The Titchener Circles
The two orange circles below are the exact same size. But because of their surroundings, the two orange circles appear to be different sizes.
This isn’t exactly the point of the optical illusion, but it reminded me of this week’s theme: the people around you either make you bigger or smaller.
If Zachary Bright Had Different Friends
Before Michael Oher won a Super Bowl and before he was a first round NFL draft pick and before he was a unanimous All-American at Ole Miss and before he was the subject of Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side—he was a homeless kid living in a North Memphis housing project known as Hurt Village. In Hurt Village, Oher lived a few doors down from Zachary Bright. Like Oher, in high school, Bright was one of top college football prospects in the country. He had scholarship offers from every major football school. One recruiting analyst wrote, “Zachary Bright has the potential to be a big-time offensive tackle.” But Bright quit playing football before his senior year of high school. Michael Lewis writes in The Blind Side, “Surrounded by friends who told him that he’d be wasting his time to even try college, he quit.” When Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden himself traveled to Hurt Village in search of his prized recruit, Bright hid out until Bowden was gone. Bright would later say, “Guys who were around said, ‘Everyone can’t make it to the NFL.’ Telling me I wasn’t really gonna make it.” He’d shake his head in wonder at all he had thrown away and say, “I feel like I could a did something, if I were to start over and do it again.” If he were surrounded by different friends, Zachary Bright could a did something.
The Power of Stephen Sondheim’s Laugh
Shortly after Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In The Heights” ran on Broadway and won four Tony Awards, Lin-Manuel was with the composer Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim asked Lin-Manuel what he was working on, how he was going to follow up the success of “In The Heights.” Lin-Manuel told him, “I’m working on this hip-hop album, like a ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ concept album about Alexander Hamilton.” Sondheim, Lin-Manuel said, “threw back his head and guffawed, and he said, ‘No one will expect that from you. That’s is perfect. Keep writing that…Keep surprising us.” Lin-Manuel said, “That laugh was enough to power three years of writing.”
Sometimes It Takes Another Person’s Belief
When Steven Pressfield first submitted his 800-page manuscript for his now classic epic novel Gates of Fire, his agent told him flat out, “Steve, I can’t sell this. You have to cut three hundred pages.” Three hundred pages? “I was shell-shocked,” Pressfield writes in Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be. How could he possibly cut almost half the book and have it still work? “I fell into depression and despair.” But then he got a hand-written note in the mail from Tom Guinzburg, then the president of Viking Press, one of New York’s most prestigious publishing houses. Guinzburg got his hands on the Gates of Fire manuscript. “There is a first-rate novel in here,” the note said. “I am confident you will pull this off.” “Sometimes it takes another person to believe in us,” Pressfield writes. “That note changed my life. I taped it to the screen of my [computer] and took courage from it every day of the six months it took me to get three hundred pages out of that manuscript.”
Let The Audience Know They Are In Good Hands
Lorne Michaels, the creator and producer of Saturday Night Live, likes to walk the floor when Saturday Night Live is filming. “I once asked him why he does that,” Seth Rogan said. “His answer is something I think about almost more than anything as a general piece of advice when it comes to making things.” Lorne told Seth, “I like to let the audience know they’re in good hands.” Seth said that when his collaborators make movies, “it’s something we talk about so much. How do we make it so that in the first few minutes of the movie, the audience knows that they’re in good hands? And that they can just relax. That they don’t have to worry about whether or not this is going to be a good movie. We want them to just know, ‘you’re in good hands. We got you. Don’t worry about it.’”
To Those Who Raise Us Up
In Discipline is Destiny, Ryan Holiday quotes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about Florence Nightingale “and indeed all truly disciplined and wonderful people,”
Honor to those whose words or deeds
Thus help us in our daily needs,
And by their overflow
Raise us from what is low.
To those who make people bigger. To those who make people better. To those who let others know, “you’re in good hands.”