People Are Rising Up

Steve Chandler

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible." -Walt Disney

Microsoft, Genentech, Gap and The Limited were all founded during recessions. Hewlett-Packard, Geophysical Service (now Texas Instruments), United Technologies, Polaroid and Revlon started in the Depression.

Dave Marsh, in his insightful musical biography Elvis, writes about the moment Elvis Presley burst upon the American scene. In his first appearance on the Dorsey Brothers' TV show, the young singer rocked the world. Marsh described Elvis' startling rendition of "Heartbreak Hotel" and concluded, "He owned the song and he owned the crowd."

Elvis was poor. Worse than any current recession. And he rose up. People sometimes say that people rise up "despite" tough conditions. They don't see that they often rise up because of their refusal to let conditions dictate the rest of their lives. Like Oprah did.

When we give ourselves fully to something, we own it.

Harry S. Truman took ownership of the presidency the minute he said, "The buck stops here!"

My observations over the years have proven to me that there are only two kinds of people in any given situation: victims and owners. And it's not genetic. And it's not dictated by the situation people are in. It's dictated by thought.

I based my whole book Reinventing Yourself on these observations:

A victim is someone who sees power as something beyond one's control. Victims have a habitually lonely and pessimistic way of viewing and describing the world and its people. And although this victimization can often last a lifetime, it is only a habit. When it's understood, it can be quickly replaced.

Victims do not get their habit from heredity. They think themselves into it. And what is tragic is that their thinking is based on a fundamental misunderstanding, a misunderstanding that is as fundamental as thinking that the world is flat. Victims think all power lies outside of themselves. They think power is in other people and in circumstance.

Victims then continue this misperception by thinking and speaking in deeply pessimistic terms about everything they are challenged by. They are easily discouraged. They use phrases such as "the human predicament" and "the tragedy of human life." Their stories take on the weary tones of people who are always living in their own shadow. They have little lasting energy for anything. And their passive tendency to fall into depression reminds us of Andre Gide's observation that "sadness is almost always a form of fatigue." This sadness is heartbreaking because it is so unnecessary.

Anyone can execute the mind shift necessary to travel from victim to owner. You can own the song and the audience, too.

Trial lawyers tried (successfully) to make OJ Simpson's individual accountability for killing two people be more about racism than OJ. They knew that the jury would rather be seduced by a general feeling of victimization than to take ownership of their civic responsibility. Victimization is always the easier way to go.

Owners, on the other hand, take full responsibility for their lives. They even take responsibility for their energy levels, whatever they may be. They continuously tap into the power of the human spirit. They use that spirit as a fire to invent and then reinvent who they are. They don't look for outside sources to supply their motivation. They're not waiting for deliverance. They don't wish they were someone else. They agree with Nathaniel Branden that "this earth is the distant star we must find a way to reach."

To an owner, children are always worth observing because children love and enjoy the planet they are on. Children invent themselves continuously. We can hear their spirit in the air. We have only to open the window a little bit to hear the shouts of joy at the schoolyard down the road. "Hey! You are not the boss of me!"

In a grownup place of business, the shouts of joy are nowhere to be heard. Where did they go? What happened?

For some of us, the spirit has gone into hiding completely, waiting only for a dramatic outside adventure (such as a world war) to fire it up once again. But we don't have to wait for such a crisis.

We can feel the spirit again if we are willing to breathe life into it. It is an eternal flame. We can make it burn brighter if we are willing to know how. It's all a matter of how we see ourselves and others. We can give the spirit the oxygen it feeds on by finding the words to think, the words to say, and even the words to sing. Let's begin with these: "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine."

If you want to join a group of people who have made a commitment to OWN their song as well as the audience who hears it,
click here.

Steve Chandler, author of Reinventing Yourself
Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.


Category: Work-Life, Balance
Print page