The following is adapted from EPIC!
I’m a firm believer that if you are not having fun in your life, you’re playing someone else’s game.
Axiom is another word for norms that define “the way things are” today. Today’s accepted axioms best reflect what has worked for the majority who are privileged in our culture and society—white, straight, adult men.
It’s time to turn that upside down and allow women and other other historically underrepresented groups to play a game of their own design, under their rules, that work in both the good and difficult times.
Play brings out people’s greatest creativity and imagination. It reduces fear of losing. And there is no such thing as a wrong move when you’re playing your own game. It is a continual learning experience of how to play your game better. The more challenging a game—the more fun it is to play, even when it is hard, sweaty, tearful work.
Here are ten of the axioms that whisper in my ear and guide my play. They are the new rules of the game, and they serve as favorite tunes that I can sing to myself when I’m stuck, triggered, or at a decision crossroads.
1. Create Your life by design, not default.
You have all the assets you need—tangible and intangible—to have a life of meaning and purpose. And you are in control of the design parameters, no one else. You are the master designer able to create your own personal design based on your unique circumstances. You can iterate toward the best fit of both today’s realities and tomorrow’s dreams. Don’t give up your power and authority to old stories.
2. Practice thoughtful wishing instead of wishful thinking.
Many people live in the past “I shoulda, woulda, coulda” or in the future “I really wish…” but aren’t willing to take committed action for that desire. That is wishful thinking. On the other hand, if you practice “Want what you have, do what you can, and be who you are,” you have all that you need to have a life filled with meaning, purpose, and gratitude. That is thoughtful wishing. And unlike wishful thinking, thoughtful wishes always come true.
3. There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.
We can imagine a destination and build a blueprint to guide our choices. However, we have no idea what the real itinerary will be. Often the breakthrough happens after an unplanned break-down. We can blame it on mother nature, force majeure, bad luck, inclement circumstances beyond our control. Or we can change our clothes, attitudes, and understanding of the underlying problem and repack appropriately to take advantage of where we find ourselves with our destination firmly in our hearts.
4. If you can’t have fun with a problem, you can never solve it.
The secret sauce of designing your own epic life is that it is a game of “broccoli-covered chocolate” instead of “chocolate-covered broccoli.” The work of designing a transformational life is hard work—and you need to eat all your broccoli. Putting challenging ideas into play and laughing and dancing with the ideas in a brave space of your own choosing allows you to show up with all your God-given gifts. You discover that it’s the sweet chocolate that has always been inside you that is the secret ingredient.
5. It is not who you know—it is how you are known for the way you love.
Many women have an ambivalent relationship to ambition. Instead of the often seen “hero archetype” of “Speak Loudly and Carry a Big Stick,” women dream big yet play small. Your epic destination asks players to imagine how they will be known in the world. This requires you to build a strong brand. Your brand is based on how other people feel when they engage with you. At its essence, it is about how you love. Make sure you are not your best-kept secret.
6. The power of a positive “No”.
Women often have a hard time creating the boundaries of what they want and desire. They say “yes” in order not to displease. There is a way to say “no” that is affirming to both the woman and the person they are saying “no” to. Knowing who you are becoming, what it means to really be in the right relationship with Others, and to be clear about your overall desired identity helps you with the power of a positive “no.”
7. Honor the resistance—resistance is futile.
Resistance builds muscle. We welcome it, however painful. Resistance to an epic life is an alert for what is longing to happen—whether it’s mending a rift with a colleague or loved one, deciding to “go for it,” asking for help, or saying “yes” to you. Resistance is a sign of energy, longing to be released. Honor and then fight the antibodies in our culture against “epic-ness.” We were raised to be “Good Girls” navigating the tightrope of “too this/ too that.” Resistance signals fear of failure and judgment, not fear of transformation. And what you resist, persists. As the chief designer of the new rules, you are in control. Resistance is futile.
8. Be totally present andtTotally ready.
Often, we don’t show up fully present because we are worried about the “next steps,” “the next promotion,” or “What if they think I am…” You will do your best work and have your greatest impact if you bring the awareness of your intentions into the task and relationships in front of you. Yet, when the next best step emerges out of the universe, you KNOW it is right and won’t let the doubts of the past influence your decision to act.
9. The trials and tribulations of the past are the treasures that fund the future.
No one can predict the future—either next week or next year. Knowing the future is not necessary. The real game is to be equipped—emotionally, spiritually, and physically—to embrace an uncertain future, knowing that we all have everything we need at this moment to discover what is the next best move. We have the gifts of hindsight, forgiveness, resilience, and gratitude that come from all the highs and lows, the trials and triumphs as individuals and society—and they are the treasures that fund our future.
10. An epic life worth living is an off-road journey.
We have not been trained to live off-road. We have been taught to be linear thinkers, with the future being an extrapolation of the past. We have been trained to believe and trust in “cause and effect”—that we can trace outcomes back to what caused them. In our family budgets and organizational plans, we build projections and predictions for what we estimate the future will hold based on a study of past and present trends. It’s not our fault. Our brains think this way as well. Living an epic life is venturing into the unknown, trusting in what is longing to happen and our authentic gifts that are always with us on the journey.
Here is the secret to an epic life: turn the rest of your life into a make-believe game. Play by your own rules. Discover what is longing to happen for you at each stage of your life’s journey.
The choice to be epic is always within reach. It is inside you, lying in wait for you to call it forth and give it voice. You have the power of the universe inside you, listening for what is longing to happen. Reach for your purpose, on purpose.
Are you ready to play?
For more advice on designing your game, you can find EPIC! on Amazon.
Carolyn Buck Luce is one of America’s most respected and accomplished voices on women as leaders and their relationship with power. A sought-after speaker, she was appointed by New York City’s former Mayor Bloomberg to his Commission on Women’s Issues and has co-authored numerous articles in the Harvard Business Review on women’s leadership, as well as diversity and inclusion.
Across five decades, Carolyn has been a successful diplomat, Wall Street banker, management consultant, healthcare futurist, talent innovator, professor, author, philanthropist, wife, mother, and grandmother. Carolyn’s life journey navigating a man’s world has given her a unique perspective on living an epic life of meaning and purpose, regardless of the obstacles. Today, she uses her proprietary Decade Game to coach leading women around the globe to step fully into their power at home, at work, and in the world. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.