A needle in a stack of needles
All creativity begins with the moment of conception.
That little piece of kindling that gets the fire going. That initial source of inspiration that takes on a life of its own. That single note from which the entire symphony grows. That single spark of life that signals an idea’s movement value, almost screaming to us, something wants to be built here.
Based on my books in The Prolific Series, I’m going to be deconstructing my favorite moments of conception from popular movies. Each post will contain a video clip from a different film, along with a series of lessons we can learn from the characters.
Today’s clip comes from the dancing scene from In & Out:
Closets are for shelves, not selves. Howard has been outed by one of his former students, and now he’s forced to angrily reassure those who know him that he is actually straight. But the man doth protest too much. Howard isn’t fooling anybody. He’s as gay as lemonade sandwich. So after weeks of frustration and confusion, he ultimately resorts to a self help audio cassette as a final measure to restore his heterosexuality. And this result is one of the great all time iconic dance scenes in modern cinema. This movie is an honest reminder that, gay or straight, we’re all coming out of the closet about something. We’re all trying to uncover facets of our identities that have been obscured by external and internal forces. Because we can only closet off the unholy parts of ourselves for so long. No matter how many audio tapes we listen to, we can’t run from what we are. We all end up dancing around the living room eventually. And so, whatever darkness is inside of us, eventually, somewhere, is going to come out. But the good news is, once we give people a profile of our soul, once we start talking about what we’re afraid for them to know about us, our world changes. We experience the freedom that comes from refusing to hide. What’s more, their world changes too. Because those brave enough to listen will use our stories as mirrors that reflect their truest selves. At a certain point, when will your life do the math and out you?
A needle in a stack of needles. It’s one thing to take pride in your identity. But it’s another thing to turn personal narrative into a religion and disappear down the rabbit hole of your own mythology. The reality is, nobody is paying as much attention to you as you are. It’s nothing personal, people simply don’t have the bandwidth anymore. Millions of people are trying to make their ideas more popular than yours. Tens of thousands of bits of data and stimuli and noise are coming at them faster than their constitutions can handle. And so, the assumption that they’re going to take the time to find a needle in a stack of needles is ludicrous. This was a grim reality for me to accept. After all, attention of other people is the most irresistible of drugs. When I started my career, it was still possible to cut through the clutter. Getting noticed wasn’t yet an exercise in futility. If you delivered the right message at the right time to the right person through the right channel, you might actually engage the world with a narrative that won them over. But not anymore. Now, most people are just not paying attention. I’m reminded of an interview with a filmmaker who said he purposely started making his films twenty minutes too long. When asked what his reasoning was, he said people’s attention spans were getting shorter, and he wanted them to suffer. Yikes. The point is, we have to empty ourselves of expectation. We can’t be attached to any outcome. If our remarkable identity is met with crickets, we can’t take it personally. Are you exerting your identity for its sake, or for the attention and applause?
It doesn’t matter how many people don’t love you. I’ve received a lot of hatemail over the years. Apparently wearing a nametag everyday bothers people. So much so, that they feel the need to call me names and ridicule my brand and tell me how worthless my existence is. I remember one letter that said, you’re nuttier than a bag of trail mix! How sweet. And admittedly, the first few hundred letters hurt my feelings. But eventually, the hatemail just became a source of entertainment for me. Proving, that identity is a journey of acceptance. Not only the accepting yourself, but the accepting other people’s experience of your self. Positive or negative. Especially negative. After all, your being is not something everybody is going to be on board with. I once read inspiring book about real love that addressed this very topic. The author suggested we tell our truth, even when we’re not certain we’re being accepted. To be honest with ourselves long enough to see the positive effect that always follows. Because although some people will attack us when we tell the truth about ourselves, the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter how many people don’t love us. Besides, people’s power over us is inversely related to our need for their approval. Once we accept that there’s nothing we could say that would make us good enough in their eyes, liberation ensues. In what situations do you have difficulty accepting yourself?
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What did you learn from this movie clip?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.
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