The Tao of Shawshank
The Tao of Shawshank
The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
Tao is a Chinese word which, loosely translated, means "way.” The letter “t” is an approximation of a Chinese sound that does not have an exact English equivalent. The most accurate rendition would be a combination "t" & "d" sound, as in "Tdhow." Many pronounce it "Dow", as in "Dow Jones" (ie., to rhyme with "how" or "now"). I give you, therefore, The Way of Shawshank
One of my favorite movies of all time is The Shawshank Redemption starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman. Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a man wrongfully imprisoned. Freeman plays a fellow inmate who becomes his friend and confidante.
While others cite the themes of transformation as well as “maintaining integrity in places and situations where integrity is lacking” as the movie’s primary messages, I imagine that the movie’s instant appeal to me was due to what I recognized and connected with as the themes of escape and freedom—concepts that figure prominently in my own world view.
With no intention to trivialize the stark reality and profound experience that one goes through when one is actually physically incarcerated, I submit to you that many of life’s situations can be likened to being confined, restricted, caged or otherwise imprisoned.
When I was employed in the corporate world, I felt as if I was in a sort of prison, as if a part of me was dying each day I showed up for work. I felt trapped. Caged.
I hate to give away the plot of a movie out of respect of those who have not yet seen it, but The Shawshank Redemption is a perfect metaphor for life. The movie offers the perfect blueprint for what 90 percent of us in the world should know, should do, and should become in order to survive, thrive, prosper, and be free. Watch it (again) so you can fully appreciate the Way of Shawshank and the following lessons one can glean when faced with a situation (career, relationship, etc.) in which one feels trapped, stuck or otherwise restricted:
1. Sometimes life and its circumstances can feel like a prison.
2. Even the innocent can be imprisoned.
3. Knowing the truth about who you really are (your guilt or innocence), or about the world around you, is sometimes not enough to set you free. Sometimes justice comes only to those who help themselves.
4. Plan your escape. Keep it a secret while you work on it, for even your good friends may dissuade you from having and acting on your hope.
5. Sometimes it’s necessary to construct a fantasy or a facade that others see, to hide your true intentions. But just behind it, on the other side of your fantasy, behind the passion that others see, often lies your path to escape.
6. One of the best ways to maintain your sanity while trapped is to find what you’re good at (a passion) and do it, even if it benefits those who are your jailers, but never, ever lose sight of your ultimate goal. Sometimes it’s necessary to work within and support a flawed or evil system in the process of masterminding your eventual escape from it.
7. Some will attack you. Some will discredit you. Some will screw you over. You may have to put up with a lot of that...on a regular basis. Do not let it change you. Bide your time, and build your castles in your sleep. Endure.
8. Feel free to break the rules of confinement on occasion, as long as you’re aware of, and prepared to suffer the consequences. Do not live in fear of punishment or retaliation.
9. Sometimes, it’s necessary to accept that some people have been in prison for so long that they neither can nor want to function outside of its walls. Not everyone is seeking escape. Do not let this fact change YOU, or have you resign in your determination to be free. Use it to empower you to walk a different path. ("These walls are funny. First you hate em’... then you get used to em’... after a while you start to depend on them. That’s what it means to be institutionalized."—Red (Morgan Freeman)
10. When the time is right…execute your escape. Take action. In executing your escape, you may have to go through even more dirt, filth, and “crap” to get to the other side. Bring a bar of soap.
11. Once on the other side, you can live the life you’ve always envisioned, and live true to your self.
12. If you want to double the fun, bring a friend and confidante along.
Therefore, for 2011
The underlying theme of my articles in 2011 include the ever-necessary, and ongoing three-step process exemplified in The Shawshank Way: 1. Reclaim your power. 2. Break Free. 3. Live True to Your Self. Remember that these steps are non-linear. They are not executed sequentially but as parallel processes. You are always reclaiming more and more of your power, you are always breaking free in different ways every day, and on many levels you are always improving your definition of what it means to live true to yourself.
How do you reclaim your power?
In order to reclaim your power, you must first know the truth that there is, in fact, power to be reclaimed. This power is the nature of your being. You were born with it. However, for most of us, it is being suppressed. Others know this.
What power am I referring to? I’m speaking about the power to create—the power to envision a specific reality and then to make that reality come true. That power can be applied to your career, to your social life, to your financial situation, and your overall prosperity. You have the power to envision something other than what you are currently experiencing, and then to take steps to move towards that vision. A new, more rewarding career? More money? Fulfilling relationship? A different lifestyle? Purpose? Passion? Profit? It’s all within your power. If you do not believe this, then someone has lied to you.
It’s said that knowledge is power. The second step to reclaiming your power is knowing what else you are being deceived about. As each layer of deception is exposed, your power increases.
How do you break free?
In order to break free, you must take action. Once you know that there is another way to be, another reality “on the outside,” you can then break free from the cage you are now living in. You must take "risks." However, armed with the awareness of the power you have reclaimed, you will no longer see these actions as the risky actions they once appeared. They will be the only course of action that makes sense.
Finally, how do you live true to your self?
The answer to that question will be different for each person. Everyone seeks a unique payoff; everyone seeks a unique experience of living, a unique experience of truth, and unique experience of the self.
However, if you are not currently living the life you wish to live, then I suggest that you must first (re)define living. Then, as indicated above, (re)define truth. Then (re)define the self if you are to arrive at a workable understanding of what it means to you.
According to Wallace Wattles (The Science of Getting Rich): “You must want real life, not mere pleasure or sensual gratification. Life is the performance of function, and the individual really lives only when he performs every function—physical, mental, and spiritual—of which he is capable, without excess in any.”
One Day I’ll Fly away
"I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone."
Those words from the movie echo what Morgan Freeman’s character felt in his heart toward the end of the movie. Yes, your decision to empower, escape and live true to yourself may remove you from the day-to-day experience and reality of those whom you may have to leave behind. However, perhaps too, like Andy Dufresne, your escape will offer a path that others may choose to follow to find their own happiness! You owe it to yourself and to them to lead the way. I’ll see you on the outside!
* * *
Breaking News from Walt:
A few weeks ago, a former workshop attendee and coaching client revealed that she nominated me to be considered for this year’s Governor’s Humanities Award here on Saipan. I thanked her, but I didn’t really believe I qualified because...(read why at www.jamaicaninchina.com/humanities-award)