Friday, April 30, 2010

Prepare for Flair

There's this trick I use to help me prepare for flair.  I assume I'm going to be amazed by anyone or anything.  It could happen at any time: when I'm frying an egg, putting on socks, or standing in line somewhere.  If anything, I'm learning the obvious truth that things aren't what they seem.

I keep needing to learn this. 

The semester ended today.  I gathered final papers, shook hands, agreed to write recommendations, and voiced all the usual blessings a college professor might give.  Mostly, though, I recalled how much this particular group of students surprised me.

Living with flair means I throw out the stereotypes.  I abandon presuppositions.  I used to scan a room of people and determine, in advance, what sort of students they'd be:  the fraternity boys would be late every morning; the tattooed and pierced would be angry and defiant; the military students would be prompt and tidy; the athletes would be ambitious but average as writers; the quiet girls in the back wouldn't engage with me all semester.

I know stereotypes exist for a reason.  They might be generally true.  But this semester, I discovered every single exception to the rules of how types of people behave.  Nobody acted like they were supposed to.  The soldiers came late, and the fraternity boys wrote the most compelling papers, on time, and with flair.  The tattooed and pierced were the most loving and compliant of all.  The athletes were the best writers.  The shy girls provided ongoing humorous commentary.

I've learned to assume nothing.  This prepares me to receive the extraordinary moment when it comes.  When I tell that thing or that person what it represents--without giving it a chance to amaze--I'm sabotaging all the flair. 

I've been hanging out with strangers all day (hence the late blog post).  I'm in a wedding party with lots of folks I've never met.  When I met each new person, I prepared for flair by imagining how great this person must be, anticipating all the wisdom and inspiration they possess, and doing all I could to draw it out.   That's the secret to friendship, teaching, marriage, parenting, and even my relationship to myself.   No need for stereotypes.  No need for judgments.

I just want to prepare for flair.

1 comment:

Meg McGinty said...

Amazing things happen when you automatically expect the best out of people before you engage with them. And this entry beautifully reflects Don Ruiz's second agreement that urges us never to make assumptions!

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