Last week I walked up to a total stranger and stood in front of her. When instructed to do so, she gave me a card in which she had written the following message:
“Remain open to life, with its constant adventures and opportunities for growth that help you to reach your full potential”
This year has been full of surprises. Having spent an entire adult life building and preserving an identity – one of means, prosperity and well executed plans – I found myself in quite the opposite circumstances, having to start over. It was truly a case of stepping into the unknown and I took an uninformed, instinctive decision to follow paths that felt right, without regard for where they might lead or what might be in it for me.
I have met, in this time, some of the most extraordinary people. Materially, I’ve had nothing to give but I’ve never before felt more appreciated, nor more loved. Doors have opened that I never even knew were mine to walk through. Every day has brought a new connection, a chance encounter, an opportunity to collaborate.
Then, three weeks ago, I attended an event aimed at people who work in my field. Towards the end of the evening, a guy came over and introduced himself, expressing regret that he hadn’t done so previously. I’d seen him earlier, bathed in a glow of serenity. Without pre-amble he suggested I visit his organisation and watch the way they work. He gave me a card and that was that.
One week later, I found myself at their door where, it seemed, they help graduates to improve their chances of finding work. So far, so so, I thought. Then, as I watched, something extraordinary happened. I could quite clearly see little seeds get planted in these people and start to germinate. The participants began to approach their conversations and dialogues in completely new ways. They seemed to grow and stretch in front of my eyes.
This day was not about skills or techniques or practising interviews.
This was how to be you.
Spontaneously, the facilitators started to involve the visitors, me among them. We began to engage with participants and offer what we could in terms of experience and perspective. There was no time to think; just to be.
Afterwards, the guys who run the organisation – including the one I’d met a week before – gathered the visitors together and we talked. Core to what they teach and how they work, we learned, is the concept of giving without expectation; of thinking only about what it’s possible to bring to a situation or interaction, rather than what’s there to be taken. I remember the hairs standing up on my neck. I ventured a contribution. Courage, I said. Courage and authenticity. Isn’t that what it’s about?
In and at the end, everything fell into place.
The participants were asked to spread out in the room. Visitors were to go and stand in front of the participant to whom they were drawn at that moment. I had no hesitation. It didn’t even feel like a decision.
Each participant had in his or her hand a card, containing a handwritten message prepared earlier in the day, long before the visitors arrived. At the precise moment of instruction, the cards were given and we, in silence, received.