Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Annapolis, MD

A few weeks ago, I sat in a ballroom at the Hilton in Alexandria, Virginia, and was inspired. Having sat through many dry presentations in hotel ballrooms, I did not expect 'inspiration' to be on the schedule. But then again, I'd never seen a hotel ballroom used for its intended purpose.

A friend from New York was there to participate in a ballroom dancing competition, and we were there to watch. The competition itself was dazzling as increasingly talented dancers whisked by. But the inspiration came from watching our friend compete, not because he's a dancer, but rather because he's not. This isn't one of those rise-from-the-ashes stories about a wounded soldier making a comeback. This is just a normal business man, who is neither graceful nor light footed. He is not a performer or a stage person of any sort. He is just someone who decided to bust out of his own boundaries and do something entirely new. And there he went, out on the grand wooden dance floor with dozens of other couples whirling and whooshing by -- as the audience watched and judges evaluated every step.

See, our friend is the CEO of one of the country's top 500 privately owned companies. By choice, he left the boardroom for the ballroom, count-stepping himself into, what was for him, a strange and awkward world -- and on public display. It was a remarkable act of courage and, I'd have to say, humility. From this even-more-amateur perspective, he did great. He didn't stumble, fall down or trip his partner. Win.

Later that same week, we had lunch with a couple we met here in Annapolis. In their late 30s, they and their two daughters, 8 and 13, have lived in the same Eastport neighborhood since the girls were born.

These parents want their girls to know there is a bigger world out there beyond their comfy bedroom, their private school and beyond this peninsula. Far beyond. They plan to move the family to Paris for a year, put their daughters in public school to learn French, a foreign perspective and lessons they will never forget.

I find these two stories equally inspiring, because these people are stepping outside their own 'ordinary,' putting themselves out there just for the experience of it, to breathe different air, to nudge the body and the mind. They are casting off the comfortable everyday, becoming extraordinary -- right now.

How often, we plan and save for far off days, instead of being extraordinary right now, because now is what we've got.

It is easy to ignore those who scream that the sky is falling, but today of all days, we should remember that sometimes it does.

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
― T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph