Movie theatres are glutted with follow-ups to blockbusters of previous years, like Men in Black 2, Austin Powers 3, and Star Wars 5. The business savvy behind a sequel is plain: if the masses paid millions to see the original film, they will flock back and pay millions more to see the next generation.
The thing about sequels, however, is that they rarely measure up to the original. I saw American Pie 2 and Scary Movie 2, two films whose ancestors were clever and hilarious. Unfortunately, the follow-ups suffered from rubber-stamp-itis, and I walked out of the theatre feeling hungry for the original sparkle.
Like movies, there are two ways to live a life: hiding out in history, or dancing on the cutting edge. History is safe, but reeks of regularity. The cutting edge seems scary, but it bestows life. You can copy what has been done, and in some cases you may succeed financially -- but at the same time you wither spiritually. Herein lies the challenge -- and invitation -- to a true creator.
After his original song Don't Worry, Be Happy became a mega-hit in the late 1980's, singer Bobby McFerrin spent several years touring the world performing the tune. And he could have gone on, except for one thing -- he got bored. "There was no life in performing the song any more," he admitted. "I was cheating my audiences and myself." So he stopped. Bobby took a few years off, developed his relationship with his children, studied with acclaimed cellist Yoyo Ma, and created an entirely new form of musical expression with an avant-garde group he called "Synchestra." I saw Bobby perform with Synchestra, and the show was electrifying. Although the audience waited and hoped to hear McFerrin perform Don't Worry, Be Happy, he never did. Way to go, Bobby.
Oprah Winfrey had to walk through the same initiation. After consistently winning Emmy Awards for her popular talk show for many years, Oprah decided it was time to take the program to a new level. "I had to move from a format based on dysfunction to one of self-actualization." When she told her producers she wanted to found her material on spiritual growth, they warned that she would lose her audience and sponsorship. She did it anyway. Now her show is more popular than ever, still garnering Emmys regularly. More important, Oprah can live with herself.
You can carve a career cranking out cookie-cutter products, but you cannot carve out a life that way. The only thing more important than making a living is making a life. Oliver Wendell Holmes suggested that anyone over age 60 change careers every few years. Why? Newness, challenge, and exploration bestow life force, and life force keeps us young and healthy. Unless you keep doing your work newer and better, you are dying in your profession. If you are not regenerating, you are degenerating.
I often speak at churches on Sunday mornings where I deliver a talk at each of two or three services. I rarely give the same talk at each of the services. I tried that once and felt bored. If a speaker feels bored, the audience doesn't stand a chance.
I heard about one famous speaker who delivered the same lecture, word for word, wherever he went, for many years. One morning he showed up at a large church to deliver a sermon to a thousand eager listeners. He had flown a long distance to get there, and he arrived minutes before the service. Ten minutes into his talk, the fellow began to slow down the pace of his lecture, and there grew gaps between his sentences. Then gaps between his words. Finally there was a long pause that went on for over 30 seconds. The lecturer fell asleep during his own address! Finally the resident minister gracefully tapped him on the shoulder. He awoke with a start, harrumphed, and continued his sermon from the word where he had left off.
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The story is told about a young boy walking along a church corridor with his minister. The boy tugged at the minister's sleeve and asked, "Excuse me, Reverend -- What are those gold plaques on the wall with people's names on them?"
The minister looked down at the child and soberly told him, "Those are the names of people from our church who died in the service."
The child thought for a moment and asked, "Was that the 9 o'clock service or the 11 o'clock service?"
Take care that you do not die while performing your service. Someone asked a famous minister "What is the secret of your success?" His answer was simple: "I just set myself on fire and people watch me burn."
There is new fire in every day, and if you catch hold of it, you will brighten the lives of everyone you touch, beginning with your own. The greatest gift you have to offer is your presence, which you have only when you are present.
This article is based on themes from Alan Cohen's breakthrough bestseller:
Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It
by Alan Cohen.
Info/Order this book now. (newer edition/different cover?
About The Author
Alan Cohen is the bestselling author of A Course in Miracles Made Easy and of the newly-released Spirit Means Business. Become a professional certified holistic life coach through Alan’s 6-month program beginning January, 2020—the year of clear vision. For more information about this program, Alan’s books and videos, free daily inspirational quotes, online courses, and weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com