The 1st of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Wealth without Work.

Once upon a time in this great country, a model for attaining wealth and a set of rules to accomplish this objective stemmed from 3 basic beliefs.  These were:

  1. You worked hard, long and industriously.
  2. You attained as much education as you could absorb and afford.
  3. You treated all of your engagements with absolute honesty and scrupulousness.

Somewhere during the later 20th Century these 3 Cardinal beliefs (Above) about attaining great wealth were replaced by the following beliefs:

  1. Wealth can be attained at a gambling casino or by winning a lottery if you are lucky enough.
  2. Wealth can be attained by suing someone and with the help of a lawyer who will thereby gain a percentage of your lawsuit.
  3. Wealth can be attained by finding some means of acquiring a government handout for the remainder of your life.

Admittedly, not all Americans subscribe to the second set of beliefs and fortunately there are many who still subscribe to the first. Nevertheless, I think you would be hard pressed to argue that gambling, casinos, government handouts and lawsuits have not multiplied exponentially over the past fifty years.  The following are some charts which I think illustrate my points rather graphically.

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The nature of human beings is to want things fast and with a minimum of effort.  This is normal and not to be thought of as deviant or unusual.  However, as we age and develop more self-control and wisdom over our daily affairs, we learn to temper our desire for instant gratification with a more mature perspective.  Noted quality guru, Dr. W. E. Deming maintained that people wanted “Instant Pudding.”  For Deming this meant, change without effort, quality without work and cost improvements overnight.  Added together, “Instant Pudding” was Dr. Deming’s metaphor for the desire to obtain results with a minimum investment of time and energy.  Dr. Deming continually warned his clients that there was no “Instant Pudding” and change would take years of hard work and could not be accomplished without continued dedication and focus.

Unfortunately, our media and even schools today seem to emphasize the possibility of achieving success and wealth overnight.  Sports stars are depicted as suddenly being offered incredible contracts.  Movie stars are shown as going from unknown to overnight fame and fortune.  Singers and musicians seem to suddenly achieve fame despite being barely out of their teens and in many cases barely into their teens.  It would appear that everywhere we look fame, fortune and success happen overnight.  All it takes is to be discovered. This might happen if you can get on American Idol or be found by the right booking agent or obtain a guest appearance on a celebrity TV show.  In some cases, all it takes is the right YouTube video to accomplish overnight success.  One day PSI was an unknown Korean musician and in a few short weeks, he was celebrating success by a dinner in the White House and appearing at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration.  How can anyone dispute that all that is needed for fame and fortune is to be in the right place at the right time?

You may be asking “yes, but what exactly did Gandhi mean by this “sin?”  The M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence gives the following explanation:

“Wealth Without Work: This includes playing the stock market; gambling; sweat-shop slavery; over-estimating one’s worth, like some heads of corporations drawing exorbitant salaries which are not always commensurate with the work they do.  Gandhi’s idea originates from the ancient Indian practice of Tenant Farmers.  The poor were made to slog on the farms while the rich raked in the profits.  With capitalism and materialism spreading so rampantly around the world the grey area between an honest day’s hard work and sitting back and profiting from other people’s labor is growing wider.  To conserve the resources of the world and share these resources equitably with all so that everyone can aspire to a good standard of living, Gandhi believed people should take only as much as they honestly need.  The United States provides a typical example.  The country spends an estimated $200 billion a year on manufacturing cigarettes, alcohol and allied products which harm people’s health.  What the country spends in terms of providing medical and research facilities to provide and find cures for health hazards caused by over-indulgence in tobacco and alcohol is mind-blowing.” ‘There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed’, Gandhi said.

There is a visual problem here that perhaps underlies much of the current thinking about success.  The media loves to trumpet short success stories that will grab anyone’s attention. We are constantly bombarded with headlines such as:

Each of these sites (click on to hyperlink to the actual site) promises you overnight success or at least success in a much shorter time span than is realistic.  These ads are in the news, checkout stands, on TV and just about anywhere you turn around.  The constant daily bombardment of such ads creates a zeitgeist in which overnight success not only seems to be possible; but it actually seems to be the norm.  If you are not an overnight success, if you cannot become rich in days rather than years, if you contemplate a life of hard work to attain your fame and fortune, than something is wrong with you.  Anyone subscribing to the first 3 sets of beliefs I mentioned in the opening is a peculiar species today.  The most common belief about success in the new millennium can be summed up as:

I don’t have time to wait. I don’t have the patience to wait.  I don’t want to spend my life waiting.  I am entitled to success now.  Why should I have to wait?  I am as good as any of these rich successful people. If only everyone could see how good I really am, I would get the fame and fortune I deserve now.  If you expect me to shut up and work hard, I will leave and go elsewhere.  You need me more than I need you.

I believe that Gandhi and many of my generation would find such ideas very peculiar not to mention that they contradict certain universal principles.  Every time I hear of a new terrorist attack in this country or a new massacre at some workplace, I wonder how much the instigator was influenced by his or her desire for overnight fame and fortune.  In some bizarre out-of-this-world thinking, these maniacs equate their picture on page one of the news with a sort of glory that is accomplished by their bizarre and cruel rampage.  The more they kill or maim, the greater they think their glory will be.  We can look for all the “reasons” why but we will never find any “good” reasons for anyone to take such anti-social actions against others.  The paradox is that often the very people they hate are the ones they wanted attention or recognition from.

Ok, time for questions:

Have you raised your children to believe in hard work?  Are you one of the parents who want to make sure their kids have it easy?  How do you know how much hard work is enough?  Do you think you are entitled to success because you work hard?  What other factors play a role in success?  Is it fair that some people do not seem to have to work hard and yet still reap big rewards?  Do people today have it too easy compared to the immigrants that founded this country?

Life is just beginning.

Finding Fame, Fortune and Success:  Paths to Misery or Happiness?

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I have adapted an Osho (A noted Indian Mystic and Guru) story as follows:

Once upon a time there was a young boy named Vince who lived in Minnesota.  Every weekend when his chores around the farm were done, Vince would take his canoe out to one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes with his best friend and they would spend the afternoon fishing.  Somethings they would catch crappies, sometimes bluegills, sometimes even a walleye.  Sometimes they would not catch a single fish.  Striking out did not bother them one bit.  They were content just to be out on the lake together on a beautiful Minnesota summer day.

They would sit in the canoe casting their rods and talking about many things.  They would talk about school, parents, girls, and sports.  Often they would share their dreams and talk about what they wanted to be and do when they grew up.  One day Vince saw a large jet airliner going over head.  As he looked at the plane he said, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.  I want to be an airline pilot and fly all over the world. That is my dream.”

Years passed and Vince followed his dream.  He became an airline pilot for what was then Northwest Airlines.  Later, like many other airlines they merged and became United Airlines.  Vince was a lead pilot for a jumbo passenger jet.  He flew numerous routes that took him all over the world.  He flew to China, Japan, England, France, and many other places.  He was one of the best pilots that Northwest had.

Twenty or so very busy years passed.  One day Vince had a flight that took him back to Minnesota.  He started from Paris, flew over the Great Lakes and was coming down from Northern Minnesota to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport.  As his plane began the descent into the airport, he looked out the left side of the plane and noticed two young boys in a canoe fishing on a lake.  The scene brought back many happy memories to Vince and his eyes started to mist up.  He asked his co-pilot to take control for a minute while he cleared his eyes.  His co-pilot asked Vince if there was anything wrong.  Vince replied, “No, nothing wrong.  Just saw something that reminded me of my past.  One day I dreamed that I would be a pilot.  Now I dream that I am back on that lake with my best friend again.”

There is an old saying that goes “Be careful of what you ask for, you might get it.”  Of course, no one pays any attention to this bit of wisdom.  Imagine all the people who buy lottery tickets each day.   Now try to imagine any of them saying, “I better be careful, or I might win the lottery.”  We all want fame, fortune, and success.  We set goals that force us to live in the future and we forget how to live in the present.  Osho says that we can never be happy unless we can be happy for no reason at all.

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Some of you have read the story about my six friends and I who put together a “last man standing bottle” ten years ago.  Ken made a case for the bottle.  Jerry bought a name plate for the bottle with each of our names and birthdates engraved on it.  I bought a bottle of 120 proof Old Grandad while on one of my trips to Bardstown, Kentucky.   Ken and Brian have since died.  There are five of us left.  Jerry is the youngest at 74 and Dick is now the oldest at 81.

Jerry was put on hospice care about eight months ago.  I have been to visit him several times and he has joked about going to hospice care too soon.  Doctors had told him that he had only a few months to live.  Jerry has outlived their original estimates.  Friday afternoon, I received a call from Dick who had recently called Jerry.  Jerry is not doing well, and the charge nurse told Dick that Jerry would probably not make it through the weekend.  I have been wanting to stay away from any medical facilities due to the recent Covid surge, but I decided to mask up and go see Jerry.

I arrived at the clinic and was told I could make a compassion visit, but general visitors were not allowed.  I was advised to go to the main desk and see if it was okay with the unit for me to come down.  I received an approval and headed down to Jerry’s room.  The nurse on the unit met me at the door.  She knocked on the door to Jerry’s room but did not receive any response.  She went into the room and Jerry was asleep.  She woke him up and informed him that he had a visitor.

I walked into the room and Jerry was not looking very good.  He could barely open his eyes or even move.  His body was bloated, and his skin had dark splotches all over his chest, stomach, arms, and legs.  I said hi and he replied, “Hi John.”  I told him that the coffee guys (some of whom are on the “Last Man Standing” bottle) all said hi and that they wished him well.  This was somewhat of a fib.  Truth be told, Jerry was not well liked among some of the guys.  He seemed to enjoy making fun of and humiliating other people.  Over the years, this took a toll among the men.  Not many of them cared enough about Jerry to make a visit to see him.

Jerry had few friends.  I tried to be a friend to Jerry, but it never seemed to be requited.  I called him.  Visited him often at his home.  Helped him with a garage sale.  Took him to some medical appointments in the Twin Cities.  Invited him out to dinner several times and each year when I got back from Arizona, Karen and I made a point of having him over for dinner.  Not once did I ever remember Jerry returning any of my calls, stopping by to visit or even saying “Thank You” for anything I ever did for him.  Nevertheless, while I stopped the frequency of my visits with Jerry, I never gave up on him entirely.

This day, it was clear that it would be my last visit to Jerry.  I felt sad for Jerry.  He never had much.  The paradox was that he was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met.  Before his illnesses, Jerry was an avid reader who could discuss many of the great writers with exceptional insights.  Sadly, as his disease progressed, he read less and less and eventually gave up reading entirely.

I asked Jerry a few questions about his sister and other visitors.  Something I said elicited the reply, “Now and forever, mumble, mumble, mumble.”  “Jerry, I could not hear the last part of that.  You said, ‘Now and forever’ and something else.  Could you repeat it?”  Jerry replied, “Now and forever, all I ever wanted was a little attention.”  I was somewhat surprised at his comment.  I left a short time later.  I doubt I spent more than 15 minutes with Jerry the whole time.  I gave him some water and asked if he needed a nurse.  He was barely awake, but he declined any offers for help.  I told him goodbye.  I did not want to imply that it would be goodbye forever so I included the comment that I would be back after I returned from my vacation, and I would stop in to see him again.  I do not think this will ever happen.

I thought about Jerry’s comment on my way home.  Was his comment about “now and forever” some sort of delirium or was he actually reflecting on a core component of his life.  Was Jerry’s obnoxiousness and insults simply a way for him to get attention?  At this late stage in his life, was he lamenting his inability to get the attention that he so desperately desired?

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I began to wonder if a need for attention is the primary reason that most of us want fame, fortune, and success.  Rich people, famous people, celebrities all get more attention than the average person.  Think about all of the school shooters that you have heard of.  It seems that the main purpose for their rampages is attention.  There are many people who fiercely desire their five minutes of fame even if it means they get it by anti-social efforts.

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The irony is that fame, fortune, and success never bring happiness.  The more of these things you get, the more you want.  More is never enough.  More of things never satisfies.  Then the day inevitably comes when you are no longer famous.  Your money no longer buys you attention.  Your success is no longer newsworthy.  Your fame now evaporates like the morning mist.  Can you point to anyone whose fame and fortune brought them happiness?  We are brainwashed into thinking that wealth, fame, and success are stepping stones to happiness.  If only I am noticed and get attention from others, I will be happy.

To be honest, I am much like the person who buys the lottery ticket.  I have never had fame, fortune, or great success.  I have never been a great student, a prize-winning athlete, a rich business owner or won any medals or awards.  Years ago, I read all the books I could get my hands on to teach me how to be rich, famous, and successful.  Despite all my learning and education, I never rose above being an average guy with an average income and an average life.

Perhaps, I should be more grateful.  Perhaps, I have been very lucky. I have had a great life.  I have traveled widely.  I have many friends.  I married a wonderful woman and I have always been able to pay my bills.  What would my life have been like if I had become rich and famous?  My thoughts tell me that I would never have lived as happy a life as I can now point to.

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However, telling myself that is a little like someone telling me that I should be glad that my lottery ticket did not win.  Somewhere inside me is a yearning for the attention and admiration that I feel fame and fortune would bring me.  Something inside me desires to someday be “above” average.  I want to be on center stage and have all the spotlights on me.  I want to read in the morning papers, how great and talented I am.  John “The New Mark Twain.”

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I try to counter the above negative thoughts by reminding myself that I am really blessed.  I can walk down the street, and no one notices me.  I have enough money to be comfortable but not have to deal with hundreds of people who want more money from me because they think that I am rich.  I have a loving wife who I am sure loves me for who I am and not for my money or looks.  I have seen the world without a body guard.  I am healthy and would not trade my health for all the money in the world.

My takeaway from my visit to Jerry is how much I wish that I could have left him with the five minutes of attention that he wanted.  The saddest part about Jerry’s life is that he could never let go of this need.  He acted as though by being cantankerous and il-tempered he would satisfy this need.  I think it cost him a great deal of the happiness that was always there for his taking.  We all respected his intellect and admired his reasoning abilities.  Each of us in our own way tried to overlook his insults and criticism.  It is tragic that he never realized how much his talents really meant to the rest of us.  We all knew that Jerry was one of a kind.

PS:  

Jerry died early this morning on the 13th of September in the year 2021.  If there is an afterlife, I hope Jerry finds the happiness, attention and recognition that he sought.  This is one of mine and Jerry’s favorite pictures.  Jerry had a great sense of humor.  He and Wilma posed for this picture at his garage sale a number of years ago.  It is of course a take off on the classic American Gothic.  Jerry liked it so much, he blew it up and kept a picture by his bedside.  This is how I want to remember Jerry.  A man of intelligence and humor.  

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Ten Things I learned about Life from the 2021 Tour de France

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  1. Teamwork is essential
  2. Sometimes you have to go it alone
  3. The possibility of pain is ever present in our lives
  4. You will never know when you are too old
  5. No one is expert at everything
  6. Life is full of ups and downs
  7. Some days you will be on top of the world and others you will not
  8. Energy output varies from person to person, but we all run out at some point
  9. You have to get up every day to stay in the race
  10. Quitting does not define a loser

In my younger days, I did a few bike races.  I raced a criterion, a hill and dale and a double century.  I was only an amateur and never had the time to race more.  I enjoyed bicycling and did a number a bicycle tours.  At one point, I was averaging almost 450 miles a week in riding. I gave up riding in my later thirties and concentrated more on running.  It was faster and cheaper to get my exercise running.  I could no longer use a bicycle for transportation as I was commuting distances that made bicycle riding less practical.  I was a good bicycle mechanic and I worked in two different shops doing bicycle repair work.

Every year, I noted when the Tour de France came around, but I did not pay much attention to the race or the racers.  This year, (2021), I watched the Tour races in the morning on my computer and then each evening Karen and I watched a video summary of the Tour stage for that day.  It was exciting watching the riders and I learned a great deal about bicycle racing and life in general.  I have identified ten key ideas that I want to share with you.  These are some of the insights about life that I had from watching the Tour.  I suppose one could get such insights from sitting under an apple tree or watching a baseball game.  Life offers many lessons if we simply open our minds.

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  1. Teamwork is essential

No one can win the Tour de France without the support from their team.  I do not care how good you are, you will not win without a team.  Much of the reason for this comes from the support that the team gives to its designated “leader.”  The “domestiques” are the team members who help the leader out in a variety of ways.  Running errands to get food or drink; providing technical support in case of a breakdown; and drafting or helping rein in other racers.

Every potential winner needs a team to provide support and assistance. 

  1. Sometimes you have to go it alone

CORVOS_00028264-002-650x433 (1)A winner will need to rely on their team, but great riders will often find that they are suddenly alone and need to finish the race on their own.  Perhaps their support riders are worn out or perhaps it is evident that the leader needs to charge ahead to gain time or prevent an adversary from gaining too much advantage.  The great riders know when you to use their team and when to go it alone.

Sometimes you have to strike out on your own and depend on your own resources. 

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  1. The possibility of pain is ever present in our lives

Crashing and falling happen quite regularly in the Tour.  Perhaps a rider is hit by another rider or as in the race this year, a spectator ran out with a sign and knocked a rider down.  This caused a chain reaction knocking several other riders down.  Getting hurt is inevitable.  Falling down at nearly 30 miles an hour is painful.  Riders have helmets but no other pads.  How badly a rider is hurt is simply how unlucky they are.  The possibility of pain and serious injury is the price we pay in life for almost any endeavor that we undertake.  Everything that we do in life has risks.

There is no way to avoid risks in life unless you stop living.

  1. You will never know when you are too old

Karen_webMark Cavendish when he was at his peak was considered the best sprinter who ever lived.  This year for the 2021 Tour de France he was almost not selected by any of the teams.  At 36 years old, most thought that his racing days were over.  To the surprise of all, Mark secured a contract with one of the Tour teams.  Even more of a surprise was his winning four stages in the Tour to tie the record of Eddy Merckx for most stage wins in the Tour de France.   Mark did not know he was too old to win.  There is a time to hold em and a time to fold em, but it is very difficult to know when that time is.  One thing is for certain, never listen to other people.

Don’t let chronological age define what you can and cannot do.

  1. No one is great at everything

unnamed (1)The Tour de France is comprised of three main types of riders.  There are the sprinters who are best on flat ground.  There are the mountaineers who excel at hills and mountains.  There are the general classification (GC) riders who are good at both hills and flat ground but are not usually as good as the sprinters and mountaineers at their respective terrain.  The GC riders are most likely the best all-around riders and may be able to win a few stages in both the flats and the hills.  However, the GC riders are much more concerned with their overall time and will generally forego racing with sprinters or mountaineers who may break with the Peloton in an attempt to win a stage.  There is lots of strategy involved in winning the Tour and I do not have the time or knowledge to say more about it.

The main point here is that you can be good but not great at anything and still be successful in life.

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6.  Life is full of ups and downs

The Tour de France is a bicycle race comprised of 21 stages.  It is run mostly in France.  The first Tour was run in 1903.  One stage is run each day and two days are inserted for rest days.  Some stages are mountainous and hilly while others are flat and curvy.  The mountainous stages can be almost 10,000 feet high.  One or two stages will be set aside as sprint runs.  Many stages are combinations of both flat and hilly terrain.  Overall, 200 of the best bicycle racers in the world will race for nearly 2200 miles.  The Tour is considered one of the most demanding and difficult races in the world.

Watching these races, you can see that the world is physically up and down.  Mountains, hills, valleys, flats, and curves.  Some days will be rainy and cold, other days will be hot and humid.  However, in some sense the ups and downs are metaphorical as well.  The riders who are up one day will be down the next.  One day a sprinter will win the stage, the next day a mountain rider will win.  The General Classification riders (Tour leaders usually) will change the “yellow jersey” day by day until one finally emerges as the front runner.  The winner is never certain as falls, bad ride days and simple exhaustion take their toll on each rider.

Accept that life is going to be full of ups and downs.  Just remember that after it rains, the sun will come out.

  1. Some days you will be on top of the world and others you will not

king-of-the-hill-childrens-gameNo rider on the Tour de France has ever won all the stages.  Two or three riders have captured the Polka Dot (Best Mountain Rider), Green (Best Sprinter) and Yellow (Overall time leader) jerseys in the same Tour but no rider has ever won all 21 stages in one race.  We all have good days and bad days.  Some days we wake up full of energy and other days we should just stay in bed.

Karen my wife mentioned yesterday that being able to pick which days she gets up and which days she can linger in bed is one of the joys of being retired.  She noted that some days she just is not able to bounce out of bed like Tigger and meet the world with a full-on burse of energy.  She takes it easy some days and usually the next day, her energy returns, and she is out weeding the garden or trimming hedges.

Common wisdom tells us to honor the cycle of our lives, but most people are too busy being busy or rushing to get someplace to pay attention to this bit of wisdom. 

  1. Energy output varies from person to person, but we all run out at some point

p077x53mTour riders line up maybe 2 miles or so before the actual start line.  Two hundred riders will be almost welded together behind a pace car as they casually ride up to the start.  As soon as they reach the start line, they are off in a rush of cycles jostling for position.  A large mass of cyclists is called the Peloton and most riders will try to stay with this group for reasons of riding efficiency and aerodynamics.  Riding alone is more effort and energy wasteful than riding in a group.  Nevertheless, some game or crazy rides will try to leave the pack.  It may happen soon in the race or half way through the race, but eventually a breakaway group or individual will try to go it alone.  The boldness of these breakaway riders is thrilling.  Daring to challenge the best riders in the world by themselves.

You watch these riders, and the computer will show you how many are in the breakaway group and how far ahead they are from the Peloton in terms of time and distance.  Almost inevitably, (you could bet odds on it) the breakaway riders will one by one fall off the pace and be reeled in by the Peloton riders.  Seldom if ever does the lone breakaway rider stay in the lead for the entire stage.  The strongest riders in the world are in this race and there is undoubtedly a bell-shaped curve of stamina, endurance, and conditioning among the two hundred riders.  Nevertheless, no rider short of superman can stay out front each race for the entire race.  The advantage of a riding in a group, drafting and avoiding wind currents is too great for the individual loner to keep up a winning pace for an entire stage.

Respect your energy levels and do not try to be superman or superwoman. 

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  1. You have to get up every day to stay in the race

This sounds so platitudinous that I am almost ashamed to say it.  Every year a few riders in the Tour de France will drop out for one reason or another.  Sometimes it is injury, sometimes it is just giving up.  We all have days when we do not feel like we can go on anymore.

Yet, it seems as though we continually find excuses to drop out of the race.  The going gets tough and we quit.  We fall down and we don’t get up.  We get rejected and we give up.  We did not get the results we expected so we abandon our goal.  I once asked a friend who was an editor of several magazines what I needed to do to have a “Best Seller.”  He replied, “I could not tell you.  But I can tell you one thing, if you don’t write you will never have a best seller.”  I have never forgotten his advice.  Buying a lottery ticket does not ensure that you will win the lottery, but you can never win the lottery without a ticket.

I once heard that there are three kinds of people.  Those who do not know that there is a parade coming.  Those who will watch the parade.  Those who are in the parade.  Live gives us the possibility to choose which of the three people we want to be.  If you are going to be in the parade, you will have to get up and do something.  The parade will never come to you.

The race does not always go to the swiftest.  Often it goes to the steadiest.

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  1. Quitting does not define a loser

Primož Roglič was the leader in the 2020 Tour de France.  He was almost certain to win the Tour.  He had held the Yellow Jersey for the last half of the race.  His lead seemed insurmountable.  Then came a time trial day.  Tadej Pogačar, a rider from another team, did such an outstanding job in the time trial that he ended up ahead of Roglic.  Pogačar won the 2020 Tour de France.

Now it is time for the 2021 Tour.  Both Primoz and Tadej are back again.  This year Tadej is favored to win but Roglic still has a chance.  Roglic has a bad spill in the race during stage 3 and receives some injuries.  He gets up and continues the race the next day.  A few days go by, and it is clear that he is off pace.  After stage 8 Roglic quits.  He leaves the race.  Is Roglic a loser? They say only losers quit.

Less than a month later, Roglic finishes 28th at the Tokyo Olympics road race.  Four days later, Roglic competes in the individual time trial.  39 cyclists from 31 nations compete in the race.  Roglic wins the gold medal in the time trial with a winning margin of 1’01”.

Sometimes it makes sense to quit.  It is not true that only losers quit.  Some of the greatest people of all time have had days when they quit.  It is not quitting that defines a loser, it is never starting again.

Be realistic about those times when pressing on is not as smart as quitting.  History is full of examples of people who pressed on and were never heard from again. 

Conclusions:

There you have it.  The ten things I learned about life from this years Tour de France.  Rest assured I will be back next year to see what else I can learn.  I may even dust my bicycle seat off, oil my chain, pump up my tires and take a ride down the Gandy Dancer Trail.  If you see me coming, you should step aside as I am sure that I will be quite wobbly.

 

Dix choses que j’ai apprises sur la vie du Tour de France 2021

  1. Le travail d’équipe est essentiel
  2. Parfois, vous devez faire cavalier seul
  3. La possibilité de la douleur est toujours présente dans nos vies
  4. Vous ne saurez jamais quand vous serez trop vieux
  5. Personne n’est expert en tout
  6. La vie est pleine de hauts et de bas
  7. Certains jours, vous serez au sommet du monde et d’autres non
  8. La production d’énergie varie d’une personne à l’autre, mais nous sommes tous à court d’énergie à un moment donné
  9. Il faut se lever tous les jours pour rester dans la course
  10. Abandonner ne définit pas un perdant

Dans ma jeunesse, j’ai fait quelques courses de vélo. J’ai couru un critère, un monticule et un double siècle. Je n’étais qu’un amateur et je n’ai jamais eu le temps de courir plus. J’aimais faire du vélo et j’ai fait un certain nombre de tours à vélo. À un moment donné, je parcourais en moyenne près de 450 milles par semaine en équitation. J’ai abandonné l’équitation à la fin de la trentaine et me suis concentré davantage sur la course à pied. C’était plus rapide et moins cher de faire mon exercice. Je ne pouvais plus utiliser un vélo pour me déplacer car je parcourais des distances qui rendaient le vélo moins pratique. J’étais un bon mécanicien vélo et je travaillais dans deux ateliers différents pour faire des réparations de vélos.

Chaque année, je notais quand arrivait le Tour de France, mais je ne prêtais pas beaucoup d’attention à la course ou aux coureurs. Cette année (2021), j’ai regardé les courses du Tour le matin sur mon ordinateur, puis chaque soir Karen et moi avons regardé un résumé vidéo de l’étape du Tour ce jour-là. C’était passionnant de regarder les coureurs et j’ai beaucoup appris sur les courses cyclistes et la vie en général. J’ai identifié dix idées clés que je veux partager avec vous. Ce sont quelques-unes des idées sur la vie que j’ai eues en regardant le Tour. Je suppose que l’on pourrait obtenir de telles informations en s’asseyant sous un pommier ou en regardant un match de baseball. La vie offre de nombreuses leçons si nous ouvrons simplement notre esprit.

  1. Le travail d’équipe est essentiel

Personne ne peut gagner le Tour de France sans le soutien de son équipe. Peu m’importe à quel point vous êtes bon, vous ne gagnerez pas sans une équipe. Cela s’explique en grande partie par le soutien que l’équipe apporte à son « leader » désigné. Les « domestiques » sont les membres de l’équipe qui aident le leader de diverses manières. Faire des courses pour acheter de la nourriture ou des boissons ; fournir une assistance technique en cas de panne; et rédiger ou aider à maîtriser d’autres coureurs.

Chaque gagnant potentiel a besoin d’une équipe pour fournir soutien et assistance.

  1. Parfois, vous devez faire cavalier seul

Un vainqueur devra compter sur son équipe, mais les grands coureurs découvriront souvent qu’ils sont soudainement seuls et doivent terminer la course par eux-mêmes. Peut-être que leurs cavaliers de soutien sont épuisés ou peut-être est-il évident que le leader doit foncer pour gagner du temps ou empêcher un adversaire de prendre trop d’avantages. Les grands cavaliers savent quand utiliser leur équipe et quand faire cavalier seul.

Parfois, il faut se débrouiller tout seul.

  1. La possibilité de la douleur est toujours présente dans nos vies

Les chutes et les chutes se produisent assez régulièrement sur le Tour. Peut-être qu’un coureur est heurté par un autre coureur ou comme lors de la course cette année, un spectateur est sorti en courant avec une pancarte et a renversé un coureur. Cela a provoqué une réaction en chaîne qui a renversé plusieurs autres coureurs. Se blesser est inévitable. Tomber à près de 30 milles à l’heure est douloureux. Les cavaliers ont des casques mais pas d’autres protections. À quel point un coureur est blessé est simplement à quel point il est malchanceux. La possibilité de douleurs et de blessures graves est le prix que nous payons dans la vie pour presque tous les efforts que nous entreprenons. Tout ce que nous faisons dans la vie comporte des risques.

Il n’y a aucun moyen d’éviter les risques dans la vie à moins d’arrêter de vivre.

  1. Vous ne saurez jamais quand vous serez trop vieux

Mark Cavendish, lorsqu’il était à son apogée, était considéré comme le meilleur sprinteur qui ait jamais vécu. Cette année pour le Tour de France 2021, il n’a quasiment été sélectionné par aucune des équipes. À 36 ans, la plupart pensaient que ses jours de course étaient révolus. À la surprise de tous, Mark a obtenu un contrat avec l’une des équipes du Tour. Encore plus surprenant a été sa victoire sur quatre étapes du Tour pour égaler le record d’Eddy Merckx pour le plus grand nombre de victoires d’étape sur le Tour de France. Mark ne savait pas qu’il était trop vieux pour gagner. Il y a un temps pour les tenir et un temps pour les plier, mais il est très difficile de savoir quand est ce moment. Une chose est sûre, n’écoutez jamais les autres.

Ne laissez pas l’âge chronologique définir ce que vous pouvez et ne pouvez pas faire.

  1. Personne n’est bon en tout

Le Tour de France est composé de trois principaux types de coureurs. Il y a les sprinteurs qui sont les meilleurs sur terrain plat. Il y a les alpinistes qui excellent dans les collines et les montagnes. Il y a les coureurs du classement général (GC) qui sont bons à la fois sur les collines et sur terrain plat, mais ne sont généralement pas aussi bons que les sprinteurs et les alpinistes sur leur terrain respectif. Les coureurs GC sont probablement les meilleurs coureurs polyvalents et peuvent être en mesure de gagner quelques étapes à la fois dans les plats et les collines. Cependant, les coureurs GC sont beaucoup plus soucieux de leur temps global et renoncent généralement à courir avec sp les coureurs ou les alpinistes qui pourraient rompre avec le Peloton pour tenter de remporter une étape. Il y a beaucoup de stratégie impliquée pour gagner le Tour et je n’ai pas le temps ni les connaissances pour en dire plus.

Le point principal ici est que vous pouvez être bon mais pas excellent dans tout et réussir dans la vie.

  1. La vie est pleine de hauts et de bas

Le Tour de France est une course cycliste composée de 21 étapes. Il se déroule principalement en France. Le premier Tour a été couru en 1903. Une étape est courue chaque jour et deux jours sont insérés pour les jours de repos. Certaines étapes sont montagneuses et vallonnées tandis que d’autres sont plates et sinueuses. Les étapes montagneuses peuvent atteindre près de 10 000 pieds de haut. Une ou deux étapes seront réservées aux courses de sprint. De nombreuses étapes sont des combinaisons de terrain plat et vallonné. Au total, 200 des meilleurs coureurs cyclistes du monde courront sur près de 2 200 milles. Le Tour est considéré comme l’une des courses les plus exigeantes et difficiles au monde.

En regardant ces courses, vous pouvez voir que le monde est physiquement de haut en bas. Montagnes, collines, vallées, plaines et courbes. Certains jours seront pluvieux et froids, d’autres jours seront chauds et humides. Cependant, dans un certain sens, les hauts et les bas sont également métaphoriques. Les coureurs qui sont debout un jour seront à terre le lendemain. Un jour, un sprinter remportera l’étape, le lendemain un coureur de montagne la remportera. Les coureurs du Classement Général (les leaders du Tour en général) changeront le « maillot jaune » jour après jour jusqu’à ce que l’un d’entre eux ressorte enfin en tête. Le gagnant n’est jamais certain car les chutes, les mauvaises journées de conduite et le simple épuisement font des ravages sur chaque cycliste.

Acceptez que la vie soit pleine de hauts et de bas. N’oubliez pas qu’après la pluie, le soleil se lèvera.

  1. Certains jours, vous serez au sommet du monde et d’autres non

Aucun coureur du Tour de France n’a jamais remporté toutes les étapes. Deux ou trois coureurs ont remporté les maillots Polka Dot (Meilleur coureur de montagne), Vert (Meilleur sprinteur) et Jaune (Meilleur temps global) dans le même Tour, mais aucun coureur n’a jamais remporté les 21 étapes d’une course. Nous avons tous de bons et de mauvais jours. Certains jours, nous nous réveillons plein d’énergie et d’autres jours, nous devrions simplement rester au lit.

Karen ma femme a mentionné hier que pouvoir choisir les jours où elle se lève et les jours où elle peut s’attarder au lit est l’une des joies d’être à la retraite. Elle a noté que certains jours, elle n’était tout simplement pas capable de rebondir hors du lit comme Tigrou et de rencontrer le monde avec une pleine énergie. Elle se calme certains jours et généralement le lendemain, son énergie revient et elle est en train de désherber le jardin ou de tailler des haies.

La sagesse commune nous dit d’honorer le cycle de nos vies, mais la plupart des gens sont trop occupés à être occupés ou à se précipiter pour trouver un endroit où prêter attention à ce morceau de sagesse.

  1. La production d’énergie varie d’une personne à l’autre, mais nous sommes tous à court d’énergie à un moment donné

Les coureurs du Tour s’alignent peut-être 2 miles environ avant la ligne de départ réelle. Deux cents coureurs seront presque soudés ensemble derrière une voiture de course alors qu’ils monteront avec désinvolture jusqu’au départ. Dès qu’ils atteignent la ligne de départ, ils s’élancent dans une ruée de cycles qui se bousculent pour se positionner. Une grande masse de cyclistes s’appelle le Peloton et la plupart des coureurs essaieront de rester avec ce groupe pour des raisons d’efficacité de conduite et d’aérodynamisme. Rouler seul est plus un gaspillage d’efforts et d’énergie que de rouler en groupe. Néanmoins, certains gibiers ou manèges fous tenteront de sortir du peloton. Cela peut arriver bientôt pendant la course ou à mi-parcours, mais éventuellement un groupe ou un individu échappé essaiera de faire cavalier seul. L’audace de ces échappés est passionnante. Oser défier les meilleurs cavaliers du monde par eux-mêmes.

Vous regardez ces coureurs, et l’ordinateur vous indiquera combien sont dans l’échappée et à quelle distance ils sont par rapport au Peloton en termes de temps et de distance. Presque inévitablement, (vous pouvez parier là-dessus), les coureurs échappés perdront un à un le rythme et seront rattrapés par les coureurs du Peloton. Il est rare, voire jamais, que le coureur solitaire de l’échappée reste en tête pendant toute l’étape. Les coureurs les plus forts du monde participent à cette course et il existe sans aucun doute une courbe en forme de cloche d’endurance, d’endurance et de conditionnement parmi les deux cents coureurs. Néanmoins, aucun coureur à court de superman ne peut rester en tête de chaque course pendant toute la course. L’avantage de rouler en groupe, de dessiner et d’éviter les courants de vent est trop grand pour que le solitaire puisse maintenir un rythme gagnant pendant toute une étape.

Respectez votre niveau d’énergie et n’essayez pas d’être un surhomme ou une superfemme.

  1. Il faut se lever tous les jours pour rester dans la course

Cela semble si banal que j’ai presque honte de le dire. Chaque année, quelques coureurs du Tour de France abandonnent pour une raison ou une autre. Parfois c’est une blessure, parfois c’est juste abandonner. Nous avons tous des jours où nous avons l’impression de ne plus pouvoir continuer.

Pourtant, il semble que nous trouvions continuellement des excuses pour abandonner la course. Les choses se corsent et nous abandonnons. Nous tombons et nous donnons ne te lève pas. On se fait rejeter et on abandonne. Nous n’avons pas obtenu les résultats escomptés alors nous abandonnons notre objectif. J’ai demandé une fois à un ami qui était rédacteur en chef de plusieurs magazines ce que je devais faire pour avoir un « Meilleur Vendeur ». Il a répondu : « Je ne pourrais pas vous le dire. Mais je peux vous dire une chose, si vous n’écrivez pas, vous n’aurez jamais de best-seller. Je n’ai jamais oublié ses conseils. L’achat d’un billet de loterie ne garantit pas que vous gagnerez à la loterie, mais vous ne pouvez jamais gagner à la loterie sans billet.

J’ai entendu une fois qu’il y a trois sortes de personnes. Ceux qui ne savent pas qu’il y a un défilé à venir. Ceux qui regarderont le défilé. Ceux qui sont dans le défilé. Live nous donne la possibilité de choisir laquelle des trois personnes nous voulons être. Si vous allez être dans le défilé, vous devrez vous lever et faire quelque chose. Le défilé ne viendra jamais à vous.

La course ne va pas toujours au plus rapide. Souvent, il va au plus stable.

  1. Abandonner ne définit pas un perdant

Primož Roglič était le leader du Tour de France 2020. Il était presque certain de remporter le Tour. Il avait détenu le maillot jaune pendant la dernière moitié de la course. Son avance semblait insurmontable. Puis vint une journée de contre-la-montre. Tadej Pogacar, un coureur d’une autre équipe, a fait un travail si remarquable dans le contre-la-montre qu’il a terminé devant Roglic. Pogacar a remporté le Tour de France 2020.

Il est maintenant temps pour le Tour 2021. Primoz et Tadej sont de retour. Cette année, Tadej est favori pour gagner mais Roglic a encore une chance. Roglic a une mauvaise chute dans la course lors de l’étape 3 et reçoit quelques blessures. Il se lève et continue la course le lendemain. Quelques jours s’écoulent, et il est clair qu’il est à contre-courant. Après l’étape 8, Roglic abandonne. Il quitte la course. Roglic est-il un perdant ? Ils disent que seuls les perdants abandonnent.

Moins d’un mois plus tard, Roglic termine 28e à la course sur route des Jeux olympiques de Tokyo. Quatre jours plus tard, Roglic participe au contre-la-montre individuel. 39 cyclistes de 31 nations participent à la course. Roglic remporte la médaille d’or du contre-la-montre avec une marge gagnante de 1’01”.

Parfois, il est logique d’arrêter. Il n’est pas vrai que seuls les perdants abandonnent. Certaines des plus grandes personnes de tous les temps ont eu des jours où elles ont arrêté. Ce n’est pas d’arrêter qui définit un perdant, ce n’est jamais recommencer.

Soyez réaliste à propos des moments où il n’est pas aussi intelligent d’appuyer que d’arrêter de fumer. L’histoire est pleine d’exemples de personnes qui ont insisté et dont on n’a plus jamais entendu parler.

Conclusion :

Voilà. Les dix choses que j’ai apprises sur la vie de cette année Tour de France. Soyez assuré que je serai de retour l’année prochaine pour voir ce que je peux apprendre d’autre. Je peux même dépoussiérer ma selle de vélo, huiler ma chaîne, gonfler mes pneus et faire un tour sur le Gandy Dancer Trail. Si vous me voyez venir, vous devriez vous écarter car je suis sûr que je serai assez bancal.

The Fear of Aging or the Aging of Fear

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Have you noticed that some of your friends are less bold than they used to be?  The older people get, the more things they seem to be afraid of.  Some people are afraid of aging, but many more people exhibit what I call the “Aging of Fear.”  Wise people tell us that fear is natural and healthy, but it can also be unnatural and unhealthy.  The healthiness of fear depends on two things.

First, how realistic are your fears?  The reality of fear can be thought of as a form of risk analysis.  We all conduct our lives with an intuitive analysis of the risks that our behaviors either entail or might entail.  Frequently, these risks are distorted by emotions and perceptions.  If I live in Wisconsin, I should be more worried about bee stings or a tick bite than a shark attack or a tiger eating me.  It would be unrealistic to worry about things that are less likely to happen.  Surprisingly, many people are more afraid of things that have a low-risk potential than things that have a higher risk potential.  (What’s the Risk?)

bearsafety_3_1Second, what are you going to do about your fears?  Fear is an adaptive mechanism.  It helps to keep you alive.  If you are in the woods and walking down a trail and see a large bear or cougar coming towards you, it is quite healthy to have some degree of fear.  But fear alone is not going to save your life.  If you are paralyzed with fear you may just be eaten.  Fear is an alarm.  An alarm sounds to wake us up.  The next step is to do something.  Doing something is a risky effort with no guarantee of success.  Sadly, there are few guaranties in life, but the evidence seems to suggest that doing nothing is worse than doing something.  This is where forethought and preparedness come in.  One of my favorite quotes is by the Roman philosopher Seneca (died 65 CE) who once said that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

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People who think ahead and try to identify potential negative consequences of their actions have a better chance of survival than people who do not plan ahead.  The Titanic is a great example of poor planning brought on by hubris.  They were so confident that the spotter in the Crows Nest did not even have a pair of binoculars.  In chess, a good player looks at lines of play to see what might happen given any particular move on their part.  Strategic thinking entails looking into the future to see how our behaviors or actions will play out.  If I do this, what might happen?  The more we look into the future the greater the odds become in our favor for getting the results we want.  It is of course impossible to identify every conceivable consequence either intended or not of our actions.  Life is frequently about dealing with unintended consequences but there is little doubt that the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” has a lot going for it.

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The “Aging of Fear” is what I see in so many people who grow more and more afraid of life with each passing day.  I have friends who will not travel anymore.  Some of my friends are afraid to travel by plane.  Some have purchased concealed carry permits to protect themselves against an unknown assailant.  Every day more and more people in America seem afraid of something.  There are efforts to protect ourselves as we get older that make sense.  I have given up motorcycling.  Most of the people I used to ride with have also given the hobby up.  Falling off a motorcycle at the age of 75 or older will likely bring many more injuries to the human body than falling off the same motorcycle at the age of 25.  Anybody over sixty getting up on a roof in winter needs to have their head examined.  Older bodies are not as resilient as younger bodies.

Knowing when to hold them and when to fold them is one of the secrets of growing older gracefully and living a long and healthy life.  But planning for unintended consequences is equally as important.  There is a balance here that we need to find, adjust, and continually readjust as we get older.  It is a not a static effort that you do today and that is the end of it.  Each day requires rethinking and readjusting what we can do and what we should do.  The conscious reflective activity is crucial.  Without an intelligent appraisal of life, fear can put us in an early coffin.

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The coffin might be our bed or our home or our neighborhood.  A coffin is a metaphor for a set of boundaries.  The realism of our boundaries is vital.  Too many boundaries and we are not living but too few and our lives can be cut short much sooner than then they need to be.  One of my favorite motorcycle aphorisms was “If I ride like there is no tomorrow, there won’t be.”  I would tell myself this each time I got in the saddle of my Yamaha Super Sport R1 and went for a ride.

downloadDylan Thomas said, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” I don’t know about the raging part of his poem.  I prefer thinking about my life as I get older and not raging.  But he makes a good point.  It is all too easy to give up on life as we age.  We can live in memories of what we used to do, or we can find new activities and new levels to pursue old activities at.  For instance, I may not have the stamina to play tennis or racquet ball anymore, but I can still play pickleball or go for a short ride on my bicycle.  I used to do six-minute miles in road races.  My personal best was 38.48 on a 10K.  The race I ran for Frederic Family days this year on June 12, 2021, I averaged 10.14 per mile for a 5k.  Quite a bit off of my pace from years ago but I still got my t-shirt.  I run for t-shirts these days and not trophies.

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To conclude.  Don’t let aging or fear rob you of living.  Well thought out days with lots of contingency plans can help you to continue to live a full and happy life.  Look around you for the 80, 90 and even 100-year-old elders who are still out there enjoying life.  What keeps them ticking is not giving up but meeting each day as a challenge to live life to the fullest.

The Legitimization of Greed

 

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Let me start off with some major caveats.  First, greed has always been with us.  Second, among certain people, there has always been excessive greed.  Third, we will never eradicate greed in the human species.  Why then you may well ask, another screed against the excesses of greed? The answer is that we have entered a new era of greed.  Never before has greed been so widely accepted and so widely admired. 

Throughout history, prophets and religious leaders have warned us about the pursuit of wants that never satisfy the soul nor do anything to enrich humanity.  In the past, greed was the mindless pursuit of more.  Jesus said that “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” – 1 Timothy 6:10.  The Bible says more about the dangers of money and possessions than any other subject.

Ignatius of Loyola gave this message to his followers:

Lord, teach me to be generous;

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

To give and not to count the cost”

Gautama Buddha made the following comment concerning greed:

“Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief.”

Islam has many comments about the evil of greed and the pursuit of more and more:

“Three Habits Destroy

a Man Or Woman:

Greed, Envy

and Pride.”  ― Hamid al Ghazali

“Greed is permanent slavery.”  — Ali ibn Abi Talib

If greed has always been with us, then what is different today?  The difference is that in the past, greed was recognized as evil and as an element that would distort human nature.  Today greed has become legitimate.   

The definition of legitimate is: 

To give legal force or status to; make lawful.

To sanction formally or officially; authorize.

To demonstrate or declare to be justified.

5451174-1020-PXWe shop till we drop.  We invoke our privilege to use our money as we want to.  We make holidays out of holy days where we spend our time hunting for bargains and sales.  Greed has now become a sacrament.  Greed is no longer evil.  Greed is holy.  Greed is the American Way of Life.  Millions of Americans adore the wealthy.  The story of Lazarus holds no credibility – Luke 16:19-21.  Nor does the story of the Rich Fool – Luke 12:13-21.  Money is sacred and those who have more are worshipped by Americans and exalted as better people and better leaders.  We elect millionaires and billionaires to Congress and even the Presidency on the sole basis of their acumen at having stored up wealth.

Wealth Trumps compassion.  Money Trumps kindness.  Possessions Trump love.  No one would argue today that leaders should have compassion, kindness, and love for others.  These are sentiments that hold no currency.  The values that Americans believe in today are bitcoins, stocks, bonds, gold, and credit ratings.  Wise people are not listened to.  Instead, rich people are sought out and worshipped because they are smart enough to game the system and attain more than the rest of us.  A 3,400-foot home with four bathrooms for people with no children is a sign of success and not wretched excess.  A Porsche, BMW or Mercedes is proof that you are an important person.  Living in a neighborhood with walls and private security guards helps you to feel safe because wealth is envied by those who do not have it and they might take it away from you. 

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Living the good life today means having more than your neighbors, friends, or relatives.  According to Merriam-Webster, success is “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.”  Success is not measured in America by kindness, compassion, or love for others.  Millions of people watch reality shows where fame equals success.  A new breed of celebrities exists solely on the basis of being famous and not for any achievements. 

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Movie stars are the aristocracy of America and are adored because of the illusions that they present and not because of reality.  John Wayne is the Icon of American Manhood.  He was a man that personified heroism and masculinity.  In reality, he was a racist who denigrated Black people, Gay people, and Native Americans.  He received a 3-A (family deferment) after Pearl Harbor and never had to fight except in his many heroic movie roles where he extolled American militarism.  Movie stars are idolized because they are rich and famous and have more of these attributes than the general population. 

So where do we go from here?  There are many good people in America.  There are many generous people who give freely and share their wealth with others.  Attributes such as generosity and empathy for the needy still exist in America.  However, what I have called the “legitimization” of greed has infected too many of our people.  It has become acceptable.  Americans have failed to grasp the insidious nature of greed.  It is not something that takes over your life suddenly.   Greed creeps up slowly and silently until one day, you are consumed by it.  Our nation has made greed an attribute to be admired.  No school in American dares to mention the perils of greediness. 

Can we reverse the trend that has led us down this path to self-centeredness and narcissism?  What can be done to turn the trend back towards valuing compassion and kindness?  Not just compassion and kindness for those who look like us but compassion and kindness for all people.

I will try to answer these questions in my next blog.  We will need a change of mindset that will lead to a new Zeitgeist.  The present paradigm we are living in is destroying humanity.  Trump and his supporters are not an aberration but a reflection of how far we have gone down the wrong road.   If we keep going down this road, we will have a world where there is no humanity left in people.  We will continue to destroy our environment as greed dictates taking all that we can get and not leaving anything for others.     

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Reconstructing the Great Speeches – Danton:  “Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare”

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George Jacques Danton born October 26, 1759 wanted to dare and dare he did.  He dared so much; he lost his head to a guillotine on the 5th of April 1794.  Danton was one of the prime movers during the French Revolution of 1789.  For those of you whose history is limited, the French Revolution was quite a remarkable event.  Here is some background before we look at Danton’s famous speech.  For more detailed history, go to Wikipedia or the library.

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The French Revolution (1789-1799)

What makes the French Revolution confusing is that there was actually two of them.  We are discussing the background of the first one.  The second one was in 1830.  The first one is noteworthy for two major reasons.  1)  It set a precedent for overthrowing the rule of divine right by kings.  You have to keep in mind, that with the major exception of the United States of America, the world was ruled by Kings and Queens.  Many of these rulers professed a “divine right” to rule.  In other words, they believed that they were ordained by God him/herself to rule over the lesser beings on the planet whom they regarded as subjects.  As “subjects” the people under the rulers were “subject” to all forms of abuse and intimidation.  In many countries, people had little or no rights except by the grace of their rulers.

256px-TroisordresThe Catholic Church in France was a major power.  The Catholic hierarchy managed to continue to exert influence in France long after it lost power in other countries.  The Catholic Church kept its power by a political collusion with the French monarchy which helped the Church fight off the Protestant religion that had swept so much of Europe.  From the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, the Church in France along with the Monarchy had persecuted, exiled, and killed thousands of Protestants.  Thus, there were many in France who hated the Catholic leaders as much as they hated their King and Queen, who by the way also lost their heads during the French Revolution.

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Needless to say, the rest of Europe was not too happy at seeing the servants and peasants overthrow the royalty in France.  This idea that the royalty was not so special might just infiltrate the minds of subjects in other countries.  Which of course is just what happened.  Over time, most of Europe eventually marginalized the role of their monarchies and established a variety of democratic institutions.  These later institutions would rule by laws set by the people and not by “divine right.”

Three of the most important democratic concepts to come out of the first French Revolution is epitomized by the motto “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” which became the national motto of France.  Liberty is the right to express one’s ideas without fear of repercussions.  Equality expressed the idea that all social classes were citizens of France and would have equal rights.  The monarchy and the Catholic Church would no longer be privileged.  Fraternity meant that we are all brothers and would share in a common unity of humanity and respect.  In 1789, The leaders of the Revolution drafted a document called the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” which outlined a set of enlightened principles about governing and government which bore some resemblance to the Bill of Rights in the USA.  Of course, women were still among the unprivileged.  Which leads us to the second major reason that the first French Revolution is noteworthy.

This second reason is the devolution into chaos and anarchy that happened.  Faced with a great deal of opposition both in and outside France to these new enlightened ideas, the leaders of the revolution became increasingly paranoid.  They were beyond cautious about who their enemies might be and what they needed to do to protect the emerging values of the French Revolution.  This led them to adopt a rather expedient method of protecting the Revolution.  The guillotine was developed as a very effective instrument for cutting off the heads of anyone whom they suspected might be either an enemy of the Revolution or even those who did not fully support the Revolution.  During, what has become known as “The Reign of Terror” (June 1793 to July 1794) about 17,000 people were guillotined.  Many more people were shot or otherwise murdered during the French Revolution.

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Looking back, it seems bizarre to think that a revolution founded on the democratic ideas of the American Revolution and such theorists as Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu could have led to the slaughter of so many people.  A slaughter that sadly is now one of the major things we remember about the First French Revolution.  Furthermore, the Revolution eventually led into an outright dictatorship by Napoleon Bonaparte.  Human nature was no more consistent or predictable in the 18th Century than it is today.  We wonder today how so many people in the USA would seem to reject the principles that it was founded upon.  Everywhere you look, we find those who reject the concepts of democracy and the rule of law.

Danton (1759 – 1794)

Some say Danton was the prime mover behind the French Revolution (1789 – 1799).  Before the Revolution, Danton was a lawyer of no particular noteworthiness.  He came into his own as one of the major leaders of the French Revolution.  He held a number of significant offices as the leaders struggled to form a government that would uphold the new values driving the Revolution.  Danton was perhaps as bloodthirsty or paranoid as some other leaders, notably Robespierre and Saint-Just.  Danton’s trial before his execution tended to be highly political and he was found guilty of a number of charges including bribery, financial corruption, and leniency towards the enemies of the Revolution   These charges were founded more on the fears of his political opponents than any real evidence.

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Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare (1792)

Danton’s most famous speech was not given at his trial.  Due to his noted oratory, the leaders at his trial decided not to allow him to speak.  They were afraid that if anyone listened to him, he would convince them of his innocence and perhaps even regain power over his accusers.  This speech was given in the face of threats by enemies attacking France from within the country and outside the country.  Danton as a key leader of the Revolution would have been marked for death should the Revolution be overthrown.  Ironically, he was executed by his former comrades.

“It is gratifying to the ministers of a free people to have to announce to them that their country will be saved.  All are stirred, all are excited, all burn to fight.  You know that Verdun is not yet in the power of our enemies. You know that its garrison swears to immolate the first who breathes a proposition of surrender.”             

France was being attacked by Germany then known as Prussia.  Verdun actually surrendered the same day that Danton’s speech was given.  Danton is lauding the efforts of the French people to fight for the principles of the Revolution.  The monarchies in the surrounding countries want to put down the Revolution for fear it could lead to the people in their countries also revolting.  Thus, Prussia, Austria, Spain and Russia all fought to help overthrow the French Revolution.

“One portion of our people will proceed to the frontiers, another will throw up entrenchments, and the third with pikes will defend the hearts of our cities.  Paris will second these great efforts. The commissioners of the Commune will solemnly proclaim to the citizens the invitation to arm and march to the defense of the country.”

In this speech, you can see a resemblance to the famous French National Anthem, the Marseillaise.”  The song was written in 1792 by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg after the declaration of war by France against Austria.  One of the refrains from the song is:

  • Grab your weapons, citizens!
  • Form your battalions!
  • Let us march! Let us march!
  • May impure blood
  • Water our fields!

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“We ask that anyone refusing to give personal service or to furnish arms shall be punished with death.  We ask that a set of instructions be drawn up for the citizens to direct their movements. We ask that couriers be sent to all the departments to notify them of the decrees that you proclaim here.  The tocsin we are about to ring is not an alarm signal; it sounds the charge on the enemies of our country.  To conquer them we must dare, dare again, always dare, and France is saved!”

Danton wanted to impose harsh punishments for anyone refusing service to France.  France initially suffered a series of defeats by other countries.  Eventually, by rallying together, France went on the offensive and achieved many victories.  By defeating their enemies, they solidified the gains of the Revolution.  However, these victories also allowed Napoleon to gain power and become Emperor.  Not much difference really between and an Emperor and a King.   France might have gone two steps forward but they also went two steps back.

Danton’s concluding line was an exhortation to boldness and audacity.  “Dare, Dare and Always Dare!”  I have always admired these words and have tried to use them in my own life.  Consider what it means, if you will, when you try to apply them.  What are areas of your life where you have fears?  What areas where you need to be braver or bolder?  Where do you think you need to speak out more?  Where do you need to stand up for yourself more?  If you find many areas where you lack bravery, think of Danton’s speech.

Remember the line from the play Julius Caesar “Cowards die many times before their death, heroes only once.”  The following is a short one minute video I found online that captures the spirit of Danton’s lines.

 

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Mentors, Muses, Role Models, and Shooting Stars – Part 2 of 2

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Why do some people achieve success and happiness while other people flounder on the shoals?  One man/woman becomes Prime Minister or President and their brother/sister becomes a drug addict.  I suppose there are many reasons and many that we can probably do nothing about.  Some things are beyond our power to change.  However, there is one reason that contributes to success and it is in our power to modify or amplify.  I speak specifically of the ideas or concepts in the title of this blog:  Mentors, Muses, Role Models, and Shooting Stars.  In Part 1, I talked about the importance of Mentors and Muses.  In Part 2, I will discuss the importance of Role Models and Shooting Stars.

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Role Models:

A Role Model is anyone either real or imagined who provides inspiration to another person that will allow that person to dream about doing things that they never would have thought possible.  A role model allows a child to think about being greater than anyone they have ever known.  Role models lift people up to help them aspire towards being more than they are.  Parker Posey, the little Black girl whose mom brought her to the National Art Museum in Washington D.C. saw a picture of Michele Obama on the wall and thought “I want to be just like her.”  Later on Parker said in an interview that she would rather be president than first lady.  The great English scientist Isaac Newton said in 1675, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”

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A role model is in a sense a giant.  I asked Dr. Deming one night when we were coming back from dinner what he wanted to be when he was in college.  He immediately replied, “I wanted to be just like Walter Shewhart.”  Few people outside of quality control have probably ever heard of Dr. Walter Shewhart but the name of Dr. W. E. Deming is known the world over.  Dr. Deming had stood on the shoulder of a great man and reached even higher than Dr. Shewhart.

I was once asked why I did not go to Harvard since I grew up in Rhode Island and Harvard was only 45 miles away.  I laughed with some mild regret.  Truth be told, I never would have thought I could go to Harvard.  No one in my family had ever gone to college.  We had no money.  I did not know a single person who ever want to college.  Years have gone by and I have met many Harvard graduates.  I have no regrets now about not attending Harvard.  My regrets come from never having thought that it was possible that I could ATTEND college.

mandelaI teach part-time as a substitute teacher in two high schools in Casa Grande, Arizona.  Both public schools have a large minority population of Latino’s, African Americans, and Native Americans.  I talk to many of these students when they are seniors about what their plans are after they graduate.  Many of them remind me of myself when I graduated high school.  I had no clue about what I could do or be.  My father wanted me to become a postman like he was, and my mother did not really have any idea or inclinations about careers.  I looked around and in 1964, thought “Well I will join the military and see what happens.”  I had no dreams or goals for my future.  I had no role models when I was growing up.

I think every child should have a role model.  I have heard the arguments against.  Role models always end up being tarnished.  Role models may not present realistic possibilities.  Role models will stereotype kids into traditional channels.  Role models may pose negative characteristics rather than positive.  For instance, if your role model is Billy the Kid or Adolph Hitler, it might not suggest a desirable future.

“All the role models are being exposed and this is good because role models are shit. The quicker we exposed them the better. The whole concept of role models is frightful! You gotta make your own role.”  — William S. Burroughs

But I am not talking about negative role models.  I am talking about positive role models.  A positive role model is anyone with some desirable characteristics or values.  Furthermore, I think we need to educate our children by presenting a variety of role models and not trying to hold up any one role model as perfect or god-like.  We can never imitate or copy anyone else.

I could have taken Dr. Deming as my role model.  Dr. Deming was loved and admired by many, but he was also criticized by many.  A friend of mine from Nigeria told me this old African folk tale:

“Once upon a time there was a father, his son and a donkey.  They decided to go to market one day and purchase some food.  All three set out with the father riding the donkey and the son walking along side.  They soon came to a village and as they passed through the town, the father heard villagers saying, “What a cruel old man, he rides while the poor son walks.”  Whereupon, the father got off the donkey and put his son up to ride.  They next came to another village and as they passed through, again came voices.  This time they heard “What a stupid old man, he walks while his young healthy son rides.” 

downloadThe father decided he would join his son on the donkey.  As they passed through the next village, people shouted “Look at that.  Two people on one donkey.  How cruel and mean.’’  The father deliberated and made the following decision.  He and his son came down off the donkey and picked the donkey up.  They carried the donkey all the way to their final destination and as they entered the village, they heard uproarious laughter and saw everyone in the market place pointing at them and saying “Have you ever seen two more stupid people in your life.  They are carrying a donkey that could be carrying them.”

I will bet that you know the moral of the previous story.  It applies to role models.  There are no perfect people.  We are all defective in one way or another.  You cannot please everyone.  But think about the value that a role model can have.  If you Google role models, you will find lots of lists of the “top” role models for children.  Perusing these lists as I have done, you will admire many people, but you may also be appalled at some of the role models.  For instance, I have found Marilyn Monroe, Justin Bieber and Lance Armstrong.  These are people that I find objectionable for a number of reasons.  Now I have no doubt that if I put my top ten list of role models up, there are some that you would find objectional.  I repeat that there are no perfect role models.  This fact should remind you not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

“We look at the way some kids behave and instantly blame the parents, and more often than not we’re correct. The school bully is often a sign of poor parenting. That’s the immediate cause, but if we search for the root cause we have to dig much deeper than that. What on earth in that kid’s head makes it seem okay to bully people? Why are the parents doing such a poor job of bringing up their children? Probably because they didn’t have very effective role models themselves when they were growing up. It could go back generations.”   ― Karl Wiggins, You Really Are Full of Shit, Aren’t You?

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Shooting Stars:

A shooting star or a rising star is someone whom you hitch your wagon to.  It is someone that you recognize is going places and doing things that you admire.  If you knew someone was taking a trip that you wanted to be on, you would join that person and take the trip together.  A rising star or shooting star will take you to places that you might never have dreamed of going yourself.  You will find many great military leaders, business leaders and scientists who hitched their wagon to a shooting star and later achieved greatness themselves.

12-disciplesPerhaps the most famous example is in the spiritual arena.  Twelve men chosen somewhat randomly hitched their wagons to a shooting star and achieved fame and glory far beyond anything they could have dreamed of.  Today we remember the shooting star and his 12 apostles.  Each of the apostles later went on to their own fame and glory spreading the word of their lord and master.  Sometimes, it is the shooting star that gets forgotten but, in this case, through the efforts of his 12 followers, the name of Jesus Christ rings throughout the centuries in every corner of the globe.

Conclusions:

How do you find a shooting star or a role model?  I will leave you with some advice:

1.  Most important, you must believe that success and greatness is not simply dependent on your own resources and energy. As the Beatles said, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

2.  Nevertheless, as a pundit once said, “Pray to the lord but row for the shore.” You can get all the help you need, but you are ultimately responsible for your own destiny.

3.  Look for role-models that have the values you would like to have. If you are going to select anyone, you must first know what are the key values that you want more of in your life.

4.  List seven of the most important values that you admire in your role model. Put them on a piece of paper that you can review every day.  Each day start by reviewing one value and asking yourself “What can I do today that would help me better exemplify this value?”  At the end of each evening, do a review of your day’s activities.  Ask yourself “How well did I do today on this value?”

5.  Do not be afraid to imitate your role model. You must learn the basics in any activity before you can improvise.  Deming was not ashamed to say that he wanted to be “Just like Dr. Shewhart.”  Great people are never ashamed to admit that they admire other great people.  It is only weak and insecure people who are narcissistic to the point that no one else counts.

6.  As pertains to shooting stars, ask yourself “Who do you know in your career or profession who you think is a shooting star?” In every field that I can think of, you will surely find someone who is better than you are or who has more skills than you have.

7.  Get to know this person.  Remember the saying “Birds of a feather flock together.”  This can be a good thing when you flock with highly intelligent, skilled, ethical, and motivated people.

“Hang On To People That Inspire You. Do Work That Energizes You.” ― Wesam Fawzi

 

 

 

 

Mentors, Muses, Role Models, and Shooting Stars – Part 1 of 2

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Why do some people achieve success and happiness while other people flounder on the shoals?  One man/woman becomes Prime Minister or President and their brother/sister becomes a drug addict.  I suppose there are many reasons and many that we can probably do nothing about.  Some things are beyond our power to change.  However, there is one reason that contributes to success and it is in our power to modify or amplify.  I speak specifically of the ideas or concepts in the title of this blog:  Mentors, Muses, Role Models, and Shooting Stars.

In 1983, I joined the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).  I was still in graduate school working on my degree in Organization Development and it seemed useful to join a professional organization that represented my career goals.  As a member of the ASTD, I attended monthly meetings and eventually submitted several articles to their magazine for publication.  One of the most interesting projects I volunteered for was to help establish a “Mentoring Program” for young upcoming professionals in the field of Training and Organization Development.  This project together with a Human Resource Development organization that I started for students at the University of Minnesota were some of the high points of my academic career.  Grades did not count for much to me except to get credits that were needed to graduate.  Helping people was truly gratifying.

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Mentors:

A “Mentor” can be defined as: “A trusted advisor.”  Someone with more experience who knows the ropes and takes a less experienced person under their wings to help guide them through the Scylla and Charybdis that are lurking in most organizations.  This can make the difference between success and failure.  I have found myself over my head several times because of not properly understanding a new boss or company politics.  downloadOnce, as a new employee, I was attending my first department meeting with my co-workers and supervisor.  I deemed it prudent to keep my mouth shut and observe.  At the end of the meeting, my supervisor turned to me and noted, “Well, John, you haven’t said a word.  What do you think?  Give me your honest opinion.”  I took her at her word and gave her my honest uncensored opinion.  Big mistake, as I am sure you knew.  Turns out my boss only liked “Honest Opinions” when they agreed with her opinions.  A good mentor would have warned me of this peril before I put my foot in my mouth.

A good mentor can do a great deal more than simply alert you to pitfalls.  A mentor may share information about his or her own career path and what helped him/her to become successful.  A mentor can provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and coaching.  A mentor may help with setting goals, developing contacts, and identifying resources that will help you to get ahead.  I personally believe everyone should have a mentor.  In addition to career mentors, there are mentors who may help you with your hobbies or any other activities that add value to your life.  Having a mentor is not all about careers and jobs.

How does one find a mentor?  Some organizations have mentoring programs and match up new employees with seasoned veterans.  A friend of mine at the ASTD and I worked together on the aforementioned mentoring program.  We put together guidelines to help companies establish their own in-house mentoring programs.  I was quite surprised and pleased when at an ASTD awards banquet, we were acknowledged for the mentoring program that we had developed.

Mentors can be formal or informal.  In 1998, I was “adopted’ by an older gentleman named Gordon Backlund when I started working at the Metropolitan Council in Minnesota.  He came up to me after a meeting and announced “I see you know nothing about politics in a government organization.  I am going to teach you.”  I was grateful for his offer.  Gordy taught me a bunch about how to survive and we became good friends in the process.  He was an informal mentor since the organization did not have a formal mentoring program.  It would be great if every organization had a program, but most do not.  In the latter case, it is up to you to find a mentor.  If you care about your success in life as well as in business, you will find a mentor or mentors.  The following is a particularly good video with some tips on “how to find a mentor.”  There are many other good videos on the subject and even some good TED talks on the topic.

Here is a great video on how to find a mentor by Marie Forleo

 

Muses:

A muse in ancient Greece was the name for the nine goddesses who presided over the arts and science.   A muse for me is someone who inspires me.  Since I think of myself as a writer, a muse is someone who can inspire my writing.  A muse indirectly motivates imagesme by giving me support and stimulation to be creative.  I was thinking back over the years that I have been writing.  My first paid article was in 1983.  It was published in a San Francisco Men’s Journal.  My piece was called “The Three Types of Male Intimacy.”  I was paid about 25 dollars.  It was not much but it felt like a start.  I have since published about 40 journal articles, three books and over 600 blogs.  It is a good thing that I never quit my day job since I could barely pay my monthly entertainment bill with the proceeds from my writing.

In 2010, I met Dr. Carolyn Wedin.  She was a retired English Professor Emeritus from the University of Wisconsin.  She had started a writing class in Frederic, Wisconsin.  I joined the class and thus began my honest efforts to become a writer.  I say honest, because until then I had not engaged in professional efforts to improve my writing skills.  Anyone who says that they are a writer, artist, singer, sculptor, musician, or chef and does not engage in some form of professional development is in my humble opinion, not serious about their craft.

My partner Karen has played the piano since she was a little girl.  She plays well enough to be asked to play both piano and organ at church when the regular pianist is out sick or on vacation.  About 15 years ago, we were visiting in Mountain View, Arkansas when Karen noticed someone on the “Pickin Parlor Green” playing a small acoustic wooden lap instrument.  She enjoyed the sound and also thought how easy it would be to pack up and carry such an instrument.  Pianos and organs do not lend themselves to easy carry or transport.  She inquired as to what the instrument was and was told that it was a Mountain Dulcimer, also known as an Appalachian Dulcimer.  Deciding to try one out, she purchased an inexpensive dulcimer on eBay for about 100 dollars.

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Karen tried playing it for a while on her own.  She purchased some instruction books and starting plinking away.  Not having much success, she came to the conclusion that she needed instruction.  She found a good instructor and continued with her until we retired.  We then moved to Wisconsin and Arizona.  Nevertheless, other dulcimer lessons have continued for many years.  We go to at least two music camps each year.  One is in Mountain View, Arkansas and the other is in Bardstown, Kentucky.  We often attend the Minnesota Blue Grass and Old Time Music Association (MBOTMA) summer festival where they offer classes and practice in a variety of instruments.  There is also lots of practice time in what are known as music jams.  These jams are events where musicians self-organize into groups with many different skill levels.  There will be people playing guitars, violins, mandolins, banjos, dulcimers, harps, and numerous other string instruments.

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For several years, Karen was tentative before venturing out into her first music jams.  There is a definite etiquette that one must learn before joining a jam session.  Karen soon found a group of women in Tucson who were called “The Tucson Dulcimer Ensemble (TDE).”  They practice every two weeks and do a few performances each year.  The sessions they hold are both training and practice with a good dose of inspiration thrown in.  Karen has become more confident since playing with the TDE and is now a good enough player to be asked to do solo performances.  Where once she dreaded the thought of playing solo, she now looks forward to the challenge and I suspect, the applause.

But what of a muse?  Do we really need one?  Who was or is my muse for writing?  This past year Dr. Wedin had a series of illnesses and accidents rendering her unable to continue the “Write Right Now” classes that she had started.  Some of her students who have attended them for many years volunteered to take over, but it was not the same.  It is hard to describe Carolyn’s style of encouragement and critique, but I venture to say it is unique.  She inspires without criticizing.  She encourages without demoralizing.  She suggests without demanding.  When you have finished a session with Dr. Wedin, you have new ideas and a renewed motivation to go home and write.

Perspiration or Inspiration: Which is more Important to the Writer? —-A blog I wrote a while ago

 

Missing Carolyn and her inspiration, I went into a downward spiral.  I considered giving up writing.  I had said it all.  There was nothing else left to write about.  I had exhausted all my ideas and creativity.  I was finished.  I was kaput.  My writing days were over.  That was when I realized that Carolyn had been my muse.  She was my inspiration for what I think of as my writing in Creative Non-Fiction.  Part of me knew that Carolyn could not continue teaching.  No one lives forever and all things eventually change.  The Covid-19 Virus will probably put the finishing touches on the writer’s class for this summer: “Oh, what will I do?”

MV5BOWIzZGUxZmItOThkMS00Y2QxLTg0MTYtMDdhMjRlNTNlYTI3L2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjc1NTYyMjg@._V1_“I do not know what writing awaits me,

I only know I must be brave,

And I must face a life that dates me,

Or lie a coward, a craven coward,

Or lie a coward in my grave.” 

 (A slight modification from “High Noon” by Frankie Laine)

Taking advice from this old Frankie Laine song, I must find a new muse.  We all need a “little help from our friends” or someone who can guide and inspire us.  They say that the truth will set you free.  I know not about the truth, but I do know that when we understand something it gives us the freedom to make good decisions and choices.  Since I realize how important a muse is to my writing, I must decide how to find my next muse.

Looking at an obvious source for a muse, i.e., the Internet, one finds that most topics treat the subject as an exercise in finding your personal creativity either by looking inward or by researching a range of resources including classes and educational activities.  Searching Google for help in finding an actual real person as a muse, I did not find anything especially useful.  I did find numerous articles like:

  • How to Awaken Your Muse to Spark Your Creativity
  • Learning how to find your inner muse
  • 7 Tips to Awaken Your Creative Muse – Can-do-ideas

By the way, I got the same results on “YouTube” but I did find an interesting song by Them Coulee Boys called “Find Your Muse.”

I don’t want to find my “inner” creativity.  I want to find a real person like Dr. Wedin, who can inspire and challenge me.  Telling me to find my inner muse is similar to telling an athlete to find their “inner coach.”  This is a great idea up to a point, but I am sure that most musicians, athletes, and other artists would much rather find another human being as a coach or mentor.  It is wonderful to be able to talk to someone who has a different perspective and who can talk back.

The search for a muse does not have a single starting point or a definite ending point.  Much like mentors, muses will come and go in the life of an artist. The quest for a muse is like looking for the love of your life.  They may be just around the corner or they may be on another continent.  The one thing I am sure of is that unless you are seeking, you will probably not find one.  There is a Zen saying that goes like this, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I have a feeling that the same is true for finding a muse.  When you are ready, your muse will appear.  But being ready means having your eyes and ears and heart open.  That is what seeking is all about.

In Part 2, I will describe how a Role Model and a Shooting Star can help you in life as well as in your career. 

3525 – Friday, September 6, 2019 — Those Were the Days My Friend!

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My blog this week is based on a song that was made popular by Mary Hopkin’s in 1968.  The original writer was Gene Raskin.   Gene added English lyrics to a Russian song called “By the long road” which was composed by Boris Fomin (1900–1948).  The song in its many manifestations had continued to be about reminiscence and youthful idealism.  In my version below, I have taken some liberties with the lyrics and have added my thoughts on age and youthful idealism.   If you care to listen to the Hopkin’s song while reading my blog, click on the following link and then return to my site. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QptZ8tYZAkE

Once upon a time we shared a dream
When we believed that we were special
And we laughed away our evenings
Thinking of the success that would bring us great esteem

I grew up loving science and mathematics.  In the late fifties and early sixties, the space age was just beginning.  I wanted to be a part of the new wave of exploration and I dreamed of becoming an astronaut.  I read books on physics and relativity and quantum theory.  I believed that knowledge was the key to achieving my dreams.  Somehow, I never thought that my desires were above my head or possibilities.

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d dream and dream forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

When I finished high school. I knew what Harvard and Brown and Yale stood for.  If you had money or were the siblings of any alumnus, you could apply to one of them.  If your father was a postal worker and your mother a part-time clerk at Woolworth, you had neither pull nor money.  The money probably mattering only slightly more than the connections or pull one needed to get into an Ivy League school in the sixties.  Truth be told, I did not even have the money or grades to get into a state college.  Without a college education, my dreams of becoming a pilot or an astronaut were shear fantasy.

A few weeks after high school, the only real possibility I had for a future was in the United States Military.  The war in Vietnam was starting to ramp up when I graduated in 1964 and it was said that the service would take a warm body.  I applied and did very well on the military exams.  I decided that I liked the Air Force uniform better than the Navy, Army or Marine uniforms.  Up and away on my first airplane ride to Lackland AFB for basic training.

Then the busy years went rushing by me
I lost my starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the city
We’d smile at one another and we’d say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d dream and dream forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

I married while still in the service.  I was only 21 and my wife Julie was only 20.  Julie was several months pregnant when we married.  Somewhere along the way she became very sick and was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  She spent several months in the University of Minnesota hospital while pregnant with our first-born child Christina.  Christy arrived while Julie was still in the hospital and in 1968 I was ordered by a young nurse to help out in the delivery room.  Thus, I was on the forefront of the new age for fathers and husbands.  Something, I was reluctant at the time to join.

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d dream and dream forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

The years have flown by since then.  Many friends have either passed away or orbited out of my universe.  My first marriage ended in divorce.  My daughter has not spoken to me for nearly twenty years now.  My dreams of business success have become so much flotsam in a sea of failed possibilities.  Always told how smart I was, my intelligence never seemed to add up to anything that I could put in the bank.  Dreams of greatness in some non-financial endeavor (which became my fallback position) are now floating away alongside of my business aspirations.

Just tonight I stood before my mirror
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that broken person really me

I am now fighting the battle of growing old.  Energy forfeiting time to naps.  Days spent in a doctor’s office.  Buying sympathy cards by the dozen.  Learning to be a caregiver.  Dealing with an ever-increasing number of aches and pains.  Muscles that do not respond or recover as quickly.  Friends that spend what seem like long hours describing medical conditions and treatments.  Loved ones that I worry about more and more.  Trying to figure out what is appropriate for the next funeral.  Wondering if there is something else besides “My condolences” that I can say.

Through the parlor door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend I am a great deal older but no wiser
For in my heart, the dreams are still the same

My dreams, I never gave up on you.  I substituted hard work and determination for luck and chance many years ago, but they did not prove a path to you.  You might think me shallow or that I abandoned you, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  Hardly a day goes by when I don’t think about giving you one more shot.  I ask myself if ten years is enough, for that is about what I have left.  My self-bribe is that it is never too late as long as I do not give up hope.  But is my heart really in it?  Do I want you bad enough to keep on fighting for you?  I somehow sense a certain futility, like taking another turn at bat is not going to get me a home run.  Hard to admit, but maybe I never was and never will be a home run hitter.  Is this a battle that I am going to lose in this life?

Those were the days my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d dream forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

Those were the days, oh yes those were the days!

 

 

3613– Monday, June 10, 2019 – Summer, Never Enough Time!

Calvin and Hobbes once described summer as “Never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”  Sometimes life seems the same way.  The older you get the faster time and things flow around, over and under you.  I have been back from Arizona almost six weeks now and after fixing the car, truck, yard, lawn mower and house, we seem to have skipped spring and went right into summer.  It was 85 degrees here yesterday.  I am still waiting to get started on my new business project and trying to motivate myself to be creative, dynamic and inspirational, at least to myself.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to a student club at Metropolitan State University.  A good friend of mine (Israel) is one of the faculty advisers to the club and each month they try to hold some type of event to help the students with both life and school.  Israel noted in his closing comments to the group that he had realized school was more than just teaching subjects but that the students who went on to become successful in life had learned character and coping skills.  Israel asked me to talk to the group.  The subject of my talk was the role that discipline plays in our life.

Wisdom Summit

Discipline is often associated with punishment.  The discipline that I discussed is self-discipline.  I view self-discipline as the commitment and ability to respond to our goals and desires in a meaningful way.  Some people say that discipline is not needed but that motivation is needed. I see things more the other way around.  It takes discipline to become good at anything in life including music, art, sports, dance, acting and business.  It helps if you are passionate about what you are doing.  Karen enjoys playing her dulcimer and practices about an hour each day.  The amazing child prodigy Anke Chen practices five hours a day to play the piano.  She is now eight years old but started playing at four.  When you watch Anke, you see someone having fun and thoroughly enjoying what they are doing.

The problem I had when I was young was not realizing the discipline and dedication it took to become great at anything.  Regardless of how much of a genius you are, regardless of how smart you are or how beautiful you are, without discipline you will eventually fail.  You can survive on pure talent for only so long.  The same goes for beauty and brains.  They will only take you so far.  Look around and you can see the “A list” people who have had life too easy and the only way they can stay on top is with drugs.  Too many great artists and performers have succumbed to the perils of drugs.  Self-discipline is a drug free remedy for a happy and fruitful life.

Now that summer is here, my writing class will start again, although our grand instructor (Dr. Carolyn Wedin) will not be attending due to illness.  Carolyn will very much be there in memory.  Her spirit will hover over each writer and guide us in the use of language and syntax.  Over the years, I have leaned a great deal from these classes about writing and life.

Writing is an art that requires great self-discipline.  There are many days when I don’t feel like writing.  It is not always easy to come up with ideas, words, adjectives, descriptions, narrative, characters, plots, settings and action that will be interesting and unique.  No one wants to hear a story that is boring or mundane.  We read something because it takes us our of our life and puts us into the life of another person.  (Of course, we may also read to learn something.)  We can live vicariously in the character of whomever we are reading about.  Today, you are living in my character.  For a few moments, you are absorbed in my thoughts and feelings and to some degree you know what it is like to be me living in Frederic, Wisconsin, the summer of 2019.

And once upon a time, in a time long ago, two hearts met, and the meeting changed the whole world.

Every time, a writer and a reader meet, it is like two hearts meeting and the world can never be the same again.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”  –Anais Nin

 

 

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