I have something to confess: there’s a guilty pleasure I enjoy called Reality TV. I’m not talking about insufferable people being stuck in a house, scheming against each other. It’s the creative competition shows — especially ones where creativity or a high level of skill are the centerpiece — that capture my attention. Whether it’s the mouth-watering culinary delights on Top Chef, the amazing fashion designs on Project Runway, the breathtaking special effects makeup on FaceOff, or the mind-blowing tattoos found on Ink Master, each show has a way of spotlighting the potential of human creativity under the most strenuous circumstances imaginable.
Sometimes, the pressure overshadows the creative spark and designs fail to impress. But more often than not, creativity prevails and a contestant wins “immunity” for the next big challenge and cannot be eliminated.
On the high of winning, many contestants use the immunity as an opportunity to stretch themselves creatively, take risks and experiment with new techniques. The result is more ambitious designs and bolder choices. Sometimes these choices impress the judges beyond their expectations, other times contestants fail miserably. But the point is they have the freedom to not play it safe.
In one episode of Project Runway, a self-taught designer from Boston named Kelly Dempsey, who works full-time in a deli, won immunity for her hip-hop streetwear style. The next challenge focused on Broadway designs, and the constraints were in direct contrast to her design style. With nothing to lose, she embraced the limitation of the challenge, and elevated her design out out of hip-hop into an elegant evening dress, with just the right amount of funky flirtation.
Even with the immunity, Kelly could have resisted going out of her comfort zone. She could have buckled to the low self-confidence she held as an inexperienced designer. But she didn’t; she embraced the challenge, trusted her creative vision and delighted the judges. She opened herself up new possibilities as a designer, and broadened how she saw herself and her potential.
We often hear sayings like, “fail forward,” and “fake it ’til you make it.” These cultural idioms are meant to open us up to being bold and taking risks, without the fear of failure. But they still embody an idea that we don’t really have what it takes to succeed. What if instead, we simply acted “as if?”
Acting as if, means choosing actions in the moment that align with what you want for your life, regardless of the current circumstances. Rather than waiting for our internal or external environment to be perfect, we act as if it already is. Like immunity, this can open us up to accomplish the seemingly impossible without a fear of failure.
Now, I’m not talking about living as if you’re a millionaire when you’re not; being a millionaire is only a means to an experience anyway. What I am suggesting is, think about what thoughts might you have, what choices would you make, and how would you behave as that person who has what they want — then put those thoughts, choices and behaviors into action!
The good news is, you don’t have to wait for immunity to be granted. You have it already! No matter what bold choices you make for your life, and no matter how good or bad the results, I can guarantee you that you will eventually land on your feet. You might get a bruising on the way there, or — like “Kelly from the Deli” — you might amaze yourself with what you can do. Either way, in the end you will be stronger and wiser for the experience.
Whatever immunity means to you, imagine for a moment you had it. What would you change about your everyday life? How would you think and act differently?
“Living with fear stops us taking risks, and if you don’t go out on the branch, you’re never going to get the best fruit.” — Sarah Parish