“By doing nothing more than observing and acting on the obvious, a person can change the world.” Buckminster Fuller
Building on the last blog, “Imagining Your Future” – I now want to focus on “Creating Your Future”. I want to share an example of someone who imagined a better future and then actively created it. His legacy and positive impact are still with us today.
Buckminster Fuller was a man who took his life to the brink, looked at the edge of ruin and despair and then re-imagined himself, while in the process creating powerful change and joy. Bucky, a Captain in the US Navy, had a great interest in science and engineering. He left the Navy to create the Dymaxion Car Company. He invented a three-wheeled car that was a marvel of engineering. However, during a demonstration of its capabilities, the driver took a turn at excessive speed and car was destroyed and the driver died. The resulting press and coverage for such a radical “unsafe” departure from the “normal” car destroyed his business.
Bucky had borrowed from friends, family and others who trusted him. He lost it all, hurting those who had believed in him. He despaired and was on the brink of suicide, when he had a radical idea. He realized he was a “throw away” human, someone who had failed. He had hit the bottom. He wondered, “What might such a person be able to accomplish?” He also realized, as he looked at himself and his predicament that he had nowhere else to go but up! Bucky went on to create many things, including the geodesic dome. He wrote about “Spaceship Earth” and inspired or “goosed” engineers, environmentalists, architects and change agents to think about themselves and the world of possibilities in radically new ways.
Bucky’s example of turning loss into gain can be an inspiration to each of us while we create the life and work environments we dream of. Loss and pain can be a key step forward, and often seem essential as part of the journey toward our goals. For example, in his speech to the graduating class at Stanford, Steve Jobs stated that being fired by the very company he had founded, Apple, was a good thing! He gained important insights about himself, harnessed his creativity in brand-new ways, and also met his future wife. It was a boon for Apple (as well as for Apple enthusiasts!) when he came back to that company with new wisdom, humility and motivation.
Consider the losses in your life. They are only true losses if you failed to learn from them and failed to use them to open your heart and your mind. When I was in private practice as a psychotherapist, a key step in helping my clients grow was having them work to systematically “review” and “reclaim” their most significant grievances, pains, self-judgments and traumas. As they would do this I would ask, “What is the hidden gift in that? What is the power you could claim? How can you ‘hold’ that experience in a way that is more compassionate, promoting wisdom and deeper insight?” As each person came to hold his or her past in a more holistic and compassionate context, they grew and became more powerful and effective both personally and professionally.
When my sister Debbie died in a mysterious house fire, it was simply tragic, horrific and awful. A spiritual intuitive helped sharing, “The two greatest moments of power in a person’s life are the moment of birth and the moment of death. What is the power or gift Debbie left?” After months of grief I was able to realize that Debbie’s life was the gift – the little sister I protected and looked after, the young woman who had a child at 18 but then went to college and graduate school while working and raising a family, the woman who helped counsel and coach others as a professional, the woman of deep compassion, courage and good cheer. My life was infinitely richer for having known her. Her death was a wake-up call to claim each moment, to value each relationship. Through her life example and death, she called me to be a more open-hearted and compassionate. The suffering from her death scoured my heart, generating a more spacious, patient, and open-hearted being.
So, step one, review your most significant losses, disappointments, heartbreaks and life traumas. How have you been holding each one as a curse or as a gift? Imagine there is a treasure buried in the grief or hurt. Imagine there is something of great value for you there. What might it be? What power might have been buried or lost or could be claimed or reclaimed? What deeper insights or levels of compassion could you liberate for self and others as a result of the pain? How could it make you a more potent, effective and alive human being?