In his book, An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own Sake, Srinivas Rao states, “Work for an audience of one. When the only person you are trying to please is yourself, judgements vanish, and in that process, we become more present.”
Damn it! I wish someone had taught me that lesson sooner. I wasted so much time chasing after life’s golden rings; the next trophy or title, the public accolades and the next achievement, that I was blind to the gifts the present moment had in store for me.
I rediscovered this lesson when I moved to Sarasota, Florida several years ago and began unpacking the things for my home office. After a thirty-seven-year career in government, transportation, public works and politics, I had an extensive collection of plaques, project mementos, proclamations and awards.
I did a lot to earn this bevy of my adult version of merit badges, but I was so busy trying to grab the next external accolade that I neglected to find the diamonds available in the present. As I unpacked these glorified nick-knacks commemorating my accomplishments, I was able to reflect on them for the first time. This turned out to be a joyous blessing, for I could fondly recall the camaraderie our team developed working together on a hard project, the joy we discovered in serving our community, the exceptional feeling that comes when you work for a cause greater than yourself.
I wish I had been more present during these times. Wished I had hugged and thanked my colleagues more than I did. I should have led celebrations for what we accomplished. Instead, I moved on in search of the next big thing.
Most of us live trying to please external influences
Chances are the people around you established high external bars for you to meet, and you have spent your life trying to do just that. If this is so for you, we are two peas from the same pod. We worry about impressing the right people and having the right image. We measure ourselves to others to see where we stand in the world’s pecking order and we concentrate on building a list of accomplishments and titles that will enhance our status, fame and wealth.
Pleasing yourself reveals your true essence
After a series of major life challenges forced me to recreate a new life more in touch with my authentic self, these changes moved me to share my life experiences, hoping to nudge others to look at their lives and make a similar transformation. For this reason, I have been writing blogs for several years.
Motivated by the best of intentions, I began blogging to help create a greater good. But it didn’t take me long to return to my old bull crap. As I became more familiar with blogging, I saw that the measure of success in the blogging world was the number of claps and readers each blog earned.
After several months passed since I started posting blogs, I became frustrated by the slow growth of interest in my work. Before long, I was researching the winning strategies advocated by successful bloggers and I began following their advice.
Equipped with these new tools, I tried to shape my blogs to fit the “market” so they would go viral and grow my followers. But it didn’t take long, my blogging felt more like a chore than an effort to help create a greater good. After a few more months, I lost the joy I had found in sharing my experiences and I thought about quitting. Fortunately, authors like Srinivas Rao, Christine Bradstreet and others reminded me of the need to stay present and share my creative work from my heart and not because I wanted to have a large following.
I reference this lesson because I know how many of us continue to fall into this external success trap. Worldly success is an illusion not worth chasing. American professional skateboarder, Tony Hawk, said it well;
“You might not make it to the top, but if you are doing what you love, there is much more happiness there than being rich or famous.”
Sharing our true selves is the greatest gift we can give humanity, but we cannot do this if we think we have to shape our image to be acceptable to everyone else in order to become rich and famous.
There is nothing wrong with accomplishments and success, but these are side benefits that come from our efforts, they are not the goal.
Reaching into your inner core is difficult, but it is the essence of your creative efforts, no matter what they are. When you learn to please your audience of one, you become more solid in who you are and what you stand for. This is our human foundation, and it is always available in our present moment. This essence is what we must share with the world.
There are many important relationships in your life, but you cannot navigate them well if you don’t learn to please yourself. Become the best self you can be, and you will help the Universe bring the right people into your life.