Go big or go home. It’s the mantra in Nashville and Hollywood. It’s the clarion call to working women from Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook and author of Lean In. It’s the hope of athletes and Olympians. This message has trickled down and seeped into the hearts and minds of us all.
So I ask…”Says who?” (or whom? Whatever!)
Some people you and I know personally are “big.” Kudos to you. But most of us aren’t. Not being big can feel like we’ve somehow failed or under-achieved or even quit.
Some people we know are intentionally not big, never wanted big, chose small, or just wound up small and are happy. Kudos to you too.
Last weekend I flew on a small airplane (four other passengers) to a small town in northern Alberta. I thought I was going to a small event but 225 women showed up so by their standards (and mine) it was big.
A first draft of this blog was handwritten as I flew and as soon as I landed, I lost the courage to post it. But God had other plans.
One of the first people I met was the “missing” brother from a famous country band. Three brothers started singing together as teens and their talent and drive took them to Nashville and the top of the charts. They got BIG. But when I saw a photo of the band recently I noticed there were only two brothers.
The sound man at my event was a local, a husband and father of three young kids and his day job was IT. He looked familiar ( I attended a live concert several years ago when there were still three brothers in the band) and a few questions revealed he was the missing brother.
“What happened?” was my (possibly rude) question.
“My wife and I wanted to come home,” was his gracious and courageous answer.
He told me they had been home three years so I asked how he felt about the decision now. “I’ve never regretted it,” he said with a smile.
In other words, he chose “small.” He achieved the big dream and it didn’t fit him or his family very well so he chose a new dream.
Meeting him gave me the courage to share my own truth:
I have been on the road speaking since 1999 and I have had a few “big” moments. Some of my peers who began speaking at the same time or even years later are now BIG. Kudos to you. Sincerely.
In my field as a speaker, big is large audiences, wide acclaim (people drive several hours to attend your event), more invitations than you can possibly accept, top dollar, publishing deals and many books, huge blog following, TV and radio spots or even your own show, world-wide travel and more.
I think you can figure out what small is on your own.
I believe small is God’s dream for me. Small just fits me better. I can do small without the chasing, the driving, the madness, the climbing, the people-pleasing, the selfies with “big” people, the crowded calendar and airline gold status, the FB posting of where you are and where you’re going next, the marketing, the jumping-through-hoops that are always flaming, the online products and ever-bigger blog following, the new and fresh ideas ever day…the lonely hotel rooms, the cities you’ve visited but can’t remember being there, the people you’ve met who’ve poured out their heart to you but you’ve forgotten everything about them, the panic attacks, the thousands of FB “friends” that are not real friends, the stress of delayed or canceled flights, the numbing exhaustion, the hordes of people who admire you mostly because they don’t really know you, the missed celebrations and crises back home, the texts from your kids and grandkids asking when you’ll get home … wow! I didn’t know I had so much bottled up angst but there it is humble reader — my rant on why big doesn’t work for me.
Does that mean that we “small” people don’t have the talent to be big? Maybe. But not always. The “missing brother” had enough talent and I have plenty of evidence to indicate my speaking gift is sufficient.
Choosing small means we don’t have the will. Those of us who choose “small” do not like the price that must be paid to be big. Small works for us. Small fits.
Choosing small in one area creates space for other big things–family, health, spiritual wholeness–that might get overlooked or sacrificed or ignored, or postponed or devalued or lost while you are chasing big.
Five years ago when I flew home from a Rah-Rah conference with a head full of ideas and a plan to write my next book about “simplifying your life” I discovered my husband of 30+ years was inches away from burnout.
God whispered a new dream into my heart. Or perhaps it was the dream that was always there but I was too busy chasing to hear it.
“Gerry needs a wife,” said the voice in my head. I put down my author’s pen. I made other changes. I have a few more to make. It has taken almost five years for me to fully embrace God’s newest dream for me but in the end, instead of writing about simplifying, I simplified! I chose small. And I don’t regret it.