Image by Enrique Meseguer
The film Being John Malkovich is a clever tale about an unhappy guy named Craig who discovers a portal into movie star John Malkovich's mind, through which he can live vicariously for fifteen minutes. When an opportunist hears about this extraordinary phenomenon, she devises a scheme to charge customers $200 to enter the portal. Soon there is a long line of people anxiously waiting to be someone else.
Like Craig's customers, many of us pay dearly to be someone else. We spend a great deal of time, energy, and money trying to live the life of one we admire or idolize. Fashion trends are so born, fan clubs thrive on the phenomenon, and many teenagers' bedroom walls are altars to stars who offer the kids borrowed worth and identity. Yet the most significant truth about identity is that you cannot borrow it. Either you find it within or you find it not at all.
Wouldn't it be wonderful, I thought as I gazed at the long Malkovich wannabe line, if people were that motivated to find truth through their own eyes. How powerful if we recognized that life's gift to us is our unique vantage point, and our gift to life is expressing from it. You are the eyes of God gazing upon creation from a breathless perspective, and your mission is to report the view. A great poet once noted, "God is a flower that grew a nose to smell itself."
The Game is About Self-Discovery
Many people have caught onto this mission, and generated a huge industry built around self-discovery. Students are willing to pay vast sums of money to teachers, trainers, gurus, and coaches to help them be themselves. You can dive into a weeklong seminar at a five-star hotel with a nationally revered teacher for a tuition of $5,000 plus travel, accommodations, and meals.
The good news is that if your life changes through such a process and you fall in love with yourself, you win. The other news is that if you become more invested in the teacher than yourself, you missed the point. The game is about self-discovery, not teacher adoration.
There are two kinds of teachers: those who take your power, and those who give your power back to you. The inferior teacher tells you that something is wrong with you and offers to fix it. The superior teacher tells you that something is right with you and helps you bring it forth. Your therapy is a success only if you walk out the door being more of you.
I know a woman who became enamored with a shaman and dropped everything to live and study with him. "How can I be more like you?" she asked him. "The best way to be more like me is to be more like you," he replied.
The shaman was teaching her to replicate not his presentation, but his authenticity. Authenticity is the one quality of life that is always the same yet always different. We are all equally powerful when we are real, yet our realness is like none other.
Gave Your Power Away? Lesson Learned?
A consultant is someone who borrows your watch to tell you what time it is. A guru is someone who sits by the side of a river selling bottled river water. The inferior guru implies that his bottles are your only source of refreshment. The superior guru announces, "If this tastes good, I can show where to get all you want for yourself forever." A real teacher makes him- or herself progressively more unnecessary.
If you have paid a teacher or therapist large sums of money to become someone else; given your power away to your husband or wife; followed a regime that ultimately blew up in your face; or gotten sucked into a cult and escaped with your soul still intact, then rejoice. Such lessons are priceless. The experience, painful and costly as you now recognize it to be, was an extraordinary teaching that "This can't be it!" The next meaningful question is, "What is it?"
When you achieve such a course correction, you are well on your way back home. Your adventure was worth every penny if you take back the power you gave away and keep it for the rest of your life.
Remember to Sing Your Own Song
A friend is someone who remembers your song when you have forgotten it, and reminds you to sing it. A good teacher is such a friend. The greatest compliment to a teacher is the student's graduation.
As a counselor, coach, or therapist, work hard to put yourself out of business. Develop such powerful students that they grow beyond your lessons. Fear not; you will not be at a loss for clients or income. As you empower others to be more of who they are, you will empower yourself to be more of who you are, and you will advance to your next level along with them. Then the world will beat a path to your door for your next insight.
$200 to be John Malkovich for fifteen minutes. What would it be worth to you to be yourself for a lifetime? Authentic power is free. You don't have to invest a penny to become who you are. All you need to invest is yourself.
Book by this author:
Why Your Life Sucks:: And What You Can Do About It
by Alan Cohen.
With humor, directness, and great examples, this book spells out the ways in which you undermine your power, purpose, and creativity -- and shows you how to reverse the damage. An empowering reminder that in every moment we generate our own experience by the choices we make, and that today is the best day to begin your new life.
About The Author
Alan Cohen is the bestselling author of A Course in Miracles Made Easy and of the newly-released Spirit Means Business. Join Alan and musician Karen Drucker in Hawaii, December 1-6, for an extraordinary retreat, “A Course in Miracles: the Easy Path.” For more information about this program, Alan’s Holistic Life Coach Training beginning January 1, his books and videos, free daily inspirational quotes, online courses, and weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com