“One’s real life is so often the life one does not lead” (Oscar Wilde)
Creative entrepreneurs, freelancers, and regular old people are forever searching for the secret to inspiration. Is it a flash, like lightning that strikes when you least expect it, or is it a slow burn that builds over a lifetime of paying close attention to everything around you? Are the most successful artists born inspired, or do they simply do a better job of picking up which the world is throwing down, and then turning it into something that stirs the emotions of others? And what happens when your inspiration is lost to the wind, in-hand one moment, then nowhere to be found the next? (Hanna Brooks Olsen)
If one is going to leave a meaningful legacy, one’s life needs to be led – envisioned, focused, directed, and managed. Drifting gets you nowhere. We drift when we allow our minds to dwell on the issues of the past or anxiously imagine what the future might hold. Most of our time is spent in the past or the future, rather than the present moment. What we end up doing is passing through that moment on the way to somewhere else and, in so doing, we miss the moment. That’s how life ends up passing us by — we do it to ourselves.
If you’re not experiencing each moment of your day, are you truly spending your time wisely? As Tony Robbins says, “If you’re in your head, you’re dead.” That is, if you’re not enjoying what’s happening around you, and are instead wrapped up in your to-do lists and worries, then you’re not really living at all. It’s time to start practising how to be more present.
The Zulu people of South Africa have an impactful greeting, an invocation designed with two parts: one part is Sikhona, which means “I am here to be seen” and the other part is Sawubona which means “I see you”. The power behind this greeting is the conscious intent of both parties – according to Robert Holden, the greeting has the following four aspects to it (headings mine):
- Eye contact – looking deep into each other’s eyes is a powerful form of connection without using any words at all. Eye contact can be likened to soul contact – this sense of oneness always inspires effective communication.
- Presence – Zulu people believe that when a person says, “I am here to be seen,” it invokes the person’s spirit to be present. Saying, “I am here,” is a declaration of intent to fully inhabit this moment. It signals a willingness to engage with integrity. Saying, “to be seen,” emphasizes “no masks,” “no editing,” and “no defences.” It means “This is the real me” and “I will speak my truth.” It means “I will be honest with you,” and there will be no deception.
- Authenticity – “I see you” is a powerful experience both for the person who says it and for the person who hears it. According to the Zulu tradition, to say “I see you” offers an intention to release any preconceptions and judgments so that “I can see you as God created you.” To hear “I see you” is an affirmation that you do exist, that you are both equal, and that you have a person’s respect. Many people say this is the most moving part of the greeting. Some say it strengthens their resolve to be more authentic and visible in their life.
- Humanity – this greeting represents the Zulu philosophy of ubuntu, which translates roughly as “humanity toward all.” Ubuntu is a spiritual ethic that advocates mutual support for “bringing each other into existence.” To practise ubuntu is to help your brothers and sisters remember their true identity, recognise their true value, and participate fully. Ubuntu teaches that our purpose is to be a true friend to one another. Through ubuntu, we bring out the best in ourselves and others—it is a training in true leadership.
Holden insightfully notes: “To be successful in life, work, and relationships, you have to do one thing first—you have to show up. In other words, you have to be willing to show the world who you are and what you believe in. And you have to keep showing up in spite of the setbacks and the heartbreaks. The temptation to edit yourself and to hide will only leave you feeling dead inside. Yet the more authentic you are, the more true success you will enjoy and the more alive you will feel.”
Show up well in life. Woody Allen famously said: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Tanner Christensen (Creative Something) notes: “Even on the days you don’t feel like it, showing up can make all the difference. If you show up and start the work – even though it feels so heavy to do so – what you end up making could be all you need to keep moving, to keep creating.”