You need friends (or people around you) who know you are…even if they don’t yet know who they are!
If you keep downplaying yourself, why be surprised if people start to believe you!
You must know that "The Wiz" is perhaps my favorite movie of all time. The music, the story, the actors and singers...it's a masterpiece of American cinema! Think about it, Michael Jackson wore a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrapper on his nose for the entire movie and no one has asked the producers, directors or writers why? What we do know is the song and dance to "You Can't Win"! The mystique of such a film is multi-generational as proven by NBC's live production of the stage play turned feature film. Now, a new generation of kids and adults aren't only singing its praises, they're singing the songs immortalized by inimitable performances. This is where I draw my inspiration today, "The Wiz". I know that the film is an adaptation of Frank L. Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", but this film speaks my language, if you get my drift.
In school, we had to read the original and each year at Thanksgiving, it was plastered on television on each major network. Once I played drums in a local production of the stage play, I was done with the original. (Cool story, we had the actual song books from Broadway but that was long before social media and I didn't own a camera to take a picture of the cover). When I finally saw the movie years later, I was captivated and the more I watch it, I learn something new. In my opinion, Stephanie Mills was perfect as Dorothy and I was dismissive of Diana Ross and her baby fro but she gave a stellar performance in the film! She, really did...they were all amazing! This film was a tour de force and I LOVE IT. That's why I want to talk to you today about the latest lesson I've mined from the richness of "The Wiz"
...you ain't ever been south of 125th street...!
The archetypal messaging of both "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and "The Wiz" is that what they sought to gain from the Wizard was already to in them and that by the time the met the Wizard, the taught him the same lesson. Dorothy was quite comfortable leading the way to Oz, even though in the comfort of her everyday life, she hadn't traveled south of 125th street. Comfort can create a prison of its own, but the road to Oz wasn't a yellow brick road, not a crystal stair! Those cabs...they were off duty but caused them to find their own direction to new friends or the next challenge. They "eased on down" one of the most difficult roads they'd ever have to face, the road to facing themselves! On the yellow brick road and with each stop, they weighed their truth about themselves with reality? Did the scarecrow need a brain? How? He read the newspaper, everyday and regularly quoted poets and thespians. Did the tin man need a heart? Maybe to replace the one broken when Teenie left him, but he could definitely feel long before he used those tears to revive the lion who had no problem defending the group in the subway scene.
Easing on down the road replete with life lessons, pitfalls and challenges ultimately proved that they didn’t need the Wiz as much as he needed them. Can you imagine how far each of them would have already been had they not been lost in despair and self-doubt? Before you try to imagine that, let's appreciate how life works; the people you meet are on their own journey but it's our journey together that gives us the strength to fulfill our life's destiny.
Everything was gonna be better when they got to Oz, they thought. What they didn't realize is that it was better before they ever made it there. Sometimes, the reward isn't in what you gain at the end, it's in the journey to get to it. They allowed nothing to stop them, Dorothy of course just wanted to get home and in truth, she was just being generous allowing the others to tag along.
It wasn't for naught because, as they all joined the group, they immediately contributed to the collective journey the very thing they claimed to lack! Isn't that interesting that the scarecrow immediately had the brilliant idea to just ease on down the road after being rescued by Dorothy? You know why? In the brilliance of the writing, we see a life principle played out. We don't or won't realize our own greatness until its pointed out. To prove this point, let's look at the lion. He was fraudulent and foolhardy, hiding a deep dark secret of an existential crisis. He was just too 'mean' (afraid) to do anything about it.
Fraudulent and Foolhardy...
Lions represent strength and have maintained for centuries the moniker “king of the jungle”, though strangely enough, tigers quite often have their way in vicious battles with lions. I digress...the lion in the Wiz had been banished because he was IOBK...incapable of being King. They met him disguised as a cement lion on the stoop but he quickly burst out of his "shell" to attack the friends before being "attacked" by Toto. The lion risked hurting those sent to help him, sound familiar? Hurt people, hurt people. Good thing, they were already on a voyage bigger than themselves, otherwise they could've douse that kitty with some water and left him out to dry! After settling the score and discovering that he wasn't quite the mean ol' lion he purported to be, he confessed that he wasn't on the prowl at all, he was just a plain ol' harmless pussycat!
The friends brought him along on the journey and it wasn’t soon after that he had to flex his inner strength outwardly to save the day. The next scene is pivotal because, though the lion failed to resist the poppies and had to be rescued by the tin man and scarecrow (who used his otherwise nonexistent brain to find a solution), the friends looked past his affliction as a failure and instead affirmed him as a lion (complete with a song and waltz)!
It's so easy to succumb to defeat when we suffer setbacks after taking destiny steps forward and it's easy to feel as if the clutches of the failed past are inescapable. The friends weren't having it, though! After some melodic encouragement in one of the biggest (Broadway-esque) songs of the film, it was the lion's turn to make a declaration and in it he said, “I’m standing strong and tall...” His friends weren’t done encouraging him because Dorothy said, “You’re the bravest of them all!” which had been questionable before the journey to Oz. Remember what I said earlier, get some friends (or people around you) who know you are (even if they don't know who they are!
What's in a name...?
"If on courage you must call, keep on trying and trying and trying I'm a lion, in my own way...I'm a lion! This is one of my favorite songs from the movie and I love how it ends with the refrain, “I’m a lion!” There is no force stronger than self-awareness! Over the course of our lives, many of us have answered to names we didn't choose and are marked by circumstances we can't seem to escape! Get a sharpie, we're about to change your name! The road to the name change wasn't easy and when it got hardest, the lion had some friends at his side who spoke the fragility of a hurt kitty and restored the roar of the lion! By the way, the lion's name was Fleetwood Coupe de Ville...his mother had high ideals! What about when we aren't quite living up to the name we've been given? There's a journey for that, too!
Why in the world am I talking to you about the Wiz today? Well, some of us "lions" and leaders languishing in our own life of papier-mâché prisons!! Our potential has been seized and we too are living a life of indefinite banishment! That ends, today. I’m encouraging you to in your own way, be a lion! Let your roar resonate not with potential, or even possibility, but with power! You have downplayed yourself so long that it’s no surprise that people now believe you! Break out from behind the bars of banishment and rule like you’re meant to!
In your industry, on the job, in your home, in your business and most importantly your purpose! Roar forth and let the sounding of it resonate near and far with the confession, I’m a lion!
Yep, I Said It!
When I have something to say, I often say it. Many times, I try to find the best way to say it. Other times, there's just no easy way to say a hard thing. My journey in life has made me a person with much to say and the person people least want to hear it from.