Can you even imagine what it must have been like to be a responder to the Columbine shooting? How could anyone move past the horror and sadness of such an event, and go on to continue to do her job through numerous other tragic situations, much less to live a happy and fulfilling life?
Autumn Shields has just about seen it all in her former career as a victim advocate. She has seen tears and pain and senseless violence, but she has also seen the human spirit rise above it all and continue on. Now, in her new book Living Your Life Alive, she shares with us how sometimes it takes tragedy to make us wake up and live the lives intended for us. Hopefully, however, you won’t need to experience a tragedy to have a wakeup call; instead, as Autumn explains, you just have to listen to your “inner nudges.”
Sadly, too many of us don’t listen to our nudges. We allow negativity and self-doubt to hold us back in life. Autumn illustrates this point by explaining how monkeys are captured on Borneo:
“On Borneo, the natives have a unique way of catching monkeys. They use a hollowed out coconut and some green bananas-the monkeys’ favorite treat. In one end of the coconut, they make a hole just big enough for an adult monkey’s open hand. They tether the other end of the coconut to a tree. Then they drop a banana into the coconut and scatter some around to bait the monkeys.”
“When a troop of monkeys shows up, one monkey will invariably find the coconut and stick in a hand and grab the banana. The monkey is then trapped. Not in the sense that the monkey can’t get away-all it has to do is let go of the banana, after all. But when the villagers show up the next day, they almost always find the monkey battered and bruised or dead of exhaustion because it spent its energy struggling to free its hand without releasing its grip.”
Too many people are like the monkeys. As a result, it may take something drastic for us to wake up and live our lives alive. Other times, we just need some guidance from someone like Autumn to help us move past our fears and doubts. Through her book’s pages, Autumn takes readers on a journey that addresses many of the things that hold them back from living up to their greatest potentials. From discussing overcoming fear to how to remove the masks we hide behind, and from creating a vision for our lives to taking steps to making that vision our reality, Autumn leads us down the path to becoming our own success stories.
Autumn also reminds us that success-however we want to define it-will take some work. Not that we should be intimidated by successful people, thinking we can’t accomplish what they have. She uses Facebook to illustrate this point: “We tend only to see the result, the success story, or the perfect life portrayed on Facebook. What if we could see the minutes of someone’s life instead of just his or her title or result? We tend to compare ourselves to everyone else’s success, but we judge ourselves by our minutes.”
We need to take the time to focus on our minutes. We need to realize that in those minutes, one piled on another, are the steps to our success provided we use each minute well. In the end, our nudges will lead to vision and work, and we will have a payoff finding rewards we least expect. Autumn illustrates this by referring to sunsets on Maui, where she now lives. (How she moved to Maui is a story of nudges answered that you’ll have to read for yourself). People often want to watch the sunset, but Autumn has observed that if they see the sky darken or cloud over just minutes beforehand, they figure the sunset won’t be worth watching so they leave. But Autumn knows the sunset still happens and will be beautiful and the sky may clear at the last minute: “But those other people left… right before. Why not wait the five minutes and just enjoy the air or watch the waves crash on shore? Why do we put so much emphasis on the exact time of the sunset and then walk away from it? As my son has pointed out, ‘Who cares about the sunset? The sky is always more colorful right afterwards.’ We make things the point and forget to enjoy the surrounding moments. We forget to enjoy the right before, the point, and the after… the moments.”
Living Your Life Alive is full of other beautiful moments that have important messages for us, but I’ll just conclude by mentioning that at the end of the book Autumn interviews a number of inspiring people who are examples of living your life alive. Among these people is Kimokeo Kapahulehua, a man who teaches others about Hawaiian Culture. In his interview, he remarks that when people ask him how he can paddle his canoe for hours and stay calm despite the unknown things out on the open sea, he replies, “Because they went before us.” Autumn goes on to explain, “Although we might not know our ancestors, they are with us. He [Kimokeo] just thinks about what his great-grandfather must have done with his mind or hands with the resources he had. He knows that many of his ancestors were doing what he is doing, years and years ago. He draws on their strength because it is now in him. He encourages you to draw on the strengths of those who have gone before you.”
I’ve often felt the same way Kimokeo does. After everything our ancestors have endured, and everything they did to make this world better for us, we have no excuses. We stand on their shoulders and they are cheering us on from a distance to live our lives alive. I encourage readers to honor those ancestors, and more importantly, to honor themselves by living their lives alive. Begin to do so by listening to your nudge to read this book.