There is method in experience’s madness. In the middle of an experience it can feel confusing and overwhelming. On the other side, you start to see the pattern. You realize you’re in a new phase of life. You’ve graduated out of the school of rough endings. Spring never feels finer than after a torrid winter. A meal never tastes better than after a time of fasting. New beginnings are even more exhilarating when you’ve survived a traumatic ending. By comparison, the beginning is a huge relief.
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 you optimistic.
Tony Soprano, television’s most famous mobster, talked about new beginnings as “getting in at the ground floor”.
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 struggling 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 run the 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 starting a new relationship, learning a new skill, building a career or tapping into a new trend, the ground floor is always the best place to be.
We live in exciting, and challenging, times. We’re in the middle of some massive changes. The first step up from the ground floor of change is built on personal responsibility. Own your choices, forgive your past and move on with a clear mind. Learn to trust your instincts, claim your opportunities and follow your dreams.
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 point of getting in at the ground floor and approaching change with a true beginner’s mind is not about denying the past, but rather it is about choosing not to let the past rule your present. Unresolved issues 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 responsibility and leadership. You get in on the ground floor and help to shape the future, creating space for others to also find their authentic place.
Charles Dickens gets at this sense of personal responsibility 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 jumped in at the ground floor 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 trends rather than scrambling to conform to trends. This is the privilege of starting out at the ground floor of change.
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.