Born to be you!

believe52 (star-born to be you)Close your eyes for a moment. If you can’t do this now, do it as soon as you possibly can. I want you to envision yourself at a time in your life when you believed that anything was possible. If you’re anything like me, this may have been so far back that you can barely remember it. But, if you can, even if you were four or five years of age, I want you to return to that time. Really soak in that sensation you had that you were invincible, and that the only thing that could keep you from achieving something was if you made a choice not to pursue it. How does returning to that moment in time when you felt the world was at your feet make you feel?? Are you experiencing any feelings of sadness because you weren’t able to hold on to that unconquerable belief in yourself for a longer period of time?? Well, let go of any disappointment, discouragement, and/or unhappiness and listen to your diva when she tells you that you can recapture that faith in yourself that you once had. You were born to fulfill a certain role. . .to accomplish a specific purpose in the world. And just as this was the case when you were five or ten years old, so it is also the case at this point in your life. No matter how many curves you have had to evade or how many setbacks have come your way, the only thing that can actually prevent you from making your dreams come true is you. “What?” you interject. “But you don’t understand, Success Diva. I have all these bills piling up, and I’ve been out of work for six months, and my husband left me two years ago with three kids to support. I’m not the one who is keeping me from living the life of my dreams.” You aren’t?? Then who, if I may ask, is preventing you from it?? If you try to blame circumstances or someone else for the fact that life isn’t giving you what you feel you deserve, then aren’t you giving away your own personal power?? I remember when I first listened to the CD program, Personal Power, by the motivational speaker and author, Anthony Robbins. It was a mind-blowing experience for me! In fact, I wasn’t really ready for it when I first heard it. Some of Tony’s concepts seemed to take me so far out of what I perceived to be my personal “comfort zone” that I began to be reluctant to listen to his advice. I didn’t think that I had it in me to become all that Tony told me I could become, and hearing him speak of all this untapped potential inside of me was. . .well. . .just a little bit intimidating. In other words, I was allowing myself to fall into what I would call the Fear Trap. I was so afraid that I might not be able to succeed the way that Tony was trying to persuade me into believing I could that it was easier to put the CDs back on the shelf. And that happens to be exactly what I did!

Do I regret my choice?? Well, yes. . .and no. I think that there’s a right and a wrong time for everything. We aren’t all at the same place in our lives, and it’s even possible that some of you reading this blog aren’t yet ready to step forward and really start making things happen in your life. That’s okay. Although I love my friend and foremost inspiration Denis Waitley’s quote about there being plenty of time to win but no time to lose, I also understand that not everybody is ready to take on the role of a winner. However, if you’re one of Success Diva’s supporters, there’s a good chance that you’re at least halfheartedly committed to making your dreams a reality. There’s even a possibility that all you need is a little extra encouragement to get you running down the yellow brick road to that Emerald City I’ve spoken of before. You know, when you think about all the people who have had to overcome obstacles that you and I can only vaguely imagine to accomplish magnificent things, you have to admit that you don’t have much of an excuse to be what you might call a bystander in life’s game. One thing that  helps me is focusing on people who inspire me. This is one reason I’ve created two Icons of Inspiration Photo Albums over at Facebook. Actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Angelina Jolie are ladies whom I will always look up to, and those who have inspired millions of people through their generosity of spirit and compassionate deeds, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Princess Diana, cannot help but make me feel more determined than ever to continue to pursue my goals with passion, persistence, perseverance, and a definitive sense of purpose. At the same time, I always remember that I am uniquely me. That is, I wasn’t born to be anyone else nor do I compare myself to any other person.

When I think about someone who has always genuinely embraced his individuality, I would have to mention the actor, Sylvester Stallone. He has often made comments that indicated he didn’t feel that he was blessed with a first-class intellect, and he’s also been largely criticized for his acting capabilities. But, you know what? Sylvester Stallone should be a role model for a person who has dreams that seem beyond his or her grasp. During the 1970s, when Sylvester Stallone barely had enough money to eat, he decided to start writing. On most days, he stayed up until dawn writing. Even though most people would have regarded his efforts as merely the result of wishful thinking, Stallone believed in himself enough to press on until he had completed the screenplay that would eventually be the basis for the film, “Rocky”. And when he was offered $300,000 to sell the rights to his screenplay to a filmmaker, on the condition that he didn’t play the lead role, Stallone was committed enough to his dream of playing the lead to refuse the offer. Now, in some situations, not being willing to compromise could easily mean that a person loses what seems to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, when you have a dream in your heart and you commit every fibre of your being to that dream, you can’t let anyone steal it from you, even if holding on to it seems like an unwise decision. As you and I both know, Stallone made the right choice because he ended up having the chance to play the role of Rocky Balboa, and he was even nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his work. Although he was only paid minimum wage for his work in the film, Stallone admitted later that he would have played the part for free. That is how dedicated he was to making his dream come true.

So, how dedicated are you? Or have you determined what your ultimate dream is? Are you still searching for your purpose or do you have a definite aim? A lot of motivational experts encourage you to write what is called a “personal mission statement”, and I don’t think this is a bad idea. In fact, it can be very profitable because it forces you to really look at  your life from a distance. In other words, you are unable to let yourself get too caught up in the chaos of the moment. Rather, you are compelled to really review and ascertain what your permanent destination is.  When I use the term “permanent destination”, I am not speaking of death, which is indeed inevitable for all of us. What I’m talking about is your ultimate goal—the thing that you most want in your life, the accomplishment or series of accomplishments that would mean more to you than anything else. For someone who is in medical school, a mission statement would probably include a few key phrases about the kind of doctor they want to be. Rather than simply focusing on academic achievements, a mission statement should center around the contribution that a woman or man in medical school would like to make to medicine and to the lives of his/her patients in his or her career as a doctor. Am I making sense?? In other words, if you wanted to be a well-known actor or actress, simply saying “I want to be one of the most famous actors/actresses in the world” would not constitute a successful mission statement. Why? Well, those of us who understand what true success is all about realize that fame, fortune, and superificial acclaim will not ever fill that internal void within ourselves. And isn’t that really what striving towards the life of your dreams is all about?? Isn’t it about creating a life that gives you a sense of self-fulfillment on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis? I remembering hearing the actress, Angelina Jolie, in an interview awhile back, and being impressed with what she said about how her decision to adopt children from underprivileged countries and to visit and do the charitable work she has done has prevented her from continuing in what she called a “self-destructive lifestyle”. Instead of continuing on a downward spiral that would inevitably have landed her in what your Success Diva terms the “Pit of Despair”, Jolie turned her life around by changing the way she saw the world and by altering her own personal value system. When Jolie was in her 20s, her life was centered mostly around her own desires and concerns, but as she has entered her 30s, she has begun to reach out more and more to other people until, at this point, she is a true icon of inspiration. And this brings to mind something I was recently reading about what’s called the “Hierarchy of  Needs”,  according to psychologist Abraham Maslow. Our first set of needs are very basic and pertain to things that are essential to our health and lives, such as water, food, and oxygen. But by the time we reach our fourth set of needs, the focus shifts to such things as self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. And by the time we get to our fifth set of needs, we enter into an entirely different aspect of ourselves because the focus is on what is called self-actualization. What is self-actualization? To sum it up at its most basic level, it is the sense that we are doing what we are most suited to—in other words, it is the pursuit of what we perceive to be our life’s purpose. If you don’t think that you have a purpose in life, you’re wrong. Without a purpose, you wouldn’t be here in the world. Each and every one of us has what is called a purpose, and, as I’ve stated before, it hasn’t anything to do with religion or a person’s spiritual beliefs. Even if you don’t think that you believe you have a purpose, in your heart you know you do. If you didn’t know that, you would have ended your life years ago because you wouldn’t have seen any reason for continuing to exist. No matter how hopeless you have felt at certain times, if you’re still alive, deep within you, whether you’re fully aware of it or not, you have a sense of purpose. And in order for you to ever realize or use your full potential, you must acknowledge and embrace that purpose. You will never be able to completely escape that which you were designed to do. I know this to be true because I have done my best to repress my own innate belief that I was destined to be a writer. Why? Well, like so many other people—including you, quite possibly—I allowed myself to be coerced into living in fear. My fear that I would not be able to achieve success in the field of writing unconsciously persuaded me into pursuing other careers.  I will never regret the time I spent acting and modeling, and I also learned a lot from my attempt to have a career as an artist. But, even though I fully enjoyed these endeavors, I always had a nagging sense within myself that what I was really supposed to be doing was not what I was spending my time and energy on. I used to come home from theater rehearsals with a deep sense of discontentment, and, when I finished a painting I was always left with a sense of emptiness, even if I was pleased with my work. I can’t help but think of the American author Carson McCullers who trained to be a concert pianist before she ever pursued a career as a writer. I’m sure that a part of her never felt entirely satisfied when she was practicing the piano, even though she undoubtedly loved music and believed that performing on concert stages around the world was what she was most suited to do. I think her pain at not having her musical career work out as she intended is beautifully conveyed in her short story, “Wunderkind”. However, just because McCullers experienced regret over the fact her musical dreams came to an end does not mean that she didn’t eventually realize that being a writer was really her personal destiny. It can take years for some of us to let go of the dreams that didn’t come true. Yet, until we are willing to do so, the dreams of the future will never be ours.  Each one of us has a map that is uniquely our own—a blueprint that is centered around that which we are destined to do. We are born to be ourselves. . .and born to contribute something exceptional to the world and to the lives of those around us. Whether what we end up contributing is something that brings us fame or recognition or not, it is something that will give us a sense of inner contentment and satisfaction. And if we let ourselves buy into the erroneous idea that we have to subscribe to the limited ideas that others try to pass on to us or hold onto the limiting beliefs that we have allowed ourselves to adopt, we will end up dying with all our potential still inside us. Which would you rather do?? Would you rather commit yourself to fully using all your talents and capabilities or would you rather watch while others who do choose to believe in themselves make their dreams come true? I can only inspire and encourage you—I’m a diva of success, not a miracle worker. So, even though I am willing to support you every step of the way, you have to be the one to make the magic happen in your life.  You can blame other people, complain about the injustice of the world, or find a dozen excuses for why you haven’t made full use of  your potential, or you can start making the choices today that will enable you to live a life of true significance. The choice is yours.  . .and only you can make it.

Live each moment of today with enthusiasm and passion, and don’t let anyone steal your dreams from you!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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This page and all written material at The Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

Nick Drake: Brilliance, Lost Too Soon

The Success Diva is feeling impetuous today, and this means she’s capable of nearly anything! I’ve featured two very ‘traditional’ creative geniuses thus far in my Inspirational People category. So, it’s time to shake things up a bit. . .and I promise you, you’re going to love the fact that I’m feeling completely and utterly unpredictable.  In general, I am a diva who leans heavily towards classical music, in terms of the music I like to listen to most. I begin every day with Mozart, and I find myself listening to Bach, Chopin, and other similar composers while I’m writing and editing my blog updates, dashing missives off to friends, and networking. I do opt for John Lennon and/or “The Beatles” at times, and there are other specific non-classical singers/groups that are favorites of  mine. 

nickdrake2

But this was one man I didn’t know about until one of my closest friends shared his music with me. His name is Nick Drake, and, if you haven’t ever heard his  music before, I almost envy you. To hear Nick sing and play for the first time is to experience something magical, haunting, and extraordinary. Nick Drake was  born in England on June 19, 1948. He was highly skilled at playing the guitar, in addition to the clarinet, piano, and saxophone. When he was 20-years-old, Nick released his first album, Five Leaves Left with Island Records. He was ambivalent about performing before live audiences, and none of his albums, including Pink Moon and Bryter Layter sold more than 5,000 copies when they were initially released.

Those who knew Drake describe a man who seems to have been enigmatic and complicated. Robert Kirby, a Cambridge friend of Drake’s who orchestrated his first two albums said, “Nick was in a strange way out of time. When you were with him, you always had the sad feeling of him having been born in the wrong century. If he would have lived in the 17th Century Elizabethan Court, together with composers like Dowland and William Byrd, he would have been alright. Nick was elegant, honest, a lost romantic—and at the same time so cool. In brief: the perfect Elizabethan.”

Regrettably, like so many of those who are creatively gifted, Nick suffered from deep depression. Indeed, he had manic-depressive disorder (now also called bi-polar disorder) and also battled insomnia. He completed his third album, the unforgettable Pink Moon in 1972, and, after that he ceased performing and recording. He moved back into his parents’ home in Warwickshire, and, on November 25, 1974, he was found dead from an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed anti-depressant. Nick Drake was just 26-years old.

Nick Drake has not been forgotten, though I’ve been unable to find very many sites paying tribute to him on the web. You can find out a little more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Drake

However, I think that you might be even more enlightened in regard to Nick, his life, and his music from watching a clip from a documentary that was made about him, “A Skin Too Few”  It is an amazing documentary, in four parts, featuring rare interviews with those who knew Drake (including his sister), in addition to clips from some of his most memorable songs. This is a link to Part One:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_R7vzeEVoV0

 

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Nick Drake’s song, “Pink Moon,” has been a favorite of mine ever since I first heard it. Don’t miss hearing it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hE0ODrmaiFE

 

 

 

 

This page and all written material at The Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

An Immortal Composer: Frederic Chopin

My category honoring inspirational people is brand new. Of course, this blog hasn’t been around very long as it is, has it? I must confess, many of the people who have inspired me the most have lived in another time. They created their books and paintings and music and poetry in a century far removed from the world in which we live in today. Does this mean we cannot learn anything from them, though? Of course not. Indeed, we can probably learn more from those who have come before us than we can possibly imagine.

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The man I want to focus on today is the brilliant Polish composer and virtuoso pianist, Frederic Chopin. I’m sure many of you have heard some of his music, even if you don’t know a great deal about his life. The vast and lasting contribution Chopin made to music cannot be overestimated. In real life, he was an attractive yet reclusive pianist, physically fragile yet emotionally passionate. “A man of exquisite heart and mind,” the French painter, Eugene Delacroix once said. Fredric Chopin was born on March 1, 1810. He was regarded as a  ‘child prodigy’ when he was growing up. Later, these prodigious gifts that were so evident in the precocious young boy exceeded anyone’s expectations. Although the majority of Chopin’s compositions were created for solo piano, he was a remarkably innovative composer, inventing such musical forms as the ballade and revolutionizing the structure of the piano sonata, nocturne, prelude, etude, and waltz. In a mere thirty-nine years, Chopin contributed a long list of pieces that have become staples of the piano repertoire as well as beloved classics for those who are lovers of 19th century classical music. Chopin died on October 17, 1849 from chronic pulmonary tuberculosis. He will never be forgotten.

                       chopin-piano

 

Do you have to enjoy classical music to appreciate Chopin? I would have to answer ‘no.’ I think that anyone who has the soul of a poet or who enjoys romantic films or books would have to enjoy the music of Chopin. The composer has been depicted in many films, including the 1945 production directed by Charles Vidor, “A Song to Remember” (actor Cornel Wilde portrayed Chopin). More recently, a film called “Impromptu” centered around the relationship between Frederic Chopin and the writer and scholar, George Sand, played by Hugh Grant and Judy Davis respectively.

chopin-tombstone

 

To learn more about Chopin—his life, his compositions, etc.—please go here:

http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/1795/chopin.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 To hear one of my favorite interpreters of Chopin’s compositions, the Italian pianist  Maurizio Pollini, go here:

pollini1

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cxkLZoEFEk

 

 

 

 

(photos: from top to bottom—Chopin, the composer and pianist depicted in profile; Chopin’s piano; the tombstone of Frederic Chopin; Maurizio Pollini, at the piano)

 

This page and all written material at The Success Diva pages is written by Alexis Wingate. All rights are reserved. (C) Copyright by Alexis Wingate. The Success Diva

The present is yours

gift2

 

 

I have been very personal with everyone so far. In fact, I have gone out of my way to present everything from a personal perspective. This means, of course, that I share a lot about myself with all of you—some of you being people I have never met and probably never will meet. So, why am I sharing so much so freely?? It’s because I care about every one of you, even if I don’t know your name. The fact that you are reading this blog lets me know that you want to change your life, and this means that you and I have a lot in common. We are already what some people would call ‘kindred spirits’ whether you realize it or not. I use that phrase knowing that it is used too often and that sometimes it is not regarded with enough sincerity. If you loathe that phrase, forget this diva ever used it.

In keeping with sharing so many of my personal thoughts and feelings with all of you, I have a confession. There has already been more than one day this very month that I would call “one of the worst days of my life.” Yeah, we all have them, don’t we? And sometimes, after a good night’s sleep, we’re fortunate enough to view the world once more as a place that feels the warmth of the sun. Then again, there are times in our lives in which we have several bad days in succession. These are the really tough times, aren’t they? The times when even lots of sleep and eating your favorite flavor of ice cream doesn’t seem to help. Even watching one of your favorite films—a film that would usually make you laugh or cry or inspire you—leaves you feeling numb. I tend to think that there is a state of despair that is beyond sadness. Sadness can be dreadful when it is severe, and crying for several hours can wear you out. But what is worse than that, I think, is a feeling of numbness. It’s a feeling where you have reached your threshold of emotional or mental pain, and your body just closes down. Nothing really even moves you because nothing can—you have shut off your emotions. At times like these, even the death of a loved one might not affect you. In fact, the death of a loved one can actually bring about a feeling of numbness. The thing that’s frightening about that numb feeling is that you wonder if you are still fully alive. You wonder if a part of you—something that is essential to who you are—has died. Do I sound like I am fully familiar with this feeling? If so, it’s because I am.

You know, there are times when I know I am not having the right attitude towards life, and I have the idea that many of you have experienced this, too. Have there not been hours, days, and maybe even weeks when, rather than feeling grateful for all the blessings in your life, you have chosen to focus on all the problems instead? If there haven’t been, I admire you! In fact, I rather envy you. I would very much like to be one of those persons who always, without fail, had a wonderful attitude. The exceptional motivational speaker and author, Keith Harrell, wrote a book called Attitude Is Everything. I have recommended the book to strangers before—that is how impressed I was by it. It’s actually been a few years since I read it from cover to cover, but every now and then I pick it up—usually when my own attitude leaves a lot to be desired. I do think Keith Harrell has a point, but sometimes. . .well, isn’t it just almost impossible to transform a negative attitude into a positive one? Well.  .  .I think it can certainly seem impossible, particularly when we don’t stop to analyze why our attitude is so negative. Obviously, if our beloved pet has just died or our fiance/fiancee has broken up with us, we know why we’re feeling lousy. But are there not times when a bad attitude just seems to come out of the blue? I’ll admit that generally the cause is right under our nose. . .and right before our eyes. We also tend to have a tendency to take our less-than-wonderful attitude out on other people, usually people whom we know will love us no matter how badly we act. The problem is, of course, that inflicting our own pain on other people is only going to make us feel worse. Or haven’t you noticed? *wink* Truly, you do feel worse when other people are as miserable as you are. For one thing, you feel guilty. So, in addition to feeling depression or discouragement or hopelessness or anger. . .well, you also blame yourself. So, by that time, you have so many destructive emotions on your plate that there’s no room for the emotions that would nourish you, such as hope, faith, gratitude, and joy. Imagine if you were at a buffet and you decided to pile your plate high with nothing but foods that were laden with heavy sauces and gravy. How would you feel after you finished eating? Would you feel good? Might you not feel sluggish and lethargic? Well, life is like that, too. You must find a way to get rid of those emotions that are making you feel like giving up on yourself and on life if you’re ever going to feel brave and hopeful and happy. Doesn’t that make sense?? When a theatre has a sold out performance, there are no empty seats. When your freezer is packed with so much food that you can barely close the door, you aren’t going to be able to fit another carton of ice cream or another bag of frozen peas in there. It just isn’t going to happen. This is why I suggesting ridding your life of as many toxic people as you can. If you don’t, what’s going to happen is that there won’t be space for those people who will uplift you, inspire you, and make your life more marvelous.

I know my thoughts may seem to be more scattered than usual, but your diva is not in a mood to worry about how tidy her thought patterns are today. If it seems like I’m talking to myself almost as much as I’m talking to you. . .well, what can I say? I watched too many videos of Glenn Gould playing Bach over at You Tube. For those who are not very familiar with Glenn Gould, he often mumbled and hummed to himself while he was performing on the piano. Actually, I am talking to you. I’m just sharing with you the thoughts and ideas I share with myself on a constant basis. I continually berate myself for not having enough of what I call an “attitude of gratitude”. I realize that life is a gift, and I understand that allowing one day to pass in which you let yourself thrive on negative and destructive emotions is the same as not thanking someone who gives you a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a book you have always wanted for your birthday. I remember once when I wanted a copy of Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell for my birthday. I was 16 years old at the time, and I had always loved the film adaptation of the book. For one thing, Vivien Leigh has always been my favorite actress. At any rate, I let it be known—in a very subtle way, of course—that I would really love to have a copy of Gone with the Wind. One of my girlfriends, who had always made a point of trying to give me presents she thought I would like, seemed like the most likely person to give me a copy of the novel. Well, imagine my surprise and my disappointment when she gave me William Bennett’s Book of Virtues instead. To this day, I have never read much of the book. It wasn’t because I had anything against the book. In fact, I’m sure it’s an excellent book, and it would probably benefit me in some significant way were I to read it from cover to cover. It is supposed to include stories about such laudable virtues as responsibility, courage, self-discipline, perseverance, honesty, faith, and compassion. However, I really wanted to read about Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. I did not care about being morally enlightened. I have always been what people would call a ‘good’ person, and, although I realize I am in some ways very much flawed, I didn’t see that The Book of Virtues was something I need to own. Let’s just forget that everyone who read it at Amazon seems to have given it 4-5 stars *wink*. Hey, maybe it was what I needed. Perhaps I should even pull it out now and start reading it. Who knows? What I do know is that it wasn’t the present I wanted on my sixteenth birthday.

Of course, there could be a lesson here, couldn’t there? It is only at this moment that I am seeing the lesson. . .so, please know that I am sharing this with you at the very time that it has become clear to me. I am very spontaneous in most of my writing at this blog. I do not consciously plan what I am going to say nor do I have lots of books here that I am gathering thoughts from. I am what you might call my own diva. There are other experts on success and happiness who know more than I do, I am certain. But you have chosen me—not them. So, you want to hear my own personal ideas, not the ideas of another person even if that person is more of an expert than I am. The revelation I have just had is this. My girlfriend giving me The Book of Virtues, a book I didn’t want, instead of Gone with the Wind, a book I did want, is a lot like life. How?? Well, aren’t we oftentimes getting something different than what we want? Haven’t there been men or women whom we have found attractive who were not interested in us? And have we not decided to go out with someone whom we originally thought wasn’t “our type”? Yet, are there not some of you who have ended up realizing that the person who wasn’t your “type” was more your “type” than that other man/woman who rejected you? And haven’t you ever been in a restaurant and found out that the entree or dessert you wanted wasn’t available? I have. Last October, on my birthday, I went to a French restaurant. My heart was set on trying the cherry claufouti. However, when I got there, I was told that they had already run out of that particular dessert earlier in the evening. So, what did I do? Well, I ordered a banana and chocolate crepe with whipped creme. How was it? Well, let’s just say I forgot all about the claufouti once I had devoured the crepe. I think life can be like this, too. I was trained to be a classical musician and spent years thinking that I would never find any other career that I felt so passionate and enthusiastic about. Indeed, if you had asked me, when I was 12 years old, what I would do if a concert career on the violin or the piano didn’t work out, I would have told  you, “It has to work out. It must work out.” You know what, though? It didn’t work out. Yes, I had a plan for my life. . .but, you see, life had a plan for me. And the two plans didn’t match up. Carson McCullers, one of the greatest writers that the Southern part of the United States has ever produced, also wanted a career in classical music. In fact, that’s what she trained for, too. But life clearly had other plans. I never knew Carson McCullers. . .so, I never had the chance to ask her how she felt about the career in music not working out. Yet the chances are that at some point she saw it as a blessing. By the time that her career as a writer was flourishing, I would find it hard to believe that she was looking back over her shoulder, feeling an enormous amount of regret.

So, as you see, some of the things that we are given in life may not be just what we want when we get them.  . .but sometimes they’re what we end up needing. As I have been writing this, I feel as if another window has been opened in my life. That window needed to be opened, and I want to thank those of you who support your diva for making my life so much richer by allowing me into your world. I am looking forward to the rest of the day, whereas there was a time during the early morning hours when your diva, much to her chagrin, was looking upon this day as merely a certain period of hours to get through. Now, though, I see it as an opportunity. . . and as a gift. Thank you.

Life isn’t just one gift. . .but a series of gifts. Each day is a present, and I don’t know about you, but these aren’t presents I want to return to the store.

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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You are. . .well, You

For as long as I can remember, I have been an incessantly driven person. When I was a little girl, I was constantly wanting to be the best at everything I did. Whether it was playing the violin or singing, I would always strive not only use all of my potential. . .but I would also try to outdo everyone else. Part of it was an inner sense that I somehow wasn’t worthy on my own—that my accomplishments were what made me valuable and unique as a person. Without saying that I had a miserable childhood, what I will say is that I shut myself off from experiencing any genuine joy because of my relentless worth ethic. In a way, I am grateful for the fact that I was taught the importance of hard work at a very young age. It shaped who I have become.  . .and has certainly forced me to be tenacious and resilient during those times in my life when I could easily have allowed obstacles to block my path. What I now ascertain, which is something I didn’t understand for a very long time, is that we can really only compete against ourselves. Do you know why this is? It’s because each of us is different in nearly every aspect of ourselves. Thus, to compare ourselves to someone else automatically removes the essential element from the scenario—and this is our own uniqueness. A few years ago I read a book by Oprah’s long-time boyfriend, Stedman Graham, called Build Your Own Life Brand. Although the book left a less vivid impression on me than many books of the same type that I’ve perused, I will say that the concept of creating your own “Brand” is something I like. What would the world be like, for example, if there weren’t such instantly recognizable brand names as Gucci, Guess, and Chanel?? I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to pick up a fashion magazine at a doctor’s office without coming across an ad featuring one of these brands. “But what does this have to do with me?” you ask. Well, think about it—aren’t you the designer of your own life?? Just as Guess designed jeans and Gucci designed handbags. . .aren’t you designing your life? And, if you’re not, who is?? You may not yet have the fashion know-how to pull off a life plan that would be on a par with a master designer, but with a little practice, why can’t you do it? Now don’t pull out your little book of excuses and hunt for something there. Your Success Diva won’t let you get away with that! *wink* I want to hear a real—a viable—reason for why you can’t design your own life? Are you letting things other people have said to you throughout the years prevent you from pursuing your dreams and goals? Are you thriving off negative emotions like anger, hate, or fear? That last one, fear, can be flipped over and used effectively as I said in one of my previous posts. Come to think of it, anger can be used effectively, too. I suspect hate is truly a thoroughly destructive emotion; yet the root of all hate is self-hate, which means that the solution to overcoming hate is to begin loving and accepting yourself.  I know that sounds kind of. . . .well, like something from a 1980s ‘self-help’ book, but see if this doesn’t make sense if you really stop and think about it. How can you give an emotion to someone else that you don’t feel within yourself? It would be like trying to purchase a yacht when you’re broke. There has been a massive focus on issues of self-esteem and self-image during the past couple of decades, and I would like to think that this, even if it has been overly excessive in some ways, may have enabled people to more readily accept themselves. But. . .what I notice is that there is a tendency to forget what you’ve read in a book a week, two weeks, or three weeks after you’ve read it. Now an unforgettable novel, such as Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. . .perhaps certain details of the plots of these books remain with you for a very long time, if not forever.

However, when it comes to books that would be classified as “motivational” material, it’s easy to forget half of what you’ve read a few days after reading it. Of course, you can continue to re-read these books. . .and re-read them. . .and re-read them. It won’t do you any harm, that’s for sure. But is that really how you want to spend your time? As smart as I know you are, your answer would have to be no. Yet what alternative is there, if you want to change the way you think about yourself, about other people, and about the world around you?? Well, there are a few specific changes that you can make that need to be as permanent as possible. One of these changes is the tendency to compare  yourself to anyone else. You are you are you are YOU. If someone tells you that you write like Ernest Hemingway. . .or Philip Roth. . .or that when they see you acting onstage you remind them of  Nicole Kidman, by all means thank them. . .and fully accept and appreciate the compliment. But don’t start seeing yourself as someone else, even if it’s someone you happen to look up to a great deal. Part of creating and living the life of your dreams is acknowledging and embracing your own individuality. You must create your own ‘life brand’, or you will spend your life trying to be like other people. And who wants to do that?? Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves to be like other people.” I think this was a valid observation on his part. From what I have seen, people so often try to dress, speak, look, and act like someone that isn’t them. I’m not simply talking about withholding a part of yourself when you meet a stranger—or trying to repress certain aspects of yourself while disguising others. I’m actually talking about living with the constant need to ‘fit in’ with your surroundings. . .and with the people who populate your surroundings. What’s wrong with just being you? When I was much younger, I was always trying to imitate a certain celebrity’s style of dress. Usually, I would attempt to adopt Audrey Hepburn’s impeccable fashion style. To me, she was and still is an icon of beauty, grace, elegance, and style. However, it is disheartening to see so many women trying to copy Audrey, rather than simply being themselves. Although I cannot imagine there being a  much more perfect role model for a woman to emulate—at least, not in terms of both style and humanitarian accomplishments–it’s still preferable for each woman to be completely herself. No, there will never be another Audrey Hepburn. But then, there will never be another you, either.

I must admit, I used to think that trying to outdo and/or outperform others provided me with just the zeal I needed to develop what I would call competitive edge. The problem with this mentality is that in trying to be the very best, there is a tendency to focus more on what others are doing than exclusively on what  you are doing and can do. The movie from the 1980s, “The Competition” provides me with a perfect example of why focusing on merely winning isn’t the answer. If you’ve seen this film, you probably haven’t forgotten the tension that existed between the two main characters, played by Amy Irving and Richard Dreyfuss. Both of these characters were concert-level classical pianists. . .and both of them were competing in the same competition. However, whereas Dreyfuss’ character arrived at the competition viewing it as something he must win, the pianist that Irving depicted always seemed to look at the competition as a challenge. . .an opportunity. . .something she would like to win but not something that she was dependent upon winning. Well, if you’ve seen the film, you already know which pianist won. If you haven’t seen it. . .well, what can I say? Watch it as soon as you can. If you really stop to analyze the difference in the two final piano performances that Irving and Dreyfuss give, you will see that Irving’s is indeed superior. ..but perhaps not for the reason you will initially conclude. The reason that Irving’s performance of the Prokofiev Third Piano Concerto is better than Dreyfuss’ performance of Beethoven’s Fifth (“The Emperor”) Piano Concerto is because Dreyfuss is concentrated solely on taking home a gold medal; yet Irving plays from her heart and soul. She isn’t thinking about whether she’ll win or lose the competition because she understands that if she gives her all out there in that final performance, she’ll have achieved victory whether she takes home a medal or not.

Is the point I’m trying to make becoming clearer now? Is it starting to make sense to you? Are you beginning to see where your focus needs to be? Who cares whether one of your co-workers got the promotion you deserved? And what does it matter if one of your best friends managed to purchase an expensive new car? If you let yourself constantly think about the little and big successes in the lives of other people, you’ll be so caught up in focusing on them that you won’t be able to start making your dreams come true. If you imagine I don’t know how difficult it is not to compete with other people, you’re mistaken. There was a point in my life when I found my own competitiveness to be unhealthy. It tended to breed negative emotions such as jealousy, selfishness, and greed. I couldn’t help but look at those who succeeded where I had failed and think that I wished I could be in their shoes. But would I have really wanted to live someone else’s life?? Would I have suddenly wanted to stop being me and become another person simply because that other person was more of a success than me? The truth is that whether or not you win all the prizes in life isn’t nearly as important as whether you contribute to the world something that only you can give. If you want to be a singer but you bemoan the fact that you don’t have a voice like such legends as Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand, relax. Embrace your talent—appreciate your voice. Let the world hear what you have to offer. Similarly, if you’re a struggling writer who is frustrated that he/she can’t write like Fyodor Dostoevsky or William Faulkner or Marcel Proust, stop trying to be like any author who came before you. Write like you, not like somebody else. This applies to any career and any area of your life. Don’t decide that you have to get married and have two or three kids just because that’s what your sister, your best friend, and your mother and father did. What is it that you want? Do you want to conform at the expense of never experiencing true love? Do you want to always be compared to a bunch of other writers, rather than being hailed as a new and innovative author? It’s up to you. . .but I know what I’m going to choose. Although there are plenty of things that I want to change about myself—many of which I will be successful at changing, and a few of which I probably won’t—I still wouldn’t trade places with anyone else in the world. Would you? If you answered ‘yes,’ you need to re-read Success Diva’s post.

Live each moment with passion. . and remember, there is only one of you!

Until soon,

Your Success Diva

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