Confession time—I am a huge fan of rap music.
I friggin’ love it.
People are usually surprised when they learn about my genre-specific obsession.
I mean, 5’9” brunettes from Texas who know every word to every Nelly song ever written aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. So I guess I can’t blame them.
But know this—I. Was made. For rap.
I don’t know what is about the beat and the lyrics and the whole nine, but rap and I just get each other. In fact, it’s very rare that I ever forget a song. Once I’ve heard it, a rap song seems to leave an indelible impression on my brain. It takes up valuable real estate that should probably be going to things like anniversaries or birthdays.
I try to not worry about that real estate too much. After all, Einstein once said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.” Because we all know Facebook is the end-all-be-all birthday list, I continue to memorize rap lyrics instead of dates.
I figure, if it’s good enough for Einstein, then it’s good enough for me.
Thus, my propensity for rap.
Now, you might be thinking, but Tracy, you don’t seem like the kind of person who appreciates misogyny and likes being told to shake your “money maker”… What gives?
You, my friend, are living in the Ice Age of rap. Or maybe the Ice-Cube Age of rap.
See what I did there?
It’s actually a pretty common misconception that rap only addresses things like drugs, sex, and money.
Yes, there are those that do, but not every rap song has the undoubtedly ridiculous and tactless quality of “The Thong Song.”
She had dumps like a truck, truck, truck.
Guys like what, what, what.
I mean, seriously?!
This is not the kind of rap I’m talking about.
The kind of rap I’m talking about is the New Age of rap. This kind of rap has genius lyrics that leave your mind spinning. This kind of rap has a message that reaches far beyond the intricacies of the “thug life.” This kind of rap touches something deeper and more meaningful about the human condition.
This kind of rap is worth memorizing.
One of my favorite early examples of this type of rap is Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself.” Now, I know that this song is cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason! Eminem is amazingly accurate in his depiction of what it means to struggle for something bigger than yourself.
This song has been used time and time again to motivate us to embrace our “one shot,” our “one opportunity,” our “one moment.” To “capture it or just let it slip.”
But here's where the cliché ends-- I think Eminem actually got it wrong.
Yes, I’ve thrown the challenge flag on a man who is quite possibly one of the best lyricists of our time. Maybe of all time.
But I think he's wrong. I believe that rather than having just one chance to “seize everything you ever wanted,” you actually have a lifetime of moments to capture it. You just have to choose whether or not you show up for these moments. That’s the subtle difference.
In every moment, of every day, of your entire life, you have the choice to seize the moment, to capture it, or just let it slip...
Here, I’ll show you.
In the spring of 2010, I was just a few months away from finishing college. It was only a matter of time before I was handed my degree with a major in psychology and a minor in awkward situations (as my friend Holly used to say). Somehow, the latter achievement didn’t make it onto the actual diploma, but I didn’t worry about that too much.
I know I earned it.
Either way, I was wrapping up my senior year by writing my thesis, partying a lot, and working as a research assistant for a Ph.D. Candidate in the psychology department.
Her name was Ali.
Even though I unceremoniously sandwiched Ali’s work in between drowning myself in my thesis and drowning myself in amaretto sours, my time spent working with her changed the course of my studies at Yale.
Ultimately, it changed the trajectory of my life.
And it was all thanks to one moment, one opportunity, one shot that I finally embraced. One day when I finally showed up. It was certainly not my only shot. But, it was the one I chose to take.
Here’s what happened.
Ali’s dissertation was entitled Rethinking Stress. It was based on her studies of the interaction between the body and the mind. She believed that a person’s reaction to stress was not based on the stressor itself but on the way the stressor was perceived. She set out to prove that if she could change the way a person interpreted a stressful situation (from negative to positive), she could alter or even eliminate his/her physical anxiety.
If I lost you with “all that science” there for a minute, here’s what you need to know:
Ali thought that a positive mindset about stress—aka, thinking stress helps you perform or fuels your productivity—could actually make stress useful rather than debilitating.
Your “stress mindset” could in fact change your reaction to stress forever.
In order to test this theory, we went to the epicenter of stress itself—Wall Street. We ran studies on UBS employees to see if we could prove that even the most stressed among us had the capacity for change.
The studies went a little something like this:
We created two videos—one portraying stress as pervasive and debilitating (distress) and the other depicting stress as fleeting and enhancing (eustress). We split our test subjects in thirds. One third watched the “stress-is-debilitating” video. One third watched the “stress-is-enhancing” video. The final third served as the “control” condition and watched no videos.
Both before and after the videos, we had the subjects fill out surveys regarding the effects of stress on their psychological well-being and their work performance.
The results were pretty incredible.
Not only did people readily change their mindsets about stress, but they did so to a meaningful degree. Participants who were primed to see stress as enhancing showed even more significant signs of stress contributing positively to their psychological well-being and work performance.
Once again, with “the science”… Here’s the gist:
We helped people view stressful events at work as additive to their ability to perform mentally and physically.
In short, we helped them “show up” in a more real, positive, enhanced way.
And little did I know, this effect was rubbing off on me, too.
If figured this out during a routine debriefing session with a group of UBS employees in Stamford, Connecticut. During the Q&A section, one of the participants had a rather unexpected Q. It wasn't what he asked, but rather, who he asked that was so surprising. He wanted to hear something from the research assistants.
He wanted our opinion—not the experts’—on stress.
It’s notable to say that he looked past the experts, because these people were titans and were not to be ignored. Ali went on to finish her Ph.D. at Yale, did her post-bac at Columbia, and is now a professor at Stanford. We also had the pleasure of working with Shawn Achor, who is now a widely known pre-eminent expert on happiness and positive psychology. If you don’t know him, you should.
He’s been on Oprah.
But no, this particular man wanted nothing to do with the titans. He was interested in what the plebs had to say. He turned to the back of the room where we were diligently taking notes, and posited these questions:
What, if anything, had we learned by researching stress with some of the greatest minds in psychology?
In what was a very stressful dissertation project, how were we combating stress and burn out?
In short, how were we practicing what we preached?
There were three of assistants in attendance that day, and it only took two seconds of staring at each other to know exactly what to do.
This was my shot, my opportunity, my moment to seize everything I ever wanted.
You see, I knew back then what I’m just admitting to now—I wanted to work with people. I wanted to speak professionally. I wanted to share what I had learned with the world in the hopes that someone somewhere might have it just a little bit easier.
I wanted to do exactly what he was asking of me.
I wanted to teach—and to practice what I preach.
Unfortunately, after raising my hand to answer the question, I don’t really remember much other than all the people who came up afterward to compliment me on my impromptu speech.
I wish I could say that I remember ever poetic word I waxed that day. But I can’t.
I wish I could say that I remember all the amazing points I made. But I can’t.
I wish I could say that I remember my “beginning, middle, and end.” But I can’t.
What I do remember, and what keeps me motivated even to this day, was the way I felt when I was speaking and the look in that man’s eyes when I was finished.
I will never forget that.
In life, you will get many moments to “own it.” Many moments to “blow it.” Many moments to “capture it.”
But you will have to choose them, or they will just slip away…
What about you? What will you do?
Will you lose yourself in the moment?
Will you raise your hand? Will you stand up, step up, speak up? Will you seize everything you ever wanted? Will you capture it?
Or just let it slip…
Don’t let the fact that life will present you with many of these moments be the reason that you don’t choose one and seize it. Act as if Eminem is right—you only get one shot, one opportunity, one moment. Pretend that your chance at getting everything you ever wanted will only come once in a lifetime.
Remember that “you can do anything you set your mind to.”
But, will you?
That is the question.
What is your answer?
Now, I want to hear from you!
- When was the last time you seized your opportunity to get everything you ever wanted?
- What will you do in the future to make sure don’t let these moments just slip away?
Did this story resonate with you or make you think of a story of your own? Share your story or your reaction in the comments below.
I believe that stories unite us. These stories can be traced back to one person, conversation, or observation that provided a turning point in our lives. I’d love to hear if you believe this, too.
If you do believe this, then share it with your friends! Because sharing stories an instinctual, powerful way to touch the hearts of others and change the world around us.