I don’t know if Bill Cosby really said this. I can hear him now in his “Jello Pudding” voice saying it and I chuckle. But the words are wise, regardless of the author and even when said in your best Jello Pudding voice.
Another quote about fear that resonates with me is “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Ambrose Redmoon.
Here’s the thing about fear – it’s a part of life. Literally. In the right scenarios (like fleeing Zombies, Bond villains and the one armed man) fear helps keep us alive. But being too afraid and being afraid of the wrong things can, and will, steal life away from us, one day at a time.
So, in my best Bill Cosby Jello Pudding voice, I’m suggesting that today, whatever it is you want in your life in a real and meaningful way, decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it. And then go do something that gets you closer to that thing and farther away from the fear.
Sharon La Cruise is one of my dear friends and former CNN colleagues. After working at CNN, the 1996 Summer Olympics, and Coca-Cola, she left Atlanta for Boston and New York to pursue her dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker.
She has worked on several award-winning films, including: “Shut Up and Sing” about The Dixie Chicks, and “This Far by Faith” about religion in the African American community.
But at age 49, Sharon reached her goal of writing, producing and directing her own film. “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” is the product of seven years of hard work. The film profiles the life of an African American woman who, while in her 40s, fought to integrate Little Rock High School in Arkansas in 1957.
I have the pleasure of traveling as part of Sharon’s “2013 Southern Circuit Tour” to screen the film, and decided to interview her about accomplishing her dream in her 40s.
On Turning 40:
I had reached a point my life where I wanted to live life on my terms without all the BS. I was finally a grown up! And I was on the way to becoming who I wanted to be—a documentary filmmaker.
On why she chose Daisy Bates as the subject of her film:
In 1997, I was 35 years old living in Atlanta. I attended a photo exhibit that would change my life. “I Dream a World” by photographer Brian Lanker included a companion guide of 75 of the most incredible African American women to ever live, including Daisy Bates. I was shocked that I had never learned about her in school. I started to research more about her and decided to make the film.
On finishing the film after seven years of work:
Producing “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. This profession is not for the weak of heart. It takes lots of time researching, writing, editing and fundraising for money. In the film world, if you get funding from government entities it is mandatory that your film broadcast on PBS or you have to return those funds. But there are no guarantees that PBS will broadcast your film. I was fortunate to be picked up by “Independent Lens,” which was the culmination of my dreams as a filmmaker. When the film aired on PBS on February 2, 2012–I was 49 years old.
On traveling the country to show the film:
The film has been screened everywhere from Hawaii to New York. Sitting through a screening with an audience has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. I love connecting with new people, and it has helped to reaffirm why I made the film in the first place.
On being productive in your 40’s:
Daisy Bates helped to shake the foundation of America in her 40s. I spent most of my 40s working on the film about her life. It was both wonderful and stressful. But I am really proud of all the things I was able to accomplish during that decade of my life.
Advice for women turning 40:
Don’t live your life in fear–take chances–and don’t settle for less than an extraordinary life. While I was working on the film I had signs up all over my office to encourage me — my favorite was from the film “Million Dollar Baby.” It said “Winners win because they dare to do what losers won’t.”
I hope Sharon’s experiences inspired you. Your 40s is the time to make no apologies for what you want in life. So get started now, and never give up on your dreams! For more information on Sharon and Daisy Bates, visit http://daisybatesfilm.com/.
Editor’s Update: I’ve added this clip from the documentary on PBS’ Independent Lens website.
Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.
Life is too short to finish something you wish you’d never started at the expense of starting something you wish you had. It’s too short to miss out on something worth fighting for because you’re too exhausted from fighting for something that isn’t. And it’s way too short not to know the difference.
I’ve been reading and DNFing (don’t worry, I’m not cursing – at least not here on the blog) a lot of books lately. DNF means “Did Not Finish.”
It’s a term that’s used in sports. And apparently a DNF is the kiss of death. Athletes try hard to avoid getting a DNF. Most people, athletes or otherwise, don’t like DNFing.
We want to finish whatever we started because it’s been ingrained in us since childhood that winners never quit. We never, ever, ever give up.
But what if we did. What if we gave up on certain things to make room for the right things.
I now have over 500 titles on my Kindle. 500. How that happened is a story in itself, but I’ll never be able to get through all 500. Years ago when I spent more time reading physical in-my-hands books, I always finished them, no matter how awful they were. Because that’s what you did. Because you always finish what you start, and I felt bad for the author if I DNF (as if she’d know.) These days, I still kind of feel bad for the author, but I stop reading if I don’t like it. Why finish a book I’m lukewarm about at the expense of finding one I’ll adore?
Outside of the book analogy, why spend time with people or activities just because you think you’re supposed to, at the expense of meeting people and engaging in activities you’d really enjoy.
Why stay in that relationship, on that career path, in that organization just because you think you’re supposed to. Think about what you’re not starting because you’re so busy finishing something you really didn’t want in the first place.
I think it was Abe Lincoln who first said, “DNF that sucker and move on.” Although I’m not sure because I never quite finished reading his biography. I DNF that sucker and moved on. What are you DNFing today?
I borrowed the term “The Ugly Middle” from a writing blog I follow called The Write Practice. You can read the original blog post here. That post refers specifically to writing, but as with so many writing related topics, the lessons can apply to much more.
Beginnings are exciting.
Endings can be triumphant.
The middle though…sometimes the middle is the mess.
It’s far enough from the excitement of the beginning that you sometimes forget why you started. And so far away from the end that you wonder why you started in the first place.
But the ugly middle is where you get things done.
If you’re changing old, dysfunctional patterns, the ugly middle is where your mind catches up to your heart.
If you’re moving toward a physical transformation, the ugly middle is that space where your body is strengthening itself on the inside but the changes aren’t yet visible on the outside.
If you’re a creative, the ugly middle is where your character finds its voice, it’s where your art takes on personality and it’s where you separate yourself from the hobbyists.
And if it’s your life, the ugly middle is where you live it. It’s the day-to-day stuff that feels mundane and repetitive, but it’s the stuff you do that results in your children being loving and compassionate. The ugly middle is where life-long friends are made, where faith is tested (and passes), and where you understand that your life is blessed – regardless of your current circumstance. And it’s the way you love the people you love. Day to day. Right there in the ugly middle.
In our 40s we’re, literally and figuratively, in the middle. Some days it feels really ugly. Some days it’s the most beautiful life we could have imagined.
Whatever day it is for you, don’t give up. There’s a wide open road in front of us leading us to a triumphant ending if we can just make it through the ugly middle.