Robert Caro was on The Charlie Rose Show recently promoting his latest book, The Passage of Power. Robert has won Pulitzer Prizes. Obama has credited his book The Power Broker with shaping his view of politics. And he's one of those New Yorker's who says "ex-straw-dinary". I could listen to him talk for hours.
I switched on seconds before Charlie asked Robert what price he's paid in order to devote his career to studying and writing about power struggles in American politics.
Robert smiled, cracked a joke about being dead broke a couple times and credited the support of his wife and sole researcher, Ina. Then he immediately jumped back into talking about his fascination with his work. His latest book is the third in a four volume biography of the presidency of Lyndon Johnson.
The magic in Robert's response is that when given the chance to wax poetic about the dark side of a 50+year career as a political writer, he passed.
Yeah, we had to sell the house. It was hard. Now let's have a chuckle and go back to being fascinated.
When Robert talks about his work, he leans forward and back and forward again. He licks his lips every 3 sentences and uses the word 'fascinating' at least a dozen times. He finishes a sentence, tilts his head to the side and smiles at Charlie, in an "Isn't that fantastic?" sort of way. It's obvious he loves this stuff. LOVES it.
And that is the magical lesson I thank Robert Caro for: He chooses to dwell in fascination.
He deliberately leaves the past in the past so that he can savor the awe happening right now. In a moment when it would have been perfectly understandable for him to get a bit melancholy about the tough times he faced (and there were several, but since he's not dwelling on them I won't either), he chose to turn the conversation back to the subject that makes him positively giddy.
Whether it's your business or your lover or the cutlery you eat your dinner with, don't you want to glow with that kind of I-love-this-ness?
When you talk about your new house or your new website design, do you choose to gush about how gorgeous it is or do you bitch about how hard it was to get?
Distinction: I'm not suggesting we ignore life's challenges. Taking stock of what we had to go through to get here is a healthy exercise. Knowing what mountains we've climbed builds confidence and credibility.
I'm talking about the narrative we choose to marinate in. The place we pitch our tent.
How many of us have chosen to take up residence in the memory of our own tough times? How many of us wear our financial struggles, our relationship history, our college transcript (or the lack of a transcript) like a stone around our necks?
Whether you have any interest in American politics or not, Robert Caro's reaction to Charlie's question illustrates the power of choice.
We choose where we stand.
We choose whether our childhood trauma or the painful divorce becomes the defining feature of our lives.
We have the power to choose where we dwell.
Where do you choose to dwell?
Annika Martins coaches creative entrepreneurs who want to make a living without losing touch with the soul of their art. She helps clients overcome the Resistance that is holding them back.
Annika has been featured on Inc.com and CNN Money, and writes regularly for top business and personal development blogs, including Problogger, Design*Sponge, Brazen Careerist, Men with Pens, Everyday Bright, and Goodlife Zen.