One of the things I find most liberating about growing older, is the sense of emboldenment that I feel in approaching strangers. I used to watch in awe as my grandfather said things that were on his mind, to complete strangers, without a shred of self-consciousness.
Now I find myself doing it. I have discovered the world is filled with fascinating people and if you want to engage them, you’ve got to make a move.
In September I wrote a popular post about how some people have tremendous impact on those around them. In that piece I mentioned that I had observed a very fascinating individual in a local Starbucks. If you read the original essay, this one will make more sense to you. (Go ahead, follow the link and come back, I’ll wait for you.)
In my original post, I expressed my dismay that I had not seized the moment, “I have been kicking myself ever since, for not introducing myself, and taking a moment to know this man.”
Yesterday, I was having my “lunch” at Starbucks, and I encountered this same gentleman. Having missed the opportunity to engage months back, I took advantage of the opportunity for a “do over”.
I mentioned that I had overheard his chat in September and I asked him how his performance went. His face lit up to realize that I remembered such detail from a conversation I heard across a noisy room three months ago.
He told me his performance of the “writings of abolitionists” was well received and the hosts want him back next year. He then mentioned he was leaving the coffee shop to do a dramatic reading of an abridged Dickens “A Christmas Carol” at a local Council on Aging.
just show up, and do the work…
Having just spent a few weeks memorizing a chapter of the Bible, I asked him if he had any tips for developing memorization skills. I was amazed by his answer. Not simply because of what he said, but also how he said it. He used a metaphor of a barbell.
“The brain is like a muscle. If you want it to be stronger, you have to exercise it.” He went on to describe how an empty barbell is challenging to a novice. But over time, with patience, persistence and repeated practice, you get better, you get stronger. You can lift more weight – you can memorize and retain more verse. He also added, that once you have achieved it, you must continue to exercise it, in order to preserve your victory.
He explained that you just show up, and do the work, and in so doing, you will be rewarded.