James Cagney once offered an actor some advice on how to handle the pressures of stardom when stardom comes along. He said, “Start with one thing, that they need you. Without you, they have an empty screen. So, when you go down there, just do what you think is right and stay with it. From that point on you’re on your own.” I love this. I watched this interview several times but for some reason, the interview struck me differently this time. I heard this and I thought about you. I thought about you and your life. I thought about the life you face and the fears which hold you back. More accurately, I thought about how unaware you are of the meaning behind your presence and the absolute value of your worth.
I want you to remember this because advice like this applies to more than just actors and stardom. In fact, just to be clear, advice like this applies to you because without you, the world is an empty screen. Without you, the world is without its beat and rhythm. Without you, there is a missing place and an empty seat. There is an unheard voice, which is yours, because without your talents and your contribution to the world and without the way you are and the way you make people laugh or feel, without this is an emptiness that is more like a hole, which can never be filled because without you, no one can ever fill your place.
I need you to believe me on this one. I get that not everyone sees it this way. Not everyone understands their own worth or how valuable they are to the world. Not everyone sees who they are. They only see who they think they are. To be honest, you are so much more than what you think.
Start with one thing and that is the world needs you. Start with this, that you are a piece of a puzzle that no one else could possibly fill. So when you go down there (or wherever you go) just do what you think is right and stick with it. From that point on, you’re on your own. However, as I write this, I’d like to make sure there is a clear understanding that being on your own is much different than being alone. I want you to understand this because so long as I am a factor in this world and so long as I have breath in my lungs and so long as my spirit contains the energy, which the universe has given me, you will never be alone.
There are times when the pressures of life can be intense. There are times when we are beaten or we feel weathered. However, as it was pointed out to me several times by several different speakers, a dollar bill is always a dollar. A ten is worth ten and a twenty is worth twenty. In fact, a million dollar bill can go through the mud and muck and the dirtiest of places, and yet, the value of this bill is still worth a million dollars. But you are worth so much more. Therefore, no matter what you’ve gone through and no matter the adversity you’ve faced and overcome, no matter how low you’ve felt or believed yourself to be, without you, the world is a poorer place to be.
When you face the world this morning, I’d like to ask you to do something for me. I’d like you to forget about the distractions on either side of you. I want you to forget about the ideas that dishearten you. I want you to start by doing what you think is right and then stick with it. I want you to give it all you have. Leave nothing behind. Give it all you have and lay it all on the line. I don’t want you to leave anything up to the judges or open to interpretation. I want the line that you draw in the sand to be as clear as the sky. I want you to understand that the only thing that could possibly devalue you is when you devalue your commitment to the world. It doesn’t matter who sees this. It doesn’t matter who knows this. It doesn’t matter if your name is up in lights or only spoken about by a few people that love you. Just know that without you, the world is a blank screen, which means we need you.
God knows I do.
I need you because you are the season that flavors the world. You are the talent. You are the show. Without you, the stage is empty.
Is this so tough to believe?
Well, believe it or not, this is true. The one thing I know is without you, this page would be empty. Without you, I wouldn’t have the wherewithal to get up and go when the alarm rings each morning. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to overcome anything because without you, I would be nothing.
Don’t believe me?
Without you, I’d never know what it feels like to watch the sunrise. I’d never know how amazing it is to see the sunset. Without you, I’d have never known about the simple miracles of New York City and the way it feels to have my feet on the edge of the curb by Central Park, shoelaces all loose, an easy wind from a downtown breeze and of course, a dirty water dog in my hand from a hot dog cart with mustard, ketchup and sauerkraut. Without you, I’d never know what it means to dream because without you, I’d have never had the vision to see.
We look to people to find acceptance. We look for people to find role models and to see who sets examples for us to follow. There are times when the road ahead is long and in the end, we wonder who will be there for us. How are we going to find the strength to lift ourselves up or put one more foot in front of the other. There are times when we lack the ability to see ourselves as we are. And there are times when we wonder who we are or if anyone even cares
(or notices). Well guess what, I notice!
We walk the earth and we wonder. Meanwhile, we forget to set a course for ourselves. We forget that we have the right to set the example. We can be our own heroes at any given point. It’s amazing to me that you see yourself this way as opposed to the way others see you. It’s amazing when someone tells you what you mean to them, and yet, you’re unsure because you’re unaware that without you (Yes you!) the world is an empty place or a blank screen and an empty page.
You . . .
Without you, I am nothing.
Get it? Good!
I want you to read this to yourself in front of the mirror because without you, there would be no reflection and no one for me to see before I lay myself to sleep at night.
Now, before I close, I wanted to offer you this clip of a video from a show that I used to watch when I was a kid. I offer this to you because you have so much more than you can possibly imagine. And my job in this world is to open your eyes to your ability. My job is to introduce you to your talents, which no one else in the world will ever be able to pull off. Like your trick for example. No one will be able to pull this off the way you do. You have the ability. You have the skill. You have the stage.
Please don’t leave it empty