Hope, perspective, and Play-Doh

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I’m gonna get you started with two stories that are utterly unrelated except for two things:

1. They both pack a major paradigm shift.

2. They’re both about hope.

Then, I’ll have a point. I promise. Just roll with it:

Story #1 was on Radiolab a couple weeks ago. Rather than setting up the premise myself, I’ll just quote the official website:

Lulu Miller, reporter at NPR and former Radiolab producer, tells us the story of how her entire world view flipped in one scary moment. It happened on a bike trip she took with her friend Soo. Lulu and Soo are, well … different. Lulu tends to be an optimist who sees the best in people, while Soo has always been a bit more of a pessimist about her fellow man. Not surprisingly, a bike trip across the country turned that charming difference into a friendship on the rocks. But then, an unexpected encounter in the wilds of Virginia left Lulu and Soo deeply confused about the right way to greet an imperfect world.

(Source: Radiolab)

Juicy, no? Give it a listen if you have a few. Anyway, through a series of uncomfortable interpersonal encounters, the self-identified “optimist” in the story gets slapped awake to a startling revelation: Being indiscriminately pleasant + tolerant towards people + circumstances is “happy hopelessness.” 

Whoa. As someone whose personal moral code is rooted in unconditional acceptance + joy, I had to really let that one sink in. Wait, what? Seeing the best in people, giving them the benefit of the doubt, cutting them a break when they’re acting a fool… those things are hopeless? Potentially harmful? 

Hope is really seeing someone, not just who you trust them to be. Hope is calling them out on their shit, not letting them suffocate in it. Hope is accompanying someone through their lived experiences, not your “optimistic” assessment thereof. Hope is caring enough about someone to allow productive “confrontation” or “conflict,” not flee to more pleasant territory because you can’t stomach the discomfort. Hope is helping a troubled person — or situation, or world — get better, not making them feel better about being stuck in a bad pattern.

At least that’s what this story would suggest. Hope is the thing with feathers, à la Emily Dickinson? Nah, hope is the thing with razors + spikes + a lotta tough love :) Still working through it, but simply having this alternate definition of hope on my radar is life-changing in a very concrete way. It’s a new perspective I could never see before. And now I have it there to help me navigate my personal relationships + professional future.

Story #2 was told by the succulent Alexandra Franzen last week. Sip it up for a short + sweet punch of perspective. To summarize, her scalp-soothing hairstylist makes her day… and it turns out that he received a legit Daymaker Award for making everybody’s day! As Alexandra reflects:

When you meet a true Daymaker, the soul-residue doesn’t wash off after a couple shampoos.

And that fateful haircut left me wondering about things. Big things. Deep things.

Like what if, maybe, we’re all wasting our time + spinning our wheels, agonizing over questions like:

“What is the secret to happiness + success + wealth + greatness + impact + legacy + leadership + innovation + how can I fulfill my highest purpose, every day?”

When really, all we oughta be asking is:

“How can I make someone’s day?”

(Source: Alexandra Franzen)

Talk about another life-changer. Now I have a whole new question to ask — a question that is in and of itself the answer to every existential question ever. What’s more hopeful than that? Thanks, Alexandra.

And here’s the point.

Perspective is a malleable thing, a funky blob shape-shifting between your palms like the multicolored Play-Doh that results from not putting the respective Play-Doh colors back in their correct containers. Doesn’t it just fill you up with hope to know that there’s so much you’ve yet to see or sense or learn? Your entire perspective on life could change today. Hey, I just had two game-changers hit me in one week!

And those paradigm shifts were a direct result of listening to someone else’s story. They told it, I heard it, I changed. Magic, no?

Sooo… tell your story. You never know whose paradigm you’ll shift, whose life you’ll change. Last year I wrote about storytelling, sincerity, and healing. We all too often succumb to that vulnerable moment of doubt when we question if our story really matters. Well, here’s your affirmation: It does. Always, always.

Have you heard (or told) any “aha!”-inducing stories lately? Share with us in the comments please!

Happy Friday :) xoxo

3 thoughts on “Hope, perspective, and Play-Doh

  1. Thank you for this post. I love Radiolab but I missed this episode. BTW: I love your blog and the way that you write. Keep it up! Blessings and grace, Lydia

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