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What Lights You Up?


We all have heard the expression, “you get what you give” and “you teach people how to treat you.” And we have all either experienced or witnessed rudeness escalating into a shouting match on the sidewalk, or road rage accelerating to dangerous levels on the street. However, a slight shift in focus—like remembering all the things that you possess rather than all those that you, and those around you, don’t—can expand just as profoundly. Exploring what lights you up, what stimulates you, what makes you feel good, begets more of what lights you up, stimulates you, makes you feel good. If you teach people how to treat you, than being a student of your own wonder invites everyone else into the classroom of your attributes as well.

I witnessed this in such a cool way recently.

Living in New York City allows for rubbernecking of all kinds. I was running errands the other day, and despite the rule that true New Yorkers adhere to admonishing walking through Times Square during tourist season (which is every second of every day all year round) I decided to brave the heart of it…and I wasn’t even on my way to the theatre. Sacrilege, I know. However, I came across a group of people in a tight circle around something on the ground. My eyes found the focus, as I nestled into the burgeoning crowd, and there, on his hands and knees, was a gentleman painting on a large canvas unrolled over the cement.

His whole body followed the sweeping gesture of his arm as the portrait he was painting came to life. Beautiful, broad strokes transitioned into the tiniest of detail as he documented the older woman’s life experience with each contour, wrinkle and shadow. Her wisdom came through the twinkle in her eye, despite her weathered skin, just like the painter’s undeniable talent came through his brush, despite his tattered, paint-laden clothing and disheveled appearance.

Had he just been sitting on his over-turned bucket on the sidewalk, dirty fingernails, charcoal-scuffed forehead, and clothing showing more paint than a Jackson Pollack, passers-by may have assumed he had camped there to ask for money. However, put a blank canvas in front of him, and his brilliance bursts out of him for all to see.

Everyone has a bit of brilliance.

We all have something at which we are incredibly talented. Something that lights us up so brightly, that others cannot help but see us shine.

We have all experienced “getting” what we “give.” Beyond the love and respect that we give to others, however, we show others how we feel about ourselves by how much respect we expect. And we teach others how to treat us by how much respect we accept. How good does it feel to share what lights us up, and have others appreciate it? And, in turn, how much fun is it to be able to witness someone else’s brilliance in action? To see an athlete in the zone? To hear a musician rock out on another level? To read how a writer has described their own soul? And to see an artist illustrate their own spirit? Knowing that we all have something at which we are amazing, sets up life’s most beautiful scavenger hunt between those who choose to play.

Looking for what talent resides in another person is just plain fun. And celebrating it is even better.

Honoring your own talents and where your own interest and brilliance resides, invites others to appreciate, commiserate, and then celebrate that which makes you, you. You teach people how to treat you, by how you treat yourself and others. And appreciating your own amazingness, and looking for that in others, so often yields fun, incredible and unexpected prizes.

By the time the street artist had finished his painting, a joyful bidding war had started among the crowd. While people were peeling off one hundred dollar bills from their wallets, I realized that what they were actually so eager to pay for, was the tangible reminder of the experience we had all just shared of watching this incredible artist do what sublimely lights him up. It was more than just his painting; it was his invitation into a classroom of his attributes, his genius. And he was a great teacher.