Every Sunday morning the SheHive writers group meets online at 10:00 am to share successes and struggles related to our creative journeys. Sometimes we do timed writing prompts together online. Sometimes, if someone is looking for feedback and/or affirmation, a member of the group will share a piece they’ve recently written.
This week Stephanie shared a speech she had written for her Toastmasters* group. I was so struck by the lesson in her speech that I asked if I could share an excerpt as this week’s blog. With Stephanie’s permission, please read on about the story of Alfred Nobel - a peace-loving gentleman who dared to do the work to change the story of his life...
Alfred Nobel was a brilliant inventor who held over 355 patents - one of which was for what he called “Nobel’s Safety Powder.” Nobel combined nitroglycerin with an inert material called diatomaceous earth so that it would become safer to handle. It was stronger than black powder and safer than nitroglycerin alone. This “Safety Powder” is more commonly known to us as dynamite. It was used during construction to blast rock to begin building bridges, roads and buildings.
Making it safer sounds like it would be better, right?
Almost 130 years ago today – April 13, 1888 - Alfred Nobel sat, saddened, on a dreary morning. His brother, Ludwig, had passed away the day before. Through his despair he made himself breakfast, opened his newspaper and found this headline:
“The Merchant of Death is Dead”
He read on…
“Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday."
I could only imagine that he was in shock.
Of course, the newspaper got it all wrong – it was not he who died, it was his brother. And Alfred, himself, wasn’t a death monger! But Alfred Nobel had an awakening - this is what people thought of him. He began thinking of how to improve his public image after this article. He was an older gentleman, and one thing that the newspaper didn’t get wrong is that he was, indeed, rich.
He decided to leave his enormous fortune to fund a set of prizes named after himself: The Nobel Prizes. These prizes would be awarded to people who made the greatest contributions to mankind in subjects that he was interested in - Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and PEACE.
Nobel wasn’t a death monger. He wasn’t a merchant of death. He was a brilliant man who tried to instill a little bit of safety through chemistry in a rapidly changing world.
Now consider yourself. Imagine you had the same moment of awakening…
How would you refocus your life?
Would your obituary have only your name and date of death? Or would it read, “Beloved parent, sibling, child of…?” Would it contain boilerplate obituary text provided by the funeral home? Or would it say, “Enjoyed time on earth with family, friends, and the family pet, Spot? Enjoyed public speaking, reading books, and looking at cat photos on the Internet?”
Alfred Nobel died in 1896 at age 63, only eight years after that bizarre and erroneous headline of his death. If you look up his profile today on Wikipedia, he is not labeled as “The Merchant of Death.” Instead his biographical headline reads, “Alfred Nobel: Chemist. Engineer. Inventor. Businessman. Philanthropist.”
Don’t let someone else’s description of you be a misrepresentation of your life. Much like Alfred Nobel, you can change how you will be remembered.
It’s easy for us to become complacent with the labels others bestow upon us. Alfred Nobel was under no obligation to anyone to change his label - he knew his true intention, after all. Resting on his laurels, and on his pride, was certainly an option. So why even bother to dare to be something else when the world already has our path defined?
Because the world needs the true you to show up and live your true story.
The work that has come about as a result of the pursuit of a Nobel Peace Prize has changed the lives of millions - all because one man dared to choose to defy the world instead of buy into the labels it bestowed upon him. Imagine what could happen if you decided to defy the labels that don’t quite suit you. As Stephanie ended her speech, I ask the same:
What will you do to change how you’ll be remembered today?
With much love and gratitude,
The Mister is turning 50 on Monday. How it is that I came to be married to a FIFTY YEAR OLD is beyond me, but there you have it… he’s obviously a cradle robber. (Okay, he’s not a cradle robber - I only feel like a teenager.)
To celebrate this milestone, we’re headed down to Florida for a few days of rest and relaxation and eating ALL the seafood. I’m taking Hubby to the same place I go for my annual girls’ trip - Treasure Island. He’s never been to this place I have called home nearly every spring of my adult life.
Floreed-AHHH (as it’s known during the annual girls’ trip) isn’t an adventure (though it’s always an adventure). We stay at the same place every year, do the same things, eat at the same places and shop at the same stores. The location is a bonus with it’s beach and sun, but the trip isn’t about place - it’s about people. Spending time together is the focus, period. We wake, giggle, walk, giggle, sun & swim, giggle, nap, giggle, go out to eat, giggle until we fall asleep - wash, rinse and repeat.
But Hubby’s what’s known as a maximizer. He wants to do ALL the things at ALL the times. Our typical vacation together is a 3,000 mile road trip through five different time zones in ten days. He’s already making requests for Florida that fall far outside the norm - bar nights and family visits and daytime trips to see… stuff.
I have to keep reminding myself that this is his birthday present and if he wants to waste all that Florida sun sitting in an Irish bar with his cousin Dean, well… I’ll add a rider on the rental car so he can drive there without me. Wait… no. What I meant to say is, if that’s what he wants to do, we’ll do it because this trip isn’t just about what I do in Florida, it’s about what we do in Florida.
Sharing your sacred traditions and rituals with an “outsider” - even someone you love as dearly as your partner - can be scary. Ideas are different, agendas are different, perspectives are different. But allowing other trusted points of view into your life is how we create new experiences. It is how we learn and grow.
I am fully aware that Treasure Island, a place so familiar to me, will be a totally different place for me come this time next week and that’s going to be a good thing.
What are the rituals and traditions you hold sacred? Is it time to introduce them to a fresh set of eyes and get some input? What could you potentially learn if you allowed a new perspective in? I’d love to hear your thoughts - drop a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With much love and gratitude,