In his book, An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for Its Own SakeSrinivas 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 lessons sooner. I wasted so much time keeping my eye on reaching life’s golden rings; the next trophy or title, the public accolades and the next achievement that I became blind to the gifts the present moment had in store for me.

I rediscovered this lesson eight months ago when I moved to Sarasota and began unpacking the things for my home office. After a thirty-seven-year career in government, transportation, public works and politics it was evident I had collected a multitude of plaques, project mementos, proclamations and awards.

I did a lot to earn this bevy of engineering merit badges, but I was so busy trying to prevent the criticisms of my past work from shaping my future that I neglected to find the diamonds that were available in the present. As I unpacked these nick-knacks, I was able to reflect on them for the first time. I remembered fondly the camaraderie we developed as a team working together on a difficult project, the joy of serving one’s community, the awesome 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. 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

Our culture has established some high external bars for us to meet, and most of us spend our lives trying to do just that. 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.

Now that we are in election season, polls consume the news. The sad part is seeing how every candidate continually manipulates their political position to fit with the majority opinion. This always makes me wonder whether the candidate has a position they believe in or they are just trying to gather their next title. This is easy for me to see because I know that dance so well.

Pleasing yourself reveals your true essence 

I have been writing my blog for two years. After a series of major life challenges forced me to recreate a new life more in touch with my authentic self, I was moved to share my life experiences hoping to nudge others to look at their lives and make a similar transformation.

Motivated by the best of intentions, I began blogging, but it didn’t take me long to return to my old bull crap. Realizing the number of claps and followers were the measures of success, I became frustrated by the slow growth of interest in my blog. Before long I was researching the winning strategies advocated by successful bloggers and 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. Before long, I lost the joy I had found in sharing my experiences. My blogging became a chore, and, after a few months, 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 truest essence.

I share 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. The famous comedian/actor Jim Carrey said it well;

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

Sharing our true selves is the greatest gift we can give humanity, but we cannot do this if we think we have to please everyone else so we can become rich and famous. There is nothing wrong with accomplishments and success, but these are the side benefits that come from our efforts, they are not the goal.

Reaching into our inner core is difficult, but it is the essence of our creative efforts, no matter what they are. When we learn to please our audience of one, ourselves, we become more solid in who we are and what we stand for. This is our foundation, and it is always available in our present moment. This is what we must share with the world.

Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will lead to contentment.

Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash