Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson   


      Some time ago now – it’s been almost twenty years, and I certainly can’t believe that – I attended a comedy workshop in Virginia Beach, Virginia.  The three day event had a good number of stand-up comics, agents, and authors all sharing suggestions, stories, and tips to help the participants earn their daily bread doing what they loved. 
     On the last day, I was wandering down one of the many dark hallways of the massive coliseum looking for a final breakout training session to attend.  The temporary sign on the door of one read “Wade In – In Stand-Up and in Life.”  I looked inside wondering what this was all about when I saw this small, pudgy, odd-looking, little hippy dude on stage.  Just as I took a seat, he said to the small audience, “This may not work.”  I thought, “What a terrible opening line for any presentation.” Convinced I had made a bad choice, I knew this session would be a waste of time.  Boy, was I wrong about that. 
     For the next two hours, that little hippy dude held us spellbound.  He made us laugh and he made us cry, and all the while he talked about how and why we do things…and how and why we don’t.  I’ve never been the same.
     His simple message was that no matter how many excuses we might make regarding our inability to have what we want, what really keeps us from realizing our heart’s desire is negative self-talk, self-doubt, and fear.  His solution?  “Wade into the fear,” he said.  “Stand up to it.  Find courage,” he counseled.  And then, smiling, he said, “If you can do that, you will surprise yourself.”
     I’ve never forgotten that odd little man and his words have remained steadfast in my memory for years.  Fear stops us.  As I grow older, I see endless examples – my brother-in-law, Marion, is one, and my wife, Sherry, is another. 
     In high school, Marion, being a better than average student, planned on attending college and majoring in industrial technology.  He did so and after graduation, worked in industrial design for a major manufacturer.  And all the while the dream called to him.  For all those years, Marion wanted to do what his father had done.  Above all things, Marion wanted to be like his father – to be a pharmacist.  But he knew he could not.  “Just not smart enough,” he told himself.  He knew he didn’t have the chemistry or math skills to do what was required.  For all those years, Marion never tried.  And Sherry was much the same.
     For all her adult life, Sherry had a dream – to teach in the university.  But she knew she couldn’t.  So Sherry never tried.  Then something happened…
     At thirty years of age, Marion waded in.  He returned to school.  He spent endless hours struggling with higher math and chemistry.  On a number of occasions, he failed.  He just kept wading.  Today, Marion is a pharmacist.
     At forty years of age, Sherry found herself walking up the steps of the University of Colorado at Boulder.  “I want to return to school,” she said to the counselor.  “I want to earn my doctorate.”
     “You can’t do that,” he said.  “You’re too old.”
     Sherry waded in anyway.
     Today, Sherry is the Assistant Vice-President at Texas A&M University-Commerce, where she spends her days doing everything she can to help the almost 10,000 students enrolled there. 
     Two people who knew they could not for years.  Two people who then found the courage to try.  Two people who found they were more than they knew.  Their struggle was not easy, but once they began, they learned the task they had feared for so long was doable.  So it is with all of us.
     As a friend of Willie’s once said…  

                                                             “Find what you love…and let it kill you.”

                                                                                            -- Michael Johnson


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