If ever there were a time to eliminate anything in our lives that weighs us down or holds us back - or just plain depresses us - it's now. I can't say it enough, you can't grow if you don't let go... And most of you know that my aim for you in writing Throw Out Fifty Things is not for you to live a tidy, well organized life - but for you to be free. Free of the past so you can create a future that thrills you.
Sometimes all our stuff has to be ripped away from us for us to let go. There's a wonderful chapter in the book entitled, "The Phoenix Rises From the Ashes." It's about the great documentary filmmaker, David Hoffman, whose forty-plus-year career of "recording stories," as he puts it about "extraordinary/ordinary" people literally went up in flames. But early one morning not long after David drove off for an appointment in Silicon Valley, his studio containing his film library and the original footage from forty-three years of work, his eight Emmys and thirty-eight thousand pounds of other data were all lost in a terrible fire. At first, David was completely devastated. But not for long. He's an optimist. He knew he had a choice - he could choose to come to a dead stop - or to keep going.
"I decided I had a new chance, a chance to start over, to do my greatest work," he told me. "The fire dies; the Phoenix rises." And here was his commitment: "A year from now," he told me, " I want to be able to say I would have chosen this fire."
A year has past. And David has made good on his commitment. Here's what he wrote me a few days ago:
"We took some of the money for our destroyed contents given us by the insurance company, to buy a small but charming house in downtown Santa Cruz - where we now live. My family is happier...I have a storage closet where all of the semi-burned parts of my collection remain. I am building a story using an HD camera in this studio about why I collected each of these things in the first place and what each meant to me. Without the fire, I probably never would have told those who care about me of my perspective on things. And telling that perspective will lead to some kind of project - a movie, a book, something on the web. I'm not sure. But I can tell you for sure that I am better off today than I was before that morning when I drove off to Silicon Valley not knowing that I would never return to the house - and my things - again."
So what do you choose? Do you choose to come to a dead stop, or to keep going? To surround yourself with the artifacts of your history - or delight in the possibilities of your future? You get to decide.
And you can know this: Your greatest work is ahead of you.