On Idealists in Action, we love to tackle your biggest obstacles to doing good. One we hear a lot is, “I don’t have the skills or knowledge to start something.” This week, we’re taking that behemoth down.
“In 2010 I was in the middle of a failing sabbatical,” begins Derick Tsai, founder and creative director of hip content development studio Magnus Rex.
“The brutal truth was I had bumped up against the limits of my abilities. I was going to have to drastically up my game if I had any hope of realizing my projects. In an unfamiliar space and out of my depth, I was reduced to moping around in sweats all day and constantly stressing about running out of money.”
“Then something woke me up and put everything into perspective.”
How did this visionary artist rise from the depths of not knowing to a new pinnacle of creativity? Read his story on GOOD.
Tell us about a time you didn’t know what to do, but turned rock bottom into your launch pad.
At Idealist, the sporting world is not our usual beat. The Olympic Games, however, hit us where we live as an inspiring, international gathering of outstanding individuals and teams. So we’re taking this opportunity to pay homage to excellent athletes, winter beauty, fun games, and a host of other concepts we could tie (even tenuously) to Sochi. Welcome to Olympics Week on Idealists in Action.
Stereotype: Jocks are boring.
Broken by: Hubertus von Hohenlohe, wacky Mexican ski rock star
Hubertus von Hohenlohe gets a gold metal in awesome.
A world-class photographer, pop star, and (incidentally) German prince, he’s also a six-time Olympian in men’s Alpine skiing, and the only athlete representing Mexico in the winter games. And he’s 55 years old.
“We (in Mexico) are 100 million people and the only chance we have (of winning a medal) is up to me, but we don’t have to look at it like that. You have to see it as I’m an ambassador of this country, an ambassador with style and a human force that goes beyond the result,” Hubertus says in this interview for CNNMexico.
To represent Mexico, Hubertus has opted to compete while wearing a special Spandex ski suit patterned after the traditional dress of Mariachi musicians.
By raising some eyebrows this time around, he’s hoping to raise the profile of Mexican athletes in future Olympic games.
Stereotype: You can’t teach old dogs new tricks.
Broken by: Jacki Munzel, 50-year-old speed skating powerhouse
Four years ago, Jacki Munzel was watching the Winter Olympics on TV with her daughter.
“We looked up at the TV and speed skating was on… She said, ‘You could try speed skating.’ And something inside of me, that fire from within, it grew and I was like, ‘Yeah, I could do that’,” Munzel said in this KSL interview.
Jacki had never speed skated before she made the decision to start training for the 2014 Olympics, though she wasn’t totally starting from scratch.
A professional power skating coach who trains NHL players, Munzel has been ice skating her whole life. In 1984, she even qualified to go to the Olympics for figure skating. But tragically, when a life-threatening eating disorder took her off the ice for those games, Munzel put her Olympic dreams to rest.
Then, thirty years later, after much training and re-training, Jacki ranked in the top ten for speed skating nationals and beat her personal best by 15 seconds in the U.S. Olympic trials.
Although her time wasn’t fast enough to get her to Sochi this year, her story proves that, well, there’s always 2018.
Stereotype: Girls aren’t strong enough to ski jump.
Broken by: Lindsay Van, Jessica Jerome, and women athletes the world over
For the first time EVER, women will be allowed to compete in ski jumping at this year’s Winter Games.
This is partially a result of the efforts of two U.S. women skiers, Lindsay Van and Jessica Jerome, who spoke out about the injustice of being excluded again and again by suing the Vancouver organizing committee for gender-based discrimination in 2010.
“I didn’t do it to prove anything, but people needed to see that women in this sport are capable of jumping really far, and we’re capable of having our own event,” Van said for NBC Olympics.
The lawsuit raised enough attention that in April 2011, women’s ski jumping was approved as an official event for the Sochi Games.
We’ll be cheering for all of the women ski jumpers who compete this year as they soar through the air like magnificent Valkyries!—
What inspiring, kooky, or otherwise amazing athletes are you rooting for this winter?
Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one.
This Halloween week, we present: fear.
Jonathan Fields helps people be “more agile, creative and innovative and embrace action in the face of uncertainty with a greater sense of ease.”
As a father, husband, author, speaker, wellness industry entrepreneur, former hedge fund lawyer, innovation consultant (and more!), he’s no stranger to making ideas happen.
He describes his Good Life Project (GLP), in part, as “a voracious commitment to move beyond words and act.” Very Idealist!
In this video from GLP TV’s third season, Jonathan talks about countering fear and inaction by “reframing” our thoughts to push past our natural inclination toward negativity bias (concentrating on what could go wrong), and focus on the opportunities—not the pitfalls—that await in any challenge.
A few of our favorite quips to whet your appetite for action:
When have you been able to shed fear by focusing on opportunity?
Samantha Thornhill and Jon Sands make art out of what many people fear more than death: public speaking.
Poets in Unexpected Places (or PUP, “Pop-up Poets”) is a New York City-based poetry performance group that creates large-scale poetry installations in public spaces like subway cars, ferries, classrooms, and parks.
Here’s how it works: one of the five PUP poets (called “Curators”) stands up and reads either their own or someone else’s poem. Then it’s another poet’s turn. And so on.
After the third or fourth poet shares something, people start to see that this isn’t a random act of art. They begin taking their ear buds out, or looking up to chuckle with the person sitting next to them. This moment of connection is what the PUP Curators are trying to create.
“You see people sharing an experience. People who were disconnected before, staring at their iPods, are now connecting. They’re part of a story where everyone has a role to play,” Samantha says. “And that’s revolutionary.”
They’ve had audiences react with indifference and (rarely) with hostility, but the overall response since PUP’s start in 2008 has been really positive. Audience members have even joined in and shared their own work—poems, raps, dances, even a monologue from Romeo and Juliet. When this happens, the brave civilians are called “Pop-up Passengers.”
Even for experienced teachers and performers like the PUP Curators, sharing something as personal as a poem (especially an unsolicited poem) in a public space is definitely a risk. Each Curator has their own strategy for dealing with the fear and making something positive from it.
Samantha says she takes power from the surprise of not knowing what’s going to happen.
“I harness that energy of uncertainty and nerves, and I let it bring me to a positive space. Then it’s not fear anymore,” she says.
It’s helped her become a braver person overall. “I was able to tell myself that if I can stand up on a train and do a poem, then I can dismantle other fears that are holding me back.”
Jon says the whole idea for PUP was pretty much a dare. He was riding a late night L train with his friend Adam, another co-founder of PUP, who told him he’d give him $2 if he did a poem—right then and there.
“Of course we were afraid—but when you’re afraid of something, that’s usually a good sign that you should try it,” he says.
Acting on good intentions
Knowing what they want to do—and why they’re passionate about it—helps the Curators stay focused and committed to the act of storytelling and transforming public spaces.
“I believe in doing something with intention—to really dissect what you’re doing and why you’re doing it—otherwise it might seem like a frivolous action. It’s okay to be afraid, as long as it’s not paralyzing or destabilizing, but the intention and the passion have to be there,” Samantha says.
If you’re trying to get to the root of your intentions, Jon thinks there’s something to be said for just going with your feelings and opening up to the unknown.
“There’s really a value in saying ‘yes’ and seeing what happens.”
When have you channeled fear into a positive emotion? How did you do it?
Stuck? Feeling hopeless? Unsure of your next step? For the almost two decades Idealist has been around, we’ve been asking you—our community—to tell us about the obstacles you face when trying to turn your good intentions into action. We’ve compiled a short list of the top-reported obstacles, and now we’re blogging about them one by one. This Halloween week, we present: fear.
When we talk about the obstacles that prevent people from moving from intention to action, we often cite the fear of failure. But the other side of the coin is not so commonly discussed: fear of success.
Fear of failure can come into play when we think our image is on the line (“People will think this idea is absurd,” “If I try this and it doesn’t work, they’ll think I’m a failure,” etc.), and also when we treat failures purely as setbacks, instead of as opportunities to learn and make changes.
Fear of success, however, comes from different ideas and habits—often ones related to responsibility and commitment.
When thinking about an idea you want to make happen, have you ever had the following thoughts?
If so, you might be suffering from a fear of success! As you can see, the way we frame our thoughts and feelings about fear determines in large part what we dare to do (or not do).
So we invite you to try asking yourself what stops you from taking action. What’s the cost of not trying? Would it be better to try than to keep imagining what would happen if you did? What would make a better addition to your life than realizing your idea?
Your answers might give you a clue that you’re afraid of succeeding. If that’s the case, don’t fret: you can turn it around.
If we change our thoughts—if we can behold failure as a learning experience, responsibility as an honor, and commitment as an adventurous challenge—we can change the world.
Have you experienced fear of failure, or of success? Have you been able to turn good intentions into action by reshaping your thoughts and feelings about fear? Please share in the comments.
Idealist contributor Kimberly Maul also delves into the fear of success, with a focus on career goals, in this Idealist Careers post.
While we might know when a relationship, job, or project is over, that doesn’t always mean we’re ready to leave. Recently in the Atlantic, Heidi Grant Halvorson argues that the reason we hesitate to let go is that many of us tend to be prevention focused, or loss-averse. So, we fret over the amount of time, money, or energy we’ve put into something and refuse to walk away because we can’t bear the loss.
The better solution? She argues we should adopt a promotion-focused way of thinking by asking: what will I gain from moving on?
As studies by behavioral economists like Daniel Kahnemen and Dan Ariely show, people are generally loss-averse. Putting in a lot, only to end up with nothing to show for it, is just too awful for most of us to seriously consider. The problem is one of focus. We worry far too much about what we’ll lose if we just move on, instead of focusing on the costs of not moving on: more wasted time and effort, more unhappiness, and more missed opportunities.
Recent research by Northwestern University psychologists Daniel Molden and Chin Ming Hui demonstrates an effective way to be sure you are making the best decisions when things go awry: focus on what you have to gain by moving on, rather than what you have to lose. When people think about goals in terms of potential gain, that’s a “promotion focus,” which makes them more comfortable making mistakes and accepting losses. When people adopt a “prevention focus,” they think about goals in terms of what they could lose if they don’t succeed, so they become more sensitive to sunk costs. This is the focus people usually adopt, if unconsciously, when deciding whether or not to walk away. It usually tells us not to walk away, even when we should.
What do you think? Have you ever had to walk away from something that wasn’t working out? How did you know? And what made you make that move away?