Take Center Stage In the Story of Your Life

The other night I was at a restaurant in Temma, a bustling area of Osaka where lanterns glow in front of smoky izakayas and tight standing bars late into the night.

Neon signs illuminated the myriad of restaurants unwinding in every direction from the metro station, serving cheap drinks, grilled meat, sushi — that’s Osaka — a playground of food and drink and merriment distinct to each ‘hood.

We sat at a meandering bar where you could see everybody around the room, as you’re all looking towards the center where there’s an open space. There were two girls across the room having fun, although quite drunk.

One girl suddenly sank out of her chair and onto the floor, and it took a moment for her friend to realize what happened. I couldn’t see below the bar, but the other girl dropped to the floor as well, trying to get her up.

Everyone started looking over; a few guys were snickering like school girls. For a moment I did too, caught in the capitulation of conformity.

Time had stopped — wait — what are we all doing just standing around, I thought, watching this girl struggle?

I’m no better than anybody else, not more virtuous or moral. But I want to be good. I want to be a sincere, strong human being. That often means combating the convenience of the easy thing to do, which so often is nothing at all.

Fuck that.

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation,” writes renowned historian Will Durant in The Story of Philosophy.

“We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly.”

These words are hollow without action.

In the story of our lives, each day’s an opportunity to progress the plot. For many of us, however, the story’s not genuinely our own.

We may feel like spectators, watching how the scene unfolds instead of taking center stage, and even though it’s scary, taking action.

“In the theatre of human life,” writes the English philosopher Francis Bacon, “it is only for gods and angels to be spectators.”

To take center stage in the story of your life doesn’t mean we’re the star of the show amidst the world in flux around us.

The world’s rather oblivious to how we feel, what we have to say, what we want and who we can become.

But we mustn’t be.

Irrespective if the world notices, it’s up to us to write our script, acting out each day in a way that resonates and feels true to who we are.

Yet there’s a paradox: we can’t know who we truly are until we operate and experiment in the real world. Through action, not words alone, our character develops, defines, and strengthens.

The more we act, the deeper our understanding becomes of who we are. With every act, the fog further dissipates and reveals the steps on the journey towards who we long to be.

I felt the nerves rising. I didn’t want to make a scene, and that was my own insecurity. Someone just needed help.

I went over and did my best. She didn’t seem in danger, just wanting to take a nap on the floor. My friend came over and helped too.

We broke the fourth wall, making the situation lighter instead of something to watch and gasp at, as if every person there had never had an embarrassing moment.

This experience illustrates something deeper for me. It was a small gesture — yet I felt something inside, a need to do good in the world and act on my intuition.

Our lives are built upon moments like this.

“You do not build self confidence by shouting affirmations in the mirror,” says the entrepreneur Alex Hormozi. “You build it by having a stack of undeniable proof that you are who you say you are.”

I don’t want to be a bystander in this life, in my life.

I’ll prove to myself that I am who I think I am by providing undeniable evidence.

How do we know what move to make? Where to act? When to step up and listen to our heart over the barrage of noise?

We pay attention.

We notice the moments when the energy rises in the pit of our stomach, when our heart feels electric and our mind goes clear. That’s often from doing what we love.

We traverse across the threshold of fear and notice how it feels; we make a decision and recognize our change in energy, feeling deep within our spirit that this is the life we’re meant to live, the plot we’re born to pursue.

If we never take those steps, we look where others look, do what others do, live how others live, which so often is a life of complacency.

The friend managed to get the other one up and out, and a bit later after they’d left, the girl came back to the restaurant just to thank us. That tells me I’m on track.

“The music we’re making or the music we hear,” goes one of my favorite song lyrics from Electric Lines by Joe Goddard. It’s so simple, yet encapsulates this human experience:

Whose song are we listening to?

Again and again, I hear the lyrics in my ears, the music in my soul. I strive to honor that sound, that energy, that beautiful life we all possess within, looking for release.

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