My wife, Elysha, is learning to play the ukulele. Her remarkable and handsome husband gave her a ukulele and lessons for Christmas, and ever since December, she has practiced and played almost every day.
It's her new thing.
My friend, Steve, is hosting his first corn hole tournament on Saturday in his backyard. Dozens of competitors, corporate sponsors, fabulous prizes, and he's opening the event with a singing of the national anthem.
It's his new thing.
I can't say enough about introducing new things to your life on a regular basis.
You must. You never know where they might lead.
Back in July of 2011, I went to New York City to tell a story on a Moth stage. My plan was to tell one story and never do it again.
Today, I have become a storyteller who performs all over the country and the world.
In 2013, Elysha and I produced our first Speak Up storytelling event at Real Art Ways in Hartford, expecting 30-40 friends would gather two or three times a year to listen to stories.
Today, we produce about a dozen shows per year for audiences as large as 500 people.
In 2014, I taught my first storytelling workshop, telling the participants that this would be the only workshop I ever teach.
Four years later, I teach storytelling professionally. I work with corporations, clergy members, politicians, nonprofits, colleges and universities, public schools, hospitals, and many more.
The last four days alone:
On Saturday, I taught storytelling at Central Connecticut State University to abut 75 educators as part of a conference on literacy.
On Sunday, I taught storytelling to a group of remarkable young women at Miss Porter's School, a private boarding school in Connecticut, in preparation for a show that I will be producing on campus.
On Monday I traveled to a Mohawk reservation an hour north of Toronto, Canada, to teach storytelling to a group of Mohawks who are learning their native language for the first time,
Yesterday, I taught storytelling to high school students in Woodbridge, CT. I also produced a story slam for students and performed that night alongside friends and fellow storytellers.
Tonight I will consult on storytelling with an attorney in Kansas City who works to reform housing and labor practices in his city.
All of this happens because in 2011, I tried something new.
In 2013, I tried something new.
In 2014, I tried something new.
I shudder to think what my life might be like today had I not taken that stage seven years ago.
Not everything that I try has similar results.
I wrote a book of poetry that will never see the light of day.
I've written picture books that no one wants to publish.
I tried to learn to code online and honestly could not wrap my mind around any of it.
But each of these new experiences opened a door to me. Provided me with possibility. Gave me new insights. Carved new neural pathways in my brain.
Elysha may never play the ukulele professionally, but every night. we listen to her play and sing, and it's beautiful.
Steve may never turn his corn hole tournament into anything more than an annual backyard event, but those annual tournaments will be a source of joy and amusement for him and his friends and family.
I keep a list in Evernote called "What's Next?" It's a list of things I want to try at some point in my life. Some of the items on the list are realistic and doable. Others are fanciful and unlikely. But if you had told me seven years ago that I would spend two days on a Mohawk reservation in Canada teaching Native Americans to tell stories, I would've thought you were being ridiculous.
You just never know.
Items on my "What's Next?" list include:
- Perform my one-person show in a theater
- Spend a summer at Yawgoog Scout reservation
- Write and direct a short film
- Launch a podcast with featuring me and the kids
- Learn to make an outstanding tuna avocado melt for Elysha
- Try curling
- Teach a college class for new teachers about the things that are really important
- Officiate a funeral
- Become a notary
- Become an instructional coach
- Design and teach a competitive yoga class
- Land a weekly column in a major newspaper
- Become an unlicensed therapist
These are just a few of the many items on my life. An endless list of opportunities for me to try.
Life is so full of opportunities. So full of possibilities. Yet I see so many people become stagnant and still. Stuck in the routines of their lives. Unwilling to try new things. Afraid to attempt the ridiculous or the difficult or the seemingly impossible.
Avoid this at all cost. Pick up a ukulele. Start your own corn hold tournament in your backyard. Officiate a funeral.
Do something new, and after that, doing something else that is new. Keep doing this. Never stop. Life is full of possibility and surprise if you allow it.