The Popsicle Moments

The TEDTalk videos have become a fun way of learning, an easy and accessible way to open one’s mind to new ways of thinking. They’re like some Reader’s Digest version of great tomes of wisdom. The surprising thing is how skilled so many of the presenters really are. That sort of makes me wonder if there isn’t some coaching or directing going on. I want to see a behind-the-scenes-at-TED documentary.

The other day I saw a video about leadership. Really, it was more about inspiration, or perhaps unintentional mentoring. In it there’s a story told of handing a popsicle to a stranger and making a joke to other strangers nearby, and like some butterfly effect, changing the course of a person’s life. The speaker refers to it as a “popsicle moment”

You can see it here: Drew Dudley: Everyday leadership | Video on TED.com

It got me thinking about my own popsicle moments, usually I was the one receiving the candy, but there are other times when I intentionally tried to give one.

A high school teacher’s advice about my college choice for my chosen field.

Befriending a graduating senior when I was  college freshman, who I found inspiring, even though he didn’t realize it then and didn’t remember it years later when I told him the story.

Then in turn I handed advice to a freshman in the final months of my own college years. (I’m happy to know he remembered it.)

I realize that the popsicle moment isn’t necessarily about advice, but it is about the moment at hand and making a choice to do something, so while watching this video one moment from my past came clearly in to view.

Back in the day, as I prepared to leave college, I was offered a possible position with a very important and prestigious theatre company. The job was administrative, not artistic and I was getting pressure from the college to go for it. The problem was, I didn’t want it. I had other plans for myself, artistic plans, in a new city….still the pressure continued.

I turned to a colleague who worked for the company and in fact had held the position for which I had been approached. She agreed that the people I would meet, get to work with and get to know were very important people but she importantly asked,

“Is that the kind of work you want to do?”

No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t at all.

She advised me against taking the job, and I didn’t. At the time I wondered if that was the right choice. I wondered if I could’ve overcome the obstacle of being seen in an artistic capacity while working in an administrative one. I understood the reasons why she advised me the way she did, but I wondered if I might have been the exception.

Of course now, many years later, I understand how things work and know she was right, and know there are few exceptions in the world.

The video made me think about how that decision changed my life. If I had pursued that job how different would my life be today, even if I didn’t stay in it for long? I’d be in another city, I’d be around completely different people, my career would have a very different trajectory, I wouldn’t have the home and family I have now.

So what does this all mean?

Of course we can’t know what choices will lead to what, and there are choices we make every day. But for me it means remaining open to the possibilities that present themselves, every day – at each audition, each interaction. It means keeping my eyes and mind open to the possibilities.

Just like in the rules of improv I need to keep saying “Yes, and…” and someday I’ll be handed another lollipop.

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