Sneak Peak inside If Only God Would Give Me a Sign! — Excerpt #2
OPEN For Business
I never met my mother’s father—he died when my mother was young—but there was no shortage of stories detailing his varied adventures, and it was through them that I got to know him very well. One story always so intrigued me that I made my grandmother retell it, again and again. It became my personal fairytale.
Once upon a time (around 1919), there was a kindly family man who was an up-and-coming graphic artist for a burgeoning studio in the Midwest. This man (oh, yes, who happened to be my grandfather) had glorious plans for his future, which included both unlimited freedom to express himself as an artist and a healthy bank account. When his company hired a charismatic young apprentice whom he felt shared his drive, he was both delighted and intrigued. Although ten years his senior, my grandfather quickly became friends with this amiable young man. They could often be found after hours, in one of the empty offices, engaged in animated conversation with each other, discussing the details of some wildly creative new project. The new artist had a no-holds-barred vision for his future, and truly believed he could achieve any goal he set for himself.
Because my grandfather felt there was nothing that could keep this confident, talented artist from realizing his “impossible” dreams, he was not concerned when the enthusiastic apprentice was laid off after only a short time with the company.
A few years went by, but my grandfather never forgot the young man with the high hopes, and often wondered how he was getting on. He was both pleased and surprised when he received a letter from the artist, who, by that time, was living and working in California. He was involved in what he described as a daring, ground-breaking, new venture and invited my grandfather to join him in his pursuit of a magical future.
Grandfather politely declined, citing family obligations. The two men shared the same desire for success, and the offer was inviting, but my grandfather wasn’t ready to take such a big risk. He had a new family to support, and uprooting them to chase what could end up being an impossible dream two thousand miles from home seemed irresponsible.
The young man didn’t give up on his old friend. Twice more he wrote to my grandfather, inviting him to come to California to work with him on his exciting new project. Two more times, Grandfather politely declined. With his “Closed sign” clearly displayed, he turned his back on what he knew could have been a life-changing new adventure and chose, instead, to play it safe. In doing so, he unwittingly locked himself in his comfort zone and out of the future he so desired. That young artist, Walt Disney, wished upon a star, tucked his Open sign under his arm, and went on to make his wildest dreams come true.
Now, interestingly, my grandfather was also named Walt. “The Tale of the Two Walts” has been passed down through the family for several decades—a reminder that anything is possible as long as we keep our Open signs out. We alone are responsible for our Happy Ever After. Grandfather’s story was a huge lesson in what might have been.
As a child, the “might have been” I focused on was the lifetime passes to Disneyland®, which surely would have been part of his retirement package (and which, of course, would be handed down from generation to generation with as much care as the family jewels). As an adult, my expanded perspective allowed me to see the larger lessons, but there are still days when pictures of Cinderella’s Castle reduce me to tears.
Clearly, my grandfather was neither ready, nor willing to turn over his Closed sign. He wanted his dreams to manifest on his own terms and none of those terms involved risk of failure or loss. Can we blame him, though? What would we have done in that same situation? How can anyone ever know for sure what lies ahead? What if we boldly post our Open sign and things don’t work out the way we want them to? What if we take the gamble and “lose?” Sure, the Open sign worked for Walt Disney, but maybe he was just lucky.
But, what if it’s not just about winning or losing, succeeding or failing? What if staying open is more about creating opportunities for greater, richer life experiences? When we keep our Closed signs up, we attract more Closed signs in return. The more closed we are, the more limited our lives become. Those limitations manifest as increasingly formidable barriers that not only stand between us and our eventual happiness, but block our ability to participate fully in the infinite potential that each new day brings. Likewise, the more open we are, the more Open signs we will manifest. Fewer roadblocks will appear along our path and our journey will be more enjoyable (as in exciting, luscious, astounding, fulfilling, FUN, etc.).
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