“My philosophy is fame is actually not very good for us as people because everybody starts removing all of your obstacles, and I think friction is actually what makes you grow.” – Gwyneth Paltrow
What if our obstacles are our greatest gifts? What if we were to see life’s challenges in a whole new way, through an empowering lens of growth and opportunity?
I believe Midlife is our greatest gift because it provides a lot of friction!
Friction is a Catalyst. Friction comes from bumping up against obstacles. Obstacles force us to find a way to navigate around them. Pressure placed upon us requires strength to stand up to it. Challenges allow us to turn inward to find the answers. Moxie means “Force of Character.” There is only one way to build character. Building character requires force. A different kind of force. A force from deep within.
I was flipping through some articles online last week and came across the brilliant quote above from Gwyneth Paltrow. My curiosity was piqued and I decided to take a deeper dive. Gwyneth was sharing a life-changing conversation with her father, a man she greatly admired and respected. At the very young age of 26, Gwyneth won her first Oscar. Her father didn’t like the person Gwyneth was becoming. He was worried. He looked at her and told her she was frankly becoming an “A#*-hole.” He began teaching her a valuable lesson on the necessity of friction.
Winning the Oscar quickly propelled Gwyneth to a different place in life, one in which people began removing obstacles for her, opening doors she no longer had to open for herself, doing away with the friction required to develop a force of character. What seemed like a great blessing, winning the Oscar, was changing her and she didn’t like the person she was becoming.
I remember being a young college student. My brother was a trader on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. By his early 20’s, he was making a million dollars a year. My father was deeply worried. I remember him telling my brother it was the worst thing that could ever happen to him at that age. It was coming much too easily. He didn’t have to work for it. My father was an orphan. He knew friction. He knew obstacles. His difficult young life forced him to navigate a lot of challenges, many seemingly insurmountable. He was right. My brother did change and thought life was easy. Money took away his obstacles. He would learn this lesson for himself later in life, a lesson learned the hard way when Easy Street was closed for construction.
A tiny grain of sand causes a pearl to form. Without irritation, there is no force for the pearl to develop. The more irritation, the greater the luster. A diamond requires immense pressure to form. The diamond must withstand the pressure. Without pressure, there is no diamond. The struggle, the metamorphosis, transforms a caterpillar into a butterfly. If we try and help it break free, the butterfly dies. It must fly on its own.
By the time a woman reaches Midlife, she’s been forced to navigate a lifetime of obstacles and friction. Midlife is the Perfect Storm and the ultimate Catalyst. A Catalyst that enables the Phoenix to rise from within. Midlife is a metamorphosis from an old cocoon. Adversity shapes us. Success doesn’t force us to grow or to dig deeper. Adversity does. Our culture views aging through a warped lens. Our culture isn’t kind to older women. The pressure to look young and be young forces a woman at Midlife to turn within, to connect with her true self and her true power. Just as two sticks rubbing together intensively lead to a spark that creates fire, the friction a woman at Midlife experiences is the spark that lights a fire from within. The fire that encourages the Phoenix to rise.
Friction is healthy. Friction is necessary. Friction is a gift.
Wisdom is earned through adversity. It can’t be bought. It must be earned.
Character is formed by overcoming the obstacles and adversity life throws our way.
Obstacles force us to grow, to shift, to evolve and to use our innate gifts and creativity to navigate around them.
Removing obstacles removes the opportunity for growth. Removing obstacles takes away our ability to learn the lessons for ourselves.
Too much comfort keeps us stuck in our comfort zone. A little discomfort, a tiny grain of sand, is the necessary impetus we need to push ourselves to transform our lives into a new way of being.
Change happens outside the comfort zone. Nothing changes until we change.
Change requires Moxie.
Moxie builds character.
Midlife is full of Moxie.
And, so are you!