The Hidden Power of NOT (Always) Fitting In: Marianne Cantwell (Transcript)

Instead, they turned their island into a boat and they moved it along with them. Take Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love‘, her major bestseller about a part of her life. Now, she could have written of that one story forever, right? Going on a speaker circle and talked about that one thing on a loop.

But instead she holed up in a small town and wrote a novel about 19th century plant collectors. And then went on the TED stage, talked about creativity, released a book on that. And you know the funny thing? ‘Eat Pray Love’ is how most people first heard of Elizabeth Gilbert. But that wasn’t even her first success.

The 1990s movie Coyote Ugly was based on an article she wrote about her experiences working in a bar. And imagine if she had stopped then. If she had said, oh, writers like me or any are meant to take these steps from here. Oh, I might feel too different. Now I am too far along, hide all that away. I mean, no!

Instead it was about moving forward with her island. And as a result, she has made a much bigger impact than had she stopped and said, “That was it.” You got one go. Now stay still.

It doesn’t have to be that dramatic, of course. There were certainly more subtle evolutions out there. But this theme was consistent among anyone I admired who was world class in what they did.

You see, up until then I thought that embracing your differences and your liminal nature was kind of a tool, like a nifty marketing approach you’d would use to stand out or get an edge when you were younger or new.

I thought it was a tool, but what I didn’t realize is it’s who we are. And right now is your time as a liminal person. Right now the world is changing so fast. There’s no way to predict what specialism or skill will be in demand.

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Except for one thing: The ability to bridge genres, to navigate industries in change to be, in a word: liminal. And that’s what you have already.

And what is more: The world needs you. At a time when the world is putting up its borders and trying to divide people into this or that, we need people like you who can struggle those borders and bring in fresh perspectives. We need you now more than ever.

So, if you like these ideas, the one thing you can do is live them, because it’s hard to inspire other generations and do so authentically when you think there’s no option than to be stuck for ourselves.

I mean imagine, if my teacher when I was 16 had known about we’d talked here today. Here is what he might have said, “Marianne, you and I have something in common: We are liminal. And the world won’t always understand that. But I want you to know it’s a valuable way to be. And don’t just take my word for it. The examples and islands are all around when you know how to look. So don’t hide that away. You see, you won’t succeed despite your liminality but because of it!”

And I say the same to you: If you’ve thought, “That’s me!”, even once here, then know that you are not alone. You’re in good company, along with the innovators and changemakers of the world, or simply those with a quirk who in the past would have hidden their true colors, but who know their time is now.

Because you belong here as does every part of you.

Thank you.


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