) Who Are Changing the World

Nerd Alert: I was a big fan of the show Chuck when it was on the air.

Non-nerds stay with me, this is relevant, I promise.

It was a campy spy comedy that ran for 5 seasons on NBC solely because of its incredibly supportive fan base. It was a story that could appeal to the underdog in all of us–how one underachieving, good-hearted guy could get the chance to save the world, get the girl and fulfill his potential. Fun, right? But what does that have to do with heroes?

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Well, meet Chuck’s alter-ego, Zachary Levi. Real life nerd, actor and philanthropist.

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After achieving moderate fame, Levi decided he wanted to give back, and so began the search for a worthy cause that he could support. Levi found the children’s charity Operation Smile and began using his platform to help underprivileged kids around the world. Cool, right?

Then he took it a step further and combined his passion for all things nerdy and his passion to change the world. In 2010, Levi started an annual event called Nerd HQ, which runs along side San Diego Comic Con. (Still there? Good.) As both a fundraiser and highly anticipated event, Nerd HQ raised $140,000 for Operation Smile last year alone!

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Well, as a fan, and a nerd myself, I was following this progress with interest. That’s how I came across a speech Zachary Levi gave to fellow Operation Smile supporters. 

In this speech, Levi read a Franciscan benediction that had me re-evaluting my life.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done; To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. 

Amen. 

Wow. Living a life like that would be heroic, indeed. So how does this apply to you? I suggest we take the benediction as inspiration and use Zachary Levi as a template.

What are your passions? What is your niche? What is your sphere of influence?

Levi gave the nerd community something they didn’t even know they wanted, and in return they gave towards a cause that was close to his heart AND changed the world. 

If you had the opportunity, how would you change the world? Free the 27 million people that are living in slavery today? Lobby to see farmers protected from agribusiness conglomerates and our food better protected? Fill in the blank with whatever change you want to see.

Now my challenge to all you heroes out there:

Pick ONE thing that you long to see changed. Now make a list of three small steps you could take to start to see that change.

Maybe its finding a charity that already exists that you could support. (“Where your treasure lies, there is your heart.”) Maybe its writing a letter. Maybe its telling friends about this passion, so that others can catch the flame. Whatever it is, move towards that goal.

Go ahead, be so foolish as to think that you can change the world. Because we can.

The link to Levi’s whole speech if you want to see it. http://youtu.be/V4vi0GGwmso