Actor and comedian Jim Carrey once gave a commencement speech imploring graduates to have courage to choose a path that would make a difference. Jim Carrey likely doesn’t jump to the top of your list when it comes to life advice, but it makes sense that a successful comedian must be a keen observer of the human condition and see possibilities the rest of us might miss. Regardless of your personal or faith-based perspectives, many points Carrey made in the speech are universal truths we tend to lose sight of when we live our lives to the expectations of others.
“Fear Disguised as Practicality”
During his humorous but inspiring speech, Carrey said: “You can spend your whole life…worrying about the pathway to the future” and ultimately choose your “path out of fear disguised as practicality.” While this might not be true for everyone, it surely is true for the great majority. Simply put, most people choose to toil in obscurity and the routine. But the harsh truth is this: few people make a difference when standing in the shadows. Only by stepping out of the darkness can you truly stand out. Carrey also said that “your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world.” Acceptance is a place of comfort. It is the ultimate comfort zone. By conforming to what others expect, demand (or will comfortably accept) from you, your life seemingly gets easier. It probably also becomes more mundane and less fulfilling. Carrey, on the other hand, encourages you to “risk being seen in all of your glory.”
“You Can Fail at What You Don’t Want”
It’s easy to heed the call of the naysayers and avoid risk altogether. After all, the simple choice is more often than not the one with few, if any, obstacles. But making any choice at all presents a risk of failure. And if that risk is ever-present regardless of the path you choose, why not choose the one that pushes you out of your comfort zone, to the greatest opportunity? Carrey shared the story of how his father could have been, like him, a great comedian. But his father took a “safer” route and became an accountant, an unsatisfying job he ultimately lost. Carrey relates that among the many things he learned from his father “was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
This is out of character for most people, of course, and Carrey laments that most of us believe “what we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it.” He took a different path and dared to ask for (and pursue) what he wanted. He risked being seen in all his glory, and today is making a difference for others.
“Perceive Challenges as Something Beneficial”
Jim Carrey has no delusions that choosing to stand out is easy. He knows that obstacles are ever-present. But he also related in that commencement speech that he is “making a conscious choice to perceive challenges as something beneficial” so he “can deal with them in the most productive way.” How you deal with challenges is ultimately up to you, but clearly Carrey believes it is better to deal with them with confidence in yourself, a bit of abandon, a positive attitude, and a visionary outlook.
“Doing Something Bigger”
A big part of being able to sustain a visionary outlook is to look beyond yourself – to dare to make a difference for others. That difference might start with making a better life for your family, but if you are like me, it doesn’t end there. You can start by looking at how your talents and your passions can positively impact others. For me, that introspection led me to create, with Chad Meyer, Sales Xceleration. It was more than merely finding a new way to provide for my family; it was a way to empower sales leadership professionals to use their skills and passions to help small to mid-sized businesses survive and thrive. Like Jim Carrey (but in a very different way, of course), I was committed to “going out into the world and doing something bigger than myself.” Today, we have over 150 Advisors helping businesses throughout North America. Better yet, as those businesses succeed, the owners and employees have livelihoods, and their families have a chance to prosper. I’m very thankful for that.
“The Most Valuable Currency”
One final thing Jim Carrey said really resonated: “The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is.” This is a pretty powerful observation, but it’s also a challenge. To be able to increase your value, you need to make a difference for others. How do you do that? Where do you begin? For me it was a matter of moving toward what I love to do and away from what I hated doing. I took time to figure out the root of my enjoyment by looking at specific activities and tactics. This helped me to pinpoint what I enjoy most: mentoring, educating, teaching, and inspiring.
I also discovered what I didn’t like: navigating corporate bureaucracy, being away from family due to extensive traveling, and feeling that I was not being heard. From hundreds of discussions with other sales and leadership professionals, I now know that my love/hate list is often quite similar to theirs. This is only reinforced by our Sales Xceleration Advisors, who echo that they enjoy the hunt, the sense of achievement when a deal is done, and the satisfaction of being heard, feeling appreciated, and having the ability able to make a difference.
The Bottom Line:
Ultimately, Jim Carrey was reminding the audience that life is too short to not do what you love. However, you don’t have to start from scratch in order to follow a new path. In fact, any direction you decide to explore will allow you to utilize the wisdom you have gained through a lifetime of experiences. That puts you ahead of the game, reduces risk, and helps make it easier (and a little less scary) to follow Carrey’s lead and “take a chance on doing what you love.” In the end, the only way to know for sure if you can make a difference — for yourself, for your family, and for others — is to take the chance, face the challenges, and “be seen in all your glory.”
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