Jim Carrey, an actor best known for making people laugh, was recently on CNN, seriously and wholeheartedly addressing a group of graduates at Iowa’s Maharishi University of Management using his own story as inspiration.
“So many of us choose our path based on fear disguised as practicality,” said Carrey. “What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect so we never ask the universe for it.”
What is that big goal you’ve been thinking about that is too crazy to discuss with friends and family? Was it as crazy as Jim Carrey’s dream of being an actor?
My brother in-law recently told me about another actor whose big dream preceded his shining moments that we’ve all come to love. Born in 1965 to a Jewish family that had migrated from Eastern Europe, young Benjamin took on different small roles before his stage debut in the Tony-award winning theater production, The House of Blue Leaves. In an interview, Benjamin even characterized one of his early performances as “poor.”
Nine months into his time at the University of California, Benjamin decided that he didn’t want to continue in the traditional route of attending a four-year university. Instead, he dropped out of college and took acting classes.
Fortunately for us, Benjamin, better known as Ben Stiller, didn’t stop at his first “poor” performance. He refined his vision and tried again.
In personal coaching sessions, I often use the bible story of Peter getting out of the boat as a metaphor for life. After witnessing it happen first hand, Peter decides he also wants to try the impossible. Sometimes I visualize the scene. Peter, ready to move into the miraculous, swings his legs over his well-worn fishing boat, tests the water, and then begins walking toward Jesus. When the large waves come, fear sets in and Peter begins to sink. Although the story doesn’t give us the specifics, presumably, Peter took a second stab at walking after being rescued from drowning, because he still had to get to and climb back in the boat.
Many of us have a big goal. Jim Carrey and Ben Stiller wanted to become actors. Both of them stepped out of the boat with their eyes fixed on the goal. Not all of their performances garnered awards and millions. Yet, Carrey and Stiller continued to pursue their big goals despite not finding success immediately.
Have you identified a big goal that seems as crazy as walking on water? Do you need to step out of the boat or perhaps lift yourself up and try again?
Jim Carrey said, “I’m proof that you can ask the universe for it.”
“It” was the seemingly impossible vision he had for himself. Carrey asked the universe. Peter kept his eyes on Jesus. Both used faith as a catalyst and stepped out of the safety of their present circumstances to try for something big. The impossible was made possible as they stepped – not beforehand. The water supported Peter’s weight as he walked. Doors opened for Carrey as he stepped forward into his career.
So often, we hide our big dreams in the safety of a conservative choice. We hope the answer will come before we step out into the unfamiliar. When the well-lit path toward our dream does not appear, we become anxious about taking the next step. In that decision we choose to shy away from sharing our passions with the world.
What might the world be without all of the inventions and creative expressions by people who fixed their eyes on the goal and decided to overcome their fear of sinking in order to step out of the boat?
Jim Carrey’s father also had dreams of becoming a comedian but decided to take a safe job and become an accountant instead. In his commencement speech, Carrey discussed his father’s choice not to follow his dream. “When I was 12 years old he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father - not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don’t want so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.”
Stepping out of the boat requires courage. Continuing to walk after you’ve started sinking requires faith that you can do it again. Whatever you may believe in, isn’t it time to tap into that faith and take a step forward?