When Life Is Not What You Make It

November 2, 2012

My book, Life is What You Make It, has been received very well. It’s been translated into over 15 languages and sold over a half a million copies. But every time I’m asked to speak about it, there’s a small part of me that just can’t get behind the title.

For many of us, it’s true. We’re defined by the choices we make and the stories we believe. Wrong turns become unpredicted life lessons that help us find our way. Seemingly impossible odds become just the thing that propels us into fulfillment of a destiny unseen at the outset of life’s journey. And certainly committing to a life path is the first sure way of getting there.

But for others, the story we’re born into breaks us before we can get through the first chapter of our lives.

Recently, I spent the afternoon with some beautiful souls – young women who shared their life history with me. I’ve seen what a broken system can destroy. But it’s almost always been on the other side of the world – slightly abstract – rarely has it been easy to relate to someone’s story as possibly your own. But somehow this was different. These were girls that methodically and personally walked me through their lives from their earliest memories. Describing how their lives were shattered through sexual abuse at an age when most of us were learning to tie our shoes.

How do you say, “Life is what you make it” to those young women – and the thousands of women (and men) like them? You don’t.

But here’s what you do. Listen.

What I have learned over and over is that giving voice to the truth inside you is the first step in making your life your own. And when you listen, you bear witness to that truth… that story. Only listening can begin to provide the safety that is required to take a step into life. And real listening – done without judgment, without needing to “save”, without being repulsed – is no small feat. But speaking truth is even harder.

My latest song, Where We Are, was written after meeting these young women. Because I know that we are only as free as the most bound among us. And as long as voices are silent, we will never know where we are as a species on this planet. We will never know how truly evolved we are – assuming that we’re defining evolution as greater acceptance, understanding and love of our fellow man.

As long as the truth is not spoken, we will be living a lie. And that lie will manifest in the societies we create. In every disconnected experience – whether it’s in the food we eat, the things we buy or the experiences we share – if there’s not truth at the core, it will continue to add to the disharmony that seems to permeate so much of the world around us.

I truly believe that nearly – if not all – ills this society faces are symptoms. Poverty is not the problem, war is not the problem, obesity is not the problem, a broken education system is not the problem, GMO’s are not the problem, the 1% is not the problem.

These are all symptoms of massive disconnection. It is no surprise that the internet exploded like it did… and Facebook is the biggest thing on the internet. We crave connection. We need to be seen and heard.  We want to be loved.

But Facebook won’t get us there. We’ve moved from an organic ecosystem to a digital ego-system in a few short generations. How do we take the best of what we’ve created (like refrigeration… indoor plumbing…. electricity… you know, actually useful things) and marry it with what has worked for thousands of years?

Why are so many people afraid? Hungry? Bought and sold? And not just somewhere else – right in our own backyard.

I don’t think this is human nature. I think we’re better than this. I think we’ve been better than this. What’s the story?.