Like most people, some of what I’ve learnt about new beginnings has come the hard way; from graduating out of the school of rough endings. Spring never feels finer than after a torrid winter. One of the reasons beginnings are so exhilarating is because you have often survived a traumatic ending. By comparison, the beginning is a huge relief. It’s the realization that endings lead to new beginnings that keeps you optimistic when times are tough. That’s one half of the equation.
The other half is that beginnings are actually new moments, not just in comparison with the ending, but in their own right. From this perspective, it’s not just relief but genuine excitement at the new path you’re on. Being open to the newness of beginnings is what keeps life fresh. This is the third point I will make about beginnings. The first piece on new beginnings was about the opportunity for renewed authenticity. The second was about using nervous energy to your advantage. The fourth is about setting the tone for your life by putting your best foot forward.
Tony Soprano, the infamous television mobster, offers a nice segway for the third point.
It was 1999; the beginning of the first episode of the first season of The Sopranos. Tony Soprano is collecting his newspaper from the front step and has a flashback of a conversation with his psychiatrist about a panic attack. In it he says, “It’s good to come into something from the ground floor. I came too late for that, I know. But lately I’m getting the feeling I might be in at the end. That the best is over. ” He was lamenting his struggle to come to terms with the new world order of mob crime. He longed for the good old days when you knew who worked for who, people were loyal and if they weren’t you wacked them, no questions asked.
Change can be hard, even for a crime boss, but it’s always better to collaborate with change from the ground floor, rather than riding the elevator of nostalgia and end up standing at the ledge of regret. The view’s great, but you you run risk of seeing your life flash before your eyes. We spend so much time arriving late, and breathless, on the scene of change. Whether it’s the stepping stones of education, the evolution of technology, the shift in economic patterns or the stages of connection in a relationship, fill in your own life situation and I’m sure you will agree that starting at the ground floor is the best way to go.
It’s true for the world as a whole. Replace organized crime with the new (legal) world order that is currently unfolding, and apply the same principle. Now is the time to get in on the ground floor in a global movement that is making clean, green, energy mainstream and making it possible for ordinary people to affect change in global systems. These are exciting times. It’s a new beginning where people are claiming the right to self determination and more and more people are taking responsibility for their choices and feelings. Even when it comes to spirituality, many people are exploring self driven spirituality outside of organized religion, and trusting their own instincts more than any official religious teaching. Spirituality, like the rest of life, is happening more and more from the ground floor of human experience rather than being manipulated from above. I’m particularly excited about this change and definitely want to climb aboard at the ground floor.
One of the main characters on the TV series Lost said, “Everyone gets a new life on this island”, echoing the blank slate philosophy of his 17th century English namesake, John Locke. The novel Lord of the Flies and the majority of the action on Lost itself seem to point more to karmic repetition than a blank slate. The point of getting in at the ground floor and approaching change with a true beginner’s mind is not about denying the past, or denying the impact of genes or nature, or ignoring the stubbornness of human ego, but rather it is about choosing not to let the past rule your present. Our unresolved issues, and any unresolved evolutionary issues, will continue to repeat themselves until we make a conscious choice to change the script. The island, as does life, allows for this ground floor beginning. It’s the lobby of a building called “YOUR life”. Whether you take the beginning on offer is a matter of choice.
So take the opportunity. There is nothing to lose, nothing to fear and SO much to gain. The greatest marks of this new beginning are ownership and leadership. You get in on the ground floor and help to create the future and shape the movement, not telling others what to do or believe but creating the space for others to also find their authentic place.
Charles Dickens captures this sense of ownership in the opening lines of David Copperfield,
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
Do you want to be a leader or a follower when it comes to change? Let the pages of your life tell the story of someone who was at the forefront of change, helping to create the future as it emerged. Shape the details of your life in a way that resonates with who you are and what the world needs. Enjoy the freedom of setting the trend rather than scrambling to conform to someone else’s trend. This is the privilege of starting out at the ground floor of change. The next and last piece in this series will look at setting the tone for the future by beginning intentionally.
20th century poet, Edith Lovejoy Pierce, wrote-
We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.