The Three Reels

Published on July 11th, 2019

I had a powerful conversation with a mentor yesterday, and it got me thinking about the paradox human connection in the era of the internet and social media. Specifically, technology provides us with endless opportunities to connect with anyone worldwide, yet we're seeing epidemics of isolation and disconnection. Why are so many people lacking strong friendships or communities to be a part of? This led to a thought exercise about the types of people we feel comfortable with reaching out to and what kinds of people we felt were unapproachable (thereby leading to more disconnection). This got me thinking about the three types of reels that we experience in our individual stories we call life.

The Highlight Reel

The highlight reel is all about success, achievement, and accomplishment. It's the "best" version of ourselves that we're most proud and put on display. It can take the form of a curated Instagram feed, a polished LinkedIn resume, or the goto story we tell people when we introduce ourselves.

The Blooper Reel

The blooper reel is all about humility and vulnerability. It's the "worst" version of ourselves when we flub or make a mistake, and our imperfections are exposed. It is what so many of us actively try to deny, hide, or downplay. Doing so can take a significant toll on our mental, emotional, and spiritual health and surface as anxiety or depression or low self-esteem. Still, others approach and even embrace their bloopers from a place of humility. Others still have the guts to be vulnerable and put them on display, allowing others to see their humanness and open the door for connecting on shared experiences.

The Behind-the-Scenes Reel

The behind-the-scenes reel is all about authenticity, adversity, and experience. It's the "real" version of ourselves where we show people the gory details and the constant slog in the arena. It's the daily actions and activities where we show up and keep going. It's the punches in the face that knock us down, and we get back up. It's where book knowledge becomes gained wisdom as experience is a less forgiving yet more potent teacher.

We Need All Three

What's fascinating is that a ton of life is made up of behind-the-scenes and blooper reel moments and yet we spend a majority of our time sharing only the highlights. This sounds like a reasonable strategy in theory, but it prevents others from seeing the full picture. And without the full picture, they may not find us to be relatable. And if people can't relate, they can't connect. "This person is so successful, what would I even talk to them about?" Yet someone successful today may have dealt with massive adversity in the past, ranging anywhere from homelessness to significant health issues. You will never know until someone stops sharing the highlights and starts sharing the shit shows.

Our lives are such a rich interweaving of all three types of experiences.

We owe it to ourselves to share all three of these aspects because they all have value and are critical to who we are, where we came from, and our identity.

We owe it to others to share all of three of these aspects because there are so many people that feel they are alone in their arena. They are desperate for connection with others that have been there and that (behind-the-scenes), are not superhuman (blooper reel), and ultimately achieved great things (highlights). They need stories of experience, strength, and hope... and that is a great gift that we can give by sharing our stories. Ironically, it's a gift we give ourselves. Sharing our vulnerable moments keeps us humble and can inspire us to go even further while paying it forward to others on a similar journey.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CXO of Atomic Form. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.