Only What You Bring to Life

I had the pleasure last week to see a production of the musical Bright Star, at the Lyric Arts Mainstage Theater in Anoka. The show, written by Edie Brickell and Steve Martin, takes place in 1940’s North Carolina, shortly after the end of World War II. The show was powerful and emotional. It was wonderfully staged, the cast was fantastic, and the music was fabulous. I left it moved and impacted.

One of the main characters in the play is Billy Cane, a young G.I. who’s just returned home following the war. In an early scene during the title song of the show, Billy sings:

“You never know what life will bring, only what you bring to life.”

These lyrics stuck with me after the show (and not just because they were printed in the playbill). They resonated with me because they reflected much of the work my clients and I do. So much of my client time is spent building plans, setting goals, and working to be more focused and intentional, and the lyrics in Bright Star represented that work.

We don’t know what the future looks like. We have no idea what is coming around the bend. . . . but that does not mean that we can’t try to make an impact on the future. We make an impact by being intentional. By setting goals. By making plans to reach those goals. We make an impact on the future by waking up every day knowing how we want to approach the day, knowing what we need to do, and always keeping our goals in front of us and top of mind. Things might not go as expected. Surprises will almost surely pop up— and not always the surprises we hope for. Times like these are when our attitude, our mindset, really matter. How we respond to challenges and how you react and handle the obstacles in our way will ultimately define our character and our level of success.

Much of the work I do with clients is around defining who they are, why they do what they do, what their ultimate vision for the future (for their business and lives) looks like. We dig into it through some big, foundational questions. Early in my practice, I used to ask clients “Where do you want your business to go?” and “What needs to happen to get there?” At the time they seemed like good questions, but I came to realize that I was asking the wrong questions . . . . or at least asking them the wrong way. Now I ask “Where do you want to TAKE your business?” and “What do YOU need to DO to get there?” The change is subtle but important. The questions used to be passive, implying waiting to see what happens (You never know what life will bring). Changing a few words makes the questions active, and puts people in charge of their goals and their future (Only what you bring to life).

We don’t know what the future looks like, but that does not mean we shouldn’t work hard to shape the future we want to see. Shaping that future starts by asking yourself some questions: Where do you want to go? What will you do to get there? What do YOU bring to life? Most importantly, what can you do TODAY to get moving? Get out there, be intentional, make plans, set goals, and get to work. And if you want to be inspired go see the show; I promise you will be moved.


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