Two Things Stopping You from Your Next First (And Why You’ll Never Forgive Yourself)
We believe that first moments are the best moments. When you’re experiencing something new, you feel on fire. You create new memories. Time slows down. You break free of the rut of routine. We’ve been writing a great deal about the power of first moments over the last six months, and we’ve been thrilled to hear feedback from our readers that they’ve been inspired to chase more first moments of their own. This, in turn, has led us to create a new feature (you’re reading it!) in which members of the Life and Whim community share their own inspiring stories.
Leading things off is Tom Nixon, an entrepreneur, musician, actor, author, friend, and lover of Northern Michigan. Check out Tom’s take on what it has meant to spend a year chasing firsts.
I’ll never forget my first kiss...but I have no idea where I was on my 37th. My first car was a yellow Buick Skyhawk...no idea what my sixth one was. My first day of college seems like yesterday. All the other days walking to class blend together into one amorphous blob of nostalgia...and feel like forever ago.
As someone who has been closely following Life & Whim’s dedication to the power of life’s first moments, I can speak as a proud member of the converted. The science behind this phenomenon is convincing...and familiar. There’s just something about that “first time” that seeps into your psyche, and later comes to define how you evaluate your life and contributions to the world around you.
I’ve been inspired by this journey through understanding and harnessing that power of firsts — even to the point of forcing myself into uncomfortable situations I would otherwise avoid. But I’ve learned that it’s only through pain that growth happens.
My First Audition
Living in a home filled with budding and accomplished thespians alike, I’ve been immersed into musical theater over the last decade or so. Growing up as an athlete, theater was something that never really interested me. But the more I sat in dark theaters watching amateurs have the time of their lives performing in community theater, the more I was drawn to it. It didn’t matter that some of the actors were brilliant while others were tragically subpar...they were all doing it, and they were leaving whatever apprehensions they may have also had far behind. Good for them.
Even better for me.
My wife practically forced me to attend my first audition. I was terrified. I had zero experience. I didn’t even know what to expect...or what to do. I was going to fall flat on my face and be laughed out of the room.
Until I didn’t.
“Tom, you’ll be Alvin T. Paterson, a bumbling hick of a goofball that has to do a soft-shoe solo.”
A funny thing happened on my way to the coliseum (er, community theater stage). I loved it. I received accolades, not humiliation. I caught something known as “the theater bug,” which presented as postpartum depression when the play wrapped up. I actually missed it! I decided then and there, I’m a theater guy now...and I haven’t looked back. Two years later, I landed a role as one of the leading characters in a Shakespearean drama.
Had I never done the first, I would have never had the opportunity to do the next. (Tweet This)
My First Novel
When a dear friend passed away unexpectedly a couple of years ago, it forced me to take stock. Not only was I mourning his loss, I was also lamenting the fact that no one in the world would ever get a chance to read his brilliant writing (he was gifted, but never published).
How did I want my own legacy to play out? I’ve written everything from children’s books to screenplays...but I never had anything published. Modern technology removes all of the barriers — and excuses! — to getting your work published and distributed.
So I wrote. My bucket-list dream was converted into an actual plan. And this time, I had to force myself to take the first step. I opened a new document, and simply typed without thinking: “Everybody knows somebody like Joel Thomas.” I didn’t even have an idea yet. But I had to start explaining that opening line.
And I was off. Nine months later, The Long Lost was published.
I can’t tell you how fulfilling the act of completing and publishing a novel is for someone who’s always loved writing. Again, I was both humbled and somewhat shocked to receive accolades, not disparagement. So what I had been waiting for?!
Two things stop you from pursuing that next first: fear and inertia. Fear of failure or mockery and the comfort and ease of doing nothing at all. But the reality is that those impediments are two things that we have complete control over...not somebody else.
My Daughter’s First
This belief system is something, thanks to Life & Whim, that I’m determined to pass along to my children: Firsts matter...and you control when and how they happen.
Just this week, my daughter who’s attending a singing camp decided she wanted to back out of auditioning for a solo she had planned and practiced for at great length. No, I wasn’t going to force her to follow through, but I did have a conversation with her about what happens if she decides not to go through it. She’ll never experience her second audition if she doesn’t go through with her first. Eventually and logically, that leads to a life without musical theater in it. In the end, though, I left the decision up to her.
The next day she overcame what really boiled down to stage fright and went through with the audition. And she got a callback! I don’t have to tell you how happy that made her (or how proud it made her father). And now comes the life lesson to follow: She would literally never know that joy had she not overcome fear and inertia. I don’t care all that much about whether she lands the solo. But I care deeply about the lesson she just learned, and how it will apply to her own legacy going forward.
Your First is Waiting
I hope more people will invest in this idea and come to recognize how powerful, memorable and impactful life’s first moments can be. I’m living proof that it matters...a lot. And so too will you be. You control all the power here.
You either succumb to fear and inertia or you start creating moments that truly do last a lifetime.
I’ll close with a story close to home for those in northern Michigan. My wife and I frequently visit Traverse City; and when we do, we make a point to take the scenic drive up Old Mission Peninsula and back. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve done that. Really...I can’t tell you. We’ve done it so many times that they are all a blur to me now.
But on our most recent excursion, we happened to notice a road sign that read, “Old Mission Inn, 2 Miles.” We would have to make a right turn off of our usual path if we wanted to check out this landmark that we never knew even existed. But heck, we had nowhere we had to be, so we made the turn.
I’ll never forget the conversation I had with the innkeeper of what I now know to be Michigan’s oldest hotel (even older than the Grand Hotel). I’ll never forget how quaint the architecture was, nor the charm and antiquity of the old-fashioned horse buggy adorning the front lawn. I’ll never forget the gorgeous view of the bay you see while standing on the hotel’s front porch.
And while all of my other jaunts up the peninsula seem to run together in an amorphous blob of nostalgia, I’ll never forget the first time we took a right turn off our planned path to try something new for a change.