My mother, Sandy, is an accomplished lover of life. With unbridled excitement she enrolls in meaningful classes, clubs, and volunteer organizations. In the past year she’s taken dance lessons, photography classes and a cooking class. She’s worked consistently with a trainer at the gym, learned to knit and has committed to speaking at a local Toastmasters club. She’s been on a top fund-raising committee supporting Juvenile Diabetes research. She’s also taken painting classes in which the students explore colors, techniques and different mediums by replicating the work of a master.
When she started her art class she couldn’t wait to take on one of her favorite artists, Joan Miro. She loved the colors! She loved the freedom of expression! She loved the bold lines! Much like my mother, Miro seemed to break all the rules but he put them back together in such a fanciful way that no one minded. A natural and a novice at the same time, Sandy relished the classes in which she could re-create Miro’s masterpiece. She was modest and pleased with her finished painting -- enjoying the process as much as the product.
The next assignment was a bit more challenging. Different artist (Maurice de Vlamnick). Difficult to emulate. Sandy couldn’t embrace this one. She found she painted just to get it over with, her inner-critic taunting her lack of skill with each stroke. She dreaded the classes and hated facing that scene of acrylic boats...the little mustard one in particular.
And then she had an idea.. maybe... what if... could she dare? Could she change the color of the the artist’s boat? Would that be too bold, too brazen? Like any good artist she began to think outside of self-imposed constraints.
After careful consideration coupled with permission from her instructor, she re-painted that little boat and in turn she set forth a wonderful chain of events. That simple change of color-- from the disconnect of mustard to a resonating shade of red-- allowed Sandy to get excited about her painting. From there she started enjoying the project and even further on she actually appreciated the final product. All she had to do was change the color of the boat!
Change the color of the boat.
So often it’s the same in other facets of life. We find a master, emulate their template but somehow it doesn’t quite “fit.” Thinking the master knows best while doubting our inner voice, we struggle against our longing to tweak and twist the template. But tweak and twist we must! We need to “own” it, to personalize it, and make it ours. Otherwise we risk lack of connection and the commitment and success that follow.
For example, you find a fitness guru you adore, and you modify the workout by incorporating exercise bands instead of free weights. The recipe from your favorite cookbook calls for onions but you substitute your preference of shallots. The artist you learn from painted his or her boat mustard yellow, but you have an empowered vision that sings to your soul. This freedom to personalize respects the expert, while respecting your own expertise, creativity and knowledge of self.
Learn from the best... and include yourself on that list. Masters are to be emulated, though not necessarily carbon-copied!
How can you tailor the lessons of a respected teacher, guru or master to suit your style, preferences and life? Which boat needs a new color?