Last month I underscored the power and importance of surfing on the cutting edge of your joy, or staying in “the Zone.” Yet there is a dangerous aspect of the Zone of which many people are unaware: If you do something that gets you into the Zone and you cling to that behavior beyond the time it is ripe, you end up frozen in the Zone, trapped, we might say, in “the Frozone.”
I attended a conference at which each presenter was asked to introduce him- or herself. One woman identified herself as the writer of a hit song from the sixties. Interesting as that was, it occurred to me that this was the nineties. I had to wonder, had she done anything else in her life during the last 30 years? I’m sure she had. Yet she was fixated on an identity that brought her fame and glory a long time ago. She was stuck in the Frozone.
I happened to catch this year’s Superbowl halftime show starring Paul McCartney. I love Paul and I loved the Beatles; he and they changed my life and the world. Yet the Superbowl performance seemed canned, devoid of freshness, aliveness, or passion. It was more a trip into nostalgia than music. The next day I read several reviews of the show on the Internet. All the reviewers agreed that Paul was a safe bet for the Superbowl producers in contrast to the previous year’s Janet Jackson “costume malfunction.” (Paul removed his jacket in the middle of the set, but that was as risqué as he got.) One reviewer dubbed the show boring, and went on to make a brilliant point: 40 years ago, the Beatles shocked the world; this year, one Beatle bored it.
Not to criticize Paul, who is a gifted musician. But to support him to stay on his cutting edge, to be the masterful creator he truly is. And to make a point: You can change the world in the most powerful way, but if you don’t keep changing yourself, you die. Interesting, two of Paul’s selections were “Live and Let Die” and “Get Back.” Hmmm.
Truly creative people care a little about what they have done, and a lot about what they are doing. Their driving focus is where life force surges in them now. When I am finished writing a book, I let it go. I am onto the next project. This poses a challenge for my manager and publisher, who want me to promote the last book. For me, the last book is the most exciting thing in the world — except for the next one.
It takes an artist a lot of integrity to stay on his cutting edge. Years ago Bobby McFerrin had a huge hit song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Several years after the hit, Bobby confessed that after performing the song at hundreds of concerts, he was bored. So he quit. “It wasn’t fair to me or my audiences to sing bored,” he concluded. So Bobby took a year off, spent quality time with his family, read the Bible, dueted with cellist Yoyo Ma, and created a new musical form presented by his band, “Synchestra.” I attended a McFerrin concert a few years later, and waited for him to perform “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” He never did. Part of me felt disappointed, while another part was deeply proud of him. The guy had the guts to not fall back on his previous success. He escaped the Frozone.
Getting back to the Superbowl, you can see what happens when you make decisions for safety rather than aliveness. Things go flat. The scenario reminded me of the 2004 election, in which there were two candidates: George W. Bush and Not George W. Bush. The 2005 Superbowl followed with Not Janet Jackson. I see people do this often in relationships. What is husband number 2’s name? Definitely Not Husband Number 1.
Not that you have to repeat mistakes. No one I know is on the lookout for Janet Jackson’s breast. There is a good reason you are not with Husband Number 1. Just be sure that your next choice issues from life, not fear; from fire, not ice. The moment you choose from self-protection, you lose. The moment you choose from delight, you win. Yes, we all learn as we go. Just keep choosing where life lives.
Cervantes advised, “Never look for this year’s birds in last year’s nests.” Never look for this year’s hits in last year’s mindset. You can capitalize on a known formula, but eventually that will kill you. If you stay in the Frozone long enough, you start to look outright silly, and enter the Bozone. You cannot do things devoid of life and stay alive. If you want to truly live and offer the most magnificent gifts to the world alive, dance on the edge of mystery.
Will you ever run out of innovative ideas and expressions? Ha! The more creative ideas you have, the more you will discover. Creativity is a tree with countless branches the never stop blossoming. Just one note before planting: That tree lives in a warm climate. It does not grow in the Frozone.
By Alan Cohen